There’s a reason that Santorini was the most visited Greek island last year. It’s beautiful! Here is our five day itinerary to the ultimate island visit.
Where to stay?
Aside from its sheer island beauty, Santorini is notorious for its sunsets. Though you can’t see them from all over the island, there are certain places that are unmissable, even if you want to avoid tourists for your whole stay. This was something we wanted from our stay, we stayed down in Perissa. The black beach. We stayed at an amazing family run hotel Daylight Hotel Santorini with a pool that was just beautiful, although they had no catering facilities. Staying down in Perissa we missed the tourists in Oia and could travel around as we pleased.
How to travel?
We weren’t really up for renting a motorbike or quad bike, so instead opted for the local buses which are amazing. They know where you want to go, they are cheap, and run on Greek times, so don’t expect to have anything super on time. They’re basically coaches that you stop by standing in the bus stop and pay for on the bus (cash only). Aside from this, there are taxis but we would recommend the buses, particularly if you don’t want to spend all your budget on island travel.
Akrotiri Ruins; Santo Wines Estate; Santorini Caldera; Ancient Thera.
Red Beach; Perissa Black beach; White beach.
Wine Museum; archaeological museums; Venetsanos Winery; Three bells of Fira; Oia sunset and much more…
Day One: Perissa
We used our first day on Santorini to get our bearings and check out our local beach and bars. Next, we spent some time swimming and reading in the hotel pool. Some down time that we never really give ourselves enough time for at home!
We then took a very short walk to Perissa beach to see what was going on there. The beach is a black sand beach, which looks AMAZING, and really makes you think about how fantastic the world and our natural environment is. We also took a walk along the beach bars and restaurants and decided that as we were so close to the beach we would have fish for dinner.
Taking a recommendation from our hotel owners we went to Fratzeskos Fish Tavern. It wasn’t as cheap as other places we had eaten, but it wasn’t expensive. The food was plentiful and very delicious. We went for white fish and fresh vegetables and some local beer, and it was all we could have hoped for.
After dinner, we were recommended by some friends who had spent a long time on the island to try out their favourite beach bar and restaurant: Tranquilos. Boy are we glad we did because over the next few days we spent a lot of time there. Think of it as like a hippy bar without the idiots with dreadlocks, with vegan food, good music and brilliant cocktails!
Day Two: Ancient Thira
With sights like Ancient Thera (Thira) looming over the swimming pool, there was no way we weren’t going to tackle it head on. So we woke up early, grabbed some breakfast from the bakery and hiked up the amazing mountain route up to Ancient Thira. Thera is open every day except Tuesdays from 8.30am, and comes under the saver ticket (or use your student card if you have one). Thera, named after the mythical ruler of the island, Theras and inhabited until 726 AD was magnificent to see. There’s lots to explore up there, and plenty of rocks to climb, the history was fascinating but the views were unbelievable.
Even though it was really hot, Greek summer hot, we hiked down the other side, past the donkeys and quad bikes (the other way to get up). We ended up in Kamari and had a look around. Kamari is a coastal village with a lovely beach and good views towards the Caldera. Had we taken our beach stuff with us it would have been a perfect place to stop. We grabbed a bite to eat from a local shop, and very slowly headed back towards our hotel for the late afternoon. After a bit of a swim and chill by the pool (we could get used to this), we freshened up for dinner and went to…Tranquilos. Tranquilos, what would end up as out favourite place on the island, offers something for everyone. Vegan, vegetarian and then some meat and fish for those that want, it’s perfect and great sized portions.
Day Three: Fira and Santo Wines
After another local breakfast we jumped on the bus to Fira (Thera). Here we had a wander around and checked out the local sites, markets and delicacies. From Fira we caught the bus to Santo Winery. Quite possibly our most fun experience of the trip!
We started with a tour of the winery and the cellars and the vineyards on a group tour. It was fascinating. The explanations of the history of the winery; to why the grapes grow as they do due to the volcanic earth, it was amazing (and all in English). The explanation of the tastes of wines, the process of the local grapes, perfect! We even had the chance timing to see the local farmers dropping off their harvest of grapes. After that we took to the bar, sat outside in the shade with the most beautiful views we’ve ever seen. We did a 10 wine tasting menu (though it could have been 12) and we shared it between us. That, and some snacks to line our stomach (the most delicious cheese omg) came to about €25-30 which was exceptional. We couldn’t recommend a visit more!
Slightly tipsy, and struggling with the lack of timetable for the buses, we got the bus to Perissa. The buses are very Greek, there exists a rough guide to times of the bus, but they are only rough, and unless you’re at a major stop there’s very little shade. When we got back to Perissa, we went for a walk on the beach, had a swim and read and freshened up for dinner. This time we went all out Greek. We went to Grandma’s recipes in Perissa and had the best Gyros and local beers. So tasty and so cheap. From there we walked to the beach where we were lucky enough to catch the middle day of the Perseid shower. Now yes, it’s romantic but we did both laugh about how we would have done it alone if we hadn’t met each other anyway!
Day Four: Oia and Stargazing
Our hotel didn’t do breakfast, but there are a large number of shops nearby and the local bakery does an exceptional bakery breakfast. A hot drink and a hot pastry or whatever you fancy. It’s very Greek…if you haven’t made your mind up by the time you’re at the front of the queue, they serve someone else!
After a quick dip (seriously it’s hot and the pool was beautiful, how could we not), we jumped on the local bus to Oia, the Instagram capital of Santorini.
We had a wander around Oia. It’s beautiful, and has a little bit of history that is difficult to find. Unfortunately now it’s more of a tourist trap and that makes the delicate cobbled streets and small alleys hard to navigate and very crowded. There are amazing places for photos and for us there was the chance to just sit and watch people, boats and the sea. The thing we really didn’t like was the use of donkeys. Smelly, tired, unwashed and possibly very uncomfortable, the donkeys looked like they needed a break. However, the local owners made a point to tell us that it was one of the only ways to get up or down the hills. For example, going down to the old harbour. This isn’t the case. If you have two legs in working order, you can use them and we would suggest you do, even in the heat.
After a stroll around the town, we went to get prepared for the event on Santorini. Sunset. Due to the shape of the island, Oia is one of the best places to catch it. There are many places you can go to see it, but the free one with the best view is up at the old castle. If you get there early enough (and take a blanket to sit on) you can get a prime spot sitting on the old walls too! We bought some vinsanto and a some snacks (some people were up there with gyros, very well planned) and watched the sun set. Yes there are hundreds of people watching it through their phone screens, but it’s still magical.
We jumped on the bus back to Perissa, which didn’t take long at all, and went for some dinner. We went to Tranquilos, had a hearty salad and cheese and sangria, the best way to top off a perfect day…or so we thought. Turns out what actually is the perfect way, is by getting a bottle of vinsanto and stargazing on the beach and then back at the hotel. For hours. It was perfect.
Day Five: Akrotiri, Red Beach and Tranquilo
Every last day has to have packing in it somewhere, and we decided to get up early to get ours out of the way so that we could get a day in before our evening flight. After we packed, we headed to…you guessed it, Tranquilos for breakfast and smoothies, before wandering around to get the local bus down to Akrotiri (about €2).
People don’t go to Akrotiri for the nightlife…they go for the Akrotiri ruins. The ruins are from a volcanic eruption in the Sixteenth Century BC. This covered the town in ash and preserved it of the moment, just like at Pompeii. The artwork on the walls and the frescos are so well preserved as they were preserved by the volcanic ash. It’s one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece and that’s saying something!
The way it’s presented is amazing, and you can explore almost all of the site from walkways and alleyways. It’s about €12 to get in, but they accept student cards which halves the price. They also do a 4-day combined ticket which is €14 and covers akrotiri, ancient Thera, the archaeological museum and some other sites too, which is well worth it!
From Akrotiri we walked around to Red beach. It’s red because the sand and the rocks around are, well, red. It is busy and there isn’t much in the way of beach bars and food and things to do, but if you want somewhere else to catch the amazing Greek sunshine and try a new bit of the sea then it’s for you.
We got the local bus back to Perissa to hang by the pool for a bit before we went for our final dinner at Tranquilos before it was time to head to the airport for our next stop!
The lovely family sorted us out a lift to the airport so we didn’t have to rely on the buses or an expensive taxi (we still paid for it but we arranged it with them in advance). We hopped on our flight to Athens on to the next part of our Greek adventure.