The fate of Santorini was determined back in the 16th century BC when the island was destroyed by a volcano erupting. Ever since then, Santorini is known as a textbook Greek island with picturesque beaches and a wild party scene. People from all over the world visit Santorini to bathe in the sunlight, experience delicious Greek food, and live the Greek dream in white and blue colors.
Whether you are a fan of Greek architecture or simply want to relax on the beach and listen to the waves crashing on the shore, Santorini is an excellent choice for a holiday. Keep reading to figure out your perfect Santorini itinerary!
The best way to enjoy a European capital is to not make any plans and just walk around the center of the city. The same approach will not fly in Santorini! You need to have a day itinerary for most days unless you plan to just lay out by the water. Follow our Santorini itinerary for some inspiration!
Day 1: Explore Oia
Oia is one of the largest towns in Santorini. The town offers a classic Greek atmosphere, with whitewashed houses and beaches. Most people choose to stay in Oia because of the architecture and views, though its beaches are not the last thing on the list. If you only have one day to spend in Oia, we recommend you visit the Castle of Oia (or Agios Nikolaos Castle). The castle is not known for its architecture as much as for the wonderful view it offers. Trust me, it’s breathtaking!
Take a trip to the Castle of Oia if you get a chance, but plan ahead. Tourists arrive in droves an hour before sunset because everybody wants to get a glimpse of the view as the sun goes down. If you come at the same time, you will have to deal with big crowds. They usually all leave right after sunset though, so you’ll have the viewpoint all to yourself.
Day 2: Explore Emporio/Pyrgos
Pyrgos Kallistis is a small village in Santorini. The village is surrounded by vineyards, which is an attraction in itself. Go to Pyrgos to walk around, sit in local wine bars, visit boutique stores, and enjoy the medieval streets. The village is very picturesque and cute, just like the rest of Santorini! Pyrgos also houses the Museum of Icons and Ecclesiastical Artefacts that is located in what used to be the Agia Triada chapel. Pyrgos is located 5 km away from Fira, which is a 10-minute taxi ride or a 15-minute bus journey.
Emporio is another Greek village located not far from Pyrgos Kallistis. The village is quite similar to Pyrgos in its entertainment selection. You can walk around and experience the Greek way of life with little tavernas, bakeries, wine bars, and boutique hotels. Emporio houses a number of Orthodox churches that are worth a visit. The village is located 12 km away from Fira, the capital city.
Day 3: The Catamaran Cruise
One of the most popular forms of entertainment offered in Santorini is catamaran cruises.
A catamaran cruise is basically a boat tour that takes you to the top attractions of Santorini. This is a trip you can’t miss out on!
Have a look at this website to see all the different tours offered by different providers.
Right off the bat, you can see that the prices range from $100 to $1,000! Naturally, the more expensive ones offer a more luxurious experience, with delicious food and drinks and a more comfortable vessel. Whichever cruise you choose, be sure that you will be picked up from and dropped off at your accommodation.
The cruise takes you to the best swimming spots in Santorini. You can visit the Red Beach and White Beach to dip in the beautiful water. Spend some time in the hot springs that shaped the island. Appreciate the view from the catamaran and feast on some tasty food. We highly recommend booking a sunset cruise if you get the chance, as the views on that one are unforgettable!
Day 4: Red Beach/Vlychada
The Red Beach in Santorini is one of the most iconic beaches for swimming.
The beach gets its name from the red cliffs hanging over the shore. The cliffs originated from the volcanic eruption that happened many centuries ago.
There are many different ways to get to the beach. You can include this trip in your catamaran cruise itinerary to make it as convenient as possible. Alternatively, you can also drive there, take a taxi, or even take the bus!
The Vlychada (or Vlichada) beach is located in the Vlychada village. It is definitely one of the nicest beaches in all of Santorini. What makes it so special is the scenery. Instead of a regular sandy beach with a parking lot or road in the back, you get cliffs of volcanic ash as the background for your adventure. This beach is known as the place for locals, so it won’t disappoint if you’re looking for a quiet and serene location with almost no tourists. Vlychada is located approximately 10 km away from Fira. You can go there by car, which won’t take longer than 15 minutes, or take a 35-minute bus trip.
Best Beaches in Santorini
You can’t go to Santorini and not visit the beaches! The island has some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, so don’t miss out on those. Here are some beaches that are an absolute must. Add them to your itinerary and enjoy a swim in the freshwater!
Red Beach is known as one of the most iconic beaches on the island. The beach is located a 45-minute drive from Oia, so the best way to get there might be with a catamaran cruise. The beach gets its name from the red cliffs that hang over it. The cliffs and roads around that area are red because of the volcanic eruption that happened many centuries ago.
Perissa is one of the most popular beach destinations in Santorini. If you want to spend every day soaking in the Greek sun, consider staying in Perissa! If not, you might as well make your way to the Perissa Beach one of these days. The beach is very clean, with friendly staff and delicious restaurants. You can get a bite to eat in an Italian, Greek, or even Indian restaurant! The sunbeds and umbrellas are comfortable and affordable. It’s the perfect destination for a day trip! Note that Perissa is located closer to the Red Beach and Vlychada than Kamari.
Kamari is another excellent option for those looking for some sun. While Perissa is the perfect place for a day trip, Kamari is better for a longer stay. Kamari Beach is livelier, which can be regarded as an advantage and disadvantage at the same time. You will find a number of restaurants and bars by the beach.
Best Time to Visit Santorini
It might be your first instinct to travel to beach locations in the summer months.
Summers in Europe don’t get as hot as in Turkey or the UAE, so you might think that the weather will be most favorable from June to August.
While you might enjoy a pleasantly warm sea and definitely catch a tan, you will also encounter a large inflow of tourists around the high season.
If swimming in the sea is very important for you and you don’t mind braving the crowds, you can opt for a vacation in these months.
However, make sure to book your stay well in advance. As the peak season gets closer, the prices of accommodation begin to grow. Plan in advance, and you can enjoy a stress-free trip at a friendly price.
If you don’t care too much about swimming and sunbathing, you can visit Santorini in April or May already!
It will be too cold for swimming, but perfect for walking around and sightseeing. Plus, you’ll be able to avoid all the tourist crowds.
Be careful around Easter, as that’s when a lot of people travel to Greece to celebrate. Other than that, any week is good. Traveling in spring allows you to avoid crowds and extreme heat.
Finally, the best time to visit Santorini is between September and October. If you plan your trip for the beginning of September, you can still swim in the sea and lay out by the pool.
The weather starts to get cooler later into October, which some people find very pleasant. You won’t encounter crazy crowds, as most people have to go back to work and children have to return to school. As a result, the prices of accommodation drop and you can enjoy a more budget-friendly trip while the weather is still perfect.
There are multiple benefits to visiting Santorini during the low season. Check our complete guide to enjoy Santorini in Winter.
How to Get to Santorini
Santorini is an island, so there are only two ways to get there: by plane and by ferry. Depending on where you’re traveling from, you can choose the option that is most convenient for you. Keep reading to find out how to get to your vacation spot by plane or ferry.
The airport of Santorini has the abbreviation JTR. If you’re traveling from a remote location, like the US, Canada, or the UK, you can easily catch a plane to Athens (ATH), and fly to Santorini from there. That might be the easiest option for you if you don’t live anywhere near Greece.
If you live in one of the European capitals, there is an even better alternative for you. In the summer months, you can book a direct flight from your city to Santorini. Think London, Prague, Naples, Amsterdam, Paris, Milan, Rome, Frankfurt, and more. The best thing you can do is visit a website like skyscanner.net and find a suitable flight from your location.
Due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak, it’s become difficult to plan flights and trips to foreign countries in advance. It’s difficult to predict if and when the situation in your destination will get better or worse. Because of that, we recommend you don’t plan too far in advance if you plan on flying.
The Covid-19 precautionary measures in the destination country may change from one day to another. Make sure to stay up to date with all the measures concerning air travel.
If you’ve landed in Athens and decided not to continue traveling by plane, you can opt for a ferry boat ride to Santorini. That goes not only for Athens but for other Greek islands as well. Though flying has its own advantages, such as speed and ease, it is also more expensive than a ferry boat ride.
A ferry ride from Piraeus, a port in Athens, to Athinios, the main port in Santorini, lasts approximately 8 hours.
There is another ferry boat that is a little bit more expensive, but also slightly faster, saving you 3 hours and resulting in a 5-hour trip. There is a bus that will take you from the airport in Athens straight to the Piraeus port.
Taking the ferry surely is more of an experience than flying.
The ferries have comfortable seating areas, some of the best restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy your meals, and even a viewing deck from which you can appreciate the beautiful island of Santorini as you’re slowly approaching it. This trip is not for those who are in a hurry.
However, if you have some time to spare and don’t get very seasick, you should take a ferry boat ride.
Once you reach Santorini, you will be approximately 10 km away from Fira, one of the main cities of the island. You will find buses taking travelers to different parts of the island.
If you’re not on a tight budget and crave extra comfort, you can take a taxi to your final destination. Alternatively, you can rent a car and enjoy the freedom of having your own vehicle all throughout your trip.
Drop it off at the same location at the end of your vacation.
How to Get Around Santorini
As in any tourist destination, you have multiple options regarding transportation and getting around. You can travel by bus if you’re on a budget or simply enjoy getting acquainted with the local culture. Take taxis or book a private transfer if you enjoy additional comfort and luxury. Alternatively, rent your own vehicle! Let’s have a closer look at each option.
Taking the bus is certainly the cheapest transportation option. A bus ticket will only cost you around 2 euros.
Make sure to always carry some cash or loose change with you, as bus drivers don’t accept credit and debit cards.
All the bus routes start and end at the central bus station in Fira. The buses are pretty reliable and easy to use.
You don’t need to purchase a ticket in advance; just show up at the bus station before the time of departure and purchase your ticket inside of the bus. Find detailed information about the public buses of Santorini here.
Taking a taxi is significantly more expensive than taking the bus, but it may be worth it for you.
The price may range from 10 to 25 euros, which is reasonable given the distances between the towns in Santorini. One downside of opting for taxis is that you won’t always find one when you need one. The main taxi stations are located in Fira and the Athinios port. My advice is – don’t rely on taxis at night, as it might be a while before you catch one, especially during the high season.
Private transfers are best suited for bigger groups of travelers that want to be transported from the port or airport to their accommodation.
Transfers can also take you anywhere you like, as long as you book in advance. The main benefit of booking a private transfer is the convenience. You don’t have to look for a taxi or wait for the bus.
As soon as you come out of the airport, the transfer will be right there waiting for you in the form of a nice air-conditioned vehicle and a friendly driver. Don’t hesitate to ask your driver about the island, the best places to eat, and so on. They will be happy to help! Of course, the downside of private transfers is that they are more expensive than any other mode of transportation. Check out this selection of private transfers and book yours in advance!
Renting a car might be the safest and most convenient way to travel around the Greek islands. You can rent one at the airport or port as soon as you arrive. It’s not hard to find a decent car at a reasonable price. Most rentals start at 30 euros per day. Grab a car when you arrive and drop it off at the same location on your way back home.
Should You Rent a Car?
Renting a car in Santorini has its advantages and disadvantages.
Obviously, it’s the most convenient mode of transportation. You don’t have to wait for anyone or depend on anyone. You can go whenever you decide to go. Having your own car while on the island is fun, especially if you enjoy driving. Renting a car will be useful if you plan on traveling the island instead of just staying in one place. You can also find cars at reasonable prices, so you won’t have to break the bank.
On the flip side, Santorini can get quite busy during the summer months. If you’re not a confident driver, perhaps sitting behind the wheel in a foreign country is not the best idea. You may have to spend a significant amount of time in traffic, which can be quite annoying. The closer you get to peak season, the more challenging it will be to find parking every day. Reach out to your accommodation provider and see if they can offer you a parking spot. If not, there are several parking areas in Oia and Fira. Some are free of charge, while others are paid. Prepare to pay, as you might not be able to choose.
Where to Stay in Santorini
Even though Santorini is just a small volcanic island in the Aegan Sea, it still has a lot to offer to all kinds of visitors. It boasts luxury hotels, as well as budget-friendly apartments. Santorini is the perfect place for adventures and exploring, as well as relaxing and unwinding. There are two main towns in Santorini – Oia and Fira. Others include Perissa and Kamari. Each has something to offer, so let’s have a closer look!
For exceptional views and architecture, stay in Oia
Kaleidoscope Cave Houses
Even though Kaleidoscope Cave Houses is a 3-star hotel, it is the epitome of luxury. The suites overlooking the sea also have outdoor hot tubs, which can only elevate the experience. The interior of these suites is innovative and cozy at the same time, ensuring you will have a pleasant stay. The prices range on the higher side, but it’s definitely worth it. If you enjoy the best things the world has to offer, this is the perfect place.
If you’re looking for something a little bit more affordable, yet still luxurious and comfortable, check out Finesse Suites! Finesse Suites are generally half the price of Kaleidoscope Cave Houses, but they’re almost as luxurious. The suites have a classic Greek look with lots of white and blue all around. Enjoy a traditional Greek holiday in one of these adorable suites.
To explore the island by bus, stay in Fira
If you want to explore the island by bus, you should stay near the central bus station in Fira – the capital of the island. You can find very affordable accommodation in the city. If you’re not planning on spending too much time in the room anyway, there’s no need to splurge on it! Solaris Apartments are clean and comfortable. Though modest, you will surely appreciate all the necessary amenities and proximity to the beach.
Athina Luxury Suites
Those who want to splurge on accommodation will find a lot to choose from. Athina Luxury Suites, for example, are located very close to the beach. The interior design of the rooms is absolutely stunning. You will find all the necessary amenities like a private pool overlooking the sea, a spa, and a fine dining restaurant on the premises of the hotel. Don’t just dip your toes in luxury on your trip to Santorini; dive right in!
For a beach holiday, stay in Perissa or Kamari
Demilmar Luxury Suites
If you’re staying in Perissa, chances are you came for a beach vacation. There is a large number of different suites, hotels, and guest houses located right on the beach or not far from it. You can make your preference based on the price point, interior design, and proximity to the beach. Demilmar Luxury Suites are on the more expensive side, but you’re paying for the experience. With direct access to the beach, there is not much more you could ask for!
Kamari is another beach town in Santorini that is just a little bit less popular than Perissa. There is not such a large number of hotels and guest houses to choose from, but each option is amazing in its own way. Dimitris Villa, for example, represents a humble, yet adorable esthetic. The location gives you access to the best places in Kamari. The friendly price leaves space for spending money elsewhere, such as delicious dinners and Greek wine.
Where to Eat in Santorini
Santorini has a large number of restaurants and street vendors that will serve you a hot and delicious meal any time of day. It all depends on the kind of food you’re looking for! It would be a shame to visit Greece and forego trying Greek food. Here are some restaurants you should try:
Lombranos: A romantic venue with local cuisine and tables overlooking the water.
Aidani: A traditional Greek tavern with friendly prices and even friendlier service.
Santo Athiri Restaurant: The number 1 restaurant in Kamari with fantastic seafood and service.
Santorini is all about relaxation, good food, and the sun. If you’re seeking adventure and lots of activity, Santorini might not be the ideal vacation spot for you. However, if you want to lie on the beach, soak in the sunshine, drink cocktails, eat lots of food, and appreciate the architecture around you, you have come to the right place! Santorini offers a unique experience that will fill you with joy and love for life. You won’t want to leave!