When you’re already visiting the fantastic island of Crete where there’s so much to see, it may sound impossible to fit another island into your vacation.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth! While you’re enjoying Crete, you can save a day for one of the most famous Greek islands in the world: the gorgeous Santorini (Thera). With its sugar-cube houses and iconic blue-dome churches, the brightly colored shutters and fences, and the breathtaking views from the caldera, visiting Santorini while you can is a must! And it might even be the most affordable way to explore and enjoy the island since it’s known for its pricey profile.
That’s why the most efficient way to do it is through booking an organized day trip to Santorini from Crete, with your itineraries and basic expenses covered! Read on for a walk-through of such a day trip: what to expect, what you will see, and everything you need to know.
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What to Expect on a Day Trip From Crete to Santorini
Getting from Crete to Santorini
On the day of your visit to Santorini, you will be picked up from your hotel in a comfortable bus or van for a picturesque trip to the port of Heraklion. Crete’s routes are gorgeous so make sure you take advantage of the trip to enjoy the scenery.
Once you get to the port, you will board a top-tier modern ferry to Santorini. Despite common concepts, the trip to Santorini only takes two hours! Just enough to relax and enjoy the sea before embarking on an exciting tour of the queen of the Cyclades.
Once you arrive at Santorini’s Athinios port, your guide will be waiting for you to be your support throughout the tour.
There are many things to see and do, so make sure you’re rested and ready for exploration and the creation of new, unforgettable experiences. Keep in mind that you will have a guide who will inform you about everything there is to see, including the imposing volcano and the famous caldera. That said, it’s good to know where you want to be and make the most of your free time in Santorini!
First stop at Oia village
Oia village in Santorini has some of the most photographed spots on the entire island, and that is saying a lot. Chances are that any poster you have seen representing Santorini or the Cycladic islands has a photo that came from Oia. During your day trip, you get 2 hours of free time to do anything you like in this gorgeous village that is considered one of the most beautiful on the island. Here are some of the musts:
Visit Oia Castle: Oia’s castle or the castle of Aghios Nikolaos is where the “sunset spot” is. During sunset, it is impossibly crowded, but any other time you will have free reign to enjoy the gorgeous view and the site itself.
The castle is one of the four built on the island by the Venetians to ward off pirates and other threats in the 15th century.
There are only ruins left now, due to a devastating earthquake in 1956, but you can still see remnants of its grandeur and enjoy the sweeping view of the caldera and the Aegean. Take note of how the houses around the castle are also built in a defensive formation!
Explore Oia: Oia is extremely picturesque, with several winding paths that are waiting for you to discover them. Because it’s built on a slope, you are guaranteed to find new stunning views as you turn corners and wander around.
Visit the churches: There are many churches to see in Oia, with beautiful blue domes and bright white walls. The most famous churches to go see are the churches of Anastasi and Aghios Spyridon. Both were built in the 19th century, almost next to each other. They are highly popular for photographs and have gorgeous views to enjoy from their yards.
Don’t forget to locate Aghia Ekaterini church too, with the iconic intricate belltower featuring four bells for yet another gorgeous photoshoot. Last but not least, visit the main church of Oia, Panagia Platsani dedicated to the Virgin Mary for a beautiful interior as well as a picturesque exterior.
Walk down to Ammoudi Bay or Armeni Bay: Walk down the several steps (250 if you’re going to Ammoudi and 285 if you’re going to Armeni) and descend down the cliff to the seaside. Ammoudi Bay is a gorgeous fishing settlement and port, while Armeni is the same but with fewer tourists! Look out for the iconic cave houses as you walk down, and the dynamic view of the Aegean.
Second Stop at Fira
Fira is the main town of Santorini (or Chora). There, you will have up to 3 hours’ worth of free time to explore and enjoy it to the fullest. Fira is the cultural hub of Santorini so there’s an abundance of worthwhile museums and beautiful architecture to see together with the beautiful views that characterize the entire island.
Your best bet to make the most of your time is to hit the museums first, then explore the churches, and then finally wander around Fira in search of the café or restaurant where you’ll take a rest!
Archaeological Museum: At the center of Fira you will find this small but powerful museum where there are collections of artifacts found from the ancient cemetery of Fira and the sites at Mesa Vouno mountain. There are exhibits from the Archaic to the Hellenistic periods and a solid presentation of the rich history of the island.
Museum of Prehistoric Thera: This remarkable museum features exhibits from the famous archeological site of Akrotiri, showcasing the life of people before the infamous eruption of the island’s volcano that destroyed Crete’s most iconic palace, Knossos.
Folklore Museum of Thera: Housed in a cave house, this museum showcases the everyday lives of the people of Santorini in the previous centuries. There are collections showing home crafts and such as carpentry and barrel-making to domestic items and art people created and appreciated in those times.
Fira’s churches: Just like Oia, Fira has its share of beautiful churches. You should try and visit at least the following few.
Fira’s Cathedral: This is a remarkable sample of the island’s ecclesiastical architecture and a splendid edifice on its own. It’s big, imposing, and completely white on the outside. Go inside to admire the frescoes and iconostasis, and make sure you look at the ceiling!
Aghios Ioannis Vaptistis Cathedral (St. John the Baptist): This magnificent church was built in the 19th century and is small but beautifully decorated. Take a breath from the heat and scorching sun and enjoy its ambiance.
Catholic Church Koimisi Theotokou (Dormition of the Virgin Mary): This 18th-century church’s bell tower is one of the most photographed. Also known as the 3 bells of the caldera, the belltower’s background of the Aegean is simply irresistible.
Visit the Old Port: Go down 600 steps to the old port of Fira, where there are several picturesque cafés and restaurants and a gorgeous view of the sea and cliffs as you’re walking towards it. The way up is going to be a lot easier as there’s a cable car to take you back up!
Explore Fira: Wander around the winding paths and streets of Fira, to enjoy the iconic architecture and the beautiful views, and then end up at the famed Theotokopoulou Square with the great view, the beautiful cafés, the art galleries, and the picturesque benches where you can sit and chat up the locals as you enjoy your refreshments.
Ride the bus back to Athinios port and ferry back to Crete
Once the time is up, you’ll board the cooled and comfortable bus back to the port, where you can rest and enjoy the last beautiful views of Santorini.
Once aboard the ferry, you can really kick back and enjoy the sea breeze as you wind down, so you’re ready for Crete again.
Arrival at Heraklion port and bus ride back to the hotel
Once you’re back at Heraklion, the bus will take you back to your hotel for a refreshing evening and an even more restful night after a wonderful day in one of Greece’s most coveted, famous, and gorgeous islands.