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)
Watch out for the heat, the day we went up it was a scorcher!! You walk though black volcano rock which faces the caldera. The view is amazing but I wasn't much up for hiking this day and the heat didn't help much. Takes about an hour. The VT crew took a group pic up there, someone please send me that pic!
Boats departs every morning in a round trip to the caldera. Hot springs turns the sea yellow and temp grow ups like a bath. The site is impressive and the magma is only 2000 meters underground.
Magnificent view of the rest of the islands.
This is a must do. Get the cheapest tickets at the port of Fira at the bottom of Fira. You get there by walking down the hundreds of steps filled with nice smelling donkey poo or by cable car. The cable car are a rip off at 7.50 Euros one way. Do what I did by walking down the steps and taking the cable car up.
To get to the volcano, by a cruise ticket but make sure you do a sailing cruise istead of the motorized one. This is the ship that has the ability to open its sails even though it's motor powered. The cruise costs about 35 Euros (Oct 2006) and it goes to the volcanic island as well as the hot springs island. Then you have a small buffet meal ( don't expect much ) as you sail into the sunset at the back of the volconic island or towards the port of Oia.
Volcano: Make sure you bring good hiking shoes. The path is a little rocky and nothing more than packed dirt trails. It requires a little bit of effort but the trip to the top is worth the view. This island is nothing more that desolate volcanic rock but at the top you can find vents that emit sulfurous hot gases. All are roped off except for one I found in a hole in a rock. (See picture) Then there is opportunity to hike back down to swim in the bay, if there is enough time.
Hot Springs: The island of Palia Kameni has hot springs that release its waters directly into the sea. The boat will anchor a short distance away and allow you to swim to it. The waters are warm and you'll be able to walk waist deep to it. There's no much to see here except to experience the waters and swimming. The dinner buffet is held here and is nothing more than Greek salads, meatballs, sausages, vine leaves stuffings, and other finger foods. It's enough to satisfy your hunger but don't expect a 3 star meal.
Sunset Cruise: This is the last item on the itenarary as you sail into the sunset before you sail back to port.
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 thoroughly enjoyed a boat excursion to the volcanic island Nea Kameni (which is in the middle of the Caldera) You'll dock, and then pay a couple of euro to visit this park land. Don't expect to see lava flowing, or giant smoke columns but it's quite a nice stroll along a cinder path. Perhaps a twenty minute walk gets you to the top where you can see a nice panorama and a feel for this most recent (new = new) geological formation.
Check out VT Members at the Volcano.
The volcano of Santorini is responsible for the islands shape and for its famous caldera.
The eruption of the volcano in 1650 B.C. was one of the largest in the last 10 000 years and it caused the end of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete.
The most recent eruption at Santorini was in 1950
Palia (old) and Nea (new) Kameni (burned) are two islands in the middle of Santorinis sea. They were formed after several eruptions of the volcano. Actually, they ARE the volcano.
You can reach the islands by boat. After walking for a half hour or more you will find yourself just on the volcanos crater!!
I very highly recommend that you take some time to take a little boat to the Volcano and to visit Thirassia. It's a pleasant easy little hike up to the volcano and it's very pleasant to have a swim too. Plus, who doesn't love a little boat excursion. Typically you would take and excursion that leaves from Fira, heads to the Volcano, then to a little swimming spot where you can splash about in the warmish water that is heated by hot springs. (it's red with irony soil) and then off to Thirassia for a drink or lunch. Good times!
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.
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.
For only 20 euro/person, you can tour the incredible volcano located in the center of the caldera. Around 10 a.m. a ship will pick you up from Amoudi or Armeni Bay. The ships are quite modern and look like pirate ships. There is also a tour guide who will point out interesting facts about the island along the way. Once you dock at the volcano, you can stay with the group or go exploring on your own. I would recommend staying with the group as the tour guide is extremely informative and entertaining. She showed us the several different eruption spots and allowed us to place our hands in a hole where steam shoots out. Supposedly, you can burry an egg and it will be cooked in 20 min. After 45 min on the volcano surface, you get back on the ship and head to the hot springs. My favorite part of the trip. See my Hot Springs tip. You end the trip at Thirasia, which is a less touristy island than Santorini. Most people are too worn out to climb the stairs to the cliff town, and eat at one of the seaside resturants. We were informed that Captain John's is the best. We thought that we had sat down there, but we were actually seated at Captain Nick's next store. Captain Nick's served us lobster skeewers for only 6 euros. A great deal. I strongly recommend taking this tour, you will be glad you did.
Do spend the day visiting the volcano and Thirassia - by far the most history and beauty of the entire island. Donleys to the little village on Thirassia are only 3euros and a must in the heat.
For swimming in the hot springs make sure you wear an old costume as the sulphur will stain.
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 !
It really was fascinating to walk on what is one of the world's youngest landmasses and to observe, and photograph, the lava formations some as recent as 50 years ago. What I did find of exceptional interest tho' was the way that the barren, arid, landscape is slowly but surely evolving as wild flowers take root in the volcanic ash and struggle to live and to seed and thus attract the birds whose guano will provide the necessary nutrients for the next generations.
On the island itself there is a hiking trail which takes you through the main features and around the central crater. There is a small charge which contributes towards the upkeep of the pathway and a useful little brochure detailing the main features.
Note to self: MUST do a travelogue on this!!