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3 days in Santorini – Best things to do

Plan the perfect 3-day getaway to Santorini with our comprehensive guide. Discover the best places to stay, must-see attractions, and tips to make the most of your visit to this stunning Greek island.
3 days in Santorini

Santorini isn’t just famous for its breathtaking sunsets; there’s so much more to explore! The island offers an array of stunning sights and activities that solidify its status as a renowned destination.

One common question about Santorini is how many days are needed to truly experience it. Honestly, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer—it really depends on your personal pace and budget. 

For those of you short on time or not keen on splurging on a long vacation, I’ve got some good news. You can actually soak in the major highlights of Santorini in just three days.

Yes, you read that right! If a quick getaway to this volcanic island sounds tempting, make sure to check out the three-day guide. It covers the must-see spots, top things to do, and, of course, the best places to stay.

1st Day

1. Fira

Fira, Santorini

Kick off your Santorini adventure in Fira, the island’s capital. This charming Cycladic town is a maze of white-washed houses and narrow alleyways, all overlooking the stunning caldera. While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to explore some local treasures.

The Museum of Prehistoric Thera and the Archaeological Museum of Santorini are must-visits, packed with fascinating artifacts that tell the rich history of the island.

2. Red beach & White beach

12 kilometers from Fira

Red beach, Santorini

The Red (Kokkini) beach is arguably the crown jewel of Santorini’s coastlines and it’s absolutely worth a visit. Named for its striking red cliffs and the unique red sand that lines its shore, complemented by dark pebbles, it’s a sight like no other.

Just a stone’s throw away—and quite a scenic drive due to the winding roads—you’ll find the White (Aspri) beach. Enclosed by stark white cliffs, this beach boasts a beautiful blend of white pebbles and black sand, a testament to the island’s volcanic heritage. You’ll notice this dramatic black sand across many of Santorini’s beaches, adding to the unique allure of each.

3. Akrotiri Archaeological Site

5.2 kilometers from White beach

Akrotiri Archaeological Site
Akrotiri Archaeological Site / photo: wikipedia

Not far from the bustling beaches, you’ll find the fascinating Archaeological Site of Akrotiri. Discovered in 1967, this prehistoric settlement is believed to be a Minoan community devastated by a volcanic eruption. It’s incredibly well-preserved and definitely worth a visit.

After exploring Akrotiri, I recommend stopping by the nearby lighthouse. Dating back to the 19th century, this lighthouse offers stunning views over the Aegean Sea. To make the most of your time, consider getting a skip-the-line ticket for Akrotiri—this way, you can avoid the queues and dive straight into history.

4. Wine tasting

wine tasting in Santorini

Santorini is renowned for its exquisite wines and charming wineries. You simply can’t miss out on a wine tasting tour here. If you get the chance, book a tasting during sunset. The experience of sipping fine wine as the sky turns brilliant hues of orange and pink is truly magical. This is a highlight that will make your visit unforgettable. 

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2nd Day

1. Caldera cruise

Caldera, Santorini

Once you’ve settled into the rhythm of Santorini, it’s time to indulge in one of the island’s premier experiences—a cruise around the caldera and its volcanic islets – Palea Kameni, Nea Kameni, and Thirassia. You can hike up to the active volcano on Nea Kameni, take a dip in the healing hot springs of Palea Kameni, and explore the serene waters around Thirassia.

This roughly six-hour caldera cruise is truly a must-do. It’s a unique opportunity to see the dramatic landscapes and sapphire waters of Santorini from a new perspective. Don’t forget your camera—this is a view you’ll want to remember.

2. Oia

14.5 kilometers from Fira

Oia, Santorini

Oia is one of the most picturesque villages on Santorini, nestled in the northwest part of the island, just 11 kilometers from Fira. This charming village is celebrated for its stunning sunsets that paint the sky in hues of fiery orange and soft pink. Oia’s traditional Cycladic architecture makes it a quintessentially scenic spot in Greece, often featured on postcards.

As you wander through Oia, you’ll marvel at the cliff-side homes carved into the rock, iconic windmills, and churches topped with vivid blue domes. A heads-up for sunset lovers: Oia is incredibly popular at dusk, drawing crowds eager to catch the perfect sunset. If you prefer a quieter experience, you might want to find a less crowded spot to enjoy the evening glow.

3. Imerovigli

9.4 kilometers from Oia

Imerovigli, Santorini

Imerovigli, perched at an altitude of 300 meters on Santorini, is often referred to as the “balcony of the Aegean.” It’s a designated traditional village that offers perhaps the most spectacular views of the caldera. While Oia is famous for its sunsets, the vistas from Imerovigli are equally mesmerizing.

For the adventurous, I’d suggest a visit to Skaros Rock, the site of an ancient castle. There’s a charming little church there, Panagia Theoskepasti. Trust me, you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes for the trek, and it’s best done in the cooler, golden hours of the late afternoon. The views at dusk are simply unforgettable.

3rd Day

1. Vlychada beach

10 kilometers from Fira

Vlychada beach

Start your day with a morning dip at Vlychada, one of Santorini’s most renowned and picturesque beaches. Located at the southern tip of the island, Vlychada is a beautiful blend of fine sand and dark pebbles. The backdrop of towering cliffs adds to its dramatic allure.

There’s also a beach bar nearby where you can grab a sunbed and relax under the warm Aegean sun after your swim. This spot is perfect for easing into a day of island exploration.

2. Perivolos beach & Perissa beach

3.2 kilometers from Vlychada

Perissa beach, Santorini
Perissa beach

Perivolos is a vibrant beach known for its striking black sand and lively atmosphere, brimming with bars, cafes, and restaurants. It’s a popular spot, drawing crowds looking to soak up the sun and enjoy the lively beach scene.

Right next door is Perissa, another bustling beach with the same stunning black sand and crystal-clear waters. You’ll find plenty of beach bars and restaurants here too, making it a well-organized spot for a day by the sea.

3. Kasteli of Emporio

3.1 kilometers from Perissa beach

Emporio, Santorini

Emporio is one of the largest settlements in Santorini, and at its heart lies the traditional neighborhood of Kasteli. This area is renowned for its unique architecture, with buildings constructed from volcanic soil. The narrow alleyways winding through Kasteli give it a charming, labyrinthine feel, and it’s fascinating to note that people still live here.

The enduring residential use adds a layer of authenticity that makes wandering through Kasteli feel like a step back in time. It’s a true gem hidden away from the bustling tourist spots, offering a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals.

4. Pyrgos Kallistis

4.7 kilometers from Emporio

Pyrgos Kallistis

Next up is a visit to Pyrgos Kallistis, the highest village in Santorini. Pyrgos was once one of the five fortified castles on the island, making it a top must-see attraction today. As you wander through the village, you’ll find yourself in the main square at the entrance to the old castle.

Explore the network of subterranean homes and discover about 50 churches dotted around. Of particular note is the Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, built between 1660 and 1661. This church is not only a significant historical site but also a stunning example of the rich architectural heritage of Santorini.

5. Kamari beach

5.2 kilometers from Pyrgos Kallistis

Kamari beach

Next, make your way to Kamari Beach, nestled in the southeastern part of Santorini. Like other beaches on the island, Kamari features the iconic black sand and pebbles, paired with crystal-clear waters.

Despite its popularity, the beach’s spacious stretch means it rarely feels overcrowded. Along the shore, you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can grab a bite or a drink while soaking up the sun and sea views. It’s a perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the lively beach atmosphere.

6. Ancient Thera

3.9 kilometerers from Kamari beach (you have to walk for about 1 kilometer)

Ancient Thera
Agora, Ancient Thera / photo: wikipedia

If you’re still up for some sightseeing, consider heading to Ancient Thera. This historic city sits atop Mesa Vouno, the highest point on Santorini. Founded around the 8th century BC by the Spartans, it was inhabited through the early Byzantine era.

The site not only offers a glimpse into the island’s distant past but also provides some of the most spectacular panoramic views of Santorini. It’s a rewarding climb, especially for the breathtaking vistas that await at the summit.

Where to stay in Santorini

Santorini

Let’s start with the basics: where to stay. If you want to be in the heart of the action in Santorini and you’re only there for a few days, I’d recommend staying in Fira, the capital.

Here, you’ll be right next to all the top restaurants, bars, and shops, plus you’ll have a stunning view of the entire caldera.

However, if you’re looking for a change of scenery, Oia and Imerovigli are also gorgeous areas to stay for three days, each offering their own unique charm and breathtaking views.

Recommended hotels in Fira:

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