When planning your trip to Santorini, you naturally think about the many activities to do on the island, such as exploring the beautiful village of Oia, wandering through the ancient streets of Akrotiri, or even enjoying a local wine tasting. But in the midst of all these extraordinary things to do on the island, it’s easy to forget about exploring beyond it. Venturing out to explore the volcanoes of Santorini and its hot springs is a must-do. That’s precisely what I did, and I intend to share this incredible adventure with you.
Visiting Nea Kameni and Palia Kameni, just like having dinner in Thirasia or watching a sunset from Oia, is a Santorini must-do. Does that pique your interest? Then, this article is for you!
Volcanoes of Santorini and Hot Springs – Video
Booking the Santorini Volcano Tour in Advance
In Santorini, it’s generally advisable to book most activities in advance, and the volcano tour is no exception. The earlier you book, the better.
Various tour options are available, ranging from a simple boat excursion to the volcanoes to combinations with exploring the island of Thirassia or even having dinner on the boat. You can find most of these options with our partner below:
For our part, during our visit to Santorini, we opted for the more budget-friendly option, which was equally comprehensive. The program included 3 hours of exploration through the Santorini volcano and hot springs, all on a traditional sailboat.
Getting to the Old Port of Santorini
The excursion departs from the old port of Santorini, located below Fira. To get there, I recommend using public transportation or your own means of transportation to reach the old town of Fira. Allow enough time for this, as finding parking can be challenging. If you’re driving, it’s quite complicated. I strongly recommend using a quad bike for getting around Santorini!
I also invite you to explore the town of Fira, which is among the most beautiful in Santorini. It’s also the largest, and you’ll find plenty of hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops of all kinds there. I really enjoyed the atmosphere, which is relatively more authentic than in Oia.
The old port is at the bottom of the caldera. To descend, you can either take the cable car or tackle the hundreds of steps. It’s highly likely you’ll opt for the cable car, and you’re right to do so. However, pay close attention to the departure times, as there’s only one round trip every half hour!
Enjoy the view as you descend, which offers an exceptional bird’s-eye view of Fira.
Boarding the Sailboat, Heading to the Santorini Volcanoes
After checking in at one of the various desks, depending on the company you’ve chosen, you’ll simply need to wait for the boat. After a few minutes of waiting, a massive pirate-style sailboat with warm wood accents and dark red trim anchored at the port.
We hopped on board. Depending on your preferences, you can find shade under an awning or sit at the bow, enjoying the warm Santorini sunlight. Most people choose the former option to avoid getting sunburned.
The captain and crew introduce themselves over the speakers, and the sailboat sets sail, heading further toward the hot springs, which will be our first stop on this Santorini volcano excursion.
The Hot Springs of Palea Kameni, Santorini
Slowly, the sailboat crosses the Santorini bay, giving passengers a one-of-a-kind view of the Santorini caldera. In just a few tens of minutes, we approach the famous hot springs of the Santorini volcanoes.
The boat anchors about a hundred meters from the shore of Palea Kameni, and from the ship’s deck, we can see the water changing color as we get closer to the island. It shifts from crystal blue to an orangish-brown hue. On the rocky cliff, you’ll find the old church of Saint Nicholas.
Before jumping into the water, the crew provides various information about the place: no climbing on the shore, don’t drink the water, and a warning that this place can stain your skin and clothing.
NOTE: I confirm that it really stains a lot. For two days, I was coloring the water in my shower orange, and unfortunately, I damaged several of my clothes. So, take the time to scrub thoroughly and clean up when you return to the hotel.
They give everyone a life jacket, and then we take turns jumping from the boat. It’s fun!
A Cove and Warm Water
However, most people imagine that the entire area is hot, but the water around the boat is the same temperature as the entire bay. You really need to get closer to the shore and into the orange zone to feel a temperature difference. The closer you get to the bottom of the cove, the warmer it gets. Don’t worry; it’s far from scalding.
There’s a kind of mud at the bottom of the cove (which is only a few tens of centimeters deep) that gives the place its color. Loaded with iron, it’s incredibly good for the skin. Many people take the opportunity to smear it on their skin and enjoy the natural benefits of this place.
After about fifteen minutes, it’s already time to turn back and swim to the boat. Similarly, we each take our turn and are given a jet of water to clean up a bit.
Hiking on Nea Kameni
Arriving on the volcano of Nea Kameni is very surprising and very different from the island of Santorini. The barren landscapes, consisting of various rocky formations and minimal, if not nonexistent, plant life, are surreal.
The island formed over centuries through repeated volcanic eruptions and is entirely made of lava and ash. With a diameter of about 2 kilometers and its crater rising to nearly 130 meters high, the Nea Kameni volcano is still active. It is closely monitored by scientists who measure volcanic activity inside the crater and its sulfur vents.
Once off the boat, we must pay an entrance fee of 2.50 euros, which goes towards preserving the volcano. Then, we begin the hike to the crater, accompanied by a guide. Although this walk doesn’t require any special fitness, it does have a small elevation gain of 130 meters. For those less athletic among us, you can easily stay on board the ship or stop in the shade of one of the small shelters along the hike.
These small shelters are very welcome for taking a rest for a few minutes, sheltered from the scorching Santorini sun. The atmosphere is even drier and hotter with the island’s burning rocks.
A Pleasant Walk Among Volcanoes and Santorini’s Springs, but Under the Sun
The walk is not difficult, but loose gravel combined with high temperatures in the middle of the day doesn’t make for an ideal environment. Of course, I recommend bringing enough water with you to stay hydrated. It’s a little over a kilometer long, and it takes about fifteen minutes to reach the summit at a leisurely pace.
Reaching the summit offers an incredible view of the Aegean Sea, Santorini, and the caldera. It’s a desolate, lunar landscape that tells the apocalyptic story of the island’s various eruptions. Rocks of all sizes are scattered around the island.
To be honest, apart from the view, there’s not much to do at the top of the crater. We stay there for about twenty minutes, admiring the view. Then we make our way back to the boat. Once back on the sailboat, we enjoy a cold drink provided by the crew. Finally, we wait for the last members of the group to return.
Sunsets on Santorini from the Boat
Depending on the time you book your excursion, you may have the chance to see the sunset from the boat. The sun sets on the horizon in beautiful shades of red, orange, and pink. The sky puts on its ultimate show of the day, to our delight.
Overall, sunsets on Santorini are extraordinary, but they are even more romantic from a boat. We sit and enjoy the last rays of the sun in a magical moment.
Return to the Old Port of Santorini
The return to the old port of Santorini is incredibly smooth. After docking, we calmly disembark from the boat. Then, we take the cable car to return to the town of Fira at the top of the caldera.
There’s no doubt that taking an excursion to the volcanoes of Santorini is one of the must-do activities on the island. It offers completely different views than what you can usually see. And on top of that, seeing volcanoes is amazing, isn’t it?
Article mis à jours le 21 September 2023 par Pierre Bouyer