One Day in Santorini From Cruise Ship: Epic Itinerary

One Day in Santorini From Cruise Ship: Epic Itinerary

santorini oia view with colorful flowers and orange houses

Are you looking for an incredible one-day in Santorini from a cruise ship itinerary to make the most out of your shore day 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, Santorini has 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. I’ll give you all the ingredients for a dreamy voyage that can easily be tucked into just 10 hours!

Don’t spend your precious port call exploring only Oia. Let’s explore this beautiful island together.

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One Day in Santorini From Cruise Ship – in Short

When coming to Santorini on a cruise ship, you have a couple of options on how to spend your day. You can either book a guided day trip or explore the island on your own with my suggested itinerary:

  • Morning: Visit the adorable villages of Pyrgos and Megalochori
  • Lunch: Lunch in a traditional Greek restaurant
  • Early Afternoon: Explore one of the volcanic beaches of the island
  • Late Afternoon: Cultural experience (wine tasting or sightseeing)
  • Early Evening: Souvenir Shopping
Santorini Bucket List
Santorini Bucket List

The Santorini Cruise Port

cruise ports of santorini marked on a map

Santorini is a popular destination for cruisers. 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. It is still 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 walk up about 600 steps to reach Fira. There are also 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.

stunning picture of the santorini cruise port with a cruise ship sending tender boats towards the island

Best Guided Excursions for 1 Day in Santorini

As an avid cruiser, I know that booking a shore excursion with the cruise line can be quite expensive. In the end, you’ll be 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 in case the ship is delayed or the stop 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. We have done these tours ourselves, and I can absolutely recommend them.

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: Pyrgos and Megalochori

As you make your way up to Fira from the cruise port, you’ll need to grab an ATV, rental car, or cab. Our journey will take us to some of the most underrated spots on the island.

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 white houses, churches with blue domes, and no people – head over to Pyrgos or Megalochori.

About Pyrgos/Megalochori

Megalochori is a picturesque village on the island of Santorini. It has narrow cobbled streets and whitewashed houses with traditional blue doors and shutters. You can also find 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 beautiful 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 view.


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 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.

Noon: Traditional Greek Lunch

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 has some amazing food to offer – sadly it is hard to find.

Most places serve tourist food for tourist prices. Luckily for you, I know all the great, and authentic food spots in Santorini.

My suggestion is to have lunch in Megalochori or Pyrgos as well. If you prefer to be oceanside, begin the drive toward Kamari.

Here are my favorite restaurants for lunch in Santorini (off the beaten paths):

  • Penelope’s in Pyrgos (the best tzatziki on the island)
  • Pyrgos Restaurant in Pyrgos
  • Olio in Megalochori
  • Tavern Mythos in Pyrgos
  • Taverna Alexander in Kamari
  • Mesogaia Restaurant in Kamari

Early Afternoon: Volcanic Beaches of Santorini

Santorini is famous for its cliffside white-washed architecture and stunning sunsets, but did you know it also has some pretty unique beaches? After a nice lunch it is a great time to drive by some of the stunning beaches on the island.

If you had lunch in Kamari – look no further. Kamari Beach is a black volcanic beach that is super stunning. It has a great boulevard with restaurants, shops, and beach clubs.

Another hidden gem is Red Beach, named for its reddish-black volcanic sands and towering red cliffs. It is hard to reach, so you’ll need to plan this carefully.

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. It has eerie lunar-like rock formations.

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: Sightseeing or Wine Tasting

If you are looking for a cultural experience to fill the rest of your one day in Santorini from a cruise ship, then you are in the right spot. Here are some amazing ideas you should put on your Santorini itinerary.

Sadly, you won’t have too much time for all of them, so you’ll have to pick and choose.

My tip: if I had to choose between all these amazing experiences, I would choose a wine-tasting experience.

1. Akrotiri Archeological Sites

The Akrotiri Archeological Sites are a must-see when spending one 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.

excavation site in Santorini called akrotiri archeological site

2. Ancient Thira

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. You can see 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.

Beautiful ruins of ancient thira

3. Santorini Wine Tasting

Spending 1 day in Santorini would not be complete without experiencing its great wine culture.

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. They have 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.

4. 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 taking a 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.

If you don’t have enough time for that, book a private boat tour instead. They can bring you back on time for when the ship leaves.

sunset with lots of catamarans swimming

5. Santorini Lighthouse

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.

Akrotiri Lighthouse overlooking the ocean picture taken from a cave

6. Visit Exo Gonia

Exo Gonia Santorini is a picturesque village located in the heart of Santorinis 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.

Exo Gonia village overlooking the ocean in the Aegean Se

7. 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 one day in Santorini from the cruise ship 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.

The best places to go shopping in Santorini are the cute 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 offer 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 On a Cruise

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. Dont 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 rented 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: One Day in Santorini From Cruise Ship

Well, it looks like one day in Santorini may not be enough to explore the island and truly experience the beauty of its beaches!

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.

The best way to see Santorini from the cruise ship is on your own – and this is the full guide on how to do it.

I hope you enjoy your amazing 1 day in Santorini and this guide was helpful!

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FAQ’s 1 day in Santorini

Is one day enough 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.

Is it worth going to Santorini for one day?

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.

What is the best month for a cruise to Santorini?

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.

Is Santorini walkable?

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.

blonde girl pink dress in front of blue door santorini

About the Author

Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in New Mexico. She spends about half the year traveling to various destinations 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.