5 Days in Athens and Santorini
I had been to Greece three times before I made my way to its capital, Athens, and to one of its best-known islands, Santorini. You can easily spend a week or two in Greece, but if you want the best of the best on a condensed time frame, this 5-day itinerary will do the trick.
How to Get There
Athens is easily accessible from many European airports, but if you’re coming from the US, you will have to lay over unless you’re coming from select locations on the east coast. To get to the city center, your choices are express bus, metro and taxi. The express buses are actually faster than the metro and half the price (EUR 5 vs EUR 10). A taxi ride will set you back around EUR 40.
Santorini is accessible from Athens via air or sea. Because this is an already tight itinerary, I recommend air (60 minutes) rather than sea (4.5 hours for high-speed ferry, 8 hrs for the regular-speed ferry). For flights, don’t get tempted by the myriad of low-cost airlines flying this route unless you’re willing to risk a delay/losing a night in Santorini. Stick with regular carriers like Aegean. Be aware that weight limits for luggage on this route are lower compared to other flights within Europe, even for the same airline. In 2019, the limit on Aegean was 8 kg (17 lb), so if your suitcase is heavier than that, you will save some money by paying the overweight fee in advance rather than at the gate (and they WILL weigh it!)
You could start with either location. We decided to head to Santorini first because we were coming from Bulgaria, which is only a couple of hours from Athens by plane. If you’re coming from farther away, it’s probably best to do Athens first, then Santorini.
When to Go
I always recommend traveling in shoulder season – those few weeks/months in-between high season and low season. You’ll be avoiding the worst of the crowds and the heat this way. Generally, I’d recommend visiting in mid-April to mid-June and early September to October. We visited in mid-May. Athens was already on the warmer side with temps in the high 70s. In Santorini, the temperatures during the day were perfect (low 70s) and the nights were chilly, which was perfect for using the hot tub in our room!
Where to Stay
In Athens, I recommend a home-rental service – read more about that in this blog post. In Santorini, stay in Imerovigli instead of Oia to avoid noise and crowds. Read about the accommodations we chose in this blog post.
Here’s the full 5-day itinerary. We spent 2 nights in Santorini and 3 nights in Athens, so technically it was a 5-night, 6-day trip, but the 6th day was a travel day from Greece to Turkey for us.
Day 1: Arrive in Santorini
Arrive as early in the day as you can so you can catch those magical Santorini sunsets!
Day 2: Oia, sunset in Imerovigli
This is your full day in Santorini, so make the best of it. Go to Oia as early as you can and meander until you’ve had your fill.
Leave some time for rest and relaxation in your suite. Have dinner in Imerovigli and watch the sunset from the courtyard of Agios Georgios.
Day 3: Morning in Santorini, travel to Athens
If you have time before your flight to Athens, explore some more. The southern end of the island is nice and very different from the built-up northern part. There is a small church here, St Nikolaos, and a red beach, which you can hike to. There’s also the ancient village of Arkotiri and its museum. Several restaurants along the road will provide a tasty lunch with a view. This is a good option if you have a rental car. If not, consider spending some time in Fira.
Day 4: Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Cape Sounion
This is your first of 2 full days in Athens. Get the main sights out of the way. The Acropolis, its museum and the Ancient Agora will take up a good chunk of the day. In the afternoon, drive/catch a tour to Cape Sounion for sunset.
Day 5: National Archaeological Museum, changing of the guard
On your second full day in Athens, take a more relaxed approach. Visit the National Archaeological Museum in the morning. Spend the rest of the day strolling, watching the changing of the guard at Syntagma square and having a nice dinner somewhere. You can also choose to depart later on this day depending on your destination. We spent the night here and left for Turkey the next morning.
If you have more time
If you do find yourself with more time, here are some options:
- Delphi (1 more full day)
- Meteora (2 more full days plus travel)
- Turkey (5 more full days). That’s where we headed after following the above itinerary. I recommend 2 days in Istanbul and 3 days for a side trip – we did Ephesus and Miletus!
I would actually recommend spending more time in Santorini, and not visiting Cape Sounion or see the changing of the guards; I would do two days in Athens and 3 in Santorini. Great post!
Yeah, we definitely could have used a 3rd night in Santorini but it helped keep costs down to do 2 nights!
Oh, that makes sense! Still, a wonderful post!
Thanks so much! 🙂