Car Hire in Santorini
Santorini is located in the south of the Cyclades complex and is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. This volcanic beauty of the island is truly breathtaking, making it an ideal destination if you’re looking for a romantic vacation with your significant other. On the island, you get to enjoy healthy and filling food from the Mediterranean diet, refreshing dives in its crystal clear waters, stunning sceneries overlooking the Aegean and the cosmopolitan lifestyle of its hundreds of bars, restaurants and organized beaches.
It is a remarkable destination that combines all those elements of a dream island. But in order to enjoy the complete experience of Santorini, you must have the freedom and comfort that a car offers you. Driving the car you will have the opportunity to explore the popular and not so popular destinations of the island, without having to worry about the itineraries, the hassle and the expenses of the public means of transport. Renting a car either from the airport, from the port of arrival or from the city of Fira, you will get rid of the extra stress that each traveller occupies, regarding his/her movement from place to place. And you wouldn’t want that for your own vacation, would you? You only just want to feel the magnificent and earthly pleasures of this island that can offer you. Santorini rallies all these rare features that make a unique summer experience for every traveller. And now is your turn to discover it.
History and Culture
The history of Santorini, officially Thira, is one of the most fascinating narratives of the eternal struggle of man versus nature. As the elements of nature – which in Santorini are strongly associated with the action of volcanoes – raged and erupted, the people of Santorini found ways to survive, endure and create over the past centuries. Until about 1620 BC, Santorini – then called Kallisti – was just another volcanic island with volatile magma chambers under it.
Then came one of the most violent volcanic eruptions known to mankind, causing the centre of the island to collapse into the now-empty caldera. The accompanying earthquake that came with the eruption, triggered a tsunami which caused the demise and destruction of the historical Minoan civilization of ancient Crete.
Undoubtedly, the history of the island is directly connected to its restless terrain and its massive volcanoes. “Palea Kameni” and “Nea Kameni”, the two calm islands that loom over the archipelago of Santorini, shaped the history of the island along with its people, who learned to survive and create an everlasting culture despite the challenges and adversity throughout the years.
In the 18th century, Santorini experienced great growth due mainly to wine exports. The sweet wine of Vincado reached as far as Russia and the island became an important naval power in the country, with the magnificent mansions that are scattered throughout the island to function as proof to the glamour of that time. The coeval earthquake of 1956, caused significant damage to the infrastructure of the island, once again disrupting the course of Santorini and its inhabitants, as many residents were forced to leave. But after the 1970s, Santorini became famous for its undeniable unique landscape and its rapid development into a world-class tourist attraction that we know today.
It’s one of the greatest spectacles of the Mediterranean, with an estimated 2 million visitors each year that mainly consists of honeymooners, cruise-ship patrons and backpackers among others.
There are thousands of songs that have been written and thousands of words that have been said to describe this very peculiar, romantic, and enchanting island of Santorini. An island full of contrasts, but also with an unparalleled style, it welcomes millions of visitors every summer from all over the world. But if you look closely, there’s much more about Santorini, except the prominent sunset which you might have seen in countless postcards and photos in your feed.
It’s an island for all ages, either for romantic holidays (obviously) or for your holidays with your group of friends, and with a good and attentive search, you can spend your days much cheaper than other Cycladic islands. As much as the adjective “dear” is used to describe its prices during the summer season.
The heart of Santorini beats in Fira. The capital of the island is the place where you will spend almost all your afternoons. Get lost in the endlessness of its alleys, buy the renowned products from local businesses and take the best photos overlooking the vastness of the Aegean.
The sunset in Oia is incomparable. Why do you think that all foreigners are trying to buy a house in the beautiful and high-end area (to say the least) of Oia? It’s the place that has been advertised more than any other on the island and with a good reason, of course. It goes without saying, that the picturesque settlement is filled with thousands of tourists all of them enchanted by its unrivalled sunset, mostly Chinese, who applaud ecstatically every time the sun goes down. In Oia you will get to see the sunset, you’ll take photos and videos, but it is recommended not to buy anything from there. Unless you have a few dozen euros available to spend. Also, shortly after Fira on the road to Oia, you can stop at Imerovigli. The sunset from there is just as impressive as in Oia and less crowded. And you’ll end up enjoying it more.
The beaches in Santorini are distinct. You will not go to Santorini for the turquoise waters and the huge sandy beaches. If you are looking for something like this, you should definitely look elsewhere. Here, your baths will be unique and have something from the magic of a volcano. And it gets better. The colour palette of the beaches in Santorini is black, white and red!
The black sand dominates everywhere on the island. In most of the beaches, you will find the notable black sand, which naturally comes from the volcano. Perissa, Perivolos, Kamari, Monolithos, look more or less like each other. The first two are the most famous on the island, with Perivolos being a hangout for most young people. There you will find many numerous beach bars, sunbeds, music and parties that last from the evening until the early morning hours. On the contrary, in Kamari and Monolitho you’ll encounter several families and small children.
The red beach is simply breathtaking. This is a really impressive setting. A huge red rock like a canopy and orange sand full of sunbeds will make you feel like you’re taking your vacations on the Planet of Mars. It is worth visiting at least once. The red beach is located in the southern part of Santorini, near the village of Akrotiri.
On the white beach, the scene changes. Here things are a little bit different. This beach is more reminiscent of Milos and not Santorini itself, due to the lunar landscape. It is only accessible by sea and is considered (justifiably) one of the most beautiful places on the island.
Walking on the volcano of Santorini. If you want to do something different from the usual stuff, then you can book a tour on the small island of Nea Kameni, opposite of Thira and see up close the crater that once destroyed the culture of the island with its eruption.
Today Santorini has become the absolute gastronomic destination of the country. Unique agricultural products, pioneering restaurants with national and international distinctions, hospitable taverns with local delicacies, visitable wineries with excellent wine tastings, special corners of local products, cooking lessons and gastronomic attractions.
On the island, you will find a variety of very expensive restaurants, to small and economical taverns, as well as of course the all-famous souvlaki restaurants. Therefore, you judge according to your budget. For amazing traditional dishes, an excellent choice is the restaurant “Spilia tou Nikola” in Akrotiri, but also the “Anogi” in Imerovigli. If you want something quick and substantial, the souvlaki from “Lucky” in Fira will take you out of the hassle of searching and is an honest solution.
What is fava?
The cuisine of Santorini is very tasty and is known for its distinctive cuisine and ingredients, courtesy of the peculiar volcanic soil called the “aspa”. Local dishes like the famous fava (yellow split peas, pureed), domatinia (flavourful cherry tomatoes), white aubergines (which taste subtly different from purple ones), the glorious wine vinsanto made from raisins and a huge variety of white wines, guarantee the unique enjoyment of your palate.
Best restaurants in Santorini
Although many of the traditional recipes can be found in the taverns of the island, in several restaurants the local products start to take off in the hands of young chefs who with a creative spirit and philosophy of renewing the local cuisine are offering inspired and incredibly imaginative dishes.
One of the most popular and important restaurants in the history of Santorini is the “Selini” where for more than 30 years it has been dedicated to the development of Santorini’s cuisine and the promotion of gastronomic tourism, with its weapons of extremely imaginative aesthetics, the perfect cooking techniques and unique tastes.
Another restaurant worth mentioning, perched in Oia, built in a privileged position with plenty of views of the caldera and the Fira, is the classic restaurant named “Kokkino Podilato”. Try the salad with marinated feta cheese in Visanto, watermelon heart with fennel, port and honey and ouzo granita and you can thank us later.
As shocking as the spectacle from above can be, sitting by the sea in Ammoudi and feeling like the imposing red rock is hanging over your head, is a tremendous experience. But along with the spectacle of the fishing boats and the serene waters, there is also the tavern of Dimitris where you can enjoy anything fresh that the Mediterranean sea can offer, from sea urchins and sea breams to swordfishes and you can watch them all getting grilled in front of your eyes. And don’t forget the lobster spaghetti, it’s a classic.
There are only two ways that you can get to Santorini, and it’s either by boat from the port of Piraeus or by plane.
Regarding the boat option, several itineraries connect the island with Attica with tickets starting from 39 euros and reaching up to 79 euros per person, depending of course on the ship you choose. The distance between the port of Piraeus and the port of Santorini is 127 nautical miles (approximately 236 km).
The ferry connection between Piraeus and Santorini is daily all year long. During the summer season, there can be up to 6 direct ferry departures per day, while in the winter there are 2 or 3 ferries per day serving this route. The earliest ferry departs from Piraeus around 7 am and the latest departure can be from 20.00 to midnight depending on the season and the ferry itinerary.
The slow boat takes about 8 hours to reach the island, while the fast boat takes about 5. The port of Santorini is called “Athinios” and basically has nothing but coffee and food to offer for those who travel. From there, you’ll definitely be going to ride a bus or rent a car to get to your hotel.
Santorini is also connected to the rest of the country by its airport the “Santorini (Thira) International Airport (JTR)” – one of the few airports that can be spotted in Cyclades islands – located 6 km (4 mi) southeast of Thira. Although it’s a slight and small airport, most of the biggest airlines in the country fly there, including Aegean Airlines, Olympic Air and Ryanair. Ideally, you should aim for spring or autumn for cheap flights to Santorini, but keep in mind that direct flights to Santorini are usually only available during the summer months (May to September) which is the busiest time on the island.
Getting to your destination
There’s a public bus that can get you from the airport to Fira, where there are further public transport options. There’s also a taxi rank outside the airport, that can get you anywhere on the island, and it shouldn’t cost you more than 15 euros, but do try to negotiate the fee with the driver before jumping in. If on the other hand, you are one of those people who love exploration, then the best choice for you is to rent a car. Renting a car will give you the ease of your daily transportation, whenever you want, exploring and probing all the hidden secrets of this magical island.
You’ll notice that most of the roads in Santorini are very narrow. They are narrow because they used to be donkey paths for moving in and out of the villages (there weren’t any Fiats back in the day). Remember that you’re always driving on the right-hand side of the road and pay great attention to some elementary driving rules to avoid any unpleasant circumstances. The speed limit varies from 130 km/h (80 mph) on the motorway, 90/110 km/h (55/70 mph) on normal roads and 50 km/h (30 mph) in built-up areas.
Motorcycles and ATVs are very popular in Santorini for some reason. That means that you got to watch your overtake near them, as they do not have clear visibility as you may do. It is also important to remember that there isn’t enough lighting on the streets of Santorini at night, so always check the lights of your car before you start driving and look out for passing pedestrians.
If you choose to fly to Santorini, you’ll find at your arrival at the airport a wide range of hire car companies. Major car hire brands are located there, such Hertz and Avis, as well as local operators that can offer you a much cheaper deal. You can find the car hire desks at Santorini Airport just outside the terminal building, so you can instantly hire your car and drive the 10-minute drive to Fira or 30-minute drive to Oia.
Car hire companies with desks at Santorini Airport include:
- Hertz/Thrifty (Tel: +30 22 8603 3670)
- Budget/Avis (Tel: +30 22 86033887)
- Sixt (Tel: +30 22 86034102)
- Avance (Tel: +30 22 86033808)
- Santorini Car Hire (Tel: +30 22 86081179)
- Santorini Car Rental Online (Tel: +30 22 86081177)
- Europcar Santorini (Tel: +30 22 86030389)
- Santorini Easyrent (Tel: +30 22 86082880)
If you again chose the option of the ferry to arrive at the port of Santorini and you also want to hire a car for a few days to travel around the island, maybe it’s easier to pick a car from the nearest companies that locate in the port or the nearest town. Also, many hotels have expanded their services to their customers, by offering the option of car hire, so you can also consider that as a choice of transportation.
Most frequent questions about hiring a car in Santorini
What’s the minimum age to rent a car in Santorini?
The minimum age to hire a car in Greece is 21 and for those drivers under the age of 25, there is also a surcharge of 15€.
Are there any extra charges for hiring a car in Santorini?
There are no extra charges in the excess-free packages which all cover the cost of roadside assistance, theft protection and the collision and damage waiver.
Can I have additional drivers on my car rental agreement?
Yes – It is permissible to add extra drivers to the rental agreement, as long as they got possession of a valid driving licence. In some cases, maybe a daily fee is required for the addition of the drivers.
What’s the best car choice for getting around Santorini?
Probably a more rugged and sturdy car will be the best choice, especially for you who like the option of going off the beaten track. And obviously, avoid picking large cars, due to the narrow size of the roads.
What do I do in the event of a car accident?
In case of simple material damages, contact the rental company of yours. But in the unlikely event of a serious injury or an accident, call 112 immediately for emergency services. You can call this number from everywhere in Europe and an operator will redirect the emergency to the local authorities.
Is Santorini expensive?
Santorini is widely considered one of the most expensive islands in Greece, especially in high seasons. Spending a night in a mid-range hotel will cost you about 70€ or 80€. The five-star hotel and luxurious resorts in Thira and Oia are way more costly for an average budget.
Is it worth renting a car in Santorini?
It totally depends on where you’ll be staying. If you’re staying in the central area of Thira you won’t probably need it, but if you’re staying in the remote cities of the island and you’re planning to explore it, then hiring a car becomes a necessity.
What is it like driving in Santorini?
Santorini is small. Driving is fun and traffic is sparse. In only an hour (or less) you can cross the whole area of the island. So it’s very simple to travel the island from one end to the other by car or bus or a taxi.
Is it easy to travel around Santorini?
Driving on the island of Santorini requires your absolute attention. Not only because the roads are narrow and steep, but also because of the behaviour of local drivers. So driving to the island can be fun and easy but also can be pregnant with dangers.
Is car hire expensive in Santorini?
Car hire isn’t costly in Santorini with the price ranging at 30 euros per day. During the peak seasons of the island although, the prices and availability can fluctuate.
What is the best way to see Santorini?
There are many ways to admire the indescribable beauty of the island, but one route that is recommended to all its visitors is to drive your car from Thira as a starting point and driving next to the coast until you reach Oia and Kamari.
What is the best time to visit Santorini?
If you’re looking for a relaxed and budget-friendly vacation, consider the months of late March, April, May, October and November, where the weather is still warm and you get to enjoy the wine touring, the sightseeing and the food-tasting of this greek island.