Santorini, Greece: Conquering Fire and Water

 Hiking the Live Volcano of Nea Kameni  

Santorini, with its iconic sunsets and stunning landscapes, is a destination that beckons travelers from around the world. Having previously explored the touristy villages of Oia and Fira, I returned to Santorini with a new purpose – to venture into the heart of the earth itself. My journey led me to Nea Kameni, a live volcano that stands as a testament to the island's fiery origins. In this article, I recount my extraordinary experience of hiking this living force of nature, transcending the boundaries of mere tourism and embracing the raw power of the Earth.

A Return with Purpose:

My return to Santorini was marked by a desire to delve deeper into the island's geological heritage. The Nea Kameni volcano, a part of the National Geographical Park, offered the opportunity to experience the island from a different perspective. This was not the Santorini of postcards; this was an exploration of its primal roots, a confrontation with the very forces that shaped its existence.

As I embarked on the hike up Nea Kameni, the journey was a stark departure from the bustling streets of Oia and Fira. The path was rugged and untamed, a reminder that this was no ordinary hike. The trail led me through an otherworldly landscape, where the soil beneath my feet held the secrets of millennia. The island's rocky terrain and unique flora hinted at the ancient forces that lay dormant, yet vibrant, beneath the surface. The hiking trail presented itself in five distinct segments, each offering its own set of breathtaking vistas and challenges. The trek commenced with the Mikri Kameni Crater, where the earth seemed to breathe, reminding me of the dynamic forces simmering beneath. Our guide continued to talk about the history and eruption dates that led to the formation of the crater while I tried to take in the amazing views. The path then led me to the Daphne Crater, a terrain colored in striking volcanic hues, a stark reminder of the geological activity shaping the island. 

The Live Volcano Revelation:

It wasn't until I reached the heart of the George Crater that the true nature of Nea Kameni revealed itself. As I gazed into the depths of the crater, a surge of emotions washed over me. The realization hit hard – I was standing on a live volcano, a living, breathing entity that defied the passage of time. The gentle hiss of escaping gas, the faint scent of sulfur in the air – these were not just physical sensations, but a connection to the primal energy that shaped this island.

Yet, nature had more in store. The challenge of hiking was magnified by the relentless summer heat, the temperature soaring into the 80s Fahrenheit. The scorching sun became both a foe and a friend, adding a layer of authenticity to the adventure. Every step forward was a reminder of human resilience and the desire to conquer even the most unforgiving environments.

Liatsikas Lava, a mesmerizing landscape of hardened lava flows, was a testament to the volatile history of this remarkable place. But the ultimate prize awaited atop the Nea Kameni summit, at 127 meters above sea level. The panoramic 360-degree view was nothing short of spectacular; the sapphire waters contrasted with the charred landscape below, while the sight of Palea Kameni added a layer of mystique.

A Humbling Experience:

My hike on Nea Kameni was more than just a physical endeavor; it was a humbling encounter with the untamed forces of nature. The panoramic view from the summit, the awareness of the molten heart beneath my feet – these were moments of awe that transcended words. 

Descending to the pier, I traded solid ground for a time-traveling voyage aboard at a traditional wooden boat called "kaikki" a reminder of the island’s rich history. The journey led me to Palea Kameni, where I had the exhilarating opportunity to dive into the Aegean's sapphire waters. The cool embrace of the sea offered respite from the sun's relentless heat.

But the adventure wasn't over yet. One of the most extraordinary experiences awaited as I approached the thermal spring at the back of St. Nicolas Church. The sensation of warm and cold waters intertwining was a reminder of the volcanic forces that lay beneath. The therapeutic qualities of these thermal springs have been celebrated for centuries, and for me, it was a moment of true connection with the island's geological heart.

My experience of hiking the live volcano of Nea Kameni and swimming the Aegean waters and thermal spring of Palea Kameni redefined my connection to Santorini. It was a journey that took me beyond the touristy façade and into the island's very core. My journey gave me a newfound appreciation for the delicate balance between nature's fury and its breathtaking beauty. Nea Kameni had etched itself into my memory, a living testament to the power and resilience of the Earth that will forever remain a part of my Santorini story. 


All photos and video by the author.



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