Take one step onto the island of Santorini and you might feel as celestial as the ground you stand on. Sensationally steep cliffs line the crescent-shaped caldera, and anywhere you find yourself on the island’s inner precipice gives you views you’ve only dreamed of. The caldera is dotted with white stuccoed villages that look out into the sparkling Aegean Sea hundreds of feet below, and the sunsets stun even the most experienced of travelers. Santorini is a choose-your-own-adventure type of island, and the best news is there’s no wrong way to spend your three days here (as long as you don’t miss sunset). If you find yourself with 72 hours to spend on this Greek island, this itinerary can help you get the most out of your stay.
Spend your first day in Santorini getting a little exercise and soaking up some sun while taking in the stunning views the island has to offer.
Morning: Stretch your legs with a hike to Skaros Rock
A hike is by far the best way to see Santorini’s stunning views. From guided tours that take you to the summit of the island to easier trails perfect meandering, your options are varied. If you’re looking for a hiking recommendation that falls somewhere in the middle, might we suggest Skaros Rock?
Located off of Imerovigli, this rock used to be home to one of the most important castles on Santorini and was inhabited during medieval times because the rock and fortress offered protection from pirates. Not much of the fortress is left, but you can understand how it provided shelter when you ascend—rising high above the sea, the edges are steep and impossible to climb. Most of the climb is horizontal with an upward slope, but the final ascent onto the platform of the rock requires a vertical climb that looks scarier than it actually is. The climb is worth it though—you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of the caldera and the sparkling sea beyond.
Lunchtime: Indulge in sweet Greek treats
Hiking and exploring Santorini’s ancient castles builds up an appetite. If you’re feeling hangry, head to one of the many bakeries in the area around the castle and take your pick from the wide assortment of cream-filled pastries, croissants, savory pies, sandwiches, and coffee. It’s a perfect post-hike meal to replenish all those calories you just burned.
Afternoon: Soak up the sun at Red Beach
Located about 7.5 miles southwest of the town of Fira, Red Beach is famous for its black and red volcanic pebbles and warm water. Rest your travel-weary legs while lounging on a beach chair under an umbrella, or if you’re feeling adventurous, go snorkeling to check out the interesting underwater rock formations and rich marine life. Hit up the concession stands at the beginning of the path to stock up on water and other beach essentials, and while away your afternoon lounging by the sea under the hot Santorini sun.
Evening: Nosh on fresh-caught seafood and delicious local wine
After your afternoon of fun in the sun, you’ll want a casual spot to relax, eat, and sip on a glass of sweet local wine. Treat yourself to some seafood that was swimming in the sapphire waters not long before it ended up on your plate. Find a spot with a rooftop garden (the town of Oia is your best bet for this) and chow down on a plate of grilled octopus, seafood pasta full of mussels and prawns, or a fresh-grilled filet of sea bass with roasted potatoes. Wash it down with a glass of wine while watching Santorini’s famous sunset—we promise, it’s an experience you’ll remember forever.
Not that the views in Santorini ever get old, but the island has more to offer than just sunsets and Instagram-worthy seaside pics. Spend your second day getting to know the artsy and historic side of the island by visiting some of Santorini’s most popular museums.
Morning: Explore the Lignos Folklore Museum in Fira
Folklore museums tend to be redundant, given their characteristic quality of looking eerily similar to your grandma’s old attic. Santorini’s, however, is the best one we’ve ever visited, and it 100% has to do with the private tour that’s included with the ticket. You’re led through the eight-part museum, and each part is explained in full: the cave home dating to 1861 and furniture owned by a family of nine; an original carpenter and shoemaker workshop and tools; a winery and underground cave showing evidence of the volcanic eruption from 36 centuries ago. You also learn a lot about the island, like how it didn’t have electricity until the 1950s (!!) and the tradition of capturing and releasing songbirds that still exists to this day.
Lunchtime: Head to Fira for authentic Greek food and fewer crowds
Authentic menu plus shaded rooftop garden plus reasonable prices equals happy eater. If you head just a hair north of the main streets of Fira (close enough to get to on foot), you’ll find some great spots serving up authentic Greek foods, complete with roof gardens and fabulous views of the sea. The best part of this area of the neighborhood is the lack of crowds—most tourists stick to the main streets a little south, so you can enjoy a quiet and relaxing lunch with the locals.
Afternoon: Become one with the Neolithic Era at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera
This small museum in the heart of Fira offers a glimpse at artifacts and life from the Neolithic era to the Late Cycladic Period. There are clay cooking pots and incredible frescoes from excavations of Akrotiri (you’ll see more of this site tomorrow!). It’s pretty cool to connect the artifacts to the locations they came from, such as Akrotiri or Ancient Thera.
Evening: Spend a night on the town in true Santorini style
Santorini’s vibrant nightlife offers opportunities to time travel to the past or future. Revel in the nostalgia of old-timey noir and a classic jazz soundtrack, or get your mixology on with some deliciously advanced chemistry. We recommend heading to Fira for a night of bar hopping. From rooftop terraces to little local pubs, bars are a dime a dozen here, and you’re bound to find something that suits your tastes.
Ancient abandoned cities and local wineries are the name of the game for your final day in Santorini.
Morning: Explore the ruins in ancient Akrotiri
We’re not going to tell you what to believe, but Akrotiri might low-key be the lost city of Atlantis. A guided tour of the site is the way to go for hard-core history buffs, but you can easily go it alone, too.
Plato wrote about Atlantis, and it’s speculated that his inspiration might have been Akrotiri, if not the lost center of the island. It’s located on the southwest corner of the island and was a successful port and trading city until the seventeenth century BCE. The city was abandoned, probably due to severe earthquakes. Following its evacuation, the infamous volcanic eruption occurred in 1613, creating the island’s caldera and covering and preserving Akrotiri in a thick volcanic ash. Excavations of the city still occur today, and visitors can explore the carefully preserved city, including multi-layered buildings and a drainage system.
Lunch: Sample local cheeses and plenty of wine in Oia
Oia is a great place to experience local culture, indulge in some wine and cheese, and relax on a patio strung with lights and filled with honeysuckle. Find a spot with an extensive wine menu and let the staff pair your wine of choice with the perfect selection of local cheeses, meats, or smoked salmon.
Afternoon: Become a wine connoisseur at Santo Winery
The majority of Santorini’s residents are involved in one of two fields: tourism or wine-making. Santo Winery is a celebration of the latter by appealing to the former, and they sure do a good job. Part wine tour and part wine tasting, you can appreciate both the process of making wine and the final product (our favorite part, of course). The wine tasting occurs on an outdoor terrace (with clear glass barriers) and lies smack dab in the center of the caldera—the views are simply stunning. You’ll be sipping wine in style.
Evening: End your day with a sunset tour
After such a wine-soaked day, you’ll want to leave the sunset to the professionals. A guided sunset tour is a perfectly relaxing way to end your day (and your stay!) and will take you to some of the best places in Santorini to watch the blazing sun dip into the crystal waters of the Aegean .