Ia - caldera and back

Evaluation: The most obvious hike you can make on the island of Santoríni is probably the long walk from Firá to Ia, following the caldera – see the walk Firá – caldera – Ia.
It leads 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.
A good alternative however can be to start the walk in Ia and to retrace your steps after 1h20: in this way, you can enjoy the most beautiful panoramas and beautiful trails. This walk then avoids the stretches with the new constructions - and you can visit the village of Firà and its neighbourhood on another day…
This hike offers so many changing views on the volcano, the sea and the caldera, that it definitely deserves an evaluation of ***.
[23 May 2013.]
[The translation of this walk w
as made with some help of Google translate - so, do not mind the mistakes...]

Estimated time
: The way out of this walk along the caldera takes about 1h20 (AWT),the way back requires more or less the same time. The actual walking thus amounts to a total of 2h35, but the total time (TWT) can reach almost the double - we walked from 11am to 3.30 pm, a total time thus of 4h30...

Route description
: [There are of course many bus connections from Firá to Ia - in this case, you should get out at the beginning of the pedestrian street zone, where the main road veers right. If you come by car to Ia, you should look for a parking lot to the right of the road and near the large beige church with the blue dome of Agios Vasílios.]

(0h00) Where marble pedestrian street of Ia starts (the Odós Louká Nomíkou), with its many shops, terraces and luxury pensions, you also will see Agios Vasílios, the large church with the blue dome, with another two adjacent white and smaller churches. You walk away from the pedestrian street, to the left of the churches and on the asphalt road. But very soon, you can follow the black paved street that starts to the right (hiking sign and [1]).

The old hiking sign near the beginning of walk [1] along the caldera. 

After 4 minutes, it passes on the right side of a mill, still continues for a little while and get again to the road. You continue to the left of the great buildings of the water company of Ia, with the desalinization plant [1], and on the other side of a vague ground, you find the beginning of a gravel path [1]. It runs along a wall built of pumice and pieces of lava, becomes concrete and then definitely continues as a gravel path.

(0h14) The path becomes narrower and reaches a main path, paved with black stones, which rises up until next to the chapel of Profítis Ilías.

A nice pavement...

Further on, you climb some stairs - you now continue to the left of the caldera, so that you have a beautiful view of the inside of Santoríni.
You still go up and you get in this way to the left of a black slope with strangely shaped rocks - you can take a glance to the right for the magnificent view of the entire caldera, which extends from Merovígli, on the left, with the promontory below, until Thirasiá to the right, with the volcano in the middle.

(0h31) Your trail passes through a narrow passage with dark red rocks.

Just before arriving at the chapel of Stavrós.

You still climb until you arrive between an old white chapel and the chapel of Stavrós [1] - through the small arch, you have a photogenic view of Ia...

A look from the little tower of the chapel of Stavrós... 

(0h35) The following 8 minutes are really beautiful: the trail is covered with black ashes; further on,  it becomes rocky and then gravel alternates with a beautiful pavement. You go down and the path becomes a small road - you keep to the right, in order not to reach the asphalt road, but finally you get to the road anyway - the spot is called "Stérna Louloudíou" (Tank of the Flower ), there is a hiking sign and a canteen is located besides the road.

(0h58) You follow the road for about 7 minutes (starting from here, there is a signposting with [2]) and then you get to a few white houses of the hamlet of Vouniá: you take the slope up to the right, but soon, there is a beautiful paved trail that starts on the left [2]. There is a bifurcation after 2 minutes, where you go right - it is here that later on you will arrive from the left...
The steep climb now continues on red and gray ashes, the views are beautiful...

High above the caldera...

(1h19) After a paved stretch you come next to the big chapel with a blue dome of … Profítis Ilías...

The church of Profítis Ilías.

[If you wish to continue towards Merovígli and Firá, you should follow the concrete road (hiking sign Agios Márkos 10 ') - the path that seems to start on the right of the hill in front of you leads nowhere!
After the concrete road still follows a path for 5 minutes: then there is the quiet location of Agios Antónios, but soon you will meet the new constructions of Merovígli – the following 45 minutes, until the center of Firá, will offer of course great views, but the trail or road always continue next to hotels and pensions...]

(1h19) We decided to retrace our steps just beyond Profítis Ilias: about 50 meters past the church, there is a paved path that goes sharply to the left (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 you have followed along the caldera, joins your path from the left.

(1h33) Shortly after, you get to the asphalt road - you are back to Vouniá and you now will follow the road to the left for a little less than 6 minutes. The path covered with pumice and lava stones starts to the left just beyond the cantina (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 the 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 the small older chapel - you again can enjoy the splendid view towards Ia and the northern part of the island. Through the small tower, you often can see beautiful sunsets!

(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 the other chapel of 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 the 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 the 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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