Volcano, Santorini Island
Doesn’t the Caldera look lovely? What a romantic view. Ahhh… Wait! That is an active volcano that could explode at any moment and destroy large parts of Greece! It last erupted in 1950 and you can even get postcards with a photo of this. Good luck! The volcano first erupted in about the year 1,650 B.C. and caused one of the largest explosions every seen in the world. The explosion of magma rose over 20 miles high and the release of all this molten lava caused the volcano to collapse, creating the Caldera.
The ash covered large areas of Greece and Turkey and probably speeded up the demise of Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. That’s bad. There have been a total of at least 12 explosions and they also created the 2 nearby Kameni Islands since 197 B.C.
Unlike Vesuvius which destroyed Pompeii in Italy, the volcano seems to be kind enough to give you some warning. The archaeological excavations of the ancient Minoan settlement of Akroteri (now closed!) have revealed no bodies.
So if you start to see smoke – get off the island FAST!
Just in case you wanted to know:
Location: 36.4N, 25.4E
Elevation: 1,850 feet (564 m)
A visit to the volcano is easily achieved. There are many tours which incorporate this. Some of the tours are volcano only, some 1/2 day with other visits, some full day.
Most tours leave from old Fira harbour.
The day I went to the volcano was unusual for Santorini where it never rains, my trip of course went through a thunder storm.
There is a small charge to climb to the crater.
At first, boat stops on the little dock of the famous Volcano, where you will walk towards the top of the island. While walking, an experienced guide talks about the intense volcanic activity of the last 3000 years! The crater still seems active, as hot fumes are released in many points!
Next, you are heading to the Hot Springs, where you will make a 20-minute stop for swimming in the suplhur springs of the volcano. The island of Thirasia is the final destination, where you will stay about 2 hours for swimming and lunch. Thirasia is a small, very picturesque island, ideal choice for nice walks, swimming and lunch in the little port of Korfos.
One of my favorite activities on Santorini is certainly the offerings provided by the large port in the middle of the island. Take a gondala (or mule if you have the time) from Thira down the cliff to the docks.
From here you can purchase a relatively cheap ticket for a boat ride up to the caldera. The boats will stop and let you swim in the hot springs that lap up onto the active volcano. Not warm as so much lukewarm, but local lore claims the waters work wonders for the skin. Once you're done swimming, you can take a short 15 or 20 minute hike up to the top of the caldera, in which you'll get great views of the entire Santorini island chain.
During a visit to Santorini, one thing you must do is visit the deserted volcanic islands, Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni the two islands in centre of the Caldera.
A steep walk of around 150 metres will take you to the rim of the crater on the island of Nea Kameni, featuring many amazing lava formations and fantastic views of Santorini’s cliff top villages. During the summer months it gets very hot so make sure you wear a hat, take plenty of water, and of course your swim wear to take a dip in the hot springs on Palea Kameni!!
There are many companies that offer boat trips to the islands, one of which is Kelenis Tours, offering various packages according to what you want.
Prices range from 13 Euros up to 55 Euros pp
An older island than Nea Kameni: The most interesting facet of this island is its hot spring abundant in sulfur deposits.
Best reached through Kamari Tours King Firas boat with the "See Santorini in One Day Tour".
The best way to go to this part of Santorini is with a guided tour. The history of Santorini can be best explained if one visits this island. At different periods in time, the island basically has formed 5 volcano craters, which, thanks to these craters, Santorini is what it is now today.
A popular question in the travel forum regards the volcano trip so I thought I'd give a brief overview and options here having undertaken this trip whilst in Santorini:
We used kamari tours for the full day tour> We were bused to the ferry port to board their large boat King Firas. It sails over to Nea Kameni, the volcanic island in the centre of the caldera which, at about 50 years old is by far the newest part of Santorini. It stopped here for nearly 2 hours and you have the option of climbing up the stony path to see the crater which still has steam and sulphur escaping from vent holes. Its a 3km round trip and you have to pay 2 euros to enter. Take plenty of water and wear good shoes as it can be steep and slippery . After this the boat sails to Palia Kameni for a swim stop for about40 minutes in the hot springs that release its waters directly into the sea. King Firas is one of the bigger boats so can't get as close to the springs near the shoreline, as the smaller boats - hence need to swim out further to them - something to bear in mind if not a strong swimmer. The waters are warm and you'll be able to walk waist deep to it. Next the boat sails to the island of Thirasia and stops here for a good 2 hours - you can lunch at a harbour taverna or explore the village of Horio or Manolas, above by climbing some 250 steps - or take the donkey taxi for 5 euros - quite an experience!
Finally the boat returns to Fira sailing past the beautiful town of Oia, calling into its port for those taking an extended tour to include the sunset - dinner is at your own cost. However we really enjoyed the sail back to Fira for the views from the water and had the luxury of another day in Oia. We left about 10.30am and returned about 7.00pm - the sunset option would be much later. For those short on time (such as on a cruise) you could skip the island of Thirassia and just sail to the volcano and hot springs for a half day tour - these take place at least twice a day.
I think that a visit to the crater is a MUST. It is located in the middle of the caldera, and looks like a small island. The crater can only be visited with a guide, it can be pretty dangerous to walk alone in sulphurous areas! Guided boat trips to the crater are scheduled from Fira daily.
The crater has several vents and it is split into an active and an inactive area.
As you approach the crater, you'll see a number of huge black volcanic stones coming from an ancient eruption; the water close to these stones is green because of the volcanic material melting into the sea.
The guided tour starts from the port, and lasts for about one hour. We almost had to run after our guide, and the heat coming from the ground made it really difficult! We walked past some active vents, where you can really smell sulphur and see the smoke coming from the ground, as if the crater is actually breathing! At this point of the excursion, I realised that the volcano is like a living creature staring at the Santorini and waiting to explode. From that moment, the island looked even more attractive to me.
Our guided tour also included a visit to Thirasia, but before leaving the crater, we had the possibility to have a swim in the volcano “thermal” water close to Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni, two small uninhabited islands close to the crater.
There are boat trips twice a day. You can book almost in every town on the island. They leave from the port of Athinios and stop once (or twice i can't remeber very well) for a swim. Then they take you to Nea Kameni for a tour on what is advertised as the youngest piece of earth in Europe. However, a VT member corrected this inacuracy, and told me that Iceland's Surtsey Island is newer than Nea Kameni. In any case, it's about 1-1.5 hour's hike, so be prepared with hats, athletic shoes and definately water. I would advise you to take the early boat, even if it means you wont get the time to sober up from the previous night! As the day progresses, the sun becomes very very hot, and it is almost imbearable to walk on the volcano. Usually the tour includes a stop at Thirasia, the small island at the other side of the caldera.
Boat trips can be taken from Fira harbour which is reached either by the cable car or by negotiating a steep, twisty path down to sea level. Most commonly the boats call in at Nea Kameni, the volcanic island in the centre of the caldera which, at about 50 years old is by far the newest part of Santorini. The shiny "new" lava is completely bare of vegetation. You can walk to the centre of Nea Kameni if you want a closer look.
The next part of the trip is to the hot springs of Palea Kameni - this looked fun, and a lot of people swam from the boat to the hot springs and back again, but you do need to be a competent swimmer.
We finally arrived at the little harbour on the island of Thirassia. Our party had been booked into a restaurant in Thirassia Town at the top. This involved another long climb up a twisting track or, if you fancied it, a mule ride for a few euros per person. I chose to walk which certainly gave me an appetite for what was a tasty meal at Panorama Tavern.
Unfortunately I don't have pictures of Thirassia town or the restaurant as by the time the meal was over, it was necessary to travel back down the track and catch the boat.
It was an interesting, if quite hectic day, the boat trip itself will give you an idea of the sheer scale of the caldera with its layers of history in different coloured rock and the little towns perched hundreds of feet high on the rim. I do not really have the knowledge, but if geology is your subject it is all there in front of you !
If you take a tour of the volcano, the ship will bring you to the smaller volcanic islet, Palea Kameni where you will be given an opportunity to immerse yourself in the hot spring waters. As the waters are shallow, the boat will moor about 50 meters off the coast. You will then jump into the sea and swim to the shore where you will find that the water is noticeably warmer. Coat yourself with some volcanic mud - it is supposed to be good for the skin! Your swimming gear will be stained yellowish orange so wear old swimming gear if you don't want it to be stained.
The islet of Nea Kameni is a historical site of exceptional natural beauty. The Nea and Palea Kameni islets in the caldera have also been nominated for a place on the World Heritage list of geological monuments.
The unique nature and significance of the area lies in the fact that it is the youngest volcanic landform in the eastern Mediterranean. It is an active volcanic center, its oldest rock formations dating back 430 years and most recent a mere 50 years. Nea Kameni last erupted in 1950. The only witnesses to the existence of the magma at a depth of a few km under the island are the hot springs that gush out at various parts of the shores and the hot sulphuric gases emitted from the central craters on the peak of Nea Kameni.
They have many tours to the volcano, most are combos with other sites, I would try to find the shortest one as it makes for a long day when you combine the volcano with say Atkrotiri & Ioa. Also if you can aviod walking the volcano in the mid-day heat you will enjoy it more.
For an even creepier view of the volcano, get a spot in “Atlantis Santorini 1” (tel.: 0030 22860 28900-1), a hi-tech submersible which will take you 30 meters below the surface. For 50 euros you’ll get to spend some time gazing at the incredible sea bed of the Caldera.