The thing that surprised me most about Santorini was the amazing hiking trails. Hiking in Santorini is a fun way to explore the natural beauty of the island. The most popular trail is definitely the Fira to Oia hike. If your time is limited and you can only do one hike, let that be the one. But if you have time to spare, there are a few great hiking trails to choose from. Below I share two of the best alternative routes for hiking in Santorini, Kamari to Perissa (or vice versa) and Pyrgos to Kamari or Perissa (via Profitis Elias Monastery and Ancient Thera). Let’s do this!
1. Kamari to Perissa via Ancient Thera
The first hike I did on the island was the Kamari to Perissa hike. The two black beach towns of Santorini are separated by a small mountain and the ruins of Ancient Thera perched on top of the hill. The hike is relatively short, easy to moderate, with a lot of beautiful views along the way to keep you motivated. The total distance of the route is 2.9 km and it should take you around 01h30 to complete. I took longer to complete the hike because I stopped to take tons of photos along the way and I also visited Ancient Thera.
The hike can be split up into two parts: Kamari to Ancient Thera and from Ancient Thera to Perissa. You can do the hike in either direction, from Kamari to Perissa or from Perissa to Kamari. Depending on which direction you choose, you can expect to climb a lot of stairs. The way from Kamari up the mountain is quite steep, and the majority of the trail you’ll be climbing stairs. That’s the direction I chose, but if that doesn’t sound like fun to you, do the hike from Perissa to Kamari. The slope is gradual and the climb is easy.
Kamari to Ancient Thera
If you are starting your hike from Kamari, the bus will drop you off in the centre of town. From there you follow the signs for Ancient Thera. Once you are outside the town, the hiking trail is clearly marked. Just follow the signs and keep climbing up the stairs. From Kamari, the distance is 1.6 km and you should reach Ancient Thera in approximately 50 minutes.
About halfway up the trail to Ancient Thera, you’ll find Zoodochos Pigi or the Life-giving Spring. This natural spring with a cave-like opening was the main water source for the city of Ancient Thera. Once you reach the top of the mountain, you have beautiful views of Kamari and Perissa.
Ancient Thera, as the name suggests, is an antique city perched on the mountain between Kamari and Perissa. The city was inhabited from the 9th century BC until 726 AD. Whether you want to visit Ancient Thera is completely up to you. It makes for a great break more or less halfway through the hiking trail. The entrance fee is €4 for adults and be sure to check out the official website here for free entrance days and opening times.
Now, for me, the ruins of Ancient Thera is a little bit boring. For the most part, it feels like you’re staring at piles and piles of rocks. I did like the Church of Agios Stefanos, which is still standing and dates back to the 8th or 9th century AD. The church was built on the site of an earlier Christian church that was founded in the 6th century AD. The other ruin that I found interesting is the theatre. The oldest part of the structure dates back to the 2nd century BC.
But by far the best part of visiting Ancient Thera, for me, is the incredible views. You get a great view of both Kamari and Perissa. Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautiful viewpoints along the hiking trail, but nothing beats the view from Ancient Thera.
Ancient Thera to Perissa
The hiking trail from Ancient Thera down to Perissa is very easy. The distance is only 1.3 km and it’ll take you about 35 min to reach Perissa. There are a couple of loose rocks on the trail, so just make sure you are wearing proper shoes. About halfway down the trail, you’ll find a small detour, a path that leads to Panagia Katefiani, a small little church in the side of the mountain.
As far as hiking in Santorini goes, this is a relatively short and easy to moderate hiking trail. It’s a fun activity that you can do in the morning or afternoon.
2. Pyrgos to Kamari or Perissa via Profitis Ilias Monastery and Ancient Thera
Besides Oia, Pyrgos was my favourite village in Santorini. People typically don’t flock to Pyrgos because it isn’t located on the caldera or next to the sea. But trust me, the village is beautiful and definitely worth a visit. From Pyrgos village, you can hike all the way down to Kamari or Perissa.
This hiking trail can be split up into three parts: Pyrgos to Profitis Ilias Monastery, from Profitis Ilias to Ancient Thera, and from Ancient Thera to Kamari or Perissa. The total distance is approximately 6 km and should take you around 3 hours to complete. Again it took me longer to complete the trail because I stopped to admire the views and take photos along the way. It’s possible to do this hike in reverse, from Kamari or Perissa to Pyrgos, but bear in mind that it’ll be uphill for the majority of the way.
What I loved about this hiking trail is that it’s super quiet. Apart from a few people checking out the view from the monastery, I didn’t see any other people on the trail. It felt like I had the whole mountain to myself. It took me almost a full day to do this walking trail because I spent some time in Pyrgos before the hike and afterward in Kamari.
Pyrgos to Profitis Ilias Monastery
Profitis Ilias is the highest point on the island of Santorini. So as you can imagine, it’s an uphill climb all the way from Pyrgos to the Profitis Ilias Monastery. The distance is 2.4 km and it should take you around an hour to reach the monastery. Along the way, 1 km south of Pyrgos, you’ll walk past a little church called the Church of Christ (New Church of the Holy Apostles). The church is built on a site where a school used to be back in the 1800s.
As I mentioned above, Profitis Ilias Monastery is the highest point in Santorini (567 m) and fitting located on a mountain of the same name. It’s the only place from where you can see the whole island, from Oia to Akrotiri. This view alone is worth the climb!
The monastery dates back to 1711. Today, there are still a couple of monks who live here, but the monastery isn’t open to the public. There is a little chapel that you can visit. I didn’t visit because I didn’t know about the chapel.
Profitis Ilias Monastery to Ancient Thera
From Profitis Ilias, the hiking trail continues to Ancient Thera. If you keep walking past the monastery, you’ll see the route markers. This part of the trail is an easy 1.9 km hike and should take you about an hour to complete.
The first section of the trail is a straight path that curls around the mountain. Although the path is narrow and the mountainside steep, I didn’t unsafe. This section is beautiful with lots of flowers to see and stunning views of the island. Also, as you round the first corner, you get a great view of Kamari from above.
When you turn the second corner, you can clearly see Ancient Thera below you. That’s a good beacon to keep in mind because although there is a path, the stones on the mountain can make it difficult to find the way down. Just use your common sense and walk in the direction of Ancient Thera.
Ancient Thera to Kamari or Perissa
From Ancient Thera you can choose to go down to Kamari or Perissa. The way down to Kamari is steep and you’ll be going down lots of stairs all the way. The descent to Perissa is much more gradual and easy. Since I already hiked from Ancient Thera to Perissa, I opted to go down to Kamari.
Tips for hiking in Santorini
- Keep in mind that there’s no shade along these routes, so if you’re hiking during the summer months, make sure to take a hat, sunscreen and enough water along with you.
- If you’re hiking up to the Profitis Ilias Monastery, make sure you do so on a clear day. If it’s cloudy, you won’t be able to see the whole island.
- The hiking trails in Santorini are, for the most part, easy and you don’t have to be a pro or super fit to enjoy them.
- The hiking trails typically have loose rocks on the pathways, so make sure you’re wearing the right pair of shoes.
- Don’t forget your camera!
Over to you. Did you do some hiking in Santorini during your stay? I’d love to know. Have you done one or both of these hiking trails and which is your favourite? I’ve also put together a great guide to Santorini to help you plan your trip.