Walk, ride donkey or tram it to Santorini’s cliff tops-- article by Archaeologous
Arriving in Santorini brings many thoughts to a visitor arriving by cruise ship. On our Archaeologous tours, we constantly hear, “oh what a magical place”, “how to do you get ‘up’ there?” "Wonder which is the fastest way to get up there"? “Wow, I’m in Atlantis”, “I’m not waiting 2 hours for a tram, I’ll walk”, and on and on.
If you arrive to Santorini by plane, then, of course you don’t have these conversations. You’ll rent your own car, or, you'll be met by your guide/vehicle/driver and are off to see the wonders of this one-of-a-kind island. However, if you “are” arriving by Mediterranean cruise ship, then you will have 3 and maybe a 4th way to arrive to the top of the 800‘ high cliff town, Fira, (which is the capital of Santorini and where tours begin).
The ‘normal’ three choices are after you are tendered into shore from the cruise ship to the port you could walk the way the island inhabitants did in 1715 when a rough path of the sheer mountain was carved. Or, you could be put atop a hardworking diligent donkey/mule, or catch a cable car/tram that was installed in 1979. I’ve done all of the above, and they all have their pluses.
1.) WALKING: Great exercise with amazing views of the Caldera, and of course, breathing the fresh air so the whole walk is a healthy experience. Note: Walking up takes longer but is a bit easier on the knees than walking down.
2.) DONKEY RIDE: After all, Santorini’s logo is the donkey and it’s the #1 souvenir to take home, so it is extremely popular. Depending on the day’s activity of cruise ships docked in Santorini, there can be from 50 to 300 donkey/mules working. The one way ride will cost 5 Euros and will take approx.25 minutes up and/or 15 minutes down. (It’s more comfortable going up, as going down puts pressure on your knees. You’ll be covering 657 four inch tall steps on the 1300 meters of the one paved switchback walkway. A few words of caution. If you are walking just know that you will have donkey/mules coming and going in both directions. Hold on, be ready and look ahead for people walking “in the opposite“ direction, watch for any cranky looking donkeys as some have been reported as biters. (only a few incidents).
3.) CABLE CAR: 5 Euros each way. The cable car/tram is about a 10 minute ride with panoramic views of the Santorini caldera. You can take many photos from the clear windowed tramcar. The wait to get on the tram can be anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour (depending on the season).
DIFFERENT PORT: The (4th) way—There is another port 12 km from Fira called Athinios which serves all the major ferry companies coming from Athens and Crete. There is less waiting when you use this port but there is a charge from the cruise ship to buy a ticket. You could then take a bus (3 Euros) into town, taxi or we'll meet you there to start your Santorini private island tour. Happy vacationing.