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Friday, 01 November 2019

Hiking the Caldera in Santorini

Written by Jill Weinlein
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One of the stops on the eight day Galileo sailing ship exploring Greece's Cyclades is a day at the dramatic island of Santorini with an underwater volcanic crater. The rugged cliff landscape is shaped after an eruption in the 16th century. Clinging to the cliffs along the caldera are sugar cube whitewashed homes and picturesque blue dome roofs. Visitors can rent a car, motor cycle or hike from one village to another.

Variety Cruises anchors at the old port Ormos, offering a few taverns and small shops and the option of three different ways to get up to the top of the picturesque village of Fira. The easiest way is to ride a three minute cable car up to the edge of the cliff. Visitors can also walk zigzag over 600 stone steps uphill or pay to ride a mule up to the top.

Fira is the most visited area on the island and a favorite wedding destination due to its breathtaking views. The narrow streets are crowded with people from all over the world browsing through unique shops.

Near the town square are directional signs to the village Oia, the most charming cliff-perched village on the island. Walking seven miles on a dirt and paved pathways is one of the most memorable Greek adventures. The hike is the best way to see the exquisite domed blue roof churches, luxury hotels, bright white homes and extraordinary volcano and coastline views up close. It takes about three to four hours for an average fitness walker.

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A ten minute walk from Fira is Firostefani, meaning "Crown of Fira," a suburb of the main city. It's narrow paths offer dramatic views of the collapsed volcano. From here the trail gets a little rough before you reach the quaint Monastery of Saint Nicolas filled with Byzantine icons. Initially it was built in Skaros in the 1600s and later was moved to this area in the early 1800s. Continue on for another 15 minutes to the highest point along the volcano edge to the town of Imerovigil – the path offers photo opportunities at every turn.

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Starting northwards from Imerovigli to Oia, the hiking path passes by a couple of churches before entering a wilder uphill section along a very exposed dirt path. A mule owner is waiting at the bottom to offer tired walkers one of his mules to ride to the top for a small fee.

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Continue down one more slope to the small village of Finikia before reaching Oia. It's beautiful houses and restaurants are built into niches carved into the caldera. Since the paths are narrow, they are congested with people admiring traditional Cycladic houses.

Stop for lunch at Petrosia restaurant, before walking to the pinnacle point, Fort Londsa. Remains of a historic castle serve as a lookout point, offering a complete 360-degree view. Along the metal fence are padlocks with love message hanging, and nearby is a picturesque old windmill. Stores, art galleries and kiosks in this area offer a range of handicrafts, jewelry, art and souvenirs.

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For those who don't want to walk another 7 miles back to Fira, there is bus and taxi service to take you into town. Restaurants owners will happily call a cab for you.

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If you want all of your senses wow'd by the beauty of Santorini, hike this famous path to Oia.

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©Jill Weinlein

Last modified on Thursday, 31 October 2019

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