Circumnavigating Santorini by Kayak

Before I went to Santorini, I heard so many things. I had an expectation in my head of what it would be like. However, unlike everyone I heard from, I was going to Santorini to circumnavigate the largest and most famous island in the group by kayak. Thousands upon thousands of people go to Santorini every year and walk the historic streets of Oia and Thira while taking in the stunning views and unique landscape.

I was hired on as one of the guides for this particular adventure. The Northwest Passage (the guiding outfit I work for) has been running Mediterranean Sea kayak adventures for over three decades and they are the only outfit that offers a full week long circumnavigation of Santorini. Other guide outfits offer day paddles in the caldera and other interesting places around the island, but in order to paddle around the whole island you have to sign on with The Northwest Passage.

Paddling in the caldera
Stunning paddle through caves

Circumnavigating Santorini comes with its challenges. Being an island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, Santorini is very exposed and the winds from the north can make for some exciting paddling conditions. During our circumnavigation we guided people through following seas, surf landings, and headwinds. Some of these people had never done any serious kayaking and impressed themselves as each participant rose to the occasion and successfully paddled around Santorini and the neighboring island of Therasia.

The paddling itself is beautiful, clear blue Mediterranean waters and dramatic cliff lines are unavoidable as you paddle the shore. I remarked with one of the participants as we neared our competition that we had seen every beach on Santorini. We had a good laugh then I thought about how the average visitor may rent a car or take a bus in search of these beaches but we got to see them all from the quiet comfort of a kayak.

Human powered adventure connects you to a place in a special way. There is a certain slowness and engagement that happens when you are physically in charge of your progress. You hear more, you see more, you smell more (literally), but most of all you get a view that is unique to your experience. Isn’t that what we all look for in an adventure? A stand out, one of a kind experience? That is something The Northwest Passage delivers especially in a place as well travelled as Santorini.

A Beautiful Lunch Stop on a Beautiful Beach

Some people may ask for a highlight so I will share one. Actually, I have two, the first one is small but interesting. As we were paddling back to Santorini from Therasia the sky was cloudy, rare as it is, and the clouds mixed in with the cliffs of Santorini and in the distance these white splotches of towns looked like snow on mountain tops. It almost felt like paddling in Alaska or British Colombia for a second, then you remember how warm and pleasant the water is, and how those snow-capped island peaks are full of delicious Greek food and warm Greek hospitality (filoxenía in Greek).

The island of Therasia, the second and very special highlight of mine, cannot be given the justice it deserves in this writing. What you as the reader should do is come to Santorini, get yourself in a kayak, and come paddle with The Northwest Passage to see for yourself what makes this kayak adventure so special.

The Dramatic Clifflines of Santorini