Santorini island is a dream, and if you are visiting the Cyclades and want to make the best out of it, chances are you won’t spend more than 3 days in Santorini.
In such a timeframe you’ll be able to live some of the best experiences on the island and see everything there is to see. Of course, we have spent one whole week in Santorini, but we mixed sightseeing with relaxation by the beach.
If you’ll follow this comprehensive guide, you won’t miss anything this stunning Aegean gem has in store.
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3 days in Santorini – the ultimate guide
Getting around the island
No matter where you arrive in Santorini – by place at the Fira Airport, or by boat/ferry in Ammoudi Bay – there are plenty of options when it comes to getting to your hotel.
The Ktel public buses link lots of towns around Santorini island, they are affordable and have many options daily. It can be a great way to get around the island, maybe not as you arrive. The downside of public transportation is that it is not that comfortable when you travel with large luggage, and it might not get you very close to your hotel.
From the main port in Ammoudi, you’ll have to climb the few hundred stairs to the top of the hill, and center of Oia. If you don’t choose to stay in Oia (even thou you will want to after seeing this list of stunning & affordable Airbnbs in Oia) head towards the bus stop. There are plenty of taxi options as well you will choose from here.
Should you rent a car?
We didn’t do it, and chose to book private tours, especially if you plan to go wine tasting (an absolute must in Santorini).
Sure, you won’t have the flexibility you would when you rent a car, but you won’t waste any time. We relied on the people that knew the island best, thus got to see many things in a short time.
I think that’s what you also want, especially when you only have 3 days in Santorini and want to make the best out of your time here.
If however, you choose to rent a car, Discover Cars is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental.
Where to stay in Santorini
When it comes to staying in Santorini only for a few nights, you’ll want to make the best out of the experience.
I’ve written a very comprehensive accommodation guide for the whole island, gathering some of the most amazing properties on both sides.
Also, if you are looking for affordable places in Oia, the island’s gem, read my list of stunning Airbnbs in Oia. They all come with great price tags, offering perfect locations, breathtaking views, and authentic design.
After reading these 2 precious resources you’ll know exactly where you’ll want to stay in Santorini.
Go on a tour of the island
The best way to get to know the island better is to go on an organized tour that will take you to all the places you’ll need to see.
We went on such a tour and got to see the Red Beach, the black sand beach in Perissa where we had a stunning lunch, climbed to Moni Profiti Ilia, and got to see the whole island from the highest point.
Another must-see destination is the ancient Akrotiri archeological site dating from the Minoan Bronze Age. The site is unique because it has been very well preserved since it got buried by volcanic ash in the 17th century BC.
Before making our way to Santo winery for a wine tasting experience and a tour of the factory, we stopped in the small village of Megalochori. It was one of the most charming places in Santorini, because it was not packed with tourists, and we had the iconic white streets and houses to ourselves.
Check out these 2 tours that would take you through these places, packing it all in one day:
Explore Oia and see the most famous sunset
As evening approaches, make your way back to Oia and take some time to explore every little corner of this paradise. Among the best things to do in Oia, you won’t want to miss having dinner with the most famous sunset.
Just make sure to book a table in advance, and come early.
Another thing I would consider in Oia, in particular, is booking a professional photographer for a photo session that will last forever.
I’ve invested a lot of time and money in my photo gear and I’m lucky to be able to take some pretty pictures myself, however not all people have that, and if you want to have couple pictures that’s almost impossible without the help of a photographer.
What I love about Flytographer is that you have so many great local photographers to choose from, they know the region and when and where exactly to go for the perfect shot. On top of that, you see their previous work, choose from different types of packages depending on your budget and desires.
Additionally, you will have a 50 USD discount with the “seeyousoon” code for the sessions you book in advance, for a future trip you have planned or as a gift for a loved one. Check it out here!
Climb the volcano
Wake up, have a wholehearted Greek breakfast with a view, and make your way to the boat that will take you to the volcano.
Our day trip included a climb on the crater, a dip in the hot spring waters close to it, and a lunch with some sunbathing on the Therasia island – the part that had been torn from Santorini when the volcano erupted. It is there where we had a delicious lunch at a very local and traditional taverna.
Worth knowing is that you will need to have comfortable shoes because the ground on the volcano is very arid and slippery. Also, bring something to cover your head – there’s no shade – and lots of water to stay hydrated. The climb to the top is not very steep or hard, however, the sun will make it a bit difficult.
As for the hot springs, I wasn’t a huge fan of that stop. However, the clear blue water around the boat made it better.
Make sure to check out these tour options that will include a part of our itinerary or all of it. Book in advance so that you can secure the best deal, and make sure you’ll have the whole trip planned.
Sunset wine tasting
The local wine of Santorini is different than anything you’ve ever tasted before. That’s mainly because of the way the grapes grow on the arid volcanic soil, under the hot sun for so many months.
That results in sweet, strong wine, with so many available options you should try directly from the local producers.
And how’s the best way to do that other than on a wine tour? You’ll have the chance to taste other local produce apart from wine, learn about the region, and see the sunset from another point.
Here are a few options you’ll want to book for your trip:
- A private guided winery tour
- 4-Hour Sunset Wine Tour
- Check out this full list of food and wine tours of Santorini and choose the one that better suits your needs
Go on a hike from Oia to Fira
Start your day early to avoid the heat and sun, and make your way either from Oia to Fira, or from Fira to Oia for a less stressful route.
The whole hike will take you along the caldera, but also through pretty towns like Imerovigli (the highest point, where you can take a break for coffee or lemonade) and Firostefani. Overall it will sum up to around 10 kilometers, and anywhere between 2 to 5 hours depending on how many stops you plan along the way.
I know I would stop by at every viewpoint and would explore every street of the small villages encountered along the way.
Come prepared with good walking shoes because the road is not always paved, with some parts of slippery cobblestone, and others as a dirt path.
I sure know that I’ll add this to my trip the next time I’m in Santorini, especially after all the hiking we’ve done after moving to Hong Kong.
Sunset Catamaran Cruise
And because you’ve exercised so much in the morning, you’ll be worth to end the day in style on a sunset catamaran cruise along the island shores, with a caldera view.
There are lots of options out there, that will offer bbq dinner, transfers from your hotel, and drinks, so you won’t have to worry about anything! Your only worry would be what to wear for those stunning pictures you’ll take on this cruise.
What would be more romantic than sailing with the sunset your background along with one of the most unique islands in the world?
Check out some great cruise available options here and book in advance to get the best price and choose your date and time!
Alternatively, if you’re not into cruises or you are seasick, book a table for dinner in Fira at the Volcano Blue restaurant.
We loved this place! The food was so delicious that we overate (as usual in Greece), the views are perfect, and the staff was super friendly and open to help us with any information. They even invited us to a party with them once they finished work.
When to visit Santorini
Although we visited the island in August, or even because of this fact, I would not recommend you do that. August is a very crowded month, with the streets and restaurants packed with people, and hight prices for both accommodation, and food.
That’s why I would suggest planning your 3 days in Santorini for the beginning of summer (either May or June), or the beginning of fall (September is perfect, while also October is a great time to see Santorini).
I always prefer the shoulder season for those locations where the weather permits and you can get better prices, without the crowds you normally get during summer.
Where to eat in Santorini
Where to eat and which restaurant to book in advance. On top of that, I’ll share with you some of my favorite Greek food you will absolutely need to try!
There are a couple of things you must have in mind:
- book your table way in advance (even 3-5 days in advance) if you want to be sure you get a table, especially one with the perfect setting.
- Tipping – it is normal to tip in Greece, and you can leave anything between 5-10%
But first things first, here are a few of the best restaurants in Santorini:
- Volcano Blue Restaurant in Thira – the place we loved so much and where we ate very well, it provides one of the most wonderful views in Thira.
- Metaxi Mas in the center of Santorini – come here for the perfect pairing of delicious food and local wines.
- Ambrosia in Oia – book a table here for one of the most romantic dinners of the year.
- The Athenian House in Imerovigli – another restaurant with a stunning view and a menu designed by some worldwide renowned Greek chefs.
Don’t leave Santorini without trying the following foods and drinks:
- Red Donkey beer
- Vinsanto wine
- Halva – toasted semolina, flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel.
- Baklava – the heavenly pastry packed with nuts and honey, and sometimes stuffed with ice cream, like the one we had
- Fresh fish at a local taverna
- Fried calamari – the perfect snack on the beach
- Tarama spread – something we eat back home in Romania as well, but I never found anywhere else in the world. If you haven’t heard of it, please try it.
- Dolmas – stuffed grape leaves
- Baked feta with honey – my ultimate favorite food in Greece. It comes also in the savory variation, without honey, but with some spices.
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