Pýrgos - Profítis Ilías - Théra - Períssa

Evaluation: Just like the hike from Firà to Ia, also the trip to the 567-metres high summit of the Profítis Ilías, to the ancient Théra and then continuing to the beach of Períssa is a must when hiking on the island of Santoríni. 
You can reach the top of the Profítis Ilías in different ways: you can leave from Kamari (partly along a trail cutting off the corners of the asphalt road) or from Períssa (along a beautiful, old path – the opposite way of the trail described in the second part of this hike). But there is also a nice and obvious trail leaving from the village of Pýrgos. The part between the Profítis Ilías and Períssa is magnificent and it leads you through an impressive mountainous landscape – this hike gets an evaluation of ***.
[Update by Raymond on the 4th of May 2011.]

Estimated time: The hike in itself takes about 1h50 (actual walking time): 40 minutes to the summit of the Profítis Ilías, another 40 minutes to descend to the parking place at the ancient Théra and 25 minutes to get to Períssa. 
The monastery on the Profítis Ilías is very often closed and the excavations of the ancient Théra are closed on Mondays and after 3pm!! 

Route description[From Firá, there is an hourly bus to Pýrgos - it concerns the bus that mostly continues to Períssa (and sometimes also to Akrotíri).
The bus stops in the center of Pýrgos, on the Platía Stefánou Melékou -
which is rather a crossing with shops and outdoor terraces.]

[If you have time, it is very interesting to climb to the  kástro and the large churches, which are distinguished by their blue dome and their typical bell tower.]

One of the big churches of Pýrgos.

(0h00) You take the street paved with small pebbles (in between a palm tree and the café Johnnie): the street starts to the left of the main road to the Profítis Ilías and runs parallel to it (mark [1] a little more below). You thus get to a square with the same pavement. To the left and behind the square, you find a narrow street that goes to the right [1].

[Halfway this street, at the second concrete street to the left, starts the short walk [2] Pýrgos - Mésa Goniá

Your walk [1] continues straight and gets a little later to the asphalt road, where you take a left. You follow this road for about 4 minutes, and then you see on the left side a little concrete road, that further on becomes a paved road. There is a sign "Profitis Ilias by foot", underneath a cross; there is also a new hiking sign "Profítis Ilías 40' / Archéa Théra 1u30".

The beginning of the path to the Profítis Ilías...

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.

The path towards the Profítis Ilías.

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 40 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. Unfortunately, the monastery is almost always closed...
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 hiking signs on top of the Profítis Ilías.

You descend on this narrow trail [1] 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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(0h42) The continuation of the walk starts to the left of the buildings, next to a heavy electricity pole, where there is a breach in the wall.