Planning a Santorini boat tour, but not sure what to expect? You’ve come to the right place!
In this article I have outlined everything you need to know about doing a boat tour in Santorini, including insights from my personal experience, reviews for the best tours, what they include, what to pack for the day, what you’ll see during the tour and more.
The “caldera” of Santorini is one of the most unique landscapes in the world, and discovering it by boat is the best way to do so.
Sailing past the iconic coastline of Santorini, with its iconic white houses perched at the top of tall black cliffs, is a jaw-dropping experience to say the least. Add to it a catamaran sunset cruise and hot springs swim, and you have a winner!
There are loads of different Santorini boat tours that you can join, from cheaper tours on bigger boats to luxury catamaran cruises. In this article I outline the pros and cons of each.
So what are you waiting for, let’s dive in and find the best boat trip in Santorini for you!
- 1 About the “caldera” and Nea Kameni volcano boat tours
- 2 Our Santorini boat tour
- 3 Other Santorini boat tours
- 4 What to pack for your Santorini boat tour
- 5 Where to stay for your Santorini boat trip
About the “caldera” and Nea Kameni volcano boat tours
Easily one of the best ways to see Santorini is to head out to the high seas on a boat tour.
Not only does this offer up some of the most iconic views of the island – you get to see the real scale of those giant cliffs – but many boat tours in Santorini also offer you the chance to get to destinations and experiences that you may not be able to reach otherwise.
These are the hot springs on Palea Kameni, the famous Nea Kameni volcano, and seeing the sunset from the water instead of from a busy street in Oia.
Basically, there are definitely a few good reasons as to why opting for a Santorini boat tour is totally worth it.
Not only that, but you get to spend the whole day being taken around to all of these amazing places without worrying how you’re going to get there.
All you have to do is make sure you turn up to the boat on time, and then you can leave things safely in the hands of those who are running the tour.
You might not even have to worry about what you’re going to eat or drink, as many tours include this as part of the package, from open bars to barbecue dinners.
Our Santorini boat tour
The tour I went for, the Volcanic Islands Cruise with Hot Springs Visit, was pretty comprehensive, it included a lot of stuff and was pretty affordable, too.
The tour starts from Athinios port. Here you hop aboard a large boat – it almost looks like a pirate ship, with wooden decks and big sails. Kind of cool, but some people might find it a bit tacky.
The tour is usually quite busy, and there are quite a lot of people. I would recommend arriving as early as possible in order to secure a good spot on the boat before you head off.
First, you’ll begin to make your way out across the Aegean Sea surrounding the island.
You’ll get to stop off at traditional Greek villages, embark on a Santorini hot springs tour, swim in the sea and soak up a sunset (if you want), too.
The first step on your journey with this tour will be Nea Kameni. Measuring about two kilometres around, this island actually sits within the Santorini caldera itself and is actually the peak of a volcano.
Don’t worry: It hasn’t erupted for over 65 years. But this volcanic landscape gives the island a dramatic feel that’s perfect for exploring.
You can even take some time to hike the path all the way to the active crater of the volcano.
It’s a semi-steep hike, and takes about 20 minutes, so you’ll need a moderate level of fitness to get up there (especially if it’s a hot day).
The guides at this point will tell you some information about the volcano as well as the general history of the area.
Hot springs of Palea Kameni
Then it’s time to do some chilling out as you get back on board the boat and head to the nearby Palea Kameni.
Another volcanic island, the name of this one translates to “Old Burnt Island”, and it was formed after an eruption in 1570.
It’s a beautiful place in its own right, made that much more beautiful by the fact that it has its own geothermal springs.
Yep, here you can soak in hot springs warmed by volcanic activity. You get about half an hour or so to soak in the hot springs.
Lunch in Therasia
After a relaxing time in the hot springs (and also the chance to swim in the sea), it’s time to get back on the boat before you’re whisked to Therasia.
Home to around 150 people, this tiny island was also formed by volcanic activities. It’s often described as a hidden gem, and it certainly feels that way when you’re here.
You can really feel the traditional culture and rich history of the area as you explore the island.
After exploring the coastal part of Therasia, you’ll have the option of either walking up the winding stairs or taking a donkey up to the village of Manalos.
It’s a picturesque postcard of a town, complete with white-washed walls, cave houses, old-world tavernas and blue-topped churches, all tucked away along cute and quiet streets.
In total, you’ll have about two hours on Therasia; many people choose to eat their lunch at this stage, what with the many tavernas around the harbour.
I’d recommend bringing your own snorkel, if you have one, as the water around Therasia is super clear.
Sail past Oia and the Santorini coastline
While on the way from the harbour to Nea Kameni we went straight to the volcanic island, on the way back to the harbour we did a longer cruise, sailing just under Oia and the coastline of Santorini.
While it may seem something simple, it was actually one of the most incredible moments of the day. Seeing the 300m high cliffs of the Caldera up close, with those iconic white houses perched on top, is simply breathtaking.
Our boat headed straight for Oia, and then gradually made its way back to the harbour, sailing past Imerovigli and Fira. It’s a great way to end the boat tour.
Sunset in Oia
At this point in the Santorini boat tour, you have a choice. Once you arrive in the harbour, you can either wind up your tour now and have them transfer you to your hotel, or you could opt to add on the Oia sunset.
Although it does seem tempting, you should note that adding this on can make the end of you day quite rushed.
Once you get back to the port, you’ll be transferred by bus to Oia, where they’ll give you some time to wander and see the sunset, but the meeting time for the return transfer is usually set for right after sunset.
That means you won’t have any time to enjoy that magical moment after the sun has gone down, the crowds have left, the sky starts getting dark and Oia lights up for the night.
Given the choice, I would definitely prefer to see the Oia sunset myself, and stay until well after the sun has gone down. The atmosphere changes and the tour groups go home – it’s really lovely.
All in all, this tour is well rounded and takes in just about enough to make the day never feel overly rushed, or lacking.
The guides are friendly and knowledgeable; they’re also helpful and speak multiple languages, which is always a plus. There’s also plenty of opportunity to explore at your own pace in each destination.
One of the major bonuses about this particular tour is its affordability, especially compared with other Santorini boat tours. It’s not a fancy catamaran sunset cruise, but for the price, it includes a lot.
Other Santorini boat tours
However, if you want to do something a little different, you certainly can.
The tour I did is definitely on the cheaper side, and is great for budget travellers, but if you want to do something a little more fancy, then there definitely are some options for you.
For example, you could embark on a sunset cruise around Santorini in a catamaran. These sorts of tours are sold as a more vip experience, with a smaller group, whereas the one I went on had more people and on a bigger boat.
That said, the tour I did and described above is also more complete.
It goes to a lot more places, whereas something like a catamaran cruise in Santorini usually focuses more on the atmosphere, the food and the drink – less so on the sightseeing, and will take you to less spots.
But if that’s what you’re looking for in a boat tour of Santorini, then cast your eyes below and take your pick.
For that all-important Santorini sunset cruise, this option is ideal.
It’s a five-hour cruise on a catamaran where passengers are treated to a freshly cooked barbecue dinner – plus an open-bar with free-flowing wine and soft drinks.
It’s not just about sunset, though. You’ll also get the chance to swim at both the Red Beach and the White Beach.
If you’re looking for a truly wow experience, this is it. With a maximum of 20 guests, this luxury catamaran cruise will provide you with an unforgettable memory.
They have both an early morning and an afternoon option that you can choose from. The afternoon option is pricier, but it includes the sunset at Oia, and in my opinion is well worth the extra.
Add in a few stops in the caldera, like Nea Kameni, Palia Kameni and Akrotiri Lighthouse, 1.5 hours of snorkel time, a meal and open bar, and you have a winner!
This romantic Santorini boat tour is great for couples. It sails out around the caldera, swinging by some great vantage points for checking out views of the island.
To finish up, the boat will take you and everybody to one of the best spots for seeing the famous Santorini sunset. Food is included (but not drinks).
Heading out in the morning might be the best if you want to make the most of your time.
This epic eight-hour Santorini caldera cruise allows you to fit in a lot into your day, leaving the evening free for you to make your own choices.
The tour includes stops at Nea Kameni, swimming in the hot springs of Palea Kameni, relaxing on Therasia Beach and exploring the charming town of Manolas.
For the ultimate in luxury, this private boat tour of Santorini really cannot be beaten. On this tour you literally won’t have to worry about a thing.
All you have to do is turn up and then get ready to relax and unwind as you soak up the blissful ambience of the sea. You’ll be setting sail from Akrotiri in a select, small group of people (no crowds!).
First, you’ll hit up Red Beach, then White Beach, stopping for a swim, a snorkel and a sunbathe, if you like.
Then it’s time to enjoy a meal onboard, complete with free-flowing beer and wine – all food and drink are included in the price of the tour, as is snorkelling equipment.
It also stops at Nea Kameni, and Mesa Pigadia Beach for extra chilling time.
What to pack for your Santorini boat tour
Besides the usual travel essentials, there are a few things you should make sure to pack for your boat tour in Santorini.
Water bottle – Save on money and plastic by bringing your own reusable water bottle! I like the stainless steel ones because they keep my water cool throughout the day.
Sunblock – The Greek sun can get pretty intense, especially if you’re visiting in summer, so make sure you protect yourself!
Hat – Like above, bring a hat to shade your head and face, which will also help to see better at sea.
Camera – All these Santorini boat tours are so stunning, you want to make sure you capture them in all their beauty!
Water proof bag – It’s pretty unlikely that you or your bag will fall off the boat, but better safe than sorry right? Protect your electronics from any rogue waves and splashes with a water proof bag.
Fast drying towel – I love these because they take up very little space and dry really quickly, perfect for boat days like this!
Where to stay for your Santorini boat trip
Since most tours will include pick up and drop off from your hotel, it doesn’t really matter where you stay in Santorini. You can simply pick the town and area that fits your travel style and budget best.
Budget – Porto Castello: This place is the ideal base for your budget travel needs. Centrally located, it’s a family-run property with an outdoor pool and free breakfast every morning.
Mid-range – Caldera View Apartment: The name says it all: the views across the caldera from this old-world villa are completely mesmerising.
Luxury – Kalisti Hotel and Suites: Perfectly located very close to the main street of Fira, this hotel has rooms with private plunge pools, while the staff are professional and super friendly.
Budget – Vrachia Studios & Apartments: Oia isn’t famous for its budget options, but this apartment is one of the few. The accommodation itself may be on the modest side, but the views are still great.
Mid-range – White Cave Villas: Here you’ll find a selection of guest rooms in a cave-style setting. Think white-washed walls and curving ceilings, glistening turquoise pools and incredible views.
Luxury – Abyss Oia: Looking for luxury in Oia? Look no further than Abyss. Each room here has been carefully curated for ultimate luxury, and many have their own private pools.
Budget – Alexandra Hotel: This charming hotel is located just a five-minute walk from Kamari Beach itself, offers rooms with a private balcony or garden, and a daily breakfast buffet.
Mid-range – Smy Mediterranean White: If you want to treat yourself without breaking the bank, here you can do so. From double rooms with private balconies to suites with private pools, there’s something for everyone.
Luxury – Santorini Kastelli Resort: Tucked away down a secluded street, but still only two minutes from the beach, this five-star resort boasts two swimming pools, a spa and a poolside bar and restaurant.
Final thoughts on doing a volcano tour in Santorini by boat
There you have it, the ultimate Santorini boat tour guide! Have you been to Santorini before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
It was my first time travelling to Santorini, and I just knew I had to do a boat trip. Alongside the Fira to Oia hike, it’s without a doubt one of the best things to do in Santorini.
Exploring Nea Kameni, Therasia and seeing Oia from the sea was a unique experience, which I believe adds to any Santorini itinerary. It may seem touristy, but touristy things are popular for a reason after all.
If it fits your travel budget, you can also do something a bit fancier and join the sunset catamaran tours, and enjoy that unique Santorini sunset without the Oia crowds.
Whatever Santorini boat tour you choose, I’m sure you’ll have a great time. I hope you found this Santorini boat trips guide useful, if you have any questions, just let me know in the comments below!