Anafi island is a small, sparsely populated island with fewer than 300 inhabitants. It lies east of Santorini, about a 55 – 90-minute boat ride away, on the edge of the Cyclades. It’s known for the impressive hunk of rock that sticks out into the ocean, the second biggest monolith in Europe. (The biggest is the Rock of Gibraltar.) It’s also famed for being where Jason and the Argonauts took refuge when they were floundering around in the dark. Apollo revealed the island to them on their way back with the Golden Fleece.
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What’s Anafi like?
Like Thirassia, Anafi island is a world away from the glittering star of Santorini. It’s much more traditional and wild, although there are some spaces for tourists. It’s great for hiking, climbing and the beautiful, wild beaches. Most people are clustered around Chora – the main village – and the port. It’s barely set up for tourism so there aren’t many apartments to rent but there are some hotels and rooms available. Depending on what you want to do you can get away without a car. I’ll talk about that further down as I personally would have found a car useful.
I have to say, I didn’t feel particularly welcomed on Anafi. It was a similar feeling to when I visited Kea. I felt looked down on when I was trying to speak Greek but on other islands, they’ve understood and appreciated the effort.
Chatting with an Italian couple at the port when I was waiting for the ferry they said the same. They’d been there two weeks, going to the same mini supermarket every day for a fortnight and there was no sense of being welcomed back or even really acknowledged. (In contrast, I’ve been treated like an old friend on other islands when I’ve visited somewhere for a second time.) Neither of us felt our hosts were very hospitable, which is in sharp contrast to my normal experience.
However, we both said the folks in the bakery were friendly. They mentioned a man in a tucked-away gift/souvenir shop was lovely to them and I found the two bus drivers and taxi driver courteous and friendly too.
Why should I go to Anafi?
I wouldn’t let that put you off though and if you’re interested in mythology then you might like to see where Jason moored the Argo. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast there’s lots of hiking and climbing to keep you busy. And if you want to take some time-out from the crowds of Santorini, there are some lovely beaches with plenty of space. Free campers and nudists enjoy the solitude (although Roukounas beach is busy in the summer and some of the beaches near the port are too, with campers, as I understand it).
What to do on Anafi
Wander around Chora
Have a wander through the winding streets of Chora. It’s a typical whitewashed, Cycladic village built on the hillside in the style of an amphitheatre. There are a number of churches and you can walk to the site of the old castle (Kasteli).
Visit Drakontospilo Cave
I’m kicking myself that I didn’t detour here on the way to the monastery. I wanted to visit this cave (I’ve heard it’s pretty impressive with stalactites and natural ponds). While I was on the very first part of the trail from Zoodochos Pigi I saw the sign. But I blanked about what the name was and didn’t veer off the path up to Kalamos.
Go to the beaches
There’s a lovely beach right at the port which was shimmering like a jewel when I arrived. The next closest is Klisidi beach. You need to walk a bit but it’s not far and there are tavernas available above the beach.
There are lots of other beaches along the southeast coast. Roukounas beach is the longest and most popular in summer. Outside of the busy month of August, most of the beaches are pretty quiet.
The bus that goes from Chora to the Zoodochos Pigi Monastery stops at the beaches along the way. You’ll need to walk down to them from the road. But it’s easier than walking the whole way if you don’t have a car.
The majority of the beaches don’t have facilities or much shade. So be aware of that and bring what you need. I’m not going to tell you about all the beaches because 1, people like different things. And 2, part of the fun is exploring and finding the best beach for yourself.
(Side note…my Italian friends said they spotted some monk seals on the beach. I forget which one they said. I thought it was the one in the north – Livoskopos – but I’ve heard elsewhere that they can be seen at Agios Ioannis beach in the southeast. If you’re interested in potentially seeing the seals then check with a local when you go.)
Climbing on Anafi
If you’re a keen climber then Anafi is for you thanks to the Kalamos monolith. There’s more information here about climbing in Anafi, specifically the limestone rock. Anafi is potentially a good combination with Tinos if you want to combine climbing with island hopping.
Hiking on Anafi
Hikers will find plenty of trails to stretch their legs, not least the tough hike up to the top of the monolith. Hiking trails cover most of Anafi and notable walks are the climb up Vigla mountains and the hike to Kalammiotissa. This leaflet has all the information you need about the routes.
Visit the Monasteries and Churches
Zoodochos Pigi Monastery
A bus from Hora goes to Zoodochos Pigi Monastery at the foot of the Kalamos mountain. This monastery is built on the site of Apollo’s Temple and is nice to look around. From there you can choose to do the climb up Kalamos, visit the cave or head back along the coast to visit a beach or two.
Panagia Kalamiotissa Monastery
This is the monastery perched on the top of the monolith. It’s a tough climb but doable even if you don’t class yourself as a hiker. Just take it steady, have enough water and don’t go up in the heat of the summer midday sun. You can’t access the monastery but the views are outstanding.
I read in a few places that this was an amazing place to watch the sunrise. But how in God’s name people managed to get there for the sunrise I have no idea. It’s not an easy hike and in poor lighting would be dangerous. You’ll feel like a mountain goat picking your way up. At the top, it’s narrow and winding with loose stones and sheer drops. One of the Google reviewers said to camp at the top to see the sunset and then the sunrise. This would be the only way to do it but there’s not much space for camping.
I got the 11am bus to Zoodochos Pigi Monastery from Chora. I walked from there up to the Panagia Kalamiotissa monastery and then back. After I had a walk along the beach before returning to the main road to get the bus back to Chora. It took me about 55 minutes to go up the mountain and about 45 minutes to come down to Zoodochos Pigi. So perfect timing for the 2.25pm bus back.
I didn’t see much of Zoodochos Pigi because it was a Sunday. If you want time there as well as some beach time you’ll obviously need to get the later bus or call a taxi to collect you.
I didn’t take enough water on my trip and my only goal on the way back was to get some liquid refreshment. Otherwise, I would have walked back along the coast to see more of the beautiful beaches. I saw them from the road as I headed back on the bus but I would have liked to walk along them too.
Agios Antonios is the only Byzantine church left in Anafi. It’s quite a way from Chora on the northeast coast of the island. It’s a bit remote but accessible.
Churches in Hora
You’ll find some pretty churches while wandering around the town too. Many of the streets lead up to the one on the site of the old castle.
How to Get to Anafi island
The easiest way to get to Anafi is to get the boat from Santorini. I don’t think you can quite manage a day trip on the ferries. I visited in September 2021 and ferries from Santorini weren’t daily. They seemed to be running Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday Sunday between two lines. That means that some days there were two trips and other days none.
An overnight stay is very doable through. You’ll need to check the days fit with your plans but you could go mid-morning one day and come back around 10pm the next. That gives you quite a bit of time to enjoy the island and a bit longer than 24 hours.
I travelled to Anafi on the Maistros Santorini (8.60 euros) which is a small passenger boat. Leaving, I travelled on the F/B Prevelis (6 euros) which is a much bigger ferry and takes cars as well as foot passengers.
Some of the ferry times are a bit random, often really early in the morning or late at night.
Day trips to Anafi from Santorini
Private boats from Santorini to Anafi are also available for group hire. They’ll mainly take you around the various beaches which are a big part of Anafi’s appeal. I found this company offering a private boat tour from Santorini to Anafi through Airbnb experiences. Santorini Sea Breeze also offers skippered day trips to Anafi.
Ferry from Athens to Anafi
Note that you can go directly from Athens’ Piraeus port too but it takes about 10 hours. Check Ferryhopper for the dates you’re looking at and they’ll let you know what’s available.
Just a reminder to check MyShipTracking before you leave for the port because I forgot. The boat was over 2 hours late and I was upset because I was sooo tired! I could have stayed in my room and had a sleep for a couple of hours instead of sitting at the port until after midnight.
Collecting Your Tickets
Going from Santorini to Anafi has been one of the few times I’ve not been able to use e-tickets. You need to go and collect them from Fira port, even if you buy online through Ferryhopper.
The place to collect them is in the picture below, it’s called Nomikos Travel. You can’t see the name from the outside but Google Maps will take you to the right place. Just look for all the Seajets collateral. You’ll be charged 1 euro for printing.
Collecting your ticket in Anafi
You also need to pick up a paper ticket in Anafi. Ferryhopper tells you there are three collection points. I didn’t find that to be the case but it may be different in the summer.
There’s a booth at the port beside the waiting room. They open an hour before the ferry goes (actual time if it’s running late) and you can have your ticket printed there. I wasn’t charged for this one.
Arriving at Anafi
The island is totally geared up for action when the boats come in. When we arrived, both of the island’s taxis were waiting along with the bus to Chora.
My host advised me to get a taxi (10 euro) but actually, I’d have been fine on the bus. It goes to Chora and also stops at the bus stops en route if required.
Some properties on the island offer transfer services so check if your accommodation provides this for you.
Do you need a car in Anafi?
Everything I read before I went said that you don’t need a car in Afafi, that everything’s within walking distance. Having visited I’m not sure if I’d agree with that. Anafi isn’t a big island, but it’s not as small as some. I think it depends on how long you’ve got there and what you want to do and see. Having said that trying to hire a car wasn’t a good experience so you might have to make do anyway (see below).
Be wary checking things on Google Maps, too. The walk from the port to Hora is marked as about 18 minutes on mostly flat terrain. That’s not the case at all! Since the village is on a hill it’s a pretty uphill walk and not one that I’d want to do with any luggage.
If you want to just flop on a beach and do very little then stay in the port. You’re right by a nice beach and some tavernas with other beaches within walking distance. You can get the bus or walk up to Chora for dinner if you’re ok with the trip uphill.
However, if you want to explore and you’re short on time I think a car’s better. I stayed in Chora and wanted to visit the monastery at the top of the rock. It was about a three-hour walk, one-way. If you’re staying for a two-week hiking holiday like the Italians I mentioned earlier, then that’s all well and good. If you’re just staying for a night or two, it’s more efficient to get around with a car.
In the end, I got a bus to the lower monastery and then did the hike up the rock. It worked out fine but if I’d had a car I would have gone much earlier in the morning. That would have left me time and means to explore other parts of the island.
There are two taxis on Anafi.
Roussetos: +6970848622 /+306908098033 / +302286061350
Hiring a car, bike or ATV on Anafi
Options are limited but as most of the time there isn’t huge demand, hopefully, you can get what you need.
Hiring a car on Anafi
Opening times everywhere seemed mostly to just be from about 9am – 2pm regardless of what signs on doors said! Probably that’s different in the summer but keep it in mind during quieter months.
Apollon Village Hotel Rent-a-Car – details through the website
Panorama Car Hire and Scooters – email@example.com / +306976366731
According to the Google reviews, it looks like I had a lucky escape when I didn’t get a car from Manos. The guy had a tantrum when I asked why he was keeping hold of my driving licence. Then he messed me around and said there were no cars left after telling me there was. I assumed he just had a problem with me but after reading the Google reviews it seems like standard behaviour. Avoid if possible.
Hiring a scooter or ATV
As a rule, I don’t recommend hiring scooters or ATVs. But on a small quiet island like Anafi, I actually gave it some consideration.
Giannis Moto Rent is in Chora and hires out scooters and ATVs. Info on the website.
Buses on Anafi
There are two bus routes on Anafi. One runs between Chora and the Port. The other runs from Chora to Zoodochos Pigi Monastery and back.
Whenever the boat arrives the bus is waiting at the port. It heads up to Chora and makes stops at the accommodation and beach routes on the way up. It cost me 1.60 euro to go from the port to Chora.
The bus from Chora to the Monastery cost 2.50. This too stops at a number of the beaches along the southeast.
The buses run a bit more frequently in summer than when I went in September. I found them to run pretty much on time.
Amenities on Anafi
I read on a few blogs that Anafi only has one cash machine. However, there are actually two. One at the port and one at the post office in Chora.
The only word of warning I’d give is that the one in Chora is a Eurobank ATM. I’ve used one before without any problems. However, I’ve heard other people have had their card swallowed as they had a non-European card. If you know you’re card’s been fine in a Eurobank (different to Euronet) ATM before then I can’t see there being a problem with this one. If not, then be a bit cautious.
I didn’t see what I would class as a proper supermarket anywhere. However, there were two mini-markets in Chora. The one further up from the square had a better selection. And I went to one in the port that was well stocked and had nice fruit.
This was a welcome surprise. I expected to do a fair bit of reading when I visited Anafi but I was getting towards the end of the thriller I was reading. I kicked myself for not picking up an English book in Santorini before I left. Although I could have downloaded something on my Kindle app, I like having a break from my screens with a real book.
I didn’t expect to be able to pick up a recently released thriller in a favourite series of mine, in English, on this tiny island. But I did! I left my finished book there for someone else to enjoy too.
There are just a few shops. There are a couple of souvenir shops with locally produced herbs and jam on offer. There’s a clothes shop called Crocos that had some nice stuff. I’ve struggled to find big enough clothes in Greece. But again, like the English books on this tiny island, I found a nice white winter gilet that I almost bought. In the end, I decided I didn’t have space in my suitcase but it was surprising to find something big and long enough!
I found one bakery in Chora. The assistant was friendly and they had a good selection of bread, biscuits, chocolates and dried fruit.
Not all of the restaurants were open when I went in September 2021. More than enough were, although none seem to be very great. The Google reviews weren’t particularly favourable anywhere. I got takeaway from a fish restaurant on the square but it was cold and not very tasty.
Where to Stay in Anafi
The night I stayed it was noisy at the taverna upstairs that owned the rooms. I don’t think that’s normal in September but I’ve heard Chora is lively at night during July and especially August. Keep that in mind if you choose to stay here!
I stayed here and the studio was lovely. I really liked it and it was peaceful in the day. The only issue I had was on the Saturday night. The description said it wsa a great place for people who wanted to relax. But it’s below a taverna and there was a private party happening. It sounded like everyone was having a great time but I’d been hoping to catch up on sleep so a heads-up about it would have been good. I think perhaps it was a one-off in September but it was loud with music and dancing and rockets until the early hours!
If I go back, these are the places I’d look at booking. I would potentially go back to the same place, but only if I checked about events first!
This property offers bedrooms, studios and apartments just on the edge of Chora.
This is a traditional Cycladic house with stunning views.
Self-catering accommodation on the edge of Chora with great views
I walked past this place a few times and it has great views of the sea.
Right at Anafi’s little port, these rooms are two minutes from Agios Nikoloas beach and walking distance to two more.
Elsewhere on Anafi
Casa di Namphio Villa & Suites
Away from it all, these villas look outstanding. This would be my first choice to book if I return to Anafi.
Golden Beach Resort
Hotel in a peaceful location with great views and a restaurant on site.
YPSELI Anafi’s hive
Highly rated hotel not at all far from Hora but outside the town and close to Flamourou and Katsouni Beaches.
Island Hopping from Anafi
Many people visiting Anafi will come for a trip from Santorini. However, it’s entirely possible to base yourself on Anafi. If you wanted to include it in some island hopping then you can also get to these islands on the same route:
If you’re going via Santorini and want to include other islands here are some suggestions:
- Hikers – Naxos, Tinos, Andros
- Climbers – Tinos
- Romance – Folegandros, Milos
Check Ferryhopper.com for the dates you’d like to travel. If there are no ferries running on the day you want it will show you alternatives on either side of your chosen date.
So there’s your 2021 Travel Guide to Anafi. Had you heard of Anafi before? Is it on your list of places to visit?