Wild donkey ride in Santorini…

How did this happen? Aren’t donkeys calm, mellow and slow? Well, that’s what we thought too. But not if their shepherd is crazy…

Walking through the ancient, narrow alleyways of Oia in Santorini on a beautiful summer day is simply magical. On every corner you will find something to photograph. White churches with blue domed roofs, colorful painted doors, pink bougainvilleas, views over a deep cliff over an endless sparkling turquoise ocean, castle ruins and the famous Santorini windmills. Breathtaking. Time for lunch. We decide that Amoudi Bay, 1000 feet below Oia, is just what we need.  A cove with small restaurants serving fresh seafood right off the dock.

Amoudi Bay and the steep, rocky coastline of Oia (Santorini)
Cozy fisher restaurant: our perfect lunch spot after the walk down the hill

The walk down is pretty steep and windy. We all agree the walk back up will not be easy but we heard there are donkeys to carry you back up. We are all excited about this idea. Only problem is, we don’t see any. All we see is donkey poo on the walkway. Surely this must mean the donkeys are near by!  Finally, we make it down to the bay and just after the last bend we see DONKEYS…all lined up along a wall with beautiful saddles, beaded head bands and cute little bells. 

Success: We find the donkeys at the bottom of the hill.

A well deserved lunch makes us very happy. But just thinking about the possible walk up the steep hill makes us tired. We ask the waiter what the deal is with the donkey ride and he looks at us in bewilderment. “WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THAT,” he asks? We tell him we are hot and tired to which he replies, “They smell and they are stubborn”. We look at each other and say, “How bad can it be?” We can wash our clothes if they really smell. Anything is better than walking up that hill. So we now are checking TripAdvisor, the often trusted advice when traveling. But the website had absolutely nothing good to say about the donkeys. “Stay way”, “Don’t do it”, “The guy watching the donkeys is mean and yells”. One woman said her husband didn’t even have time to get off the donkey before they were forced to ran back down the hill again. We look at each other and are still not convinced NOT to do it still thinking, “How bad can it be?” Let’s start by walking over to where the donkeys are lined up. We find them calmly waiting for costumers and talk to the guy. Well, Tony and Hendrix are. I am still taking pictures of the beautiful bay and the little fishing boats that are anchored in the sparkling blue water.

After a few minutes, I realize that I should catch up to my family. Walking around the corner, I see Hendrix already on a donkey making his way up the hill. I am calling for him to wait but apparently stopping a donkey is impossible. Quickly I realize what the Tripadvisor reviews were talking about. Here he is, the mean donkey man. He immediately yells at me in Greek language (I guess since I was slowly strolling in with my relaxed vacation spirit and then a little anxious to see my son already chasing up the hill???). Tony yells, “Karin, get on the donkey quickly or you have to walk.” He’s right. These donkeys are going up with or without me and walking is not an option. Quickly, I throw myself and my bag on the donkey while being yelled at by the shepherd. “Madame, on donkey. Quick. No camera. Madame.”


Tony managed to snap this picture of Hendrix and his donkey running up the hill.

Although my life is in the hands of a stubborn, exhausted animal and all that separates us and a thousand foot drop is a two foot high retaining wall, I am NOT putting my camera away. Holding the saddle super tight with only one hand, I am now on a donkey which is running up the hill. Not slowly and calmly, but RUNNING, as the donkey man trained them to do, with the help of his whip. Just hold on Karin!!! It will be all good. Before I knew it, we reached the top of the hill and as expected, the donkey man yells at everybody “Off the donkey. Finished. Off. Madame, off’. I am quickly trying to get of the now very mellow and cooperative animal and am so happy to see that Hendrix and Tony both made it up without falling off. Our hearts are beating fast out of excitement and we are laughing so hard about this crazy adventure. Who ever said that donkeys are stubborn was wrong. It’s the Shepherd  who is…..

Our TripAdvisor  recommendation: Take the donkeys.  It is so much fun. Just laugh about the crazy shepherd…..

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