Santorini, with its mesmerizing sunsets, picturesque villages, and crystal-clear waters, is a dream destination for many travellers. One of the island’s most iconic spots is Oia, renowned for its charming white-washed buildings and stunning views.
While the cable car is a popular choice for reaching Fira, the island’s capital, it can get crowded, especially during peak tourist seasons. But fear not, there’s a delightful alternative; read along for our guide on how to get to Oia from the Fira cruise port by boat.
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Setting Sail for Oia from Fira Port
Depending on how busy the port is when your cruise is on Santorini, you could face anywhere from a 15-minute to 70-minute wait to take the cable car up to the top of the island to get your iconic Santorini photos at Fira, which is the town where all the cruise ships dock.
Well, did you know there are actually two main towns on Santorini that offer those iconic mountainside views? If you are facing a long wait to get onto the cable car or don’t fancy risking the 660 stairs climb up to Fira, there is an alternative option.
On our second visit to Santorini by cruise, we decided to skip the cable car as it was reportedly a 70-minute wait. We discovered that it was possible to take a leisurely boat to the picturesque port of Ammoudi and then a short coach journey to Oia.
How to get to Oia from Fira by Boat
There is an office along the waterfront of Fira port, which has a large banner and signage offering local tours and excursions; at first glance, it may not be evident that it offers a boat to Oia as they seem to promote the Volcano and other tours more.
However, stepping inside, you can see a large wall banner offering the trip to Oia. There are multiple stages to this excursion, but for one fee of €30 per person, your ticket includes the boat to Ammoundi, the coach from Ammoundi to Oia, and then the coach from Oia back to Fira. One thing to note: the ticket for the cable car isn’t included for your return descent down the mountain at the end of your trip. In our case, Virgin Voyages included a complimentary ticket for the cable car, both up and down; the cable car costs €8 each way normally.
You can pay cash or via card for the boat ticket, and departure seems to be every 45 minutes, so it’s the luck of your timing whether you may have a wait or you can head straight onto the boat.
Taking the Boat to Ammoundi
The boat isn’t clearly marked, despite the office stating it would be; however, it is just along the port front, and there aren’t many passenger ships travelling from the port that aren’t part of the ship Tendering process, so look for the one ship that’s not in front of cruise line tent and show your ticket.
The journey is not only swift, taking around 15 minutes, but also provides a refreshing sea breeze and panoramic views of Santorini’s coastline. It’s the perfect way to take in the coastline of Santorini from a perspective you can’t get from the top. As your boat glides through the azure waters and heads towards the small port of Ammoundi, you’ll feel the anticipation of discovering the beauty that awaits in Oia.
Exploring Oia, Dining and Shopping
Upon arriving in Ammoundi, which is a beautiful port and worth exploring in its own right, with cafes and bars to visit, and considerably less busy than the port of Fira.
To head onwards to Oia, there is a short walk uphill of around 300 meters, leading you to the local bus stop. Using the same ticket we got for the boat, there is also an included bus from this carpark to the heart of Oia, which was a short 10-minute drive.
You are then free to explore the enchanting town of Oia at your own pace. Wander through the narrow alleys adorned with vibrant bougainvillaea, visit quaint shops offering local crafts, and indulge in delicious Greek cuisine at the charming tavernas.
One of the top things to do is visit the iconic Oia Castle, offering panoramic views of the Caldera and the Aegean Sea; we instead explore the nearby churches and boutiques. Oia feels a little more upmarket than Fira, but they both offer similar styles of cafe, bars, churches and shopping. The main benefit is getting away from the larger number of cruise passengers who will choose to keep to Fira.
Don’t miss the chance to savour delectable local cuisine at the seaside restaurants; we enjoyed a coffee and the most incredible Baklava at a cafe called Melenio Pastry, which had a rooftop seating area that offered us incredible views looking out to the sea, a picture-perfect dream that everyone craves when heading to Santorini.
Depending on your ship schedule and the time of the year, you may be lucky enough to be in port to capture the breathtaking sunset from one of the cliffside viewpoints, creating memories that will last a lifetime; we decided to head back to Fira as the sun was starting to make it decent, so the sky was only just starting to turn that gorgeous shade of orange.
Return Journey and Transportation Options
Make sure you make a note of the last bus for your cruise line; when you collect your ticket, they will clearly state what times the included bus back to Fira will be to ensure you have enough time to make your way back down to the port of Fira by either cable car or if you are brave enough, risk the stairs of Fira back down the mountainside to the port of Fira.
Buses run every hour on the hour; however, be aware there are also local buses you can take back to Fira. Your ticket doesn’t work on those, and you will be asked to pay for the local buses.
The bus will conveniently take you back to Fira town, so if you wanted, you could use this time to explore Fira, which also offers a wide range of cafes, bars and landmarks.
Reasons to take the boat to Oia
Opting to take the scenic boat journey from Fira Port to Oia not only offers a refreshing alternative to the cable car but also enhances your Santorini experience. With the freedom to explore Oia on foot and the ease of transportation back to Fira included, this option caters to both convenience and adventure seekers.
So, the next time you find the cable car queues bustling, consider setting sail for a memorable voyage, making your Santorini holiday truly magical.