One of the most touristy, visited and crowded islands in Greece, Santorini still has a lot to offer if you ditch the crowd and find a place that you can claim for your own.
Part of the Cyclades, Santorini forms a “ring shape” that offers visitors fantastic views of the typical villages with white houses perched on the edge of the cliffs that ring the island’s rim.
The center of the ring is called Caldera, Santorini’s main natural attraction. Many visitors make their way to Nea Cameni Island, located in the Caldera a few minutes away by boat. Once there, you can climb to the top of the island or swim in a hot spring.
This article is provided free to the travel agent community by:
Many people believe that when the central part of the volcano sunk it took the legendary city of Atlantis with it.
When Your Ship Arrives In Santorini
The captain and the local pilot will decide where to drop anchor, as in some places the sea is not shallow enough for the anchor the reach the bottom. Now comes the tricky part: Many ships will actually drop anchor twice. That’s because Santorini has two ports: Athinios and Fira.
Skunas (local boats that are used as tenders) will first take guests to Athinios for organized tours. The tours will finish in Fira, where guests can stay in town or take the cable car back to the port of Fira, where they’ll take the skuna back to the ship. Athinios itself is of little interest for tourists, and taxis are almost impossible to get there, unless you have made previous arrangements.
If you are not on a tour, you will have to wait until the ship moves to another location, near to Fira, drops anchor again, and than take the skuna to the little port of Fira. From there, you can take the cable car up the hill to Fira, which is the biggest town on Santorini. You can also walk from the port to the town or ride a donkey, which can be an adventure.
It may take as long as two hours from the time the guests on tour have disembarked the ship until the time you reach Fira— depending on the conditions. So if you want to take advantage of your time in Santorini, I recommend you to take a tour. It is a much easier way to start your day. Sounds a little bit complicated but by the time you are there, it will make sense.
Getting Around Santorini
The easiest way to explore Santorini is by “quad bike” or “scooter”, I prefer the quad bikes because they are easier to drive. There are many rental places, where you can hire one for the day or if you prefer you can rent a car but traffic sometimes can be a little busy and parking also. Buses and taxis are available but limited.
Fira, Oia & More
Fira or Thira is the main town, and it’s also the busiest and most commercial. You can easily explore Fira’s narrow streets on foot, or if you are not in a mood to face the uneven cobbled stones alleys and dodge the other visitors, you can find a nice terrace and enjoy lunch with one of the best views in the world. It’s worth skipping lunch on the ship. You’ll find excellent restaurants in Fira or anywhere in Santorini.
The Museum of Prehistoric Thera and the Archeological Museum are both located in Fira. The town also boasts many other museums and art galleries, but what you will find most are shops and restaurants. From souvenirs to beautiful jewelry, you could spend a small fortune here.
Fira serves as an excellent gateway of things to come, but don’t spend too much time here, because Santorini has a lot more to offer.
Make your way to Oia (pronunced Ia). Located approximately 8 miles northwest of Fira, Oia has a powerful and seductive appeal, and arguably, the most beautiful views of the island.
After browsing for souvenirs during my visit, I stopped in a little café with a view and asked for a delicious Frappucino while planning what to do next. I hardly wanted to move the view was so attractive.
Traveling southeast, you will pass Fira and continue for about 5 miles until you reach the village of Pyrgos. The village has amazing views and recently has reached its moment with big tourism development. On the main road of the island, you will have the opportunity to stop along and take wonderful photos.
You may want to stop at one of the “tavernas” for lunch, if you haven’t done that before now, and try the local wines with a plate of olives, feta cheese and local appetizers.
There are a few other villages, which are great for a photo stop but not as appealing as the three main villages I’ve mentioned. You can check out Fitostefani and Imerovigli, both very near Fira, or Akrotiri where the eponymous Archeological Site is located but unfortunately closed. You still can see some impressive wall paintings in Akrotiri.
Beaches In Santorini
You’ll find beaches in Santorini in the south of the island.
The Red Beach, Perissa, Perivolos and Kamari are the most popular beaches on Santorini. The Red Beach is only reachable by foot from a parking lot nearby. All beaches have chairs and umbrellas for rent, and all have dark volcanic sand (black or gray), which can be very hot in the summer.
Perivolos is the longest and most popular beach, with many restaurants and hotels.
You can also practice water sports, snorkeling and swimming, since the water temperature is always inviting.
The village of Oia and island drives are the best things to do while in Santorini. Fortunately, you can visit Oia in the morning on the ship’s tour and visit the island in the afternoon.
Keep in mind if there is more than one ship in Santorini, you might have to stand in line for the cable car to return to the port to take your tender back to the ship. The cable car ride itself takes only five minutes, but the lines can be quite long. Allow yourself some extra time.
If you’d rather walk, follow the path connecting Fira to the port downhill. It takes approximately 30 minutes, and you will have to share the narrow path with the donkeys. You can ride a donkey back too. After visiting Santorini several times, I decided to ride a donkey. It was an unforgettable experience, but I am not certain I would do it again.
If you are on tour, the guides will give you a cable car ticket that you can also use for the donkey ride, but the donkey owners will expect a tip.
Enjoy Santorini. No doubt, you’ll want to return here one day.
Travel agents can find more cruise articles, pictures and videos on Ralph’s site, www.avidcruiser.com.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com