Photo du Jour: The Santorini Donkey

A donkey, decked out in colorful beads and an evil-eye amulet, awaits the day’s passengers on the stairs leading up to the village of Fira, on the island of Santorini.

When visitors arrive to Santorini’s Old Port via cruise ship or boat, they have three ways to make it up to the town of Fira: climb the (almost) 600 stairs, ride a donkey (€5  one way), or ride the cable car  (€4 one way).

Riding a donkey is controversial – animal rights organizations and some visitors say it is cruel, whereas the local government assures visitors, via signs posted at the port, that the animals are well-cared-for by veterinarians and offered regular periods of rest.

If you choose to tackle the path with your own feet or ascend via cable car (we did both, but chose not to ride a donkey) beware of donkey droppings and hoof encounters with the first option, and potential vertigo spells with the second one. We saw one tourist whose foot was accidentally stepped upon by a donkey’s hoof, and the woman exclaimed how painful that was.

We found the walk to be great exercise. The cable car ride, on the other hand, offered a beautiful view of the caldera and cliff, albeit quite quick!


Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

16 thoughts on “Photo du Jour: The Santorini Donkey

    1. Their accessories are fun to look at, aren’t they, Ali? I usually purchase one silver charm whenever I travel to a new place, and I chose a tiny donkey for my charm bracelet. :)

  1. This trip uphill via donkey sounds challenging. My favorite mode would be to hike, if there was a path. Love your photograph, Tricia!

    1. Elisa, it was a challenge we didn’t take on as we felt we needed exercise more than the donkeys did. :) If you head to Santorini someday, you’ll be pleased to see there is a path with about 600 stairs. We climbed down it, then rode the cable car up on the way back, following a long day’s excursion to the nearby volcano.

  2. Kudos to you for not riding the donkeys, Tricia. I can’t imagine what they endure every day; the photos on the petition site you linked to were awful. :( I rented an apartment in Crete when I visited there. The couple who run the place volunteer with donkey rescue groups in Greece. Apparently donkey abuse is a widespread problem there.

    1. Ruth, it felt like the right decision for us not to ride one. When I was doing research for this post, I was happy to see that attention was being drawn to the issue, and that some philanthropists had started nonprofits, and potentially that there was another cable car’s construction in the works.

      How long were you on Crete? After spending some time in Santorini, we turned into history nerds, learning about the Minoan civilization. Did you see Knossos? I bet it’s fascinating!

    1. To be candid, Carol, we sort of cheated because we walked down, then rode the cable car up. Although having once lived in an apartment with 87 stairs and no elevator, I think I could’ve managed the 600. :)

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