The view over the caldera from the main towns on the island of Santorini is quite rightly considered one of the world’s finest. Look out over the sea at the circular chain of high cliffs and it is mind-blowing to consider that the entire area in front of you was once a land mass the size of the Isle of Wight. A colossal volcanic eruption, the largest ever witnessed by humans, collapsed the body of the island in the sea, leaving the dramatic landscape you can see today.
As enormous cruise ships that bring the crowds to Santorini every day dock in front of the main town of Fira, it becomes apparent just how large the caldera is as these ships stand dwarfed by the surrounding cliffs. While most visitors will enjoy this stunning view from one of the tavernas in Fira, an alternative way to appreciated the view is to hike along the caldera rim from Fira to Oia, at the north end of the island.
The trail is around 12 km in length and will take 3-4 hours to walk if you take your time, as you will invariably do in the heat of the day. For the first hour or so out of Fira, you will pass luxury hotels, cafes and meet the odd trader selling souvenirs to those taking a short walk along the rim. Once you pass Imerovigli, around 4km from Fira, the path opens out and the landscape becomes more wild. If you visit in the Spring, you will be greeted by a rush of colourful wild flowers; at any time of the year small lizards will dart across the rocks, stopping for a moment to soak up the sunshine.
For the final half of the walk you are likely to pass more than a handful of fellow walkers as you make your way along the dirt track. It’s wise to stock up on drinks in Imerovigli; while we did find a lady selling freshly squeezed orange juice along the roadside, if she’s not on duty then there are no refreshments until you reach Oia.
Along the way you’ll pass several small monasteries. These will almost certainly be closed, but will offer a chance to rest in their shadow, along a trail where shade is at a premium.
It’s almost impossible to get lost, with the caldera view constantly there to your left. Basically, if you can’t see the sea, you’re probably going the wrong way.
Just before sunset is the prime time to arrive in Oia. It is at this time that thousands descend on this small town and make their way to the end of the village to observe the sun as it drops below the horizon. It is a beautiful spot, although many prefer to experience sunset back in Imerovigli, where the views are also spectacular but the crowds are far smaller.
From Oia there are buses back to Fira after sunset, but don’t hang around too long if you don’t know to be left with having to arrange a taxi ride back to town.
Ask visitors to Santorini about their strongest memory and they will almost certainly say it’s the view. If you take the walk along the caldera rim from Fira to Oia, you can soak up this sensational view from many different perspectives.