Profitis Ilias, a meeting place at the summit of Santorini

Due to its volcanic nature, Santorini's geography has changed considerably over the centuries. One constant in the landscape seems to be Profitis Ilias, the island's highest peak, 567m above the sea. It once stood alongside the cone of the Santorini volcano, which must have been almost 800m high, before collapsing in the terrible eruption of 1600 BC.

The limestone and marble rocks of Profitis Ilias are different from those of the Caldera and its volcanic islands. Santorini's bedrock, the island's geology is similar to that of the other Cyclades. The setting is best revealed on foot: a hiking trail takes you to the top of Santorini, topped by an Orthodox monastery, for a succession of breathtaking panoramas!

View from Profitis Ilias
© Rishiken / Shutterstock

Profitis Ilias and its monastery, at the summit of Santorini

In typical Cycladic fashion, Profitis Ilias, which dominates the whole of Santorini, is often clinging to a cloud, exposed to the capricious influences of the Aegean Sea. At 567m, it is an isolated, massive mountain overlooking the whole island and its Caldera.

The massive silhouette of Profitis Ilias
© Monika_1 / Shutterstock

The slopes of Profitis Ilias climb steadily and steeply, as at Mesa Vouno, a rocky outcrop whose cliffs plunge spectacularly into the sea between Kamari and Perissa. These reliefs are of particular interest on Santorini: they protect Profitis Ilias from the buildings that are springing up all over the island, with the exception of its monastery, which stands at the very top!

This Orthodox monastery has given its name to the mountain, dedicated to Profitis Ilias (the Prophet Elijah). A major figure in the Orthodox Christian religion, it is believed that Elijah, perched on his chariot, will lead the procession announcing the coming of the Apocalypse! The monastery, founded in the 18th century, was largely destroyed by the 1956 earthquake, leaving a massive concrete structure that was inherited from its reconstruction...

The monastery stands alone on the summit of Profitis Ilias
© Lil_Schwarmer / Shutterstock

The monastery itself may not look like a masterpiece (all the more so as it is adjacent to an old, disused and ruined base!), but its gardens on the slopes of Profitis Ilias are far more charming, and the view is breathtaking! The monastery, occupied by a handful of monks, produces olive oil, fava and vinsanto, which you can sample in the souvenir shop! Even at the top, Santorini is still Santorini.

The Profitis Ilias trail, an open-air getaway on Santorini

The road to the summit of Profitis Ilias should not detract from the old mule track that still links Pyrgos and Perissa, via the monastery: a beautiful walking route, partly signposted, offering some of the most beautiful views of Santorini!

You're on the right track
© Konstantin Mizikevitch / Shutterstock

The Profitis Ilias hike is the perfect opportunity to get away from the touristy Santorini and discover a more natural side of the island. The route can be done in either direction: from Perissa, on the seafront, for a 567m climb, or from Pyrgos, in the heart of the island, for a shorter climb and a longer descent, with the reward of a swim at the end.

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A number of highlights await you along the way: a detour to visit ancient Thera, views of both sides of the ridge path, with the blue of the Aegean and numerous Cycladic islands on the horizon, the colours of the village of Pyrgos standing out against the vineyards of Santorini, and of course the unclassifiable landscape of the Caldera.

Descent to ancient Thera
© IndustryAndTravel / Shutterstock

During the hike, the monastery of Profitis Ilias is the ideal place to take a break and admire the panoramic view over the whole of Santorini.

Practical information

🥾 The Profitis Ilias hike:

  • Distance: approximately 6km
  • Walking time: 3h30 on average
  • Difficulty: medium (ascent + heat)
  • Difference in altitude: +567m

👉 The best time to climb Profitis Ilias?

In early spring, when the mountain slopes are full of flowers and colour! In summer, beware of the heat, even if the meltem, the north wind, cools the atmosphere enough to walk.

👉 When should you set off to climb Profitis Ilias?

Set off early in the morning to avoid the extreme heat and take advantage of the cooler temperatures on the ascent and the light. In the late afternoon, the declining sun also offers magnificent scenery during the walk.

Anafi can be seen on a clear day from the ridge path
© IndustryAndTravel / Shutterstock

🚩 Safety tips for hiking

  • Always bring plenty of water, and something to protect you from the sun: there is very little shade on the trail!
  • Good footwear is essential, as many sections are stony.
  • Be sure to follow the markings on the ridge path, or you risk finding yourself on some really vertiginous sections!
  • Beware of gusts of wind on days of heavy rain, which can knock you off balance.
  • When it's not hot, take something to cover yourself at the summit, which is windier, cooler and often in the clouds!

👉 Visit the monastery of Profitis Ilias

  • Times: 9am to sunset
  • Free admission
  • The monastery closes its doors for certain festivals and religious ceremonies

Advice from the Editor

💡 Make the most of your break at the monastery to visit its small chapel, which is open to the public, take a look in the shop and, above all, admire the view. A procession takes place on 20 July for the feast of Saint Elijah, as well as on Easter.

👉 To enter the monastery, proper attire is required... in theory, because the influx of visitors means that there are often tourists in swimming costumes inside!

by Editorial Team
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