Did you know that the main port of Santorini used to be in Fira? The Old Port of Fira, also known as Fira Skala, is located 220 meters below the town and it used to be the main commercial port of the island until a few decades ago. The small port, which is at the foot of the caldera cliffs, nowadays is mainly active during the summer months and serves only the various cruise ships that dock on the island, as well as excursion boats going to the volcano. Wondering how to go there now? Well the funniest and easier way to do so is with the cable car!
How did people reach Fira from the old port before the cable car?
Until the 70s, the only way to reach Fira from the port was to walk or ride a mule up the long almost 600 steep stairs, a traditional Santorini practice that continues to this day. However, this was a slow and challenging route. It was not suitable for heavy luggage and also inconvenient for some groups of people, such as the elderly and children. The cable car was constructed to provide visitors with safe transportation from the old port of Santorini, to the capital of Santorini, Fira as a result of the increase in the number of tourists that began in the 70s, as well as the cruise ships that arrived regularly leaving thousands of people at the old port of Santorini.
The construction of the cable car
The Loula and Evangelos Nomikos Foundation, established in 1979 by the shipowner Evangelos Nomikos. He lived on the island, covering all of the costs associated with the Cable Car’s purchase and installation. Its construction began in the fall of 1980 and ended in the summer of 1982. This superior transportation work made a major contribution to the island’s prosperity and tourism growth. Now the Municipality of Thera owns the cable car. However, the mule owners takes a part of the profits as an appreciation of their efforts and to keep the tradition alive.
The cable car today
The cable car carriages are very well maintained, clean and safe with each carriage seating six people in two rows of three. Six gondolas run in a line, which means 36 people travel up and 36 people travel down every five minutes. Santorini’s Cable Car transports 1200 people per hour and Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group designed it in compliance with Austrian regulations.
Should your excursion’s meeting point be at the old port, opt for the cable car option for great vistas and ease of access. The views will amaze you as you face the mesmerizing Aegean sea and the impressive volcanic cliffs with the white-washed houses sitting on top. If you feel like experiencing the stairs as well, we do recommend walking down as it does not require much physical effort and it takes about 30 minutes to reach the bottom. To find the stairs to the old port you can either turn left before Ammos store if you come from the main path of Fira on the caldera side or follow the path that goes down opposite from the cable car station. Good walking shoes, water, and sunscreen are essential. On your way down you will meet the cute Santorini donkeys. Even though we do not recommend this way of transport to the old port during a hot summer day for ethical reasons, you can admire these hard-working animals while taking some pictures of them.
The cable car of Fira is very close to the Archaeological Museum. Once you step at the main path of Fira just in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral, go straight ahead and uphill towards Firostefani village. You will meet plenty of signs along the way showing you the cable car station direction.
The ride queues can be really long when cruise ships are visiting the island. Cruise ships usually arrive in Santorini at 8:00 am and leave at 6:00 pm. Prior to your visit, you can check out the cruise calendar online. Pick a day with fewer cruise ships docked on! Please note, that on very windy days, the cable cars will shut down for safety reasons.
Ticket price (per way)
Adults: 6 euro
Children: 3 euro
Luggage: 3 euro
Find the cable car operating hours here.