Santorini is undoubtedly the most beautiful of the Cycladic islands, best known for iconic views of whitewashed villages speckled with blue-domed churches perched on the edge of volcanic cliffs.
Probably the most romantic destination in the world, Santorini is unique and enchanting.
What is there to do in Santorini for three days? Well, there’s stunning scenery, breath-taking sunsets, volcanic springs, beautiful beaches, oh and they make wine too. Read on for suggestions for the best things to do in Santorini, we suggest hiring a car or a scooter for complete freedom to explore the island.
The wonder of Santorini: between history and wonderful landscapes
The islands unique landscape was created by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption on the island of Thera around 1600 BC. The eruption, estimated as a 7 or 8 on the VIE scale was seen as far away as China. The blast and resulting tsunami destroyed the island of Thera, and wiped out the Minoan civilisation on the nearby island of Crete. What remains today is a volcanic crater or caldera which is filled with water, Santorini and the smaller island of Theresia.
The sunsets on Santorini are famous worldwide. Watching the sun dip beyond the caldera bathing the tiny houses and domes in colour is simply magical and will be the highlight of every evening. Visitors flock to the small westerly town of Oia, for the views and that epic Santorini pic or Instagram pose. The ruins of Oia castle are THE sunset spot for visitors, so expect it to be crowded! To ensure you get the best views without any jostling, we suggest you reserve a table at one of the many restaurants with terraces overlooking the caldera. If you don’t want to deal with the crowds, the view from the nearby towns of Imerovigli or Firostefani are equally stunning.
Wherever you go to watch the sunset, make sure you are in position by around 8pm, when everyone on the island will be focused on finding that perfect spot.
What to do in Santorini in 3 Days?
Day 1: Take in the Views from Fira to Oia
The best activity to take in the breath-taking landscape is to walk from Santorini’s capital Fira to the picturesque town of Oia. The walk follows a hiking trail along the crater edges and through the lovely towns of Imerovigli and Firostefani. The walk is around 6.5 miles (just over 10 km) and can take from 2-5 hours depending how often you stop to take photos and gawp at the jaw-dropping views (which will be often!). We suggest heading out early while it is relatively cool and preparation is key; wear comfortable shoes (not flip-flops) and make sure you have plenty of water, suncream and a hat as Greek summers can be relentless.
By the time you reach Oia you will be ready for lunch at a local taverna or one of the restaurant terraces overlooking the caldera. Once you have recovered from the walk (and lunch) it’s time to explore Santorini’s most photogenic town. There are plenty of boutiques dotted around the small town which is known for Jewellery and ceramics by local artists.
Nestled inside a recess below Oia Castle (278 steps down) is Ammoudi bay. A small hidden bay with fishing boats and a port, it’s a great spot for a swim. Bars and tavernas line the bay, this is the place for fantastically fresh seafood. The castle above Ammoudi bay the most popular spot for the sunset, imagine watching it from the water’s edge. If you don’t want to take the steps back up to Oia, one of the establishments will call you a taxi.
Day 2: Explore the caldera by Boat
For your second day in Santorini, we suggest heading out on the sea to explore. In the centre of the flooded caldera are the uninhabited islets of Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni translated as new and old crater. The Nea Kameni Park is a science fiction landscape that offers fantastic hiking trails to the crater of the active volcano 130 metres above. You can feel the heat coming from the ground and see smoke coming from the volcano as you climb. Palea Kameni is known for the sulphur springs where visitors flock to the naturally heated pools for their healing properties; the volcanic minerals relieve aching muscles and the sulphur is great for the skin.
There are many ways to explore the caldera depending on the experience you are looking for. If you want luxury relaxation why not take a private cruise with lunch onboard, or watch the sunset from a private yacht? With a catamaran cruise you can island hop with time for hiking up Nea Kameni and a dip in the sulphur springs. If you want to get even closer to the caldera you can explore the hidden caves with a kayak, even underwater with some snorkelling.
Day 3: The archaeological site of Akrotiri and wine tasting
Having explored the island by land and sea, it’s time to delve into the history and culture of Santorini. The archaeological site of Akrotiri takes us back before the eruption of Thera to when the Minoan Civilisation of Crete traded widely across the Mediterranean. This ancient people were known for their high-quality pottery and jewellery as well as their art. Akrotiri was a port town, strategically placed for trade, many believed Akrotiri to be the lost city of Atlantis.
The site, is covered by a bioclimatic roof and visitors can look down from walkways suspended above the archaeological remains. Like Pompeii, Akrotiri was wonderfully preserved by the eruption of Thera. Although less than a third of the site has been excavated, it is in remarkable condition with multi storey buildings, sewerage and paved streets. Coloured frescoes and many artefacts were found including a charred bed and assorted amphora can be found in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera which is in Fira. To get the best out of the site we recommend a guided tour to fully appreciate the history of the site, you could even combine a trip to the archaeological site with the next activity.
Vineyards and Wineries of Santorini
You may not have heard of wine from Santorini owing to its small-scale production, but the mineral rich volcanic soil means the island has vineyards and wineries galore. Long before the eruption, the Phoenicians brought the vine to Thera and today Santorini is famous for their crisp, zesty white Assyrtiko wine with grapefruit notes as well as a sweet dessert wine made from sun dried grapes.
The vineyards in Santorini are unique, they are coiled close to the ground because of the strong winds and rely on sea spray for watering, these tenacious vines produce some exceptional wines. There are a variety of fabulous wine tours available where you visit more than one vineyard, combine Akrotiri with wine tasting or enjoy a wine tasting at sunset, the views from the highest point of the island are simply stunning.
If you’re planning a visit to Santorini and want to get the best out of your 3 days on the island, be sure to check out Through Eternity’s range of private, expert-led tours. We’ve got something for every interest, and are happy to customise our itineraries to suit you - so get in touch today to start planning your Santorini adventure!