Updated on April 14th, 2021
Santorini is jaw droppingly beautiful! It is the quintessential photo where the whitewashed houses cling to the cliff while cascading down to the water’s edge. It also offers one of the most spectacular sunsets anywhere in the world. In Santorini, the end of the day is applauded each night by crowds who gather to watch it. If you have ever wanted to visit this Greek icon, then here is everything you need for your ultimate 2-day Santorini itinerary.”
Santorini, Cyclades Islands, Greece
Santorini is the ideal destination for numerous cruise ships & thousands of wannabe Instagram influencers looking for that perfect shot. If you visit at peak times it can get suffocatingly busy. The beaches are rocky & you can burn your feet on the dark volcanic sand, & in comparison to the rest of Greece, Santorini can be eye-wateringly expensive.
However, this island is also breathtakingly beautiful! It is somewhere everyone needs to see for themselves just once. If you have never visited Greece before then it is hard to keep Santorini off any perfect island-hopping itinerary. I have been Greek island-hopping 6 times in the Cyclades & almost all have included Santorini. In that time, I have seen the numbers of visitors explode.
So, now I’ve managed your expectations, here is my guide on how to get the most out of 2 days on this stunning island. No matter how aggravated you get by the crowds & the prices, the view at sunset will melt it all away.
Is 2 days enough for Santorini?
Yes…& no! I have included a number of recommendations here but how you use your 2 days in Santorini will depend on your interests. To do everything you will need at least 3 nights & an extra day or 2. But, if you are limited on time or money, then moving on to other, less expensive islands can give you more of a flavour for Greece.
Two days is enough to make the most of Santorini, but I am assuming that you will have arrived the night before as we have an early start on Day 1!”
Hike from Fira to Oia
The hike from Fira to Oia is a must-do on any 2 day Santorini itinerary. This is a 10.5km walk along the edge of the caldera. It took me 3 hours, mainly because I stopped a lot to take photos as the views are spectacular! My advice is to start early to avoid the intense heat of the day & sun in your eyes all the way. I began at 7.15am which was perfect. It is one of the few places that you can feel alone on this stunning island. I plan to write a more in-depth guide on the walk as I loved it so much, so keep your eyes peeled for all the details.
Once you get to Oia, reward yourself with some cake at Melenio Bakery & Café, (the Orange Pie was delicious!).”
If you still have some life left in your legs, then take some time to explore the pretty streets of Oia. The evenings get very busy here for the sunset so take advantage of the daylight hours to explore. Search out Atlantis bookshop, arguably named the ‘best bookshop in the world’. Oia also has plenty of upmarket jewellery & souvenir shops to check out. If, like me you just want to rest your weary feet then place yourself somewhere with a view & an option for people watching. I chose Vitrin which fitted the bill perfectly!
Sunset Wine Tasting
For your evening activity, Santo Wine is the perfect place to watch the sunset while trying some of the local specialties. This is a popular spot so make sure you book your table in advance. For the best of the sunset get there for 7.30pm. I chose a Wine Flight Tasting Session with a seafood & cheese platter (€45). It is a delicious way to end a fantastic day on Santorini. It’s easy to get there by bus from Fira (take the option to Perissia & as you get on the bus, tell the driver & he will stop for you).
If you have more time & would like to explore the wines of Santorini further, then why not choose a guided winery tour?
For Day 2 I’m giving you a choice, depending on what interests you most. Today you have the option of unusual beaches, archaeological sites or a boat tour.”
Relax on the Beach
If beaches are your thing, then you may be disappointed with those on offer in Santorini. The islands volcanic origins do not make for fine white sand. Instead, expect black or even red coarse sand & stones between your toes. However, the surroundings are undeniably spectacular & the water incredibly clear. Just be prepared that the sand can get scorchingly hot so you will need something to wear on your feet to protect them.
Kamari Beach is the closest to Fira & is easily accessible by bus. Kamari is a black coarse sand beach surrounded by cliffs with plenty of tavernas & shops to entertain you. Be warned that the combination of burning hot sand, rocks & nibbling fish makes it a challenge to have a swim while retaining your dignity!
Perissa & Perivolos Beaches
From Kamari you can take a water taxi to Perissa & Perivolos beaches which both lead into each other. Alternatively, if you haven’t had enough hiking then why not climb over the hill which separates the 3 beaches? Again, expect course black sand but it gets finer the further south you venture.
For a final beach choice, try Red Beach. As the name suggests, here you have stunning red coarse sand to relax on. You need to negotiate a rocky path to access the beach, but it is worth the effort for the unique scenery. Don’t expect a lot of facilities but there are sunbeds to relax on if you choose to stay.
Explore Ancient Santorini
Over a million years ago, Santorini was part of a series of volcanoes. After becoming dormant, the fertile soils attracted settlers from around 3000BC. Then, a number of earthquakes gave way to possibly the largest volcanic eruption on the planet in 1650BC.
The explosion ejected a column of ash 36km into the atmosphere & the force made the centre of the island collapse. This created the caldera as the sea flooded in & massive tsunamis wiped out civilisations across the region.”
Apart from Santorini’s beauty, the result of this activity can be seen in one of the best-preserved & therefore most important sites in the Aegean.
Akotiri is referred to as ‘Greek Pompeii’. It was an ancient Minoan city & one of the most important ports in the region before it was buried in the ash of the big eruption. Excavation began in the 60s & the site includes some impressive buildings of 2 & 3 stories, along with amazing frescos & ceramics. Many of these are also on display in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira. If you are visiting Red Beach, then it is a 250m walk from the car park & both can be reached by bus from Fira.
Discover the Island by Boat
Understandably in such a picturesque location, boat tours are a popular option & one of the best things to do on Santorini. Many offer daytime & sunset cruises. A boat tour can enable you to explore the islets of Thirasia and volcanic Palia Kameni & Nea Kameni. Here you can hike, immerse yourself in hot springs & swim in the pristine waters. In addition, White Beach is only accessible by boat. It is named after the impressive white cliffs, but the sand is characteristically black.
After a busy day, it’s time to get ready for the main event. You will hear many people tell you that the best place to view the sunset on Santorini is in Oia. It is spectacular but as a result, don’t expect to be alone! It feels like everybody in the whole of Greece are amassing for the descent of the sun once you arrive in Oia.
For the best spots & ‘front row’ be sure to arrive early (by 7pm). In summer, the sun sets around 8pm, which means you need to be on the bus from Fira by 6.30pm at the latest.
If you’re hoping to get a sunset view with your drinks or dinner, then definitely book ahead. It may happen every day but in Oia the sun gets applauded as it disappears over the horizon!”
So, that is it for my recommendation for your perfect 2-day Santorini itinerary. However, there are still plenty of options if you prefer to stay longer. In addition to those already mentioned, I would also recommend:
Fira is the main town & exploring is one of the best things to do in Santorini. You may feel that the sunsets from Fira are equally as beautiful. The small streets are perfect to get lost in. Shops & restaurants are in abundance & the main nightlife on the island is also located here. The town cascades its white sugar cube buildings down the side of the cliff in equal measure to Oia. And it is the ideal place to base yourself on both activity choice & accessibility.
If you are looking for places to eat, then I enjoyed Character, for amazing views & very good Italian food (go downstairs for a bit more atmosphere). You can also check out Argo or Naoussa. Alternatively, take a walk to Imerovigli for Athenian House which is apparently the best restaurant in Santorini for both views & food.
However you decide to spend your time in Fira, please DO NOT take a ride on a donkey. The animals suffer unspeakable injuries & cruelty to give tourists a thrill. If you need any further persuasion, then read this article.
If you don’t believe you can climb the steps yourself, then either avoid the trip down or take the cable car for €6.”
Ammoudi Bay sits only 300 steps below Oia with a few traditional buildings & tavernas built into the red rock. It is said to be one of the most picturesque spots on the island. Try the Ammoudi Fish Tavern but I recommend you book ahead, especially at busy times.
My final recommendation is a visit to Cinekamari, said to be one of the top 10 outdoor cinemas in the world. The films start at 9.30pm but doors open at 8.30pm. If it’s a new or popular film then I would advise arriving early as its first come, first served. For dinner beforehand I recommend Bacchus in Kamari.
Where should I stay in Santorini?
The general rule of thumb in Santorini for both hotels & restaurants is that you pay more for the views & can get much more for your money if you choose a location away from the ‘front row’ of the caldera.”
If you are looking for luxury, location & a price tag to match, then try Cosmopolitan Suites or Katikes Garden. For something more budget & without the view, then check out Costa Marina Villas & I stayed at Sweet Pop Hotel. It was an oasis just steps from the madness of the main square in Fira with funky décor, small but functional rooms & a pool to relax by during the day.
Alternatively, browse the search box below for something that fits your price range, location & requirements.
For all my general tips on how to make your travel budget go further, check out my blog post.
Getting There & Away
More pleasant than flying internally is to take the ferry or fast boat. It’s easy to book online but seats may be limited so I would advise doing this in advance. I recommend Paleologos. I have used other sites, but the process was not quite as straightforward. For all the information you need on using the ferry service, check out my First-Timers Guide to Greek Island Hopping.
Once at the ferry port, you can either get a shuttle bus or use the public bus, depending on where you are staying. Taxis are harder to come by. To the main bus station in Fira it is €2.30 per person.
It is a barren landscape on the journey from the port, up the side of the caldera via scary switchbacks as you slowly ascend.”
Throughout this guide I refer to using buses as they are regular, cheap & reliable (although a little chaotic at times). There is a flat rate per journey (expect €2 or less). My top tip is to photograph the timetables at the bus station in Fira when you arrive. Be aware that the airport bus is only once every 90 minutes. When you are taking the bus, leave plenty of time as it can get a little confusing!
Taxis are sporadic on Santorini & I would only advise using them if you can book through your hotel, & only to & from the airport.
If you would rather explore by yourself, then this is always an option, but I believe between walking & the buses it is an unnecessary expense. If you do hire a vehicle then make sure it has a bit of power as Santorini hills can be a struggle to negotiate with a small scooter engine (I speak from experience!).
Santorini is spectacular & an essential stop on any Greek island-hopping agenda. I hope you now have plenty of options of how to get the most out of your 2 day Santorini itinerary.
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