Most cruise ships sailing the Aegean Sea call at the island Santorini. Although none of the harbours can accommodate larger ships, and they have to anchor, and transfer their passengers ashore by tender, it is nonetheless quite popular.

Santorini owes its crescent shape and steep cliffs to a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in 1450 BC, which left the world’s biggest caldera, or crater. All that remained were the main island, the neighbouring island of Thirassia and the outlying islet of Aspronissi


The tenders usually take passengers to Thira Old Port, to take the chair-lift, or climb a steep, stepped path, on either foot or muleback, to the main town of Thira, a huddle of whitewashed buildings on the cliff edge. Its narrow streets offer many cosy little corners, many harbouring all manner of new delights.


On a previous occasion, we’d been rather disappointed that most of our ‘free time’ in Thira was spent queuing for the chair-lift. So to avoid the queues and crowds, this time we took an excursion to the volcano on Nea Kamini.


This island, which appeared above the waves only 200 years ago, is uninhabited, nearly devoid of all vegetation, and looking more like a pile of ash than anything else. But many notices on the quayside at the Old Port offer boat trips to ‘see the volcano’. The boat used is often a kaiki, a wooden boat designed on the lines of a traditional fishing boat.


There’s a little harbour and a dock on the island, from where a rough path leads for about a mile, through piles of ash, past several subsidiary craters to the summit.


Some of the rocks around the main crater give off a slight vapour. This is steam, and is quite normal; they do that all the time. On the eastern side of the crater, there are some fumaroles; holes giving off steam and smelling slightly of rotten eggs - evidence that Nea Kamini isn’t extinct; it’s merely dormant. There are also hot springs on the island, and on nearby Palea Kamini, where the boats sometimes sail for their passengers to bathe.


Although it’s possible that the volcano may erupt again, it’s being watched very closely, and warning will be given.


‘And, if that happens’ say the guides ‘we have a very good tour of the vineyards on the main island we can do instead!’





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