One of the best islands in Greece, and possibly the whole world, Santorini is a unique destination with unparalleled views. A trip to Santorini is on most traveler’s bucket lists - and with good reason. The classic white buildings - clinging to the side of the volcanic cliffs, hanging over the sea, are a sight one must see in their lifetime. The blue domed churches and windmills of Oia at sunset are iconic. Everywhere you turn is another postcard view.
When deciding to visit Santorini one must consider how many days you want to visit the island. If you have plenty of time, I’d suggest at least 4-5 nights. But most of us are short on time when we travel, so 3 nights is an idea visit. My trip to Santorini was 3 days and was a good amount of time to see most of what the island had to offer. Using my trip as a guide, here is the Ultimate 3 Day Santorini Itinerary that will include all the highlights of the island.
Explore Oia and Amoudi Bay
If you are arriving into Santorini on this day then your itinerary may be a little limited, but I would suggest getting started with a bang by visiting the most beautiful part of the island: Oia. If you are staying in Oia, this is a great base to see some of the most spectacular views of Santorini including the wind mills and blue domed churches. Walking through the town that has plenty of great restaurants, shops, and cafes to choose from, and you can visit the world famous Atlantis Books bookstore.
Amoudi Bay is also one of the most picturesque areas of the island and a visit here is in my Top 10 Things to Do in Santorini. The charming old fisherman village lies underneath Oia and requires a relatively steep 15 minute walk down. You also have the option to take a taxi down or ride down a donkey, but we preferred to walk down and get some exercise.
Get lunch or dinner at one of the few restaurants right on the water for some incredible seafood. I’d recommend the Amoudi Fish Tavern. The steep walk back up to Oia is definitely a challenge in the sun so beware.
Land at Oia for its famous sunset. Try to fight off the crowds at the Oia Castle for one of the best views, or find solitude on some of the tiny narrow streets. Another good option is getting advanced dinner reservations at a restaurant with great sunset views. I was surprisingly able to dodge the crowds while getting these shots of the blue domed churches. To reach this popular view I followed a narrow alley at the corner of these two shops: Alexandros Jewelry and the Gold & Silver Store .
Hike from Oia to Fira - Visit a Winery for Sunset
Your second day will be spent exploring the island by foot. This option isn’t for everyone, but if you are looking for a little exercise in the sun while seeing some of the best views of the island, this is a great half day trek worth doing.
Depending where you are based, you can do the hike from Oia to Fira, or from Fira to Oia. I would suggest the route from Fira to Oia as it is overall mostly downhill and the walk leading into Oia is a better pay off. We were staying in Amoudi Bay just under Oia, so we began our hike there and ended in Fira.
I would also caution to do this hike early in the day because we started around noon and faced pretty brutal heat all day, which made the uphill hike challenging at times.
Highlights include expansive views of the volcano crater and the Aegean Sea, passing tiny white churches built into the rocks along the way, and exploring the town of Imerovigli before arriving in Fira. Take your time and enjoy the views. For a complete guide on this hike, check out Hiking in Santorini: Oia to Fira.
After arriving in Fira (or Oia), spend some time soaking up the views of the coastline while getting lunch or some drinks.
While you are in Fira, this is a great opportunity to visit one of the best wineries on the island for sunset. Just about a 10 minute taxi ride from Fira is Venetsanos Winery which has stunning views of the caldera. Make sure to book a sunset wine tasting or food pairing in advance on their website to reserve your spot for sunset. Another great winery with caldera sunset views is Santo Wines.
Take a boat ride around the Santorini Caldera
Seeing Santorini from the water gives a different perspective and spices up your experience of the island. Highlights generally include boating around the volcano, getting unique views of the caldera (Oia, Amoudi Bay, Imerovigli, Fira, etc), visiting the white and red beaches, and stopping for a swim near the volcano.
While booking your tour around Santorini, you have a few options. You can book a tour on a boat that has other people on board - the cheapest option but you will be with groups of strangers. If you don’t mind making news friends and want to save money that’s probably your best option. If you book from Viator or Airbnb you can usually see how many people they allow. Some are around 6-10 people, and some can go up to 60 people so make sure you know what you are getting into.
You can also have a private tour with a skipper, which will definitely cost you more but give you a much more intimate experience with just you and your group plus the captain. This is a good option if you have a small group to split the cost and want your own experience.
The third option would be to rent your own private boat to drive yourself. That’s what we went with and were very happy we did so. Although our boat had some technical issues that were a bit of a pain to deal with throughout our 4 hour rental - it was really nice to be out on the Aegean Sea with our own boat, deciding our own itinerary. We got to choose where we wanted to anchor up and swim. The sea is very easy to navigate and was calm when we rented our boat in early October, so I wouldn’t be too nervous about renting your own boat.
Most tours leave from Vlychada, but we were lucky to find ours leaving from Amoudi Bay - as that’s where we stayed. We saw amazing views of Oia and Amoudi Bay from the water, before cruising down the coast to see Imerovigli and Fira. We traveled through the volcano and parked up near a black sand beach where we took a swim.
Most tours will also visit the red beach and white beach, but due to our technical difficulties with our boat rental we were not able to see these. Either way, get yourself out on the water and see Santorini from a new perspective.
After the boat tour, spend your last night either in Oia or Fira (or wherever you are staying) for a nice dinner and/or sunset view.
If you have more time in Santorini I’d consider visiting the black sand beach of Perissa or exploring the Akrotiri archeological site. Or just spend more time in Oia or Fira. Anytime spent there is not time wasted as every corner offers a new fascinating view.