The small, inhabited island opposite Santorini is called Thirasia (sometimes also spelt Thirassia or Therasia). If you want to do a little bit of island hopping from Santorini then Thirasia is worth seeing on a day trip, for sure. But it’s also worth considering as a location of its own. If you’d like to enjoy Santorini in small doses then you could base yourself on this calm island instead.
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What’s Thirasia like?
The island is less than 10km long and under 3km wide at its widest point. Thiriasia’s population is under 250 and I’ve heard it said it’s nearer 150 permanent inhabitants. More people come back to their summer houses in August when the whole of Greece likes to take a holiday.
The island is under a mile from Santorini, just 10 minutes on the boat. But it’s a whole world away from cosmopolitan Santorini with her Insta influencers, flying dress shoots and cruise ship crowds. People told me that Thirasia is what Santorini was like years ago before it became so shaped by tourism.
There is an exclusive hideaway on the island, frequented by celebrities. It’s very private and only accessible by helipad or private jetty. So perhaps there’s a little corner of the new Santorini tucked away in Thirasia, after all.
Thirasia used to be part of the same landmass as Santorini. These two islands along with some smaller islets used to be a ring of land. But during one of the volcanic eruptions, the areas became separated. From Thirasia you get an amazing view of Santorini’s caldera. But Thirasia has its own dramatic caldera wall with the main town of Manolas perched on top.
There are a number of churches on the island, about 1 for every 10 inhabitants! I thought it was interesting that most are privately owned and these families are responsible for their upkeep and running.
Some of them look quite unusual with ornate decorations, like the one in the photo at the top of this post. No one is quite sure what the markings represent. Although, since the island has a tradition of seafarers, it’s thought the sailors brought back inspiration from their travels to faraway lands.
Manolas is the biggest village and the capital of Thirasia. It has traditional Cycladic houses, narrow streets and THE most amazing view of the caldera. There’s a bakery here, an ATM and a few shops and a couple of taverns.
What is Thirasia know for?
The most popular export from Therasia was always its sweet wine. Vineyards here are hard to recognise as the plants aren’t grown in uniform rows. They’re planted in a more organic way that, if I recall correctly, is to do with how they use the water. (A precious commodity.)
Thanks to the volcano, the island also became famous for its pumice stone. Small pieces of pumice were used to create bricks like breezeblocks. The material is lightweight but strong so was a popular export and I’ve been told it helped build the Suez Canal.
What is there to do on Thirasia?
Mostly, people come to Thirasia to hike and/or relax. There’s a slow pace of life so come prepared to read, catch up on sleep and enjoy some breath-taking hikes. I explored Thirasia as part of an e-MBT (electric mountain bike) tour so there are options to be more energetic if you like!
There aren’t any sandy beaches on Thirasia but that won’t stop you from relaxing by the sea.
Riva Beach – there’s a pleasant pebble beach right at the harbour where the boat arrives from Santorini. It’s a nice area for swimming, has outstanding views and there are tavernas and cafes only a few steps away.
Korfos Harbour – you can swim and relax on the pebbled beach at Korfos, Thirasia’s other port. Again, it’s a peaceful spot with amenities right on hand. Note that there are A LOT of steps – like 300 – to get here from Manolas. We hurried down them to get the boat back to Santorini but I wouldn’t have enjoyed walking up them! If you don’t feel like exerting yourself that much take the boat to Riva and get the taxi up from there.
Church of the Prophet Elias
If you keep walking south through Manolas village you can get to the Church of the Prophet Elias. It’s one of the highest points of the island giving brilliant views out over the sea.
Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary
Further on is the Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. It’s right at the tip of the island which feels like the edge of the world.
Potamos is a village not far from Manolos. It’s named after the small seasonal river that it was built on. It was significant to the islanders since water was so lacking on Thirasia. There are some nice churches and colourful houses here.
Beyond is Agrilia an almost abandoned village. It’s interesting to look at though because you can see the cave houses that were built into the rock. They were built inland like this to hide from pirates. Generations of the family would live together in these spaces. When couples got married they would literally begin carving out a new life together. The community would help them create a new room in the rock.
In living memory, people who were brought up in these basic caves are now experiencing exponential wealth in Santorini.
When I visited there was work going on to restore the stone path through the village. The houses are naturally bioclimatic and work is being done to maintain or restore the architecture in some places.
Hike to the rest of the island at your own pace and discover the churches, donkeys and other delights for yourself. Or if you prefer, you can join an organised tour with Explore Thirasia.
e-MBT Tour of Thirsasia
You can also hire their bikes for a half or full day and go exploring on your own.
The day I went was so much fun. It was an afternoon tour so someone from Explore Thirasia came over on the 12.30 boat and collected us from Oia’s old port. There was me and two other Greek girls on the same tour. We all went back on the boat and the bikes were waiting for us at Riva port.
After a quick overview of the afternoon and an explanation about the bikes, we were off. The bikes sounded like they were going to be complicated but they weren’t at all. The brakes were the other way around to UK bikes so I did need to keep that in mind. (I didn’t really want to go head-first over the handlebars by accidentally yanking on the front brake!). But the electric bit was easy.
Physically it was a bit demanding on the hills but the electric element helps you there. Otherwise, it was a good fun ride around the various villages and sights. After about 2.5 hours on the bikes, we were starving. We finished at the HQ in Manolas where we enjoyed a Greek meal of small plates. As it’s a former winery it seemed fitting that we were also served up a welcome glass of chilled white wine. We finished the meal off with a VinSanto for the
Amenities on Thirasia
There aren’t a huge amount of amenities on Thirasia but it does have:
- A taxi
- An ATM in Manolas
- A bakery in Manolas
- Restaurants/tavernas at both ports and in Manolas
- A health centre
- A school
- Pebble beaches
The taxi is a converted pick-up truck that waits at Riva port when the boats come in. It fills up and then goes to Manolas. If there isn’t space for you, wait at the port and it will come back to do another trip.
How do I get to Thirasia? (From Santorini)
You can get to Thirasia from Oia’s old port – Ammoudi Bay – or from the main port of Athinios at Fira. Note that only the boat from Ammoudi Bay runs daily. Thirasia is also on a route with other Cycladic islands.
If you want to head over from Santorini and explore Therasia yourself get off at the first stop, Riva Harbour at Agia Erini. You could spend some time here on the pebble beach and then enjoy some seafood at the tavernas on the front. Otherwise, jump in the taxi that waits for the boats. It’s a pick-up truck that’s had seats and wooden panels added! The taxi will take you up to the villages. Alternative, start your hiking as soon as you step off the boat.
If you’re staying on Thirasia, speak with your host about the best way to reach your accommodation.
Oia to Thirasia Ferry
A little boat runs daily from Santorini – Oia’s old port of Ammudi Bay – and Thirasia. There are two ports on Thirasia. Riva is the first one you’ll arrive at from Santorini. If you stay on the boat it will take you to the second harbour, which is Korfos.
Everyone I spoke to gave me slightly different times for the boats so be there 15 minutes before. If you have a contact on Thirasia (host, tour guide etc) double-check timings with them.
The timetable is roughly:
- Ammoudi Bay (Santroini) to Riva (Thirasia): 8am, 12:45pm, 5:20pm
- Riva (Thirasia) to Santorini: 7:35am, 12:35pm, 5:10pm
- Korfos (Thirasia) to Santorini: 12:15pm, 5pm
In the busy season, usually July to the end of September, I’m told there’s an additional boat running in the evening. However, it’s only on Mon, Weds, Fri, Sat, Sun.
- From Riva (Thirasia) to Ammoudi Bay (Santorini): 9:50pm
- From Ammoudi Bay (Santorini) to Riva (Thirasia): 10pm
Again, double-check this is running if you intend to take one of the later boats.
The journey takes about 10 minutes and costs 1 euro. After you get on the boat someone comes around to do the tickets so make sure you have change with you. It’s very informal and there were no COVID checks. I’m guessing because it’s seen as an extension of Santorini in some ways.
Fira to Thirasia
A Seajets ferry also runs from the main port (Athinios). It’s a much bigger boat and can take cars, although note there are no petrol stations on Thirasia.
(Google Maps will tell you differently, but I’ve seen said former petrol station. The roof has literally collapsed onto the building. So definitely fill up elsewhere if you’re taking the car.)
Check Ferryhopper for the current timetable as it seems to change a lot. The journey can be between 15 – 45 minutes depending on if it calls at other islands before Santorini.
How do I get to Thirasia? (From other islands)
Interested in including Thirasia in some island hopping with some of the other Cyclades, not just Santorini? In 2021, Seajets’ routes ran these routes to Thirasia (although note that this is peak frequency and these don’t all run through the entire summer season):
Tuesday and Saturday:
On Sundays they ran this same route in reverse, starting from Anafi.
On Wednesdays, they ran this route in reverse but it extended on to Kythnos and Kea and ended up at Athens’ Lavrio port.
Getting to Santorini’s Ammoudi Bay jetty
Ammoudi Bay is Oia’s old port and is signed from the main road. If you’re driving it’s a good idea to park before the actual bay. As you wind down on the main road you’ll see a dirt road car park on the corner about 8 minutes walk from the bay. As you turn that corner you’ll start to see cars parked on the side of the road too. I parked there, about five minutes walk to the water.
The jetty for the boat is at the bottom of the slope, before any of the restaurants. You can see it here in the image where the fishing boat stopped first.
If you’re walking down the steps from Oia then you’ll need to walk around the bay. Pass all the restaurants and head for the jetty at the bottom of the road.
Accommodation on Thirasia
Agrilia Secluded Cave House – I very nearly booked but someone else snapped up the dates I was looking at. I would definitely consider it again, looks lovely, peaceful and private. Available on Airbnb and Booking.
Zacharo Rooms – basic rooms overlooking the sea in Manolas
Perivolas Hideaway – If you’re looking for something absolutely exclusive, on par with Santorini’s offerings then this is it. Built to blend in with the rock, it’s accessible only via their private pier or helipad.
Restaurants on Thirasia
There are a number of tavernas in the ports, pick one that takes your fancy if you’re lazing on the beach. If you’re at Korfos, it’s worth climbing up to Manolas for food with a view.
Greek fast-food restaurant with lovely views of the sea and takeaway options. You’ll be joined by cats at this location!
Another restaurant with brilliant views out across the sea. The menu is here is limited but not in a bad way.
So there you have it. Thirasia as an easy day trip from Santorini, or as an island to enjoy in its own right. If you go and you ever get a straight answer on the boat times, do let me know!