There are mainly two ways of traveling from Athens to Santorini: Ferries and planes. If you choose to go by ferry you also have the option of opting for a tour. It can be a good option if you want to do more on a short budget and also save some time.
We will be covering all the options in detail below. So let’s jump in.
Tours from Athens to Santorini
There’s a popular 2-day tour from Athens to Santorini which is cheap and convenient. The tour price includes many expenses like your stay in a 3-star hotel in Santorini for a night, as well as pickup and drop-off in both the towns.
You only get about 24 hours to explore Santorini though, but for most people that do not have a lot of time this wouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact, 24 hours can be more than enough to visit most popular towns and tourist attractions including Oia, Fira, Imerovigli, the Akrotiri site, as well as a couple other attractions depending on your choice.
The hotel transfers, ticket price of the Blue Star ferry for both going and returning from Santorini, and the hotel cost for a night in one of the beach towns of Santorini are included in the tour price.
This 2-day tour can be a good way to save on both money and time if you’re short on both as well as avoid the hassles associated with traveling on your own. However, if you have more time and are willing to spend a bit more money to get more out of your visit, you should consider going on your own.
It’s very easy to book ferries or planes and hotels, so you wouldn’t have much to worry about on that front either.
Flying from Athens to Santorini
There are plenty of flights from Athens to Santorini, especially if you’re visiting in the summer months. They only take about 45 minutes, although the Athens International Airport they fly from is located about 45 minutes from the central part of the town so you will need to take that into account as well.
The Santorini International Airport however, is just about 25 minutes from Oia and 10 minutes from Fira so you won’t have any trouble easily visiting these towns or starting the best hike in Greece from Fira to Oia.
As far as the flight prices are concerned, they can vary greatly depending on the season and range from about $40 to $175.
The Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air (owned by the same company) are the most popular airlines as they run 9 flights daily in the peak seasons, sometimes with some deep discounts. You can get a ticket for very cheap if you’re lucky to book when these airlines introduce discounted pricing.
However, if you don’t find any discounted fares with these airlines from Athens to Santorini, you can visit Kayak.com which will show you the best fares from multiple airlines.
Ryanair is another airline that runs 1 to 2 flights a day depending on the season. Sky Express is another option though it’s hard to tell what their flight schedule exactly is. You can use their search function to find what’s available at the time you will be visiting.
You can change the language using the option at the top right of your screen from Greek to English.
Coming to the flight timings, the first flight is scheduled to fly at 5:15am from Athens, with the last being at 11:15pm. You have a lot of flexibility with respect to the timing though, as there’s a flight every 2 hours the entire time between the first and the last flight.
The return flights are just as frequent, with there being a flight back to Athens from Santorini after around 40 minutes for every flight from Athens to Santorini.
Ryanair only has flights in the tourist seasons and also only up to two flights a day, but it offers the cheapest fares of all.
You also have the option of flying directly from Santorini to many other European cities like London, Paris, Dublin, Rome, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and more. You would find all these flights at Kayak.com.
This is only for the summer months though. In winter you wouldn’t find any of these direct flights to Santorini, and even the ones from Athens to Santorini are not more than 3 per day.
Ferries from Athens to Santorini
Just like planes, you will find plenty of options to travel to Santorini on a ferry if you’re visiting in the summer months. There are more than 6 ferries per day in those months.
The cost even in the peak seasons is fairly cheap at €40 to €80. However, they take anywhere between 5 to 10 hours, depending on the ferry you choose.
The Blue Star ferry is the cheapest but also one of the slowest. The SeaJet WorldChampion Jet is the fastest.
However, the Blue Star is also the most comfortable, while the Seajet and other faster ferries can be very bumpy. If you suffer from seasickness, you would want to go with the Blue Star.
You can find the schedule for all the ferries on FerryHopper.com.
The ferries drop you at the Athinios ferry port in Santorini, which is very conveniently located being just 15 minutes to Fira.
Finally, it’s usually always possible to book a ticket in a ferry of your choice even on the day of travel as they do not tend to sell out, but you can never tell for sure in the summer months. So if you must travel on a particular ferry, then you would have to book a ticket in advance.
As far as the timings are concerned, there are many options in the summer months from the ones departing early in the morning at 7am or later, to the slowest ones that sail through the night. Even in the winter months there’s at least one per day.
Something to keep in mind here is that you will have to carry your luggage on the ferry yourself. While it’s not a problem in most ferries, some of them do require you to carry your bags up several flights of narrow stairs.
Our Recommendation on the Best Ferry From Athens to Santorini?
If you want glimpses of the gorgeous islands that you will find on your way to Santorini, the best option is certainly the Blue Star ferry. It’s also the best option for those who suffer from seasickness as it’s the most comfortable and the least bumpy.
It leaves from the Piraeus ferry port at 7:25am and reaches the Athinios ferry port in Santorini in about 8 hours.
You’re allowed to get on the deck to enjoy the views out there and the cool sea air. The views at the start and end of the journey are pretty exciting, but the rest of the journey is a little boring.
If you don’t mind spending a few extra Euros though, it’s highly recommended to go for the “aircraft type seats” when reserving your seats.
The permanent stops are Paros and Naxos, although sometimes the ferry also takes a stop at Ios.
The period from March 22 to September 9, 2019 has Blue Star ferries running in the evening too, but only 3 nights a week. They depart from Athens at 6:00pm on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday, and reach Santorini around 12:30am.
The highspeed ferries do have their advantage in the form of their speed and taking you to Santorini in just around 5 hours instead of 8 hours, but with a little bad luck the journey can quickly go from bad to worse.
You already do not have the option of walking around on the deck and are also not allowed to go outside except for the stops.
The windows, too, are covered in a way that don’t allow much in terms of the views. It’s also not very uncommon for them to get canceled due to rough movements in the seas.
And as mentioned above, the fastest ferries are the bumpiest of all so with the sea weather turning a little bad they can give you a really hard time.
Sure, you can use them for quick hops between different islands, but they are certainly far from a good option for longer journeys like the one from Athens to Santorini.
Blue Star ferries usually don’t sell out so you don’t need to pre-book them, but the highspeed ones do (especially in the peak tourist months of July and August) so you would need to pre-book them if you choose to travel in them for whatever reason. Again, the best option for booking your tickets in any of the ferries is Ferry Hopper.
However, do not forget to get your ticket printed at the ferry kiosk even if you have booked it online. You can also get it printed from any Greek travel agency according to the Greek laws.
You can also buy tickets by just walking into a travel agent if you’re already in Greece. The prices for the ferries are set by the government so don’t bother comparing the prices at different travel agents.
Flights vs Ferries: A Quick Comparison
While the conventional car ferries like the Blue Star ferry are the cheapest, the cost of a highspeed ferry and booking a flight well in advance will be pretty close so it makes sense to do the latter if you don’t want to travel in ferries.
Of course, taking a flight is also the fastest way to reach Santorini from Athens. However, if you’re in central Athens the journey to the Athens’ airport and going through the security checks would be pretty time consuming. In such a case, taking one of the highspeed ferries may mean reaching Santorini only about a couple hours later than you would in a flight.
Similarly, if you’re landing in Athens in a flight and aren’t interested in exploring the city, then you can simply book a flight from Athens to Santorini so that you can get on the flight to Santorini without having to leave the Athens’ airport.
When Should You Book Ferry Tickets in Advance?
Now, as we said above, you don’t really need to book ferry tickets in advance, but on some occasions doing so may turn out to be a good idea. Let us quickly discuss them below.
July and August
These are the favorite months of tourists to visit Greece and Santorini so even the Blue Star ferry may sell out, although it’s rare. But booking a couple days in advance surely wouldn’t hurt.
The highspeed ones have a much more limited number of seats so you would certainly want to book them well in advance during these months.
Week of August 15th
This week is one of the biggest holidays in Greece and Greeks living in different parts of the world return to their country. This often leads to fully packed ferries, so you may want to book a few days in advance. This is just to be on the safe side though, as it’s still rare to not be able to get a ticket in a ferry of your choice or a similar other ferry even in this week.
Taking a Car
If you have a car you will be taking to Santorini it’s recommended you book your seat on a ferry in advance as there aren’t many automobile spots and they do sell out fast.
The same goes for sleeping cabins too as they sell out faster than the usual seats so consider booking in advance if you prefer a sleeping cabin over the normal seats.
Which Class to Choose on a Ferry?
There are many different classes in ferries that travel from Athens to Santorini, and they all offer a different experience. So let us quickly walk you through all the different classes.
For Blue Star and Other Large Ferries From Athens to Santorini
Economy or deck class
This class gives you access to both inside and outside seating, and also all the cafes and restaurants. You also have the option of upgrading to a reservable seat, which is basically the type of seat you find in a flight.
The risk with not upgrading is that your seat may be taken by someone else if you leave it, and you can’t claim it back as it’s not “reserved.” So upgrading to a reserved seat is certainly a wise thing to do especially if you’re visiting in July or August.
Here you have a lounge-like environment with comfortable sofas and seats, a more luxury experience, and of course less crowd and noise.
The added comfort comes at the cost of the views you get in the economy class though.
Cabins have beds and a different type of arrangement where there are 2 or 4 beds in a cabin. The cabins on the inside part of the ferries have no windows but the outside ones on the exterior do.
Traveling on a SeaJet Ferry From Athens to Santorini
The economy class seats in the SeaJet and similar other ferries are hot and crowded. The seats in business class are much less crowded and noisy.
As there’s no advantage of the outside views and being able to walk around on the deck anyway, the business class would be turn out to be a better choice in these ferries.
Athens Airport to the Athens’ Ferry Port
The departing point for all ferries is the Piraeus ferry port. It’s located about 20 minutes from central Athens.
If you don’t plan to spend time in Athens and instead go to the ferry port from the Athens airport directly, the X96 bus would be a cheap and convenient option costing just 6€ and running 24 hours a day. It can take about an hour or an hour and a half depending on the traffic though.
You need to buy the bus ticket from the kiosks located on the right of where the buses depart from, and validate the ticket once you board the bus using the bright red machine installed in the bus.
You also have the option of taking a cab which would be about 20 minutes faster than the X96 bus, but it sets you back about 50€ or more so it would be too expensive for most people traveling by ferry.
Downtown Athens to Athens’ Ferry Port
Going to the ferry port from central Athens would be much faster. You can take a metro from either the Monastiraki or Omonia station and it will drop you in Piraeus in less than 30 minutes. A metro ticket also only costs €1.40.
The first metro in the morning departs at 5:30am, and the last one at around midnight. Most ferries depart from the Piraeus ferry port at around 7:30am, so taking a metro at around 5:30am or 6am would be early enough.
Metro tickets need to be validated too. You would find the validating machines right after you enter the station.
Taxis are another option but they cost up to €30.
Other Important Things to Know About Greek Ferries
- You can’t buy the ferry tickets after boarding them, so make sure you buy before you board the ferry
- If you want to buy the tickets a few days in advance while you explore Athens, you can buy the tickets from the Aktina Travel Agency which is located on the arrival floors of the Athens airport
- You can’t purchase return tickets when traveling in a ferry
- Rafina is the second ferry port and has much fewer ferries than Piraeus, but can be an alternate option for some who are at the airport and want to travel a shorter distance to board their ferry (it would usually take just about half the time as when traveling from the Athens airport to Piraeus)
- Thira is the Greek name of Santorini and they do use it often so it’s good to remember it when you’re there
- Ferry cancelations for a day or two are common during August as it’s the windiest month, but the Blue Star ferry is the least likely to be canceled among all the ferries
- All ferries have restaurants, cafes, and lounges
Arriving in Santorini
It’s usually always busy when you arrive in Santorini regardless of the time and the ferry you’re traveling in. The ferries don’t wait too long at the port – usually just a few minutes – so make sure you’re not too slow and line up quickly in the queue to get down from the ferry.
There’s usually a bus waiting at the port to take you into Fira. There are many taxis too but they are hard to catch especially if you’re arriving in a large ferry.
The bus waiting for the tourists arriving at the port rarely fills up though, so you do not have to get desperate to catch a taxi.
Hotels in Athens
Depending on where you want to stay in Athens, there are plenty of hotels in Athens to choose from. However, there’s a lot more to do in central Athens than in Piraeus so unless you’re real short on time you may want to stay at a hotel in central Athens.
There’s a cheap and convenient transportation option in the metro even from central Athens so getting to the ferry port shouldn’t be a problem.
The A for Athens Hotel and Plaka Hotel are both considered top choices when staying in central Athens. They are only a few minutes to the Monastiraki metro station from where you can take a metro to Piraeus.
The Plaka Hotel is quieter though while the A for Athens Hotel is located in a busier location.
For tourists staying in Piraeus, the Triton Hotel Piraeus and the Piraeus Theoxenia Hotel are the most popular options. The former is a budget hotel while the latter is often praised as the best hotel to stay in Piraeus.
You can walk to the Piraeus ferry port in just a few minutes from either of these hotels.
Flying from Athens to Santorini is the fastest way to reach Santorini as it only takes about 45 minutes. Traveling by ferry takes a lot longer – between 5 to 10 hours – but you can enjoy some breathtaking views of the caldera as you approach Santorini.