Port Review: Santorini, Greece

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Santorini, also called Thira, is the southernmost of the Greek Cycladic Islands, and a popular port of call for many cruise ships - for good reason. Although it has become very commercial in recent years, it remains one of Greece’s most dramatically picturesque islands, created by a violent volcano eruption in 1650 BC, and boasting towering cliffs topped with whitewashed villages. The quintessential Santorini experience is exploring the winding streets of Thira while shopping for souvenirs and taking time out to people watch in a local cafe, and heading to the sister-township of Oia for sunset.

The Facts

Location: The southern part of the Greek Islands.

Language: Greek, although English is widely spoken.

Currency: Euro.

Docking/Anchoring: Cruise ships anchor in the bay off the town of Thira, so guests will have to use tender boats to access the pier at Skala below the town.

Transport: From the pier, you have the option of taking the cable car, riding a mule up the steep steps, or walking up on foot. At the top there are taxis, but be sure to negotiate a fare before you head out.

Don’t Miss

Santorini’s volcanic activity has lead to the creation of some unique beaches which you won’t see anywhere else. Red Sand Beach is one of the most beautiful, and well worth a photo, and some time out including a dip if you are exploring independently.

It’s a bumpy but unique way to get from the pier to Thira, but this mule ride is somewhat unique. Another option is to take your time going up on foot, and photographing the various mules, their owners and their riders en route - but it is a very steep climb.

You can take a taxi to the picturesque village of Oia, or consider renting a moped to get there if you’re more adventurous and your ship is docked overnight. Generally quieter than Thira, it’s another lovely whitewashed village with winding streets, leafy squares, and plenty of eating and shopping opportunities. There are also paths you can take from the top, which lead down to a couple of black-sanded beaches. The sunsets here are spectacular.

Best Photo Op

Santorini has a photo op at virtually every turn, but if you are looking for specifics a photograph from the top of the mule trek or cable car of the ocean and probably your ship below is one to put on your list. If your ship is in port late, and you are out of the high summer when the sun sets earlier, be sure to capture the sunset at Oia. And for everyone, if it’s still daylight when your ship departs, a shot back of Thira and the entire island will give you a lasting memory.


Thira is packed with shops of all kinds, selling everything from cheap souvenirs to Byzantine inspired jewellery. None of it is really that unique, but if you are looking for something a bit different, consider buying some Santorini wine which is of excellent quality.

Food and Drink

There’s a cafe or restaurant every few steps in Thira, ranging from basic back street coffee joints to high end establishments with a view and a hefty price tag to match. If you want to sample some local cuisine, popular dishes include moussaka and freshly grilled seafood and fish, accompanied by a Greek salad made from cucumber, feta cheese, onions and locally grown olives. The local wine is also worth trying. 

Pick of the Excursions

There are daily cruises to the volcano from the old port, which allow visitors to access the hot springs, explore and enjoy a swim.  

Located south of Thira, Akrotiri is one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean, dating back to the Neolithic era. 

The Boutari Winery is a famous Greek winemaker, and the place to see how wine is made, learn the history of Santorini wines, taste and buy.




Joanna Hall