Santorini plea: Give the donkeys a break


A new campaign is asking visitors to Santorini to refrain from taking part in one of the Greek island's unique traditions: Riding donkeys up the hillside from the island's port to its main town, Fira.

The journey, which involves 600 zigzag steps climbing the hill, has come under attack for being cruel to the 4,000 or so donkeys and ponies that carry cargo and sometimes overweight tourists. They are said to suffer from spinal injuries, saddle sores and exhaustion.

Locals, including the island's mayor, have been meeting with cruise line representatives and have put out information leaflets aimed at cruisers. The cruise lines are helping with the campaign; they have been sensitive to complaints from their passengers about the donkeys' working conditions.

More than 17,000 passengers a day visit Santorini in season, and the lines and island officials are also working on limits to spread the load across more of the day.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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17,000 visitors a day - an incredible number for a small Greek island! We nearly went there some 30 years ago, but then changed our minds because of the poor ferry connections at the time. I don't think I would want to be there these days.