Donkeys and Mules, Santorini Island
I agree with Miozzi. Please DO NOT ride the donkeys. We have just rebooked our flight tickets and will leave the island 4 days before what was planned due to what we have witnessed last three days.
The ways many owners treat their donkeys are extremely cruel. Yesterday we saw a man kicking a donkeys leg really hard, and after that forcing it to carry a tourist all the way from Ammoudie Bay to Oia. In strong heat. Hurt. No water. No shade. Beatened by the owners stick.
From our holiday rental house we see the donkeys walking several hundreds of stairs, 20-25 times each day in these conditions, with tourists on their backs. No, this is nothing we will support.
After reading many reviews and visiting santorini, I agree the path up is treacherous for people and the donkeys. I urge all tourists to take the cable car up. Reports say people get off the donkeys with their clothes smelling of sweat and urine and the path being skippy with donkey excrement. No wonder when these poor animals are subjected to carrying people up the steep hill day in and day out in scorching temperatures, with no adequate rest, shade or water, the only place they can urinate or deaf care is where they are led. Additionally they wear ill fitting tack that pinches and chafes and too slip on the path sustaining injuries that are poorly managed. You imagine carrying a heavy suitcase up and down that hill 15 - 20 times a day in scorching sun and dangerous conditions, not funny. Please please I urge anyone who cares even remotely about animals not to entertain taking a donkey ride to the top of Santorini. If the donkeys are not subjected to walking up and down the path, then the path could become safe again for tourists to walk.
Not entirely certain whether to post this under Transportation or as it is under Warning or Danger.
Clearly, riding a donkey is transportation however when I was in Santorini, the stench from the poor animals was overpowering and the warnings back from those that did partake in this tourist attraction was to "burn your clothes."
As a horse person, I'm certain that's a bit over dramatic, but it is a warning that your clothes will be "rather ripe" when you're done riding. Also ensure there is proper laundry facilities on the ship you arrived on, or you have additional clothes if you're just traveling by ferry island to island.
Santorini is a dangerous destination that should have a serious health and safety warning attached. Anyone planning visiting the island especially Fira from the cruise ship port should be aware of the dangers of taking one of the unregulated donkey/mule rides up and/or down the hill. The path to the port is very dangerous to walk or even take a donkey ride, is frequently covered in copious deposits of donkey excrement and urine which make the paths and steps so slippery that even the donkeys slip as they run up and down the hill. The unregulated donkey trips up the stepped path caused many and varied bodily injuries to visitors from the cruise ship that I was on. I myself sustained a serious fracture to my ankle when I slipped on a cobble half way down the path despite wearing sensible walking shoes. Even after my accident had been reported and because I could not stand up and walk, I had to wait for around 20 minutes in the heat of midday sun only to be eventually taken down the hill on a donkey whilst perilously gripping the handle assisted by one of the men running the donkey rides. This was a terrifying experience and one I never wish to repeat. The entire episode ruined my expensive cruise holiday.
The authorities involved on both the cruise ships and the governing body of Santorini should pay more attention to the safety of their passengers and visitors for whom they have a duty of care. The donkey rides are not safe and the path they tread is a SERIOUS HEALTH AND SAFETY HAZARD for all who use it. DOES IT NEED A VERY SERIOUS ACCIDENT TO HAPPEN FOR THE AUTHORITIES TO WAKE UP AND DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE???!
Hey, it looks like a lot of fun. Climb the 600 plus steps up the cliff to town, or take a cute mule ride. If you take the mule ride, look out for the flea bites. Tons and tons of fleas that call the mule you ride up, home. And they don't like your bothering their home, at least it feels that way, after they have had lunch on your ankles.
Forget the mules, and take the scenic, fast, and almost comfortable tram lift to the top. And back down, when you must leave. Cruisers attention. The tram ride gives you more time at the top.
All across Santorini and surrounding small islands are fantastically steep hills that Superman would have problems walking up. So the local old guys have lots and lots of mules (donkeys) and horses to take you up and down. Then they feed them and the trouble starts. Yes, they poo early and often and when you least expect it. Walk behind them too closely and you will have it all over your clothes – possibly as high as shoulder level. You will get it on your shoes. It is going to happen. Make sure they are good shoes. Flip-flops + Poo? Yuck! Watch where you walk – very carefully!!
Be careful if you walk up or down the donkey steps that lead to/from the old port. Dozens of donkeys tread these steps and they're not too bothered about where or when they go to the loo. The steps are littered with piles of donkey doo, and attempts to clean it up seem at best half hearted. It's part of the "charm" and "appeal" of the place, but mind you don't step in a pile. And mind that you have a good stomach too, on a particularly fragrant day!
The donkeys are so sad looking , I did not go on one to get to the port of fira, but we chose to walk down the many steps. I really got a bit scared by the donkeys running past at a pace. At times i was pressed close to the wall as they flicked thier tales and dropped thier droppings. At one time the donkeys were a nessecary commodity on the island now you can take a cable car up and down to the port.
As with Fira, Oia is built right on the edge of the cliff and there are several options of getting up to the top. One is by donkey, but I really wouldn't recommend the ones at Oia.
The men organising it were very abrupt and rude, but the danger was when we came to get off at the top and they started turning the donkeys round before we had a chance to get off! I ended up with one leg in the stirrup and one on the ground and then fell into someone else and we both dived into the side as the donkeys came running back down! The men just told us to hurry up and get out of the way!!
Although we didn't try this mode of transport again, I have to say that in other places, like Fira, it seemed a lot safer!
When climbing the steps to Amoudi or Armeni Bay from Oia, be sure to watch out for all the Donkey droppings. The steep stairs are enough of a pain without having to deal with poop on your shoes.