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How to Get to Santorini — Ferries v. Flights

Santorini Ferries v. FlightsGetting to your destination is always a big part of the adventure, and traveling to Santorini, Greece is no exception. Basically, you have two options: take a flight or take a ferry. I’ve done both and in this article I’ll do my best to walk you through the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision for making your way to paradise…

First, we need to figure out how you’re getting to Greece (unless you’re already there) so we can chart your best course from the mainland to the islands.

If you’re flying from the US, Europe, Asia, or some other area outside of Greece, chances are pretty good you’ll be going first to Athens. If you have time, I hope you’ll spend at least a few days in Athens to explore some of the most important historical sites in the world and get a close-up view on thousands of years of history in the seedbed of Western Civilization.

Airport and Seaport Codes

Athens Airport = ATH
Athens Seaport = Pireaus
Santorini = JTR (Thira, it’s the main city on the island)

USA to Greece

I recommend checking for the cheapest flights on Kayak.com, CheapTickets.com, and similar travel search engines.

Asia, South America, etc to Greece

I can’t really speak to this route, but I’m assuming the same advice applies here.

Europe to Greece

You may be able to find a direct flight to Santorini Island from a European travel hub like London, Paris, or Amsterdam. When I lived in Berlin, I would take direct flights directly to the island.

Athens to Santorini

From mainland Greece to Santorini Island, you can either take a flight or a ferry. Let’s explore both of these options…

Athens to Santorini by Plane

Flights are nothing new to most of us. Depending on how and when you’re booking this *might* be the cheapest way to go or it *might* be the more expensive option.

The greatest advantage of taking a flight is you spend less time doing the actual traveling. On the other hand, the greatest disadvantage of taking a flight is dealing with the hassles of air travel — getting to the airport, going through security, and waiting for your flight.

Some people just prefer to fly and that’s no problem. But, in my humble opinion, flying to Santorini from Athens is not the best way to go…

Athens to Santorini by Ferry

Ferries leave the port at Athens (Piraeus) every day all day. There are tons of options, including high-speed ferries and normal-speed ferries. A normal ferry route from Pireaus to Santorini will take about 7-8 hours. A high-speed ferry takes only about 4.5 hours.

Don’t let this high-speed stuff scare you, though. The high-speed lines are still very affordable, comfortable, and easy-to-find.

Ferry rates are going to very. As I write this, I’m actually sitting aboard Speedrunner2 which is part of the Aegean Speed Lines fleet. We left the Pireaus Port in Athens at exactly 7:30AM this morning and will be arriving at the Santorini port at 12:00pm noontime.

The seating on the ferry is very comfortable. My girlfriend and I booked 2 seats at an Economy Table Non-Smoking. The table is fine but even after the ferry left port all the passengers freely move to other available seats since the ferries are rarely fully booked.

What I love most about the ferry is the comfort. There’s a Cafe on-board with snacks, coffees, drinks, and other goodies to feed you while you’re in transit. You can also walk around, visit the gift shop, and even go up on deck to take in the view. Smokers really enjoy ferry-travel because you can get that nicotine fix whenever you like out on the deck. Try to do that on an airplane!

Plus, forget about all the stress of air travel. Your taxi driver can take you directly from your hotel to boatside check-in where you simply show your ticket, walk on the boat, drop your baggage, and head upstairs to find your seat. No security lines, no barking travelers, and no stringent rules. Everyone is much more relaxed.

Will You Get Sea Sick on the Ferry to Santorini?

Probably not. Most people are totally fine. If you do have a tendency towards motion sickness, I recommend the following…

1. Sleep well the night before. No crazy partying and drinking!

2. Stay relaxed as you pack and travel to the port.

3. Eat a light but dense meal before you board.
(I recommend something plain like a bagel or a turkey sandwich. Bread is a good way to get something solid in your stomach to stabilize you.)

4. Sit on the deck as the ferry moves out to sea.

5. Find a comfortable seat on board.

Personally, I’m moderately prone to motion sickness — usually in cars or buses on bumpy and windy roads. But I’m 100% fine on boats as long as I follow these general guidelines. You will be too!

Ferries v. Flights — The Final Ruling

As you can tell, I’m definitely in favor of taking a ferry from Athens to Santorini (or any other islands). It might take longer to actually travel there, but I don’t think the time difference is really that much different. If we had taken a flight this morning, we would have had to spend more time packing and more time getting to the airport (the Pireaus seaport in Athens is much easier to get to from the city than the airport). Plus, we would’ve had to get to the airport much earlier just to go through security and arrive early enough per FAA airline regulations.

The view of Santorini Island from the Ferry is also quite magnificent. As you pull into port, you’ll enjoy wonderful views of Oia and the main town Fira as well.

Booking either your flight or your ferry can be done from home or from a Santorini Internet Cafe quickly and easily.

So the next time you make your travel plans, book a ferry from Athens to the islands and enjoy the view of the open seas! (And if you plan to spend time on the deck, don’t forget to bring your sunblock…)

Leave a Comment

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Roger J October 6, 2010, 10:28 am

    Hi Jason
    This is a great new topic for the guide. It sounds like a lovely way to arrive in Santorini.
    You give an approximation of the time from Pireaus to Santorini in the text but do not seem to mention the amount of stops one should expect en-route. Or is it direct !


  • Santorini Greece Guide January 20, 2012, 5:44 pm

    Hi Roger!
    Yes, it’s true… getting from Pireaus to Santorini might include some “customized options” in terms of the exact route.

    If you prefer to take a little detour with the ferry, the beautiful island of Ios does make a nice stopover along the way.