Santorini is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago of the same name. It is also the remnant of a volcanic caldera that appeared about 3,600 years ago, in the wake of one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in recorded history — the Minoan eruption.
According to a popular theory, it is the source of the legend of Atlantis. It may also have led to the indirect collapse of the Minoan civilization in Crete, through a gigantic tsunami.
The municipality of Santorini includes the inhabited islands of Santorini and Therasia and the uninhabited islands of Nea Kameni, Palaia Kameni, Aspronisi, and Christiana.
Fira and the port at the bottom of the island are connected by 600 stairs and cable cars. People not willing to walk up those stairs can also use donkey “taxis”.
Before leaving the ship, the captain had strongly advised us against using the latter for two reasons. 1) The animals are not supposed to carry loads over 50 kilos; and 2) They go up and down all day long without much rest.
On the day I was there, it was extremely hot. But, I chose to walk down the stairs. I didn’t want to wait in line to catch the cable car. Plus, the view was mind-blowing.
It took me 30 minutes to reach the old port at the bottom of the island. There wasn’t any water anywhere. However, I saw at least 50 people using the donkey rides. They obviously weighed more than 50 kilos. Many donkeys were in poor condition, injured, and limping.
I passed many animals on my way down. And yet, the amount of feces on the ground was very low. That tells you how malnourished and badly treated those animals are. I felt angry and sad that people would even consider using them instead of waiting to take the cable car. The fare is exactly the same.
If you ever visit Santorini, avoid the donkey rides. Otherwise, you will contribute to the continuation of that cruel practice.