Walk on an active volcano
I think I’ve said many times before that we are not huge fans of doing anything ‘organised’ when we travel. Largely this relates to tours, and dedicated trips that involve large groups of people, and someone out the front on a microphone. I’m also not a real fan of playing follow the leader, preferring to set our own pace and be masters of our own travel destiny.
There are plenty of comments in forums about not bothering with boat tours on Santorini, but here I will disagree. Unless you have a boat at your disposal, the only way to get out on the water is to hire one or go on an excursion. To go to Santorini and not get out on the water is paramount to missing out on some great times, and some great views.
And so we found ourselves on a boat tour to visit the volcanoes and thermal springs of Santorini.
We caught a boat from the Old Port. There are plenty of tour companies that will pick you up from your hotel if this suits you better. I would have been happy just cruising around the caldera all day on this beautiful timber boat. Instead, we had a couple of stops, to take in some of the main features of this Greek Island and it’s surrounds.
First stop was the volcano. An active volcano, last erupting in 1950. Not as far back in history as I would like when I realised we were not just going to sail past it. We pulled into the harbour of Nea Kameni and learnt that we were about to walk up to the top of the volcano. It was a very hot walk. Hotter than any walk I’ve ever been on.
The heat of the late morning sun combined with the thermal heat coming from the ground was stifling. It’s a tricky walk as the tracks are just part of the volcano, crumbly, rocky and uneven. There is no shelter, no vegetation. Just rock and heat. When I saw a tourist walk past me clad only in a bikini it gave credence to my feeling of discomfort!
It’s good to remember that this is not really a tourist attraction as such. It’s a geographical feature. If you go here expecting some form of great excitement or activity you will undoubtedly be disappointed. This is an educational visit.
This is a chance to learn about the history of the volcano from the guide, and understand a little more about how volcanoes work. It’s a chance to feel the thermal heat coming up out of the holes. It’s the smell of the sulphur, which once again reminds you of just how alive this island really is.
It offers stunning views back to Fira, and to the other islands dotted around. And, it’s a chance to do something that you just don’t get the opportunity to do every day.
Ever since I swam in the thermal pools of Hungary, I’ve never passed up a chance to swim in them again. These pools, found on one side of Palia Kameni, offer a chance to swim around in the warmer waters. The big boats can’t get close into the shore so we pulled up in the deeper (and much colder) waters offshore. This allowed for a bit of fun as we jumped off the boat into the waters below, having to duck from a few clowns who though it was appropriate to jump off the bow.
Time for lunch in Thirassia
After the refreshing swim we were off to Thirassia for lunch. Thirassia, a quiet, undeveloped island is the complete opposite of it’s fancier neighbour Santorini. As we approached their port, the guide gave a few tips for lunch, with her strong preference being the local “buffet” which had ready made food and allowed for quick service.
We steered away from this and found a restaurant that looked more authentic, and were treated with some wonderful food and some ice cold Mythos beer. Others walked around the island, some swam again, whilst we were happy just to sit looking out at the ocean and enjoying our meal.
Last stop Oia
After we had seen the volcanoes and thermal springs of Santorini, it was time to had back to shore. The final journey was back towards Oia and Ormos Armenis. Whilst the tour officially ends back at the Old Port, many use the opportunity to get off here and explore Oia. We did exactly that. This time instead of walking up the 587 steps, we thought it was time to give the donkey a go.
There’s a few rules on the donkeys when you are riding them. Always, always look ahead and keep an eye on where your body parts are. Best to keep your arms and legs as close to your body as possible. This will reduce the opportunity for your knees to be scraped along the rock walls when the donkeys sway (or deliberately take you to the wall). It will also save you getting your arms tangled with other riders, as the faster donkeys race past the slow pokes.
Sometimes they just stop and refuse to move until the handler comes along and gives them a ‘word’ that causes them to move on. The donkeys don’t go all the way to the top so there’s still a chance to give your legs some exercise and work up a thirst for another of those fabulous local beers.
Oia is another beautiful part of Santorini and is a great shopping destination, especially for jewellery. The streets here are narrow and resemble a rabbit warren, swelling to overflowing when the big boats are in port.
All of this was comfortably achieved in a day, and with the long summer nights experienced here on the Greek Islands, there’s still time to fit more into your day.
Have you been to Santorini? Did you go out onto the active volcano? I’d love to hear about your experiences if you did.
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Kerri now travels regularly with her husband, Stirling, where eating great food, drinking quality beer and wine, and cooking international foods are integral to their adventures.