3 days in Santorini: what to see and where to stay

Fira, Santorini. Image by Richard Coombs.

Fira, Santorini. Image by Richard Coombs.

Following our stay in Malta, we spent 4 nights and 3 days in Santorini. While the island is still in the midst of winter off-peak season, I still loved our time there. When we visit again we’ll book a stay in May or September — far enough out of the height of summer that it’s not too crowded but still beautiful warm weather.

Despite the cool, windy weather and quiet atmosphere in Santorini during our stay, we still managed to see and do a lot. I’ve detailed below our highlights of where to stay and things to see and do. Our recommendations of the best places to eat, drink and play are coming up in a future post. 

Where to stay

The streets of Fira. Image by Richard Coombs.

The streets of Fira. Image by Richard Coombs.

We stayed at the Central Fira Hotel. The rooms were minimal, stylish, clean complete with a cave style shower and a traditional cave house structure. I felt like we were truly in Greece once we checked in here. The hotel is located 1 block away from the caldera, making it the perfect central location to base yourself when you explore Santorini.

See and do

Walk from Fira to Skaros Rock

Starting the walk onto Skaros Rock, Santorini.

Starting the walk onto Skaros Rock, Santorini.

On our first day in Santorini, we walked from Fira to Skaros rock, exploring the streets of Firostefani and Imerovigli along the way. This is where it was wonderful to be visiting Santorini in off-peak season. We had the streets all to ourselves apart from the other odd tourist every now and then; it was special.

The view from Skaros Rock. Image by Richard Coombs.

The view from Skaros Rock. Image by Richard Coombs.

Just when we thought we couldn’t walk anymore, we realised the well-marked path on Skaros Rock and couldn’t resist. We walked around Skaros Rock taking in the magnificent views over to Oia and back overlooking Imerovigli and Firostefani.

Explore Pyrgos

Pyrgos, Santorini.

Pyrgos, Santorini.

Stathmos Leoforion, the main bus station in Fira has buses to Akotiri every hour. When you purchase your ticket on the bus, just ask for Pyrgos and they will stop in town for you. For just €1.90 each person, it was an affordable way to get out an explore more of Santorini. Like many of the other towns in Santorini, the best way to see Pyrgos is by walking around the narrow streets to explore. With Pyrgos being home to the highest point on Santorini, the views from the higher parts of town were magnificent.

Visit a winery

The view from Santo Wines. Image by Richard Coombs.

The view from Santo Wines. Image by Richard Coombs.

After you’ve walked around exploring Pyrgos for a couple of hours, visit one of the wineries in the region. A visit to Santo Wines was recommended to us by the bartender at PK Cocktail Bar in Fira and to say we (mostly me) were tempted was an understatement. Santo Wines is a 10-minute walk from the outskirts of Pyrgos town. 

Given the season, we were lucky to be one of the few groups visiting Santo Wines during the day. We scored a table at the front of the balcony, giving us unbelievable views out to the Aegean Sea, Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni. We tried the 6 wine flight which included 6 of the wines grown and produced at Santo Wines, cheese, olives, barley rusks and local tomato paste. It was an unbelievable way to spend an afternoon and I highly recommend it for wine enthusiasts or anyone who wants to sample Santorini’s best produce — grapes, tomatoes and wine.

Watch the sunset

The sunset from Fira.

The sunset from Fira.

How could a trip to Santorini be complete without watching the sunset? If you’re in Fira, the best vantage point for the sunset is next to the entrance to Franco’s Bar. Once you look at several professional photos of Santorini sunsets, you’ll notice the Franco’s Bar sign in the foreground and it’s easy to see why — there’s plenty of room for everyone to enjoy unobstructed views of the sunset and get the all-important Santorini sunset photo. Get yourself set up 45 minutes before the sun is due to set and enjoy the incredible beauty as the sun disappears beneath the horizon.

Get lost in the streets of Fira

There wasn't a blue door I didn't like.

There wasn't a blue door I didn't like.

There's so much to explore in Fira — cafes, bars, restaurants, traditional Greek tavernas, shops, accommodation and spectacular sea views from the top of the caldera. Leave yourself a half day, or more, to get lost in the winding streets. I’ve included our recommendations of places to eat, drink and refuel in the eat and drink section below.

Hire an ATV and explore Santorini

The east coast of Santorini.

The east coast of Santorini.

Hiring an ATV is a great way to explore Santorini. There are several places around Fira to hire an ATV. Just remember that given the lower power of these vehicles that you won’t cover ground as quickly as you would in a car. For €25 (€30 in summer) we hired an ATV for 24 hours. We decided to drive from Santorini to Oia in our ATV.

The trusty ATV.

The trusty ATV.

As time passed the roads quickly became more gravelly and bumpy. A quick look at Google maps made us realise we were taking the long way to Oia. Although it took us a long time to reach Amoudi Bay and the town of Oia, the relatively untouched side of Santorini along the east coast was incredible to see. If you find yourself on this side of Santorini, deliberately or not, take your time to soak in the views of the cliff side, open ocean and traditional homes.

Visit Oia

Oia, Santorini. Image by Richard Coombs.

Oia, Santorini. Image by Richard Coombs.

We explored Oia after our ATV adventure around the east coast of Santorini. Oia was beautiful and it’s where I’d love to stay when we visit Santorini again. Take your time strolling the streets eventually making your way to Oia Castle to enjoy spanning views of the Aegean Ocean and Oia town. We stopped for a coffee at Melenio Café. It has incredible views of the Aegean Sea and their baked goods looked very tempting. 

While we didn't visit Santorini at the most inviting time of the year, there was still plenty to do and see. I'll share the best places to eat, drink and play around Santorini in a future post.