Santorini: a beginners travel guide and 4 day itinerary

Santorini: a beginners travel guide and 4 day itinerary

Are you (planning on) visiting Santorini for the first time? Do keep reading, because in this article ‘Santorini: a beginners travel guide and 4 day itinerary’ you will find the answer to the most asked, basic questions about one of the most popular Greek islands. Including a complete travel plan / 4 day itinerary for visiting the island.

Santorini is located in Greece, in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km southeast of mainland Greece. It is part of the Cycladic island group.

How to get to Santorini from Athens or other place in and outside Greece? As Santorini is an island, you can reach it (from Athens and other destinations) by boat plane and boat.

By plane:
By boat:

Santorini is very well connected by boat to Athens, the other Cycladic islands, Crete and some of the islands the Dodecanese island group such as Kos, Rhodes and Karpathos. The boat ride from Athens (available from both Rafina and Pireaus port – be aware of which port you book from) takes 4 to 12 hours, depending on the vessel you choose (high-speed catamaran or slower ro/pax ferry).

After arriving at Athinios port in Santorini, you will have to take a bus or taxi to the capital of Fira or (in the case of a taxi) to your accommodation directly. There is NO direct bus line from the port to the airport. Be aware that in summer the little port gets extremely crowded, with people waiting for their ferries like sardines in a can. Make sure you arrive on time to have enough time to get a good overview of where your ferry will arrive.

Guide to traveling by ferry in Greece:

You can browse, compare and find the ferry time and price that suits you best easily Ferryhopper. Not only do they have and interactive map on which you can build a route between different destinations, they also have an app that shows the location of the ferry you booked in realtime. This is called live tracking of your ferry. They have even implemented the bonus / loyalty programmes of the ferry companies into their platform. So you can save your points and miles even when booking through Ferryhopper.

I have written an extensive blog on how travelling by ferry in Greece works, answering all the frequently asked questions. You can find it here.

If you are going to Santorini from Athens, it is more convenient to take a flight. Santorini has an international airport and there are many low-cost airlines operating the route Athens – Santorini (during summer). You will probably find that a boat ticket is about the same price as a flight ticket. Also, it is way faster.

However, you have to take into consideration that if you’re flying with checked in luggage, this might cause the flight to be way more expensive than advertised in the end. When going by ferry, you can take whatever you want with you of course.

In case you are island hopping and will depart to Santorini from a nearby island, most of the times taking a ferry is the only option. However, Cycladic Airlines offers flights between the Cycladic islands and Crete from 2023 on. These flights tend to be more expensive than the possibly short and relatively cheap ferry rides between the Cycladic islands.

The best time to visit Santorini depends on your tolerance of crowds. Since Santorini can be quite windy, the temperature in early spring and late fall can be either sunny and warm or cloudy, rainy and windy. So it either feels like summer, or like a very bad autumn day. Also, many businesses will have closed down (don’t worry there are always restaurants and shops open). However, these months are the best time to visit Santorini if you are either on a budget or are allergic to crowds. November to April are the cheapest months to visit Santorini.

If you can, visit before the end of May. In the second half of May the weather will most likely already be warm and many things will have opened up, but the island will not be too crowded yet. July and August are extremely busy in Santorini. And the crowds continue to come in till November. In general pre-season tends to be less crowded than the late season in October.

In summer, accommodations will be full and everything will be more expensive. It is also the hottest period of the year, which can limit the physical activities such as hiking that you might want to do.

Although the Cycladic islands are dry, the islands are not the hottest place in Greece. The weather during the tourist season is as follows. The average temperature in Santorini in the second half of May is around 21°C (70°F). In early June, the average temperature in Santorini is around 24°C (75°F), with highs of up to 28°C (82°F) and lows of down to 19°C (66°F). In July and August, the average temperature in Santorini is 28°C (82°F). The temperature in Santorini in late September is usually in the mid20s Celsius (mid70s Fahrenheit).

Santorini can be very windy. The Cyclades is the most windy island group of Greece. During the summer months (May till October, but mostly June till September) the island often falls prey to the northern Meltemi winds. Were speaking 4 to 7 Beaufort, and in rare cases 8 to 10. During the hot summer months the wind might be a welcome cooling down measure during the day. However, it can make evenings chilly. So take a vest with you. And take into account that when the wind reaches 8 to 10 Beaufort, ferries might be cancelled.

You can see the ultimate highlight of Santorini (the caldera view with the white houses and blue domes) in one day. If you want to discover more of the island, such as the more traditional villages, a winery, the ancient ruins of Thira, do a boat tour, et cetera, I would advise you to stay 3 to 5 days.

The currency used in Santorini is Euro (€).

It is a misconception that a trip to Santorini should be super expensive. Of course, the cost of a trip to Santorini will vary depending on several factors, such as the time of year, the length of stay, and the activities chosen. But there is definitely a selection of affordable accommodations, restaurants and activities available. For a couple of euros you can have a pita gyros that serves as a complete dinner. You can also travel by public bus on Santorini which is cheap.

Generally speaking, a trip to Santorini can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. In the video below you can see what I spent in a day on Santorini in August 2021.

The best, easiest and fastest way to get around on Santorini is to rent a vehicle. Such as a car or a scooter. Santorini is a small island. You can get from south to north in half an hour. A car is safer on the road, but it is harder to find a parking place if you are staying in one of the caldera side villages. A scooter is more convenient for parking and seeing more of your surroundings while driving. However, I would never recommended renting a scooter and certainly not an ATV if you have no experience driving them.

I have used Santorini Easy Car Rental on my visit and I do recommend them as I had a pleasant experience.

There certainly is public transport in Santorini. The public bus is the cheapest way to move around on the island. Since it is a very small island, it takes you to basically all the tourist resorts, beaches and villages, as well as the airport and the port. The main bus station is in Santorini’s capital, Fira. All bus lines begin and end here. This means you might have to change buses there if you want to get from A to B. There is not always a direct line available. For instance: there is no direct bus line from the port to the airport. You have to go to Fira and change there.

Santorini bus company and timetables

The bus company on Santorini is called KTEL Santorini . You can find all destinations and schedules here. The price of a ticket depends on the destination and its distance from where you get on the bus, but is always around € 2 one way. Tickets are issued inside the bus. I advise you to bring cash to pay the ticket.

The best way to see the sunset In Santorini, is to ensure yourself of a picture perfect spot without all the crowds.

Of course the most famous sunset is the one of Oia village. The most popular spot is the castle ruins. Here you can take in the stunning views of the caldera, the white houses and the orange and pink sky. However, this spot gets extremely busy during the whole season. You’ll literally be packed like sardines in a can on the castle ruins. And on the way there and the way back as well, because Oia consists of a maze of very small alleys. 

Tips for visiting Oia at sunset

If you want to visit Oia for sunset, go early to secure a free spot. But also, stay until it is completely dark. Many people leave just after the sun is not visible anymore. They get trapped in the streets of Oia trying to get out. It is however only after this time that the sky becomes pink and the lights on the white houses slowly start turning on. For me, that was the most magical time and it was already severely less crowded.

There are definitely other, way less crowded places in Santorini that offer an unbelievable sunset. Here are a few of them.

Caldera side
  • Just outside of Oia, on a hill, there are 2 tiny churches that offer the most spectacular sunset view I’ve ever seen (when I was hiking from Imerovigli to Oia at sunset time). I am talking about the chapel of Profitis Ilias and the chapel of the assumption of the Virgin Mary
  • Skaros rock in Imerovigli and the Panagia Theoskepasti chapel on Skaros rock. It is a 20-minute hike but it most definitely won’t be as crowded as in Oia. Be careful on the way back!
  • Book a table for dinner or drinks in a bar or restaurant with sunset view in Fira, Imerovigli or Oia to be ensured of a sunset view spot
  • The chapel of Agios Nikolaos near Megalochori, an unbelievably romantic church tucked away between the stones in a very random place where you won’t expect it. My second cousin even got engaged here.
  • The Akrotiri lighthouse on the south-eastern tip of the island
Inland and from the water
Best area to stay in Santorini with caldera view

A beginners travel guide to Santorini is of course not complete without advice on where to stay. The best area to stay in Santorini if you want a caldera view is Imerovigli. It offers the same kind of views as Oia (white houses and a blue dome). Also it is on walking distance (15 minutes) of Santorini’s capital, Fira. However it is way less crowded than Oia and Fira. Meaning you get to sleep well and enjoy your pool or balcony in without millions of strangers passing by.

Best area to stay in Santorini with children, if you’re on a budget or want beachfront

If you have children, are on a very tight budget or you want to stay near a beach for any other reason, the best place to stay is either Kamari or Perissa. Over there, you’ll also find the cheaper resorts and accommodations, along with lots of shops and restaurants to choose from. And you can still easily visit the caldera side by bus.

I’ve written a separate blogpost on 4 affordable hotels in Santorini with caldera view and infinity pool. Check it out!


These are 4 budget friendly hotels in Santorini with caldera view and infinity pool! And by budget friendly I mean quite cheap compared to some other places in Santorini that offer the same things. #santorini #santorinigreece #santoriniisland #caldera #santorini #budgettravel #traveltiktok #greekislands #cheaphotels #santorinionabudget #greecetravel #greece2023 #santorinihotel #greeceholiday #greecetraveltips #greecetips #tzatchickie

♬ Love You So - The King Khan & BBQ Show

A 4 day itinerary for Santorini island:

As promised, we will end this article ‘Santorini: a beginners travel guide and 4 day itinerary’ with my advice for a 4 day itinerary to Santorini, inclusing the top attracations. So you know exactly what not to miss on Santorini during a 4 day trip and what you MUST see.

Day 1

Start with the number one must do activity on Santorini, especially for beginners / first time visitors: the Fira to Oia hike alongside the caldera. This way you’ll get to see every possible caldera view, all the white houses and churches. Do Start late afternoon from Fira in the direction of Oia. It’s a 10 km walk, that will take you about 2 to 4 hours depending on your tempo.

Bring good shoes, sunscreen and enough water as after Imerovigli (which could also be your starting point) options to buy water are limited. Make sure you arrive in Oia around the famous sunset time  (beware of enormous crowds). The sunset from the hill(s) you have to cross before you reach Oia are also gorgeous.


Join me on the Fira to Oia hike in Santorini 😍. In my opinion the no.1 must do activity when in Santorini, and even more at sunset 🌅. Santorini = the caldera view and this is the best way to experience all of it! The hike is 10km and took us about 3-4 hours? The only crowds you see are at Oia castle where itll be fully packed for sunset! #santorini #santorinigreece #santoriniisland #cyclades #firatooiahike #santorinisunset #sunset #greeksunset #tzatchickie #travelvlog #bucketlisttravel #travel #greece #europetravel #placestovisit #travelgreece #traveltips

♬ Sunroof - Nicky Youre & dazy

Day 2

Rent a vehicle and explore the island. There are several nice villages and (archeological) sites to visit in Santorini. It’s a small island so if you leave early you can do many of them in one day. Stops that I did: Megalochori village, Pyrgos village, Red beach, Vlichada, the ‘Heart of Santorini’. Other stops could be: The archeological sites of Akrotiri & Ancient Thera, a half day winery tour & wine tasting at Santo or another winery.

Day 3

Fira & A cruise to the volcano, hot springs and Thirasia island. All located right in front of Santorini. There are many options for such a tour: a half day tour, a full day tour, a sunset cruise that takes you to Oia after. Both private, semi-private and with a big group are possible. I did a half day group trip for € 26 (price level of 2021, price went up), that left from the old port of Fira, so that on return we could explore Fira! Be aware that you still have to pay a ticket for the cable car (€ 6 one way back then) or walk down hundreds of stairs to the old port of Fira!


This is what a half day boat tour from Santorini to the Nea Kameni volcano, the hotsprings and the island of Thirasia looks like 😁. We paid € 26 to go on a larger boat with 100 other people. Definitely worth it for a first time visit to Santorini 🤩. Be careful with the food in Thirasia port though, ours was pre-cooked and disgusting! 😞 Check my Instagram highlights for a more in dept report! #santorini #santoriniisland #santorinigreece #santorinitour #greecеtiktok #santorinivolcano #neakameni #thirasia #greecetrip #tzatchickie #traveltips #traveltiktok #griechenland #visitgreece #europetravel #cyclades #greekislands #caldera

♬ Sunny Day - Ted Fresco

Day 4

Explore (crowdless) Oia early morning. After the crowds you’ve seen on day 1 in Oia at sunset time, I reckon you want to see it at daylight without a million people there. Be there at 8 am, have a walk, take some pictures and get some breakfast. Afterwards you can chill in your pool or on a beach before you leave.

Thanks for reading this beginners guide to Santorini, Greecewith 4 day itinerary. I hope it helped you and you will have a great time in Greece.

If you need more help with your trip, check out my options for custom travel advice.

Be sure to check out my full travel guides on Greek islands as well. Lots of them will be added during 2023!

Disclosure: some of the above may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on a link and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. However, I only recommend companies, activities, hotels or products that I use, would use or know very well myself. Thank you for the support to my travel tips service for Greece!

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