This post is about all the small details you will need to know about visiting Santorini. If you are looking for a list of fun things to do, check out my post on 5 Things You Must Do in Santorini.
First of all, Santorini is also called Thira. Keep that in mind when researching travel since many planes and ferries will use the name Thira instead of Santorini. (Don’t confuse this with Fira, which is the name of the capital town of Santorini.)
Getting to Santorini:
Santorini can be reached by either plane or ferry. Flights from Athens are less than one hour and run year round on Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air (they are partners so you will see the same flights on either website). Ryanair also just started a winter route from Athens to Santorini. Seasonal flights are offered through numerous airlines. For a full list, consult the Santorini Airport website.
Ferries to Santorini leave from Athens (the name of the port is Piraeus) or other Greek islands. From Athens, the ferry takes 5 hours on a high speed ferry and 8 hours on a normal ferry. To check timetables and companies, use this site. I suggest booking your ferries through the original company once you decide which one to use.
The links to directly book with the ferry company:
Also, if you are prone to seasickness, you might want to avoid the high speed ferries.
Arriving in Santorini:
By plane – The only public transportation option from the airport to the rest of the island is via bus. The bus schedule is posted outside the airport. If you want something a bit more convenient, then you can take a shuttle, taxi or rental car. Pre-book your shuttle or rental car to avoid a long wait at the airport.
By ferry – There are two ports in Santorini: Athinios and the Old Port. It’s important to know which port you are going to arrive in because your transportation to the island will be different depending on your port. All passenger ferries (the ones arriving from other parts of Greece like Blue Star or SeaJets) arrive at the Athinios Port and all cruise ships arrive at the Old Port (also called the Cruise Port or Skala).
Arriving at a port can be a bit chaotic since there are so many people disembarking and searching for transportation options. There are also many “salesmen” who bombard you with deals on hotels and moped rentals. The port is at the bottom of massive volcanic cliffs and getting to the top can seem daunting. It can be very disorienting, so I suggest making sure you know where you are going and how you will get there before you get tousled in the chaos. (I ended up arriving at a different port than I thought I would and it was very stressful figuring out how to get to my hotel!)
Old Port – You have a choice of taking a cable car, a donkey ride (seriously) or walking. I wouldn’t suggest walking because it is an extremely difficult and high climb. For more info on the cable cars and donkeys, check out the port’s website.
Athinios Port – The only way to the top from Athinios is via car. This means you can take a taxi or a bus. Taxis get snagged pretty quickly so make sure you get there fast if you want a taxi. Busses make their schedules in accordance with ferry arrivals so there will be a bus waiting when you disembark the ferry. All busses go straight to Fira and you will have to change busses there if Fira is not your final destination. In my experience, (I went during high season) the bus filled quickly so make sure you head straight to the bus after leaving the ferry. This is especially true if you want a seat vs. standing. For more information on bus schedules, check out the schedule posted in the Fira bus square. Bus times change depending on the season so this is the most accurate way to get the right times. Make sure you check the schedule to get the correct time for your return trip to the port.
Transportation within Santorini:
Santorini is serviced by a bus system. The schedule is posted in the Fira bus square. Take a picture on your phone so you have all the info with you. Some routes (like Oia to Fira after sunset) are very crowded so expect to have to shove your way through to get a spot on the bus (there are no lines formed, it’s more of a free for all). The schedule is posted online, but note that the schedule changes with the seasons so the schedule you currently see might not be the same when you arrive. The online schedule only shows the final destination so it should be used only as a rough guide. For more information about buses check out the page on santorini.com.
There are many vendors on the street advertising moped rentals. I did not rent one so I cannot give advice on this mode of transportation. I have heard that there are certain companies that will scam you, so do your research ahead of time if you are looking to book a moped. I have to say that it does look like a fun option.
One side note from personal experience:
Santorini is one of the most popular islands in Greece and for good reason. It is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. However, because of this it gets extremely busy in the high season. (High season is June-September.) It is very common for people to get pushy since it is acceptable in Greek culture (and many other European cultures) to push your way through lines and crowds. This was something that shocked me a little when I first arrived. It is important to learn to accept the crowds and probable invasion of personal space. If that doesn’t bother you, then you will be free to completely enjoy all the amazing things the island has to offer!
It’s important to have patience as well. You may miss a bus because there are too many people, but don’t let that get you upset! You may have to wait a while to get into a restaurant. Take in the beautiful views as you wait. 🙂
An EXTREMELY helpful website is Santorini Dave. Make sure to check it out before your trip!
Check out my list of 5 things you must do in Santorini!