5 incredible volcanoes to visit in Greece

As with most things in Greece, many of its phenomena are named after a Greek god or occurrences from Greek mythology. Volcanoes are a perfect example. Hephaestus, the son of Zeus and Hera, was the Greek god of volcanoes and is believed to have been a craftsman and blacksmith with his forge located under a volcano.

In fact, geology shows us that the Great Volcanic Arch of Greece, formed millions of years ago as the African lithosphere sank beneath the European/Asian tectonic plate, created a lot of past volcanic activity in the region due to numerous earthquakes. This has given rise to many volcanic landscapes which can be seen in many different parts of the mainland and islands of the country.

Perhaps not as famous as the Italian volcanoes of Etna and Vesuvius but no less interesting, most Greek volcanoes are extinct but some are still active, thankfully long dormant! Hikes around these have become a popular activity with some volcanoes well known, others less so. Let’s take a look at five of the most incredible volcanoes to visit in Greece.

view of Santorini volcano (Photo credit: Georgios Tsichlis / Shutterstock.com)

1. Santorini

One of the most famous volcanoes, not only in Greece but in the whole world, is probably the one found on the popular Cyclades island of Santorini. The island has a wild beauty, formed over a period of several eruptions under the sea 400,000 years ago.

The result was a collapse of the mouth of the volcano, forming the caldera that visitors to the island will see today.

The last eruption was in the 1950s, with hot springs erupting from the sea. The legacy of this period of volcanic activity means that the island’s beaches are not white and sandy, which Greece is famous for . The beaches are more of a multi-colored black or red variety, and the volcanic soil seeps into everything that grows on the island, imparting a unique and strong flavor to the produce.

It is possible to take a boat trip to the volcano from the port of Santorini and hike around the rim of its crater. Wear sturdy walking shoes or sandals and leave as early as possible. The iron, lava and sulfur fumes mean that, while interesting, it can be very hot to leave the volcano too late on a summer day.

View of Hippocrates Square in Kos Town.
plane tree in Hippocrates Square (Photo credit: Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock.com)

2. Kos

The third largest Greek island of Kos is a very popular tourist destination accessible from many European destinations and connections from Athens, not to mention the ferry from Piraeus.

Kos is famous for being the homeland of the Greek physician and founder of modern medicine – Hippocrates. Here you can sit under the plane tree where it is believed he taught his students in Kos Town, the capital. Kos has had a small amount of volcanic action in the past, which means there is less dramatic scenery, but come and experience it in another way.

Therma Beach, nicknamed Bubble Beach and 11 km from Kos Town, has hot springs under the sand with a water temperature of 113 degrees Fahrenheit which mixes with sea water, warming it and creating hot mineral water pools and, effectively, a natural Jacuzzi.

These hot springs make it a popular place to relax, even during the coldest winter months.

Large sulfuric volcano (Stefanos) on the island of Nisyros, Greece.
large sulfuric volcano on the island of Nisyros (Photo credit: Jiri Vavricka / Shutterstock.com)

3. Nisyros

Nisyros is an isolated island in the Greek Dodecanese chain of islands, accessible by ferry from Athens or by flight to Kos and ferry connection. Despite its size, the volcano here is the second most famous in Greece. It is also the youngest volcano in Greece at 160,000 years old.

The caldera, the 6-7 meter crater in the center of the island, was formed during an eruption in 1872 followed by another eruption in 1888, creating several other craters. Still occasionally emitting sulfuric fumes, the crater of Nisyros is considered the largest and best preserved hydrothermal crater in the world.

The 15,000 year old rock formations are scattered all over the island, the volcanic and fertile soil making Nisyros a unique island to visit on your Greek itinerary.

There are many coach tours to the volcano from the main town of Nisyros, but leave early in the morning and out of season when it’s not too hot or crowded. And bring good walking shoes and a hat!

Be warned: the fumes can be off-putting, so be aware of that if you have a sensitive stomach.

Sarakiniko beach on the Cycladic island of Milos, Greece.
Sarakiniko Beach (Photo credit: Sven Hansche / Shutterstock.com)

4. Milo

Another island in the Cyclades chain that has a small airport with flights from Athens, or accessible by ferry, the volcano of Milos slumbers in the center of the island, but don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted for 90 000 BC This past activity means the island is rich in minerals and has given it an otherworldly landscape with over 70 beaches to relax on.

Sarakiniko Beach is the most famous with its stark white moonscape that contrasts with the blue of the sea and sky, almost hurting the eyes. The white rocks have eroded over time, creating “craters”. There is no sand here, so people tend to lay their towels on the rocks. I prefer to visit later in the day just to photograph it and avoid the crowds that tend to gather to swim.

It’s not just the beaches that Milos is popular for. The mineral presence on the island means that a large part of its population does not only work in tourism, they also work in the mining industry. In Milos you will find one of the largest mines in Europe: the Aggeria mine extracts bentonite clay, the product used as a detoxification aid. Greece is the third largest bentonite producer in the world, after the United States and China. It is worth visiting the Milos Mining Museum in the small town of Adamas to learn about the unique heritage of the island.

Top view of Kameno Vouno, a volcano in Greece.
Kameno Vouno volcano in Methana (Photo credit: Marianna Ianovska / Shutterstock.com)

5. Methana

Moving on now to the mainland, Methana is a peninsula located in the northeastern part of Greece’s Peloponnese region. It can be reached in 2 hours and 55 minutes by bus or car from Athens. Alternatively, if you enjoy the journey rather than just the destination, travel by ferry from Piraeus via the Saronic Islands, which is actually slightly quicker at just under 2 hours 50 minutes.

The entire peninsula has about 32 scattered small-domed volcanoes, volcanic activity believed to have started about 1 million years ago and a large eruption that occurred in 230 BC.

The last eruption dates back to 1700 and the volcanic activity around Methana has resulted in a stunning landscape where flora and fauna flourish. If you are an outdoor enthusiast and love hiking, be sure to put Methana on your Greek itinerary.

Volcanic activity over the years has created several hot springs in the area, and in the past a magnificent neoclassical building housed a huge spa in the town of Methana itself. Unfortunately, since 2017, and mainly due to competition from other more modern spa experiences in Greece, the Methana Spa has been closed, but its building and architecture can still be seen and admired.

In the fishing village of Vathi, the capital of the peninsula in ancient times, you will find the acropolis of “ancient Methana”, known as Paleokastro with walls and an ancient temple. Much of the original structure fell into the sea after volcanic activity, so there are only ruins left to explore.

Pro tip: Don’t leave Methana without relaxing on one of the many volcanic beaches in the area found at Vathi and Limnionas.

The volcanoes of Greece are worth exploring in order to understand their history. You don’t have to be a geology fan to appreciate the uniqueness they lend to the landscape and the country as a whole.

Greece is full of unique and fascinating destinations:

About Lucille Thompson

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