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Posted by on Oct 26, 2012

Hugging the Cliffs on a Hike in Santorini


There is nothing I like more than sticking to my routine while on a trip. Routine? On vacation? Am I crazy? But, I’m not talking about the alarm clock and commute type of routine, I’m talking about a “do what you want” routine.

My travels this past year landed me on the island of Santorini, Greece, where the water is crystal blue, the houses are picture perfect and the only way to live is by doing what you want. Naturally for me that meant wiping myself out on a challenging hike.

I could have easily spent my days relaxing on this beautiful island, but instead I chose to huff and puff my way along the cliffs.

Oia, Santorini

A Hike along the Caldera

The most talked about hike on the island is the walk between Fira, the capital of Santorini, and Oia, the town famous for the Santorini sunsets. The 5 mile hike hugs the cliffs of the caldera and winds through the cave-like homes and hotels in Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia (try saying that 5 times fast).

It felt more like a journey than a hike as I anxiously awaited each town, soon realized it looked similar to the last and then got confused about how far I’d actually walked. Fortunately, the scenery all around was stunning and I was motivated by a cold can of Mythos awaiting my arrival.

My walk was opposite of what many choose to do. I started in Oia since it was my home base and planned to walk the 5 miles to Fira and hop a bus back to Oia.  Most walkers start in Fira and end in Oia, timing it just right to see the sunset before taking a bus or taxi back to Fira. When I arrived in Fira – tired, sweaty and thirsty – I downed a Mythos and then proceeded to turn around and walk the 5 miles back. The walk along the caldera was so breathtaking among the fragrant wildflowers, I just had to keep going.

Fragrant flowers along the caldera

The Greeks will tell you the hike one way will take you “about 2 hours.”  Don’t listen to them. One way takes at least 3 to 3.5 hours because the trail gains and drops elevation, you’ll want to stop and take pictures every 5 seconds and you’ll need to eat, reapply your sunscreen and drink your own Mythos.

When you go (not if you go – this is one of the most spectacular hikes I’ve done) – make sure to be prepared with snacks, water and sunscreen. There is no shade and places to replenish your supplies will depend on the time of year you are hiking. When I did the hike in March, none of the roadside cafes were open, much to my dismay.

The path is pretty well marked by signs pointing to the next town. When in doubt, stay as close to the water as you can and you’ll eventually reconnect with the path. If starting in Oia, follow walkways along the caldera out of town. It will connect you to a dirt path that leads up the first hillside.

Catching my breath alongside on the the trail’s churches