It’s no wonder Santorini is perhaps the most famous of all the Greek Islands. Known for its photogenic whitewashed buildings set upon the remains of a volcanic caldera, the island inspires drama and romance.
Our ship anchored in the middle of the caldera, and we took the tender boats to the port of Ormos, gateway to Santorini. From here, we had 3 options to the top: cable car, donkey, or hiking. I wasn’t inclined to hike, and I hate the smell of horses–plus, I feel bad making a donkey carry me up steep paths when I won’t even carry my own body!
The cable car and donkey both cost 5 EUR (hiking up the path is free) so we went with the cable car. Waiting an hour or so after the first tenders left the ship meant lines were shorter at the cable car, so we paid our 10 EUR roundtrip and were up in the town of Fira in no time.
This is the main town. Its central location on the island means you can get nearly everywhere from here.
The main ways of getting around Santorini, by the way, are buses or scooters. I do not recommend driving a car or even renting a scooter. The roads here are very narrow (the towns are, after all, perched atop a cliff) and it is very easy to get into an accident. Don’t take the risk!
Fira has shopping, food, industries, hotels–whatever you might look for.
This is the jewel of Santorini. Oia is about a 25-minute bus ride from Fira along winding cliffside roads (again, driving not recommended). Buses come every 20 minutes from the central bus stop in Fira, and was only 1.80 EUR per person.
Head for the cliff edge–there is a lovely marble road meandering all the way through town. From the bus stop, heading right to the island’s tip will take you closer to the typical Santorini postcard views. Be warned: it can be very, very crowded and hot. There are many restaurants and bars from which you can relax take in the view. Many people spend most of their time here, and I hear the sunsets are amazing. Too bad we didn’t have the luxury of staying overnight this time around!
Back in Fira, we caught a bus to the “outside” of the island, heading to Kamari Beach. We’d heard Perissa was prettier, but the bus line was quite long and the heat was getting to us–needed to get in the water, ASAP!
Since you’re heading down from the cliff to the beach, the bus to Kamari takes almost as long as Oia, perhaps 15 minutes. The bus will stop at two places in Kamari. Either one is okay. Just head for the water.
Kamari has a pleasant boardwalk with restaurants and hotels. Sun beds with thatch umbrellas dot the volcanic pebble beach. Most of them belong to hotels, but we approached a gentleman working for Kamari Beach Hotel and he let us use a pair of sun beds if we ordered some drinks. Good deal! We ordered a couple of Mythos as well as a pasta abbragiata.
We spent an hour or so at Kamari, then returned to Fira on the bus. From there, we took the cable car back down to Ormos, and caught a tender back to our ship.
Santorini is one of those places that definitely merit staying a few days. I’d like to sit at a restaurant near the cliff edge, sipping a beer and watching the ferries and tenders come and go. I would like to swim at Perissa Beach, explore the Minoan ruins at Akrotiri, and see one of these famous sunsets.
The thing I found most striking, however, was watching the island as our ship pulled away. It’s one thing to know that these are villages on a caldera, and quite another experience entirely to see the whitewashed buildings dotting the top of a steep cliff. The sight is completely unique and quite astonishing.
Have you been to Santorini? What part of it did you love best?