Finding a place to anchor in Santorini isn’t easy but it’s well worth figuring out some way to see this magnificent island. Of all the Greek Islands I’d say that this one is the most picturesque. Get a little glimpse into what you’ll find in Santorini – read on.
I’ve lost track of how many Greek Islands I’ve been to this year – maybe 25 or 30. Earlier this year my husband, Simon, daughter, Sienna, and I sailed around the Ionian Islands, through the Corinth Canal to Athens and then all around the Aegean Sea on our sailboat.
Sailing through Greece over the summer was a dream come true.
In the Aegean, we hit the Sporades, Northeast Aegean, Cyclades, Dodecanese, Crete, and Argo-Saronic Islands. We were also fortunate to visit several places along the Peloponnese and mainland Greece.
That being said, the most beautiful Greek destination I laid eyes on was Santorini.
Unfortunately, however, anchoring or finding a mooring in Santorini is near impossible. If you have a skipper or crew able to take command of your boat, you can take a dinghy to the small fishing port below the town.
There are four large mooring pillars outside the fishing port, as noted in the pilot book, however, they’re for very large vessels. You have to tie yourself to the pillar and then run a very, very long line to the shore ensuring that you don’t spin. More than one vessel can use the mooring pillars and it’s not advised that you leave the vessel once tied on.
Our 56’ sailboat was too small to even consider tying onto the mooring pillar.
On a few occasions, Simon and I discussed sailing to Santorini in the hopes that we’d be able to find a place to anchor. One day we actually set sail for the island but diverted to Crete due to more favorable winds and the guarantee of a place to stay for the night!
Once we were in Crete I thought all hope was lost.
I was never going to visit the famous Greek island of Santorini. I thought, ‘oh well – perhaps next year!’
As fate would have it, a friend of ours, Admiral Stefano (shown below), flew into Crete to join us for a while. We started to discuss our passage back towards Italy and I just happened to mention that I was disappointed to miss Santorini.
And that’s when Stefano said, ‘let’s go to Santorini and then we’ll make our way west towards the Peloponnese and then over to Italy. The winds are perfect for us to go North and then West.’
We’re going to sail to Santorini – The smile on my face was massive.
We set sail from Crete in the afternoon estimating that we’d arrive in Santorini the following day. Fortunately, Stefano and Simon took the night shift, and Sienna and I slept most of the way to our destination.
When I awoke we were on the Southside of Santorini heading to the Northside to find a place to drop us off. Stefano offered to drive the boat around for a few hours while Sim, Sienna, and I explored the town. Stefano made a visit to the island several years ago so he was happy to let us experience the island for ourselves.
We lowered our dinghy, motored over the extremely small fishing port, and climbed up onto land.
A big sign said, ‘Donkeys,’ so we followed the signs. Above us was a massive cliff with a winding path to the top.
When we arrived at the donkey station there were a bunch of old Greek men that looked as if they’ve lived outdoors their entire lives. We motioned to the donkeys and it didn’t take long for all three of us to be sitting on one. Simon took Sienna and I had a donkey all to myself.
I assumed that someone would lead the donkey up the hill but we were left to our own devices!
There wasn’t even a rein. You just sat on the donkey and hoped it went forward. We made it a few steps around the first turn and Simon’s donkey stopped. We both tried to lightly kick the donkey like you do with a horse, but nothing worked.
After a few minutes some other people with donkeys came up behind us and ours started to move again.
A snail could have climbed the Santorini hill faster than we did!
That being said, it was the best 5 euros we’ve ever spent. Trying to get the donkeys to go forward and then ‘racing’ others were hysterical. I had a smile the entire time. And the view…Oh-my-gosh…the view as we climbed the hill was breathtaking.
We could see the gorgeous blue sea, the crater of the volcano, cruise ships, and loads of sailboats. I was in heaven.
Once at the top, I felt the pressure to see everything quickly as we only had a few hours.
I also felt tired, hungry, and thirsty. None of us slept very well – I never sleep well when we sail overnight. And I needed a hit of caffeine.
We stopped at the first restaurant overlooking the sea and ordered a few crepes and coffees. My eyes were smiling just as much as my stomach was. The views were out of this world. I kept thinking, ‘I’m so freaking grateful to have had the opportunity to see such lovely sights.’
We then walked around looking at the shops, exploring the views from different vantage points, and soaking up the atmosphere.
Santorini is such a remarkable place.
Yes, it’s massively touristy.
Yes, it’s expensive – our 3 crepes 2 coffees and juice cost 40 euros. And yes, it’s full of foreigners. HOWEVER, it’s like no other Greek island. It’s like no other place that I’ve ever been to. Santorini truly is a special place.
While enjoying our meal we watched our boat motoring around the central volcanic crater.
My husband and I reflected back to where we were at the same time last year. If someone told us that we’d be in Santorini while a retired Admiral circled around waiting for us in our own 56’ Oyster yacht, we would have said, ‘no freaking way!’
This time last year we hadn’t yet sold our house and possessions nor had we purchased our around-the-world-sailing vessel.
In fact, we had no idea that we’d be signing up for such an adventure.
After walking around and seeing all that we could see, we found a bakery so to get Stefano bread. He’s Italian and feels out of place if there isn’t at least one loaf of bread lying around!
We grabbed some lovely fresh bread and then took the gondola from the top of the cliff to the bottom.
The ride down was just as exciting as the donkey ride up however much quicker.
Our whirlwind viewing of Santorini was for 4 hours only but it was an exceptional four hours.
My family and I are so grateful that Stefano motored the boat around while we took in the sights. And I’m over the moon that I was able to see the most spectacular Greek island ever.
Do I recommend that you visit Santorini – YES!
As a side note, Simon and I sailed to Crete with the intention of taking a ferry to Santorini. We assumed it wouldn’t cost much as the islands aren’t that far away. To our surprise, for a day trip, it cost over 120 euros each person and that included four hours on a ferry. Knowing we could sail there for free caused us to decline the day trip option.
There might be other islands with secure anchorages that have a ferry service to Santorini – perhaps Kos? If you want to see the island, make sure to plan ahead as it is definitely worth sorting something out.
Check Out Some Areas Other Areas – Greece & The Mediterranean
If you’d like a breakdown of all the places we’ve visited while sailing the Mediterranean please read our destination overview: Sailing The Mediterranean. Otherwise, check out more posts about our time spent in Greece.
- The Greek Ionian Islands
- Corinth Canal
- Poros Greece
- Kos Marina
- Exploring Crete
- Methoni, Greece
Kate Evans says
Another great Blog, Kim!! David and I know someone who has a house on Santorini – it’s the most magical place, I agree! Have a safe voyage (I use this word, because when I read in you text “passage back” my mind immediately thought of bottoms!!!) to Italy. I can’t wait to hear about Italy – it’s food, culture, architecture, locals. They will LOVE you and Sienna, with your beautiful hair. You will stand out from the crowd, and not for the first time, beautiful girl. Bg hugs to you all and a special kiss to Simon from me – sorry about that!! Lovings, Kate xxx
Malissa Benade says
Oh Santorini…yes, a must see and favorite! So glad you made it there! When I explain it to people, they don’t quite understand the magnitude of it. We were on a cruise ship visiting. Pulling up and just seeing the cliff with only two ways of reaching the top was eye opening…a donkey or a steep steep gondola!
Can’t wait to read about Italy!
Hi guys, how could we have missed you? We did the Aegean, Corinth Canal and Ionian this summer too on our Moody 425 with our 1 and 3 year old boys… at times screaming out, praying and hoping sooo much for another kid boat to pass our path!!! Where are you wintering? Where are you headed next summer? Love from Malta and hope to catch up soon!
Kim Brown says
Hey Dini…I think it’s crazy that we didn’t cross paths! We found a few kid boats and had some children fly out to visit is over the summer…we were fortunate. In September, however, I went for 3 weeks without finding any children – we were unexpectedly stuck in a marina having repairs done. I went to playgrounds, on walks and to the beach to find some friends for my daughter but my efforts usually failed. It was not fun. That being said, once we got to Marina di Ragusa we found several friends for my daughter. This marina and area is great – Sienna is in an Italian pre-school, she does children’s Zumba 2x/week and goes horseback riding with a girl that lives here. We also have another kid boat at the marina. You’re so close to us!!! Perhaps you should come up here – after xmas we’ll be here until April. After that, we’ll be in Malta (for just a couple days), mainland Greece (more repairs – for 3 weeks or so) and then we’ll start to make our way West as we’ll be crossing the Atlantic next autumn. It would be great to meet up…so I hope to see you soon. Big smiles 🙂
Glad you made it in the end. Considering the Greeks desire for commerce and the fact they are an island I find it bizarre that they don’t invest in or develop suitable anchorages/marinas for visiting yachts as this extends their season. Your blog might have been a lot more interesting and helpful if we knew where on Santorini you were. I suspect from your photos and description it was Oia but can’t be sure.