The crescent-shaped island of Santorini is compact enough that driving from one end to the other takes less than an hour, and it's easy to maximize a short trip. With only 24 hours here, you can see the ruins of Akrotiri, the vineyards at Megalochori, and the whitewashed villages of Oia and Fira. But to really experience Santorini, consider spending three to five days: you'll be able to sightsee, hike, and beach-hop while embracing the relaxed pace of island life.

Planning Your Trip to Santorini

You'll want to take your time on Santorini. Five days is an ideal length—you'll be able to lounge at the many beaches, hiking the island's highest points, and take a boat ride to some of the outlying islands, all formed by a volcanic explosion thousands of years ago. Many sights here lend themselves to visits of several hours, and the entire island has a relaxed vibe that will simply make you want to slow down. But if you only have a day or two, you'll still be able to experience Santorini's unique landscape, culture, and cuisine.  

A note on hotels: If you choose your hotels carefully, you can be rewarded with an amazing view of the caldera from your room or your balcony. Hotels range from high-end and luxury options to modest family apartments that include kitchens (your best option if you like to cook). The best way to get direct sea access is to choose a room in the seaside village of Kamari. For a truly unique experience, stay in one of the island’s cave hotels, developed from what used to be modest cliffside dwellings carved into the volcanic rim, which have now been spruced up and made significantly more comfortable for tourists.

For more about how to get to Santorini, click here.

Santorini in 24 Hours

Fishing boats in the harbor of Santorini

Spend just 24 hours on Santorini may feel a bit rushed, but you can still check some of its top spots off your list. If it's picturesque villages you're into, you can spend your first afternoon wandering the many settlements that hug the coast, like Fira and Oia, snapping pictures of the whitewashed homes as they change in the shifting light. Then, find a café terrace to watch the sunset over a seafood meal and a glass of ouzo or local wine. You can also take in sunset views without cruise ship crowds at the highest point on the caldera in Imerovigli or a quiet point near Fira.

If beaches are your thing, you can spend the morning after your overnight stretched out in the sun before the crowds arrive. Santorini's famed beaches are often named after the color of their sand, like Red Beach or White Beach. Kamari, Perissa, and Perivolos beaches are all striking for their black sand, while the Koloumbus Beach, close to Cape Kolumbo, is framed by striking cliffs.

Santorini is a place to be relaxed and leisurely; no reason to zip around as you would in a big city. Just take in the day and enjoy the short time you have here.

Check out sample itineraries that combine a visit to Santorini with other Greek islands.

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Santorini in 2-3 days

A detail from the Orthodox cathedral in Fira

With 2-3 days in Santorini, you'll have time to take to the seas. A half-day cruise will be enough to visit the famous volcano, including docking and hiking up to it, or you could opt for a more luxurious catamaran sunset cruise, including a barbecue onboard, to see the light illuminate Santorini's whitewashed buildings without having to elbow away the crowds.

A guided tour of the island will allow you to delve deeper into its history and culture, including a visit to its wine-growing region, in operation since Roman times, producing specific grapes that thrive in volcanic soil, like Aidini, Assyrtiko, and Athiri for whites, and Mandilaria and Mavrotragano for red. You'll have the chance to stop by Santo Wines, the co-op that buys wines from many independent producers and sells them all in one place, or visit lesser-known vineyards in off-the-beaten-path villages like Megalochori, where you'll even have the chance to stomp grapes with your feet.

Click here for more suggestions on what to do in three days on Santorini. 

Santorini in 4-5 days

Flowery vineyard paths near Akrotiri

If you have four to five days in Santorini, consider taking a food tour. Blessed by sunlight from all sides, with a unique, rich volcanic soil that's like nowhere else on earth, the island produces some pretty spectacular flavors. Santorini has its own special wines, cheeses like chloro, veggies like eggplant and tomato, and classics like fava bean porridge, saganaki – a breaded and fried cheese—grilled lamb, and plenty of seafood. Have a guide introduce you to some of the modest taverns churning out Santorini's most delectable dishes, or head up into the hills to check out the farms and vineyards where the building blocks of these specialties are grown and raised.

Take a tour of Santorini's archaeological gems, including Akrotiri, the remains of an ancient Minoan city. Sometimes referred to as the "Pompeii of the Aegean," Akrotiri's ruins include pottery, frescoes, and a complex drainage system that speaks to this ancient civilization's mastery of engineering practices that seem lightyears ahead of them. Museums like the Archaeological Museum of Santorini and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera further illuminate this island's long and storied history. If you're into architecture beyond the island's famed whitewashed buildings, try to spot its iconic blue-domed churches or tour the five castles of Oia, Imerovigli, Pyrgos, Emporio, and Akrotiri, the centuries-old fortifications representing five ancient settlements.

Not for the faint of heart (or wobbly-legged), the eight-mile hike between Fira and Oia should take you about 2.5 to 5 hours, depending on your fitness level and speed, and includes stops along the way, like the quaint Ekklisia Profitis Ilias church. Clifftop views will allow you to gaze down at the caldera and contemplate its might, making it easier to understand how the entire island was destroyed in the Thera eruption several millennia ago. This island has always been resilient, however, reinventing itself as a wonder for every new age.
Read more here on the hidden gems of Santorini.