Are you looking for an incredible 1 day in Santorini itinerary to make the most out of your cruise ship stop in beautiful Santorini? Then I got you covered!
Whether you’re a young couple wanting to explore the romantic island off the beaten tracks, or someone interested in immersing themselves in culture and history, there’s something for everyone.
90 % of cruise ship guests tour the famous villages of Oia and Imerovigli, which makes them insanely crowded. I have been to Santorini many times, and have almost gotten run over by the crowds. To avoid all the masses, I have created an alternative itinerary.
This guide will provide everything from tips on the best beaches in Santorini to suggestions on breathtaking day trips and excursions; all the ingredients are here for a dreamy voyage that can easily be tucked into just 10 hours!
Don’t spend your precious port call exploring only Oia – come along with me on this perfect Santorini itinerary of what-to-dos during this blissful island escape!
Table of Contents
- What you need to know about Santorini before you go
- The Santorini Cruise Port
- Best day tours and half-day tours for 1 day in Santorini
- Morning activities in Santorini – Best Photo Spots in Santorini
- Mid-day break – The best places for lunch and coffee
- Discovering Santorini’s unique beaches – The best-hidden gems
- Afternoon Excursions, Sights to see, and Wine Tastings
- Shopping in Santorini
- What to pack for Santorini
- How to get around Santorini
- Conclusion: 1 day in Santorini itinerary
- FAQ’s 1 day in Santorini
- About the Author
What you need to know about Santorini before you go
Is Santorini a port of call on your cruise ship itinerary? Here’s what you need to know before you go.
One of the most famous Greek islands, Santorini is famous for its white-washed buildings, stunning sunsets, and vibrant nightlife. But, to make the most of your visit, it’s important to know a few things beforehand.
The history of Santorini
Santorini is home to an active volcanic complex, which is believed to have been the site of a major Minoan eruption in the 16th century BC. The eruption led to the formation of the Santorini archipelago. They say it was one of the most catastrophic volcanic eruptions in recorded history.
The entire shape and outline of the island still reminds me of a volcano. In the middle of the Santorini archipelago, you can find Nea Kameni. Nea Kameni is a relatively recent addition to the archipelago. It has been formed by a series of eruptions between 1570 and 1950.
Apart from the shape of the island itself, Santorini’s volcanic landscape can still be observed on the volcanic beaches that have black sand or pebbles. They are way different from the white sandy beaches we know from other islands, but still beautiful in their way.
The agriculture of Santorini
Even the agriculture of Santorini has been shaped by its volcanic history. The hilly terrain and the nutrient-rich soil allowed the island to become one of the most agriculturally productive regions in Greece. In easy words: they make delicious wine, tomatoes, and olives.
Santorini produces an abundance of dry white and red wines made from local grape varieties such as Athiri, Aidani, and Assyrtiko. Its wines have a distinct flavor due to the climate on the island and are exported worldwide.
You can see the wines growing all over the island, in little baskets, to protect them from the wind. Later on, I will suggest some great wineries for a tasting – a must-do activity in Santorini.
What is there to see in Santorini
The tourist hotspots are located around the cities of Fira and Oia. The alleys there are quite narrow, so with a cruise ship in port they are usually completely crammed. The experience is far from wholesome.
But as I mentioned before, the island has so many other hidden gems that can be explored in a day in Santorini. From archeological ruins to volcanic beaches and beautiful smaller towns, there is so much that you have to do in one day on the island.
The Santorini Cruise Port
Santorini is a popular destination for tourists exploring on a cruise ship. Many cruise lines have Santorini as a port of call on their Eastern Mediterranean routes.
There are two major ports in Santorini where your cruise ship might dock.
Old Fira Port is one of the oldest ports in Santorini, and this is also where many cruise ships will dock. The port has been a main point of entry to the island since ancient times and it is still well-used today by cruise ships, ferries, and local boats.
It is located right down the cliff from Thira, the capital city of Santorini. The port is home to a variety of amenities, including shops, restaurants, and tourist information centers.
The second important port in Santorini is the Athinios Port. The Athinios Port is located at the foot of Mount Profitis Ilias in Santorini and has over time become the main port on the island. You will need a bus to get from the port to major attractions.
If your vessel docks at the Old Fira port, you can either walk up about 600 steps to reach Fira. There are cable cars available that make the journey a bit easier. Please refrain from riding up on a donkey, as this is very straining for them. The cable car costs around EUR 6,00 for a ride.
Both ports are too small for bigger cruise ships, so you will arrive via tender boats.
Best day tours and half-day tours for 1 day in Santorini
As an avid cruiser, I know that booking a shore excursion with the Cruise line can be quite expensive and in the end, leave you in a big group waddling around the island.
To avoid this issue, I usually book a tour with my favorite company Viator. They have a great selection of tours (also private ones) and you can cancel them free of charge in case the ship is delayed or the port is canceled.
If you feel like exploring the island on your own, you might not need a day tour at all. But if you wish for a little more guidance and are not excited to operate an ATV or a rental car, this might be just the right thing for you.
Also, private tours in Santorini are surprisingly cheap, so it is worth considering.
Here are my favorite day tours and half-day tours in Santorini:
6-Hour Private Best of Santorini Experience 🤩 5/5 Stars (336 Reviews)
5-Hour Santorini Luxury Caldera Cruise with Greek Meal and Drinks 🤩 5/5 Stars (999 Reviews)
Private Santorini Tailor Made Tour – Choice of the guest! 🤩 5/5 Stars (177 Reviews)
Santorini Must-See Highlights: Private Sightseeing Tour 🤩 5/5 Stars (81 Reviews)
Santorini Wine Adventure with 12 Wine Tastings, Tapas and Sunset 🤩 5/5 Stars (571 Reviews)
Santorini Private Instagram Tour 🤩 5/5 Stars (79 Reviews)
Morning activities in Santorini – Best Photo Spots in Santorini
Picture yourself waking up in your cabin to the stunning views of Santorini. The sun is slowly rising, painting the sky with brilliant hues of pink and orange.
As you prepare for the day, don’t forget to bring your camera because you’re in for a treat! It is best to take your pictures early in the morning – to avoid harsh shadows.
Many famous photo spots you see on Instagram are taken in the famous village of Oia. But the truth is, it is crowded and you will have a hard time getting a good shot there. Luckily, I spent so much time on this island that I found equally nice spots – without crowds.
If you are looking for pictures of white houses, churches with blue domes, and no people – head over to Pyrgos or Megalochori. Also, learn how to avoid the crowds in Imerovigli and Oia below.
The cutest villages of Santorini
Megalochori is a picturesque village on the island of Santorini, located in the heart of the Cyclades archipelago. Within its narrow cobbled streets, visitors will find whitewashed houses with traditional blue doors and shutters, as well as ancient churches topped with white domes.
My husband and I took our wedding photos there because it looks like the famous Oia, but without any crowds.
Pyrgos is a village full of charm and beauty, close to Megalochori. It offers an incredibly picturesque and rustic atmosphere, with far fewer people. If you are looking for a traditional Greek white-washed building with beautiful blue accents – Pyrgos is the place.
The village is situated among vineyards and olive groves, with stunning views of the Aegean Sea. Hike up to Pyrgos castle for the best picture opportunities.
If you wish to see a village on the cliffs with white-washed houses, Imerovigli is your best bet. It is a smaller version of Oia. From this village, you will have stunning, picturesque views of the Caldera and the Aegean Sea.
The name Imerovigli translates to “day watch,” as it was once a strategic point for spotting approaching pirates. You can hike all the way from Thira to Imerovigli – it is an easy hike with lots of pretty views.
If you do wish to take pictures in Oia, I suggest seeking out the Old Castle of Oia (go below for the ruins) or the beautiful orange Kastor Oia Houses for some nice shots. Please be mindful and don’t trespass on other people’s property for a photo.
Mid-day break – The best places for lunch and coffee
Looking to take a mid-day break from your busy 1 day in Santorini? Look no further than the best places for lunch and coffee. Santorini is a real treat for all senses, so be prepared for some amazing Greek food on your trip.
Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or a foodie fanatic, there’s something for everyone in these top picks. From cozy cafes serving up piping hot lattes and the most incredible pancakes, to trendy lunch spots with a view, you won’t be disappointed.
Plus, you’ll be able to recharge and refuel for the rest of your day. So go ahead, treat yourself to a mid-day break, and discover some of the best places for lunch and coffee.
Best Restaurants for Lunch in Santorini (off the beaten paths)
- Penelope’s in Pyrgos
- Olio in Megalochori
- Tavern Alexander in Kamari
- Tavern Mythos in Pyrgos
- To Briki Imerovigli
- Argo Restaurant Imerovigli
- Mesogaia Kamari
- Nektar Lounge Thira (best pankes in the world)
Discovering Santorini’s unique beaches – The best-hidden gems
Santorini is famous for its cliffside white-washed architecture and stunning sunsets, but did you know it also has some pretty unique beaches? If you need a break from exploring or are just looking to spend a relaxed day on a beach, I have some amazing suggestions for you!
Whether you’re looking for secluded coves, colorful sands, or crystal-clear waters, this Greek island has got you covered. One hidden gem is Red Beach, named for its reddish-black volcanic sands and towering red cliffs.
Another standout is White Beach, a tiny pebbled paradise accessible only by boat. And for something truly off the beaten path, head to Vlychada Beach, where eerie lunar-like rock formations create a surreal atmosphere.
If you are looking for a more relaxed beach with some nice beach clubs, then Kamari Beach is your best bet. The endlessly long boulevard is filled with fancy beach clubs and chic restaurants.
Snorkel enthusiasts will be happy to hear that Santorini has some of the best snorkeling in the Aegean Sea. Check out Black Beach, Caldera Beach, or Ammoudi Beach and explore the volcanic underwater world of Santorini.
Do you need travel insurance in Santorini? Yes, travel insurance in Santorini is highly recommended. Unsafe roads, water sports accidents, and food poisoning are only a few examples of when travel insurance could come in handy. EKTA offers worldwide travel insurance with 24/7 service and no hidden fees or restrictions.
Afternoon Excursions, Sights to see, and Wine Tastings
If you are looking for a cultural experience to fill the rest of your 1 day in Santorini, then you are in the right spot. Here are some amazing ideas you should put on your Santorini itinerary.
Akrotiri Archeological Sites
The Akrotiri Archeological Sites are a must-see when spending 1 day in Santorini. Located on the southernmost tip of the island, the site is an ancient settlement that dates back to the Minoan civilization. The site has its origins in the Bronze Age (around 2000 BC).
The ruins are believed to have been buried under volcanic ash from the eruption of the volcano under Santorini.
Visiting the Akrotiri Archeological Sites is a unique experience that you should not miss when in Santorini. The site is open daily, from 8:30 am to 3 pm. The price of admission is EUR 12,00 pp.
Ancient Thira is another ancient settlement located on the southern tip of Santorini. It dates back to the 9th century BC and was believed to be founded by Dorian Greeks.
The ruins are located on a steep hillside and feature structures such as the Temple of Apollo, an agora, a theater, and several other interesting structures.
It is a bit of a hike to reach the ancient structures, but the view from the hilltop is amazing. You can see all the way over Kamari beach.
Keep in mind that most of the structures are pretty much destroyed, so you will need a lot of imagination. I enjoyed the experience, but I was a bit disappointed in the ruins.
You can drive almost all the way up to the ruins in Ancient Thira. The drive takes approximately one hour from the main port of Fira.
Santorini Wine Tasting
Spending 1 day in Santorini would not be complete without experiencing its renowned wine culture. As I have mentioned earlier, Santorini’s main export product is indeed white wine.
The volcanic soil and unique climate of the island provide ideal conditions for producing white wines with a distinctive character, intensity, and complexity. The most popular varietals include Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, and Mandilaria.
All of them are grown in cute little baskets. They keep the plants safe from the winds.
Many different wineries in Santorini offer tastings. I have been to four of them myself and I have loved all of them, even though they were quite different from each other.
I suggest you visit at least one of these wineries when in Santorini:
- Canava Roussous Winery
- Winery Anhydrous
- Hatzidakis Winery
- Santo Wines
If you only have time to visit one of them, I would suggest Santo Wines. Their view of the Caldera is simply to die for.
Wine enthusiasts will love booking this guided wine tour we took. It brought us to three different wineries and we had a local guide that explained everything. Our group was super small with only 8 people, so we had a great time meeting other young couples on this tour.
Santorini Catamaran Trip
A catamaran trip is almost a must when on the island. Onboard you can enjoy exquisite local food and drinks, take a dip in the crystal clear waters, and even take some amazing photos of the Caldera.
I can wholeheartedly recommend this half-day Catamaran Trip. We had an amazing experience and the crew was super friendly. We visited Red Beach, and White Beach and saw the sunset over Oia.
The Santorini Lighthouse is an iconic landmark on the island, providing breathtaking views of the caldera and nearby islands.
Located on the edge of a cliff at Cape Akrotiri, the lighthouse is one of the most photographed spots in Santorini and a popular tourist destination.
It was built in 1895 and it is about 25 meters high. You can drive there with your ATV or rental car and check it out.
Visit Exo Gonia
Exo Gonia Santorini is a picturesque village located in the heart of Santorini’s caldera, perched on cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea.
This traditional Cycladic village was one of the few settlements to survive the destruction caused by the Minoan eruption in 1650 BC. It is quite interesting to see and should be on everyone’s 1 day in Santorini itinerary.
Walking Tour with a Local Guide
We booked a walking tour with a local guide in a historic village. The guide was super sweet and knowledgeable and he showed us traditional Santorini cave houses.
The residents of Santorini build cave houses due to the island’s unique geology. The volcanic eruption that happened in 1650 BC caused much of the landscape to become infertile and difficult to cultivate, making it difficult to build traditional homes.
Additionally, they needed insulation from the often-intense heat in the summer months. Our last hotel was built as a traditional cave house and it was so nice and cool inside.
I recommend this tour wholeheartedly for your 1 day in Santorini itinerary. We were a private group of four people and the atmosphere was nice and relaxed and the guide made sure to teach us a lot.
Shopping in Santorini
The best places to go shopping in Santorini are the bustling towns of Fira and Oia. Fira is the capital of Santorini, and it’s filled with shops, boutiques, and markets selling everything from traditional Greek souvenirs to trendy fashion items.
The streets of Fira also feature numerous jewelry makers, tailors, and local artists.
If you are looking for a sustainable souvenir from local production, I suggest bringing home a bottle of Santorini wine. They also make lovely jams and spreads that make for amazing gifts.
Keep in mind that shopping in Santorini is quite expensive. If you are looking for cheaper souvenirs, check out the smaller shops in Pyrgos and Megalochori instead.
What to pack for Santorini
When planning your shore excursion to Santorini, be sure to pack light but bring items that will make your day comfortable and memorable.
For sunny days in Santorini, a good pair of sunglasses, sunscreen, and a large hat are essential items. Don’t forget comfortable sandals (lots of walking and many steps) and lightweight clothing.
The sun is quite strong in Santorini, but you will probably not feel it because of the wind. Use lots of sunscreen, even when it doesn’t feel hot.
Lastly, keep in mind that it is extremely windy in Santorini, so avoid items that easily fly away (such as loose-fitting hats). It can also be a bit chilly, so I suggest a cover-up.
Other items that you should bring on your shore excursion for 1 day in Santorini:
How to get around Santorini
When staying 1 day in Santorini, the best way to get around is by renting a car or hailing a cab. Santorini has only 26 cabs, so you might wait a while.
If you are only in town for a day, a private driver might be a good option. He can bring you to all the hot spots on the island.
For those looking for a more adventurous way to explore Santorini, motorbikes, scooters and bicycles can also be hired from various rental companies.
The roads are paved and relatively narrow, so it can be tricky to navigate with a car. I found the ATVs to be the best way to get around the island.
Conclusion: 1 day in Santorini itinerary
Well, it looks like one day in Santorini may not be enough to explore the island and truly experience the beauty of its beaches!
But luckily for you, some of the best things about Santorini can be done during a short cruise stop – from exploring the signature white cliff houses to the stunning beaches of Santorini. And of course, a glass of their Assyrtiko wine must be on your itinerary.
So put on your shades, grab your favorite sun hat, and get ready for an unforgettable day of exploring all that Santorini has to offer. If you wish to learn more about Santorini, make sure to check out my ultimate Santorini island guide with lots of helpful tips.
I hope you enjoy your amazing 1 day in Santorini and this guide was helpful!
Next Stop Malta? Read up on the Valletta Cruise Port before you go.
FAQ’s 1 day in Santorini
Yes, one day is enough to get a small taste of the breathtaking beauty of Santorini, but it is certainly not enough to experience all that the island has to offer. From its unique white cliff houses and stunning beaches to its renowned Assyrtiko wine, countless attractions and activities would keep you busy on a longer stay.
Yes, it is worth spending a day in Santorini! With its timeless views of the caldera, unique whitewashed architecture, and breathtaking sunsets, Santorini is a highly sought-after destination for travelers from all around the globe.
June and September are the best months for a cruise to Santorini. There are fewer crowds than during the main season as it is a bit warmer than in Spring.
Yes, Santorini is a very walkable destination. The main town of Fira is small and car-free, providing an ideal environment for exploring the area on foot. Furthermore, the local streets are lined with beautiful buildings and sweet shops. If you wish to explore further, you need a car or ATV.
About the Author
Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in the Netherlands. She spends about half of the year traveling to various destinations together with her husband.
She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.