Greece is home to thousands of islands, but Santorini is one of the most famous ones.
Most people know the picture of the famous blue domes. But have you ever wondered what to do in Santorini besides taking pictures of that viewpoint?
In order to help you plan your stay on the islands, we’ve put together this 4-day Santorini itinerary. You’ll explore the cutest towns and villages, relax on red beaches, climb a volcano and learn about the Akrotiri Bronze Age town.
Keep reading to find out how to squeeze this and even more into your Santorini trip!
Table of Contents
Four days in Santorini itinerary
#1 Relax at the beach
Start the morning of your first day in Santorini by heading to the beach. We know you’re probably eager to see the blue domes for yourselves, but those are much nicer to visit in the afternoon.
Most people will tell you that it’s not worth visiting Santorini for its beaches. While that might be true, there are still some pretty cool ones you can explore.
We recommend heading either to Perissa Beach or Kamari Beach. Both are famous for their black sand and clear water.Santorini is a volcanic island, so the beaches are covered with volcanic rocks ground down to the consistency of sand. Pretty cool, right?
You can find beach clubs on both beaches, where you can rent chairs and an umbrella. Make sure to bring enough sunscreen, especially if you’re visiting during the high season in summer!
Both Perissa and Kamari Beach are easy to reach from Fira, with regular bus connections. And you can even take a water taxi between the two if you want to see both.
#2 Explore Oia
Oia is one of the most famous places to visit in Santorini. This is where you can find the blue domes, and where everyone lines up to take pictures.One of the important things to know before going to Santorini is that Oia is picturesque, but it’s also a tourist magnet. Come here with lots of patience, and expect to queue at all of the nice viewpoints. If you don’t like crowds, then try coming outside the main season. We were here in October, and there were still lots of people, but it was much better than in summer.
Start by heading to the blue domes. The best photo spot is slightly east of them, and it might take you a moment of walking the narrow streets to find out how to get there, but that’s part of the fun.
Along the way, you’ll come across lots of great photo opportunities. And always remember to stay respectful and don’t cross any private properties.
The famous blue domes are easiest to photograph in the morning, by the way, so if you have the time and really value the perfect Instagram picture, you could come back another day.
For now, walk down the main street and explore. You can find cafes, restaurants, lots of shops and art galleries in Oia.
Once sunset comes closer, head to the Oia Castle. It’s the most famous sunset spot in Santorini, but unfortunately, that also means that it’s crowded. Very crowded.
If you’re here in the main season, you might be better off continuing either along the main road for good sunset views or heading down the stairs that lead towards the harbour in Ammoudi Bay. From along the way, you can get fantastic views of Oia, the windmills and the sunset.
Before you head out today, make sure to pack lots of water (it can get very hot during mid-day), some snacks and your swimsuit and a towel. You will see why you need it later.
Before heading to the beach, though, this morning, the first stop on your Santorini itinerary for 4 days is one of the coolest Greek archaeological sites.
Everyone knows the Acropolis in Athens and the Oracle in Delfi, but only a few people talk about Akrotiri. Which is a shame because it’s a fascinating place. Personally, I think it is one of the top things to do in Santorini!
The first people settled in Akrotiri around 5,000 BC. That’s 7,000 years ago! Back then, Akrotiri was just a tiny fishing village, but by around 2,000 to 3,000 BC, it started growing and eventually turned into an important Bronze Age city.
Akrotiri was much more developed than one would expect. They had a sewer system, multi-floor houses and even flushing toilets on the upper floors.
Back then, Santorini was a round island with a volcano in its middle. And I think you can guess what happened next. In the 16th century BC, that volcano erupted and covered the settlement under a few metres of volcanic ash.The eruption of the Santorini volcano was so huge that large parts of the island collapsed and sank into the sea. Only Santorini, Thirassia, some smaller islands and the peak of the volcano remain above water.
Fortunately, the inhabitants of Akrotiri seemed to have known what was coming, as they abandoned their city just in time. Otherwise, they would have been buried during the eruption, just like the poor people in Pompei.
At the entrance of Aktoriti, just after buying your ticket, you can hire a guide for a tour of the ruins. We highly recommend spending that extra money, as it will help you understand the excavation site.
#2 Red Beach
From Akrotiri, it’s only a short walk to Red Beach. We hope you followed our advice above and packed your swimsuit and towel!
The advantage of seeing Santorini in 4 days is that you have plenty of time to relax on beaches – much more than if you were trying to squeeze everything into 2 or 3 days. This afternoon, make use of that time by relaxing on Red Beach.
As you know by now, Santorini is a volcanic island, which means you can see sand in all kinds of colours.
On Red Beach, it is, as you might expect, red. The towering red cliffs behind the beach make for a stunning sight and protect you from the winds. That makes Red Beach the best place in Santorini to swim if you’re here on a colder day.
You can find some sunbeds and umbrellas on Red Beach, but it isn’t as organised as other beaches, so pack snacks and drinks before you come here.
About halfway between Akrotiri and Red Beach, you’ll find a pier. If spending the afternoon lying on Red Beach isn’t what you enjoy, get a ticket here and go on a round trip that takes you to Red Beach, Black Beach and White Beach. It’s a great opportunity to see different scenery and explore more of the island.
Today, join one of the boat tours that take you across the Caldera. You’ll get the chance to climb the volcano, swim in hot springs and explore Thirasia, the small island opposite Santorini, making this the best day trip in Santorini.
Make sure to book your tour ahead of time. If you’re staying in a hotel, they can likely help you with the booking, but you can also very quickly and easily book it online.
#1 Kameni Islands
Two large islands sit in the middle of the Santorini Caldera – Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. The latter is the tip of the volcano.
Make sure to wear good walking shoes for this part of your day trip, as the path to the top is full of rocks and gravel. It takes about half an hour to reach the summit, and once you’re there, you’ll see that you’re standing on top of an active volcano.
The first thing you’ll notice is the smell of sulfur, which many people compare to the smell of rotten eggs. Besides that, you can also see smoke escaping in some places.
The good news is that Santorini Volcano is considered dormant. Plus, seismologists are closely monitoring it, so your visit here is safe, and the biggest risk is twisting your ankle on the way up.
#2 Hot Springs
Your next stop is the hot springs near Palea Kameni.
When we booked our tour, we didn’t know what to expect from this one. Hot springs sound like pools in which you can lean back and relax, right?
That’s not what this stop is about.
While there are hot springs in this area, due to the volcanic activity, they’re located underwater in a shallow bay. The ships stop nearby, and you then have to swim to that bay.
When jumping into the sea, you’ll notice that the water temperature is rather cold. But once you get into the bay, you’ll feel the warm currents. It’s a cool and unique experience that you won’t have in many other places around the world!
Some people say that if you want to experience how Santorini was before the arrival of the tourists, you need to head to Thirasia.
We don’t know if that’s true, but we do agree that Thirasia (which is also sometimes called Therasia or Thirassia) is far less developed than Santorini. And that’s where its charm lies.
Boats dock in the harbour below the town. From here, it’s a short but steep climb up the stairs to get to the village. Don’t expect the picture-perfect scenes you know from Oia. On Thirasia, everything is a little bit run down and crumbling, but that makes it even more charming.
#1 Fira Old Town
Your 4 days in Santorini are almost over. On your last day, head to Fira (also called Thira or Thera). This town is not only larger than Oia, it’s also less crowded. While walking around, you can see that people actually live here, and it’s not just hotels and tourists.
A great place to start exploring is the Main Square. If you arrive by bus, it will drop you off nearby. From here, head to the caldera, stopping in small side streets and shops along the way.
The path along the caldera is the most crowded, but it also offers stunning views. Once you’ve head enough, return to the backstreets for picturesque views and a more relaxed atmosphere.
#2 Churches of Fira
It’s difficult to miss the churches of Fira, as they’re amongst the most iconic sights of this town. Head uphill to get to the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, but make sure to keep walking towards the north.
Not much further, and you’ll get to the Three Bells of Fira. This church was heavily damaged in an earthquake in 1956, but fortunately, it has since been rebuilt.
#3 Fira Old Port
It’s a long way down to the waterfront.
Before Santorini became a major tourist destination, the port below Fira was used as the island’s main harbour. These days, it’s a cute and charming tourist spot that you should visit.
You can get up and down either by climbing the stairs or by taking the cable car. If it’s a hot day, we highly recommend the cable car, so you don’t have to walk in the bright sunshine.
If the weather isn’t bothering you too much, then take the stairs one way and return by cable car, the get the best views from different vantage points.
#4 Museum of Prehistoric Thira
Visiting the Museum of Prehistoric Thira is a must-do in Santorini. If you’ve taken a guided tour through Akrotiri, you’ll have heard about all of the artefacts found in the ruins.
You can see them in this museum.
Amongst the coolest relics from back then are the frescoes. As they remained covered under volcanic ash for millennia, some of them survived, and the colours are still visible today.
Another noteworthy artefact is the cast of a wooden table. The wood disintegrated, and the volcanic material around it now serves as a mould. Scientists have been able to pour plaster into this “mould” and reproduce everyday objects from Ancient Akrotiri.
#5 Fira Sunset View
Finish your last day in Santorini by watching the sunset. While Fira still attracts tourists, it isn’t as crowded as Oia. You have a lot more space, and this is a prime sunset spot if you visit in high season.
Along the caldera, you can find multiple bars and restaurants. If you want, you can grab a drink or some food and then enjoy the view as the sun goes down. Prices are more moderate than in Oia, but be warned that it still won’t be cheap.
It’s Santorini, after all.
Practical information about visiting Santorini
Best time to visit Santorini
You can visit Santorini year-round, but the best time is the shoulder season from April to May and mid-September to October.
During the summer months of July and August, Santorini gets hot enough during the day that sightseeing becomes a struggle. The best strategy is to stay inside during the hottest hours and explore in the mornings and evenings.
Another consideration when visiting Santorini is that it’s one of the most popular Greek islands. Add to that the fact that most European children are on summer holidays in July and August, and you won’t be surprised that the island is packed in summer.
If you don’t like fighting for sunset spots and queueing to take pictures of the blue-domed churches, we highly recommend avoiding summer.
Another option to escape the crowds is to visit during the winter months, from November to April. Temperatures will be cooler, and you likely won’t be able to swim in the sea. You might have a few days of rain, but there will be far less people bothering you as you explore.
Some businesses close in winter, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. On the other hand, the hotels that remain open will offer much better rates than in summer.
How to get to Santorini
You have two options for getting to Santorini.
You can either fly here or take a ferry.
Flying is convenient if you’re coming from overseas. As Santorini is a popular holiday destination, many European airports have direct flights to the island.
If you can’t get a direct flight, you’ll likely have a stopover either in Thessaloniki or Athens.
Talking about Athens. Are you already in the country and wondering how to get to Santorini from Athens?
The easiest and most sustainable way is to take a ferry. Santorini has regular connections with the port in Piraeus, just south of Athens, and many other Greek islands. The ferry takes about four to six hours from Athens.
If that sounds too long for you, you can also catch a flight. If you take into account, though, that you have to get to the airport in advance and that the Athens airport is far away from the city centre, you might not save that much time compared to the ferry.
Getting around Santorini
You have two options for getting around Santorini.
Either you get a rental car, or you take public transport.
A rental car offers you more flexibility than the Santorini bus network. You can easily get around and visit places off the beaten path, like the Akrotiri lighthouse (which you could drive to after visiting Red Beach).
Before travelling to Santorini, make sure to reserve your rental car. The easiest way to do so is to use an aggregator website like Discovercars, which will help you find the best rates from multiple companies. Click here to check it out.
If you are on a budget or simply don’t like driving (like us – we only get a rental car when it is absolutely required), don’t worry. Santorini has an extensive bus network that will help you visit all stops on our itinerary.
You can look up the Santorini bus schedules online, which will help you plan your trip.
A question that you might be asking yourself is, can you walk around Santorini?
The answer is that it depends. If you have some extra time, you can hike from Fira to Oia. It’s a popular walk that takes around half a day. And of course, you can walk within a town.
But besides that, the distances are too long. Plus, trust us, you don’t want to be walking along a dusty road with no shade for hours. Stick to a rental car or the buses, and you’ll get around just fine.
Where to stay in Santorini
Hotels and guest houses on Santorini can range from okay-priced to insanely expensive. A lot depends on where you stay, and this will also depend on whether or not you have a car.
With your own transport, you can rent a room in a remote location that you wouldn’t be able to reach by bus. On the other hand, renting a car costs money, and in the end, it might not be worth it.
If you’re on a budget, consider staying in Fira. Oia might be more iconic, but the main town is more affordable.
Here are some suggestions to get you inspired to book your stay:
- Mid-range: We stayed at the Aethrio Sunset Village in Oia and really enjoyed our stay. We had a nice room with an outside terrace close to the pool. It is located in a quiet backstreet, so we slept well at night, and we even had a terrace from which to watch the sunset! If you want to learn more, you can read our detailed review or check out prices and availability here.
- A bit (or a lot) more comfort: Have you seen those pictures of people sitting in their private pool while watching the sun set behind the Santorini caldera? If you are willing to splurge, head to Aspaki by Art Maisons and enjoy your own private pool. Be warned, though, as this comes with a hefty price tag. If you’re curious, check out the stunning photos here.
- Budget: It’s difficult to find budget accommodation in Santorini. Unless you’re going in low season, you will not find any great deals. Your best bet is to look at hotels in Fira or in smaller towns connected by bus (Kamari or Perissa). Hotel Hellas is a decent choice in Fira, with good reviews. It even includes a pool! Click here to read reviews and see photos.
Are 4 days in Santorini enough?
We have written a detailed post about how many days you really need to spend in Santorini.
To sum it up, we think that four days in Santorini are more than enough. You can even get away with spending a bit less time and seeing the island in three days.
Four days give you a bit more time, so you can relax on the beach and still see all of the main sights.
Santorini is one of those islands that many people dream about seeing once in their lifetime. It’s also nothing like the rest of Greece, so we recommend spending some time in the country and seeing different islands (Paros is one of our favourites) or checking out the mainland.
While you’re here, make sure to check out our other Greece posts, which will help you plan your trip:
- How Many Days in Santorini Do You Need?
- Hotel Review: Aethrio Sunset Village Oia, Santorini
- Paros Instagram Spots – Where to Take the Best Pictures of Paros, Greece
- Greece in 7 Days Itinerary – Spend a Perfect Week in Greece
Until your next adventure!
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