10.5 km (6.5 Miles)
During January and February Some of you may have seen that Julia Bradbury featured in a television series which took her back to her ancestral roots in the Greek islands where she has been discovering places ‘Off the beaten track’. In one of the episodes she visited Santorini and sought out the best alternative places to see the world famous sunset. It is great to see such a programme on these cold dark winters nights and it took my mind back to an amazing hike we did last year whilst visiting Santorini. If any keen walkers should be visiting the island in the future then this trek is a must.
Santorini is part of the Cyclades islands in the southern Aegean Sea. It was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC, creating its shape, the underwater caldera (crater) and the small islands around it’s rugged landscape. Whitewashed towns and villages cling to the cliffs, which from a distant gives the image of snow.
The trail we followed is one of the islands top walks and a well trodden route between the two principal towns of Fira and Oia, where some of the most magnificent views of the island and it’s caldera can be had. It will take you through the small whitewashed villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli as well as across the rugged landscape that forms the rim of the caldera high above the sea below.
The path is made up of a mix of pavement, cobbled streets and dirt tracks so good shoes are a must. We visited the island in April when it wasn’t so busy but this walk should be started early in the morning so that the midday sun is avoided, take plenty of water with you as it will take about 4 hours.
We stayed in Fira and our hotel was ideally situated directly on the route of this trail about 100m in from the start. The route starts at the Atlantic Hotel opposite the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral and first takes you through the narrow walkways of Fira with its many jewellery and gift shops, although well signposted it’s easy to get a little lost here but any detour is well worth exploring. A walk descending the 587 steps to the Old Port for trips over to the volcano park on Nea Kameni Island is also a worthwhile detour. There is also a cable car that carries you up and down should the steps prove to much.
Continue through the narrow streets to Firostefani, although a different village it tends to blend in to Fira, so you probably won’t realise that you have walked in to the second village. Stop at the much photographed Virgin Mary Orthodox Church with its whitewashed walls, iconic blue domed roof and unique three bells, with great views across the caldera.
The route heads uphill winding through the narrow streets to Imerovigli, a village at the highest point of the trek at 370m. Imerovigli has panaramic views of both towns, Fira and Oia.
A detour to Skaros Rock will add approximately an hour to the trek but is definitely worth visiting the ruins of the settlement that incredibly once consisted of 200 homes, many eruptions of the volcano and earthquakes was the demise of this town, but a monastery known as the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti survived and remains in use today.
Heading out of Imerovigli the hotels become more exclusive and sparse and many more iconic churches will be passed. From here the route changes from pavements to stoney tracks that pass over the rugged landscape that reaches a peak with more terrific views of Oia on the descent.
As you enter Oia the stoney track turns into pavements and tiled walk ways. The pinnacle of Oia has a ruined castle which is the end of the trek. Oia has many restored churches, handicraft and jewellery shops and the recognisable windmills that sit amongst the roof lines.
However Oia is most famous for the uninterrupted sunsets over the sea. Watching the sunset can be very busy and is the most popular point on the island to watch it go down. For the more adventurous other quiet locations can be sought.
The bus back to Fira can be very busy with long queues, particularly after the sunset, so careful planning is key or take advantage of one of the many restaurants before returning.