For a unique and astonishing look at Santorini and a chance to completely escape the tourist bustle, a hike on the unspoiled island of Thirassia is exemplary. Nearly deserted, but for a few locals, Santorini’s sister island, Thirassia, has all of Santorini’s natural splendor without the crowds.
Thirassia, which was once part of Santorini, is now its sister island positioned just opposite the lagoon, as your gaze sweeps across the volcanic, Kameni islands. There is a ferry running from Ammoudi port of Oia to Thirassia three times a day and costs only a few Euros, which makes for an easy island hop. Once on Thirassia, strike out up the hill and don’t worry as the path is hard to miss. It’s steep in places, but every time you turn around, the glorious views of Santorini across the deep blue Aegean Sea to the multilayered, colorful caldera get more and more astonishing. From the ancient monastery at the top, the Aegean seascape spreads out around you in a full 360-degree panorama that will take your breath away.
Taking an adventure to Thirassia is like taking a time machine back in time. This non-touristic island provides home to approximately 300 inhabitants on 9.299 square kilometers (3.590 sq. mi) of unspoiled terrain. While it is completely possible to explore this island alone with friends or family, imagine what could be added to your experience if you were accompanied by a local expert guide? You no doubt will find the main steps leading from the Korfos port up to the village of Thirassia, but would you know about the genesis, history and traditions of this authentic island? You would certainly be able to gaze upon Thira (Santorini) and take in the glorious views, but do you truly understand what happened 3,600 years ago that separated this island from its whole? As you wander around the villages or take marked hiking trails throughout the island, would you recognize the wildlife, agriculture, abandoned cave houses or vineyards? What about as you venture inside a small Greek chapel, would you know the priest, anything about the Greek religion or any of there beliefs? These are the differences that make a day of onlooking new landscape to an excursion of learning, tasting and experiencing a different culture and time period from anything you’ve yet to know.
SantoriniExperts offers 3 hiking, discovery tours of this authentic beauty: Discover Thirassia – Group, Discover Thirassia – Private, Thirassia Sunset). Following, I will describe a day of being entertained and escorted by your local guide. The main difference in choosing a tour is only if you would prefer to be with a small group of other travelers (semi-private) or a private tour with only those special guests you choose. The private tour is also available as a sunset excursion in which the itinerary is the same, yet, you get to gaze upon Santorini’s world-famous sunset, then travel back on the boat to Thira witnessing the magnificent colors splash upon the caldera.
The day begins when your local guide picks you up from your hotel or spot of your choosing. Then, off to the Ammoudi port below the village of Oia, where you will embark on a small ferry boat to the port of Korfos, situated along the caldera of Thirassia. Don’t forget to take several photographs as you ride through the Aegean waters filling the lagoon, past the volcanic islands. It’s quite a sight to see Santorini and its majestic layered caldera from a boat as you descend further away. From the port of Korfos, you will begin your climb up the 300 large steps to the village of Manolas. Of course, there are donkeys on this island too. So, if starting your day with that many steps isn’t appealing, hop atop a local donkey for a small fee to take you to the top. Our next stop is at the taverna “Panorama”, where you can get rest and refresh. Your guide will explain to you everything there is to know about the genesis and history of Thirassia Island. SantoriniExperts have all the local expertise and will help you gain all the information needed about the local agricultural specialties, wine production and of course the Greek traditions. The short stop will be followed by a stroll through the traditional village of Manolas. An abandoned cave house, the centre of the village and the school are some highlights along the way. You will then wander along through the untouched nature of Thirassia. During your hiking tour, you will pass through a garden with vegetables like the famous Santorinian tomatoes and a vineyard. All the while, discovering different indigenous herbs until you get to Akrilia. Akrillia is a deserted village full of cave houses, which was once the biggest settlement on this island. In the centre, you can find and visit the Virgin Mary Church where your expert guide will share with you interesting information about the Greek religion.
On the terrace of the church, a traditional Greek meal awaits you combined with the priests’ homemade wine. Plus, you can visit his old canava (winery) and learn the art of wine making. To conclude this wondrous day, you will have time for a little swim or a coffee before you go back by the ferry boat to the port of Ammoudi, where your ride to the hotel already awaits you.
The tips I will provide you with in this blog are almost identical to the tips for hiking Santorini (Thira). The summer season is when the islands see their highest number of guests, so during this time it is crucial to remember that the heat can reach over 40 degrees Celsius or 100+ degrees Fahrenheit. So, be prepared with sunscreen, a hat and good walking shoes. Most importantly, remember to pack plenty of water and food for this hike, as this sparsely populated island has few of Santorini’s many restaurants or supermarkets.
Want to explore further? Plan on adventuring off solo?
For those of you who plan to delve into the island of Thirassia deeper while on foot, I would recommend downloading the hiking map on your phone, which can be used with GPS and without Wi-Fi (you are sure to run into areas where it is not so easy to get a connection). You can download a map on your smartphone, iPhone, or tablet and use the built-in GPS receiver to locate yourself on the map. Below, I have also included a picture of the map that is available for download along with instructions.
Instructions for Map / GPS app:
1. Download a free PDF Maps App from your PlayStore or AppStore. (Avenza offers a nice free App, which is easy to locate the hiking map)
2. Find the map by typing in the link: http://www.pdf-maps.com/maps/62748/
3. Buy the map online from the Avenza store at a small fee of a few Euros (2-5 Euros).
4. Open the map.
5. Tap the GPS button (looks like a circle with 4 lines like a compass) to view your current location (blue dot).
6. Drop placemarks (looks like a lollipop symbol) to mark your location, to edit notes, or to take pictures.
As you look at the map, there are 6 numbered trails on the island of Thirassia. Following, I have listed each trail that is on the map, which you can find on the islands with signposts at their trailheads. For each trail, I provide you with a general description of what type terrain you can expect, the distance in length and estimated time it may take. Regarding the times, however, keep in mind that these estimates are of those hikers that are walking at a steady, consistent pace without stops for pictures or resting breaks. So, you can adjust your anticipated times according to your ability level and type of experience you desire. Another option is to purchase the hiking map directly through the Anavasi company in either paper http://www.anavasi.gr/product.php?lang=en&id=13 or digital http://www.anavasi.gr/product.php?lang=en&id=117 format.
1. Riva – Manolas (2,8 km / 35 minutes)
This route takes you on a continuous ascent from Rivas to the village of Manolas in which you follow a smooth uphill path between stone walls.
2. Manolas – Kommates – Ai Giannis (Saint John) – Manolas (2,2 km / 40 minutes)
This is a circular trail, starting and ending at the village of Manolas. This lovely hike offers splendidly beautiful views of the caldera and Korfos.
3. Manolas – Potamos – Agrilia – Manolas (2,6 km / 1 hour)
Path – road
This is another circular trail, connecting Manolas with the beautiful hamlet of Potamos and the deserted Agrilia with its impressive cave houses.
4. Manolas – Profitis Ilias – Kera – Monastery of Panagia (2,9 km / 1 hour 10 minutes)
Dirt road – path – paved way
This route connects Manolas with the chapel of Prophet Elijah, the ruined hamlet of Kera and then reaches the monastery of Panagia, built on the promontory of Tripytis, at the southern tip of the island.
5. Agrilia – Christos – Old mines (2,55 km / 1 hour)
Dirt road – path
This interesting trail takes you to visit to the old mines, which are the most important archaeological site on the island.
6. Korfos – Manolas (0,83 km / 15 minutes)
This is a short trail that takes you on a descent from the village of Manolas to the small fishing port of Korfos.