One day we head to FIra, park the car (no mean feat given the tight space and steep hill), buy excursion tickets from Pelican Travel (as recommended by Dimitrios) and walk down the 400 or so steps (some of which are being repaired as part of the bustle of cleaning, painting and construction that is consuming the island as it prepares for the onset of the tourism season) to the port itself for an excursion to the volcanic island of Nea Kameni, the volcano that blew up much of the island 3,500 years ago, leaving the rocky crest that we know as Santorini today.
We board an excursion sailboat (meeting a bunch of college students from the University of Wisconsin-my alma mater!-who are studying abroad in Rome and on spring break), which takes us to the island. We hike to the top of the cone, stopping to see (and smell) sulfurous vapors emanating from the volcano (which last blew up in 1956, destroying many of the grand captain’s homes in Oia, but sparing many of the cave homes, according to Dimitrios, who clearly likes the fact that the humbler abodes fared better than the grand houses–and you can still see many of the ruins of the captain’s houses, some of which have been restored).
The views are stupendous.
Then: back to the boat to sail around Nea Kameni to the hot springs. We jump off the boat into the chilly water to swim into the cove where the hot springs burble, sending tiny bubbles into brown water; bits of volcanic sediment stirred up by our feet swirl in the water around us.
My daughters find the whole experience unnerving, but want to experience the hot springs, which oddly enough aren’t uniformly hot but are a funny mix of warm and cold water.
Some of the UW girls leap in, fully clothed. Moral of story, always wear your swim suit as underwear in Santorini.