The done thing on Santorini is to put the caldera in your eyeholes from every available angle. It’s a volcanic island, there’s volcanic craters on an island in the middle of the vast bay, and the shape of the bay itself was caused by a whopping great eruption, and that’s the flooded caldera you’ve come here to see.
Towns and villages cling to the cliff edge offering apartments that you’ll pay a bastard fortune for, with swimming pools and hot tubs overlooking a spectacular sunset.You’ll pay a premium for your beer too if the restaurant overlooks the caldera too which is eye-watering given the general cost of literally fucking everything here.
So we duly booked ourselves onto a volcano tour and off we fucked, down the 588 steps, switchbacking to the Old Port of Fira. We got down there super early to make sure we had time for breakfast too. Given the cost of things in the supermarket here, and the hassle of making our own food when all we have is our little stove, it’s actually just worth having something filling for breakfast like eggs, snacks throughout the day, then a gyro or two for dinner. Actually to be fair I fully intend to just live off gyros for the rest of my life.
I almost started my day by getting trampled by a donkey though so that was fun. Trains of the buggers spend all day walking up and down these aforementioned steps carting tourists for €10 a pop. I guess it’s a novel way to do it, there are often hideous queues for the cable car so if you can’t walk up and don’t want to wait then why not take a donkey? I rode a mule up a very steep hill once and spent the whole ride feeling so fucking sorry for it having to cart my lard arse around that I vowed never to do it again, not even for the novelty value, and I fucking love novelty value.
But this particular train came careering down the hill whilst an elderly Greek man shouted things from the back of one of them. I’m not sure if he was shouting at us or the donkeys, my Greek doesn’t extend beyond parakaló and efcharistó, but they were weaving down the steps at a pretty decent rate so I just pressed myself into a wall and tried not to get crushed. Definitely nearly got crushed. Turns out you can’t redirect a donkey by pushing it and swearing a bit.
Anyway. This tour. We were loaded onto the boat by a lovely chap called Dada who spoke, like, six languages according to the flags on his chest. I have massive respect for anyone who speaks more than one language to be fair, six languages is just insane. We were taken to Nea Kameni which is the active volcano, a very, very young island only 500 years old.
You pay your entrance fee then it’s a sweaty, 25 minute slog up a hill to look at some craters. I fucking adore volcanic landscapes. The craters are cool but looking out back towards Fira across the black lava field is unreal. Like another world. There’s a bit of hot steam around one of the craters accompanied by that distinctive sulphur smell. It’s not overpowering, it doesn’t permeate the air, but it does test the ol’ gag reflex when you catch a sudden whiff.
We made our way back to the boat where we were taken to a smaller island right next to Nea Kameni where there was a hot spring. The boat had to moor 50 metres away so we jumped in and swam into the bay where the water, rich in iron and minerals, turned redder and warmer the further into the cove we got. The change was gradual, it was brilliant, every hot spring I’ve ever been to was a definite pool in its own right, not a continuation of the actual sea. It wasn’t as hot as we were expecting either but the air was lava so I guess we didn’t really want it to be stupidly hot anyway.
We only had half an hour here, Dada had told us to head back when we heard the horn but there were several boats with identical horns so that didn’t help much. We just kept an eye on the time. You don’t realise how used to the lovely, warm water you are until you have to swim back into the cold sea. I mean, I say it’s cold, it’s not cold. It’s fresh, it certainly makes your nipples sit up and take notice but you couldn’t hang your coat of them.
Our third and final stop was the island of Thirassia which is billed how Santorini used to be thirty years ago. There’s a port lined with restaurants, and you can walk up up up the winding steps into the village on top of the hill but Dada said there was nothing there unless you wanted those sweet, sweet views. You could swim if you liked, but after a wander to each end of the port we sat down for a couple of beers. And a large bottle of water actually because my piss is like treacle at the moment.
I really, really enjoyed today. I feel like I would have preferred longer at the volcano and the hot springs and less time on Thirassia though. There are tours that miss out Thirassia but you don’t seem to get any longer at the other two places and when we were deciding which one to book I got FOMO and included the island. To be fair it was lovely, the beer was cheaper than in Fira, and it was nice to chill out and listen to music somewhere different.
After we were deposited back in Fira we took advantage of the lack of queue at the cable car and took it back to the top. Fuck walking back up 588 steps whilst dodging donkeys. We headed do the bus station to catch a bus to Oia, pronounced “ee-a”. Oia is THE village to visit, when people mention Santorini they probably mean Oia, it’s one of the most famous sunset spots in the world.
Visiting Oia basically means shuffling heel to toe with literally hundreds of other humans down narrow streets, queuing for those iconic blue done photos, assuming those at the front ever fuck off out of the way. Oh don’t get me wrong, I brandished my camera with the rest of them, I too wanted to remind Instagram that Oia was a place that existed, as if it would ever be allowed to forget.
We popped to Pitogyro for a gyro each to take with us but guys, honestly, I’ve never seen so many humans crammed into one place before, all vying for the same photo and the best place to sit for the fiery skyball show. Oia is stunning, it really is, it lives up to the hype, but we realised that most of these people would beeline for the bus straight after sunset. We still had to get home and pack, our bus to the port left at 4am tomorrow.
We walked as far as the castle where we shovelled our gyros into our chops then decided nah, fuck it. The chaos of getting home wasn’t worth it. Perhaps one day when we win lotto we’ll come back here and stay somewhere disgustingly opulent with those coveted views from our cold tub where we’ll sip champagne and scoff at the peasants.
In the meantime we shuffled back through the village, loaded ourselves back onto the bus and made our way to Fira for an early night, assuming we could get any sleep through the duff duff music emanating from a mysterious nightclub we could always hear but never see.
Bus timetables at the bottom of the previous post.
Santorini, South Aegean, Greece / Σαντορίνη, Νότιο Αιγαίο, Ελλάδα
Stayed at: Santorini Camping, Fira
Useful shit to know…
- We booked our tour through Santorini View who are a reputable agency.
- They do like you to print your voucher but they also said we could just get our tickets printed down at the old port in Fira at the tour operator’s office.
- Loads of boats do this tour. You could probably save €5 by booking when you get to Santorini but we were only hanging around for a couple of days and we wanted to know we’d get a tour.
- Entrance to the volcano island, Nea Kameni, isn’t included in the tour and is €5, cash or card.
- The cable car down to the Old Port and back again is €6 each, one way.
- The bus station at Fira is a shit show but all buses go in and out of it so it’s a necessary evil. If you’re visiting a few places and two bus lines overlap then you can avoid it. For example:
- Fira to Akrotiri, Akrotiri to Messaria, Messaria to Perissa. I don’t think you’ll save time or money but you’ll save yourself the horror that is Fira bus station.
- Bus fares seem to be a flat rate regardless of where you pick up the bus.
- There is always going to be a bus to get you to your ferry on time, even if your ferry leaves obnoxiously early. Timetables for the port are only published a day in advance.
- Tickets are bought ON THE BUS. One way fares for buses from Fira to:-
- The port, €2
- Akrotiri, €1.80
- Oia, €1.60
- Perissa, €2.20
- Kamari, €1.60
- Airport, €1.60
- Click HERE to be taken to the bus timetables (correct as of September 2022)