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One of the most stunning aspects of Santorini is the amazing Caldera (crater)

caldera view cafe

view over the caldera, Santorini

The towns clustered on top of the towering cliffs on the west side of the island, Fira and Oia, command a marvellous view over the Caldera.

panoramic view of Caldera

Panoramic view of the Caldera with the whitewashed houses of Fira clinging to the top of the cliffs on the left. The top of the cable-car to the old port is just visible on the lower right of this panorama. Click the picture above to see a high resolution version.

Tap the picture above to see a high resolution version

Santorini History
The island of Santorini was once circular and was called Strongili
( the Round One). However, around 1650 BC a massive volcanic eruption sunk the centre of the island, leaving the Caldera surrounded by huge, towering cliffs. The eruption and tsunamis that followed are believed to have been responsible for the demise of the Minoan people in Crete.

Further volcanic eruptions shaped the island as it is today and created black sandy beaches, lava striped cliffs and fertile vine-growing soil. Later eruptions caused Thirasia to be split from the main island, and two islets to appear in the caldera : Palia Kameni and Nea Kameni.

The volcano is still active - steam can be seen venting on the islet of Nea Kameni and occasionally small tremors can be felt on the island.

Santorini's volcano

Trips to the volcano

It is also possible to visit the largest and youngest islet (50 years old), in the Caldera - Nea Kameni (meaning 'new burnt'), via a boat trip. Guided boat trips leave the Old Port at Fira daily and also from Ammoudi Port at Oia.

The volcano tour lasts around 2 hours, incorporating a swim in the hot thermal springs of Palia Kameni (meaning 'old burnt') or you can take a Caldera full day tour, which also takes you to the nearby island of Thirasia. Here you can lunch at a harbour taverna, and take a donkey up 250 steps to the village of Horio or Manolas. There are also extended boat trips which will include a sunset cruise.

It is around 150 metres from landing to the rim of the crater on Nea Kameni, where you can see the fascinating lava formations and gaze up at Santorini’s cliff top villages, like Oia and Fira. The striped cliffs are reddish brown, grey and black pumice. You should be able to spot steam and sulphur escaping from vent holes. There is a hiking trail to follow.

Tip: Take an early trip as it can get very hot on the volcano in the afternoons. Wear flat, comfy shoes as it is quite a hike on rough ground, and a hat, sunscreen and take water

Swimming in the hot, thermal springs

Swimming in the hot, thermal springs of the Caldera

The thermal springs at Palia Kameni are in shallow water, so the boats tend to moor about 50 meters( depending on their size) off the coast, at the bay of Aghios Nikolaos. Look out for the ancient church set in the cliff's edge. In order to reach the hot springs you will need to jump off the boat and be able to swim at least a couple of pool lengths in order to reach them.

Once you reach the springs you will find the water is waist deep, so you can easily walk around. You will feel the soft volcanic mud beneath your feet, and as it is good for the skin many people rub the reddish brown mud on their arms and face as a treatment. Think of it as an outdoor spa!

The warm waters are caused by underwater venting from the live volcano, and they are full of minerals and salts so you will find you can float in the water easily.

Tip: If you're swimming in the hot springs don't wear your best swimwear, as the sulphury waters can stain them yellow.


sunset over the caldera, Santorini

Sunset over the Caldera

The fantastic panorama from the clifftop villages of Fira and Oia over the Caldera in the sunshine seems even further enhanced as the sun sets.

There are many sunset bars, restaurants and boat trips where you can watch the sun sink into the deep blue Aegean sea, falling behind the islets in the Caldera.

If you take a sunset cruise you can experience the sun setting magnificently behind the islets, Palia Kameni and Nea Kameni in the Caldera. You can gaze up at the clusters of whitewashed buildings on the edge of the towering colourful, lava-layered cliffs and enjoy the sun sinking behind the volcano.

As you return in the boat you will see all the twinkling lights of the island high up on the cliff tops. It is a magical view of a beautiful island.

View of the Caldera from the south

Panoramic view of Santorini's west coast from the road near Akrotiri (seen on the left). Click on the picture for a high resolution version and you'll be able to see the picturesque white painted towns of Fira and Oia on the cliff tops across the the Caldera. The enormous cliffs dwarf the cruise liners which visit the island almost every day during the summer. A couple of donkeys graze in the field near one of the many bars which are popular places to sit over a glass of wine or two and watch the sun go down. On the right, you can see the mountain of Profiti Illia, the highest point on the island and a great place to go for some more spectacular views.

santorini panorama of caldera

Tap the picture above to see a high resolution version

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