Three days, top things to do in Santorini
Should you stay in Santorini on a first visit to Greece?
Yes! We’re glad we included three days in Santorini as part of our 12-day Greece itinerary. This beautiful and well-known destination in the Cyclades group of Greek islands is definitely worthy of a visit.
We felt that three days was perfect and that once was probably enough for us. There are so many more islands to discover in Greece. How will we find the time?
Santorini is a place you can explore at your own pace — opting to be active and exploring, or just relaxing and soaking up the island’s romantic vibe. We mixed it up a bit and enjoyed it all.
Come to Santorini for sunsets and romance
Santorini is famous for picturesque whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches on the clifftops above the Aegean Sea. Its spectacular sunsets creating an ambiance perfect for romance. And as you may know, Mr. TWS and I love romantic places.
Catamaran sunset cruise
We took a fun cruise around the caldera operated by Sunset Oia beginning at Ammoudi Port in Oia. During the cruise, there were stops at the volcanic hot springs for swimming (which Mr. TWS enjoyed) and near Red Beach and White Beach where guests could also spend some time in the water.
While onboard, we were treated to a freshly-prepared meal of traditional Greek dishes.
The highlight was our return to Oia to watch the sunset from the waters below the town. Everyone was very quiet, except for an occasional “ooh” and “aah” as we watched sun sink into the Aegean.
Indulge in an afternoon of swimming in the Aegean and having drinks and lunch on a comfortable covered sunbed at Seaside restaurant at Perivolos Beach on the southeast coast — black sand and pebbles, As with many things in Santorini, daybeds (and associated food and drink packages) were expensive, but prices were worth it for a seaside relaxation indulgence. Other nearby black sand beaches are Perissa, Agios Georgios, and Kamari.
Walk the caldera trail
Explore the villages of Santorini along the 6-mile mostly cobblestone trail between Fira and Oia. We took the path from Fira to Imerovigli, the town at the highest point of the island. You can make it a leisurely stroll or a more energetic exercise. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for some steep portions of the walkway and some spots where the cobblestones are uneven and/or a little slippery. Between Imerovigli and Oia, there are also some dirt path sections. The walk can take anywhere from two to five hours. A side trip to Skaros Rock, one of five fortresses built in the 15th century to protect against pirates, might add an hour or more.
For a comprehensive description of the full trail, check out this guide for the Fira to Oia hike.
Taste local wine
Did you know that wine has been made on Santorini for 3000 years? When you drive around the island, take note of the grapevines that are growing very low to the ground, a method used to protect them from the island’s strong winds. I enjoyed Santorini’s signature dry white wine, assyrtiko. Mr. TWS is not much of a white wine guy, so he chose a full-bodied Santorini red wine, mavrotragano. Although we didn’t visit any of the almost 20 wineries, you can choose an organized tour or visit them on your own (but you’ll probably need reservations during peak season).
Shopping and browsing
Actually, this is not one of my personal highlights since I’m not much of a shopper, but many visitors do love strolling through the towns of Fira and Oia to shop for local crafts and souvenirs, and browse around the art galleries. So if you like to collect special items and buy gifts for your loved ones back home, you’ll find plenty of opportunities.
A few Santorini trip tips
Accommodations tip: We stayed on the border of Fira and Firastefani on the caldera side of the island. Anteliz Suites, a boutique hotel on the caldera path was a great choice for its views and location away from the busiest areas of Fira, yet close to it all.
We stayed in a caldera view suite with a small private pool (unheated). The interior decor is light, clean, and minimalist as is typical with Cycladic architecture and design. The restaurant is very good and has a fantastic panoramic views.
Getting around tips:
We arrived at Santorini Airport from Athens by an Aegean Airlines flight which was about 45 minutes. A driver arranged for us by our hotel was waiting for us just outside of the terminal. A hotel porter met us in Firastefani Square, the closest place to the hotel that can be reached by a vehicle, to help with luggage and lead the way.
Taxis are available at the airports, port, and for transportation around the island, but book ahead since they are in high demand. We took taxis to and from Perivolos Beach and to the ferry port.
At the end of our stay, we took a SeaJets Power Jet high-speed ferry from Santorini’s Athinios Port to Crete for the final part of our trip to Greece.
Places to eat tips:
These are restaurants with outdoor seating and views that we can recommend along the caldera trail. Each of these restaurants serve traditional Greek dishes with local ingredients like eggplant, capers, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes, and a local Santorini cheese, chlorotiri. You’ll also want to try Santorini Fava, a yellow bean puree with onions, garlic, and fresh herbs served as a Meze (appetizers).
- Remvi, Firastefani
- Naoussa, family-run restaurant on the caldera next to the Central Orthodox Cathedral in Fira
- Volkan on the Rocks, Firastefani terrace on the clifftop
- Mama Thira, Firastefani
Bonus recommended restaurant tip: Although we weren’t able to get a reservation at Aktaion in Firastefani, it was highly recommended so I want to mention it here. It’s not a view restaurant, but it is a very popular old taverna (established in 1922) serving traditional dishes.
Peak season (July through August) tip: Santorini is a very busy island, especially in the towns of Fira and Oia, with vacationers and cruise ship passengers on day excursions. So plan on doing your shopping and sightseeing early in the morning to avoid a crowded caldera path. Also be sure to make reservations for restaurants.
Now on to Crete!