Introduction to Santorini
Santorini, officially known as Thira, is in the Cyclades islands group. It’s magical and majestic. In 1646 BC, a massive volcano erupted, causing the island’s center to disappear, leaving the horse shoe-shaped formation now visited by many.
Oia and Fira are the main villages on Santorini. They’re flooded with travelers every year due to the stunning views of the caldera. Both villages offer shopping, hotels, and restaurants, but Fira has more of a nightlife. The drive between villages is about 30 minutes or you can hike along the rim from one to the other, which is approximately 10 km.
While the white-washed buildings and famous blue domes of Oia grace the covers of Greece photo books, postcards, and Instagram, there is much more to Santorini. Please keep reading to learn how to experience Santorini, including our one-day and three-day itinerary.
Traveling to Santorini by boat is a must-do experience. When you’re about 30 minutes away from your arrival, be watching for the island to appear in the middle of the expansive sea. As you get closer and closer, the sheer enormity of Santorini and its cliffs will transport you to another world. Now, get off the boat and enjoy!
Santorini is full of experiences that will form lasting memories. Here are five recommended experiences:
1. Walk around Oia and Fira. Oia is one of the most popular villages on Santorini. It is the village with the blue domes that have been famously photographed for years. The streets are full of shops and rooftop tavernas. Going in the morning is the best time to get around without too many people and cooler temperatures. The evening is also a beautiful time of day to spend in Oia – just be aware that hundreds flock to the end of the village to watch the sunset. Fira is just as beautiful as Oia. The views are unlike anything else in the world—making it an excellent choice for eating at one of the many restaurants overlooking the caldera or watching sunsets.
2. Go wine tasting. The vineyards on Santorini tell a story. Go wine tasting to experience them for yourself. You can go on a wine tour or hire a driver to take you around to the various vineyards.
3. Sail around the island. Take a boat from Ammoudi, which is below Oia. You can book a sailboat, catamaran, or traditional boat tour at any travel agency around the island. While the lengths of trips vary, we recommend the all-day excursion with a meal and beverages included.
4. Enjoy the beaches. There are relaxing beaches on Santorini with amazing views. Kamari Beach provides a great day for sun and sea, while several restaurants and shops line the beach for your convenience. If you want a quieter part of the island, Perissa is a lovely escape. We recommend wearing water shoes to the beach since they are rocky. And for a more unique beach experience, try White Beach or Black Beach.
5. Rent a car or motorbike. Get off the beaten path and have a look around Santorini on your own. Finding the little-known pockets around the island is one of our favorite things to do. You can rent a vehicle from several places on the island. Ask your hotel for a recommendation. They will likely call the rental company and have the vehicle delivered to the hotel.
1 Day and 3 Day Santorini Itinerary
1 Day Itinerary
08:00-11:00 – Visit Oia. Go see and get a photo of the blue domes first thing in the morning to ensure fewer crowds. Click here for coordinates to the best place to get one of those iconic photos. Next, wander through the narrow pathways of Oia and take in the unforgettable scenery.
11:00-15:00 – Go to Kamari Beach. Rent a vehicle, hire a driver or take the bus to Kamari for lunch and a swim in the sea. There are plenty of restaurants in Kamari. The ones along the beach allow you to sit in their beach chairs as long as you order food or drink.
15:00-18:00 – Tour Wineries. Take a tour of two or three wineries between Kamari and Fira.
18:00-19:00 – Freshen up and get ready for dinner.
19:00-22:00 – Shopping and Dinner in Fira. Make a reservation at a restaurant in Fira overlooking the caldera. Be sure to time it so your reservation begins before the sun sets. Stroll through the shops in Fira before dinner or sit at one of the unique bars for a pre-meal drink.
3 Day Itinerary
After your first day on the island, add these two days of fun to your itinerary.
Morning – Sail to the Hot Springs. Take a boat or sail around the volcano with a stop at the hot springs. You can book a trip at a travel agency on the island or ask your hotel for recommendations. While getting up close to the volcanic epicenter is a unique experience, the view of Oia and Fira from the water is epic.
Fitness Level Tip: The swim from the boat to the hot springs takes approximately 10 minutes at an active pace, even with the flotation devices you’re given. If you’re unsure about your abilities as a swimmer, we recommend staying closer to the boat.
Afternoon – Visit Red Beach and/or Holy Monastery of Prophet Elias. Rent a car or hire a driver and head to Red Beach. This area of red rock and blue water is a must-see. There is a parking lot at the head of a walking path, which leads to an overlook of Red Beach. We don’t recommend going down to the beach, as it is consider unsafe due to potential rock slides. Many people flock to this area daily, but don’t proceed if the possible dangers make you nervous. Instead, you can consider hiring a boat for the entire day. After your morning sail around the volcano, book a trip in which you can also view Red Beach from the water.
The Holy Monastery of Prophet Elias of Thira offers endless 360 views, as it is the highest point on Santorini. It is worth a visit, and be sure to learn more about the historical and cultural significance.
Sunset and Dinner – Drive on the Road to the Lighthouse. The Akrotiri Lighthouse is at the opposite end of Oia on the horseshoe shaped island. The road to get to the lighthouse has several turn offs where you can stop and take in the sunset. The bonus is that this is one of the few places you can also see both Fira and Oia all lit up at night. There are several great places to stop for dinner in this area.
Morning and Afternoon – Relax on the Beaches of Perissa or Hike from Fira to Oia. Your third day on the island calls for some relaxation. Perissa is the perfect place to rest and enjoy the beach. There are plenty of restaurants, beach chairs, water and beach sports to give you a great day.
Or hike the rim of the caldera from Fira to Oia. You will experience some of the best views in the world. It’s approximately a 10-km walk between the villages and can take up to 4 hours. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, a hat and sunscreen, and bring plenty of water.
Fitness Level Tip: We recommend this hike only for those in good physical condition, as it is strenuous at times.
Sunset and Dinner – Enjoy a Rooftop Dinner in Oia. While there are plenty of places to view the sunset (and sunrise) on Santorini, watching it from Oia is a must-see at least once. Oia has some picturesque rooftop dinner locations. Make a reservation ahead of time and enjoy the view!