Greece is composed of thousands of islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas. This region is often called the cradle of Western civilization. Athens, its capital, retains landmarks including the 5th-century B.C. Acropolis citadel with the Parthenon temple. Greece is known for its beaches, the black sands of Santorini to the windmills of Mykonos. Santorini is famous for the town Oia on the hill with its white village with blue rooftops, bougainvillea in brilliant magenta flowering all around, Fira, and the volcanic caldera on the island. Santorini is my favorite island and holds so much adventure from black beaches to picturesque towns on the Cliffside’s of the island to explore. Greece will always be one of my favorite places in the world. I fell in love with the beach desert isle in the hot Mediterranean sun on the bright blue aegean sea. Walking the white villages with little shops, restaurants and book stores was magical. Santorini is the crown gem of the islands of Greece. This guide includes airport and transportation information and options as well as taking the ferry versus an airplane. In my guides on the two main cities Oia and Fira I give some ideas of great places to stay. These are the two main cities on the island most people choose to stay in that have more hotels, development and are tourist friendly.
How to get there
There are two main ways to get to Santorini Island in Greece. You can fly from Athens with a connecting flight or you can take the ferry from Athens. The amount of time you have on your trip, your budget and your values depend on the best route for your trip.
How to fly into Santorini
There is only one airport one Santorini Island, and there are very few direct flights most will be routed through a layover in Athens to get routed out to the islands. The flight from Athens to Santorini is a 45 minute flight and normally costs between $60USD to $280USD. Flying is definitely the most quick and convenient option for your trip. This is the more expensive choices of the two ways to get to Santorini. Tickets to fly are twice as expensive as the ferry and scarce because of the popularity of this route. Book in advance! Flying into Santorini was really difficult. The planes are tiny and always overcrowded and there is no overhead space. My backpacking bag was barely let on and I almost missed my flight. Definitely take this all into consideration. Be very early to your flight because I was two hours early and still almost missed my flight back to Athens. There are always very long lines and you need your ticket information printed in advance or they will give you a lot of trouble. I was not let through because my ticket was on my phone and I had to move to a different line and wait 40 minutes longer to get a physical printed ticket. Flying between these cities is the second worst airport and flying experience I have had in 40 countries. The islands are totally worth it, however be aware that Greece airports are tiny, overcrowded and an intense experience especially the one on Santorini.
How to take the Ferry to Santorini
The ferry trip between the mainland of Greece to Santorini Island is normally between 4.5 and 7.5 hours (depending on the ferry type). Ticket prices start from 40€ for standard ferries and 48€ for the high-speed ones. For early bookings the tickets could be as cheap as 30€. .The ferry allows you on your trip to experience and see more of the Aegean Sea and more of the Greek Islands from the sundeck. This is the more scenic route and experience if you are not on a quick timeline. Ferry is the budget option to save the most money. Rafina ferry port is the way to go if you want to go straight from the Athens airport to your ferry to get to Santorini. Choose Pireaus ferry port is you are staying in Athens before going to Santorini since it is conveniently downtown. Only high-speed boats run on the Rafina – Santorini route. There are to be exact, three operators (SeaJets, Golden Star Ferries, and Blue Star Ferries) that give you the option of 4 to 6 hours. Ferries leave early in the morning between 07:00 and 07.30, however, there is one SeaJets boat that leaves Rafina at 3:00pm in the afternoon. All three companies have the same standard ticket price of 48€.
When to go to Santorini, Greece
The best time to visit Greece is spring and early summer (mid-Apr to mid-June) or autumn (Sept to mid-Oct). The summer high season is packed, as well as sky rocketing prices, lots of tourists and the hottest temperatures (heat waves of 100°F/+40C are routine). All the flights, ferries and towns will be packed as well as hotels. August is technically the worst month to visit with heat, tourists and summer peak season. Mykonos and Santorini are the most popular islands and so if you are visiting one of those all the more this is true. There are wildflowers in the spring and the sea is cool. In the autumn, there is still sun and warm waters. One issue with traveling in off-season is that there are fewer boats and flights to the islands, where some shops, hotels, and restaurants do not open until June and then close in October. I actually visited in August and fell in love with Greece and Santorini so if that is the only time you have by all means go! It was definitely packed and hotels were full, prices were high and there were crowds of people all around but I had my reservations in advance.
Transportation in Santorini
There are three main ways to travel in Greece, renting ATVs, renting a car, and taking the public bus (very unreliable and difficult as well as not running on a trustworthy schedule think island time). Most people rent ATVs on a budget or cars if money is not an issue for your trip. There is limited parking in Greece and parking ATVs will always be easier than parking cars. There is a taxi service running from the airport to your hotel and you can arrange a taxi from your hotel to bring you to the airport. Taxis are not a manageable choice price wise of seeing the island day to day nor really accessible most places besides the airport.
Taking the Taxi from Santorini Airport to Oia & Fira
The taxis are the most convenient and budget way to get from the airport into the city center. If you are going to oia the cost will be around 30 euros per person and 20 euros per person for Thera (Fira). The taxis are outside the airport at the taxi stand and you don’t wait long before you get a taxi. The taxis are not in most areas and not a practical or budget way to see the island. Beyond getting to and from the airport they are not the best mode of transport.
Taking the Public Bus in Santorini
- The bus costs 1.5 euro per person
- There are no buses going across the island, from one side of the island to the other. Every bus goes to the main bus station at Fira (the capital of Thira). Bus transfers for the next stop must be made from the main station only. The trip from the airport to Fira is about 25 minutes. Travelers going to Oia or Kamari, Imerovigli, Firostefani, Pyrgos, Akrotiri, Perissa, Perivolos etc. need to change busses in Fira main bus station. Depending on the village & bus schedules, it probably will take 2-3 hours to reach their hotel by public bus.
- Frequency is not good. The bus service does not run on a regular basis. It may only run every few hours (i.e. 7:30am, 11am, etc), especially in winter and not peak season.
- The route is fixed. Road traffic especially in high season causes slow and unpredictable timing. There are no bathrooms in the busses or bathroom stops.
- KTEL, the local bus company, loads buses packed beyond seating capacity.
Things to do in Santorini
Explore Oia, beautiful white village
Oia is the most picturesque white village on Santorini Island found on the northern tip about a 25 minute drive outside Thera in the central part of the island. If you rent ATVS the drive will be a bit longer. This is a highly trafficked area for people to see the sunset so the traffic coming into the town or out around sunset time is crazy and be prepared for longer waits. The sunsets are just as gorgeous on the caldera in Thera and way less people and crowds however Oia really is the crown gem of beauty on the island. This is a town you must visit to walk through and take pictures of the white village like all the pictures you have seen of Greece. This is the picturesque village experience. There are lots of beautiful shops, book stores, clothing and jewelry stores and restaurants to try. Thera or Fira has more bars and restaurants facing the ocean and has a larger night life. Oia has more shopping and beautiful village for pictures.
Atlantis Books Oia
This is the most magical spot for any reader with a cave bookstore filled with goodies as well as a rooftop reading nook with ocean views 365 degree view and chairs and book shelves in teh open air where you can sit and read for hours. I read for around 2 hours here one afternoon on a pause exploring Oia. Also there is open charging plug ins on the roof so if you need to charge your phone this is a secret spot.
Watch the Sunset on the Caldera
The sunsets over the caldera in Fira are gorgeous! I watched the sunset from my own hotel every night because there was such a gorgeous view and it is often the same price to get drinks or appetizers at your own hotel without the crowds of people at the sunset bars and restaurants.
Rent an ATV & Explore local Beaches
Some of the most budget and convenient travel on the island is through renting ATV’s. There are many companies and your hotel will help connect you with them. They will have the shop owners bring an ATV to you in order for you to get around. You will need to leave your license with them (not your passport). The ATVs are a fun open air way to see and explore the island. They are fairly easy to operate and are the next best option to renting a car on the island. The cost averages around 80 euros for 2 days or 40 euros a day to rent the quads and supply your own gas.
Go to the beach
There are many interesting and unique beaches on Santorini including black sand beaches, red sand and more. Getting to the beach by ATV makes for a great half day trip to experience different parts of the island.
Donkeys & Rides in the village
There are lots of donkeys in Thira on the village streets with locals. The streets are steep and very hilly. It can be hard to get to your hotel on the caldera side and especially if you are packing suitcases and other bags. These locals and donkeys are there to help you get to your hotel for a price if you so desire. The donkeys are so cute and are dressed up in colorful traditional linen and beading. As you walk around you will see them around.
Fira is a beautiful town in the central part of the island tucked on the caldera with volcano views. This is a more quiet less packed tourist town than Oia in the north. Fira or Thera is a gorgeous area that is another white village that is picturesque. It is known for having the large orthodox white church as well as having the cable car for views of the island. This town has more of a nightlife than Oia with tons of bars and restaurants with amazing sea and cliffside views. There are lots of clubs and music going until late at night. Your cave hotel will block alot of the noise and will shock you.
Eat Lucky’s souvlaki in Fira
Greek food is one of my favorites! The food was delicious and Souvlaki was one of my absolute favorites which is really just local gyro. Except it is different with fries inside and the sauce and fresh veggies is to die for. I ate this everyday when I was in Greece because it is the most budget meal you can get especially for lunch it is a great option. You can find spots all over the island that sell this and some are better than others.
Read my full Fira guide here.
Swim in a cave pool
There are many hotels that have cave pools on Santorini. This is a cultural pool reality in Greece that is a really cool experience. They are gorgeous architecture and many have crazy views to outside the ocean or the white village. They help you swim and cool off and not be in the direct sun as much since it is blazing in Greece. Many hotels have this feature.
Pyrgos the Santorini of old is an older small historic town only 10 minutes south of Thera on the central part of the island. This is near Santo Winery and is great to explore together. There are lots of little shops and shopping as well as white village exploration with way less people than Oia or Thera.
Akotiri Lighthouse & ruins of a prehistoric village
This beautiful lighthouse with crazy views of the island and the caldera sits on the southernmost tip of the island. The lighthouse is about a 25 minute drive from Thera the central part of the island. There are some nature hiking trails and a small cave with views overlooking the lighthouse. In the spring there are lots of flowers blooming and the trails are gorgeous.
Ancient Thera, mountain top city ruins
The ruins of ancient Thera outside the modern city by 25 minutes. The ruins are up in the flowered hills with the most gorgeous views. This is a historical landmark accessed by hiking trails. This ancient mountaintop city has ruins & dramatic ocean views. This is some of the best views of the island that you can get as an overlook point.
Hike (1): Kamari to Zoodochos Pigi and back to Kamari 2.29 klm (1.42 miles)
Duration: Min 40m – Max 1 1/2hrs
Hike (2): Kamari to Zoodochos Pigi and then Ancient Thira 2.98 klm (1.85 miles)
Duration: Min 1h – Max 2hrs
Hike (3): Kamari to Ancient Thira 2.25klm (1.40)
Duration: Min 40m – Max 1 1/2hrs
This is a pretty challenging walk due to the multiple routes, the uphill and rocky road. Definitely wear real shoes and note sandals. Also it is in full sun exposure and very hot trail wear a hat and hike as early as you can. Free trail maps here.
Sanot Wines Winery on the Caldera
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Everything looks better during the sunset 🌅 Especially when you have a glass of wine by the hand 🥂 . . #Repost @chen_amanda #santowines#santo#visitsantorini#santorinigreece🇬🇷#santorini #travel #travelphotography#greekislands #santorinigreece #sunset #view #santoriniisland #nofilter #landscape #travelling #memories #beauty #enjoy#wine #winetasting #food #restaurant #winelover #winetime #winery
This winery is the most famous one in Pyrgos on the caldera with cliffside views that are gorgeous. This is a very popular spot for sunset drinks. There are several wineries on the island. Art Space Winery is another beautiful spot with underground tunnels that are picturesque. Santorini wine museum is another visited spot for wine lovers on the island. The white wine is better and recommended here than the reds and the place boasts a gorgeous view so it is a pricier place because of the real estate.
Quality wines of a flight of 6 tasters for 36E.
Boat Tour of the Caldera/Volcano
There are many kinds of boat tours available in Santorini and make for a great day trip if you are staying for several days on the island. There are sunset cruises of the caldera, all day boat tours, some including wine tasting and Oia exploration. A boat tour of 5 hours a day of sailing with stopping at two different beaches for swimming and snorkeling and a meal included is 132 euros per person. There is a full list of jet ski tours to the volcano, private and pubic small group boat tours as well as whole island tours listed here.
Greek Cooking Class
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An adventure of flavirs!! #Santorini #CookingClass and Tasting tour, treats you the best experience of both worlds! We will first taste some famous #Santorini wines and then master a few well- known local dishes under the supervision of a brilliant local chef! www.santoriniwinetour.com #santorini #santoriniwinetour #santorinicookingclass #santorinigaatronomy #santoriniwines #santoriniwinetasting #winetasting #winetastingsantorini #santoriniwinetasting #cookingclass #culinaryclass #santorinirecipes #santoriniassyrtico
There are many choices to do a Greek cooking class with local fresh produce and learn how to make several appetizers and a couple main course dishes. The classes generally range from $90-$190 per person. The most budget classes available are lunch cooking and tasting classes starting at $90 you can find here. If you are a foodie or love cooking and learning more about the hearth and home of the culture this is the perfect thing to do. Many of the classes include attending wineries on the island and or wine tastings that you can choose.
Lioyerma Public Swimming Pool
This is a free public pool in Oia! So this is a great spot with no entrance fee if your hotel does not have a pool for you to dip in. Just buy a drink and some food and you are allowed to hang out all day if you wish. This is a fun open bar and restaurant pool lounge open 10am-10pm daily. This is a great spot to spend a hot day for the heat of the day or on a day trip to Oia.
Hike Fira to Oia
This is a gorgeous hike with crazy views of the Caldera and the aegean sea and its completely free! The hike takes between 2-5 hours depending on your speed. Start in Fira and go north through Firostefani and then Imerovigli (this part of the path feels more like a village sidewalk). From Imerovigli to Oia it’s mostly rural with only a few shops or restaurants. The route isn’t marked super clear the whole way, but it’s mostly intuitive: stay on the path that follows the edge of the caldera and walk north (when in doubt stay to the left/west). Walking into Oia from the hills above is a beautiful finish. If it’s July or August start before 8am because of the heat.