8 Days, 7 Nights|
Guides, ground transportation, support vehicle, lodging, most meals per itinerary (noted as (B), (L), and (D) below), all kayaking equipment, all instruction, and entry fees into archaeological sites and the National Geological Park of New Kameni (the volcano).|
Air or ferry to Santorini, lunches, drinks and one dinner, personal clothing and accessories, full medical, baggage and trip cancellation insurance, airport taxes and gratuities.
The fabled island of Santorini has inspired travelers for thousands of years, and in modern times is renowned as the most romantic of all the Greek islands. Is it lost Atlantis? Many believe it is, but there is no doubt that it's paradise. And on this one-of-a-kind adventure, you'll learn its secret coves, remote volcanic black sand beaches, and undersea hot springs in a way few ever do - by kayak. During the days, we'll paddle the waters, hike the still-active volcano which is the centerpiece of the caldea, and enjoy the dramatic seascapes topped by white towns on top of the cliffs that combine to make Santorini one of the most beautiful locations on earth. At night, we'll share in the splendid world-class Greek cuisine of Santorini, taste the special wines that this dry volcanic terroir produces, and even have time to explore the shopping opportunities in the towns of Thira and Oia. But these indulgences will pale beside the centerpiece of our trip together - two nights on the rarely-visited island of Thirassia, staying in a cliff-top village that time has missed and that will make you feel that you're the first to discover your very own Greek island.
During this unforgettable trip, we will circumnavigate both the island of Santorini itself and Thirassia, observe the legendary sunsets - and a few sunrises, too, for the early-birds among us - and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Our guides are expert kayak instructors and passionate about both people and paddling. In addition to their extraordinary technical skills, our guides know the local culture, terrain and water conditions and are great companions for your adventure.
Day 1: Our trip begins by greeting guests at the airport or ferry port, depending on arrival times for transfer to the village of Imerovigli, where we will stay our first night on the island. Tonight we'll share in welcome drinks and watch our first fabulous sunset. Guests who arrive early in the day may choose to hike the scenic and historic footpath from the hotel to the famous towns of Oia and/or Fira. D
Day 2: After a delicious breakfast, we will commence our circumnavigation of Santorini beginning at beautiful Caldera Beach on the southwest coast. We will paddle west toward the lighthouse of Faros, enjoying a breathtaking caldera view with the cliffs of Santorini on our left and the smaller islands of Thirassia and Nea Kameni on our right. We’ll see the colorful doors of traditional Greek boat houses carved right into the seaside cliff walls. Rounding the cape, we’ll curve back east along the coast to our cappuccino stop at a colorful taverna at Pigadia Beach. Our lunch stop is at the historic Akrotiri Beach near the famed archaeological site, which has recently reopened to the public - time permitting we will visit the ruins ourselves. Our destination for the night is the town of Perivolos, where our friendly hosts await us in their beautiful oasis-like villas. After a swim and shower, we will visit a fine Santorini winery, perched atop one of the many picturesque cliffs, for wine tasting and one of many caldera sunsets. Afterwards we'll head back to a seaside taverna for dinner. B, D
Day 3: Today we'll be paddling north to the world-famous black volcanic sand beach of Kamares, where we'll enjoy a cappuccino stop before ascending by van to the ancient Roman-era site of Thira high above. We'll explore this fascinating and well-preserved ancient city and the exquisite views it offers of the caldera and even the other Greek islands beyond. Paddling half the distance to Oia, we will shuttle to our cliff-side, sunset-facing hotel. B, D
Day 4: After a brief shuttle back to the boats, we will begin to round the northern tip of Santorini and reach the photogenic and romantic town of Oia. Tonight you are on your own for dinner. In this famous cliff-dwelling town you will have the opportunity to have the quintessential Santorini experience: sunset viewing, jewelry and art shopping, fine food and drink. The white-washed houses and blue church domes we’ll see here have been captured in countless travel photos of Santorini. B
Day 5: Following another scrumptious buffet breakfast, courtesy of your guides, we will journey by kayak around the northern tip of the island and into Santorini’s dramatic caldera. We’ll pass the harbor at Ammoudi Bay and make our morning cappuccino stop at the harbor of Oia. We’ll admire the intense contrasting colors of the banded cliffs that show the different layers of volcanic materials. The impossibly warm, luminescent sea against the caldera’s sheer cliffs creates an inviting stage for cliff jumping and swimming. We’ll paddle along the interior curve of the caldera to the Port of Thira for our lunch stop, which provides opportunities for quick shopping and people watching. After lunch we will cross the caldera to the island of Thirassia, a time-capsule of the Greek islands from decades ago. Tonight we stay at the only inn on the island, requiring a 30 minute walk up through the old village, where our worldly and charming host, Jimmy, extends his heart and Greek hospitality. From here we can enjoy the glimmering lights of Oia and Thira on the “big” island, and enjoy unique traditional cuisine at a small taverna. B, D
Day 6: We’ll circumnavigate Thirassia and have a picnic lunch along the shore. Tonight our sunset hike takes us to the site of a historic monastery, one of our favorite spots in all of the islands, with one of the most spectacular views in the Greek Islands! B, D
Day 7: We’ll say good bye to Thirassia and make our final crossing back to Santorini. On the way, we’ll explore the "new" volcanic islands which have recently arisen in the caldera. The youngest of these, Nea Kameni, or “New Burned Island” is only 300 years old and is surrounded by hot springs. After a swim in the volcanic hot springs that empty directly into the sea, we’ll hike to the core of the volcanic crater and have a hearty picnic lunch overlooking the sea. At last, we’ll make our final crossing back to Santorini’s Caldera Beach and enjoy a well-deserved celebratory dinner. B, D
Day 8: Breakfast ends our stay on this beautiful and enchanting island. Final partings and transfers to flights or ferries round out our final day. B
We hope to see you on this spectacular adventure. Any further questions? Feel free to contact us!
This is all you will need - anything else is unnecessary baggage and will only be extra weight to carry.
- 3-7 T-shirts, some synthetic for paddling
- 1 shirt, long sleeved
- 2-3 pair shorts (some quick drying) Sun/rain hat Sneakers/cross trainers hiking; some prefer hiking in Tevas or other sandals with socks
- Rain gear just in case! (Paddling jacket works well as an alternative) or windbreaker jacket
- 1 pair sport sandals (Tevas, water socks etc)/ Paddling booties are great!
- Bathing suit(s)
- Underwear, socks
- Casual clothes for evenings (shorts/summer dresses are fine!)
- Clean change of clothing for the trip home
- Passport (be sure to check expiration date)
- Toiletry kit- toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, sunscreen, face cream, nail clippers, moleskin, baby powder, soap, washcloth (most hotels don’t provide them) etc.
- Personal medication kit- ibuprofen, aspirin, vitamins, band-aids, Dramamine®, cold/sinus meds if prone to colds
- Daypack/fanny pack for hiking options
- Collapsible walking stick for optional hikes
- Sunglasses Chums/Croakies® to keep glasses on your head are imperative
- Water bottle (optional- bottled water is plentiful and cheap)
- Small dry bag with carabiner clip (clear ones are very useful)
- Headlamp for sea caves
- Camera, film, waterproof container
- Paddling gloves (for the tender of palm- not neoprene but any open fingered glove can help e.g. biking gloves etc)
- Small towel (e.g. PackTowel® works well)
- Small travel alarm clock
- Mask and snorkel (can be purchased inexpensively)
- Field glasses – binoculars
- Paddle/personal PFD- we will supply paddles and PFD’s for group but if you prefer your own paddle and PFD, feel free to bring them along
- Ziploc® storage bags (to keep stuff extra dry in dry bag)
What is special about this trip?
Incredible coastline, spectacular sunsets, the friendliest innkeepers and taverna owners you’ll ever meet, warm waters in tremendously varied shades of blue and green, never-ending sunshine, phenomenal food, and an opportunity to see the Santorini that few tourists see. Rick Sweitzer, Director of The Northwest Passage, fell in love with the Greek Isles in the late 60’s and has been exploring the back roads and coastlines of these incredible islands ever since. This one-of-a-kind trip allows participants to experience both the well-known thrills of Santorini as well as the often-overlooked charms of the traditional culture, beautiful unpopulated coastlines and the unbeatable pleasure of paddling along the beautiful and dramatic volcanic coastline of Santorini and Thirassia.
How do I get there?
You take a ferry from Piraeus or fly to the small airport on Santorini, code JTR. It is very easy and often more convenient to travel the Cycladic Islands by ferry.
What papers do I need for travel?
All US citizens require a valid passport to enter Greece. A visa is not required for citizens of the United States, Canada, and the European Union. If you are a citizen of another country, please check with your nearest Greek embassy for visa requirements.
Do I need to get any shots before traveling?
No inoculations are required when entering or leaving Greece.
How and where will you meet me?
We will have a copy of your travel itinerary and meet you at the port or airport. A Northwest Passage guide will greet you.
How long will it take me to get there?
The flight to Athens is usually an overnight flight, leaving the U.S. in the late afternoon and arriving mid-day to late afternoon in Athens. Depending on the carrier and connection, you may overnight in another city en-route.
Where should I stay overnight around there?
If you plan on arriving early or staying late, give the office a call for a recommendation on a great place to stay.
What money should I take?
The trip fee covers most of your costs. The only things you will be responsible for are lunches, drinks, one dinner, personal purchases, and gratuities. Lunches generally range 5-10 Euro. Dinner ranges 10-20 Euro. Personal purchases again vary- one can buy unique souvenirs made of olive wood for 5 Euro or get fine jewelry for significantly more… it’s up to you.
What's the currency? Exchange rate? Where can I exchange money?
The Drachma was the Greek currency. However, Greece converted to the Euro in January 2002. For the most current exchange rate, there are several helpful websites. Oanda (www.oanda.com) will give you a handy conversion cheat sheet to take with you. You can exchange money at the airport. Exchange rates at the airport may not be the most favorable and they often have higher commission rates and/or minimum commissions. There are ATM’s at the airports which can be handy as there is not a commission, just the ATM service charge.
Do they take plastic there? Are there cash stations?"
Many of the larger shops and tavernas accept major credit cards, but some places only accept cash. ATMs are available in most of the populated areas on Santorini.
What's the weather like?
The weather in fall and spring is generally around 80° with lots of sunshine. Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, including lip protection. A broad-brimmed hat that secures on your head can also be very helpful. Water temperatures in fall tend to be in the mid to upper 70’s. Spring water temperatures are significantly cooler (high 60’s). Air temperatures cool off at night to the point you may want a light jacket. Rain is unusual but does sometimes occur. A light rain jacket can be handy.
What are the accommodations like?
We choose to stay in the nicest family owned inns and hotels. Each has an attached bathroom, and many have balconies with sunset or sunrise views!
What do I need to bring?
Upon registering, we will provide you with a detailed clothing and equipment list to guide you in your packing. Casual clothes are the order of the day- no need for anything fancy. If you bring any items requiring electricity, be sure to bring both a converter and adapter plugs. These can be purchased at Radio Shack®, other electronics stores, travel stores etc. Let the salesperson know you are traveling to Greece and they can help you select the appropriate converter and adapter plugs for your equipment. Note that hair dryers, irons, and any other heat producing devices require a stronger converter than other devices. It is helpful to know the wattage of your particular equipment when purchasing the appropriate converter. While paddling, your needs in the boat will be minimal. A small dry bag with a carabiner clip to keep it attached to the boat is very handy. Clear bags are helpful to be able to find what you need. During the day, you will want to have sunscreen, some Euros for lunch and the cappuccino stop, sunglasses with something to keep them tied on with (Croakies®, Chums®, etc.), water bottle (most folks will buy cold bottled water in the morning, eliminating the need to bring a water bottle), camera, mask and snorkel (if you enjoy snorkeling), small binoculars if you already have some, and a small pack towel. A pair of gloves can be helpful to prevent blisters. You do not need neoprene paddling gloves- these can be too warm. Any open fingered glove (including bike gloves, sailing gloves, golfing gloves) can work well (just figure that they will get quite wet). The key is to protect your palm between your thumb and index finger, as that tends to receive the most friction. The rest of your gear can be loaded in the van in the morning. Packing your gear in flexible bags (e.g. duffle bags vs. hard suitcases) is preferable. A common comment from participants at the end of the trip is that they brought much more than they needed- added extra clothing to what was on the clothing/equipment checklist and regretted it in the end. Simplicity is the order of the day- less is more!
Can I drink the water?
The water is safe to drink in all the areas we visit. However, bottled water is readily available everywhere and quite inexpensive so most folks choose to drink bottled water.
What's the food like?
Breakfast generally consists of fresh Greek yogurt with honey, bread, cheese, juice, coffee or tea, with eggs as an occasional option. Lunches and dinners are ordered off the menu which typically consists of Greek specialties such as moussaka, pastitsio, grilled meats and fish, spaghetti (doesn’t sound Greek but very popular), stifada (generally beef stew), etc. Selections for vegetarians are more limited but previous vegetarian clients have not gone hungry, enjoying dolmades (grape leaves), eggplant, zucchini, tzatziki (yogurt/cucumber/garlic dip), saganaki (fried feta), Greek salads etc.
What time zone will I be in?
Greece is two hours ahead of Greenwich Time, which makes it 7 hours ahead of US Eastern Time, 8 hours ahead of Central Time, 10 hours ahead of Pacific Time.
How can people reach me in an emergency? Can I call home?
We will provide you with a list of our hotels including phone and fax numbers. You should also provide family/friends with The Northwest Passage number (800-RECREATE, 732-7328), as NWP staff will always be notified of any changes in the itinerary. You can call home using a calling card. Many of the hotels will have phones in the rooms. Keep in mind the time difference listed above. It can be helpful to remind family and friends about this also.
How much time do we spend traveling each day? How many miles? Do I have free time?
We will generally kayak 5-6 hours per day. The paddling is broken into multiple sections with plenty of time to explore the coastline, paddle in and out of sea caves and jump in and out of the water to cool off. We generally begin paddling at 8:30 each morning, then take a cappuccino break at a seaside taverna after an hour or so. We stop again for lunch after another hour or so and generally reach our next hotel between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. Distance traveled varies each day, ranging from 6-24 miles. Once we reach our destination, you will have some free time to shower, relax, and/or explore the town. We will generally offer some additional skill training for folks who are interested at the end of the day. Some participants have wanted to work on Eskimo rolling, paddling techniques, etc. Each day, the van will be following our route, meeting us at the cappuccino stops and lunch stops, offering multiple options. You can paddle to the cappuccino break, then hop in the van to the lunch stop, then paddle again in the afternoon. Or start with a van ride and paddle later in the day. The choices are endless!
What kind of equipment do you use?
We have a combination of hard shell plastic doubles, singles and folding doubles. Some participants prefer to paddle in the doubles the whole time (paddling is a bit easier with two people powering the boat and the doubles tend to be more stable) and some prefer to trade on and off with the singles. We will provide kayaks, paddles, spray skirts and PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices) for all participants. If you prefer to bring your own paddle and/or PFD, you are most welcome to. Please let us know in advance so that we can pack the appropriate gear, especially if you have a particular need or unusual size.
How many people are on this trip? How many guides? Who are the guides? What are their qualifications?
Our group sizes for this trip range from 6 to 16 participants. We generally have two guides on the water and one or two additional staff members as van drivers. Your guides will be knowledgeable Northwest Passage staff members who are highly skilled in all aspects of sea kayaking and wilderness travel and have years of experience leading groups. They all have training and/or certification in Wilderness First Aid.
How can I prepare physically for the trip? How much prior experience is needed?
We have had participants on this trip who have never been in a kayak before and others who have been paddling for years. We have found that all levels of kayakers have enjoyed this adventure. A good level of personal fitness makes the journey more enjoyable. For kayaking, upper body exercises that strengthen your shoulders, back and arms are recommended. Strengthening exercises with free weights can be very beneficial. Upper body stretches and exercises such as rowing are also useful. Keep in mind that we have had folks at all different levels of physical conditioning thoroughly enjoy this trip and the van is always an option! It is extremely important that you know how to swim and are comfortable in the water. Please don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns about your physical capabilities for this trip.
“This was a fabulous experience. The water, the sea and cliffs are remarkable and beautiful. The route around Santorini and Thirassia was unforgettable.” -Peter C., Washington, DC - Santorini, 2010
“Excellent trip! Fun meter was spinning the whole time – never expected to come home with my own Greek phone number...!” -Cindy L., Sauk Rapids, Minnesota - Santorini, 2011
"Incredible paddling & a rare insight into Greece that few people see, Thank you! The first thing I will do when I get home, after my laundry, is buy a kayak. I'm hooked and ready to train for the next trip!"- Margo M., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - Santorini, 2011
"Rick, Ryan, Elena, You did a wonderful job of rolling with the "windy punches". Without hesitation, I'd recommend you to those who trust me. Warmest regards," -Don R., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - Santorini, 2011
"Great trip! Thanks for the many ways you met our needs and desires to make it so." -Bud M., Golden, Colorado - Santorini, 2011
"Dear friends, Thanks for all your great leadership and for introducing us to this marvelous place. We appreciate your flexibility and helping us be so successful with this adventure! Best," -BJ M., Golden, Colorado - Santorini, 2011
"Wendy, Matthew and Rick, So many special memories. Each day brought a newness to the trip experience. Your expertise, humor and excellent flexibility are beyond reproach. Thank you for an excellent trip." -Norby and Harold P., Littleton, Colorado - Santorini, 2011
“Sun, sand, surf, serenity, solace, serendipity and some social sipping with special sea-going souls. A surprising surfeit of super times.” -Michael W., Goderich, Ontario, Canada - Santorini, 2011
“Geological Evolution" – Michael Watts – Santorini, 2011
The African Tectonic Plate
Said to Europe “We've got a date !”
I'll subduct your southern shore
and make a brand new ocean floor
this ocean trench between us two
we'll fill with water calm and blue
and call it – well – “the med” will do
Then from the mantle's liquid core
we'll make volcanoes rise and roar
then when they cool off up in the air
they'll be a lot of islands there
these islands in the Grecian seas
we'll call them – well - “the cyclades”
because they'll form a great big ring
around that “Apollo's birth place” thing
And in some far and distant time
will come sailors drinking wine
they'll paddle boats and write in rhyme
a rage of warriors bred in blood
the cycladic north west kayak club"
"Rick, Ryan and Elena. A superb week! An opening to another culture, stupendous geography and scenery and the company of friends and new acquaintances. Great food, wine and beer. What more could one ask for? Challenging paddling, but secure and serene in the capable and reasoning hand of our coach and teammates. Thank you for an unforgettable, life enriching experience." -Don and Catherine C., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - Santorini, 2011
Wendy, Matthew, Rick - Thank you so much for another Northwest Passage adventure. The sanctuary was amazing, so sacred. See you soon." -Kathy P., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada - Santorini, 2011
"Kayaking through the Caldera on calm seas. A dream. The whistle of the monastery in the distance. A blessed trip. Thank you." - Jonathan S., New York, New York - Santorini, 2011
"What an amazing adventure! I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this experience... Believe it or not it was absolute zen for me. Working hard but having the quiet time to recharge. You are truly skilled- paddling yes; but also in terms of your ability to read people, understanding what they need in terms of support and care. I can't wait to do this again! I am seriously looking forward to hanging with you all again ! :) On our last day, without realizing, we had become a true team! Moving kayaks off of the ferry in perfect harmony. I'm gonna miss you guys..."- Isabelle D., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - Santorini, 2011
" Without hesitation I'd recommend you to those who trust me."- Don R., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - Santorini, 2011
“Great group. Super company. I was amazed at the “nose” of Rick. He can find the best places to stay and eat.” -A.O. (Chas) C., Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom - Santorini, 2010
“If you enjoy Greek culture, food and spectacular landscapes, by all means go.” -2010 “I would do a trip with Wendy and Elena any day!” -Dan N., Thunder Bay, ON, Canada - Santorini, 2010
“Undeniably, irrevocably, irretrievably, definitely, certainly, quite the best kayak trip I’ve ever been on -- just like the other Northwest Passage trips.” -Michael W., Goderich, Ontario, Canada - Santorini, 2010
The dramatic cliffs rising up from the Aegean sea tell a story like no other in the Greek islands. Santorini is what remains of a volcanic island located in the Aegean Sea, about 120 miles from Greece's mainland. While its ancient name of Thera or Thira came back into use during the 19th Century, Santorini remains its colloquial name, a remnant of the Venetian occupation of many of the Greek islands.
The earliest evidence of habitation on the island of Santorini dates to the Cycladic culture of the early Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC). During this time, close ties were made with the Minoan civilization based on the large island of Crete less than a hundred miles away. The buried ancient city of Akrotiri shows an advanced town blending Cycladic and Minoan features, which may have given rise to the rumors that this island was the home of lost Atlantis. The ancient inhabitants lived in multilevel buildings with the earliest known plumbing systems that carried both hot and cold water into homes. Santorini is a volcanic island, and so it is most likely that the Minoans utilized the thermal heat for their access to hot water. Experts still debate when this came to an abrupt end when the sleeping volcano awoke, erupting so vigorously that much of the island was literally vaporized and a civilization-ending tsunami swept high up into the hills of eastern Crete and wreaking havoc elsewhere in the Aegean. The entombed city reveals a wealthy society with merchant warehouses, textile weaving, and beautiful, hand-painted murals.
After the destruction of the Minoans, the island remained uninhabited for hundreds of years. The Phoenicians, an enterprising maritime trade culture that flourished in the Mediterranean between 1550BC and 300BC, were next to settle on Santorini. Not long after the time of the Phoenicians, during the 9thCentury BC, an ancient tribe of Greeks called the Dorians settled on Santorini, now known as Kalliste, or the "Beautiful Island". The Dorians founded a city called Mesa Vouno. Later taken over by the Romans and rebuilt, the remains of this city, now known as Ancient Thera, can still be visited today. The city was used as a trading and military port, but slowly declined in importance. It remained inhabited until 726 AD, when a small eruption covered the city in a layer of pumice and it was finally given up.
The island was settled and renamed after “Saint Irene” by the Venetians during the 13th Century Crusades and later fell into Ottoman hands. From 1579 until 1821, Santorini remained under the control of the Ottoman Empire. It gained its independence, along with most of the rest of Greece during the Greek War of Independence. In 1830, Santorini was united as a part of Greece under the Treaty of London.
In 1954, a strong earthquake struck Greece and many of the buildings on Santorini were demolished. The present-day buildings date from after the earthquake. The volcano of Santorini is still active and the islands in the center of the caldera emit a small amount of steam. A second active volcano has been recently discovered just outside the crescent of Santorini, and will eventually create a new island offshore.
Today, Santorini's relies primarily on tourism during the summer months. The view over the caldera entices visitors from around the world, and the island is popular for weddings and honeymoons. Its rich volcanic soils and indigenous grapes support a small, but flourishing, wine industry with a number of new wineries opening to the public for tastings. The traditional wine the island produces is called Vinsanto, which in Italian means “holy wine”. The sweet and strong wine is made from the best sun-dried grapes and is then aged in barrels, sometimes for as long as for twenty to twenty-five years. The result is a sweet, dark amber-orange dessert wine with aromas of citrus and minerals, layered with overtones of nuts, raisins, figs, honey and tea. Other wines include the distinctive dry white wines called Asyrtiko which retain a taste of the volcanic terroir, and rich local red wines. All of the grapes are grown using a unique low "basket" method of viticulture which makes the most of the sparse moisture the island receives as the volcanic mists condense over the porous soil. The renowned "Santorini Tomato" is grown the same way, along with a small and intensely flavored local fava bean and a special form of cucumber.