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Often referred to as Thira, the Greek island of Santorini is a one-of-a-kind destination of geological and historic wonders, stunning views and, of course, plenty of sea and sand. Formed by volcanic activity that has been largely dormant for more than three millennia, the island boasts two stunning coastlines that are equally attractive for visitors. The east coast features an excellent array of sun-soaked black-sand beaches and lovely resorts, whilst the west coast is perfect for a day out in a rental car to view stunning cliffside views amid lovely villages that sit atop of what once was the edge of a steaming caldera.
Who to Book With
Those visiting Santorini can find a number of international car hire companies operating on the island including Hertz, Budget and Europcar at the airport, whist Sixt and Avis each have an office in the town of Fira on the west coast of the island. To ensure you’re getting the best possible rate, consider booking online well in advance.
Best Time to go
This stunning Mediterranean getaway can be enjoyable any time of year, although the vast majority of visitors head here during Europe’s busy summer travel season. With a limited number of rental cars on a fairly small island, make sure you’ve booked your vehicle well in advance, especially if you’re headed to Santorini during June, July or August or over bank holiday periods such as Easter.
Need to Know Essentials
To pick up your rental car in Santorini, present the following documentation at the rental counter:
- A valid EU driver’s license or International Driving Permit
- Your valid passport
- A credit card in the primary driver’s name (used to make the booking)
- A printed reservation confirmation if possible
Whilst renting a car on this unique holiday island, visitors should be aware that conditions may be fairly intimidating for foreign motorists. The island’s roads are often narrow and quite windy, especially on the east coast where they traverse the area’s impressive topography. In addition, the majority of people on Santorini, particularly during peak travel periods, are tourists, meaning many are following a different set of rules and may seem to be wandering aimlessly. Moreover, the locals drive quite fast and the presence of mopeds and ATVs (which are allowed on the roads) should always be a concern for visiting drivers.
Finally, parking is difficult in Fira and many other villages on Thira; be on the lookout for ‘no parking zones’, which entail heavy fines and are policed consistently. If you break the rules, the police will remove your license plates and you’ll have to find the police station in order to pay your fine and get them back.
Car rental is generally the best way to get around Santorini; after all, the search for sunsets and unspoilt beaches as well as cruising through timeless villages is one of the main draws here. However, there are a few additional transportation options for getting around and away from the island.
There is no rail network on the island.
Ferry services are available from Santorini to Piraeus several times a day; the trip takes around nine hours. Additional services to several other tourist destinations are available during mid-summer. Routes include Naxos, Mykonos, Ios, Siros, Anafi and Paros. Check schedules by calling the Santorini port at 22860/22-239 or by contacting the Athens GTNO.
Santorini features a fairly well-developed public bus network, which serves numerous destinations including Fira, Monolithos (airport), Vlihada, Oia, Kamari, Vourvoulos and Perivolas Beach. Some trips may require a transfer in Fira and be aware that all routes stop running after midnight.
Taxis are quite efficient for many Santorini travellers, particularly for those headed to a resort. However, they are limited in number and you’ll need to book well in advance to ensure reliable service, especially during the high season. Prices are fixed for the majority of point-to-point trips, but if you’re hiring a driver for a sightseeing excursion, make sure you negotiate a price before setting out. Book your taxi by calling 22860/23-951 or 22860/22-555.
Santorini’s combination of exhilarating scenery, picturesque Cliffside villages and an assortment of superb beaches make exploration via car hire the perfect option. See our brief list of recommended drives below for a few ideas on where to start.
Kamari Beach - This is one of Santorini’s most developed seaside bathing affairs and features an excellent range of resorts and restaurants along its beautiful black-sand shores. Be sure to spend the earlier part of the day here rather than the latter in order to avoid burning your feet.
The Haunting Ruins of Akrotiri - A captivating Bronze Age settlement that was destroyed during the last volcanic eruption in Santorini more than 3,600 years ago. The drive from Fira will guide you along the east coast’s dramatic cliffs and should take about 25 minutes. From the west coast resorts, the drive should take about a half hour.
Koutsoyannopoulos Wines Museum - Located near the village of Vothonas in the centre of the island, and most definitely worth a visit. Here, wines are crafted in a natural cave and visitors can catch a glimpse into more than 400 years of winemaking on Santorini.