Santorini is one of the most southerly of the central Cyclades group of islands that lie between Crete and the Greek mainland.
Santorini, also called Fira or Thira, is one of the most accessible Greek islands. The island has an airport that takes not only charter flights from many European cities but also daily domestic flights from Athens and other Greek islands.
All types of ferries visit Santorini both from mainland Greece and other islands, notably Crete, Rhodes and the Cyclades. The famous caldera is a favourite mooring for Mediterranean cruise ships.
The black volcanic sand beaches are not the best, but the impressive clifftop villages along the caldera, breathtaking sunsets and volcanic nightlife make Santorini one of the most popular Greek holiday islands.
Roads are good, but accommodation on such as busy Greek island can be very difficult to find, especially in the high summer season.
Santorini Airport (JTR) serves both military and civil flights and, with a relatively small apron can only able to handle up to six charter planes at the same time.
Opened in 1976 the airport is located about six kilometres south of Thira, near Kamari village. The airport building is small and can get cramped and hot in the high season.
Regular UK charters fly to Santorini throughout the summer from Birmingham, Gatwick, Manchester and Newcastle – usually on Mondays.
There are also Gatwick flights on Fridays and from Stansted on Thursdays. Flights to Santorini in the winter are rare except for occasional charters at Christmas and New Year.
Domestic flights leave for Athens daily and the flight time is 30 to 40 minutes.
There are also regular domestic flights between Thessaloniki and Santorini with a journey time of about 90 minutes.
Planes fly in over the resort at Kamari The planes bank sharply, and the runway is short, so visitors often report that they feel as though they are landing in the sea.
A regular shuttle bus runs to Fira in the summer months every 90 minutes. Taxis are also usually waiting at the airport, but competition is keen when the planes arrive. Many Santorini hotels offer airport transfers for a fee.
Summer ferry connections to Santorini from the mainland ports of Piraeus and Rafina are very many and frequent.
Visitors say the best way to approach Santorini is by boat but mainland ferry departure times result in most arriving after dark.
Blue Star Ferries operates a route from Piraeus that takes in Paros, Naxos, and Ios and it usually leaves about 7 pm and takes about seven hours. The company also runs a ferry from Piraeus to Santorini three days a week that travels on to Kos and Rhodes
ANEK Lines has two ferry sailings weekly from Piraeus with journey times of seven hours; Ventouris Ferries has three sailings weekly, but the trip takes nearly 10 hours; Hellenic Seaways has superfast crossings of just over four hours with seven sailings a week, and Sea Jets has 16 high-speed sailings weekly calling in at Naxos and Mykonos with about the same journey time. Sea Jets also run fast services to Santorini from Rafina.
Many cruise ships dock near the old port. They tie up to giant floating buoys as the water is so deep their anchors can't reach the sea floor. A cable car or mule ride is the only way up the cliff to the village of Fira.
Ferries regularly leave for many islands including Amorgos, Chalki, Crete, Karpathos, Folegandros, Ios, Kos, Milos, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Rhodes, Serifos, Sifnos, Syros and many smaller islands.
There are daily local excursions to the volcanic islets in the caldera.
Sickle-shaped Santorini is about 18 kilometres long, never more than six kilometres wide and covers an area of 73 sq km. It lies in the southern Cyclades group approximately 120 kilometres north of Crete and 200 kilometres from Athens.
The remnant of a massive eruption in 1613 BC Santorini encloses the flooded 80 sq km caldera of the former volcano. Around the caldera is a sheer precipice, over 300 metres high in places while inland, the tallest peak is Profitis Ilias at 550 metres.
About 13,600 people live on Santorini, but summer visitors easily multiply this ten times while day trippers and cruise ship visitors swell the numbers even further.
Santorini enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate with short, mild winters and long, hot summers. North-east winds blow for much of the summer, and this helps to keep humidity low.
Spring temperatures rise in April and between June and September thermometers often hit the low 30s. Beach temperatures peak even higher as the black volcanic sand soaks up the heat to create a sweltering micro-climate.
The rainy season lasts from November to late March but extended periods of rain are rare and sunny days occur throughout the winter months. Clear skies and temperatures of 15°C with five hours winter sunshine are usual.
Roads are good, but the island is hilly. The mountain roads – especially the one to Ancient Thira – are not for the faint-hearted. Sheer drops and unfenced bends can be dramatic but scary.
There are also no traffic lights at crossroads so visitors should take care at junctions. Also, beware youths on motorbikes – they have little regard for others which is dangerous for drivers and pedestrians alike.
Santorini bus services are very regular, with some routes running to 4 am. Buses can get crowded after mid-morning and many a packed full after 11 am. Nevertheless, services are frequent and punctual.
In summer, buses leave Thira central station every 30 minutes for Oia, Monolithos, Kamari and Perissa and every hour to Akrotiri. Summer season express buses also run to Perissa and Perivolos, but the service fluctuates with demand.
Santorini visitors can download KTEL's latest Santorini bus timetables.
Taxis on Santorini can be in short supply. There were just 38 on the whole island at the last count to cope with 60,000 tourists daily in the summer months. The central taxi station is in Fira next to the bus station. There is also a radio taxi service (tel: 2860 22555)
Santorini is a holiday island that attracts more than a million visitors each year, so there is a wide variety of holiday accommodation. Luxury hotels have commandeered all the best views around the caldera rim, but there are still affordable options for low budget travellers.
Reasonably priced rooms are available if you book well in advance and avoid the choicest spots along the caldera cliff. There are two youth hostels and two campsites for those on a tight budget
High season is not the time to turn up without a reservation, but room owners often greet the ferries. Prices can drop as dramatically once you head inland. Oia on the northern end of the caldera rim is far less frantic than Fira and has good accommodation.
Backpackers usually head for the Fira Youth Hostel in a former Catholic monastery or another old convent, now hostel at Oia. Santorini Camping is on the outskirts of Fira, gets mixed reviews but has cheap bungalows for rent. Another campsite can be found at the Perissa Camping beach resort.
Neighbouring Kamari is packed with hotels and apartments aimed mainly at the package holiday market.
|Size||132 sq km|
|Season||Apr – Nov|
|Time (GMT)||+2 hrs|
|Coast Guard||Dial 191|
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