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3 Days in Santorini: A Laid-Back Santorini Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

If you’re trying to figure out the best Santorini itinerary that allows you to see the highlights but also relax a bit, then this post is perfect for you! This iconic Greek island is known for its breathtaking views, stunning sunsets, and unique volcanic landscapes.

In this comprehensive 3-day itinerary, I will cover everything you need to know about where to stay and what to do during your 3-day Santorini adventure!

White washed buildings of Santorini, Greece on a bright sunny day

My husband and I recently visited Santorini, Greece, and were blown away by how much we absolutely loved it. We had been warned multiple times that it is “super touristy” and crazy busy and that “there are better islands to visit.” And while yes, there were quite a few people, despite visiting at the end of the high season (we went in mid-September), it turned out to be one of the nicest, most relaxing trips we’ve ever taken.

This 3-day itinerary is what we personally did and recommend. It is a bit more relaxing, though, and does not try to cram in EVERY.SINGLE.THING. you can possibly do in Santorini. I am trying to get better at slowing down and enjoying each location instead of trying to do all of the things.

A view of Oia windmill

That said, I will make some additional suggestions for things you can do if you have more than three days or want to cram a few more activities into your itinerary!

My Santorini Travel Tips video:

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3-Day Santorini Itinerary

Now, these days don’t have to go in this order, feel free to swap them around if it works better for your schedule!

A catamaran in Santorini
Our catamaran for the day!

Day 1—Relax! Take a Catamaran Cruise and Enjoy the Sunset in Oia

Taking a catamaran tour is one of the most popular things to do in Santorini —and for good reason! We loved admiring the incredible sites and swimming in the hot springs, all from the comfort of a beautiful catamaran. I also feel like this is by far the best way to enjoy the water and sunshine, as Santorini does not have especially great beaches.

Most companies offer both daytime and sunset cruises, but we recommend the daytime option for a unique perspective of the island. Again, I also liked being able to swim during the heat of the day. The cruise typically includes stops at Red Beach, White Beach, the Caldera Hot Springs, and Ammoudi Bay. The tour lasts around 5 hours.

The Red Beach in Santorini.
The Red Beach in Santorini.

Be sure to wear a dark-colored swimsuit. The hot springs will stain light-colored swimwear (ask my husband!). Also don’t forget sunscreen and a camera. Beverages, snacks, and lunch are typically included in these cruises (our cruise did include all of these things).

After the cruise, get ready to enjoy the sunset in Oia!

Sunset view from our hotel, The IKIES Santorini.

Watch the Sunset in Oia

Now, watching sunsets in Oia can be a little tricky as EVERYONE wants to do the same thing. It’s really difficult to avoid the crowds. For the best sunset views, my personal recommendation is to book a hotel in Oia that has great views (this is one of the reasons I booked The IKIES Santorini), then you can watch it from the comfort of your own terrace.

You won’t really ‘avoid the crowds,’ but dining at a restaurant on Ammoudi Bay is another more relaxing way to enjoy the sunset with a cocktail and wonderful food.

Sunset view from a restaurant in Amoudi Bay
Sunset view from a restaurant in Amoudi Bay.

I know a lot of guides recommend watching from Oia Castle, I personally don’t recommend it, though, as it’s absolutely bananas how busy it is. The Venetian Castle of Agios Nikolaos ruins are also quite popular and busy.

One of the views from the Fira to Oia hike.
One of the views from the Fira to Oia hike.

Day 2—Do the Fira to Oia Hike (Alternative option at the end if hiking is not your thing)

This is by far the most active day on this itinerary! You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of water and sunscreen along for today’s adventure.

The Fira to Oia Hike is our personal favorite thing we did while in Santorini. The views are amazing! It’s a 6-mile hike that takes you through small towns, up to high points with panoramic views, and past iconic landmarks. It will take anywhere from 2-5 hours, depending on how quickly you walk. (I believe it took us about 3.5 hours.)

Lindsey wearing a burnt orange tank top and black shorts hiking in Santorini on a clear sunny day
There is no shade on this hike! Where sunscreen and bring water.

This is not an especially strenuous hike, but it will be hot depending on how late in the morning you decide to leave (we didn’t get going until 9). There is little to no shade on this hike.

The trail is well-marked with trail markers and signs, and there will likely be a steady stream of people hiking, so it will be pretty obvious which way to go. I did see some people with guides who were explaining the history and the sites we were hiking past. You definitely don’t need a guide to do this hike, but booking a guide would be a good way to learn more about Santorini.

The hike typically starts in Fira at the Atlantis Hotel and ends in Oia, but we did it backward as we stayed in Oia. When we finished we took a cab back to our hotel in Oia to freshen up and relax by the hotel pool before we went to dinner.


Alternative Hike Option

 If you prefer a more relaxed walk, consider strolling from Fira to Imergoveli. This is a well-paved path that follows the coastline and offers picturesque views of houses, restaurants, and the caldera. This walk takes about 40 minutes one way and allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of Santorini. Take the extra time you save to explore Fira and Imergoveli more in-depth.

2 men smiling and wearing blue shirts while holding a fish
Getting to meet our dinner at Armeni Restaurant lol.

Dinner Recommendation: Armeni Restaurant

This would be a great night to enjoy dinner at Armeni Restaurant. Armeni Restaurant is a traditional fish tavern located in Armeni Bay. This restaurant is where you can enjoy deliciously fresh Santorinian cuisine “in a simple unpretentious and relaxed atmosphere.”

The owners are an absolute blast and really know their fish (see photo above). Their fish of the day was by far the best meal we had in Santorini.

It’s best to book in advance and contact them to arrange a boat transfer from Ammoudi Bay. You can walk here from Oia, but it’s not a very nice path, and it will take around 30 minutes of walking (driving down here is not an option).

A blue dome church in Oia Santorini Greece

Day 3—Sightseeing in Oia (Optional Wine Tasting)

Spend your last day exploring more of Oia. Visit the famous Blue Domed Church and Windmills in Oia, take in the panoramic views and snap some photos during the early morning hours to avoid crowds. There are also a lot of fun shops to wander in and out of in Oia. (I preferred shopping in Oia to Fira.)

Then, if you haven’t taken the time to do so properly yet, make your way to Ammoudi Bay, either by foot or taxi. Enjoy a beautiful lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants overlooking the bay.

Amoudi Bay sunset with octopus hanging from a sign

*Wine Tasting: Santorini is renowned for its unique volcanic soil, which produces exceptional wines. Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Mandilaria are just a few of the indigenous grape varieties you should try.

Several wineries offer tours, allowing you to learn about the winemaking process and savor the flavors of Santorini. Consider booking a 4-hour tour that takes you to three family-owned vineyards, providing a comprehensive wine-tasting experience.

My husband does not drink alcohol, and I’m not much of a drinker when I’m traveling, so we did not personally do this. However, I do think this is a worthwhile thing to do on your Santorini itinerary if you do partake in vino.

Lindsey Puls of Have Clothes, Will Travel standing on a cliff at sunset with a pink flying dress in Santorini Greece
An example of a “flying dress.”

Bonus: Flying Dress Photoshoot

If you have the time one evening, I highly recommend booking a Flying Dress Photoshoot. These are truly some memorable photos to have of your trip! I have an entire blog post and YouTube video dedicated to what this all entails, but it’s a really cool photoshoot that originated in Santorini.

White domed building set agains a beautiful cliff in Santorini

How to Get to Santorini From Athens

So, there are 2 ways to get to Santorini from Athens.

1.) Plane—The fastest way to reach the island is to take a direct flight from Athens International Airport (ATH) to Santorini Airport (JTR). The flight typically takes around 55 minutes. I personally took this route and flew with Sky Express to maximize my time. I also had an airport transfer booked ahead of time to save on time. You can also hail a cab or arrange for transport through your hotel.

2.) Ferry—Ferries depart from Piraeus port in Athens to Santorini.

There are two types of ferries:

  • Fast Ferries: These take approximately 4.5 to 5.5 hours and cost between 48 to 90 euros.
  • Slow Ferries: These take longer, around 6 to 9 hours, with costs ranging from 45 to 70 euros.

Use Ferryhopper to see the ferry timetables.

Blue domed churches and white buildings of Santorini greece

Best Time to Visit Santorini

The peak season is from June to September and offers warm, sunny weather and vibrant nightlife, but it will be crowded and more expensive. You are going to need to book everything in advance and make sure to make dinner reservations well in advance if you have your heart set on certain restaurants (some of the more popular ones recommend making reservations at least 1 month before you plan to come).

If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) or fall (October to November). The weather is still pleasant during these months, and the island is less crowded and a little less expensive.

While you can still visit Santorini during the winter months, it’s going to be a much different experience. There will hardly be any crowds (yay!). However, many restaurants and businesses close for the winter months, so your dining and entertainment options will be limited.

We personally visited in mid-September and had nearly perfect weather every day. And yes, there were still crowds, but it didn’t feel too crazy, and we really enjoyed ourselves!

Blue dome and white church with colorful flags against a blue sky in Santorini Greece

How to Get Around Santorini for This Itinerary

So, my husband and I hate driving, especially when we are out of the country. We try to avoid it at all costs! We ended up taking taxis or walking our entire time in Santorini. However, this is by no means the only way to get around Santorini, and it is by no means the most cost-effective way to do it.

  • Rent a Car—This will provide the most flexibility and convenience. You can explore the island at your own pace. Just be sure to book your car ahead of time, especially if you want an automatic car (most cars will be stick shift).
  • Local Santorini Bus—The local buses are an affordable option. Tickets cost between 2.00 to 2.50 euros, depending on your destination. The main bus station is located in Fira and serves as the hub for the entire island.
  • Taxis—While Uber and Lyft are not available in Santorini, you can still use local taxis. Fares are fixed, so ask about the price in advance.
  • Rent a Quad or Motorbike—For a fun and adventurous experience, you can rent a quad or motorbike!
  • Organized Tours—Joining an organized tour also allows you to explore Santorini’s beauty hassle-free! Check out some popular tour options.
Our hotel pool area at the IKIES.
Our hotel pool area at the IKIES.

Where to Stay in Santorini

  • Oia—Oia is famous for its sunset views and beautiful white-washed buildings. This is a romantic spot for couples. There are many boutique hotels to choose from, as well as some chains, such as Marriott.
  • Fira—Fira, the capital of Santorini, offers lots of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. If you’re looking to party the night away, try staying in Fira! The Athina Luxury Suites looks divine.
  • Imerovigli—Known for its romantic atmosphere, Imerovigli offers stunning caldera views and is a quieter area to stay in than Oia and Fire. Consider Grace Santorini.
  • Kamari and Perissa—These coastal zones offer more affordable options. Kamari and Perissa have black sand beaches and beachfront hotels. You can find restaurants, beach clubs, and water sports centers here.
  • Akrotiri—A historic and scenic area, Akrotiri is a popular day trip destination. It’s south of Fira and offers a different perspective of the island.
  • Pyrgos—A traditional mountain village with panoramic views, Pyrgos is great for a romantic atmosphere and sunsets.
  • Megalochori—Picturesque and affordable, Megalochori is located in the heart of Santorini’s wine region.
Sunset view from out hotel, The IKIES.
Sunset view from our hotel, The IKIES Santorini.

We personally stayed at the Ikies Santorini and highly recommend it! It’s a boutique hotel located in Oia with stunning views of the sunset and caldera, all from your own private table at the hotel. You won’t have to fight any crowds to see the sunset if you stay here!

My Santorini Itinerary video:

If anyone has any questions about how to spend 3 days in Santorini, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments!

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