One of the most frequently asked questions we get from travellers is “How many days in Santorini do I need”. In this article, we will help you decide how long to spend on the most popular island in Greece.
Introduction to Santorini Greece
The Greek island of Santorini is a dream destination for thousands of people. Shaped by a volcanic eruption many years ago, it’s one of the most instantly recognizable places in Greece.
Santorini has a lot to offer. You will find several whitewashed villages with the iconic blue domed churches, a couple of interesting ancient sites and plenty of museums.
You will also enjoy awesome landscapes, picturesque beaches, the world-famous view to the caldera, and the iconic Santorini sunset.
Add on some delicious Greek food, over a dozen wineries, and plenty of relaxed nightlife, and you’ve got the full picture.
How long to spend in Santorini Greece
With all the above in mind, the question “how many days in Santorini do I need?” is very similar to the question “how long is a piece of string?”.
In theory, you can spend any amount of time in Santorini – a day, a week, a month. In practice, however, you will most likely be limited by budget, time off work, and numerous other factors.
Realistically speaking, most people will only have a few days on Santorini before they move on to Athens or one of the nearby islands.
This can lead to people thinking they may be missing out on something by just visiting Santorini for a day or two. But is that the case?
How many days in Santorini?
All in all, how many days you should spend in Santorini depends on what you want to see and do.
If you just want to tick off the volcano views and the famous Oia sunset photo, even a half day can be enough.
If you want to get a better feel of the island, visit the wineries, see all the villages, relax on the beach and hike from Fira to Oia, you will definitely want to spend a few days.
And if you want to visit all the archaeological sites and museums in Santorini, you will definitely need an extra day or two.
Perfect Greece itinerary for Santorini
In our opinion, four days / three nights in Santorini are enough to get a decent experience of the island, especially if this your first trip.
That said, you could easily spend more time if you want to explore the island further and get off the beaten track.
Below, we’ve put together several different examples of a Santorini itinerary you could use. These include:
- One week in Santorini itinerary
- 4 Days in Santorini itinerary
- 3 Days in Santorini itinerary
- 2 Days in Santorini itinerary
- One day Santorini itinerary
First of all, let’s look into where to stay in Santorini and how you can get around. Both of these choices can affect the number of days you need.
Where to stay in Santorini
There are hundreds of options for accommodation all around the small island.
Some people prefer to stay in one of the towns of the west side of the island. This is the side of Santorini with the famous sunset views.
Areas like Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia offer the most luxurious accommodation, often with private pools or a hot tub. Fira and Oia are busier, with Fira having most of the nightlife in Santorini.
Budget-minded travellers, or anyone for whom beach time is a priority, often stay on Santorini’s east coast. Beach resorts like Kamari, Perissa and Perivolos offer a good selection of hotels, rooms to let and dozens of tavernas and cafes.
For anyone relying on public buses to get around, the best option might be to stay in Fira, as this is where all buses depart from.
Getting around Santorini
If you feel confident about driving, the best way to see Santorini is to rent a car or ATV. This way you won’t be limited by bus itineraries or taxis, and you will get to see Santorini at your own pace.
You can rent a vehicle for all your time there, or just for a few days. For example, if you decide to hike from Fira to Oia, you probably won’t need a vehicle on that day.
If you decide to rent an ATV, pay extra attention. These vehicles are famously easy to capsize, and you will find that cars and other vehicles will often overtake you on the road. On the plus side, they are much easier to park, which is a real bonus in busy places like Oia.
Other ways to get around Santorini include the local buses, operating on a first come first served basis, or the numerous private transfers and tours around the island.
My article on driving in Greece has plenty of information about road rules and driver attitude in Greece. It also includes all you need to know about the international driving permit.
Now that you know how to get around, here are our Santorini itineraries.
A week in Santorini – A relaxed Santorini itinerary
Few people choose to stay in Santorini for a whole week, as they often prefer to do some Greek island hopping. After all , there are another 23 inhabited Cycladic islands to travel to!
There is nothing wrong with staying in Santorini for a week though. You can easily explore the whole island in this time frame.
If you have a week in Santorini, your itinerary could look like the following. You could swap days around to suit your mood and the weather.
A week in Santorini Day 1 – Arrival
On your first day in Santorini, you can take it easy. Take your time to get to your hotel, and arrange your logistics for the next few days.
If you are staying at one of the beach resorts, go for an evening swim. Alternatively, you can explore the town you are staying at, and have a nice meal.
Santorini Day 2
On your second day in Santorini, visit the site of Ancient Akrotiri, relax on one of the beaches, stop at the Tomato Industrial Museum, explore a few villages and go for a nice local dinner.
Akrotiri Archaeological site
The first important civilization in Santorini was established at around 3,600 BC. The main settlement was the ancient town of Akrotiri, to the south of the island.
A massive volcano eruption in 1,500 BC covered everything with lava and volcanic ashes, just like in Pompeii.
You can imagine the surprise and delight of archaeologists who, in the late 1800s, discovered the ancient town under layers of dust. Due to the lack of oxygen, many of the findings were in great condition.
Excavations are ongoing, and researchers have been able to draw conclusions about everyday life in Santorini thousands of years ago.
Ancient Akrotiri is open all year round, and you can visit on your own or on a guided tour.
If you go with a licensed guide, you will find out more about the ancient civilization and how the volcano has affected life in Santorini ever since.
By the way – we are often asked if this an active volcano. Yes, it is – the definition of an “active” volcano means that it has erupted in the historical years.
Check out the famous Red Beach and Akrotiri Lighthouse
After you’ve visited Akrotiri, you can explore the nearby beaches, such as the famous Red Beach. We actually found it rather unimpressive in terms of swimming, but it’s definitely photogenic.
Note that there might be landslides, and there are often signs warning against walking down to the beach. Most tourists seem to ignore them 🙂
Our favourite beach in this area was Mesa Pigadia beach, with the iconic black sand. We also loved our meal at the taverna at Mesa Pigadia, and the owners were super friendly.
A short drive away, you will find Akrotiri lighthouse. This is a beautiful spot, and it was surprisingly quiet when we visited. There is a canteen here, so you can easily spend an hour or two and enjoy the views.
Finally, consider passing by the Tomato Industrial Museum in Vlychada. Unfortunately it was closed when we were there, but we have something to look forward to for our next trip to Santorini.
The inland villages in Santorini
Later in the day, you can check out a couple of pretty inland villages.
Emporio is one of the five castles in Santorini. You can see the traditional way that houses were built next to each other, to resist pirate attacks. You can easily get lost as you are wandering around the narrow streets!
Pyrgos is another protected fortress settlement. You will need to climb an uphill alley, which will reward you with fantastic views of the whole island, especially at sunset. There is also a collection of Icons and Ecclesiastical Artefacts that you can visit.
At the end of your day, you can have a meal at the famous Metaxi Mas taverna in Exo Gonia, which many people consider to be the best on the island. Reservations are necessary.
Alternatively, head out to the famous open air cinema just outside Kamari, where they show movies under the starlit sky. Afterwards, go for a stroll in the coastal town, and sit for a drink at one of the numerous bars.
Day 3 in Santorini
Whatever you do, you can’t go to Santorini and not take a sailing trip to see the famous caldera from up close! Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat 🙂
Take a sailing trip to the volcano
No trip to Santorini is complete without a sailing trip to the volcano. We really enjoyed visiting this quiet, eerie, otherworldly place.
Most of the Santorini volcano tours stop at the volcanic hot springs, which is a pretty unique experience. If you decide to go for a swim, make sure you wear a dark-coloured swimsuit to avoid staining.
Many of these trips include a hike to the volcano. Note that temperatures in summer can get uncomfortably high, because the black, volcanic rocks absorb the heat from the sun.
In our experience, hiking up the volcano in late autumn was ideal. We loved the stunning views and the quiet, peaceful surroundings.
In summer, you can choose a trip that takes you around the caldera and ends at some lovely swimming spots, such as the White Beach and Red Beach.
Which volcano trip to choose
There are numerous companies running Santorini volcano trips. Some of them include a hotel pick-up, while many offer lunch and drinks.
If you are visiting in high season, it’s best to book your tour in advance. Check the descriptions carefully, and make sure you book the time slot you are interested in.
Overall, I’d personally choose a sunset sailing trip, as the caldera is really quite magical!
After your sailing trip, you go for a nice stroll in one of the sunset-facing towns, and go for a meal or drink with a view towards the caldera.
Here are a few of the top-rated tours:
- Private Romantic Catamaran tour, departing from Ammoudi Bay (ideal for anyone who wants to splurge!)
- Catamaran cruise with lunch and open bar, departing from Vlychada port (medium budget)
- Volcanic sunset cruise, departing from Athinios ferry port (good for budget travellers)
- Santorini volcano and Thirassia islands boat tour, departing from Athinios port (great for budget travellers)
Santorini itinerary Day 4
We realize that hiking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, hiking from Fira to Oia was one of our favourite hikes ever, and we can’t recommend it enough.
Hike from Fira to Oia
Along with the sailing tour, the hike was one of our two best things to do in Santorini. We absolutely loved it and would definitely do it again when we go back to the small island.
The path is about 10 km / 6 miles long. We found it quite easy overall, but some people might find it a little challenging. There are just a couple of steep sections, but they are very short.
On the way from Fira to Oia you will pass by Firostefani and Imerovigli villages before you step out in the wilderness.
The caldera views are simply magnificent. The hike is hands down the best activity for anyone who wants to appreciate the views!
Allow plenty of time for breaks, and don’t forget to take lots of photos. In fact, make sure you take a second battery or power bank with you, just in case.
You can do the Oia hike in 2.5-3 hours. It took us a bit longer as we stopped to enjoy the view, have a snack and take many, many photos.
As we did the hike during the off-season, we actually had the whole path to ourselves! Which is part of the reason why we loved Santorini outside summer.
Some people won’t be keen on doing the full hike, especially on a hot summer day. We would still suggest walking at least the part from Fira to Imerovigli and Skaros rock, as it’s really fantastic.
See the sunset in Oia
If you start at Fira late in the day, you can finish off with the famous Oia sunset.
Of all the towns and villages in Santorini, Oia is arguably the most famous. Now we can’t say it’s a traditional village, as most of the white-washed buildings you will see are hotels, cafes and restaurants. It’s still charming nevertheless.
Be prepared for crowds, especially if you are in Santorini in summer. You can walk up and down the hundreds of stairs, and enjoy the views.
You can have a dinner or sunset drink in Oia, and then take a bus or pre-booked private transfer back to your hotel.
Reservations for most restaurants in Oia are recommended, especially if you want a table with a view to the caldera.
Day 5 itinerary in Santorini
Ancient Greece enthusiasts will love visiting the archaeological site of Ancient Thira. If not, you can always spend longer on the beach. In the evening, head out to a few wineries and a nice meal.
If you are interested in more ancient history, head to Ancient Thera, located up on the mountain, close to Kamari beach.
This town was established many centuries after the volcano eruption and the destruction of Akrotiri. Remains of the ancient settlement are still present.
The ancient site remains closed on one day per week, which tends to be different every year. Check the official website, and plan your visit accordingly.
Spend some time on the beaches
Travelling to the Greek islands without spending some time on the beach is unthinkable! Kamari, Perissa and Perivolos beaches, close to Ancient Thera, are considered to be among the best on the island.
OK, now, I’ve been to 40+ Greek islands and I can assure you that there are much better beaches in Greece. So, keep your expectations low, especially if you’ve been to a few tropical countries with powder-white sand.
Still, these long stretches of black pebbles and volcanic sand are pretty unique, and quite photogenic.
Make sure you wear flip-flops or maybe water shoes. The dark pebbles can get very (I mean VERY) hot. Some people will also find them difficult to walk on – seriously, you don’t want to hurt your feet!
Visit Megalochori and the museum of Atlantis
Megalochori is a small, charming town, with beautiful villas, custom doors and a lovely little square with many tavernas and cafes. It is also an excellent place to go for wineries.
Just at the outskirts of the village, you will find the private Museum of Lost Atlantis. This highly-rated museum promises to shed some light on whether the mythical Lost Atlantis was, in fact, Santorini!
Unfortunately the museum was closed when we last visited Santorini. If you have visited please feel free to write your opinion in the comments.
Visit the Santorini wineries in Megalochori
In the evening, you can visit some of the famous Santorini wineries, and find out a few things about the wine-making process.
Due to the island’s volcanic soil, the types of wine produced on the island are unique. Athiri, Assyrtiko and Vinsanto are a few of the best known Santorini wines.
Boutari, Gavalas, Antoniou and Venetsanos wineries are all in and around Megalochori. It is possible to visit them on your own, though you will need a designated driver.
Alternatively, you can take one of the numerous wine tours in Santorini. At peak season this might be best, as you would have everything organized for you. Plus, you wouldn’t have to worry about who’s driving and where to park.
Day 6 Santorini
Fira is the capital town of Santorini. Apart from the relaxed nightlife and plenty of souvenir shops, it also has a couple of interesting museums. In the evening, you can explore more villages in the north.
Visit Fira and the museums
As you have now visited the ancient sites, you may want to find out a little more about Santorini’s ancient history.
Note that the museums are closed on one day a week, and combined tickets are normally available. Check their official websites for updated information.
Even if you aren’t interested in more history, you can always stroll around Fira, and perhaps buy a couple of gifts for your family and friends back home. If you are stuck for ideas, this article on Greek souvenirs should help.
Explore Santorini’s villages
In the evening, you can drive around the north part of the island, and see some more villages. Mesaria, Karterados, Vourvoulos and Finikia are all worth passing by.
I loved the churches in Mesaria, which was very quiet at the time we visited. I was also intrigued to have a chat with an elderly gentleman in Karterados, who described life in Santorini when he was young!
If you’ve missed the crowds, though, you can always head back to Oia, for your last sunset in Santorini.
Day 7 – Departure
If you are departing in the evening, have a late checkout and spend your last day near your hotel. Or you can have one last coffee with a view to Santorini caldera!
4 days in Santorini – A full-on itinerary
With 4 days in Santorini, you could cut down on beach time, and see more of the sights and villages.
As an example, your four day itinerary in Santorini could look like this:
Day 1 – After checking in at your hotel, spend some time on one or two of the famous beaches. In the evening, head out for a sunset wine tour, and then a nice dinner.
Day 2 – Visit Ancient Akrotiri in the morning, drive around the numerous villages, and finish in Oia for the sunset.
Day 3 – For an action-packed day, start with a hike from Fira to Oia, and take a sunset sailing trip in the evening. Alternatively, you could just do one of the two activities, and spend the rest of your day relaxing with a view of the caldera.
Day 4 – On your last day in Santorini, you could visit Fira, and perhaps check out some of the museums. If you are departing late in the day, you will have plenty of time to also spend some time on the beach.
For an alternative and more detailed itinerary, check out my 4 days in Santorini itinerary.
3 days in Santorini – The best of Santorini
If you allow for three days / two nights in Santorini, you will need to make some serious choices! Still, there is enough time to experience the best of Santorini.
Make the most of your time by choosing early arrival and late departure flights or ferries.
Here is what you could do in 3 days in Santorini:
Day 1 – After you have checked in to your hotel, spend some time on the beach. In the evening, take a sunset winery tour, followed by a nice dinner.
Day 2 – Visit Ancient Akrotiri in the morning, explore a couple of the villages in the afternoon, and take a sunset volcano sailing trip in the afternoon / evening.
Day 3 – You could spend your last day in Santorini spending some time on the beach, and wandering around Fira.
2 days in Santorini – Highlights of Santorini
If you only have a two days in Santorini, you can still see some of the highlights. However, you will probably find that it’s not enough time to appreciate the island.
Still, plan your time carefully, and you can still pack a lot in two days in Santorini.
Day 1 – If you are arriving early in the day, you will have some time to either spend on the beach, or maybe explore a couple of the villages. In the evening, take a sunset volcano sailing trip. Finish your day with a dinner at a restaurant with a view to the caldera, and perhaps a late drink in Fira or Oia.
Day 2 – If you are leaving late in the day, you have plenty of time to visit the ancient site of Akrotiri in the early morning, and continue with a winery tour. Alternatively, you can take a bus tour of the island.
One day in Santorini – Santorini in a day
This is the norm for people visiting Santorini on a cruise boat or a sailing boat. Passengers will typically have a few hours on the island, which won’t necessarily include the popular sunset hours.
In this case, you really don’t have much choice. You will typically have anything from 6 to 12 hours on Santorini, so you will want to make the most of it.
Your cruise boat will definitely provide you with some options. If none of them sound appealing, you could consider booking a private tour of the island, which you can customize according to your interests.
It’s definitely not a budget activity, but it’s probably the best way to avoid wasting time looking for information and directions.
A few more tips about Santorini
We have been to Santorini a couple of times, and have travelled around in our own car, rental car, bus and on foot.
When we had visited Santorini in November, we weren’t too bothered about spending time on the beach. The weather was reasonably mild, but it wasn’t hot enough to enjoy relaxing on the beach.
On that occasion, we did the Fira – Oia hike, took a sailing trip to the volcano and hot springs, visited Ancient Akrotiri, drove around the island, and visited the main towns and villages. We actually saw the most magical sunset in Fira, rather than Oia!
When we returned in summer, we spent a reasonable amount of time on the popular beaches. As it was extremely hot, some of the more strenuous activities were not very appealing.
While the stunning views in Oia rewarded us for the – literally – thousands of steps we walked, we still think that visiting outside peak season is better.
Frequently asked questions about Santorini
Visitors often ask the following questions:
Where should I stay in Santorini for the first time?
It depends on the time of year you are going, how you will get around, and what is more important for you – sunset views or beaches. If you are going in summer and are interested in beaches, you can stay on any of the seaside villages on the east coast, like Kamari, Perissa or Perivolos. If you want sunset views and are prepared to splurge, you can stay anywhere between Fira and Oia.
What is the best month to visit Santorini?
While most people visit Santorini during the summer month, it is actually better to visit in spring or autumn. You will then avoid the summer crowds and extremely high temperatures. April, May and October are all lovely months to visit Santorini.
Is Santorini expensive?
Contrary to popular belief, Santorini doesn’t necessarily need to be expensive. You will find that accommodation and restaurant prices vary widely. Unless you are visiting in August, you can find budget rooms (40-50 euro per night) in the coastal resorts. You can also find street food like souvlaki and gyros for about 5 euro per person.
Do I need to book restaurants in Santorini?
If you want to dine at a specific restaurant with a sunset view, you should definitely book ahead of time, especially if you are visiting in high season. Restaurants at the coastal resorts are generally more relaxed, and you can just walk in.
Can you flush toilet paper Santorini?
The sewage system in most areas in Greece doesn’t allow for toilet paper or other products to be flushed down the toilet. Please put them in the special bin provided. And don’t worry – the trash bags are changed daily, so they won’t smell!
How can I get to Santorini?
Santorini has an international airport, so check if there are direct flights from your country. Otherwise, you will need to fly to Athens, and then get an onward flight or ferry to Santorini.
There are several types of ferries to Santorini. The two best known companies are SeaJets and Blue Star Ferries. SeaJets are faster, but also more expensive.
If you decide to travel on a SeaJet, it’s best to use one of the larger vessels that take vehicles. The smaller ones can get really bumpy when it’s windy – talking from experience!
A useful website to compare ferry routes and book your ferry tickets is Ferryscanner. If you book through this link, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you) which helps us run this website. Check it out!
Have you been to Santorini or any other Greek islands? What did you think?
If you haven’t been to Santorini, we hope that this article has been helpful. You may also be interested in these other articles:
- Five 5+1 incredible islands near Santorini
- Things to avoid in Santorini
- Island hopping in the Cyclades
If you have been to Santorini, however, we’d love to hear your thoughts on how many days in Santorini is best! Let us know about your experience in the comments.
Vanessa is a travel writer from Athens in Greece. Together with her English partner, Dave, they enjoy exploring Greece and beyond. Vanessa loves helping visitors discover the Greek islands and Greece! You can get in touch through the Real Greek Experiences FB page and FB group.