Are you finally going on your dream holiday to Greece? The day has come to visit the famous white cliff houses, blue dome churches, and sensational sunsets. Santorini is by far the most visited Greek island, along with Mykonos. It works at total capacity during the tourist season from April to November. I lived in Santorini for almost two months, and I’ve been everywhere on the island. This guide is created to offer you the best of Santorini in three days, a week, or more. The island’s highlights can be visited without any rush in this timeframe, regardless of which part of the island you are staying.
When to visit Santorini
Santorini is located in the Aegean Sea, and some of the closest islands are Anafi, Ios, Sikinos, Folegandros, Milos, Paros, Naxos, and Crete. If you fly from Brussels to Crete, you will cross Santorini. Santorini’s vibe and atmosphere change monthly, but I recommend not going during the high season but somewhat off-season. And here is why.
During high season: It is crowded, hot, and more expensive in June, July, and August. The downside is that the peaceful and relaxing atmosphere that you expect is quite chaotic. And if you want to take some good quality pictures, it might be a challenge due to the large crowds. A good idea is to hire a photographer.
Low season/Off-season: If you want the island to yourself and don’t care about most touristy shops being closed, you might want to consider visiting in the off-season, anytime from October to early May. Some supermarkets are always open since local people live there. And you can also find cheap accommodation to book. During this quiet time, you can enjoy the silence and the warm wintery weather, go on hikes, and I would even dare say you could sunbathe or swim. The soothing warm sun, the waves, the sparkly black sand, and the infinite sea are the perfect atmosphere.
How to get to Santorini
Getting to Santorini is pretty easy; your options are by flight or boat. The only airport is located east of the island, receiving flights from all over Europe. Besides being a civil airport, it also serves as a military airport. There are always boats from Piraeus Port in Athens to Santorini, even off-season. However, this is not the case if you want to travel by boat to Santorini from other parts of Greece. Hellenic Seaways, Blue Star Ferries, and Minoan Lines are some boat companies that can take you from the mainland to Santorini or other islands.
Santorini is a fantastic place to hike during autumn and winter when the heat goes down. It is neither cold nor hot, and you can walk long distances. There are shops on the way to buy water and snacks. During the summer, that would be a killer mission. The maximum temperatures from December to January are between 14/20°C (57/68°F). I can safely say that you can hike to all the significant locations in Santorini because I did so. Close to 12.000 people live in Santorini, and most of them go to Athens during the winter. The advantage is that you don’t have crowds and can enjoy and soak up the beauty with tranquility and at your own pace. You don’t have to hurry for the best sunset spot because the whole views are to be enjoyed by you only most of the time. I hiked from Perissa to Oia, staying one night in Thira and two in Oia. And I returned by bus to Perissa. Overall, I have walked close to 100km all over the island.
Rent a car
To visit the whole island, depending on how much time you have available, there are three options. Rent a car, go by bus or on foot. I opted for the last two since I was not in a rush and had no return ticket to anywhere. The buses do not operate as often and are only two buses a day off-season. The central bus station is in Thira and goes to Oia, Perissa, and Akrotiri. The best option is to rent a car. Also, during the season, there are lots of boat trips that you can go on. Some will get you to visit the red, white, and black beaches and watch the sunset from the sea. It’s spectacular.
Although Santorini is a volcanic island, something still grows here. Wine-making is a staple in Santorini. If you hike from Perissa to Vlichada Beach, you will pass through infinite fields of vineyards. If you visit in September, you can still eat some fresh grapes. But, in December, the fields are already cleaned up and ready for another production.
Besides this, there is a tomato museum right when you reach Vlichada Beach, meaning they grow tomatoes here too. One plant that grows wild everywhere is the cactus. In December, the fruit of the cactus, also known as prickly pear or cactus pear, is ready to be collected. However, I haven’t observed much interest in this fruit here. In other countries, it is used for its health benefits and even in cosmetics. From its seeds, oil is made, while the flesh can be eaten raw or used in beverages and foods.
Some locals grow vegetables such as salad, corn, aromatic herbs, and tomatoes. The funny thing is that you get to see aromatic herbs for sale in the supermarkets when you can sometimes pick them up from the side of the road for free. If you go hiking, you will encounter thyme and rosemary growing wild. The food supply of Santorini comes from Athens and Crete. The only downside is that the island has no potable water. Buying plastic water bottles is, unfortunately, the only option. The tap water is salty and can’t even be used for cooking, although some do. Unknowingly, on my first day, I used tap water to make tea and didn’t know why it tasted like seawater.
Affordable Accommodation in Santorini (40-60 EUR) off-season
As one of the most desired tourist destinations in the world, finding cheap accommodation in Santorini is getting more complex. There are few places where you can stay for low prices during the high season, but the situation is changing rapidly with inflation, wars, and economic instability. We all must have noticed how everything got so progressively expensive.
Perissa: has a gorgeous black sanded beach stretching over 6km and a blue dome church. It is a great location to stay at. While there, I stayed at Villa Dima. It is open all year round and located 5 min from the beach, and it is a big traditional-looking villa with 13 rooms. Compared to other locations, the advantage is that you will stay near Santorini’s most famous black sand volcanic beach. In Oia and Thira, there is no beach unless you hop on a boat and go to the white beach, which is not accessible any other way. The west part of the island is rocky, and the east side has beaches, and it’s a bit more flatter. Other villages where you can stay for cheaper are Akrotiri, Kamari, Pyrgos, and Emporio. These locations can still be costly, over 100 EUR during the high season.
Expensive Accommodation in Santorini (over 200 EUR ) during the high season
If you want to experience waking up to the view of the Aegean Sea from the famous cliffside cave houses having a pool to yourself, then I recommend booking accommodation in Thira or Oia. That’s where the magic happens. Alternatively, you can opt for one of these other villages with amazing views, Megalochori and Imerovigli.
Santorini can be as expensive as paying 6000 euro for a night in Oia during peak season. The famous cave houses on the cliffs with jacuzzi and pool overlooking the breathtaking view and sunset spectacle. Yes. That’s what you’re paying for. Indeed, the ambiance is out of this world. I have visited some of these houses. The attention to detail, decorations, and design. It’s so easy to fall in love with these places. You can’t resist vintage, old style combined with modern technology. In Santorini, you can get half the price during the off-peak. I stayed in Thira in December in the heart of the village, only paying 30 euro. The cheapest I could find in Oia in January was 50 euro, also in the center, but not with a view over the Aegean Sea. That is the most expensive area, with prices starting from hundreds of euro to thousands.
Day 1. Thira
Thira is considered the island’s capital village. Also, the main harbor is situated here. Daily ferries arrive from Athens and neighboring islands, facilitating the transportation of goods and people. The most beautiful part of the village is the sparkling white houses on the cliffs overlooking the small islands of Nea Kameni and Thirasia in the Aegean Sea. There are many boutiques and interesting local shops to discover as well. You can go to the old harbor on foot, with the cable car or donkeys. I love donkeys and would never use them as transportation. They look so fragile to me, even though they are strong. You also have the Museum of Prehistoric Thira to discover and learn the island’s history. Everything is pretty close, and you will enjoy walking around.
Day 2. Oia
One of the most famous travel destinations is Oia, situated north of the island. This adorable little village is like a walk in heaven. Beauty is everywhere you look, and you can’t stop being in constant awe. The way they managed to build these cave houses is incredible. This place’s aesthetic, style, and vibe are on a whole new level. Just like Thira, Oia is highly photogenic, and the blue dome churches are the staple of Santorini.
Walking among the small alleys, you will find many shops and lovely spots to take pictures. You can see the windmills and the ruins of the Castle of Oia. That is a perfect sunset spot. Also, there is Armeni and Ammoudi beach to which you can walk. It’s not a proper beach as it’s quite rocky, but you have a great and different view from there.
Day 3. Boat tour
This itinerary would not be complete without a sailing day. Enjoying the gorgeous views of the caldera from the Aegean Sea has to be on everyone’s list.
If you have more time available, I suggest to visit the following:
- Vlichada beach
- Persissa beach
- Red beach
- Akrotiri Lighthouse
- Ancient Thera
I will be returning to Santorini to savor all this beauty again. I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post with the very best of Santorini in 3 days. Literally with this guide you cover the crème de la crème of Santorini. You will learn what the island offers and what it is all about. Enjoy your time, create long-lasting memories, and take fantastic pictures to remember the beauty of this planet. I leave you with some images of Santorini.