The Perfect 3 Days in Santorini Itinerary for First Timers

Santorini is not only one of the most beautiful islands in Greece but it’s also one of the most popular dream destinations in the world. People flock to this beautiful island from all over the world and it’s easy to see why! Stunning views, unbelievably blue sea, white washed houses with blue domes and gorgeous pink flowers, what more can you ask for?

Since Santorini is quite a small island, spending 3 days in Santorini will give you enough time to visit all the best parts of the island while sampling the most delicious local food and enjoying the true Greek vibes. In this Santorini 3 days itinerary I will show you how you can maximize your time on this incredible island!

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Useful Info for Visiting Santorini

How to get to Santorini

Flying to Santorini

The easiest way to get to Santorini is by taking a flight. Thira Airport (JTR) is located on the east side of the island and you can always find numerous direct flights from bigger European cities, especially in the summer period.

If you’re planning to visit Santorini from the USA, Canada, Australia or other non-European countries, you must get a connecting flight to Athens or another European city that operates a direct flight to Santorini.

Taking the ferry to Santorini

Another option for getting to Santorini is by taking a ferry. From mid-March until the end of September you can find numerous direct ferries connecting Santorini with many other Greek islands and Athens on the mainland.

If you’re traveling off-season, you can still find daily ferries from Athens, Naxos and Paros to Santorini all year round. It takes around 5-7 hours to reach Santorini from Athens, and 2-3 hours from Paros and Naxos.

Usually there are more ferry operator companies on the same route with various prices and duration. You can use the below search box to compare ferries and check the schedules.

Best time to visit Santorini

High season in Santorini runs from late June to early September. As you can imagine, the island is full of tourists in this season and the prices are at their peak. The weather is usually hot and sunny, which makes it perfect for relaxing at the beach. If you are more into sightseeing or hiking or if you don’t tolerate the crowds too well, I would recommend avoiding the high season.

Visiting Santorini in the shoulder season, typically in May-June or September-October is a great choice. You can still easily reach the island as the direct flights and ferries are still in operation. All of the hotels and restaurants are open, the prices are better, and there are less tourists on the island.

The island is significantly calmer during the winter months and with lower prices and a mild Mediterranean weather, Santorini can be a great choice if you want to enjoy some winter sun in Europe. The temperatures are generally mild, around 15°C (59°F) during the day but if you’re unlucky, the weather can be rainy and windy as well.

The postcard perfect view with the white washed cliffside buildings in Oia, Santorini

How to get around in Santorini

If you want to follow my 3 day Santorini 3 day itinerary and explore the whole island, not just the main tourist hubs, then you’re going to need to rent either a car or an ATV. This is the most convenient and easiest way to get around Santorini and since the island it not so big and the roads are in great condition, it’s fairly easy to drive in Santorini.

Having a car or an ATV will give you freedom to explore the island in your own pace and stop wherever you like, which is really important. Although you can find local buses in Santorini, I wouldn’t recommend using them. They are not so reliable and if you’re staying outside of Fira (the main hub of the bus system), you’re going to have a hard time getting around.

As for the rentals, I recommend checking RentalCars where you can compare various car rental options in Santorini. There are many pick-up and drop-off locations across Santorini such as Santorini Airport, Santorini Port, Fira or Perissa. I would suggest renting a car at Santorini Airport as it is very easy to reach from any part of the island. Moreover, you can find 10 different companies operate at the airport so you can get the best deals there.

Where to stay in Santorini

If you’re visiting Santorini for the first time, you might feel a bit overwhelmed when it comes to deciding actually where to stay in Santorini. The island has basically two different sides with many towns to stay in, so you need to pay attention which one you choose.

The caldera towns are located on the western side of Santorini and this is undoubtedly the favorite part of tourists visiting Santorini. The most popular towns in this part include Oia, Fira, Imerovigli and Firostefani.

The beach towns are situated on the eastern part of the island and if you’re looking for saving some money, it can be a great choice to stay at one of them. The most popular beach towns are Kamari and Perissa, where you can find beautiful black sand beaches.

If you’re interested to know more about each towns with detailed descriptions, pros and cons, and hotel recommendations, make sure to check out my in-depth guide about the best places to stay in Santorini! In case you’re looking for a quick solution, you can check my top recommendations below.

Kima Villas Suites
Photo credit: Kima Oia Suites via Booking.com

LUXURY – Kima Oia Suites

Swimming in the outdoor pool and enjoying the view of the volcano is just another day at Kima Oia Suites in Oia. All suites have a private balcony and free Wi-Fi.

Prime Suites
Photo credit: Prime Suites via Booking.com

MID-RANGE – Prime Suites

Prime Suites offers a collection of individually decorated suites and studios on the top of the cliff, in Oia Village. Guests enjoy stunning sea views from private or shared terraces or balconies, some with hot tubs.

Laokasti Villas
Photo credit: Laokasti Villas via Booking.com

BUDGET – Laokasti Villas

The Laokasti Villas in Oia is a traditionally styled complex consisted of of 17 spacious and comfortable hotel studios, apartments and villas. The complex includes well-designed hotel facilities and offers excellent services.

Overview of Your Santorini 3 day Itinerary

Below you can see a breakdown of your 3 days in Santorini, which luckily includes every part of this Greek paradise that you absolutely can’t miss during a vacation here. No matter where you choose to stay on the island, you’ll have an excellent time.

Each day, you’ll have some traditional Greek food for either lunch or dinner and travel to some fantastic attractions filled with rich culture and interesting history. When traveling, remember to bring your camera because there are tons of Instagram-worthy spots in Santorini!

Breakdown of your 3 days in Santorini

DAY 1 – Sunrise at Oia Castle, explore Oia and find the best photography spots, grab coffee and breakfast at one of the cafes, Ammoudi Bay, have a traditional Greek lunch, go on a sunset cruise

DAY 2 – Hike from Oia to Fira, Imerovigli, Skaros Rock, Three Bells of Fira, Museum of Prehistoric Thira, Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, grab lunch in Fira, go on a wine tour

DAY 3 – Pyrgos, Profiti Ilias Monastery, Perissa Black Sand Beach, Red Beach, Akrotiri Archaeological Site, Akrotiri Lighthouse, sunset at Fira, have dinner with a view

Map for your Santorini itinerary

Below you can find a customized map which includes all the locations you’re going to visit on this Santorini itinerary. I marked your 3 days in Santorini with different colors – I used blue for the first day, green for the second day and red for the third day, so you can easily see which places you’re going to visit each day.

If you open up this post on your phone and you click on the bracket in the upper right corner of the map, it will open up in your Google Maps app so you can always have it with you. Super convenient, right?

Day 1 of Your 3 Days in Santorini Itinerary

You’ll spend the first of your 3 days in Santorini exploring Oia and hitting some of the top sights. This day is a bit slower than the other days and includes fewer attractions just in case you feel a bit jet-lagged today. At the end of the day, make sure you rest up because the second day of this Santorini itinerary is jam-packed.

Watch the sunrise at Oia Castle

One of the best things you can do in Santorini in 3 days is catching the sunrise at Oia Castle. The castle dates back to Greece’s Renaissance times and was commonly used as a place of safety from incoming pirates.

Unfortunately most of the castle got destroyed during an earthquake and only a part of the old watchtower survived. So don’t expect a normal castle, you will only see the ruins of it. However, the castle is still worth visiting, especially for the panorama! It’s definitely one of the most impressive views you’ll see on the island.

Although Oia Castle is one of the best sunset spots in Santorini, unfortunately it’s not really possible to enjoy the sunset here due to the massive crowds. So if you want to truly enjoy the views, go for sunrise! This way you can have the castle all to yourself and you can explore Oia afterwards without the crowds.

View of the caldera at sunrise from Oia Castle in Santorini
View from the Oia Castle in Santorini

Explore Oia and find the best photography spots

As Oia is one of the most popular places in Santorini, it usually gets insanely crowded during the day. That’s why it’s a great idea to start your day early so you can explore the town while most of the tourists are still sleeping!

If you want to take some amazing pictures for your Instagram or travel scrapbook, this is the best time to do it so make sure you have your camera with you! Some of the places you should visit include the main street of Oia and the famous three domes of Santorini viewpoint.

Oia is kind of like a maze and it’s easy to get lost on the narrow streets. Which is not a bad thing at all as this way you can stumble upon some really great hidden gems in the town!

But if you want to make sure you find every famous spot, I have two tips for you: 1. turn on the satellite view on your Google Maps to see the layout of the town and 2. check out my in-depth guide about the best Santorini Instagram spots where you can find the exact location of every photo spot!

Grab coffee and breakfast at one of the cafes

After taking some fantastic photos to help you remember your trip, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. It’s time for a tasty breakfast and delicious Greek coffee! Whether you’re in the mood for an acai bowl or something a little heartier, there’s a cafe that’s perfect for you.

There are many different cafes in Oia, so you can’t really go wrong. However, one of my personal favorites is Melenio Cafe. They have a beautiful terrace overlooking the famous blue domes and the sea and their baklava is seriously to die for!

Baklava at Melenio Cafe in Santorini

Visit Amoudi Bay

The next stop during your 3 days in Santorini is one of the most breathtaking locations in the area: Amoudi Bay. The water here is incredibly blue, and there are bright red cliff faces everywhere you look. 

You have to hike down to get to Amoudi Bay, but it’s incredibly worth it. You can watch the boats come in and out of the bay and just relax in a truly picturesque location. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can even go cliff jumping! Just be sure to stay safe if you choose to.

Amoudi Bay in Santorini

Have a traditional Greek lunch

After relaxing a bit, it’s time for an authentic Greek lunch. This Santorini 3 day itinerary would not be complete without trying some delicious local cuisine! There are luckily quite few places to choose from to grab a meal during your first day.

The first option is to wander around Amoudi Bay and find one of the fish restaurants. The most popular in this area is the Amoudi Fish Tavern. They serve incredibly fresh and tasty seafood and they also have an extensive list of wines. Not to mention the picture perfect views! Please note that this is a luxury restaurant so prices here can be a bit expensive.

If you would rather stay on the budget side, you can try an authentic Greek gyros at Pitogyros. It’s a small restaurant with only a handful of tables so you might need to wait in line a little bit but trust me, it’s absolutely worth it! The food is absolutely incredible, it was the best gyros I’ve ever eaten in my life!

Go on a sunset cruise

End your first day of your Santorini itinerary by going on a sunset cruise. The sunsets in Santorini are genuinely unlike any other! There are many different cruise options, but it can be hard to find one that’s actually worth spending your money on.

One great tour to consider is the Santorini Catamaran Red Cruise. It comes with a delicious barbecue dinner and wine. During the cruise, you’ll head past both the Red Beach and White Beach and have the opportunity to jump in and swim a bit!

If the above mentioned tour is already full or you’re looking for another option for any reason, you could also consider a 5-hour small group Catamaran Cruise that includes a traditional Greek buffet lunch or dinner. 

Day 2 of Your 3 Days in Santorini Itinerary

Hopefully, you got a good night of sleep because the second day of your 3 days in Santorini is filled with lots of attractions! You’ll finally head to Fira and will be able to explore some other parts of the island that you didn’t get to visit the first day.

Hike from Oia to Fira

Start your day by hiking from Oia to Fira. This hike is truly an unforgettable experience for anyone visiting Santorini, whether you’ve been there before or not! The trail from Oia to Fira is 10 km (6.2 miles) long in total and it can be completed in 2-3 hours.

The hiking trail is well established but make sure to wear at least a comfortable sneaker! Also, you won’t get many shades during the hike so it’s best to start your day bright and early to avoid the scorching heat.

If you don’t feel like hiking that much, you can just rent a car or an ATV instead and follow the same path. This way you will be able to visit the highlights all the same without having to walk that much, plus you’re going to have more time at each attraction.

Whichever option you choose, make sure to stop by the following sights during your way from Oia to Fira!

View of the town of Oia in Santorini

Stop 1: Imerovigli

One of the best places you should stop by during your hike or drive from Oia is Imerovigli. Sitting on a clifftop overlooking Santorini’s caldera, Imerovigli is a charming little town which is often overlooked by tourists. It’s a pity because it’s just as beautiful as Oia or Fira!

Imerovigli is a luxurious village filled with really lovely bars, shops, and high-end restaurants, which makes it one of the best areas to stay in Santorini for honeymooners. There’s also a fortress that you’ll most likely pass by on your way to the next stop, Skaros Rock.

When in Imerovigli, make sure to stop by Anastasi Orthodox Church where you can capture two symbols of the island at the same time: the blue domed church and the flowering bougainvillea tree in front of it! And if you want to include some coffee time, sit down a bit at Confetti Dessert Boutique where you can sample the tastiest cakes along with a delicious coffee.

View in Imerovigli, Santorini

Stop 2: Skaros Rock

If you’re feeling adventurous, make sure to check out Skaros Rock which is one of the most scenic spots in all of Santorini. Skaros used to be one of the most important fortresses that was built in Santorini in the 15th century. Unfortunately, most of the fortress was destroyed during the earthquakes and nowadays you can only see the ruins of it.

There is a well established hiking trail connecting Skaros Rock with Imerovigli, starting at Agios Georgios church. The hike is not that long, only 600 metres (1,970 feet) in one way, but you have to tackle hundreds of stairs during the trail which makes it pretty challenging. But once you make it to the top, you will be rewarded with incredible views!

Skaros Rock Santorini

Stop 3: Three Bells of Fira

After taking the trip up to Skaros Rock, make your way to the Three Bells of Fira. This is the one church that you’ve probably seen tons of times before, whether in wedding photos or on Instagram. It’s that iconic! 

The church was built in the 18th century and is most well known for its bright blue dome and white facade. From the church, you’ll get a breathtaking view of the cliffs and the water below.

Three bells of Fira, Santorini

Stop 4: Arrive to Fira

If you follow the coastal road from the Three Bells of Fira, you will reach the center of Fira within 10-15 minutes by foot. Even if you opted for a drive instead of hiking, it’s still worth to complete this last section on foot as the views are incredibly scenic! You can practically see all of Fira in the distance which is a really beautiful sight to behold. 

Sunrise in Fira, Santorini

Explore Fira

Museum of Prehistoric Thira

Now that you made it to Fira, the capital of Santorini, it’s time to explore the city!

If you are visiting Santorini in 3 days, you should try to take the time to learn a bit about the island’s history. A great place to do this is the Museum of Prehistoric Thira. It’s situated on the same site as an ancient church, though the museum didn’t open until 2000. Prices to enter are rather affordable as a ticket only costs 6 EUR (7 USD) per person. 

In the museum, there are ruins from Santorini’s historic villages. You can even find pieces that survived the volcano that erupted so long ago. It’s a great place to learn more about early Greek life.

Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral

Next, head to the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s a huge Greek Orthodox church that’s absolutely breathtaking both on the inside and the outside. It has gorgeous arches, towers, and beautiful artwork on the inside that you won’t want to miss. Even if you only have the chance to see it from the outside, make sure you have the chance to stop by this beautiful Cathedral!

Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in Fira, Santorini

Grab lunch in Fira

After a really long morning of hiking and exploring, it’s finally time to grab lunch. Similar to yesterday, it’s best to try to find a more local restaurant. This way, you can try some other traditional Greek food and also support the locals.

Some of the best restaurants in Fira are Greek Bites and Argo Restaurant. You can’t go wrong with any of them, and they are each mid-range when it comes to pricing, therefore they won’t leave too much of a hole in your wallet.

Go on a wine tour

There is no better way to end the second day of your Santorini 3 day itinerary than going on a wine tour! The vineyards in Greece are unlike any other, especially in Santorini. 

There are many tour options for visiting a vineyard, but this Santorini half-day wine adventure tour is definitely one of the best! The sunset tour starts at 4.30pm and it includes visiting 2 of the area’s best wineries with trying 9 different types of wine. You can also get great wine tasting tips from your local guide and enjoy some Greek tapas as well.

If you have a bit more time, you can opt for this 4-hour small group wine tasting tour which starts at 3.30pm. During the tour, you’ll be able to try 12 different wines and learn about the island’s ancient wine history while visiting 3 different vineyards.

Day 3 of Your 3 Days in Santorini Itinerary

For your third day on this Santorini itinerary, it’s time to go out and explore the rest of the island. Similar to day two, day three is filled with lots of attractions, so make sure you eat a good breakfast and wake up early in order to fit everything in.

Keep in mind that in order to visit all the places on the itinerary for this day, you’ll have to rent a car or an ATV to explore the island.

Pyrgos

First, head to Pyrgos. The charming little village of Pyrgos is located in the foothills of Mount Profitis Ilias, 7.5 kilometers (4.6 miles) south of Fira. It’s the largest preserved village on Santorini and it was once the capital of the island.

Pyrgos is often overlooked by tourists and not many people actually make it there so it has a much more relaxed vibe than the northern part of the island. Take the time to wander around the streets and drop by some of the cutest souvenir shops!

One of the must visit sights in Pyrgos is Pyrgos Castle. Although the castle got seriously damaged in an earthquake in 1956, it’s still worth visiting, mainly due to its amazing location. Sitting on a hilltop, the castle offers an insanely beautiful panoramic view of the island and the shimmering sea.

You can also find many typical white churches with blue domes in Pyrgos. Two of the most beautiful ones are Saint George Church which is located close to Pyrgos Castle, and Agios Nikolaos Theotokaki which is situated in the heart of the town.

View from Pyrgos, Santorini

Profiti Ilias Monastery

Next, make your way to the Profiti Ilias Monastery. Situated on the summit of Mount Profitis Ilias, the Monastery of Profitis Ilias is one of the oldest churches on the island. It’s roughly 3 km (1.8 miles) away from the village of Pyrgos and since it’s located on the highest point of the island, it offers a breathtaking view of Santorini.

You can drive all the way up to the top where you will find many parking spots. The monastery is completely free to visit, it has a bell tower and it surrounded by four other churches and chapels.

Monastery of Profitis Ilias Santorini 1a

Perissa Black Sand Beach

Your 3 days in Santorini wouldn’t be complete without seeing a black sand beach on the island. The Perissa Black Sand Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island, and, just like its name suggests, is covered in gorgeous black sand that really makes the color of the ocean pop.

Be careful if you walk on the sand barefoot because it can get very hot in the sun and might burn your feet if you’re not paying attention! The busiest time to visit the beach is around 3 pm, so as long as you visit before then, it shouldn’t be too overwhelming.

Perissa black sand beach in Santorini

Red Beach

Now it’s time to head to another iconic beach. The Red Beach has red sand and huge red cliffs, which makes it extremely unique in comparison to other beaches on the island. It’s red because of the nearby volcanic rock. When you visit, be on the watch for landslides from the cliff faces!

Red Beach in Santorini

Akrotiri Archaeological Site

Next up on this Santorini itinerary is another historical site that can’t be missed. The Akrotiri Archaeological Site allows visitors to walk through an old Greek settlement that was destroyed and covered in ash from a volcano in the 16th century. 

Walking through the site is truly eye-opening and will give you an exclusive and unique look into Greece’s ancient history that you probably didn’t expect to see on an island like Santorini.

Akrotiri Lighthouse

This 19th century lighthouse is one of the country’s first lighthouses, which makes it pretty unique! It’s located very high up and offers breathtaking views from every inch, including down to the beautiful blue water.

There is a hill behind the lighthouse where you can easily climb up (there are even stairs carved to the hillside) and you can witness the sun setting right behind the lighthouse. Although the sunset is pretty magical at the lighthouse, since this is your last evening in Santorini, I would recommend going back to Fira and seeing the sunset there. But it’s completely up to you!

Sunset at the Akrotiri lighthouse in Santorini

Sunset at Fira

In case you don’t want to stay at the lighthouse for sunset, head back to Fira and be prepared for one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see! The best spot to catch the sunset in Fira is Franco’s Bar.

You may not think of a restaurant being a great place for a view, but it truly is! It also won’t be as crowded as some of the other sunset locations in the town. Unfortunately the bar is quite expensive but it’s definitely worth it for the views.

Sunset in Fira, Santorini

Have dinner with a view

Finish the day by having one last delicious meal in Santorini. While you could stick around and have some great drinks at Franco’s Bar, head to Parea Tavern. This is one of the top-rated Greek restaurants in Fira and it also has mid-range pricing, so you won’t have to spend too much money for a delicious meal.

Final Thoughts

Now you know the best way to spend 3 days in Santorini! Hopefully this Santorini 3 day itinerary will help you plan your next (or first) trip to this beautiful island. It will be a trip you’ll never forget!

If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email, I always love helping you out! Do you know any other attraction that I should add to this Santorini itinerary? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo, Kriszti


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