Firà - caldera - Ia

Evaluation: This is the most obvious hike you can make on the island of Santorini and it will lead you - if you have not discovered them by now - through the sister villages of Firà, Firostefáni and Imerovígli, going higher up all the time above the caldera. It then continues through the expanding housing in northern direction and it finally goes to Ia via a really magnificent path. This hike offers so many changing views on the volcano, the sea and the caldera, that it definitely deserves an evaluation of ***.
[Update by Raymond on May 23rd, 2013and on March 10th, 2014.]

[If you already have visited Firá and the neighnourhood and if you prefer to avoid the first part of this walk, that continues through new buildings, you could choose another walk that follows the caldera and that starts in Ia. In this walk, you retrace your steps near the chapel of Profítis Ilías, and you avoid the part with the numerous hotels and pensions.
See the walk Ia - caldera and back.]

Estimated time: This hike takes two hours and a half (actual walking time), but the total time can reach 4 or 5 hours. It is ideal to leave Firà at about 10am and in this way you will arrive in Ia already between 1 and 2pm. You can then eat in Ia in one of the many bars. In the afternoon you can descend to the little harbour of Ammoudi...

Route description(0h00) From the bus square in Firà (when you get to Firà by bus) you have to continue to the very busy square of Theotokopoulou. This is the modern centre of Firà with a lot of travel agencies (the Santo Volcano next to the Emporiki Trapeza-bank is a very decent one), banks and bars. In the corner, in between the George's Snack Corner and the Pelican travel agency you go left, in the direction of the caldera. You can then take one of the three streets off the right, they all lead towards the higher part of Firà.
You can also depart from the spot where one has the most beautiful view over the volcano, high up near the cathedral and the Hotel Atlantis. From here on you walk in northern direction, past the old hotel Panorama, through the highest of the three parallel streets and past all the jewelry shops. You DO NOT go left to the staircase and the old harbour downstairs, but you go straight, by following the signposts to the "cable car".
After 5 minutes each of these three streets arrives at the Archaeological Museum higher up (this museum is open till 3pm, but not on Mondays). It is best to take a left here, past the upper station of the cable car. You then go right above the caldera, until the red-brown building higher up that dominates this neighbourhood of Firostefani: it is the P.M. Nomikos Conference Centre, where a lot of exhibitions take place – on the extending corner in front of this building many people take pictures of the marvellous panoramic view.

[If you do not take a left at the Archaeological Museum, but go straight instead, the little streets higher up, on the left and the right of the catholic Dominican monastery (the youth hostel is in this area as well) will also bring you to the Nomikos Centre.]

Panoramic view  over the volcano.

(0h10) On the left of the Centre you follow the tiled road and stairs, while you enjoy the view – in front of you you can see the even higher situated village of Imerovígli - here and there there are markers [6]. Some 6 minutes later you pass the little church Agios Gerasimos; you then move away from the caldera into a busier street, further, the alley has an uneven pavement, between walls built with lava stone [6]. You go higher again on the path on the left of the main road and some 15 minutes after you have departed from the Nomikos Centre you reach the monastery of Agios Nikólaos – also this is a great viewpoint.

(0h27) Your street continues on the right of the monastery and you go further up till Imerovígli. You walk on steadily and you pass some beautiful villas and apartments. After about 10 minutes you reach the highest point of Imerovígli, near the little baroque tower and the church – both of them decorated with a blue dome. Some 30 metres further, you should take a left for a moment , towards a small door of a chapel, but once  arrived in front of the door, you go right again.

[A little further, you can go down on the left, via a steep path with approximately 100 steps, until the little chapel of Agios Geórgios. The view from here is fantastic and there are some banks to have a rest. You can approach the caldera even more by getting on the protruding cape. You then return to the main path.]

A cape on the way from Firà to Ia.

View on the caldera...

You go up a bit, while keeping to the right, and then you continue first on a paved later on a concrete alley between houses.  Now, you continue for another 10 minutes: you go up a little, down a little, all the time along new apartments and villas, some of them with swimming pools. You then finally get to a gravel path and then on the old, tiled trail, some 45 minutes after your departure from Firà.

(0h45) This is only the temporary end of the buildings, because a little further down the path turns into a gravel road again. In this way you walk for another 25 minutes past apartments – new ones or under construction. Past the Pantheon de Luxe the road splits up: on the left you can take a path and then some concrete steps to descend to a marvellous spot: you are at the peaceful church of Agios Antónios, and a couple of picnic tables invite you to take some rest.  If you have left a little later, then this is the ideal picnic spot. The other small road, going up on the right, leads to the snack bar To Monopáti and a hundred meters further on starts a concrete path.
After a few minutes you see above and in front of you the white chapel of Agios Márkos (sign “Agios Márkos” + [4]). You follow the small concrete road to the right and beneath the chapel [4] and already after a few minutes, you arrive next to the sign "Profítis Ilias”, and to the left, you see the blue and white chapel of Profítis Ilias.

The little church of Profítis Ilías.

[You could go up to the left to that chapel: in this case, you will follow during about 10 minutes a path with a nice view on the caldera; that path will join with the trail you will follow now, see below under the point (1h29).]

(1h15) You do NOT go up to the left, but about 50 meters BEFORE the chapel, there is a paved path that goes right (hiking sign Vouniá 15 '). It is an alternative route which is marked with the number [3]. The beautiful trail that descends slowly, is very easy and offers nice views of the other, rather monotonous, part of Santoríni.

The trail [3], that returns from the chapel of Profítis Ilías towards Vouniá. 

The pavement becomes stony after 12 minutes – it is here that the path that follows the caldera, joins your path from the left.

(1h33) Shortly after, you get to the asphalt road - you are to Vouniá and you now will follow the road to the left for a little less than 6 minutes. Just beyond a cantina - the spot is called "Stérna Louloudíou" = "Cistern of the Flower", a path covered with pumice and lava stones starts to the left (hiking sign Ia 60 '). The path becomes a little road, and after 7 minutes, you climb a staircase with a beautiful dark pavement along a black wall [1] - note also the beautiful layers of pumice stone on the left.

A very nice stretch...

Another 10 minutes later, there is a section where you continue on gray ash, which also takes 10 minutes - no wonder the hill on your right is called Mávro Vounó (= Black Hill) ...
You slowly go down while describing
a wide turn, with behind you a beautiful view over the road you had to follow - from the upper chapel with the blue dome, until Vouniá, the asphalt road and the trail from Stérna Louloudíou. Finally, you arrive between the chapel of Stavrós and a small older chapel - you can enjoy the splendid view towards Ia and the northern part of the island. Through the small tower, you often can see beautiful sunsets!

The little chapel of Stavrós, 10 minutes before Ia.

(2h06) The descent lasts 10 minutes and most of the time, you walk on a beautiful uneven pavement, sometimes on the black or reddish lava - and so you come near another chapel, also dedicated to Profítis Ilías.

The path between Stavrós and Profítis Ilías.

(2h17) You continue while keeping to the left - the right path leads to the small village of Finikiá, where also begins the short walk to the beach of Baxédes.
Very soon, you come next to the first big hotel: the pavement becomes gravel and after a little more than 10 minutes, you get to a concrete ground, next to the water company of Ia.

(2h28) The small road, the Odós Persefónis, continues next to luxurious hotels with pool, then it leads to the asphalt road next to Perivolas Market. You still can follow the little paved street besides the asphalt road, then the road itself, and you finally arrive next to three churches. (2h36)

[Optionally, you can continue straight on the main street, to discover the streets of Ia, you can drink or eat something in one of the bars or restaurants, you can descend to the beach of Ammoudi, or you can stay to watch the sunset, which attracts hundreds of tourists each evening in summer time...
Until late at night there are buses back to Firà, but remember that the first buses after the sunset are usually overcrowded…]


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