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April 27, 2023

Santorini guide for cruise ship guests

The ultimate santorini guide for cruise ship guests who only have 1 day on the island

Its dazzling sunsets, lively nightlife, and picturesque white-washed buildings make Santorini one of the most well-known Greek islands. However, it’s crucial to have some prior knowledge in order to fully enjoy your visit. This Santorini guide caters to cruise ship guests who have only a day to spend on the island.

The History Of The Island

Santorini is situated on an active volcanic complex that is believed to have caused a catastrophic eruption in the 16th century BC, leading to the formation of the Santorini archipelago. Even today, the island’s shape resembles that of a volcano, with Palaia Kameni, Kameni and Nea Kameni, formed between 1570 and 1950, located in the middle of the archipelago.

The volcanic landscape of Santorini is also evident in its beaches, which have black sand or pebbles instead of the usual white sand found on other islands, but are still remarkable in their own way. On the island there are only two beaches that do not have black sand. There is the white sand beach that has a very lunar landscape. And there is one beach, the Red Beach that as its name implies has red sand.

If you see the island from above, or even in a map, you will notice Santorini has a half moon shape. Now if you connect Oia, the village on the top side of the island, with Thirassia, Aspronisi and Akrotiri (the bottom side of the half-moon) you will get a round shape. That is why one of the first names of the island was actually Strogili (the circular island). The other name it was known by is Kallisti, meaning the beautiful one. With the volcanic eruptions over the year the middle part of the island sunk creating the Santorini Archipelago.

The Agriculture Of The Island

Santorini’s volcanic history has played a significant role in shaping its agriculture. Thanks to the hilly terrain and nutrient-rich soil, the island has become one of the most agriculturally productive areas in Greece, producing delicious wine, tomatoes, and Fava beans (yellow split beans). Santorini’s dry white and red wines, made from local grape varieties such as Athiri, Aidani, and Assyrtiko, have a unique flavor owing to the island’s climate and are exported worldwide. The grapes can be spotted growing throughout the island in small baskets to protect them from the wind. I’ll recommend some excellent wineries for wine tasting, which is a must-do activity on your Santorini trip, just keep reading.

What To Do In Santorini

The tourist hubs of Fira and Oia tend to be overcrowded, especially with the arrival of cruise ships, due to their narrow but picturesque alleys. As a result, the experience of visiting these places may be overwhelming. However, Santorini has numerous other hidden gems that can be explored in just one day. From archeological ruins to volcanic beaches and charming smaller towns, there is an abundance of activities to do on the island.

The Cruise Ports

Santorini is a popular stop for tourists traveling on cruise ships along the Eastern Mediterranean routes. The island has two major ports where cruise ships typically dock. The Old Fira Port is one of the oldest ports on the island, and it’s located below the capital city of Thira, where visitors can find shops, restaurants, and tourist information centers. The second port, Athinios, is situated at the foot of Mount Profitis Ilias and is the primary port on the island.

Visitors arriving at the Old Fira port can either walk up around 600 steps or take a cable car, while the Athinios port requires a bus ride to reach major attractions. It is advised not to ride on a donkey to go up from the Old Fira Port, as it can be physically exhausting for them. Since both ports are too small for larger cruise ships, visitors arrive via tender boats.

Day Excursions

Excursion through the cruise line can be found but they tend to be in large groups so you may not enjoy it so much. Furthermore there are many small business on the island offering a more bespoke approach and are surprisingly affordable.

If you are comfortable with exploring the island independently, then you may not require a day tour. However, if you prefer some guidance and are not confident operating a rental car then a guided tour may be the right option for you. Just reach out and I will source the cruise or tour that will best suit your needs.

The Villages Of Santorini

The architecture of this island makes all villages extremely beautiful and unique each in their own way.

Even though there are 14 villages worth visiting the two most popular villages of the island that are most photographed and usually crowded with people are:


Santorini guide the village of Oia that most cruise ship guests wish to visit

Pronounced “Ia”, is the most renowned village in Santorini, recognized globally for its peaceful ambiance and breathtaking sunset views. People consider it the most charming and scenic village in Santorini.


Santorini’s capital city, Fira, serves as the primary transportation center for the island. Despite its high tourist activity during the summer season, it provides stunning vistas of the volcano and the renowned caldera.

If however you are looking for alternatives I would recommend these villages:


Megalochori is a charming village located on Santorini, which is a part of the Cyclades archipelago. White-washed houses featuring blue doors and shutters line the narrow cobblestone streets of the village. Ancient churches with white domes can also be found here. Visitors often choose to take their wedding photos in Megalochori, as it has a similar look to the famous Oia but without the crowds.


Pyrgos is another village near Megalochori that boasts rustic charm and beauty. It has fewer visitors than other popular destinations, making it an ideal place for those seeking a traditional Greek experience. The village is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, offering stunning views of the Aegean Sea. Hiking up to Pyrgos castle is a must-do activity for the best photo opportunities.


If you’re looking for a village with white-washed houses situated on the cliffs, Imerovigli is a great option. It is often described as a smaller version of Oia and offers stunning views of the Caldera and Aegean Sea. The name Imerovigli translates to “day watch” as it was once used as a lookout point for pirates. Hiking from Thira to Imerovigli is an easy and scenic route.

Santorini Beaches

Santorini is well-known for its white-washed cliffside architecture and gorgeous sunsets, but it also boasts some unique and stunning beaches. Whether you want seclusion, colorful sand, or clear waters, this island has something to offer. Red Beach is a hidden gem with black and red volcanic sands and towering cliffs. White Beach is a tiny, boat-only pebbled paradise. For an unusual experience, Vlychada Beach has lunar-like rock formations. If you prefer a more relaxed beach with amenities, try Kamari or Perivolos Beach. Snorkeling enthusiasts can explore the volcanic underwater world at Ammoudi Beach.

Sights To See

Akrotiri Archaeological Site

If you have a day to spend in Santorini, make sure to visit the Akrotiri Archeological Sites, an ancient settlement dating back to the Minoan civilization located on the southernmost tip of the island. The eruption of the Santorini volcano during the Bronze Age around 2000 BC buried the ruins under volcanic ash. This is a must-see attraction that offers a unique experience for visitors to Santorini.

Ancient Thira

During the 9th century BC, Dorian Greeks established Ancient Thira on the southern part of Santorini Island. Visitors can explore the ruins of structures like the Temple of Apollo, an agora, and a theater, among others, which are located on a steep hillside. While the hike up to the ruins can be challenging, the view from the hilltop is spectacular, offering a panoramic view of Kamari beach. An alternative to reach Ancient Thira, if you do not wish to hike is to drive most of the way up. It’s approximately an hour’s drive from the port.

Santorini Wineries And Wine Tasting

Experiencing Santorini’s wine culture is an essential part of spending a day on the island. The unique climate and volcanic soil create perfect conditions for producing white wines with a distinctive character and complexity. The main varietals grown on the island are Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, and Mandilaria, all grown in baskets to protect the plants from the wind.

Many wineries offer tastings, and I would recommend visiting at least one.

For wine enthusiasts, a guided wine tour is a great option. Tour operators offer these tours either privately or in small groups. Let me know if you need help in finding the perfect winery.


Believe it or not Santorini actually has three breweries.

Definitely a must visit for beer lovers.

Boat excursions

When visiting Santorini, I highly recommend taking a boat excursion. During the trip, you can savor local delicacies and beverages, swim in the pristine waters, visit the volcano and its hot springs and capture breathtaking photos of the Caldera. The cost of a boat tour depends on the vessel (traditional Greek fishing boat ‘Kaiki’, catamaran or sailing boat), if it is a private or group tour and if it is a full day or half day tour. For cruise ships guest I would most probably recommend a half day tour.

The Santorini Lighthouse

Situated at Cape Akrotiri, it is a famous landmark on the island and offers stunning views of the caldera and the neighboring islands. This popular tourist attraction stands on the cliff’s edge and is one of the most photographed sites in Santorini. They erected the lighthouse in 1895, and you can reach it by driving a rental car; it stands at around 25 meters tall.

Exo Gonia

Exo Gonia is a charming village situated in the center of the island’s caldera. It offers stunning views of the Aegean Sea from its cliff-top location. Despite the Minoan eruption in 1650 BC, this Cycladic village retained its traditional character. Today it’s a must-see destination for anyone spending a day in Santorini.

Walking Tour

Book a guided walking tour of a historic village with a friendly and knowledgeable local guide. The guide will take you to see traditional Santorini cave houses that people built that way due to the island’s unique geology. The volcanic eruption in 1650 BC rendered much of the land infertile and unsuitable for building traditional homes, and the residents needed insulation from the intense summer heat.

Santorini Gatronomy

Despite its small size, Santorini boasts some of the finest restaurants and wineries in the country. Thus, making it a gastronomic destination. If you wish to know what are the new restaurants or taverns were only the locals dine, just contact me so I can provided you with the latest additions in the dining area.

Shopping In Santorini

Shopping guide for cruise ship guests visiting Santorini for the day.

To shop in Santorini, it’s best to head to the lively towns of Fira and Oia. Fira is the capital and offers a wide range of shops, markets, and boutiques that sell both traditional Greek souvenirs and fashionable items. You can also find local artists, jewelers, and tailors in the streets of Fira.

Santorini’s wide range of jewelry stores are well-known. For those of you who are non EU residents and will be shopping jewelry please remember to ask about the VAT refund.

What To Pack

Make sure to pack light but bring necessary items for a comfortable and memorable day during your shore excursion in Santorini. Essential items for sunny days include sunglasses, sunscreen, and a large hat, as well as comfortable sandals and lightweight clothing. Although the wind can make it difficult to feel the sun’s intensity, it’s important to use lots of sunscreen. Avoid loose-fitting hats and bring a cover-up for when it gets chilly. Other recommended items include a camera, GoPro (for snorkeling), snorkeling equipment, this amazing guide, and more sunscreen. Remember to plan accordingly and pack only what you need.

How To Get Around

If you’re spending just one day in Santorini, the most convenient modes of transportation are renting a car or taking a taxi. However, keep in mind that there are few taxis on the island, so you may experience a delay. Alternatively, hiring a private driver could be a good option, especially if you’re short on time and want to visit multiple attractions.

For more adventurous travelers, there are various rental companies that offer motorbikes, scooters, and bicycles for hire.

Santorini In One Day

It seems that spending only one day in Santorini may not be sufficient to discover the whole island and fully appreciate the beauty of its beaches. However, there are many things to do and see during a short cruise stop. These include visiting the iconic white cliff houses and admiring the breathtaking beaches. Don’t forget to try the famous Assyrtiko wine. So, prepare yourself with sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses for an unforgettable day of exploration in Santorini.

Do you need help in planning something truly bespoke for your one day on the island? Just let me know. Otherwise, have a fantastic time on your one day adventure in Santorini!