With its stark volcanic landscapes and beautiful whitewashed villages, there’s a lot to explore in Santorini. Spend the perfect three days in Santorini with this in-depth itinerary and discover the island’s true charm. 

For an island of just 29 square miles, there’s a lot to see in Santorini

The island’s appeal is no surprise – this dramatic cluster of land showcases breathtaking sunsets, postcard-perfect villages and exploring some of Greece’s most important ancient sites. Sure, Santorini is beautiful, but it’s also a lively island with a distinct personality and charm you won’t find elsewhere – even in the other Cyclades

Julianna in Oia

I’ll level with you – Santorini is no secret and you can expect some of the best-known spots like Oia to be heaving during the peak months, but know where to look and this island is still full of quiet surprises. 

That’s where this itinerary comes in. I spent a chunk of time in Santorini last year researching a series of articles. I booked tours, drove and hiked around every nook, consulted with locals and read almost endless guides so I could get to the nitty gritty of what you should do – and what you should skip – on this gorgeous island. 

You need to know where to go, how to plan your trip, and create an action plan for fitting everything in. I got you. Here’s all you need to know about visiting Santorini in 3 days. 

Santorini Itinerary 

Day 1: Explore the Southern Coast

Views from Akrotiri

I’m going to kick off your Santorini itinerary by visiting the villages, beaches and landmarks in the south. Together, we’re going to tick off some straight-up breathtaking views and try some delicious cuisine. Let’s go! 

Explore an Ancient Castle in Emporio Village

There’s a lot more to Santorini than its famous coastal shores. Emporio Village is one of the places you may not have heard of that you absolutely need to explore on your trip. Kicking off your time in Santorini with the island’s largest village is the perfect way to experience “old” Santorini. 

The ancient village is overlooked by a restored Venetian castle dating back to the 15th century. Walk around the castle and marvel at its high walls and earthy tones contrasting with its white-washed houses. You can stroll around the castle’s grounds, which is a maze of staircases, tunnels, and mysterious buildings. Do this.

Head a little further north to see the ruined Tower of Nimborio. It’s another Venetian architectural marvel on the outskirts of town that served as a defence against pirates. Legend has it the tower was once accessible by a tunnel from the Kastilo. We’ll just have to use our imaginations as it’s no longer open.

Hike to Akrotiri Lighthouse

Views from the lighthouse
The views from the lighthouse

Now it’s time to head to the coast. Akrotiri Lighthouse is located on the very Southwestern Corner of the island, overlooking the Aegean Sea. The local host at my accommodation in Oia recommended that I put it at the top of my list for my time on the island, thanks to its expansive views and I’m passing that knowledge on to you. 

The lighthouse is one of the oldest anywhere in Greece, with a history going back to the late 19th century. It’s been operating consistently for decades, with a brief hiatus during WWII. It’s a pretty lighthouse that’s very photogenic, but the views out to the sea are extraordinary.

Reaching Akrotiri Lighthouse is pretty straightforward. You can park near the lighthouse (though that lot is quite small) or hike in from the spaces further away.

Top Tip

Move this to the end of the day to watch the sunset. It’s a fantastic alternative to Oia, and far less crowded. 

Learn About Ancient Santorini at Akrotiri

Ancient site of Akrotiri

Akrotiri is one of two important ancient sites on Santorini (don’t worry, we’re going to head to the second tomorrow) – but what is it exactly? This covered ancient archaeological site contains an excavation of a preserved Bronze Age settlement. 

Legends are plentiful, and intrigue is endless (some people think the village could tell us secrets about Atlantis). While that might be a little far-fetched, we do know that in its heyday, it held a web of narrow alleys and 4-story buildings with incredible views.

Pots and walls in the ancient site

Interesting as the site is, the way it was destroyed is one of the darkest moments in Santorini’s history – when a giant volcanic eruption (reportedly four times the size of Krakatoa) destroyed the island and levelled the village. The ash preserved the village in such pristine condition that people call it the 2nd Pompeii.

I recommend spending at least a few hours here as it’s a fascinating site that allows you to learn about Cycladic and Minoan cultures. 

Spend Time on the Red Beach

Red Beach Santorini

Red Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Santorini. There’s no secret as to where it gets its name from, this small cove is framed by red rock so bright it almost doesn’t look real. 

It’s a great place to photograph, and you can chill out on a small stretch of the cove. But beware, there have been plenty of reports of falling rocks at Red Beach, so please take care if you do decide to sunbathe there. 

You can swim at the beach, but the footing is pretty rocky. You’ll want to wear proper footwear when you make your way from the shores to the cove.

The drive from Akrotiri only takes about 20 minutes, and there’s parking steps from the beach.

Kayak to White Beach (Aspri Paralia)

White Beach

Though it’s not *quite* the Caribbean, the beaches in Santorini are well worth a visit. Which is the best? Do yourself a favour and head to White Beach after you visit Red Beach on your Santorini itinerary.

The towering white lava rocks and crystal clear waters make this a perfect place to explore the Aegean Sea. There’s great snorkelling where you can see fascinating rock formations above and below the water.

Getting here is a bit tricky. You can hike in from Red Beach, but it’s a tough path. I recommend arriving by boat as it’s is a lot more fun.

You can take a water taxi from Akrotiri by walking down to the pier or book a guided tour on a kayak (I like the latter because you go at your own pace).

Enjoy Dinner at Theros Wave Bar

You’ve definitely worked up quite the appetite on today’s adventure. No worries – I’ve got the perfect place for you – Theros Wave Bar is a cool place for sundowners and dinner. This really was one of my favourite spots on the island – another local recommendation that was miraculously relatively quiet when other locations were heaving. 

It’s in a really remote location on Eros Beach, and I can’t lie, it’s kinda hard to find. You’ll likely get a bit lost (don’t worry, everyone does). Once you find this hidden gem, settle down, knowing that you’ve arrived at one of the best beach bars in the Mediterranean (trust me, the awards to back that statement up). 

Theros Wave Bar

It’s not cheap: great things on Santorini rarely are. But the €17 cocktails and €25 mains are so worth it. The food is stellar, and the sunset views provide the perfect scenery.

You can’t really go wrong with the menu here: I opted for the fish ceviche with a strawberry and tomato sauce and chicken salad, while J went for the grilled pork chop. It was all fantastic. Pair your food with a cheeky cocktail and you have all the makings of a perfect evening. 

Day 2: Central Santorini 

Now that you’ve settled in, it’s time to start exploring up the coast of Santorini. Start the day at the beach before checking out more beaches, ancient villages and tucking into some of the best food on the island.

Start Your Day on the Beach in Perissa

Perissa Beach

Perissa is a chilled out coastal village in Southeastern Santorini. It’s also home to one of the biggest beach resorts and the famous black sands of Paralia Perivolos, which is where you’re going to kick off the day.

Start on Perivolos Beach before heading up to the picture-perfect Perissa Beach. This is your best bet if you want a “beach” holiday in Santorini. The golden sands are fine and soft, and a tidy row of beach chairs and umbrellas is basically perfect.

The Beach Bar at Perissa opens early at 9 am. Start your day with a hearty breakfast and a cocktail if you want. The food is simple but tasty, with reliable options like pita with tzatziki and perfectly grilled meat skewers.

Visit Ancient Thera

Remember how I told you we were going to head to the other important ancient site in Santorini? Thera is that site. Ancient Thera is one of the best-known historical sites on the island and, although it was founded in 1,000 BC, it actually housed residents as recently as the 13th century.

Thera was at its most influential state in the Ptolemaic period, in which it was an important part of the empire and a member of the Islander’s League, which helped defend the Cycladic Islands. 

Long-time readers will know that I’m obsessed with Ancient Egypt, so to see remnants of the same period that birthed stunning locations like Philae Temple when Egypt was essentially under Greek rule, here in Santorini was really exciting. 

Egyptian style carvings

Walking around the complex, you can see beautifully preserved landmarks like the Temple of Artemidoros, a 3rd-century BC landmark that the Ptolemaic admiral helped build.

Another highlight is the Basilike Stoa, where you can see ancient Greek (Doric) columns from the 1st century BC. There are also Roman baths and the marble and stone Temple of Dionysos.

Spend some time walking the campus to take in the history of the most remarkable archeological sites in all of Greece.

Roam the Quiet Streets of Pyrgos


Pyrgos is a lovely town that’s a perfect place to stay if you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of Oia.

It was formerly the capital city of Santorini during the Byzantine era, and it’s an absolute charmer of a town. You need to stroll over from the main road, and once you do, you can find some hidden gems.

Pyrgos is quite small, which makes it a welcome break from busier spots like Thira and Oia. It’s the perfect place to walk around the streets and soak up the laid back vibe and ancient architecture around town.

Old church in Pyrgos

Start at the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Holy Orthodox Church, a beautiful building with its 5 signature bells on top. 

Just behind the cathedral is one of the fiveVenetian castles, which is a joy to walk around. The 16th-century castle has winding staircases leading to gorgeous views of the city and Aegean Sea. 

Top Tip

Pay attention to the buildings around the castle, including the 10th-century Koimisis of Theotokou and the stunning white and blue domes of Agia Theodosia.

Have Lunch at Brusco Wine Coffee Deli 

Brusco Wine Coffee Deli

After you’ve spent time roaming around Pyrgos, walk down to Brusco Wine Coffee Deli to enjoy a fantastic lunch. 

Order a Santorinian Platter with sausage, feta, tomato paste, and a beautiful array of local specialties ranging from olives to caper leaves. Trust me. At only €18, it’s enough food for at least two people.

Santorinian Platter

The outdoor seating is lovely, featuring a stone and wood balcony with flowers and bushes surrounding the facade. It’s in the heart of the village, so it’s a perfect place to watch the world go by. 

Grab a glass of wine or two and see why it’s one of the best places to eat (and people-watch) in Santorini.

Top Tip

Alternatively, you can save Pyrgos until later in the day and eat at Penelope, which is one of my favourite spots for dinner in Santorini.

Wine Tasting Around the Island’s Vineyards

Now that you’ve got the good vibes flowing at lunch, there’s no better way to enjoy an afternoon in Santorini than to try the local wines. Winemaking is a long-standing tradition in Santorini, with vineyards that experts speculate could be 400 years old.

You’ll be near some of the best vineyards on the island, which you can get to on your own or on an organised tour with Santorini Wine Adventures.

I visited a couple of vineyards on my last trip and the wines were fantastic. 

So which should you choose? Start at Estate Argyros Winery, just east of town. The sunny, airy space includes a vineyard tour and wine tasting. The vinsanto was fantastic and paired perfectly with the local cheeses and meats.

Then, make your way towards the coast and check out Venetsanos Winery. The historic vineyard has produced wines since 1947 and has some of the most scenic views of the Caldera you could dream of.

If you have time to fit in the indigenous wines at Gavalas Winery, I highly recommend it too.

Dinner at Taverna Tzanakis in Megalochori

It’s been a full day, so it’s time to mellow out in Megalochori. The beautiful hillside town features colourful buildings contrasting the white Cycladic architecture.

Taverna Tzanakis invites you inside, off the narrow streets through a stone arch, into a buzzing dining room. The smells of slow-cooked meats and Greek spices permeate the air.

The local favourite serves up homegrown veg and meat from their farm. Expect lamb, fava beans, tomatoes, and other local Santorini staples served up quickly in a comfortable dining room.

It’s a lovely way to end your day before you get ready to explore Oia and northern Santorini on your last day.

Day 3: Northern Santorini 

Alright, alright – I know you’ve been waiting to go to Santorini’s best-known spots, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do today. Head to Northern Santorini to see the famous churches and sunset views in Fira and Oia.

Sunrise at the Three Bells of Fira 

Fira, Santorini’s capital, is a close contender with Oia as the island’s best-known spots. Be sure you make it to the hillside village perched on the rim of the crater, which has guaranteed spectacular Caldera views.

Although you should spend time in Fira itself, you have to see the Three Bells of Fira – the Insta-famous church that launched a thousand camera clicks. It’ll be busy no matter when you go, but showing up early ensures you’ll have the best chance at beating the crowds. 

Hike up the short trail behind the church, and you can capture the bright copula and triangle of golden church bells with the Caldera and blue waters framing the photo perfectly.

Pop Into the Archaeological Museum of Santorini 

If you want to learn more about local history, Fira is home to some of the best attractions on your Santorini travel itinerary.

The Archaeological Museum of Santorini is a long-running museum, which first opened in 1902. The devastating earthquake of 1956 actually destroyed the building, but a new location opened in 1960.

The museum hosts numerous artefacts from excavations at Thira and Akrotiri dating back from Cycladic to Roman times. There’s a large number of relics from the Hellenistic Period, including pottery and statues dating back to 323 BC.


It’s relatively small, and you can enter for around €3 on any day except Tuesdays during the peak tourism season.

Enjoy Epic Views From Skaros Rock at Imerovigli

When you’re planning what to do in Santorini over 3 days, Imerovigli needs to be at the top of your list. Why? It’s one of the most beautiful villages in Santorini.

It truly is spectacularly photogenic and features the highest point of the Caldera’s edge. The views from the top don’t disappoint.

After you visit the 17th-century Agios Georgios Church nearby, walk out on the trail to the ancient fortress high above the Aegean Sea. 

When you’re staring down from 20 metres up, it’s little surprise this was a lookout point where locals protected the village from pirates.

Top Tip

Bring a good pair of hiking boots. The footing can be a bit sketchy on this 30-minute hike.

Climb up to the Castle of Oia

Oia Castle

Often considered the most historical landmark in Oia, the Castle of Oia (Castle of Saint Nikolas) is also one of the most popular sunset viewpoints on the island.

The 15th-century Venetian castle sits on one of the highest points in Oia, with unspoiled views of the Caldera and the Aegean Sea.

The fortress stands proudly near the white-washed houses, evoking a sense of history you can literally feel when you walk past the volcanic stone walls.

You won’t be alone if you head here for sunset, but there’s a reason for the crowds. The views are outstanding. If you can score a spot on the watchtower, you’ll have unspoiled views of the sun dipping below the cove and Caldera.

Top Tip

You’ll need to get to the castle around 1.5 hours before sunset to get a good spot outside of low season.

Visit the Blue Domed Church

Blue domed church at sunrise

You’ve seen the photo before. A church with bleach-white walls and a bright blue cupola standing proudly against a contrasting backdrop of the deep blue Aegean Sea and nearly fluorescent blue skies. This is the Blue Domed Church of Oia.

In actuality, it’s a pair of churches, St. Anastasi and St. Spyridon. And they’re perfect.

Hiking up the unnamed streets to catch a view is a must when you’re in Santorini, so bring your best camera (and dress).

Sunsets up here are magical, but if you arrive early in the afternoon, you can beat the crowds and (hopefully) arrive before it gets too windy.

Read Next

Oia Travel Guide

Happy Hour at Oia Vineyart

Oia Vineyart

Many of Oia’s best restaurants are very busy and a bit pricey. Oia Vineyart  is the exception to that rule. 

Head to the wine bar, come restaurant for happy hour, and you’ll enjoy some of the tastiest wine in the village with live music to match. 

I was treated to friendly service and excellent local wines and cheese. The latter of which was only €28 for a sampling board from around the Cyclades. 

It’s not cheap, but the wine selection was excellent, and the friendly staff made us feel right at home.

Top Tip

Ask to try a pour of Athiri, a crisp, citrus-forward white wine you’ll see on wine lists around the island.

Take Photos at the Windmill of Oia

The windmill

Another iconic Oia photograph you need to capture when you visit Santorini is the Windmill of Oia.

Located west of the Blue Domed Church of Santorini, the old wooden windmill is worth the walk over to see. Though this windmill is from the 17th century, locals used the machines to process flour and grains as far back as the 14th century.

It’s a popular location for photos, so you’ll need patience to get the right shot, but it’s worth the wait. Standing in front of the white-washed windmill with its giant wooden blades adds a particularly Cycladian touch to your Greek holiday photo set.

Sunset Dinner at Lauda Restaurant

What better way to finish your 3 days in Santorini itinerary than to eat at one of the most iconic spots in all of Greece. 

Lauda Restaurant was the first restaurant in Oia when it opened in the seventies, and it’s by no means old news. The sparkling dining room looks out to some of the most prized views of the Aegean Sea and backs up the ambiance with some excellent local cuisine.

You can order a la carte or choose a 6-course meal. The latter is a bit lavish at €200 per person with wine pairing at an additional €145, but it is a fantastic way to wrap up your holiday in style.

We tried the lamb and fava beans, which were both decadent and delicious. Trust me. Order the lamb and thank me later.

Top Tip

Making a reservation for a late dinner is one of the best ways to see the sunset in Oia.

Have More Time? Add These To Your Itinerary 

Head Down to Ammoudi Bay 

Just below the cliffside village of Oia is the beautiful, laid-back Ammouldi Bay. Walk down the 600 steps (really) and discover one of the more photogenic areas in Santorini.

If you can head there early, you’ll likely beat the crowds. Cruise ships drop off passengers here often, so be ready for elbow-to-elbow traffic later in the day.

On a sunny day, you’ll see the crystal-clear waters rolling up on the rocky shores, begging you to hop into the Aegean Sea. There are also a few great restaurants in the harbour, including the popular Ammoudi Fish Tavern.

After you snap some photos of the towering red rocks with Oia’s white and blue buildings, take a short boat ride to Armeni Restaurant and try some of the freshest seafood on the island.

Take a Boat Trip to Thirasia 

Island-hopping is brilliant in the Cyclades (there are over 200 total). So, catching a €1 ferry from Athinios or Ammoudi Bay to Thirasia is a great way to explore a popular option. 

First a little history. Years ago, Thirasia and Aspronisi emerged after a catastrophic volcano and formed the famous Caldera around Santorini. It’s been a small slice of historic Cyclades ever since.

Thirasia is a tiny island at just 3.5 sq miles, but offers up great views of Santorini just 20 minutes from the port. 

How can you find the best views? Hike up to Manolas for scenic vistas and a beautiful Cycladian village to explore.

Handy Tips for Planning Your Santorini Trip 

Sunset in Oia

Top Tips

  • Opt to stay outside of Oia for lower hotel rates and far smaller crowds. Pyrgos is a great option.
  • Show up to lookout points at least 90 minutes before the sunset in Oia to get a good spot.
  • Akrotiri Lighthouse is a brilliant alternative to sunsets in Oia.
  • You can also find my favourite viewpoint in Oia here.
  • Wear plenty of sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat during the hot afternoons.
  • Dress in layers. Evenings get cool and windy in Santorini.
  • If you don’t think 3 days in Santorini is enough, there are enough things to do that you can make your trip longer and run out of new things to check out.

What to Pack 

Getting Around 

Santorini is easy to reach by ferry or plane. Once you’ve landed, hire a car to drive from place to place.

You can opt for taxis and buses from Fira to most of the island’s top attractions if you’d rather not drive yourself, but it will be expensive and you’ll need to arrange transfers in advance. Uber does operate on the island, but there aren’t tonnes of cars.

Quick Tips


Santorini (Thira) International Airport (JTR)


Sunsets in Oia, White Beach, Akrotiri, Ancient Thera, Three Bells of Fira


Armenaki in Oia

Top Tip: While Oia is a must-visit, I recommend staying in ​​another area, like Pyrgos.

  • Currency: Euro (€)
  • Time Zone: Eastern European Standard Time (GMT +2). Daylight Savings March to October (GMT+3).
  • Budget: High


Read More Cyclades & Santorini Guides

Love This? Save + Share on Pinterest!

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *