For me, this entire journey started off a little crazy. The buses were running on Greek time, so… it was late, and me and my Busabout family realised we were going to have to run for our boat.
The pickup was at Athinios Port, located at the base of Thira, below the winding donkey trail. There was the Cable Car, but we knew at this time of day, the lines would be too long – so we ran. In 30+ degree heat, we struggled our way down the 588 cobblestone steps dodging mules, dropping and other tourists, sweating profusely and full of fear from falling. Some of us in flip flops, we didn’t think we were going to make it in time.
Thankfully, we made it down in time to join the queue of people waiting to board – I guess the boat must’ve also been on Greek time – or maybe the pure heat of running down those stairs with no shade at all completely confused our judgment of time. We didn’t even have the time to get out our phones to check, or to even document the crazy journey.
We checked our tickets, and jumped on board.
I would recommend getting yourself a seat in the shade, as our boat offered no protection besides from natural shade (depending on the time of day).
To Nea Kameni…
The first stop took us to Nea Kameni for a guided tour of the craters. We were told what time we needed to be back for departure, and could walk as far or as short we wanted. The entire walk offers incredible views of the main island, so it’s understandable that people lose track of time.
Though I normally wouldn’t love the idea of jumping onto a boat full of other tourists, it’s just about the only way to visit the islet of Nea Kameni unless you want to pay for a private boat. They’re ideal for those wanting a stress-free journey or are only visiting for a limited time – which I was. With guides in several languages you can learn as much as you’d like to.
Unfortunately, Santorini’s last major eruption wasn’t as long ago as I’d like it to be. In 1650BC the eruption of Santorini was one of the largest in the last 10,000 years. The expulsion of such a large volume of magma caused the volcano to collapse, producing the caldera, and since then the development of Kameni Islands. Thira, Thirasia and Aspronisi are the islands leftover from Santorini’s last major eruption in 1950.
To this day, the volcano of Nea Kameni remains dormant, and is now nominated for a place on the World Heritage list of geological monuments. The Municipality of Thera is now responsible for protecting and managing the site.
While walking the craters please be sure to follow the rules;
- Do not step outside the marked paths.
- Do not move, break off or remove rocks
- Throw rubbish in the bins provided
- Keep away from the volcano-monitoring instruments set up on the island
To the hot springs…
Next was the hot springs, and believe me by this time we were very ready for a cool dip – the combination of the Greek Summer sun and the surrounding thermal heat was particularly draining. We jumped back on board and cruised around to the entrance of the springs. We pulled up not too far from the muddy shallows, but far enough that it was cold once we were in the water. From there we swam towards the muddy shore, getting warmer and warmer and then helping ourselves to the healing qualities of the thermal elements.
Given that the magma chambers were located several kilometres below us, we weren’t all that bothered that the water wasn’t as warm as we had expected. Throughout the crater walk you could see and feel the steam coming out of the various rock chambers, so even getting into the water at all was the refreshment we needed.
Before going on this trip, our Busabout guide had warned us about what to wear and pack – the colour of the water at the springs can stain not only your skin but also your clothing with a rusty yellow or orange colour. Knowing this, we chose not to wear anything white and knew to wash our towels once we’d gotten back to our accommodation.
After a little while of playing in the mud, we swam back to the boat and made our way back to Athinios Port. The journey in total took about 5 hours, but there were plenty of other tours that offered longer journeys with more inclusions.
Need to knows…
- Toilets are available on board the boat
- Pack plenty of water, sunscreen, and covered clothing. The entire journey offered little shade as there is no covers or greenery on the crater, and the boat offers little protection.
- I wouldn’t recommend this trip to anyone that isn’t a confident swimmer or wouldn’t be comfortable walking the distances of the craters. That said, you don’t have to swim if you don’t want to, you are welcome to stay on the boat.
- Some tours also offer hotel pick up/drop off