Doing a cruise in Greece is a very popular way to see the Greek Islands, especially for first-timers. It will give you a glimpse into a number of islands, usually Athens, as well as a few other stops sometimes too. Santorini is the most popular destination on cruise ship itineraries, and this article should be hugely helpful in working out how to make the most of this limited time. One day in Santorini is really not enough to do it justice but with a bit of prior planning it can still be a great day!
Where is Santorini and what is it known for?
Santorini, officially called Thira, is part of the Cyclades archipelago, situated southeast of mainland Greece.
The most famous of the 228 inhabited Greek Islands Santorini is instantly recognized for its distinct white-washed buildings, blue church domes and dramatic cliffs so the island is a postcard-perfect destination.
Its rich history, volcanic landscapes, and vibrant nightlife add to its allure, making it a must-visit for travelers seeking a blend of culture, history, and natural beauty.
Further reading: Things to do on Santorini
Where do the cruise ships dock in Santorini?
Visiting Santorini typically involves anchoring offshore due to the island’s volcanic nature, which doesn’t allow for large vessels to dock directly at a port. Here’s a general overview of how cruise ships visit Santorini and how passengers disembark:
Cruise ships usually anchor in the Caldera, a large submerged volcanic crater that forms a natural harbor. The depth of the water around Santorini’s coastline makes it challenging for large ships to dock directly at a port.
Tendering Process in Santorini
- To disembark, passengers often use smaller boats called tenders. These tenders transport passengers from the anchored cruise ship to the Athinios Port/Old Port or sometimes directly to the Old Port of Fira, depending on the cruise line and the conditions that day.
Athinios Port/Old Port
Upon disembarking, cruise ship passengers have several transportation options to explore Santorini:
- Cable Car: For a scenic journey, take the cable car from the port to Fira, the island’s vibrant capital. The ride offers breathtaking views of the caldera and the surrounding islands.
- Donkey Ride: Adventurous travelers can opt for a traditional donkey ride up the zigzagging path from the port to Fira. It’s a unique experience that provides a sense of the island’s traditional charm.
- Water Taxis: Alternatively, water taxis connect the port with Fira and Oia. These boats offer a leisurely cruise along the coast, allowing passengers to enjoy the sea breeze and panoramic views.
How to get around Santorini
Santorini is not a big island, but its geography and popularity makes it challenging to get around.
The public bus system is an inexpensive way to get around the island, with ticket prices ranging from 1 to 7 euros, depending on the route length.
Although cheap, public buses can get crowded in the summer, so allow yourself plenty of time at bus stops.
There are also taxis but they are expensive and can be hard to find. They do not use a meter nor have fixed pricing so it is important to agree on a fee with the driver, before getting into the car. Taxis can only accommodate 4 passengers in a standard car by law.
Taxis: +30 22860 22555
You can hire a car to go around the island. Driving is not too difficult as long as you avoid the Caldera road between Fira and Oia. Pricing depends on the type of vehicle and the month you are booking, with summer being the most expensive. You should book in advance, especially if you want an automatic transmission.
One Day in Santorini Activities
It is likely your cruise will offer a number of tours that you can do. This can be easy and convenient as you simply follow the instructions of the Guide or Activities Director and join the rest of the tour.
The downside to these tours is they are usually more expensive than doing them independently and they usually result in large crowds of people all descending on the same attractions at the same time. It also means you will be bound to the times dictated by the tour which may be at a slower pace than you would like, or perhaps too rushed.
The three most popular tours offered by cruise ships and mainland operators alike are:
A half-day tour of Santorini
Our trusted driver Nikos can meet you at the cable car station and take you whereever you like.
He can do half or full-day tours that are totally customised to your needs and interests. Wineries, beaches, archaeologicay and history, places for kids or perfect photos. He’s born and bred on Santorini and knows every crevass!
Use the Promo Code for a 10% discount!
A Sailing trip on the Caldera,including the hot springs
If you would prefer to do an organised tour then a 5-hour sailing trip on the Caldera with lunch and drinks is great fun. There are only 20 people maximum on the boat and there are stops at Red Beach, and the hot springs in the caldera for swimming and snorkelling.
Its always breathtaking on the caldera and the views of Santorini are unbeatable from the water.
A visit to Akrotiri Archaeological Site and Red Beach
Akrotiri is one of the oldest and most important archaeological sites in Greece. It is the remains of the Minoan civilization that lived on the island around 6000 years ago and fled to Crete before a major volcanic eruption.
Visitors are fascinated by the advanced architecture and engineering as well as the artifacts found on the site. Akrotiri is over 4000 years older than Pompeii!
A Flying Dress Shoot
This is a very popular experience with many ladies. A photographer will meet at the top of the cable car and take you to the best locations for some unique photos. They provide the dress, which comes in many colours and sizes from S to 3XL.
One day in Santorini Itinerary – General
If you would like to explore the island at your own pace, this is what we suggest to maximize your one day on Santorini.
8 am – If you can get a tender and onto the cable car quickly, do it. Otherwise have a leisurely breakfast and board a tender as late as possible.
9-12 am – Start your day by exploring Fira. Wander through the narrow cobblestone streets lined with shops, cafes, and galleries. Visit the Archaeological Museum of Thera to delve into the island’s ancient history. Enjoy a traditional Greek brunch at a local taverna with a view of the caldera.
2 pm – Get a taxi to Ammoudi Bay for lunch at Dimitiris Ammoundi Taverna.
Tip: Many people taxi one way to Amoundi Bay from Oia and walk the other.
4 pm – Explore Oia. There is a huge range of shops, cafes and restaurants to visit here.
7 pm – Experience the famous Oia sunset. Most visitors will jostle for a spot at Oia Castle for the perfect sunset shot. This can be extremely crowded and in our opinion is completely over-rated. Do yourself a favour and book a table at a restuarant like Ombra or Oia Gefsis in Oia or Athenian House in Imerovigli and enjoy the sunset over a great meal.
9pm – return to Ship
Tip: In summer there can be long queues at the cable car. Plan accordingly.
One Day Itinerary in Santorini for families
8 am – If you can get tendered an onto the cable car quickly, do it. Otherwise have a leisurely breakfast and board a tender as late as possible.
9-11 am – Start the day by exploring Oia. Explore the charming village & white-washed buildings and alley ways, visit the Maritime Museum, and indulge in a leisurely lunch at a seaside restaurant. Stroll through the iconic blue-domed churches and boutique shops.
11am – Catch the bus or taxi to Akrotiri Archaeological Site.
12noon – Stop at the Lost Atlantis 9D Experience
2 pm – Head to the beaches on the east coast – Kamari or Perissa. Here you can rent a few sunbeds and have a great lunch while the kids enjoy a swim and explore the unusual volcanic beach.
5 pm – Explore Fira. Wander through the narrow cobblestone streets lined with shops, cafes, and galleries. Visit the Archaeological Museum of Thera to delve into the island’s ancient history. Visit the many shops and cafes, including great Gyros and Gelato places!
7 pm – Have dinner at child-friendly places such as Lucky’s Souvlaki, Mama’s Restaurant, Cacio e Pepe and Avocado.
9pm – return to ship or board ferry
Further reading : Santorini with Kids
Shopping in Oia