Anafi Greece Guide: Secluded Island A Hop From Santorini

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Anafi Island is a small, sparsely populated and secluded 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. Kalamos rock is the second biggest monolith in Europe, the Rock of Gibraltar being the biggest.

It’s also famed for being where Jason and the Argonauts took refuge when they were floundering around in the dark. The god Apollo revealed the island to them on their way back with the Golden Fleece. So, if you’re interested in mythology, you might like to see where Jason moored the Argo.

And if you want to take time out from the crowds of Santorini, there are some beautiful, wild beaches. Free campers and nudists enjoy the solitude. (Although Roukounas Beach is a popular beach, busy in the summer. As are some of the beaches near the port are, too, with campers, as I understand it).

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. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, there’s lots of hiking and climbing to keep you busy.

Breathtaking view from Europe’s second-highest monolithic limestone

You could go on a private day tour of the beaches or spend a few days doing little else but sunbathing and swimming in the Aegean Sea. Alternatively, you could go overnight and spend two full days hiking and exploring. I also met an Italian couple who’d spent two weeks hiking across the whole island, so decide for yourself how long you need.


What’s Anafi like?

Most people are clustered around Chora – the main town/village – and the port. The island is barely set up for tourism, so there aren’t many apartments to rent. But there are hotels and rooms available, some traditional and a couple of absolutely stunning properties.

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 didn’t feel particularly welcomed on Anafi, similar to when I visited Kea. I felt looked down on when I was trying to speak Greek when on other islands people have understood and appreciated the effort.

The Italian couple I chatted with while waiting for the delayed ferry said the same. They’d been there a fortnight, going to the same places for food and the like every day with 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. I wouldn’t let that put you off, though. There are several places where visitors have stayed with a different experience.

Things To Do On Anafi

Wander around Chora

Take a stroll through the winding streets and steep steps of Chora. It’s a typical whitewashed Cycladic village with houses 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 Venetian castle (Kasteli) for the views.

Visit Drakontospilo Cave

I’m kicking myself that I didn’t detour here on the way up Kalamos Rock. 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 sandy stretches along the southeast coast. Roukounas Beach is the longest and one of the most popular beaches in summer. Outside of the busy month of August, most of them are pretty quiet.

The bus that goes from Chora to Zoodochos Pigi stops at all the ones along the way. You’ll need to walk down to the sea from the road. But it’s easier than walking the whole way if you don’t have a car.

The majority don’t have facilities or much shade. So be aware of that and bring what you need. There are plenty more beaches on the island but I’m actually not going to tell you about all of them because part of the fun is exploring and finding the best beach for yourself.

Side note…my Italian friends spotted some monk seals on the sand. I forget where 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 seeing the seals, 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 on the south coast.

This leaflet has all the information you need about the routes.

Visit the Monasteries

A bus from Chora stops here at the foot of the Kalamos mountain. This holy building is built on the site of Apollo’s Temple and is nice to look around. From there, you can choose to climb up Kalamos, visit the cave or head back along the coast to sunbathe.

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 you’d need to take care doing this in poor lighting. If you’re intrepid then perhaps a head torch would do the job.

One Google reviewer 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.

Panagia Kalamiotissa

A peek in a chapel outside Zoodochos Pigi

I got the 11am bus to Zoodochos Pigi from Chora. I walked from there up to the Panagia Kalamiotissa monastery and then back.

Afterwards, 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 the bus stop. So, it’s 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.

Agios Antonios

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

How to Get to Anafi island

The easiest way to get to Anafi is on the boat from Santorini. You can also get the ferry from Athens, see below.

I don’t think you can quite manage a day trip on the ferries from Santorini island (although see below for private beach tours).

I visited in September, and ferries from Santorini weren’t daily. They seemed to be running Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and 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 if 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.

Maistros

I travelled to Anafi on the Maistros Santorini (8.60 euros) which is a small passenger boat.

Leaving, the Anafi Santorini ferry I took was F/B Prevelis (6 euros). It’s a much bigger ferry and takes cars as well as foot passengers.

The very delayed F/B Prevelis!

Check ferryhopper for tickets from Santorini; however, note that you’ll need to collect paper tickets.

It’s one of the few times I’ve booked a ferry and not been able to get an e-ticket. You can pick these up at Nomikos Travel at Athinios Port. I was charged 1 euro for the printing.

Ticket office at Thira, Santorini

Ferryhopper tells you there are three collection points on Anafi for tickets back. I didn’t find that to be the case, but it may be different in the summer. There is definitely a booth at the port beside the waiting room.

They open an hour before the ferry goes. (That’s the actual time, not the scheduled departure time if it’s running late.) You can have your ticket printed there. I wasn’t charged for this one.

Ticket Office at Anafi Port

There are also ferries directly from Athens. The journey’s about eight – ten hours. The boat usually arrives in the early hours, so consider booking a cabin.)

Private boats from Santorini to Anafi are available for group hire. They’ll mainly take you around the island’s beaches. Santorini Sea Breeze offers skippered day trips and you can check Airbnb Experiences for other options.

Arriving at Anafi

Getting Around

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.

With regards to the rest of your stay, everything I read before I went said that you don’t need a car in Anafi. I got the impression 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

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.

Alternatively, stay at one of the resorts that have everything you need where you are.

However, if you want to explore or you’re short on time I think having 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 only staying for a night or two, it’s more efficient to get around with a car.

I got a bus which 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.

Oh by the way, just be wary of checking things on Google Maps. The walk from the port to Chora 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.

Walking down to Anafi port

Renting 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.

Opening times everywhere seemed mostly to just be from about 9am – 2pm regardless of what signs on doors said! That’s probably 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 protected] / +306976366731

Rent-a-Car-Manos – I had a poor experience here, and I assumed the guy just had a problem with me. But after reading the Google reviews, it seems like standard behaviour, so decide for yourself.

Giannis Moto Rent is in Chora and hires out scooters and ATVs. Info on the website.

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. You don’t have to worry too much about traffic. But there’s still a danger of having an accident yourself.

Buses

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 waits 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. It stops at a number of 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.

Example timetables for the two routes. These are reduced after the summer.

Amenities on The island

  • there are two cash machines on the island. One at the harbour and one at the post office in Chora.
  • there were two mini-markets in Chora ( no supermarkets). The one further up from the square had a better selection. And one in the port that was well-stocked and had nice fruit.
  • the lending library was a welcome surprise. I was getting towards the end of the thriller I was reading and kicked myself for not picking up an English book in Santorini before I left. 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.
  • there are a couple of souvenir shops with locally produced herbs and jam on offer and a clothes shop called Crocos that had nice stuff.
  • I found one bakery in Chora. The assistant was friendly, and they had a good selection of bread, traditional biscuits, chocolates and dried fruit.
  • Not all of the restaurants were open when I went in September. More than enough were, although none seemed very great. The Google reviews weren’t particularly favourable anywhere. I got takeaway of fresh fish from a fish restaurant on the square, but it was cold and not very tasty.

Where to Stay In Anafi

I stayed in a room in Chora. The room itself was lovely, and it was peaceful in the day. However, I didn’t experience any of the Greek hospitality the listing mentioned, and the description also said it was a great place for people who wanted to relax.

The night was extremely noisy with a private event. There was stomping and dancing to Greek music until the early hours in the taverna upstairs that owned the rooms. Then they were setting off rockets, as the Greeks like to do.

It all sounded great fun, but I’d booked hoping to catch up on sleep, so a heads-up about it would have been good!

I think it was a one-off private event. However, I have heard that Chora is lively at night in July, and especially in August. So keep that in mind.

Here are the accommodation options I’d recommend looking at around the island.

YPSELI Anafi’s Hive is a stunning and highly regarded property. It’s just the thing if you’re looking for peace and tranquillity. Close to Flamourou and Katsouni Beaches, it’s on a bus route, too. Expect friendly team members, a delicious breakfast offering and a breathtaking view from your room.

Check prices and book your stay at YPSELI Anafi’s Hive

Golden Beach Resort – this is a beautiful, serene and comfortable resort away from Chora and the harbour. It’s a little remote, which is either a bit out of the way for you or entirely perfect. The food is very good, and there’s an onsite restaurant and bar, an outdoor pool, and all the suites have sea and sunset views.

Check prices and book your stay at Golden Beach Resort

Apollon Village Hotel has a variety of light and airy accommodation options with balconies and stunning sea views. Some of the suites have a pool/spa, too. The hotel is located very close to the harbour and about 2.5k from Chora, with a shuttle as well as the public bus passing by.

Check prices and book your stay at Apollon Village Hotel

64steps – this is a brand new Cycladic-style junior suite with a superb view of the port.

Check prices and book your stay at 64Steps

Boreas Stone House – apartment and double room options in a traditional Cycladic home in a lovely spot in Chora.

Check prices and book your stay at Boreas Stone House

Villa Aigli offers budget but charming, pet-friendly accommodation with fantastic views. Get to Chora on foot in well under ten minutes, or take the bus from right outside to explore more of the island.

Check prices and book your stay at Villa Aigli

Panorama Rooms is a great budget option right on the edge of Chora. You’ll get a traditional Cycladic room and lovely views.

Check prices and book your stay at Panorama Rooms

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For information on things to do next door in Santorini you can browse all my posts here.

Anafi Greece Guide: Secluded Island A Hop From Santorini

Suzie Young

Suzie writes informative posts for solo, nervous or first-time travellers to Greece, Turkey and other countries on her 50-before-50 bucket list. She became a Greek resident in 2020 and intends to visit every inhabited island (13 down!).

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