Emborió - Profítis Ilías - Théra - Períssa

Evaluation: Together with the hike from Firà to Ia, also this hike to the 567 m-high summit of the Profítis Ilías, to the ancient Théra and afterwards to the beach of Períssa is a must when hiking on Santorini. There are several possibilities to reach the top of the Profítis Ilías: from Kamári (partly) and definitely from Períssa you can follow a nice ancient trail, but you then have to return by following the same route. 
From Pýrgos as well there is a beautiful and obvious path. For the hike today, though, we decided to depart from Emborió, which gives you the opportunity to get to know a nice and old monopáti. Not a lot of people follow this hiking trail and in Pýrgos this trail links up with the path to the Profítis Ilías. The part between the Profítis Ilías and Períssa is magnificent and it runs through a grand and mountainous landscape – this hike deserves an evaluation of ***.

Estimated time: The hike itself takes about 2h05 (actual hiking time): 35 minutes from Emborió to Pýrgos, 30 minutes to the top of the Profítis Ilías, 35 minutes descending to the parking lot near the ancient Théra and finally 25 minutes to Períssa. Since the monastery on the Profítis Ilías is closed in between 1 and 5 pm, you have to make sure to leave Emborió at 11 am at the latest. That means that you have to take the bus from Firà at least at 10 am. And… on Mondays and after 3 pm, the excavations of the ancient Théra are closed! A possible time schedule could be: you take the bus in Fira at 9.30 am – you hike from Emborió - Profítis Ilías from 10-11.30am – you visit the monastery and you have a picnic – you visit Théra from 1.3Opm to 2.30pm – you descend to Períssa from 3pm onwards and in this way you will still have plenty of time on the beach. Until late at night there are buses to return to Firà.

Route description: On the bus square of Firà you take the bus to Emborió and Períssa (there are buses every hour). After a trip of half an hour, via Pýrgos and Megalochóri, you get off in the centre of Emborió. 
From the bus square, you take the street on the left-hand side of the asphalt road that continues to the town of Períssa (opposite the farmakío or pharmacy).You pass two streets off the left and you continue until you take a left at the end of the street. You walk on for a couple of minutes and on the left you see some little churches. It seems as if time has come to a stop in this part of Emborió… After two minutes you take a narrow concrete street on the right and in this way you leave the village, on the left hand side of a rocky hill.
You walk in between houses and walls for about 5 minutes and then you find the ancient path in front of you. In a kind of gorge this trail goes up in between two hills, and underneath two arches.

The monopáti from Emborió to Pýrgos.

After 1 minute the nicely paved trail splits up; on the right it continues to a beautiful church with a blue dome a little further down. You take a left and go up and you continue on the left hand side of an elevated platform made of pumice stone. A couple of minutes later you get a beautiful view on the old neighbourhood you have just left behind – you can see the traditional houses, little houses in old caves, threshing floors, cactuses (all of this dating back from the earlier time period of Santoríni).
The trail is usually nicely paved with black stones and it goes up all the time – it has to be an old trail, but it is still frequently used by farmers on their donkeys. On this spot you can imagine how this island used to be, before the new harbour, the airport, and all the roads were constructed. After 15 minutes you see Megalochóri on the left and some 20 minutes later you get to a flatter stretch; on the left and not too far away in front of you, you can distinguish Pýrgos. You can also notice here that lots of tomatoes and grapes are still cultivated on Santoríni.

You do not have to take a right towards a deserted house, but you stay on this dusty and horizontal path, straight in the direction of Pýrgos. After 5 minutes you reach the first houses and the asphalt road, next to a house with lots of lanterns. Behind you there is a great view on the cape of Akrotíri.

On the asphalt road you go left for a short while, but almost immediately you find a cobbled path off the right. This trail will lead you directly to the Profítis Ilías – there is also a sign "Profítis Ilías by foot". This beautiful trail goes up gradually, between walls – first on a ridge and then on the slope of the mountain. Along the way you notice plenty of vineyards on the slopes towards Akrotíri on your right-hand side – used for the famous sweet white wine of Santoríni. Behind you, the panoramic view on Pýrgos + Firá is really beautiful.

After 23 minutes you cross the asphalt road and on the opposite side you find a narrower path that continues midst pumice stone. Another 3 minutes later you reach the asphalt road once more, at the foot of some military buildings. You follow the road on the right and after a couple of minutes you already get to the monastery, on the top of the Profítis Ilías, where you also notice 5 large and a couple of small aerials – it has just been 30 minutes since you left Pýrgos.

The monastery, founded in the year 1711, has a very rich history and also today it possesses a marvellous collection of icons and old manuscripts, and a beautiful ethnographic collection. This monastery can be visited every day, but it is closed during the long lunch break, from 1pm onwards. It is a pity that the entire neighbourhood and the summit of the hill are totally destroyed because of the military installations – but still, the view to the north, with Ia, Firà and Kamári, is truly fantastic.

The path to go down to the ancient Théra and Períssa, starts on the left; just past the sign "Military controlled area" – there is also a sign post "ancient Thira".  

You descend on this narrow trail which runs beneath and on the left hand side of the military installations and the monastery. Very soon you get a beautiful view towards the right, on the big mountain top with Théra, and on Períssa. The path is rough and sometimes it is almost blocked by some trees – you have to take care to stay on the lowest trail, otherwise you will end up on the rock on the right, but much too far up. 
After some ten minutes you get to see a glimpse of the circular parking lot at Théra. This only lasts for a short while, because then you descend more towards the left, with a view on Kamári, on the airport and on Monólithos. Keep an eye on the spot with gravel and pumice stone on the cape in front of you, because that is where you have to get to. At the other side of this spot you walk through some pumice stone and then you find a stone trail on the right. You now descend steeply over a rocky trail that goes down zigzaging to the circular parking lot with a canteen.

The trail to the ancient Théra goes up on the opposite hill Mésa Vounó (366 m). The excavations of the ancient Théra already started in 1816 and they extend over some 800 metres. They show remnants of housing from the 9th century AD until the Roman time. There are remnants of a couple of agora's (market places), plenty of houses, a small theatre, Roman baths, cisterns, a holy road, etc. You definitely have to walk all the way to the end, till the terrace of the Gymnopaidia, supported by large retaining walls. These Gymnopaidia date from the 6th century AD and it was the place where naked boys danced to celebrate the god Apollo. The view over Períssa is extraordinary! 
Be careful, though, the excavations are closed on Mondays and every other day after 3pm.

[If you want to go down to Kamári, you have to take first the asphalt road that descends zigzaging; from the second bend to the right onwards, here is a path to Kamári.]

The monopáti that descends to Períssa, with view to the Profítis Ilías.

On the right hand side of the parking lot you will find a monopáti that descends to Períssa. At first the path describes some steep hairpin bends, but then it continues rather horizontally. The views to the right and behind you on the gigantic rock of the Profítis Ilías are impressive. After about 15 minutes you see Períssa in front of you and a little further down there is a path off the left. By taking this trail you reach the small chapel of Agios Geórgios, after climbing up for about 5 minutes. This chapel is located high up and underneath a leaning rock. Some picnic tables and the attractive shade are inviting you to stay here for a while – a stay that will definitely not be disturbed by many people.

The chapel of Agios Geórgios, high above Períssa.

Back on the main trail you continue down by taking a right. After some wide hairpin bends and then a flat stretch you get down to a gravel road. You are now on the west side of the last houses and some hotels with swimming pools of Períssa.

You follow this gravel road to the left for about 30-40 metres and in this way you get to the asphalt road. You take a left on this road, towards the sea. You then reach a little square, with the excavations of a Christian church on the left, and with also the terminus of the buses to Firà. At the beach there is a nice tavern on the left, "Restaurant Tavern Markos": this is a beautiful spot to eat something. On the right of the tavern you can find some changing cubicles and on the black beach you can rent beach chairs. On the beach there are lots of trees, which is great after a hot and exhausting hike. Quite regularly, small boats arrive at the beach, which can take you around the cape to Kamári. If you walk a little further back on the beach, or if you swim in the sea, you can easily see the large terrace of the Gymnopaidia...
After having spent a couple of hours on the beach, and maybe an evening dinner on one of the terraces, you can take the bus back to Firà.

[If you want to hike from Períssa up to Théra and/or the Profítis Ilías, this is a description of the beginning of this hike: in between the Restaurant Tavern Markos (at the far end of the beach) and the Corner Bar (near the bus stop) you can find a little square: at this point you have to take the asphalt road inland, in the direction of the antennae on the Profítis Ilías. After some 5 minutes there is a gravel road off the right (a sign points to "Ancient Thira") and again 30-40 metres further on you will find our trail going up on the right.]  

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