What to do in 4 days in Santorini Greece

People often ask what to do in 4 days in Santorini Greece. Here are some suggestions for a 4-day Santorini itinerary, based on our own trips to the popular volcanic island.

How to spend four days in Santorini – Santorini Travel Tips

Santorini is one of the most famous Greek islands. The strange volcanic landscapes, the blue domed churches and the spectacular sunsets make it one of the most popular destinations for international visitors.

4 days in Santorini - A blue domed church

While some people visit Santorini as part of a longer cruise boat trip, others prefer to spend more time on the island.

Generally speaking, 4 days in Santorini is a good amount of time to enjoy and get to know the island. Needless to say, this will also depend on what you like doing, what time of year you are going, and your budget.

I’ve put together this guide on what to see in Santorini based on our own travel experiences on the island, in different seasons. First though, let’s take a look at which time of year might be best to visit.

Best time to visit Santorini 

Most people visit Santorini in summer. As we have visited Santorini in both summer and during the off-season, we would absolutely suggest visiting Santorini in winter if you have the luxury of choice.

4 day itinerary in Santorini - Enjoy the beautiful sunsets

While you might find that strange, it’s much better if you are after views, nature and hiking.

Summers in Santorini can get uncomfortably hot, as the black volcanic rock attracts the sun rays. Most people wouldn’t really enjoy walking around for a long time in the peak heat of the day.

Moreover, several locals have mentioned that sunsets during the off-season are much better than in summer. We can actually confirm that – some of the Santorini sunsets we saw in summer 2020 were in fact not that special. Seriously!

Does Santorini really get so crowded?

The best thing about visiting during the off-season, is that you will be more likely to find some quiet spots on the island and take photos without the crowds.

How to spend 4 days in Santorini - See the sunset in Oia

Considering that Santorini had about 1 million visitors on cruise boats alone in 2019, you can imagine that we are talking about seriously large crowds. For sake of comparison, its population is no more than 20,000 people…

So yes, Santorini DOES get crowded. If this is not your style, there are several other Greek islands you can choose from. Or, just visit in the off-season, and you’ll have all the blue domes to yourself!

The beaches in Santorini aren’t that special

After having been to all the beaches in Santorini, we agree that some of them are very picturesque and unique. 

However, here’s our unpopular opinion: we don’t consider them very special to swim on. In fact, this is another reason why we prefer to visit Santorini during the off-season.

By contrast, many of the beautiful beaches in Milos are not only picturesque, but also great for a swim!

4 days in Santorini Greece in summer

We get it though. Not many people can take time off in winter. In addition, Greece doesn’t really feature as a winter destination in most people’s book.

A church in Santorini - 4 days in Santorini Greece

With this in mind, here’s a 4-day itinerary for Santorini during the summer months, allowing for sightseeing as well as beach time.

Getting around Santorini

Our suggested travel itinerary is easier if you have your own transportation. We had our own car and so didn’t need to rent one.

If you don’t want to rely on buses or taxis, you can go for a rental car, scooter or quad. You can also rent a car for part of your stay, and swap some of the activities around.

Before deciding what type of transport to rent, consider that many of the roads in Santorini are narrow and the road surface isn’t always great. Note that some rental vehicles are not covered by insurance on unpaved roads.

Hiring a car in Santorini

The unpaved roads also mean that there is a lot of dust, so if you are driving a quad or scooter consider at least covering your face. This is our car after a few weeks on the islands.

Here is my article on driving in Greece, with a lot of helpful tips.

Another idea is to arrange for a private transfer between places. This is a hassle-free option which will enable you to sit back and relax, without having to think about narrow streets or parking spaces.

Where to stay in Santorini

Before you decide where to stay in Santorini, it’s a good idea to study a map of Santorini. You will notice that it’s a crescent shaped island, and the west side is the one facing the famous volcano. 

Staying on the west coast of Santorini 

The west side faces the volcano and famous sunset. There are almost no beaches, only the dramatic cliffside. The main resorts here are Fira, Oia, Firostefani and Imerovigli. 

Here, you will find most of Santorini’s luxurious hotels. Many of them have private balconies and pools with amazing views to the caldera, and prices to match. If you want the sunset views without having to drive, it’s best to stay on the west side.

A view of Fira in Santorini

Fira, the main town, is more centrally located and somehow feels more “real” than Oia, which is a famous sunset spot. While Oia is very picturesque, it hasn’t kept much authenticity in our opinion, so we would vote for Fira over Oia.

We would also suggest Imerovigli or Firostefani, which tend to be quieter – though if you are after some nightlife you will probably find them too quiet.

In any case, if you are staying on the cliffside, read your hotel’s description very carefully. In many cases, you will have to climb several steps to get to your room.

This can be a bit of a pain, especially when it’s hot, and will be totally unsuitable if you have any mobility issues.

If you are visiting in the off-season, Fira is the best area to stay, as you will find more tavernas, cafes and bars.

Staying on the east coast of Santorini 

The east coast is where you will find the island’s beach resorts, Kamari, Perissa and Perivolos. Here, there are accommodation options to suit most budgets. If beach time is important, it’s probably the best area to stay in Santorini.

We stayed in Kamari the last time we visited Santorini, and the beach was literally a 3-minute walk from our hotel. On the plus side, we got to see the sunrise, and a movie at the open air cinema!

Kamari beach Santorini

These resorts practically shut down in winter and the off-season. We thought that they looked quite eerie!

How to get to Santorini

The gorgeous Greek island has an international airport. During spring, summer and autumn there are dozens of direct flights from several countries.

If you are combining Santorini and Athens in the same trip, you can get to Santorini airport by a short domestic flight.

An alternative, which is great if you are planning to visit more islands, is to take a ferry. I use Ferryscanner to book my tickets to the Greek islands. It’s a very useful site to find routes between the islands in the Aegean Sea, and plan your island hopping trip around the Cyclades.

What to do in Santorini Greece

Now that you know all the basics, here is our 4 day itinerary of the best things to do in Santorini. It is based on our own time spent exploring the island in different trips.

Keep in mind that we had our own vehicle, and we’d recommend you hire your own in order to get around the island.

Santorini Itinerary Day 1 – Ancient Akrotiri, Red Beach, winery tour, sunset in Pyrgos

As you know, Greece is full of ancient sites, like MycenaeEpidaurus and Ancient Olympia, to name just a few. Santorini’s most popular archaeological site is Ancient Akrotiri, a prehistoric settlement discovered in the 1860s.

Ancient Akrotiri in Santorini

Human presence on the beautiful island dates from the Neolithic times. The ancient town of Akrotiri, whose ruins are still standing, dates from the Early Bronze Age,

The settlement was destroyed in the 17th century BC, during the time of the Minoan civilization, due to a volcanic eruption. It was entirely covered by lava, volcanic ash and other materials.

Visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri

Much to the archaeologists’ delight, the ancient ruins were very well preserved under the debris. The excavations provided helpful information about the life of the Minoans almost 4 millennia ago.

The site is protected by a shed, which also keeps the heat out. As such, you can visit at any time of day, though we would probably prefer to go first thing in the morning.

Booking a tour of Ancient Akrotiri with a licensed guide will help you find out more about the ancient Santorini history. 

Beaches in Santorini – Red Beach, Vlychada Beach, Mesa Pigadia

After Ancient Akrotiri, head to the famous Red Beach. While it’s very picturesque, we didn’t think much to it in terms of swimming.

Furthermore, landslides occur now and then. The authorities often cordon the beach off, but visitors tend to ignore the “no entrance” signs.

The famous Red Beach in Santorini Greece

There are many more beaches in the Akrotiri peninsula, not all of which are accessible on foot. As an example, the White Beach can only be reached by sea.

While we had heard good words about Vlychada beach near the southern tip, we weren’t exactly impressed. The landscape is pretty dramatic though, and it’s a popular option when the meltemi summer winds appear, as it’s fairly sheltered.

Vlychada beach Santorini and tomato industrial museum

Here, you can also visit the tomato industrial museum, which is pretty unique, as are the Santorini cherry tomatoes. Did you know that they don’t need to be watered in order to grow?

One of our favourite beaches in this area was Mesa Pigadia. As it is quite pebbly, it tends to be quieter than other beaches in Santorini.

Mesa Pigadia beach in Santorini

Here, you can find a small Trekking Hellas shed – this is a big outdoors company in Greece. Among others, they organize kayak trips in Santorini.

If you haven’t tried kayaking before, by all means try, as it’s a lot of fun! Here’s my experience kayaking in Mykonos.

See Santorini on a kayak

There is also a small family taverna where you can have a nice traditional Greek meal. Say hi to Valanto, the mother-and-manager, and try to have a talk with her if she’s got time.

Taverna in Mesa Pigadia Santorini

At the westernmost point of the peninsula, you will find the Akrotiri lighthouse. Surprisingly, it’s not one of the island’s most popular spot for sunsets.

If you are still around the area in the evening, you might as well stay here and enjoy the views without the crowds. There is a small canteen here, and you can get a drink or even a full meal.

Captain Dimitris taverna Santorini

If not, you can always head to the nearby tavernas, which are run by very nice locals. We wanted to eat at Captain Dimitris but unfortunately they weren’t open yet.

The old couple running the taverna were very nice and had just picked up a few kilos of fresh capers which they were very proud of.

Visit a winery in Santorini

Later in the day, you can visit a winery in the area. BoutarisHatzidakis and Venetsanos wineries are all nearby, and you can easily plan your visit independently.

Visiting a winery in Santorini

However, in the absence of a designated driver, you can also take a winery tour organised by a local company. You can plan your visit during the early evening, and stay for sunset at the Venetsanos winery, which has some pretty incredible views.

Santorini Itinerary Day 2 – Visit Perissa and Perivolos beaches, spend the evening in Fira

Apart from the Red Beach, the best-known beaches in Santorini are on the east side of the island. They all have dark coarse sand mixed with pebbles in different sizes.

A beach in Santorini

Perissa and Perivolos beaches in Santorini

Perissa and Perivolos are among the most popular beaches in Santorini. In fact, they are the two sides of a very long stretch of black / dark grey volcanic matter. The south side is called Perivolos, and the northern side is called Perissa.

You will find all sorts of cafes, beach bars, restaurants and tavernas all along the long beach. They offer several types of loungers and umbrellas, with varying prices.

The famous Perissa beach in Santorini

When we visited in June 2020, there was plenty of free space where we could put our own towels. However, there is one thing to keep in mind. The dark pebbles get really hot!

You will either need to sit very close to the sea, or take your shoes with you when you want to go for a swim in the blue sea.

In addition, a thin towel or sarong won’t be enough to sit on – you will need something thicker. It actually gets worse if you go later in the day, when the stones have absorbed the heat. Most people will prefer to rent a lounger.

Beach bar in Perissa Santorini

Seriously?

If you have your own transportation, note that the street in front of the beach closes for vehicles in the early afternoon. You can park here in the morning, just make sure you remove your vehicle before they close the gates.

Here’s more information if you are travelling to Santorini in June.

Emporeio village in Santorini

On the way out of Perissa – Perivolos, stop at Emporeio village. This small settlement was built to keep out any unwelcome outsiders.

There is only one entrance to the maze-like village, and you can easily find yourself getting a little lost while walking around.

Emporeio village in Santorini

Climb up the Venetian castle and enjoy the views. We were entirely on our own there, and it was almost eerie!

Fira town in Santorini

In the evening, go for a stroll around busy Fira town. You can easily walk around the whole village in a few hours. If you are staying in Fira, you will have more chances to find your favourite spots for the best sunset views.

If you want to enjoy stunning views to the caldera, you can sit for a drink or meal at one of the cliffside café-restaurants. As you might expect, these are not what you would call budget options. Like someone said, you get the billion-dollar view for a few extra euros.

Alternatively, you can choose to walk down the dozens of steps, until you find your own best sunset spot in Fira. Don’t expect to be on your own, but you never know!

Sunset in Fira Santorini

Fira has two archaeological museums, the Archaeological Museum of Thira and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. You can buy a combined ticket which covers the two museums and the site of Ancient Akrotiri and is valid for 3 days.

In terms of meals, there is a wide choice in Fira. If you are looking for something at an affordable price, look for cheap souvlaki places. Alternative, head to the more upmarket restaurants overlooking the caldera.

Fira is also good for bars and nightlife. There are plenty of options for all tastes, including Irish pubs and jazz bars. It’s not exactly the party-lifestyle of Mykonos, but you will definitely find something you like.

Santorini Itinerary Day 3 – Visit Kamari / Monolithos beach, spend the evening in Oia

If you haven’t had enough of the black beaches yet, you can go for a morning swim in Kamari or Monolithos. Spend the evening at the world-famous Oia, and have fun trying to take photos without any people in them!

Kamari beach in Santorini

Similarly to Perissa and Perivolos, Kamari is a black sand beach. You can walk on a promenade running alongside the beach, where you will find many cafes, restaurants, bars and ice-cream places.

Promenade in Kamari Santorini

We liked Kamari more than Perissa and Perivolos, and were happy to stay there for a few days. By Santorini standards, it was one of our favourite places for a beach day.

Kamari beach Santorini Greece

We preferred the far south end of the black beach, which was also more protected from the winds. If you are travelling with family, this side is ideal for children.

Monolithos beach in Santorini

If you haven’t had enough of Santorini’s black sand beaches, you can visit Monolithos beach. Due to its orientation, this beach is not protected from the strong meltemi winds that blow in summer. As a result, it might not be ideal when you visit.

Wild Monolithos beach in Santorini

Monolithos is a long, natural beach where there are normally many sports facilities. It’s popular with locals, and whereas there are some tavernas all around, it’s nowhere as crowded as Kamari, Perissa or Perivolos.

This would be my favourite beach in Santorini on a non-windy day.

Monolithos beach in Santorini is ideal for watersports

Note – Kostas, who rents out loungers and sports equipment, is very helpful and chatty! He’s a good source of information about the island, and he can tell you lots about life in Santorini in winter.

Explore Oia Santorini

With the Oia sunset being so famous, few people can resist seeing it with their own eyes. The small town just on the edge of the cliff is pretty unique.

A view of Oia

Aim to arrive in Oia in the early evening, which will give you plenty of time to explore.

If you are feeling energetic, you can walk up and down the (literally) hundreds of cliffside stairs in the village. Many of them will lead to hotels and private villas, and access is often restricted.

Or you may find yourself passing right outside someone’s not-so-private balcony. Yes, this happened to us a couple of times.

There are stairs to Ammoudi beach, where you can find a few tavernas as well as a small port. You can also walk down to Armeni beach, which is popular with locals.

Churches in Oia Santorini

Now, a word of warning: Most of the buildings you will see in Oia are hotels, villas and restaurants. If you are looking for authenticity you will probably be disappointed.

Still, the town is incredibly photogenic, and there are many beautiful places to watch the sunset from. The most popular spot is Oia castle.

You can also choose to watch the Oia sunset from a café or restaurant. If you are going in peak season, bookings are recommended, if not essential.

During our last Santorini trip, we arrived in Oia around 4.30 pm, and walked up and down for a couple of hours. As this was in July, it was really hot!

If you are not used to the heat, it’s probably better to arrive there later, especially if you are planning to climb many steps.

A view from Oia

And by all means, wear comfortable shoes! I saw more than one barefoot lady, carrying her high-heeled shoes in her hand.

Here’s my guide on what to pack for Greece, based on my experience of travelling around my country for 40+ years.

Santorini Itinerary Day 4 – Visit the inland villages, take a sunset volcano tour

Santorini has a few inland villages that are absolutely worth visiting. Apart from Emporeio, you can visit Messaria, Megalochori and Pyrgos, where you can see the traditional architecture from hundreds of years ago.

Pyrgos village in Santorini

Pyrgos, also known as Pyrgos Kallistis, is an impressive Venetian settlement on the top of a hill. While you will often see it described as a Venetian fort, it really doesn’t look like the fort you may have in mind.

Much like other Greek villages, the houses were built to keep intruders away.

A church in Pyrgos Kallistis Santorini

There are several cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops all around the area. Climb up the stairs and uphill alleyways, and you will eventually reach a great viewing point.

In fact, sunset views from up here can be interesting, though the one we saw in summer 2020 was not very impressive at all. We didn’t even take a photo!

Megalochori in Santorini

Megalochori was another lovely village. There is a mix of new and old houses, which makes it feel more authentic.

Megalochori Santorini

There are a few cafes and restaurants in the village where you can have a break – we had a nice meal in a taverna called “Marmita”.

If you walk up from the main square, you will also find Gavalas winery, which is one of the oldest in Santorini. The entrance is pretty impressive! If you would like to visit, make your booking in advance.

Messaria in Santorini

Messaria is another pretty village that you can stop by. The way Santorini’s villages go, this may be the one with the most churches! You will immediately notice the blue-and-white pattern everywhere.

If you are interested in neoclassical architecture, it’s worth stopping by Argyros mansion. Built in 1888, it belonged to the winemaker George Argyros.

After a strong earthquake in 1956, part of it was demolished, but it was restored in the 1980s. Guided tours may be available during summer.

Abandoned mansion in Messaria Santorini

On the way out of Messaria, you can’t fail to notice a crumbling neoclassical mansion. This beautiful building was built in 1893 and belonged to the wealthy Saliveros family.

Unlike the Argyros mansion, it was abandoned after the earthquake in 1956. Apparently, there are plans to renovate it and use it as a museum, but we didn’t see any signs of that when we were there.

Sunset volcano trip in Santorini

Another unique thing to do in Santorini is a sailing trip to the uninhabited volcanic islets, Palea and Nea Kameni. We took a day trip to the volcano and hot springs when we visited off-season, and it was absolutely fantastic.

The boat took us to the volcanic islands, and we spent an hour or two walking on the caldera and enjoying the amazing views from the top of the volcano. We also had a chance to have a swim at the thermal springs.

Santorini's world famous volcano

If you are visiting Santorini in summer, the last thing you will want to do is climb up a black-pebbled active volcano during the heat of the day. I’ve heard that temperatures can reach 50 degrees (122 F), and I’m not sure this is anyone’s cup of tea!

Instead, you can opt for a sunset volcano sailing trip. Many of these tours include a swim, meal and drinks, and a sailing boat is a unique spot to watch the sunset from. Bring your swimsuit and enjoy your sunset sail on your last evening in Santorini!

And what about the famous hike from Fira to Oia?

You didn’t mention the Fira to Oia hike, I hear you say, and you are right. While we absolutely loved the hike from Fira to Oia in November, with a temperature of 22-24 degrees (71-75 F), we decided against doing it again in summer.

Hiking from Fira to Oia in Santorini

However, if you are a morning person, you can comfortably do it. Aim to start your hike just after sunrise, or at 7 am at the latest, to avoid the excessive heat.

The hike is truly a memorable experience, and we will definitely do it again when we return to Santorini in the off-season.

Food in Santorini

Where to eat in Santorini? This is the million-dollar question!

When Santorini wasn’t all that famous abroad, there were actually rather few options on the island. My parents’ recollection of food in Santorini back in the 80s is that it was “very bland”. Who would have thought?!

Local taverna in Santorini

Nowadays, there is an incredible number of restaurant and taverna options that would suit most budgets.

Many restaurants, especially those with a view to the caldera, would need an advance booking. However, if you don’t like planning your whole day, it’s always possible to eat something quick at a random taverna.

All in all, do not leave Santorini without trying their fava, which is different to the fava you will find in most other areas in Greece. Its flavour is richer, and it’s attributed to the unique soil of the island.

Yellow Santorini fava beans

You should also try the famous Santorini cherry tomatoes, fresh fish and seafood. Finally, by all means try the wine, even if you are not going on a winery tour.

This article will help you when it comes to ordering Greek food, especially if it’s your first time in Greece. And here’s my ultimate Greek food guide, including 50 Greek dishes!

Best places to eat in Santorini

We could not provide a definitive list of the best restaurants in Santorini, simply because it would take ages to try them all and we don’t live there!

Our favourite restaurant in Santorini was Kapari in Fira, a few years ago. I still remember that meal!

The small family taverna on the Mesa Pigadia beach was also pretty good, though at the time we visited they only had a limited menu. We also enjoyed our meal at Marmita in Megalochori.

As for the best value for money? Our vote goes to Lucky’s Souvlaki in Fira – even though I don’t really like souvlaki myself, I have to admit these were very good!

Lucky's souvlaki in Fira Santorini

Here are some more places that I often see mentioned in other travel guides, in both Greek and English. If you go, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought, as it may help other people!

  • Metaxi mas, Episkopi Gonias (this would be my number one choice to try)
  • Ambrosia, Oia
  • Katina’s and Dimitri’s, Amoudi bay in Oia
  • Mezzo restaurant, Imerovigli
  • Aktaion, Firostefani
  • Selene, Argo and Parea, Fira
  • To Psaraki, Vlychada
  • Giorgaros and Captain Dimitris, Akrotiri
  • Seaside and To Pinakio, Kamari
  • Poseidon and Frantzeskos, Perissa
  • Terra Nera and Savvas Popeye, Perivolos

Arguably, 4 days in Santorini won’t be enough to try them all, so you may have to return…

Frequently asked questions about Santorini

Here are some questions that visitors often ask:

Is 4 days in Santorini too much?

I think that 4 days in Santorini is about right. You can explore all the villages, see the highlights, relax on the beach, and maybe take a couple of tours.

How many days do you need in Santorini?

I’d say that 3 or 4 days are fine to get a good idea of the island and see most of the villages and attractions. You could still see many of the highlights in a day or two. Or you could extend your stay longer, if you wanted some time to relax.

Is 4 days enough in Greece?

If you only had 4 days in Greece, it would be best to stick to one or max two destinations. Popular destinations for first-time visitors include Athens, Santorini, Delphi, Meteora, Nafplio, Mycenae and Epidaurus.

Can you do Santorini in 3 days?

You can see many of Santorini’s highlights in 3 days. This includes the towns of Fira, Oia and Pyrgos, Ancient Akrotiri, the best beaches in Santorini and perhaps a winery or sailing tour.

Can you swim in the sea in Santorini?

Of course! While Santorini’s beaches are far from the best in Greece, they are really dramatic and picturesque. You will definitely enjoy swimming and snorkeling, especially if you go on a boat tour.

Your favourite things to do in Santorini

If you haven’t been to our famous island, I hope that this itinerary will help you plan your Santorini vacation. On the other hand, if you have already been there, what was your favourite thing to do? Let us know in the comments!

More tips about Greece and the Greek islands

Planning a trip to Greece? You might find these other travel blog posts useful:

Sikinos - Islands near SantoriniHi, I am Vanessa, a travel writer from Athens, Greece. Along with Dave, my partner from the UK, we enjoy travelling, exploring and finding out more about new places, people and cultures. I love sharing my local knowledge about Greece and helping visitors decide which island to visit! You can get in touch through the Real Greek Experiences FB page and FB group.

Four days in Santorini Greece what to do

2 thoughts on “What to do in 4 days in Santorini Greece”

  1. Both Metaxa Mas and Ambrosia were spectacular restaurants! Can’t recommend them enough. This was a great article. Hoping to be back in Santorini next year!

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