Who would expect that Santorini has more to offer besides luxury hotels, hospitality, services, restaurants and night life?
It’s no coincidence that Santorini is the top destination that combines comfort with adventure, relaxation with exercise and, above all, mountains with a sea view. These contrasts can be experienced through our hiking guide that will reveal the beauty of Santorini that is hidden in its mountains, its inaccessible beaches and its volcanic paths.
Hiking Skaros Rock
The challenge here is the big number of stairs you have to go down and up – 300 stairs till you reach Skaros base and 200 till Theoskepasti church.
General Information & Tips
Distance: 0.64 klm from start and till the church / 0.53 klm from start and till the top of the rock
Duration: Max 1 hour Min 40 minutes
Items worn: Sneakers / Hat or Scarf / Sun glasses / Sun cream
Supplies: One or two bottles of water
Must have: Camera plus spare batteries and film/memory card.
A brief history
Skaros is one of the most impressive spots of Santorini. It is a kind of conical peninsula that on top forms a huge rock, about 20m high. But Skaros is not only geologically interesting, it is also historically important, as it is the first Kasteli (fortress) that was built on Santorini in the 15th century in order to protect from the pirates’ attacks.
In medieval Santorini, there were five Kastelia, but Skaros was the most important of them. Being the medieval capital of Santorini, it was large and densely built. The Venetian aristocracy of the time used to live there and its population was mainly Catholic. However, due to its special location, Skaros suffered a lot during the earthquakes and its inhabitants gradually left and moved to Fira.
Now, only ruins have remained to remind of the glorious settlement that Skaros was in the past, however there are a few lithographs that depict medieval Skaros, thus helping us not only realize what it looked like but also think about the power of nature and time that can transform a flourishing centre into a few piles of rocks.
Your tour to the Skaros rock starts in Imerovigli and the church of Agios Georgios (Saint George). The church is the perfect place for preparation and relaxation before the hiking. It provides a beautifully spotted veranda with an amazing view of the caldera and Skaros. On the edge of the veranda you will find a marble sign written in Greek: “In memory of the miracle of Saint George that took place on 14-3-98 when the 20 year old Evaggelos Spaiou, from Verat, Albania, was saved, after he has fallen from this spot into the gulch”.
You will find the path that leads to Skaros a few meters from the church. Standing on the top of the stairs you have to gaze at the view. The rock looks at the same time beautiful and scary, a huge rocky mass that shines under the sun and hangs above all its surroundings. The cement stairs are wide and you will descend easily. The caldera, blue and shiny, hugs Skaros gently and right behind it, the two Kameni islands appear as if the three of them are in constant communication with each other – after all, all three are children of the volcano.
After few minutes you will meet a small chapel Agios Ioannis, Katiforis (Saint John – the one that goes downhill). The chapel is a perfect place for pictures. On your right you can see Oia, spreading like butter on a thick slice of bread, whereas on our left, the steep cliffs of Santorini fold and unfold like a ribbon.
Further down, the view is getting even better. The stairs leads you along red and black rocks that create wonderful color contrasts with the white and blue of the sea. You will pass some ruins attached to the rocks, old houses testifying that Skaros was once inhabited. When you reach the end of the stairs you will find your self surrounded by a sumptuous feast of colors: red rocks, green grass and weeds, some low bushes with bright purple flowers and ruined, deserted houses from reddish and black volcanic stones. The rock looks differently. The perspective has changed and it looks bigger, with the ruins helping the eye to compare and adjust to the reality: the rock is actually big!
Once you have reached this part of your little trip you will have to decide which path you will follow. The one sitting in front of you leads straight up to the rock’s tip. The other path, on your left, goes around the rock 20 meters below the tip. You should do both of them, first do the easy one, the one that goes to the top.
On your way up there you will witness that the remains of the buildings and the cave houses (hyposkafa) that surrounded it in the past are scattered all around, reminding you of its previous glory. Follow the path and you will reach to a point where you will find yourself alone with the rock. Huge, tall and red, it stands strong, lonely and silent at the edge of the hill. The caldera water, as if trying to comfort it, turns turquoise as it comes in contact with its foot.
When you return search for the second path. It is very narrow and rather difficult to determine it but do not miss the chance to follow it, it will lead you to an amazing scenery. Few minutes later and a downhill of 200 stairs you will find the remote chapel Theoskepasti (God Covered); a magical white church standing all alone staring at the horizon. What a great place to rest. You should take your time and fill your lungs with the sea breeze and your heart with tranquility.
On your way back, if you look up you will see that Imerovigli spreads on the top of the cliff and the white church of St Georgios that greets you from the top of the black rock from frozen lava. Then, you might notice on our right a pink-brownish rock where someone has written Danke – maybe because they wanted to thank whoever or whatever is responsible for such an unbelievable beauty.