If you’re visiting the Greek islands, you may well be planning to spend 1 or 2 days in Santorini. It’s one of the most popular of the islands in the Cyclades, known for its white buildings, blue rooftops and lush pink flowers. Even if it’s not on your bucket list, you’ll instantly recognise it from about eleventy million Instagram photos! It’s one of the most well-known and touristy places I’ve ever visited, which isn’t usually my cup of tea, but I actually really enjoyed it. I mean, just look at it.
There’s plenty to see, do and eat if you’ve got 2 days in Santorini, but if you’re just visiting for 1 day from a neighbouring island while doing some island hopping, you can cram quite a bit into a short visit too. My only word of warning is that it isn’t cheap, so brace yourself and your bank balance. I managed to do it without bankrupting myself, but I planned ahead a lot to do that. If you just wander around and hope for the best, your purse is going to take a hit. Consider yourself warned.
Here’s my lowdown on the island, and a bit of an itinerary for how best to spend 2 days in Santorini…
About this 2 days in Santorini itinerary
This isn’t a massively active itinerary. It’s relatively relaxing, but does involve walking (at your own pace) on both days. There’s no car rental involved either, all public transport. If you only have 2 days in Santorini, I wouldn’t say you need to hire a car to get a flavour of the island at all. It also doesn’t involve any kind of swimming/boats/water-based ‘fun’. I can’t swim so I try not to die while travelling.
It mainly focuses on eating, drinking, pretty spots and views, culture and mooching. If that sounds like your kind of holiday, get comfy and get reading…
2 days in Santorini itinerary: day 1
Explore Fira and take in views of the caldera
Kick off your Santorini trip in Fira (or Thira). This is the capital of Santorini, so it’s where you’ll find the most restaurants, cafés and shops. I’d seen some photos of it years ago when one of my close friends in work went for her honeymoon, and I was totally wowed by how beautiful it is (hi Claire!).
Fira is built for soaking in some views because it handily overlooks Santorini’s neighbouring volcanic islands, Palaia Kameni and Nea Kameni, and the famous Santorini caldera.
If you weren’t paying attention in Year 9 geography, a caldera is a sort of cauldron-like hollow left when a magma chamber in a volcano is emptied after an eruption. The hollow in Santorini is incredibly picturesque, so maybe it was the volcano’s apology for making such a dangerous mess in the first place. It’s more than made up for it by being the face of millions of postcards, keyrings and fridge magnets. The wonders of nature, eh?
Around Fira, there are loads of shops. I was expecting typical tourist tat, but actually some of them were really nice (but not cheap). If you want to buy some affordable bits, have a look at the scarves and costume jewellery, as well as floppy straw hats and rattan bags. When in Greece, right? There’s also this massive plush donkey to pose by.
Start the walk towards Imerovigli, stopping en route…
Take note, photographers and Instagrammers, because loads of gorgeous photography spots in Santorini are concentrated on the walk between Fira and the next town/village, Imerovigli.
I hope you’re wearing comfy sandals. It’s only a 25 minute walk but there’s lots to look at on the way, so it can take quite a bit longer.
Stop for lunch at To Briki in Firostefani
To Briki, just north of the centre of Fira in an area called Firostefani, is an excellent place to order some ‘picky bits’ for lunch, with a view of course.
When in Greece, it would be sheer madness not to have a Greek salad, and they do a really good one. There’s also plenty of fresh bread, and veggie options. This was just some of the dishes we got – I stupidly forgot to take a full photo because I was getting hangry.
To Briki is also quite reasonably priced (for Santorini). It even serves Donkey Brewery beer too – more on that later.
Walk round the posh villas and see how the other half live
There are loads of private villas and swanky hotels round this bit of Firostefani.
I highly recommend wandering about (just avoid any private streets…) to have a nose round while also enjoying the view. You can then head back onto the main road to walk on towards Imerovigli.
Once you get to Imerovigli, there are more pretty buildings to be stared at. It’s known as ‘the balcony to the Aegean’ – what a perfect description. It’s the highest town in Santorini so you can imagine the views, or don’t just imagine them and look at my photos…
Walk up Skaros Rock at Imerovigli
Skaros Rock is promontory that used to house one of Santorini’s five fortresses in the 12th century. Much volcanic fun later, all that’s left now are a few weathered ruins of the original fortress. But you can walk up the rock itself for panoramic views. The walk isn’t too long: about 30 minutes each way. If you’re feeling energetic and wake up every morning wearing walking boots, i.e. not me, you might be a bit disappointed by how easy it is. If you just like views and a palatable amount of exercise, you’ll be happy.
You shouldn’t do this walk in sandals, but equally you don’t need full hiking gear. I was fine in a dress and good trainers.
So, to earn your moussaka, start off at Agios Georgics church. Follow the path that leads down towards Skaros. After a few minutes, you’ll find another chapel, Agios Ioannis. Pass some ruined houses (look out for little lizard chaps sunbathing on the stones).
When you reach the end of the steps, you have a choice. There’s a path that goes straight to the top, or one to the left that goes around the rock. That’s worth doing after you’ve been to the top because it leads to yet another little chapel, Theoskepasti, which is worth seeing. But do the top first. This is the tricky bit and the reason you need those grippy soles. Some lunatics climb right onto the rock itself, but there’s no need. The views are great without that.
On your way back, brace yourself for the stairs back up to Imerovigli. They get steeper on the way up, strangely enough…
Enjoy the sunset and wine at Imerovigli
Imerovigli is an excellent spot for a glass of local wine or three while watching the sun go down.
I’d massively recommend the bar I found for the sunset, which is called The Wine Bar. An original name it is not, but it’s actually really unique and lovely. Whatever bar you pick for this, you’ve got to get there well ahead of time to get a table, so be very careful to check what time sunset is and plan around that. I’d even recommend booking a table, whether or not you want to eat there, just to make sure you get in. Make sure you ask for one with a view.
The local wine was gorgeous, but they do Donkey Beer too if you’re not a wine fan. We also really enjoyed our waiter, who was from Georgia (the country, not the US state) and really made us want to go to Tblisi even more than we did already.
Tuck into an evening meal at Avocado Restaurant
As you can see from the absolute lack of photos of this food, I enjoyed Avocado Restaurant but it was too dark inside to get any decent photos of what we ate. There were a few really good veggie/pescatarian options. I’d definitely recommend the trio starter of fava beans, aubergine, and tzatziki.
It wasn’t cheap, but this is pretty standard for Santorini and it had this view right outside it, so you know…
2 days in Santorini itinerary: day 2
Visit Oia, Oia, Oia – oi, oi, oi
Oia is everyone’s top priority when it comes to views in Santorini. It’s the place with the famous blue domed church. You know the one. If you have Instagram, you’ll likely have seen it over 400 times a day.
If you’re spending 2 days in Santorini, I’d advise going to Oia twice if you can: once at sunset because it’s all about those rosy skies, but also once at a quieter time of day so you can actually see the view without queuing behind throngs of people. It wasn’t too bad in late afternoon, which is when we got there for the below photo (and yes I know it’s not got the blue dome in it, but still!).
Browse the open-air shops around the streets of Oia
Oia had loads of gorgeous shops. Granted, they were about 5 x the price of similar shops on Naxos, but there were still some lovely things worth a look. If money is no object, knock yourself out.
I really recommend getting lost in the streets of Oia. Try to escape the crowds, and who knows what little shops you’ll stumble across.
Have lunch at Karma in Oia
Karma is almost too beautiful to be real, but it is. It’s a gorgeous little courtyard café/restaurant, complete with a pond (with fish who were very well looked after and clean!) and lots of beautiful flowers.
The food was great and it was so quiet and peaceful compared with the touristy buzz of outside. We shared a salad and a selection of tapas, including some anchovies that were a solid 10/10. Plenty of veggie options too.
See the beautiful Church of Panagia
I’m always quite underwhelmed by churches, although I prefer the outside of them to the inside usually. This one is an absolute belter and screams ‘Greek’ in every way. Check out those six bells! Surprisingly, it’s a fairly modern church (built after the 1950s earthquake) but done in the same style as everything else so it fits in perfectly. I really liked it.
Also, I never normally take photographs with people in and tend to stand around waiting for them to move so I can get The Shot, but this time I let these guys be part of the photo because they’d just got married and she looked AMAZING in her silver sequin dress. As a fellow non-white-wedding-dress wearer (I wore a gold wedding dress for mine), I felt an affiliation with her, and also some sympathy at the thought of being in head-to-toe sequins in 28-degree sunshine. You go girl.
Visit the famous Atlantis Books, a fairytale bookshop in Oia
Before you leave Oia, the one thing you cannot miss is Atlantis Books. This frequently makes it into features onto lists of the best bookshops in the world online and in magazines/coffee-table books. And for good reason. As a reading addict, I’d heard of it years before I had planned to go to Santorini and had completely forgotten it was there, only remembering it was somewhere in Greece. So I was chuffed when it came up during my research and knew I had to go.
It’s now a real Aladdin’s cave of treasures, tucked down below street level but also with a fantastic (and very windy!) roof terrace. There are plenty of English-language books and merchandise, so please do support them by actually buying something and not just going in to take photographs.
Visit the local craft beer brewery and some wineries
Greece has a great micro-brewery scene, although it’s not quite got the hipster craft beer craze on the Cyclades islands just yet. But the local Santorini Brewing Company has some excellent brews, namely Donkey Beer. If you want to see their brewery and taste some beer, you don’t need to book in advance, and staff will happily show you around the brewery.
To get there, head back to Fira and get the bus heading to Kamari; if you’re not confident with Google mapping it and checking when you’re nearly there, just ask the driver to stop at the brewery in Mesa Gonia. It takes about 30 minutes from what I can recall, but do check as bus times can change or run differently throughout the year.
Once there, you get to sample three beers (I recommend Yellow Donkey) and buy stuff from their shop, either beer or merchandise. You can’t drink inside because they aren’t licensed, but you can take some beers home or just drink them outside in the shade.
Then, you know the old ‘beer then wine, you’ll be fine’ saying? You can put this to the test.
Walk over to the nearby wineries, Estate Argyros Winery and Canava Roussos Winery, and do more tastings in both of them. The former is quite modern, and one of the most popular wineries on the island – the wine is gorgeous. Then the latter has a beautiful courtyard, filled with old trees, vines and beautiful flowers. Apparently that’s the oldest winery on the island too, and it doesn’t get as busy as some of the larger ones.
Evening meal at Greek Bites back in Fira
After guzzling beer and wine all afternoon, you should probably think about something to soak it up. By the time you’ve got the bus back from Mesa Gonia, it’ll probably be hangry o’clock.
After spending quite a bit on our evening meal the night before, I’d hunted out the unassuming Greek Bites as a cheaper option for the second of our 2 days in Santorini because it’s all about balance, innit.
One of my favourite things on Santorini (and in Greece in general) is the baked feta cheese with honey and sesame seeds, and this is where I had the best one of our trip. That was the centrepiece of our meal, along with various veggie tapas and some chips (blame the beer; plus I was a bit bored with rice). They also did pasta and pizza, but we were well into ‘picky bits’ mode on this holiday, as you can probably tell. The issue with picky bits is I have no picky-bits limit and will continue picking those bits until my jeans don’t do up. The sign of a good holiday…
Watch a film at the open-air cinema in Kamari
If you’re not knackered by this point, I have one more excellent idea for you to round off your 2 days in Santorini.
Films at this unique little cinema start around 9:30pm. It’s only 8 euro to get in.
There aren’t many places you can watch a film outside as the sun sets and the sky grows dark, sipping on wine, cocktails and/or beer. Well, not many places a) warm enough and b) with those kind of facilities. Most of us have to make do with being ripped off at our local Odeon and spending about £30 to get angry at other people’s phone screens.
There’s a bus stop directly across the street, with a regular service from Fira. Double check times so you don’t miss the last bus, though, and take a denim jacket or something in case it gets chilly as the sun fades.
That’s the end of day 2, and therefore the end of this Santorini itinerary. I hope it’s been useful for you! I still have a few more tips for you below…
Avoiding donkey cruelty: a final note on your 2 days in Santorini
If you’re planning a trip to Santorini, you’ve probably heard that there are ‘tourist taxis’ on donkeys there. If you’re an animal lover, that’ll probably have set off alarm bells for you. And you’d be right in being worried. There are huge issues with donkey and mule cruelty in Santorini, sadly.
Even in 2020, exhausted donkeys and mules spend long days in the scorching sun, carrying tourists up the steps to Fira from the coast. They work with little to no water, food or shade. I’m an equestrian and have had horses all my life. I can’t imagine the life these animals live compared with our pampered equines in the UK. Donkeys are around 11 hands high and can only comfortably carry children (<7 stone 8 pounds, maximum). But that restriction isn’t applied to these working animals.
Given all this, I really didn’t want to ‘promote’ the island of Santorini without also mentioning the issues and what you as a tourist can do to make a change.
- First, the obviously thing to do is to not engage in the ‘taxi’ service. Don’t give them money; don’t have them in your photographs.
- Second, donate to the fantastic Donkey Sanctuary to support their ‘In their hooves‘ campaign for better welfare for working donkeys and mules. I’ll be donating my first month’s advertising revenue from this blogpost. I think it’d be fantastic if anyone going to Santorini also donated some of their holiday spends to help the donkeys and mules. You can make your donation here, feel totally good about yourself, and toast it with a local Donkey Brewery beer!
2 days in Santorini itinerary – useful information for your trip
How to get to Santorini
It has an international airport, or you can arrive by ferry from other islands. For my trip to Santorini, I flew direct from Manchester. We then stayed in Santorini for a few days, before heading to spend longer on Naxos (my favourite place in Greece), and then another ferry to Mykonos to get back to Manchester from their airport.
This paragraph is a gifted advert: I was lucky enough to be gifted a visit to the 1903 Lounge at Manchester Airport on departure, which was lovely. It’s adults-only, which helps with my severe allergy to screaming children. Also, there’s free Wifi so I could work on the blog while taking advantage of the buffet. You can eat and drink as much as you like, so it actually works out pretty reasonable. If I’d had to buy it, it would have been £35 each. This was the second time Manchester Airport have kindly given me access to the lounge, but I genuinely do recommend it if you’re flying from there. It makes everything a lot calmer and the food/drinks are superb.
Where to stay in Santorini
Accommodation in Santorini is expensive. It’s Scandinavian prices at best, total bankruptcy at worst. We stayed at Danae Villa, a set of apartments on the edge of Fira. You could easily walk in (about five minutes) and reach food, buses and bars. It was an absolute bargain at £68 a night in September. It had a little balcony, clean bed/living area, and a kettle. The bathroom was spotless and the shower okay (showers in Greece seem to be hit and miss). The staff were really nice and the lady gave us a mug and a scarf when we left! So nice. She also sorted transport out for us from the airport when we arrived, and to the ferry port when we headed off to our next destination, Naxos.
How to get around Santorini
It’s walking and buses on Santorini. Buses were surprisingly reliable, but check out times on the local KTEL bus service website. If like me, you don’t drive, some Greek islands will be a waste of time. But Santorini is perfectly doable. Hoorah.
When to go to Santorini
Santorini has a mediterranean climate, so hot and dry summers and mild winters. I’d recommend going in September. That’s when I visited and the temperature was just right. The other good thing with September is that there won’t be as many children about, which is mainly why I always avoid any travel in July/August.
The only downside to a summer trip to Santorini is the Meltemi wind. This can strike all the Cyclades islands at any time throughout summer and you can’t really do much about it. I despise wind, but I know some people don’t mind it and it does keep the Cyclades more temperate than the mainland, which some really value. Just bear it in mind when you’re packing. It may look warm, but it won’t feel as warm as it should for the temperature.
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