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Santorini is a fairly large island, so the best way to see it in one day is by renting a car. A car will allow you to see more than just the main towns of Oia and Fira.
Start your morning at the Akrotiri. The archeological site gives you a fascinating look at life when the Minoan civilization was at its peak right before a volcanic eruption destroyed it. Next, take a beach break at one of the prettiest beaches in Santorini — the Red Beach. Its burnt burgundy cliffs give a striking contrast as they dip sharply into the blue-green sea.
Lunch is waiting for you on the other side of the island in Amoudi Bay. This small, rocky cove sits below the cliff-side town of Oia. Enjoy Greek seafood dishes and appetizers at one of the three fish tavernas situated near the dock. Sit back as the bright blue waters calmly lap around you.
After lunch, drive up to Oia and browse through the town’s art galleries and jewelry stores. Shop for souvenirs and enjoy the view. Continue your afternoon walk in Firostefani, and stop for a coffee break at one of the many cafes built into the steep cliffs. By late afternoon, stroll into the next town over called Fira. Take the scenic three-minute cable car ride down to the old port below. If you have more time, hire a donkey that knows how to trek the nearly 600 steps. Just be sure to return to Fira in time for the sunset—you’ll want to take advantage of the terrace seating at Koukoumavlos, one of the best restaurants on the island.
Fira is the best place for nightlife on the island, so you don’t have to venture far to have a drink somewhere scenic and relaxing. Sit under the stars at Franco’s Bar, where only opera and classical music is played. It will add a special ambiance to your night in Santorini.