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Ferry from Athens to Santorini

I'm going to Greece for the first time with my husband and 26 y.o. son in August. We'll spend 3 days in Athens, then 3 days in Santorini, and the rest of the time in Naxos (taking day trips). I don't like flying, so I was planning to ferry from Athens to and from the islands. Is that reasonable? Is it a nice way to take a "cruise" around the islands, in effect? Which companies do you prefer? shall I wait until I'm in Athens to buy the tickets to Santorini (3 days later)?

I also haven't yet booked a hotel/apt in Santorini or Naxos, so appreciate recommendations. Not necessarily budget but not the highest end either. A beautiful view is important. I'd like my son to have his own bed, not just a sofa bed. We like to walk a lot but plan to rent a car in Naxos to explore the island, in addition to a few beach days.


Posted by
454 posts

My husband and I and our two daughters did almost your exact itinerary in 2012. In Athens, we stayed at the Hotel Hera. It was in a wonderful location and had an amazing rooftop lounge/restaurant where we could enjoy views of the Acropolis lit up at night. We had planned to take the "fast ferry" from Athens to Santorini, but it was not running that day due to high winds. We were able to take the "regular" ferry (Blue Star line). It took 8 hours, nearly twice as long as we'd have gotten there on the fast ferry, but I did enjoy the day of leisurely cruising down there, stopping at a couple of the islands to pick up and drop off passengers. Parts of the ferry were thick with cigarette smoke but we were able to find smoke-free areas. My teenage daughters felt the boat ride was a little too long! When we arrived on Santorini, we were able to get a refund of what we'd paid for the un-used fast ferry tickets, by presenting them at the window of the company at the port. On Santorini, we stayed in a junior suite in the Esperas Traditional Houses in Oia. It was fabulous. The suite had regular beds (not a sofa sleeper) for our daughters, and a bedroom area for us that was separated from theirs by a partial wall. Each room has a private terrace where you can sit and enjoy that famous sunset without jockeying for position along the castle wall. We took the fast ferry to Naxos and stayed at a hotel that must have changed names now, because I can't find it. It was near St. George Beach (we just had to open a gate and walk across a small lot to get to the beach), just a 10 min. walk to the old town area whether walking along the beach or using the back streets to get there. That's a wonderful beach, a crescent of white sand and crystal clear water. We did rent a car and enjoyed some drives around the island. Finally, we ferried back to the mainland, rented a car, and spent our last couple of nights in Nafplion at the Hotel Aetoma, a fabulous B&B with a wonderful family as hosts and with the most amazing breakfast spread I've ever seen! It's a good idea to spend your final night or two, before your flight, on the mainland. If you are on an island and all ferries are canceled due to a strike or high winds, you'll miss your flight. So perhaps do 2 of your Athens nights on the front end of your trip and the final Athens night at the end, or do what we did and add Nafplion. It's so beautiful and interesting, with lots to do. It's also a good idea to book all your hotels and ferry rides by using a Greek travel agent. That way, if you can't get to an island where you have a reservation (again, due to a strike or high winds), the travel agent will cancel the night you are missing and book a hotel room for you in the place where you must stay another night, and you are charged no cancellation penalties. If you've booked hotels on your own and can't get to them, you pay for them. We used Aegean Thesaurus Travel. This required no phone calls. All our contact was by email. They were very easy and wonderful to work with. You will love this trip!

Posted by
1376 posts

I recognize you don't like to fly so the ferry may be appealing. However you will have just flown for at least two flights and about 14 to 18 hours. If you wait 2 more hours you can take the next 45 minute connecting flight to Santorini on a modern jet and be in your hotel relaxing and viewing the caldera. Get over jet lag on an island.

Athens is foreign, it is dusty, hot, confusing and somewhat chaotic. With experience we never stop in Athens at the beginning of a holiday. We always keep Athens to the end. by that time we are in the swing of the Greek tempo and Athens is much easier to experience.

While taking the ferry sounds romantic it is going to eat up virtually a full day of your three in Santorini. I don't think that is a good use of time and resources. If you take a fast ferry it will probably cost almost as much as the flight. Check Aegean airline web site.

You will have to ferry from Santorini to Naxos. Thats about a 2.5 hour trip. That is enough ferry cruise around the islands for me.

August is absolute high season. You should be looking for hotels now. You may find your choices are getting more expensive every day as supply dries up.

I have never seen a sofa bed in our Greek travels. Many hotels have three single beds. If it were me I would be looking for two separate rooms. On Naxos there are lots of very nice very simple studio hotels right on the beach with ocean views and reasonable prices. Check out Sigma Studios, Diogenes Studios, Hotel Spiros, Studios Naxos Thomais studios and Hotel Kymata. All are on St George beach all have direct ocean view. They are all small. They are a a place to sleep and sit on the balcony and have a wine and enjoy the view. In a totally different class and probably already sold out is Boutique Hotel Glaros.

I am suggesting you stay at St George beach. It is part of Naxos town so you get a beach holiday with all the benefits of town being a 10 minute waterfront stroll into the main waterfront Promenade.
Go to booking dot com and punch in your destination and dates. It will give you availability rates and reviews. Search for Agios Georgeos.
Naxos Town
Trip around Naxos
St George Beach Hotels Naxos
St George Beach Naxos

Another option would be Studio Glaros. It is in a residential neighborhood but is only a 3 minute walk to the beach. It has multi bed units. We have stayed there several times but their web site shows it has been totally remodeled since our last stay. All of these hotels are in the album above.

For your beach days where you just want to spend the day on the beach there are better beaches than St George. We head out about 7km to the west coast beaches generally Plaka beach. A car makes this an easy day but public bus is every half hour and very inexpensive.
Plaka beach tavernas hotels

Posted by
3130 posts

Not necessarily budget but not the highest end either.

Rooms go for anywhere between €40 and €2000 a night. Somewhere in the middle is €1000. So you can understand when I encourage you to state your maximum nightly room budget if you want suggestions. Another option is for you to use the filter system at to search for what you want in the location you prefer with the amenities/facilities you require at the price you want to pay.

Posted by
28 posts

Thanks for all this great info. It will definitely help me plan the details. Vickie, I just booked with Esperas since we have friends who also loved it. However, we took just a "Superior House" (expensive enough!), so I don't know the sleeping arrangement for my son or not, but I will ask. Stanbr, thanks for your advice, too. I actually live in Switzerland now, so it is just a 2 1/2 hr flight (and no jet lag) for us, but my son will be coming from the U.S., so I will consider your advice to leave Athens to the end for his sake!

Posted by
7643 posts

I would agree with others, the ferry to Santorini is long (~6-8 hours) and while not unpleasant, the ferries are working ships, not cruise ships. Save the ferry for Santorini/Naxos and maybe Naxos/Athens.

Another reason many save Athens for the end of the trip is that ferries, while dependable, can and do get delayed or cancelled, and having a buffer in Athens at the end assures you will make your flight. In August the weather is less of an issue though, but you will have to negotiate the crowds, I would try to get ferry tickets as soon as you get to Greece, or maybe go to the trouble to buy ahead.

Posted by
4637 posts

Greek ferries are adventure. If you like adventure, go for it. Few years ago we took Rick Steves Turkey tour which ends in Kusadasi. After that we planned to go to Santorini. I was looking for ferry schedule on line - nothing. It was towards the end of October. In Kusadasi ferry station we were told "go now by ferry to Samos and they will know there how to get farther". So indeed on Samos they knew. We had to buy ticket to Mykonos and also from Mykonos to Santorini (Mykonos to Santorini was next day). We did not have book overnight in Mykonos but we were told that is OK, there is always something. We were supposed to arrive in the center of main town in Mykonos at 8 pm. Instead we arrived on Mykonos at some dark harbor about five miles from the town at midnight. I already saw us sleeping like homeless somewhere in bushes but without a tent and sleeping bag. Well we were lucky. There was one lady there offering accommodation and she chose us out of about twenty other travelers because we looked mature and not like party people and she drove us to her rental so we got to bed about 1 am. At 4 pm we were leaving Mykonos and arrived to Santorini late evening. The accommodation office was still open and we got Kafiere (or something like that) apartments in Firostefani for 50 Euro a night (normally over 200). Fantastic views of sea in the caldera. Every morning 4 to 6 cruise ships down there. And then we went by ferry to Pireus (practically suburb of Athens). We did not fly because all flights were sold out. Again we arrived to Pireus late evening. At that time a lot of suspicious characters around, we did not feel safe there but again lucky, we caught last metro train to the city. I am used to ferries in Washington state and B.C. Canada. Those are well organized like swiss clock and usually on time. Greek ferries are nothing like that. Chaos and bigger chaos. Every port where we stopped I went on the deck and watched loading and unloading. Seemingly no rules. Especially semi-truck drivers were absolute acrobats. I did not see better drivers yet. And among all this mess pedestrians. All that was impromptu entertainment. Our ferries here comparing to Greek ferries are boring. And also they have smoking and nonsmoking lounges. Forget about that. They smoke everywhere. And also, don't rely on ferry schedule. If it has any, it's the secret. 4 hour late is nothing. Despite that we liked it because everything was unexpected and Greeks are little bit like Italians - very animated. So prepare yourself that you are not in Switzerland, not even in Washington State or B.C. Canada and you will like it, too.

Posted by
28 posts

Ilya, I'm laughing hard at your description because it is true that we have come to love and rely on the amazing Swiss public transit system! But we also love visiting Italy and everything that entails....So I'm still undecided whether or not take the fast ferry, which takes 5 hours. The flights leave around 7 a.m., which I don't want to do because you have to get to the airport so early, or closer to 10 or 11 am, and then arrive almost the same time as the 7 am ferry....

Posted by
4637 posts

Diana, it's funny, I noticed only now that you live in Switzerland. But that's the reputation on Switzerland here in US. If something works ideally we compare it to Swiss clock.

Posted by
28 posts

And it's completely true about the Swiss! Trains, buses, ferries all run on time and are impeccable.
By the way, we used to live in Seattle, so I also know those ferries! Not quite Swiss but still nice....

Posted by
3334 posts

Diana, the Aegean/Olympic flights leaving from Athens are almost invariably on time outbound to the minute; Aegean has had TOP rating for years among European-only airlines. And Ferries outbound from Piraeus, which is what you were considering also are almost always right on the button ... severe weather would be the only delay for either.

I think the ferry anecdotes related by ILJA. while amusing are atypical for 2017. Re-read ... she was going way off season, and from one of the farthest reaches of the ferry system. At that season, and at "the end of the Line" often the only ferries are the govt. regulated "life-line" type of ferry -- subsidized, and stop at every small island that otherwise would be isolated ... therefore all the trucks rolling on and off. Also, She said "few years ago" -- It must have been at least 10 years ago, because that's about the last time they had Smoking lounges. After abolition of smoking lounges indoors in ferries the laws we were spottily observed at first but have taken hold. Now smoking is only outside, on the larger ferries, which have decks.

As for advice, I echo Stanbr's advice 200% -- Both about booking Rooms NOW, and the availability of multiroom units on Naxos/ It may be far easier (and probablly cheaper!) to get 2 adjoining units, one with a main room & BR, and one just a single -- your son's a Big Boy, he can stay next door. Also on leaving Athens til last ... even after a transatlantic flight your son will muster the strength to transfer to a Santorini flight in one day, If we retirees can manage it, so can he.