Exploring Nea Kamini Santorini
I don't think I really need to describe Santorini to anyone who knows the Greek islands. We all know about the whitewashed towns perched on top, and up the sides of the sheer cliff; indeed, if anyone asks for a 'photograph of Greece' they will, in all probability, be offered a photo of Santorini.
Don't get me wrong. Thira, the island's main town is indeed a charming place, with stunning views out to sea, and, if you stay long enough, a sunset to kill for.
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Instead we opted to explore Nea Kamini.
Santorini and Nea KaminiI suppose the date 1450 BC is as indelibly engraved on the mind of a native of Santorini as 1066 is to an English person. That's around when Santorini erupted, to cause the biggest bang in recorded history, and to wipe out a civilisation (although just how depends on which television archaeologist you believe).
This eruption left the world's biggest caldera, or crater, and all that remains of the walls are the main island, and that of neighbouring Thirassia. Eight more eruptions have occurred since then. The fourth, which happened around the beginning of the 18th Century, caused the island of Nea Kamini to appear. Subsequent eruptions caused the island to grow in size, and eventually engulf another nearby island.
Today, Nea Kamini is an uninhabited pile, devoid of all vegetation, and looking more like a slag-heap than anything else. But, nevertheless, it's an interesting slag-heap, as witnessed by the many notices on the quayside at the Old Harbour, below Thira, offering boat trips to 'see the volcano'.
Our ship stopped briefly to let us take a tender to Athinios, before sailing on to its anchorage off Thira. At Athinios, we transferred to a kaiki.
There are two small harbours on the island, where the kaikis tie up. These, a rack holding explanatory leaflets in most languages, aerials for monitoring the volcano and rope to ensure the visitors don't fall into the many craters are about the only man-made things you will see.
Exploring Nea KaminiThe first stop is at the oldest crater on the island, which was a separate island, Mikra Kamini, until the 1920s, when it was completely engulfed by lava from a new crater, christened 'Daphne'.
Not a place of great beauty, apart from the view across the caldera, with its imposing cliff wall, looking like a snow-capped mountain, with the whitewashed Thira perched on top of it. >
The crater Daphne also gave us a view of the neighbouring islands of Palea Kamini and Aspronissi. Palea Kamini, to our surprise, had buildings on it! Overlooking a little bay were some whitewashed blockhouses and a little church. Hot springs flow into that bay, and the minerals in them are said to have curative qualities.
But, meanwhile, the poor guide was trying to condense nearly 4000 years of history into the few minutes allowed to him. Actually, it worked out rather well. As he gave his presentation in English, the French-speakers drifted around and took photographs, and when he switched to French, we changed places.
Of course, we had to walk around 'George', and, on the eastern side, we saw some fumaroles; holes giving off steam and smelling slightly of bad eggs. Evidence enough, I think, that Nea Kamini isn't extinct; it's merely dormant.
The last eruption was in 1950, and another one could happen any time. But, we were told, there was no immediate danger of that happening. It was being monitored very closely, and would give plenty of warning.
'And, if that happens' said the guide 'we have a very good tour of the vineyards on the main island we can do instead!'
If You GoSantorini is an almost essential port of call for ships cruising the eastern Mediterranean. But, there is also plenty of scope for independent travellers.
The airport at Santorini is served by two domestic airlines, both of which operate frequent services from Athens. These are Olympic Airlines (www.olympicair.com) and Aegean Airlines (www.aegeanair.com). In the summer, several budget and charter airlines fly in from several European cities. EasyJet is just one www.easyjet.com
Ferries and accommodation:
Ferries from Athens (Piraeus) and some other islands call frequently at Santorini. Since it is a popular holiday resort, accommodation to suit any pocket can usually be found. For a really convenient 'one stop shop' to find out about ferries and accommodation anywhere in the Greek islands, I recommend www.gtp.gr for a really comprehensive listing.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author
Published: May 22nd, 2014
Updated: August 23, 2016