Santorini is known for its cascading white villages and blue-domed churches, but some people may not realize that the famous Greek island’s geography was once very different before a massive volcanic eruption nearly 4,000 years ago. The island was fragmented into the 5 separate pieces that we see today, the largest and most recognizable being crescent-shaped Thira, with the others spread out around the caldera.
During our time in Santorini we were looking for an activity to break up the beach days and perhaps even allow us to see the island from a different perspective. We booked the 5-hour South Discovery tour though Santorini Sea Kayak, which would cover a 7-mile stretch along the island’s southern coast. On the day of our tour we arranged for their shuttle to pick us up from our hotel to make sure we got there on time, especially since the buses in Santorini can be a little unreliable. When we arrived we were greeted by our guides Andreas and Carlos, who fitted our group of 12 with the necessary gear and gave us a quick overview of paddling basics before pushing our kayak into the water. Having a good guide can make all the difference, and we were lucky that these 2 guys were not only knowledgeable but also incredibly entertaining and (thankfully) patient with those who may be a little challenged in the coordination department. ;)
In between jokes, Andreas and Carlos gave us a comprehensive lesson on Santorini’s history and volcanic past. We kayaked alongside otherworldly rock formations created by thick layers of white pumice and ash and paddled our way through caves so narrow that you questioned whether or not you would actually make it out the other end. Another stop was a 6-meter (20-foot) high rock for the brave souls and strong swimmers who wanted to say they went cliff jumping in Santorini. At one point we also found ourselves surrounded by a blanket of floating rocks, which turned out to be more of the ubiquitous pumice. Suddenly all of the pumice stones we’d seen in souvenir shops made sense.
Our tour also took us past some of Santorini’s most distinctive beaches including the much-photographed Red Beach and White Beach, both of which are slowly shrinking due to constant erosion and rockslides. We stopped at Kambia Beach for snorkeling and a light lunch that felt more like a small feast of local specialties including olive spreads, bread, meat and cheese skewers, dried figs, carrots and celery, grapes and sweet sesame seed crackers. As we devoured our meal, Andreas and Carlos explained how certain agriculture is cultivated on Santorini versus other islands (for example, grapes are grown in short baskets close to the ground instead of on a grapevine to protect them from them from the Aegean winds). Since our time at the beach was short, they told us that water taxis run between all 3 beaches until about 5:30pm, and the Red Beach is only about a 15 minute walk away from the bus stop in Akortiri if we wanted to come back another day.
Even though we were rested and refueled, the final stretch actually felt more strenuous than our outward journey earlier in the day. Good thing we had Andreas and Carlos as our cheerleading squad as we made the final approach to the beach where we started. I’ve been on many excursions and watersport tours in the past, and this one was definitely top notch. It was extremely organized without feeling regimented, and another plus is that they took photos throughout the day with a waterproof camera and GoPro so you don’t have to worry about getting your phone or personal camera wet. I think they captured some fun moments, wouldn’t you agree?