Building up a sweat at Santorini’s

volcano and hot springs

by | Jun 2, 2015

This was my 5th trip to the Greek island of Santorini. It never fails to mesmerise me with its beauty and history. I’ve been itching to take Jamie ever since we discovered our love for travelling a few years ago, but as I’d been no less than 4 times before, he wanted to save it until we’d explored a bit more of Europe that neither of us had been to. But I got lucky, and his sister Nicki just so happened to pick Santorini as the destination for her wedding to her husband Tim. And what a cracking destination for a wedding. More on that later though!

If you’re planning on a trip to Santorini, you’ll probably know that it used to be one big volcanic island. All that changed 3,600 years ago, when one of the worst volcanic eruptions on Earth devastated the island, creating what is now Santorini Island (the mainland), Thirassia, Aspronisi (the White Island) and the volcano islands. The view from the west side of Santorini Island looks over the breathtaking caldera – the crater formed by the collapse of land, now under the sea. The volcano itself is made up of two islands called Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni – meaning New Burnt and Old Burnt respectively. Most of the wedding party went on boat trip to visit the larger of the two volcano islands, Nea Kameni, followed by a spot of bathing in the hot springs.

Boat to volcano

The boat we took to the volcano

Hat, rope and boat

We nabbed the front seats, obviously.

Approaching the volcano

Approaching the volcano

Our boat docked up on the west side of the volcano, and the sun was beating down. Almost reluctantly, after around half an hour of sunbathing on the deck in our swimwear, we pulled on our shorts and tees, stuck our trainers on and padded after our guide, off the boat and onto dry land. We followed our guide up the winding ‘paths’  to the first point of interest – an old crater known as Little Burnt. The last time it spat out lava was 430 years ago, and it’s no longer active.

Inactive crater on Santorini volcano

This crater, ‘Little Burnt’ is 430 years old. That’s the last time it spat out lava, and it’s no longer active.

Meandering our way over the ribbons of rubble paths between craters is incredible. I’ve done this trip many times before, and each time I go I fear mother nature just that little bit more! The 3 foot wide paths take you on a wander between a number of craters. You’d have to be drunk to fall off the paths really, but trip over a rock of lava and that’s a painful tumble and a steep climb back up if you miss your footing!

See that tiny person!? As I said. Ribbons for pathways.

See that tiny person!? As I said. Ribbons for pathways.

Ribbons for pathways

Ribbons for pathways

The largest crater on the volcano is in fact still active. Technically it’s dormant, but it erupted a few times in the 20th century, including in August 1940, and most recently a tiddler of an eruption in July 1950. So our guide said we may as well think of it as active. ‘Especially’, he said, ‘considering there are some people living Santorini who will remember it from their childhood’. Those eruptions were simply the volcano ‘having a moment’, shall we say. Firing it’s hot breath into the air, fresh lava running down the slopes to form yet another new shape, it left inhabitants of Santorini in relative peace. There is a lot of evidence that the volcano is still active. One giveaway is 80c steam, billowing out of some parts of the rock. We could see it coming from underneath a small crevice in a particular area of the rock where scientific equipment has been set up nearby to monitor its activity. I took a photo but I don’t think I’ve done it any justice!

I was right and this photo hasn't done it any justice. There was steam billowing out where you can see shadow in the white rock, I promise!

I was right and this photo hasn’t done it any justice. There was steam billowing out where you can see shadow in the white rock, I promise!

Considering the rock and steam is so hot, you know what I think is crazy? That there’s vegetation on the volcano! I am yet to research what exactly it is but it’s amazing how life finds a way.

Volcanic vegetation

Volcanic vegetation

Volcanic vegetation on the slopes

Volcanic vegetation on the slopes

Let me also share a few of photos of the incredible colours of this volcano!  There is of course black lava rock…

Black lava rock

Black lava rock

…and there’s orange lava rock…

Orange lava rock

Orange lava rock

…an incredible red…

Red lava rock

Red lava rock

…and even a pinky colour…

Pinky peach lava rock

Pink lava rock

…then there’s my favourite – my tiger rock!

Tiger rock

Tiger rock

Not to mention the extraordinary colour of the sea and the bright orange clay ‘beach’.

Teal sea orange clay

Gorgeous teal sea and bright orange clay ‘beach’

Views from the volcano are also beautiful.

Jamie looking out

Jamie looking out from the volcano. That’s Palea Kameni, the smaller of the two volcanic islands, next to the one we were exploring. And that’s Aspronisi (the White Island) in the distance, behind Jamie’s head.

Looking out to Thirassia

Looking out to Thirassia

Thirassia and Oia in background

Jamie and I with Thirassia in the background on the left, and Oia (attached to Santorini Island) on the right.

Here’s more evidence of the volcano being active, our guide told us to hover our hand inside a hole under this cluster of rocks…

Heat from the volcano

Jamie putting his hand into the hot chamber!

…in a split your palm became clammy with the heat. It was quite unnerving!

After getting a sweat on for around an hour exploring the volcano, we were looking forward to experiencing yet more evidence that the volcano is active – the hot springs! We clambered back on board the boat and were taken for a 15 minute swim and bathe. To do so, involved jumping off the boat into VERY cold water. The sacrifice for experiencing the bath-warm water further toward the volcano.

Just jumped off the boat

There’s Jamie on the right, patiently waiting for me to put my phone away and  jump in while he got used to the cold water.

I managed to get a (rather blurry, mind) shot some of the wedding party swimming up to the murky water ready to hunt for the warm spots!

The rest of the wedding party in the hot springs

The rest of the wedding party in the hot springs. Nicki, the bride, is right at the front with her arms out!

From cold to warm

The brown areas are where the clay has been kicked up, but is where you’re far more likely to float over a hot spring. Swim closer to the volcano and its far easier to find a nice warm patch.

The brown you can see in the water is the clay that you can smother all over your skin for supposed health benefits. I’m sure it would have some effect if you could do that every day, but we all came out looking like we’d got in a fight with a mud monster and lost! Your swimwear will also end up a rather attractive yellow colour afterwards – I learned the hard way with my family years ago. Wear old swimwear if you plan on jumping in!

We finished up on Thirassia before heading back to the main port on Santorini Island, where you have late lunch at one of the cute waterfront restaurants protruding out to sea.

If you’re taking a trip to Santorini, make sure not to miss out on this brilliant day trip.