Ferries and boats, Santorini Island
UPDATE 2015 - It seems there is no overnight option these days, which is a major pity - I loved that overnight journey. Instead the main car ferry leaves Piraeus at 07.30 daily and arrives Santorini about 8 hours later. There are various other options including the faster ferries and during the peak season a late afternoon conventional ferry.
I'll leave the rest of this tip here though to remind myself of what a cracking journey this was.
Travelling from mainland Greece to Santorini is a matter of personal choice depending on budget and time. From Athens there are regular flights by both Olympic and Agean airways and several of the ferry companies have both high-speed and normal ferry services from Piraeus. My favoured option, which is both time and budget conscious, is to get the overnight ferry, The Express Santorini, leaving Piraeas at 22.00 and arriving at Thira about 07.45 the following morning. You can of course book a cabin but in order to really appreciate the trip, and especially the dawn rising over the islands, a deck passage with a sleeping bag is the way to go.
The second link gives a list of the other options.
We made all connections in Greece by plane, except from Santorini to Mykonos. It was a very boring experience, wasting nine hours of our precious time in the sea, in a very basic boat, only with a short stop at Patmos to brake the tedium.
Yachts around the islands may be one thing! A ferry is another...
Thanks to the Aegean Speedlines it was possible to take a day-trip to the island of Santorini from Heraklion, Crete. The trip took 2 hours and 15 minutes and the ship was modern and comfortable.
Standing on deck watching the small islands between Crete and Santorini was a great experience. We left Heraklion at 8.45 am and arrived in Santorini (port Athinios) at 11am.
We left Santorini at 6pm and arrived back in Heraklion at 20.15pm
Athenios port is used for ferry services to other islands - I didn't realise how many. Ferries can be caught to the port of Heraklion in Crete or the mainland port of Piraeus. It takes 6 ½ to 9 hours from Piraeus Port to Santorini Port, depending on whether you take a ferry boat or a high speed boat. You can sail to the islands of Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Skiathos, Syros, Tinos, Rhodes, Kos or Thessaloniki in northern Greece with the NEW ferry operator GA Ferries. Athenios is accessed by a hairpin bend road on the outskirts of Fira. Buses meet each cruise boat and ferries, returning directly to the Fira station (the bus fare to Fira is 1,50 EURO
As you travel down to the port you may notice a roped off area nearby - this was where the cruise ship Sea Diamond sank April 6th 2007.
I took the 12:55 pm BLUE STAR FERRIES boat from Naxos to Santorini. (The total travel time was around 2 hours). The boat came from Paros and was heading to Ios after Santorini. The economy class ticket was 11.5 euros.
P.S. You can get 30% discount on any of the routes, if you travel as a group.
I took the 3:30 pm BLUE STAR FERRIES boat "Paros" to the Port of Pireaus. (The total travel time was around 8 hours).
The pros were that the ferry stopped shortly in Naxos and Paros, so I could admire the former one more time and have a sneak peek on the latter. When approaching Paros I could one more time see one of the most beautiful sunsets. The boat had a café (flocafe), which had quite a decent coffee, which could keep you awake to admire the beautiful sceneries mentioned above. in addition to the deck café, there was a Goody's cafeteria (fast food chain) to have a bite for those who didn’t stack for a trip. And the price (economy class ticket cost is around 33 euros) was very reasonable.
The cons were that plastic chairs on the deck are not the most comfortable for the 8-hour trip. The trip itself was very long. Though I don’t mind taking a plane for 8-10 hours (there is no really other, eg better way to travel overseas), but to spend the same amount of time on a boat seemed a bit too much.
So my advice would be to fly (if budget permits) or take a fast ferry - Hydrofoil - which reduces the trip to about four hours, or at least upgrade to an aircraft seat (37 euros) or business class (45.50 euros)
I wasn't completely sure about how this all works with ordering the tickets for the ferry since there are lots of options to choose. We flew to Santorini but could not book a flight back out to Athens on the day I wanted. I went to the Blue Star Ferries website and purchased the tickets for the lounge - airline style seats which came to about USA $80 for the two of us. You can pay a lot less but you end up sitting on benches or plastic chairs throughout the boat. For an 8 hour trip, it was well worth having to sit in the comfortable airline style seats. You can pay alot more for the VIP lounge, business class lounge, beds and it goes on and on. The lounges have letter designations A, B, C etc. I didn't know what was what so I just picked B and it worked out. When you purchase the tickets, you need to designate a travel agency in which you would get your tickets. All you get to print out is a confirmation and reservation code. You take this document to your designated travel agency (in my case, in Fira) and they will give you your tickets for the ferry. The website indicates you should arrive at the ferry at least 1 hour ahead of your departure time. I think we arrived within 15 minutes, there was no problem.
If you are arriving by ferry it will be the port of Athinios that it docks. This is about 7 km from the main town of Fira. There are regular buses between the two with a journey time of about 20 minutes (if I remember correctly) and you can buy your ticket on the bus. Bus timetables change according to the ferry schedules and are more often than not simply hand-written.
To get elsewhere on the Island by bus you'll need to go into Fira first (unless of course where you are going is on the port bus route) and get an onwards service from there.
Alternatively, if travelling as a group, it can be just as cheap to use a taxi - just make sure you negotiate the price first!
Website below usually has up-to-date timetables.
For those who island hop the Santorini Ferry Terminal is 12 km from the town of Fira. We arrived by air, however we visited the port when driving around the island. It is a very busy place and not only can you catch the island ferries but you can arrange car rental and accommodation.
There are 2 ports in Santorini:
The one where cruise ships and private sailingboats/yachts moor: at the old port of Fira. From there you will need to take the cable car/stairs/donkeys to the town.
The port of Athinios (just outside of Fira): this is where the ferries coming from other islands moor. The harbour has a small quay with some restaurants and bars, and public buses meet every ferry.
Santorini island can be accessed by plane, ferries and cruise ships.
We took Hellenic Seaway's high speed ferry Flying Cat 4 from Mykonos to Santorini's Athinios/Thira Port. Then it moves onto Iraklion, Crete (which we took it a few days later).
The Flying Cat 4 itinerary (mid-May, 2008):
- Mykonos/departs: 14:45
- Paros/departs: 15:45
- Ios/departs: 16:50
- Thira (Santorini)/departs: 17:45
- Heraklio (=Iraklio, Crete)/Arrives: 19:25
The economy class fare from Mykonos to Santorini was 32 Euros per person, from Santorini to Iraklio/Crete was 32.50 Euros. Business class seems to be 50% more expensive.
When you purchase tickets from official (see website) you do not seem to have a choice to choose a seat assignment. We bought our tickets from the Amphitrion Holidays travel agency at ATH airport, they were able to pick the window seats and side of the boat for us.
The Flying Cat 4 ride was amazingly smooth and fast despite large waves splashing water to the windows (and you would see rainbows out of that if the angle is correct). It has a huge capacity, 26 rows of seats, majority of rows have 15 seats. It has a snack shop onboard.
There is no luggage check-in process. The passengers heading to Santorini were told to leave the luggage at the back deck all piled up together. When arrived port, the boat staff would put luggage onto a conveyer, of course you could opt to carry it off the boat by yourself.
Depart with Flying Cat 4:
Before you depart Athinios/Thira Port, you have to wait in the open air (outside of the departure hall) till your boat is approaching and port staff will check your tickets and let you wait inside of the hall. You will see a long line towards the departure hall, but do not stand in it yet, ask which boat that is for first. E.g., Flying Cat 3 is just leaves about 30 minutes before the Flying Cat 4, you probably would fare better by sitting somewhere else first till later. There are plenty of Cafes and stores, plus another shelter kind area for you to sit down.
Arriving with Flying Cat 4:
getting from Perissa to Kamari by a kaiki boat is a good alternative to a bus. The price is a double of a bus ride (8 euros a round boat trip, Sept. 2007), but definitely more picturesque. Besides, getting to the “ball” (e.g. beach) from the boat makes muck more sense than from a bus.
I feel the best way to see Santorini, for the first time, is by taking one of the ferries. First you can get to see some great views of the islands. It also really gives you a feeling of awe as you approach Santorini and you imagine that you're riding into the heart of the volcano that changed the history of the world. You can't help but to think, I hope it doesn't happen, that it's just a matter of time before it blows again.
Update, the ferries are now becoming fully booked in June and Sept. so don't wait too long before booking. Also be aware that sometimes the ferries are canceled due to hi winds. Book the larger car carrying cats as they tend to cancel less then others. The slow large older ferries, 15 euros, are safe back ups. Book a ticket on one just in case.
Ferries are relaxing and great, but beware of cancellations! We have just returned (Sep 2007) and met oodles of people having their (prepaid) vacations disrupted due to numerous ferry cancellations for high winds / rough seas. As an example, on Sept 22 an 23, all ferries to and from Santorini were cancelled, and about half of them were cancelled on Sept 21 and 24 as well. Although I am not a mariner, the seas didn’t seem that rough to me. We were lucky enough to be on the only ferry to sail one day (from Mykonos to Santorini) and while the trip had a few bounces (and a few people were sick), I’ve been on much worse ferry rides in Canada. Since so many of us have prepaid accommodations, a cancelled ferry will be very costly since you’ll have to pay for 2 rooms. There’s also the hassle of having to find a place, since you’re probably already at the dock before you learn that the ferry has been cancelled.
Yeah we had our little hiccups with the skippers - HA! Personally I had no hiccups with any of them, just hiccups due to the fizzy lager! So just to share my thoughts here - I liked this guy - a very straight person, very direct, very GREEK, very macho - and so if anyone else had hiccups with him - hey it wasn't anything personal - "mistakes are made because words are misunderstood" - well that's my personal observation and maybe I'm just such a simple country boy that some things went over my head. I know Gala had to quell the skipper's mutiny and BOY SHE DID!!
So just to say Yamas Vassili! and thanks for all the restaurants you guys introduced me to, great food and thanks for all the fish,