Officially the Greek island of Thera But Popularly Referred To As Santorini
Cruise ships visiting Santorini will usually anchor out and tender in to the Old Port area. The anchorage is actually the caldera of an ancient volcano and the steep cliffs ringing the lagoon are what remains of the island after the massive explosion.
About 3,500 years ago in the Eastern Mediterranean a great Minoan civilization flourished. It was centered in Crete with towns and cities established on a number of nearby islands. From a number of archeological excavations we know that they built multi-story houses that were decorated with incredible frescoes and had advanced plumbing systems some with hot and cold running water. One of the richest cities was Akrotiri (not its ancient name because there is no known written record) located in the middle of trade routes connecting Crete, Cyprus, Greece and Egypt. On a day around 1625 BC it all came to an end as one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the last 5,000 years destroyed most of the island under Akrotiri. Shortly after that tsunamis from the eruption swept across Crete and dozens of other Minoan islands. Over a short period of time much of the Minoan civilization simply vanished.
Welcome to Santorini, Greece! Santorini was named in the thirteenth century after Saint Irene. The old name Thera was revived a century ago as the official name of the island but Santorini is still used.
Where You’re Ship Stops – There are only cruise ship piers on Santorini for smaller ships. Docking space is at a premium and most facilities are used by ferries and cargo ships. Most Cruise ships anchor out and use tenders to take passengers to the Old Port. Since the island is noted for its shear 900 foot cliffs that rise out of the sea, the first challenge you’ll face is getting from the limited sea level space up on top of the island.
Transportation – From the Old Port you will find four options to get up to the top of the island and the town of Fira. A mule ride (€8/$8.70), or a serious hike up 580 steps and on the same path used the mules (don’t wear shoes you don’t want ruined). There’s a modern cable car which costs €6 each way and takes 3 to 6 minutes unless there’s a long line which usually happens early in the day or within an hour or two of cruise ships departing. The island has a good bus service and reasonably priced taxis.
While Santorini has good bus service and a bus route does go to the Old Port area, it would probably be more efficient to take the cable car up to the town. If you want to see more of the island catch a bus in Fira or take a taxi. The island towns are very walkable with their unique white-washed stucco buildings and bright colored doors and trim being the picturesque hallmark of Santorini.
Bus Service – The island bus service is KTEL with the average fare being under €2. You find the fare schedule HERE and a system map HERE . Taxis – Taxis are available but catching one at the Old Port early in the day can at times be difficult. An average trip between towns will cost around €10 to €15. You can also have a taxi take you on a tour around the island but be sure and firm up a price before starting out.
Money – Like most of Europe the accepted currency on Santorini is the Euro. Credit cards are widely accepted but for incidental expenses you should carry some Euros.
Things To Do – First, the island and it’s towns are the primary attraction. Your ship will be anchoring in a huge circular caldera with its shear inner walls forming the coast of several islands. Clinging to the upper sides of these cliffs are a number of iconic towns inviting you to stroll their streets.
Minoan Akrotiri – A major archeological excavation site open to the public will probably exceed the size of the archeological excavations at Pompeii. It is also a treasure trove of some of the worlds oldest frescos, most preserved by the eruption showing remarkable detail and vibrant colors.
Wineries – Santorini is also home to a number of small, good wineries. The wine at the Santo Wines is only exceeded by the fabulous views from their patio. There are a number of wine tours available.
Donkey Rides – One option to get from Old Port up to the town of Fira (the islands Capital) is to ride the donkeys. These sturdy animals climb a winding trail that switches back and forth as you ascend about seven to nine hundred feet to the top. While not for everyone it is very similar to going down into the Grand Canyon by donkey.