A detailed hiking guide to Skaros Rock in Imerovigli, Santorini. Hike to epic caldera & Aegean Sea views at the remnants of the fortress which once served as the Medieval Capital of Santorini.
Skaros Rock is one of the most prominent natural landmarks on the western side of Santorini’s famous caldera. Protruding out from Imerovigli between the towns of Fira and Oia, this rock is one of the most rewarding viewpoint hikes on the island.
However, this rocky headland is not just a geological formation with great views. This is a pivotal historical site and one of my favorite attractions in Santorini. Over history, Skaros evolved from a 13th-century Byzantine fortress to the Venetian capital of Santorini and withstood numerous pirate attacks in its time.
I’ve visited Santorini several times and on my most recent visit, while staying in Fira, I finally decided to tackle the Skaros Rock hike for an incredible sunrise. I hiked up both paths, one to the top of the rock, and the second path descending down to Theoskepasti.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll detail everything you need to know about this hike, detailing both options on the “fork” to help you do the same.
- The Skaros Rock Hiking Details
- Where is Skaros Rock?
- How to Get to Skaros Rock
- Quick Hiking Guide to Skaros Rock
- Hiking to Skaros Rock: My Detailed Experience
- Useful Hiking Tips Before You Go
- Short History of Skaros Fortress
- More Things to Know About the Skaros Rock Hike
- Where to Stay in Santorini
- Planning a Trip to Santorini?
- More Santorini Travel & Adventure Guides
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
The Skaros Rock Hiking Details
Here are all the quick things you need to know about the hike to Skaros Rock.
- Starting Point: Agios Georgios Church right in front of the village of Imerovigli
- Hiking Distance: 650 meters from the start to Theoskepasti Chapel or 550 m from the start to the top of Skaros Rock promontory.
- Duration: About 45 minutes to 1 hour to the outcrop (return)
- Elevation: Skaros is 250 meters above sea level and the rock is about 20 meters high. The trail drops roughly 60 meters from the starting point to Skaros Rock, then another 70 meters to the chapel. All the elevation gain is on the way back up.
- Difficulty: Easy to moderate. There are many steps you have to go down and up. Expect roughly 280 stairs till you reach the base of the rock and then another 200 down to Theoskepasti church. Climbing up to the top of the rock is slightly technical and a little risky because of the big drops.
- Navigation: The hiking trail from the church starting point is well-marked and easy to follow as it is worn into the volcanic earth.
- Hiking season: Can hike all year round. It can get hot in summer from June to August.
- More info: Full route, map, and hiking details on My Strava
Where is Skaros Rock?
Skaros Rock is located between the village of Fira and Oia, right in front of the Agios Georgios Church in the village of Imerovigli.
Whether you're taking the famous Fira to Oia hike or just strolling on the famous Santorini cliff-side streets in Fira, Oia, or Imerovigli, it's hard to miss Skaros Rock.
This prominent headland with a conical rock poking out from the caldera is an iconic landmark.
I recommend heading to this church as the starting point as it's well marked on Google Maps.
Expect a 40-minute walk to the Skaros "trailhead" from Fira, or roughly 2 hours walking from Oia.
How to Get to Skaros Rock
As you are heading to the Agios Georgios Chapel in Imerovigli, keep an eye out for the big blue sign for the "Blue Note" Restaurant and Bar. Here, you'll see a small wooden sign with a "camera" logo and directions to "Skaros" and "Theoskepasti".
You'll then want to follow the path, passing the beautiful cliffside pool at Grace Hotel and descending down to the church of Agios Georgios.
From the chapel, the main trail is very well-marked and easy to follow.
Tip: For hikers detouring to Skaros Rock on your hike between Oia and Fira, you'll likely be passing Agios Georgios Chapel on this route, so keep an eye out.
Quick Hiking Guide to Skaros Rock
The hike to Skaros Rock from the top of the cement stairs at Agios Georgios Chapel is short with periods of steep steps leading down to the base of the rock, then more steps further down to the church.
You'll first drop down to the rock, pass the warning sign, and walk straight up the steps toward Skaros Rock.
Then, follow the trail to the left all the way down to Theoskepasti Church for a spectacular view.
On the return, follow the same path but turn left to loop to the northern side of Skaros. It is possible to scramble to the top of the rock from this part, but it is sketchy and has lots of loose sections.
All the elevation gain is on the way back up to the top of the stairs.
Hike at your own risk.
Hiking to Skaros Rock: My Detailed Experience
For hopes of the best views of the sun rising behind the caldera, Haylea and I set off early at around 5:45 am from the town of Fira. We made many stops along the way toward the starting point for photos and arrived at the Skaros Rock trailhead near the chapel at around 6:15 am.
Tip: Skaros Rock is typically a sunset location as you'll get to watch the sun set behind the horizon on the Aegean Sea. However, this is also quite a popular place in the evenings, so, to beat the crowds, we we decided to go in the early morning.
Descent to Skaros Rock
From the chapel, we could see almost the entire trail leading down the aged concrete steps 60 vertical meters below us. There are many great photo opportunities of the rock from this elevated section. You can also really see why the Venetians chose to build a fortress on this rock as towers high above the sea and is impenetrable by pirates from below.
We followed the main path, which dropped quickly in a winding fashion before leading to a small set of steps directly in front of the rock.
This is where we saw a sign set up by the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports (see image).
However, there were a couple of other hikers who just walked straight passed this sign, so we did as well. Following the hike, I spoke to my friend Teti who is a very experienced Greek tour guide in Santorini. Teti told me that this sign had been there for a while and people still hike to Skaros every single day.
Further Descent to the Chapel of Panagia Theoskepasti
Following the path, we came to a fork, just after the ruins of Skaros Epano Kastro (the 15th-century upper castle that was built on top of an even earlier 1207 structure named La Roka).
Here, we took the left path, leading to a steep descent down to the Theoskepasti Chapel.
This small, white church was built into the base of the promontory by Venetian sailors as a thank-you to the Church of the Patronage of God for protecting them against pirates on their voyages across the Aegean Sea. Apparently, there was also a small harbor further down. It would have been a mission getting up here from the sea!
Unfortunately, the chapel was closed when I visited, but it still made for some great photos from the outside with the whitewashed buildings of Oia in the background.
Hiking Back up to Skaros Rock
After spending a few minutes at the chapel enjoying the amazing views, we turned around and climbed back up to Skaros Rock. This time, we took the rear trail leading left to wrap around to the northern side of the headland.
This is in my opinion, one of the best vantage points of the Santorini Caldera you can find on the island. We spent a while here waiting for the rising sun and snapping some photos.
Climbing to the "Summit"
Most hikers will probably continue on and loop back to the start from here. However, I decided to look for a way to get to the top of the rock. I found a large fault on the northern side of Skaros Rock which provided a slightly sketchy scrambling route through the middle and decided to climb up.
The climb was about 20 meters high and the most difficult part was getting to the top on the last black rocks. I noticed there was a small rope attached near the top, but I didn't trust it as it looked weathered.
From the top, the views were even better since this time I got 360-degree of the island. By now, the red rocks were lighting up from the rising sun. I noticed that other travelers had stacked loads of cairns up here.
Below are some photos that I snapped from the "summit" of Skaros Rock.
Useful Hiking Tips Before You Go
Here are some useful hiking tips to get you prepared.
- Be careful, the rocks are very unstable. There have been recent works and closures at Skaros Rock since the rocks are crumbling away. We noticed a lot of fresh debris from small rock slides on the trail. Be careful and only hike to your comfort level and at your own risk. Don't go off the gravel path or stairs and stay away from the cliff side as they can give way.
- Start early or late: Remember, this is the Cyclades Islands and Santorini gets very hot and dry at midday. I prefer to hike in the morning for fewer crowds and nice light from the sun rising behind the caldera. However, sunset is also a popular time.
- Be prepared: The start of the hike is mostly a descent, which means that you will be climbing up on the return. Make sure you are prepared to go back up the steep steps.
- Stay hydrated: Bring plenty of water with you. There are quite a few steps to climb. I always carry my Grayl bottle filter and filter the tap water before going on hikes in the Greek Islands.
- Wear decent footwear: I'm not here to be your mum. While of course, many people climb this rock in flip-flops, proper hiking shoes offer more grip on the loose rock.
- Bring your camera: I captured some of my favorite photos from all my trips to Santorini from the top of Skaros Rock. I highly recommend a camera if you have one.
- Pack Light: A small backpack with essentials like water, sun protection, a camera, a phone, and a wallet is enough. Overpacking can make hiking back up the steps from Skaros Rock more difficult.
Short History of Skaros Fortress
While I chose to hike this for the views, I became fascinated by the history when researching for this hiking guide.
For example, I learned that Skaros was shaped by volcanic eruptions as far back as 68,000 B.C. It became a fortified Byzantine stronghold in the 13th century and was transformed into the Venetian capital of Santorini, acting as a fortress during Ottoman incursions and held against many pirate threats.
Eventually, seismic eruptions and volcanic activity in the 1650s and 18th century led to its eventual ruin. By the 19th century, most of the remains of the buildings were rubble, with only a few cave houses left.
See the sketch below of what the medieval castle of Skaros looked like before its ruin.
More Things to Know About the Skaros Rock Hike
How hard is the Skaros Rock hike?
I rate this hike as easy-moderate. However, there are plenty of steps and remember, you have to climb most of them on the way up. I recommend a decent level of fitness to hike to the viewpoint just beneath Skaros Rock. Climbing to the top is much more difficult.
How long does the hike take?
People usually complete this hike in about 45 minutes to 1 hour of walking time. Plan to take longer if you want to stop for photos and enjoy the view. It took us about 20 minutes to reach the chapel at the base from the starting point and about 30 minutes on the way back up.
Is Skaros Rock the best viewpoint hike in Santorini?
In my opinion, Skaros Rock is one of the best hikes in Santorini since you'll get 360 views of the Caldera, the Santorini Volcano, and views out to Oia in the distance. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary Holy Chapel on the hike from Fira to Oia trail is a close second for me.
Is there an entrance fee?
No, Skaros is free to access.
How tall is the rock in Skaros?
The rock is about 20 meters high from the base.
Is it worth it?
I highly recommend this hike to anyone looking for great views and to experience the historic significance of this medieval landmark. This is one of the best things to do in Imerovigli if you love adventure and want to get out of the luxury hotels to explore.
Where to Stay in Santorini
Looking for great accommodation in Santorini? I've published lots of guides on this topic, and here are my three top picks for each budget.
1. Divine Cave Experience Luxury
Rated as the best cave hotel experience in Santorini. This adults-only cave hotel is located just north of the exclusive Imerovigli cliffside village and each room comes with its own cave pool with views over the ocean!
2. La Perla Villas and Suites Mid-Range
Arguably the best mid-range option for a memorable and romantic Santorini getaway. These villas and suites are very well located in the beautiful village of Oia, where you can catch unforgettable sunset views over the volcano.
3. Bed Spot Hostel Budget
The best hostel in Santorini. This one is located in the Fira center district and is very popular with backpackers and budget-conscious travelers after all the amenities such as a shared kitchen and a huge outdoor terrace common area.
Planning a Trip to Santorini?
Fun, independent travel to Santorini is easy if you have the right tools and plan ahead.
Below are my recommended websites, apps, and travel booking resources that I personally use to plan a trip to Santorini.
Tip: Bookmark these pages for the future.
Flights: Find & compare flight deals to Santorini using Skyscanner. Use the "search by month" feature to discover the cheapest day to fly.
Hostels: When it comes to scoring epic deals on hostels and cheap stays your secret weapon is Hostelworld. If you're traveling to Santorini to meet people, use the “See Who's Going” function.
Travel Insurance: HeyMondo is my top recommendation for travel insurance for Santorini. They've got your back with comprehensive coverage, from unexpected flight hiccups to those "oops" moments. Click the link to get 5% OFF your policy.
Internet & Connectivity: Stay connected as soon as you land in Santorini with Airalo's eSIMS. Download their app and grab an eSIM from the comfort of your own home, even before you set foot on foreign soil. No more frantic searches for local SIM cards when you arrive.
Ferry: Make your trip as smooth as possible by booking a ferry. From my experience Blue Star Ferries are the best to book through. These run from Athens and it is also possible to catch them from surrounding islands such as Naxos, Paros, Ios, and Mykonos.
Never planned independent travel before? Read my comprehensive guide to planning a trip.
More Santorini Travel & Adventure Guides
I hope that you've enjoyed this detailed hiking guide to Skaros Rock in Santorini!
While you're here on my blog, check out some of my other guides. I've written plenty of useful accommodation and activity resources that I know you'll find helpful when planning your trip to the Greek Island of Santorini.
Places to Stay in Santorini
If you're planning a trip to Santorini and need help with deciding the best places to stay– I have you covered.