The sheer cliffs that tower over the turquoise Aegean Sea that is the crescent to the moon that is the volcanic island that sits right in the middle is one of those things that almost doesn’t seem real. As you approach, you start seeing hundreds of white dotted villas and buildings clinging on to the edge and that’s when you’re really at awe.
It’s an island that in the Western Cyclades that everyone is guaranteed to know and in this Santorini in 3 days itinerary and travel guide, I want to show you how to plan that perfect trip for those island hopping and have limited time to work with.
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How to See Santorini in 3 Days
When planning for our Greece 14 day trip, figuring out the line up of islands was the largest challenge but one thing that was constant in all the iterations of my trip planning spreadsheet was Santorini. As much as I have my personal opinion about the island which you’ll be able to read at the very end, it’s one of those places where you’d almost feel silly not to do even if it’s just to see what the hype is all about.
The goals of this collection of Greek Island itineraries is to supplement the high level breakdown of how we did our trip Greek island hopping across 14 days. Use the full itinerary as the larger guide for how we went about going from island to island. Also, don’t miss the comprehensive Greek Island travel guide which will have an incredible amount of detail on everything you won’t find in a guide book or “top things to do” type of blog post.
Let’s jump into the Santorini 3 day itinerary!
Day 1 – Santorini – Famous Fira
There are many ways your adventure in Santorini can start. You can fly in from Athens or another island, or you can take the ferry in. In this particular Santorini itinerary, let’s assume you’re coming in by ferry.
The particular ferry we took was the Golden Star Ferry Super Runner at 11AM from Paros but make sure to do a thorough check of the available ferries to make sure you book the one that works for you.
From Paros, the ferry ride is less than 2 hours which is just enough time to take a quick nap and before you know it, you’ll be looking at the towering cliffs of the most famous of all the Greek Islands, Santorini.
If you’re coming straight from Athens to Santorini, the ride will feel similar but longer and in most instances you’ll arrive late in the afternoon or early evening.
Once you disembark the ferry, it’ll be pure madness because there are so many people trying to get to places and you’ll see a ton of people head towards large tour buses, others trying to lure you into renting a car, and others walking further left to get a pick up. While there are advantages of renting a car at the Athinios port or simply “new port”, my recommendation is to arrange a pick up via your accommodations. I can only speak for Imerovigli but expect this service to be 30 EUR. Lastly, I’ll mention that there are no donkeys here – don’t confuse this port with the Fira port.
TIP: Renting a car from the port means that you have an end to end solution which means that when it’s time to leave Santorini, just drive your car back down to the port and no taxi service is required. Problem with this is that you’re going to have to deal with parking the whole time in Santorini which isn’t always easy, and on many days, you won’t really need a car so you’d be wasting money. Last thing that most don’t tell you is that it is hell driving up from Athinios and back down. Locals will tell you that the traffic along the switchback road is a nightmare especially when the giant trucks are moving cargo and equipment up and down. Sometimes it’s just worth it to have someone else deal with it.
Imerovigli is where we chose to stay on our trip and there are 3 reasons why. 1) the epic views the hotels here offer, 2) the central location that’s close enough to Fira and not awkwardly located at either end of the island and 3) being away from the craziness of the large towns.
When the cab drops you off in Imerovigli just note that there’ll be a bit of a walk down to your property simply because the cars can only go so far. This is probably one of the main downsides of this but typically there is porter service available to help bring your luggage down. Us being thrifty, we lugged our own luggage over. If things work out, you’ll be able to settle in to your place but if not you can always leave your luggage behind and come back later.
TIP: When checking in, make sure to ask about booking a taxi ride back to the port on your last day, otherwise you might forget. You’ll likely be paying advance. If you’d prefer to book your own service, there are cheap options like this transfer service.
For your first day in Santorini, you’re going to want to start with the basics and what better way to get to know the island than to explore the capital, Fira (you’ll also see it as Thira of Thera). Imerovigili is a great place to be because it puts you along the Fira to Oia hiking trail. From Imerovigli, it’s technically a 30 minute walk but plan for much longer.
But first, lunch!
Upon reading the reviews and recommendations from our hotel, we head to Avocado for a late meal. This is a superb restaurant with many of classic Greek dishes and fresh takes on seafood. I highly recommend their moussaka which comes in a giant glazed pot. The staff was extremely friendly and we even had complimentary shots of raki (vodka-like liquor made from grapes).
TIP: The Prekas Apartments has a sweet deal where if you get 10% off by simply showing their business card.
Start the hike towards Fira. There’s no specific name for it but you really can’t miss it as there will be plenty of people on it and if anything just follow cliffside. Ask if you’re lost and if there are any disconnects in the trail, look out for a sign that points towards Fira and you’ll be ok.
While it’s supposed to take 30 minutes to get to Fira, I’d say it easily took us close to 2 hours because of all the stops and detours we made. You’ll pass through many shops and lookout points throughout but none is more impressive than the Virgin Mary Catholic Church. The name might not ring a bell (pun intended) but the photo certainly will. It’s one of the most photographed area in Santorini and was surprisingly not too crowded in the late afternoon although I’m sure it gets pretty bad at sunset.
Of course, reality differs from what you see in the photos because it’s really just a giant unglamorous parking lot with a stone ledge that looks down on the church below but the pristine blue-topped church with the volcanic island in the backdrop with the shimmering water sure is a magical sight.
Keep following the path and eventually the sparse populated path will start to begin to change and before you know it, you’ll be smack in the middle of Fira, a collection of multi-layered cobblestoned streets, shops of souvenirs and jewelry that seemingly repeat over and over, donkeys, and tons of cliffside bars and restaurants.
PRINT YOUR TICKETS: One of the tips you’ll find in the Greek Islands travel guide is that when it comes to ferries, another thing you have to deal with when you purchase your ferry tickets online is that some companies require that you have official printed tickets. One of them is SeaJets where you have to go to a physical reseller to have them printed. In Santorini, the SeaJets outlet is called Nomikos Travel. They’re open 8AM-10PM and it costs 0.50EUR per ticket to have them printed. There’s no way around this unfortunately.
In Fira, meander through, and just enjoy roaming aimlessly. How far do you go? The farthest you’ll want to make it to is the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral which you can’t miss. Don’t go further from here because there’s not much more to see and the alleyways just lead to other hotels.
PHOTOGRAPHY: If you were like me, I was panicking at this point because I didn’t know where to get the best shot of Fira. There were so many angles to take but none of them seemed perfect because of obstructions, direction of the sun, and overall composition. Without getting too much into my process, I eventually found a pretty sweet spot that looked back at the sprawling cliff of white-washed buildings. I marked it “Fira Sunset Viewing Spot” on the custom map.
TIP: It might’ve just been a late-May thing but it was quite windy throughout our stay in Santorini. Speaking to some of the locals, they say these breezes come and go throughout the year so my hot tip is to always have an extra outer layer with you in case you need it especially at or beyond sunset.
Before you head back, grab dinner in Fira. There are so many options to choose from and especially if you’re looking to grab food after sunset, it should be a lot easier. Convinced that the cliffside restaurants are unnecessarily expensive, we ended up eating at Ouzeri. They’re a traditional Greek restaurant that has a homely vibe to it. The dishes were good here but honestly nothing mind blowing. Definitely try the Santorini Yellow Donkey beer while you can though! It’s quite citrus-ey and satisfyingly hoppy.
To head back to Imerovigli, you could walk back the same way you came but why do that when the bus is so cheap and easy to use. The Fira bus terminal is easy to find. Once you’re there, ask for which one to take for Imerovigli and you should be able to board right away. The bus ticket attendant will come around once its on the move and it only costs 1.80 EUR per person.
RESERVATION REMINDER: Remember to make reservations for Anogi the next day!
Day 2 – Santorini – Drive & Explore
The island of Santorini is actually much larger than you think. There are so many villages that are begging to be explored and beaches to be enjoyed. Since you only have 3 days on this beautiful Greek Cycladic island, take advantage of your middle day with a rental car and venture outwards.
Depending on where you’re staying, I recommend looking for a car rental company that’s nearby so you can pick up and drop off right by your accommodations. In our case with Imerovigli, we found that online research wasn’t that helpful because most companies don’t have good websites, if they have them at all. Our hotel recommended a nearby Jimmy’s Santorini and for convenience it made sense to go with them as opposed to hunting around for the best deal.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: Imerovigli, Santorini 84700
Hours: 9AM – 7PM
Price: Varies depending on time of year and class of vehicle. To give you an idea, our small manual transmission VW Up cost 40 EUR for the day at the beginning of June. An automatic transmission was offered for 45 EUR.
Do they accept credit card?: Accepted but discounts only apply if you pay cash of course.
- I noticed this all across the Greek Islands, what you see listed isn’t the price they offer. There’s always an element of negotiation or they would just offer up automatic discounts. This may have been because this was in low season.
- They did not allow me to take photos of the pricing sheet
- During low season, reservations don’t seem to be necessary but would recommend it during high season.
Grab water and snacks from the neighbour grocery store, sign the paperwork for your car rental and it’s time for another adventure!
Before the modern age of building villas precariously on cliffs with views of the caldera, practical Greeks built their homes on hills inland as protection from the elements, and more importantly seafaring pirates. It’s in these picturesque villages that you’ll find the best preserved examples of how local families actually lived, examples of culture, authentic traces of history of various conquerers, and relatively untouched charm.
The largest of them all will be your first destination and its name is Pyrgos. As the island’s former capital, stroll through a village that harkens back to simpler days where locals sold their crafts along the side of windy cobblestone alleys, the church bells would periodically ring, and locals gathered for ouzo to chat about the day’s news. The charm is evident when you first arrive but it’s different because it’s less advertised, less perfect, and not overcrowded.
From the main square, slowly make your way through a maze of intertwined alleys by duck through mysterious connecting tunnels, hitting dead ends, and making decisions for forks in the road that really don’t matter because they all end in the two main sights here, the historic Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Maryand the Kasteli (castle) at the very top. The castle ruins that protects the city is small but has amazing 360 degree views of the entire island.
PARKING: Parking is free everywhere on the island and with most of the places you’ll visit today, it’s best to look for the parking lots. There’s usually availability and a short walk to what you want to see.
Megalochori is the next village you’ll drive to that is renowned for its vineyards. This is another example of what real local life on the island was like back in the day. Come here and marvel at the unique architecture that you’ll find here. The village is much more spread out here and a simpler layout with one street that cuts through.
When here, pay attention to the pistachio trees, white Cycladic houses, original cave houses, and the bell tower that arches above that main street. You won’t need to spend too much time here unless you wanted to do a full tour of the village including wine tasting.
Another village that is extremely fascinating is Emporio. As a centre of commerce in its past, this is actually Santorini’s largest village. When you first arrive and see the village from the outside, you’ll see a church and school playground but as you climb up and deeper, you’ll eventually enter the medieval Kasteli, one of five fortified castles on the island.
Inside you’ll see the church of Panagia Mesiani that dates back to the 16th century, the Tower of Nimbori, and even more impressive, a labyrinth of narrow streets flanked by mid-15th century houses connected by bridges and unique small windows, doors, steps, and arches all over.
This village will feel the least commercial out of all three which gives it an even stronger sense of authenticity.
Looking for a guided experience instead?
For those that would skip the driving and go on a day-trip to visit these villages and beaches which I’ll cover next, you should think about doing a tour with a local guide who will be able to speak at incredible depth on the history of these cultural villages and Akritori excavations that our itinerary doesn’t even fit in. If you’d like it bundled with the Oia sunset, you can take a look at this one.
Lunch is right around the corner. Drive into the beach town of Perissa where you’ll park right nearby to Mama’s Food, a bit of a hidden restaurant but absolutely awesome when it comes to price, quality, and service. They serve a standard mix of traditional Greek food but you don’t have to pay the markup of the beach restaurants. Also, any restaurant that gives complimentary ice cream bars at the end of the meal has my approval!
Further down from the restaurant is Perissa Beach itself. When it comes to parking, be careful where you park. After 2PM, a section of the beach road turns pedestrian. That said, there is parking on this street, you just need to go further down. I’ve marked this on the Trip Planning Map.
What makes Perissa Beach unique is that it its beach is entirely made up of black sand, hence its alternative name, Black Sand Beach. The black comes from the volcanic activity that created the island and is surprisingly soft but if you’re here mid-day like we were, it’s also searingly hot so walking bare feet is not recommended.
Full from your lunch, this is the perfect time to find a nice stretch of sand to take a nap or jump into the Aegean waters. The location for parking that I’ve marked is also a great spot to lay out because there aren’t any for-rent beach chairs and umbrellas here. That said, if you’d like to pay for one, you can definitely rent them for 7-10 EUR.
Don’t get too comfortable here because there are still a few more stops!
Along your way out, head to one of the nice surprises of Santorini. Santa Irini Bakery has the most extensive collection of yummy cookies, cakes, pastries, savouries, and desserts in a cup that you can ask for, and can you believe it’s 24 hours? Pick up anything that suits your fancy but I do recommend you take a look at the fridge for things like their cheesecake and tiramisu in a cup.
Perhaps even more of a dramatic beach to Perissa is Red Beach with its imposing exposed wall of red rock and red-hued sand below. It’s an impressive sight to see where seemingly a side of red volcanic rock decided to collapse into the sea, creating the beach and cliff all at once.
From the large parking lot, it’s an easy walk out to the viewing point for Red Beach but it gets a bit more hairy as you descend to beach-level. Many areas of the beach have been closed off because of landslide erosion and unstable surfaces. While the beach is not officially recommended for tourists, it’s certainly not hard to get down minus a few boulders climb over.
As a beach itself, it’s not exactly the most comfortable because it consists of black sand, pebbles, and dried seaweed but if you’re headed down, you might as well do a little sunbathing. I’ll be honest, it did occur in the back of my head that if there was a landslide here, we would all be in big trouble. Note that there are bathroom facilities on the beach but at the far end.
Hit the road again and while you have the car, drop by a grocery store along the way so you can stock up on things like water, alcohol, snacks, fruit, yogurt, and anything else you need for breakfast. There’s a Lidl that you’ll pass by that is perfect for this.
FILLING UP: Don’t forget to fill up. As a guide, we only needed 8 EUR of gas and even then it was too much.
Return the car and make it back to your suite in Imerovigli just in time to watch the sunset.
For dinner, there’s a fabulous and extremely affordable Mediterranean restaurant in Imerovigli called Anogi. This is one of the most popular restaurants in the neighbourhood so reservations are recommended in advance. A strong memory from our visit was how incredibly friendly and attentive their staff were. The grilled fresh fillet of sea-bream and smoked pork belly were cooked to perfection and even more of a surprise was their tahini pie crust with mastiha ice-cream. We even got complimentary vinsanto dessert wine to top it off.
Where You Should Stay in Santorini
Where is the best area in Santorini to stay? Is Fira and Oia worth it? Read on to find out an honest look at each of the major towns and why you should consider each.
Day 3 – Santorini – Oia Sunset
I’m usually not a big morning person but while you have a view as perfect as ours from Prekas Apartments, you definitely try to take advantage. Spend the morning going from sunrise photos to breakfast on the patio with those supplies you picked up the day before, and then back to more pretty dress photos for Instagram. You gotta right?
You’re in for a treat on your final day in Santorini because one of the best secrets of the island is to see the see its beauty upclose through the trail the connects Fira and Oia. There’s no official name to the trail other than the Fira to Oia Hike.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Here are some of the essentials you need before you tackle the Fira to Oia Hike.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate – Most of the trail is developed as a cobblestone trail or firmly packed gravel. There’s a slight incline on the back third of the trail as you make your way up until you get to Panagia Church.
Time: The general prescribed time for the whole hike ranges from 2 to 5 hours. If you’re starting from Imerovigli, our hotel said it should take 1.5 hours. Practically speaking though, it took us just a tad over 2 hours for us.
- Is it easy to get lost? No, on top of encountering a ton of others doing the hike, there are also signs in places where there could conversion of divergent paths. The only part I’d say was a little bit unexpected was the part where you pass by a resort and the trail abruptly becomes the road before passing by a snack bar and it turning into a trail again.
- Would you recommend doing this after sunset? It is do-able but you’d need a headlamp for sure. If you find yourself in Oia and need a way back, taking the bus would be much easier.
- What was the hardest part? That last uphill stretch is probably the toughest because it seems to go on for a long time and at this point you’re about an hour and a half in and you’re waiting in anticipation for that downhill view of Oia.
- Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and camera
- Take lots of breaks. The churches you encounter along the way are good areas to sit down for a breather.
The nice thing about being based in Imerovigli is that you’re already on the trail. You literally walk out of your suite and you head around the crescent island towards the ultimate goal of Oia.
As you wrap your way around the island, you’ll marvel at the amazing view of the cliffside towns and how they manage to cling on, the deep blue of the water down below, the floating ships in the distance, and the rugged landscape of the rock and cliffs tamed by luxurious resorts.
Your hero moment of the hike is when you get to that final blue topped church on the trail and you cross the crest to look down upon the sprawl of white-washed villas down the line.
Don’t get too excited though because there’s still a bit of a walk to get down to where the resorts start and then you have to pass through the built up posh village of Oia before making it to the steps that’ll take you down to Ammoudi Bay. Don’t worry, you’ll come back up to explore the rest of Oia later.
You want to head right to Ammoudi Bay because you’ll be straight-up famished after all of that hiking and what better way to finally take a break than to have an awesome seafood lunch at one of the best restaurants in Oia, Ammoudi Fish Tavern. With water rippling along the port, fresh-caught squid hanging out to dry, and truly a family-owned feel, you’ll thank me for this recommendation because the whole port is lined with restaurants and it’ll feel impossible to pick.
To Mule or not to Mule
While the walk down to Ammoudi Bay may be pretty easy but when its time to head back up, it’s a whole other ballgame of thigh-burning stair climbing. I know everyone has a different perspective of why you shouldn’t ride donkeys in Santorini but I will leave it up to you to choose. I wouldn’t judge because we ended up doing it after our lunch. The cost is 6 EUR per mule.
You have a bit of time to explore Oia at this point. You’ll notice that this part of Santorini is very different from the rest. The word “posh” comes to mind with all of the expensive boutiques, art galleries, and overall the number of travellers here dressed to the nines.
Something that you might want to do is scope out areas you’ll want to be for sunset. I’ve marked on the map where the iconic spots for photos are. Ones that I’ve labelled as “Classic Oia Shot” and “Oia Sunset Spot with 2 Blue Domes” are essentially the same area and if you read the description, you’ll see why it’s a little too crazy for my liking with queues forming up just to take a photo.
Where you actually want to plan to be is at the Byzantine Castle Ruins. This is the castle-looking structure right before you take the stairs down to Ammoudi Bay. I’d recommend checking out the castles to “scope it out” ahead of time. Where you want to be is on the castle wall facing towards the windmills. Once you get there you’ll realize the space is pretty limited. We came here at 5:40PM and there were some people loitering around but as we left to take a bit of a stroll before 6PM, one person was already getting ready to set up.
Looking for that prime spot on the castle? If sunset is at 8:30PM, you need to be in place by at least 6:30PM but if you want to guarantee it, I’d play it safe and camp out starting at 6PM. Trust me, even though you’ll be waiting a good 2-3 hours for the sunset, it’ll be worth it because the alternative is standing amongst a sea of people that couldn’t get a spot and fighting to take a shot between heads and obstruction, and certainly not having any hope of setting up a tripod.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Location: Byzantine Castle Ruins
Hours: Check the sunset time for Santorini as it will vary throughout the year. Recommended to grab a spot 2 to 2.5 hours before sunset.
Price: Free unless you decide to go to a restaurant or bar to watch the sunset.
- The best location is right up on the tallest wall of the castle. You kind of need to hop up but with some help you’ll be able to get up there. By the end of it, this wall will be filled with people so pick your spot wisely. It’s a good one because you get to sit and have the best view of the sunset.
- To be safe, I would recommend 2.5 hours
- Bring snacks and drinks – I saw some even bring wine and cheese!
- Go to the bathroom before you start camping out – there’s no escape once the crowds come in.
- Make reservations for after the sunset if you plan on watching the whole show. There’s always a rush of people post-sunrise into restaurants so you’ll want to make sure you have a table ready for you.
- A tripod is a must when you’re here especially if you want to capture Oia with the glow of the lights and the last glimmer of the sun. This has to be a tripod that can be set up in its smallest form so you can operate it while sitting on the castle wall.
- If you aren’t able to get a set on the castle, you’ll most likely need a monopod but honestly at that point, I don’t even know if its worth it.
- I wouldn’t recommend an ultra wide lens (i.e. Olympus 7-14mm or Canon 16-35mm) because you end up capturing the hoards of people. It was much useful to use a lens with a bit of reach (i.e. Olympus 12-40mm or Canon 24-70mm) to crop out the crowds and really focus in on the windmills and play around with the zoom as the sunset progressed.
- I brought my Formatt-Hitech ND filters but I’ve learned that for sunset, they’re not useful because the shutter is already progressively slowing down and it’s not like you need any blending of water. At most, I’d recommend you get a circular polarizer filter.
- When you’re set up on the tripod, change orientations to mix up your shots because you’ll be surprised by what you’ll see in both compositions.
- Consider bringing another device and tripod for a timelapse.
- Once you’re on the tripod, you’ll want to do everything possible to make sure you get a sharp, noise-less photo:
- Set your ISO to 100.
- Set your aperture to a deeper depth of field (i.e. f/4 to f/8 in most cases depending on your camera sensor).
- Set a 2 second timer for your photos to eliminate any button-shake. Some cameras like the Olympus even have an anti-shock mode.
- Turn off stabilization.
- Always double check your framing to make sure you don’t end up capturing a hand or head in your foreground. Don’t be afraid to take stand up.
- Even after most people have left, stay a while longer to photography the magenta and deep purple hues that come out as the sun gives out one last breath.
What I shot with:
- Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark 2 Micro Four Thirds Body
- Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO Lens
- Sirui T-024X Traveler Light Carbon Fiber Tripod
Once the sunset is over and the light diminishes, everyone will quickly start filing out. Unless you have somewhere you specifically have to get to, I’d wait out.
Most shops are open even after sunset so if you didn’t get a chance to check them out, now’s your chance!
Eventually make your way over to my favourite gyro spot of the entire trip. Tucked away on a street that runs away from the main thoroughfare of Oia is PitoGyros. They’re your traditional grill house with spits and grills running full blast. You can get a table if you wish to sit down or your budget option would be to take one to go. There’ll be quite a line here on most nights but don’t worry, it moves pretty quickly. The pancetta and pork gyros pita wraps are unbelievably good.
Head to the Oia bus terminal to catch a ride back home. There’s only one bus on this end of the island so you can’t go wrong. Also, be aware that no food is allowed on the bus so make sure you finish your pita wraps before you board. When I asked a local, the last bus from Oia is 10:30PM so budget your time accordingly.
Next: Head to Folegandros
At the crack of dawn, you’ll need to wake up to catch an early cab back to the Santorini New Port. When booking the taxi, make sure to account for the proper amount of time because the worry is always the heavy traffic on the switchbacks down to the port.
From here, I hand it over to the Folegandros 3 day itinerary guide which turned out to be a surprise-favourite on the entire trip because it was so peaceful, off-the-tourist-path, and outdoorsy.
Read the full 3 day itinerary of Folegandros
If you’d like a more detailed breakdown of each day, be sure to not miss reading this guide to help in your trip planning.
Where to Stay in Santorini
There are a lot of places you could stay in Santorini. It’s a lot larger than you think. You can stay in the highly developed areas of Oia and Fira. There’s the neighbouring areas from there such as Imerovigli and Firostefani. If you feel like venturing out, there’s the ancient hillside villages of Megalochori, Pyrgos, and others. From there, Perissa is great for those on a budget or wanting to be further away from the action. There’s the Akritori area as well!
Yep, there are a ton of choices and each one has a wide range of costs, accommodation styles, views, pros, and cons.
Without getting into a whole neighbourhood breakdown, I’ll give you my personal opinion about where are good places to stay. If you’re looking for that romantic villa with incredible sunset views, Imerovigli has to be at the top. For those wanting to stay a bit more central without being right in the thick of it, Firostefani is a great choice with a ton of options. If budget is a big concern, consider Perissa. When I backpacked here many years ago, we found a lot of affordable B&Bs down there. Expect to rely on renting an ATV or taking the bus but it’s a sweet beach to be at and pretty low key.
I have to say that this was the most difficult place to book hotels but I wasn’t surprised. People book incredibly far advance and there are so many parts of the island to choose from. As I mentioned, why I ultimately chose Imerovigli was because Santorini was the one island I wanted to splurge (without breaking the bank) and have a place where we could watch the sunset while also still being in a convenient location.
For a deeper dive, make sure to read more into the best area to stay in Santorini.
Review of Prekas Apartments
So what was it actually like staying at Prekas Apartments? This is my personal review of the property from my stay which I reserved through Booking.com (gotta love that cancellation policy).
I thought Prekas Apartments was the best balance of price and quality of accommodation in the block. Sure it isn’t a swanky place with ultra-modern hammocks or giant pools but each unit has a picture perfect view out towards Oia where the sun sets, and the rooms are comfortably furnished.
We booked an Apartment and we ended up with Unit 7. It is located one level above the swimming pool and where the Captain’s Suite is. It isn’t completely unobstructed but I’ll let the photos from our patio speak for themselves. Inside this particular unit, there’s a mini kitchen (sink and fridge, utensils, plates, and cups being the most important), a couch that converts into bed, and a queen-sized bed. The bathroom is good although one complaint was that the shower could’ve been bigger.
The patio has a round table and two chairs and while it is mostly private, there’s not much of a divider with the next unit so if they’re outside, you’ll see them too.
From a photography perspective, Unit 4 is actually the best because it’s got a top down view of all the units below which makes for a more interest balance of foreground and background. Their patio is the largest as well. The disadvantage of this unit is that the apartment is actually across the main walking path and disconnected from the patio. This patio also lacks privacy since its on the main level.
The closer you dig into Imerovigli and filter down to the ones that actually have legitimate cliffside caldera views at under 200 EUR a night, you’ll realize that there’s really not many properties left to choose from. With firsthand experience, I’d personally recommend staying somewhere in the middle of the island for convenience. In theory Oia sounds great but I think it gets way too touristy there and unless you want a very specific shot of you in the hot tub or balcony, I’m not sure if the price is worth it especially when you factor in the extra distance. I’d say the same goes for the other end such as Akritori or Perissa.
Other things that you might want to know about Prekas Apartments:
- Housekeeping – There is daily housekeeping by the staff
- Receptionist – There isn’t a 24/7 receptionist so outside of main hours, you have to call to have someone come in
- Breakfast – Breakfast is offered but is not included. It’s 10 EUR and is delivered to your unit’s patio.
- Walk to the main street of Imerovigli – The cobblestone street you can take to where the main roundabout where Avocado is located is a combination of steps and flat paths and takes roughly 10-15 minutes. There is some incline closer to the road but not necessarily difficult unless you have luggage.
- Pool – The pool is small but clean and well maintained. It starts shallow and gets deeper. There’s no real wading area so I wouldn’t say it’s meant for children.
- Sunbathing – There are 6 beach chairs that are first-come-first-serve but didn’t find them too busy when we were at our suite. There’s not too much area to maneuver the chairs since the base level is small. There are also no umbrellas if you’re looking for cover.
- Wifi – Wifi coverage was decent throughout the suite but not the fastest and I noticed it would sporadically drop.
Here are a selection of 4 properties that I recommend you check out before you make your final decision of where to stay. Ultimately, the biggest tip is to book early. Once you know your dates and you have your flights, securing your Santorini hotel is the next thing you should do.
I STAYED HERE
You might be surprised by the price but this is honestly one of the most reasonably priced hotel in Imerovigli with this kind of view. The suite is comfy and well-equipped since it has its own kitchen. The caldera view simply can’t be beat.
ANOTHER IN IMEROVIGLI
Located in Naoussa, this property is priced as budget but offers as much as most properties on the island with AC, private bathroom, wifi, balcony, and comfy beds. There’s a shared kitchen available here.
If you’d like to be in a super convenient location and don’t care for the cliffside caldera view, this is a perfect property that boasts 900+ reviews, high rating, super modern decor, and incredibly spacious. A true gem in Fira.
If you’d like to be closer to Fira but still looking for epic caldera views, the area of Firostefani is also worth a look. It’s in between Fira and Imerovigili and prices are quite reasonable. The only downside is Skagos blocks your view of Oia.
Tours to Consider
The Santorini Travel Guide
The below is a mini travel-guide for the island as a companion to this Santorini 3 day itinerary. It may not have all the details about travel through the Greek Islands so to make sure you don’t miss anything, read the comprehensive travel guide.
Money – In Greece, I always recommend carrying Euros in your pocket. While there are many places that do take credit card now (most restaurants, hotels, and larger stores), there are still many situations where it’s advantageous or necessary to have cash. For instance, car rental shops like Jimmy’s were only willing to provide the discount if payment was made in cash. Also, you always want to make sure you have coins on you because of tipping. Even if you pay by credit card, most machines don’t have a tip option so you’ll still have to pay cash.
Tipping – The general rule of thumb for tipping in Greece is 10%. In the case of taxis, don’t feel the need to tip extra because they’re handling your luggage, this is usually already added to your rate. For hotels, 1 to 2 EUR per day is the norm.
Ferry – Santorini is a hot spot in the Greek Islands and so finding a ferry there is really easy and almost all main routes loop through it. If you’re following the 14 day Greece island hopping itinerary, there’s a good morning ferry from Paros with Golden Star Ferries. The easiest way to find out what’s possible to get to Santorini is to use FerryHopper to do a search and you’ll see exactly what works for your dates.
When it comes to making ferry reservations, I always recommend doing it as soon as possible even if you’re going during low-season. This is one of those things you’d rather not let go to chance.
Use this Ferry Planning Tool
FerryHopper allows you to find out what ferry companies are operating to and from Santorini. We recommend using this to help with trip planning.
Car vs ATV: Oh how I struggled with this. On one hand, ATV seemed to way to go since it was how I did it my first time to Santorini. It’s a ton of fun but as I stepped back to think about the trip as whole, it made more sense to do ATV for one or two islands. The further I dug, there were some practical things that I had to factor in. ATV is more fun when you’re not dealing with complicated roads and traffic. There were some islands such as Folegandros where ATV was preferable because of some of the off-roading required to get to some beaches. Pricing is a factor in that ATV is typically cheaper but you have to balance that with the convenience of having so much extra space to store things in a car vs the tiny trunk storage the ATV has. Remember when you’re driving an ATV, only the passenger can wear a backpack and everything else has to go into the box or be strapped on by bungee cords. There really is no right or wrong reason but you can definitely use our reasoning as a basis for your decision.
Car Rental: In the itinerary above, I write about things I learned from our experience with Jimmy’s Santorini. Make sure to read the full guide on where and how to rent a car in Santorini. Here’s a quick summary:
- When it comes to renting a car in Santorini, as much as you might want to try to find the “best” one on the island, it actually makes the most sense to find one closest to you so you can walk over to pick up the car and walk back home after you drop it off.
- Pricing wise, they all seem to be pretty flexible especially when it’s not high-season. What’s listed on their papers aren’t the final price and it seems that you can always negotiate a little.
- I’ll mention again that similar to Paros, always fill up way less than you think. For all the driving we did, it only cost 8 EUR so don’t be tempted to fill it up full after you get it.
- While you have the car, take advantage and hit up the cheaper grocery stories in Santorini such as Lidl to stock up since it’ll most likely be expensive near where you live.
- You don’t need the car every day so plan your itinerary around making the most out of a few days where you can drive to the farther places. For the other days where you can walk to Fira, or Oia, don’t waste your money on the car being parked. The advantage of only renting for only 1 day like we did was that we didn’t have to deal with parking.
- Lastly, if it makes sense, you can ask about dropping the car off at the port. Financially, this might make more sense only if you planned on renting from a car rental at the port and needed it the entire trip. Otherwise, guys like Jimmy’s will charge 30 EUR for the one-way.
Taxi: Most likely, you’ll need a taxi as a transfer between the airport and your hotel or port and your hotel. For that, I highly recommend booking this ahead of time for convenience reasons. When everyone gets off the ferry or airplane for that matter, it’s a wave of humanity and figuring out what to do in the chaos isn’t easy. For us, we coordinated with Prekas Apartments for a transfer. We could’ve easily found a cheaper shuttle transfer. The pricing will depend on where you are on the island.
Bus: The Santorini public bus actually works really well. At 1.80 EUR, it’s incredibly cheap to travel Santorini end to end. I wouldn’t say that it’s the most reliable timing wise but the nice thing is that the buses are regular coach buses and so they are quite comfortable. Always ask to make sure the bus is going the right direction. Lastly, bus tickets are paid on the bus. Card isn’t accepted but the ticket attendant that comes around seat to seat does have a ton of change. For the full map and schedule of buses in Santorini, head here.
When is the best time? – This applies to all of the Greek Islands. The best time to go to Santorini is in the summer months since a lot of things closed in the off-season and the weather isn’t the best. The best months are May – June and September – October during shoulder season.
How many days? – This is probably one of the hardest questions when planning a trip. There’s never enough days right? When thinking about how many days in Santorini you should plan for, it’s a balance of how many days you can afford, the optimal number of days to see everything you want to see, and how many other islands or perhaps even countries you’re visiting on your trip. As you’ve seen in this 3 day Santorini itinerary, this is just enough to see the main highlights but you’d need really 5 days to see and do everything and not feel rushed.
Beaches: On one side of Santorini’s crescent shaped island, you have high cliffs that fall into the sea but on the other side you have quite a number of beaches to choose from that were all born out of the volcanic activity here. If you’re looking for the white sandy beaches, you’re not going to find it here but Santorini does have some of the most unique beaches including Red Beach, Black Sand Beach, and Kamari Beach. Most of the beaches do not have facilities on their own. Black Sand Beach has the benefit of Perissa so everything is nearby but at the Red Beach, you’re on your own so make sure you don’t need to use the bathroom. Overall, you’ll find the beaches in Santorini are more pebbly than they are sandy.
Getting here – Santorini is large enough to have its own airport (JTR) so this is one of the more common ways to get here directly from the mainland or another island that has an airport. This is one way to get to Santorini without a layover somewhere else and can be more time efficient as well. Check Skyscanner to see what the prices look like for your dates. Otherwise, taking a ferry is still the tried and true method to get to Santorini.
Where should I stay? – We did almost all of our hotel reservations through Booking.com and it’s because they have such a good inventory of properties that range from hotels, hostels, guesthouses, and resorts. I love that cancellation is easy for most properties and the booking management is seamless. Plus, if you get up to Genius Level 2, you can save up to 15% off on top. As an alternative, there’s also Agoda and VRBO. Make sure to read the best area to stay in Santorini to help you decide where you want to be.
Do I need travel insurance? – As always, travel insurance is highly recommended. My philosophy is that you want to make sure you’re covered in case the unknown happens. Make sure to read our guide on choosing the right travel insurance for you. Overall, World Nomads has the best balance of price and coverage.
Top 5 Tips For Santorini
#1 Hike to Oia
I highly recommend the hike from Fira to Oia. It’s not too hard but you’ll need to be willing to be physically active and be on the trail for 1.5-2 hours.
#2 Camp out early for the Oia sunset
It’s a mad house here for sunset and if it was bad in early June, I can only imagine how bad it is in the middle of the summer. Get here 2.5 to 3 hours ahead of sunset time on the Byzantine Castle Ruins and enjoy the show.
#3 Rent a car to explore
There are so many hidden gems that I was able to explore on this trip to Santorini that I didn’t get to see as a backpacker all those years ago. With the car, you can get to the ancient towns, villages, beaches, wineries, and secondary attractions that you simply can’t walk to.
#4 Pack a hoodie
We talked to a few locals and they said that sea breezes are random throughout the year and will accelerate because of the high cliffs that the big tourist spots sit on. If you’re out in the evening, things cool down considerably and with the wind can get quite chilly.
#5 Make reservations
More than any other island in the Western Cyclades, you need to make reservations in Santorini whether they be for restaurants, car rentals, or shuttle services. The only exception would be during the quieter times of the season (April to early June or late September to November). Things fill up quickly so you don’t want to be left behind. Restaurant wise, sometimes it’s good enough to make a reservation the day before.
Bonus – Sunsets anchor your itinerary
Okay, this might be the photographer in me, but I really did find that you have to plan your itinerary around where you want to be for sunset. You’ll either need to find lock a spot to view the sunset or you need to figure out which nights you want to watch the sunset from your hotel.
14 Day Greek Island Hopping Itinerary
I’ve always found itineraries to be the best way to help with trip planning. You may not use this in its entirety but if you have 2 weeks to work with, we had one of our best trips all time in the Western Cyclades.
How I Feel About Santorini
Do it once and cross it off your list.
Now that’s a hot take I know, and some of you that have been there might not agree, but when you compare the experience to the broader network of islands that are available to explore in the Western Cyclades, Dodecanese Islands, or others in Greece, I just feel like there are others that are
Don’t get me wrong though. Santorini is stunning and truly unique when it comes to its geology, being up on a cliff that looks at the volcanic island that sharply reminds you about how this island was formed. Sunset wise, it’s magical because of that clifftop setting and its cascade of white-washed buildings and blue-topped churches. It’s also an island that has some of the finest luxuries when it comes to resorts and hotel properties with a view.
At the end of the day though, I have to blame the big hoards of tour buses and endless stream of cruise ships.
I was here in 2008 and back then it felt like it was just a bunch of us backpackers hanging out with wine and cheese on top of the Byzantine Castle Ruins. I took for granted how amazing that was. Today, it’s a mob of people trying to fight through arms and tripods to get the perfect shot. The romanticism and allure of Oia is completely evaporated when you look around.
Now can you find interesting spots to explore with the help of a car? Certainly! But when I start inevitably comparing with islands like Folegandros, I realized that the feeling of “I really want to come back in the future” when it comes to Santorini just isn’t quite there anymore.
I would love to hear from you. Are you having trouble planning your Greek Islands itinerary like I was? Drop a line here if you have any specific questions or just want to share your favourite spots in Santorini.
What you should read next
I am so confused. We have no idea as to where to stay, we are in our early 70’s don’t mind walking but we want to be close to a hotel that either a taxi or bus can drop us off or a tour bus can pickup and drop-off. Please can you give us some advice as to what would be the possible ideal hotel for us. We want to be able to see most everything we will be arriving early morning of June 20th and leaving early morning of the 23th. back to Athens
Will Tang says
I can definitely try to help here. You have a good number of days to explore and I think your ideal choices in my personal opinion are to stay central and that means either being in Fira or Firostefani and this is the most commercial part of the island. You’ll find the bus terminal here and the walk to Oia if you choose to do this along the cliffs starts from here. This is also the most busy and perhaps chaotic part as well since all the cruise-folks will be there at some point and there’s just a lot going on there. If you’re looking to find somewhere a little quieter and perhaps looking for a property that has a caldera view like we did, then I’d look at Imerovigli which is a much quieter part of the island that is much less commercial. It’s connected to Fira by the trail but you can also hop on a bus from here as well to take you to Oia or Fira or beyond. Sure, you won’t be close to all of the shops but if you’re looking for something that’s more low key, it’s a great choice.