Santorini is a small island but thanks to the steep hills and the heat it is not really a place you can explore under your own steam, either on bike or on foot, except for the extremely fit. While it has a public bus service to many places around the island, to explore the lesser known views and villages you will need to get your own powered transport. You have three choices, a scooter, a car or our preferred mode of transport the quad bike or an ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) as they are commonly referred to on Santorini.
Quad ATV Rental Prices
We did debated hiring a quad as it comes in at around the same price as a small car at around 15 – 20 Euros per day; depending on what time of year you are here. We were here in the last week of May and apart from the main town of Santorini (mecca for the cruise ship and day trip guests) the place was pretty quiet so prices were more flexible.
Our Route around Santorini Island
As is our travel style our route was not really planned, with the exception of some key places we wanted to end up at. So with a very rough plan in our mind we set off from our village at Karterados and made our way east down the windy track to Monolithos. A smaller village than ours but fronted by a black beach with some industrial looking chimneys behind and some wonderful sandstone eroded creations lining the beach road. One of the eroded caves had been made into some sort of abode with a door affixed to the entrance.
From there we took the coast road toward Kamari, a busier town with lots of shops cafes and restaurants. The beach had some plush sun beds, and looked as though you would pay the privilege of tanning here. Tres tres exclusive. We did ask in a few bars about accommodation prices but it was obviously above our flashpacking travel budget.
From here the road access means you have to head back inland where we picked up signs for a church up into the hills past the Greek vineyards at their foot. We made the winding steep ascent only to find the church closed for lunch. Even priests have to eat. We admired the lofty view and made our way back down.
Best Place to See the Santorini Sunset
From here we made our way west across the island (you will see by now we didn’t really have any route in mind) and found the western coast road and happened upon the Santo winery. We had been told this place offers some spectacular views by day and even better ones by sunset. We were told a truth, this has to be one of the best views of the whole western half of Santorini, you can see the caldera and the volcano in the middle of the bay. The visibility wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough for us. You don’t need to buy anything, just follow the swarms of Japanese and American tourists off the coaches that line the parking lot as they wander the restaurant taking those snaps for posterity. The best thing for us is its free and we didn’t think the wine tasting was expensive if you make the trip independently. You can also take the local public bus here.
After taking our own pictures of the views, we helped some loving couples take theirs and then hugged the coast further around the island. Along this road you will find a few more decent lookouts from some of the plush hotels with their infinity pools overlooking the view.
Some other things to see and do in Santorini
A few kilometres down this road heading in the direct of Red Beach you should stop off at Magalochori, a wonderfully preserved and renovated traditional village with a wonderful collection of traditional houses, churches and wobbly walled buildings. It was very peaceful and there were us and just a handful of other sightseers while we were there. There is no real vehicle access so you can leave your car/quad bike at the entrance and wander the streets on foot.
After the traditional town we found our way to Balos Bay where the caldera looms above it. There was a dirt track down to the bay where you can see lots of small boats moored and we even spotted some intrepid sea kayakers going at it, who from this height looked liked tiny dots in the water. We decided a quad ride down the dirt track was beyond our virgin skills.
We continued on a relatively quick trip from here to access the southern leg of the island and the Red Beach. It gets its name from the red iron infused rocks that surround what is a tiny gritty beach. The wind was strong on the day and my camera and my face got a good sandblasting. You park in a car park near to the rocks and you have to walk the final two hundred meters to the beach itself over a rather treacherous rock face. Not one for those with walking sticks or mobility difficulties.
We headed finally towards Perissa but took a detour to the beaches at Perivolos one of the longest and, in our view, the best beach we saw on our day out on the quad. There is a single road running the length of the coast from Perivolos to Perissa with beach bars on one side, the beach with parasols and sun loungers the other. We stopped at one bar where a large 500ml cost 3 Euro but if you wanted you got free access to the sun beds opposite for the price of beers, so we thought it a decent deal.
The challenge now was to weave our way back to our village of Karterados trying to find a route we had not yet travelled. Most of the time you have to double back on yourself a bit unless you have the knowledge of the locals on the small roads that weave up and down the hills.
We made it back via Exo Gonia and Pirgos to take in a few last minute views and a few more churches before picking up the coast road again by Athinios port and high tailing it back to the pension as the sun went down and the air cooled. We had not taken any long sleeved clothes with us and as the sun lost its heat and the winds picked up it was getting a bit chilly.
Santorini Quad Bike Tips
- Wear you sunscreen you will be exposed to the sun all day there are no shady roads on Santorini
- You don’t have to wear a crash helmet but some sort of hat is essential to keep the sun at bay, but make sure its fits tightly as the combination of your speed and the winds in some areas of the island will do a great job of ripping it off your head.
- Our day tour costs 8 euro in fuel on a 200cc quad.
- Make sure you get a bike with a big storage box on the back it’s useful so you don’t have to lug your things and helmets around with you all the time.
- Take it easy at first before you get the hang of steering. The quads are not the most responsive when it come s to steering with those big fat wheels.
- Don’t drive them on the beach – you will get fined a lot
- Have fun, they are great and we would definitely recommend this over a car, it adds a bit more fun to the day.