Santorini is an island like no other, and that’s what draws so many visitors to it from all over the world. Have you booked your trip to Santorini for this summer? Here’s some insider tips for an unforgettable experience that will make you fall in love with one of the world’s most famous islands.
Let’s get a few things straight: this article has been written by someone who first visited Santorini in 2005, kept coming back on holiday for 12 years and in 2017 finally moved here to fulfil their dream of living on the island of blue roofs and spectacular sunsets.
If you ask me whether three days are enough for a visit to Santorini, my answer is no. A three-day stay in Santorini is enough to whet your appetite to return again and again. Appetite comes with eating (and in Santorini you can certainly eat well, if you know where to go that is…).
Visiting Santorini: my insider tips
Santorini is an island covering around 90km2; it’s not huge, but neither is it tiny. And, most importantly, there are so many things to see and do.
This is my ideal itinerary for exploring Santorini in three days while avoiding, as much as possible, the hordes of tourists during the hotter months (and I’m not just talking about the weather!).
To avoid the tourism at its height, I’d suggest you visit Santorini in spring or in October if you can. These are both times of year when the weather is also a bit milder and exploring the island is a more pleasant experience.
If you’ve already booked your flight to Santorini, it’s absolutely essential that you look for your ideal accommodation. I’d advise you to stay in the south of the island where it’s more traditional and authentic and less crowded than Fira and Oia, the two most famous villages. Choose what’s right for you (hotel, B&B, private apartment,…) in the villages of Akrotiri and Emporio, but if you’re visiting Santorini as a family, you may prefer Perissa and being a stone’s throw away from the volcanic sands of Black Beach.
Now that you have your sleeping arrangements sorted out, it’s time to organise your three-day itinerary in Santorini. It will be a mix of well-known and less familiar tourist destinations, as there must be a reason why everyone wants to visit the island of sunsets!
Day 1 in Santorini: the traditional village of Pyrgos and the sunset in Oia
Once you’ve settled in, waste no time and set off to explore Santorini. You’re on one of the world’s most famous volcanic islands and you’ll be blown away by the infinite beauty of the caldera.
If you’ve decided to visit Santorini, it could also be because you heard somewhere about the glorious sunsets of Oia.
Although I’d advise you to visit Oia at sunrise (the village is empty and the light is incredible!), I know that you’ll probably (and understandably) want to watch, at least once in your life, the sun sink into the Aegean Sea from Santorini´s most famous village. In such a case, start your holiday in Santorini in Pyrgos and stroll through the narrow streets of this quaint village. If you have a car, you can drive to Profitis Ilias, the highest point on the island, for a breathtaking 360˚ view of Santorini.
Alternatively, you can enjoy some wine tasting at Hatzidakis, one of the island’s most renowned wineries. Then make your way north, armed with patience and awareness: everything has a price; watching the sun go down from the castle in Oia will certainly not be a romantic or solitary experience, but it’s sure to be something to remember. But if you trust me blindly, follow the itinerary in reverse order: explore Oia early in the morning and then go south to finish off your day in Pyrgos, sipping a cocktail at Franco’s at the top of the village.
Day 2 in Santorini: history, tomato fritters and the capital Fira
Your second day starts with a bit of history: book a guided tour of the Akrotiri archaeological site. Stroll through the narrow streets of the Pompeii of the Aegean, where time has stood still since around 1600 BC, and discover the secrets of a highly evolved civilisation (they already had two-storey houses and a complete sewage system!).
Have you ever eaten in a cave? Well, you’ll get the chance to do so on Santorini at Cave of Nikolas, a historic tavern on the water where you can savour the best tomato fritters on the island. Opposite the restaurant you can take the taxi boat that goes to and from White Beach, Red Beach and Black Beach (I’m not joking; Santorini is a volcano, remember!).
If you fancy a visit to another very traditional village, head south to Emporio and you can also make a quick stop on the way at the wild beach of Vlychada and, if you have time, visit the Tomato Industrial Museum (yes, there is such a thing, and it’s really interesting too!).
Book a table for dinner at Panigyri for a gastronomic experience; who cares that there’s no view?! Afterwards you can walk to the caldera, enjoy a more peaceful, illuminated Fira at nighttime and have a drink at PK Cocktail Bar.
Day 3 in Santorini: the Heart of Megalochori, music and the volcano seen from up close
Start your day off with a coffee and a tiropita at Erotokrito, one of Santorini’s finest bakeries, and make your way to the Heart of Megalochori. I don’t mean the centre of the village, though; I’m talking about a rather hidden spot on the caldera that not everyone knows about. Here you’ll admire the infinite beauty of the volcano.
Then carry on to the centre of the village and visit Yiannis and his Symposion, a cultural centre dedicated to music and mythology. At this point you’ll forget that you’re in Santorini! For lunch or a simple snack, take a seat at the wonderful Traditional Kafeneio of Megalochori, order a nice Greek coffee and soak up the atmosphere.
If you’re well organised, in the afternoon you can take a trip on a catamaran and explore the caldera from the sea, get close to the volcano, take a dip in the hot springs and enjoy the sunset from an exceptional spot.
I get the feeling that you’re acquiring a taste for Santorini and you would like to this itinerary to go on with a Day 4 and maybe a Day 5… But no, we said the itinerary would only cover three days because you’ll keep coming back, right?! I guarantee it! While you get on with checking the next flights to Santorini, I’ll start writing another travel itinerary for you, as there’s still so much more to see.