Santorini Greece is one the most popular vacation destinations in Europe. The island ranks high among the ten most popular islands worldwide. The blue waters of the Aegean Sea surrounding the volcano are a breathtaking sight indeed. Traditional villages, archeological sites, local wineries, picturesque beaches and traditional beachside taverns and delicious local dishes ? the Santorini experience can be unique and unforgettable for anyone. It is indeed a mysterious island where the volcano rules and the caldera view can leave a tourist breathless with wonder.
Santorini refers not to just one place but a complex of five islands. Santorini (Thira) is the main island and around it are Thirasia and Aspronisi, and two volcanic islands Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. Santorini is the last of the Cyclades islands to the south. Santorini is unlike any other Greek island. It has a magnificent mystic aura, which is stunning and unique. Santorini belongs to the Cyclades cluster and is situated 128 nautical miles from Piraeus Port.
The island is 73 sq. km.in area. Santorini has approximately 10500 permanent inhabitants but during the tourist season this number swells dramatically. The rich volcanic soil of Santorini produces small sweet tomatoes. The island also exports pumice stone, china clay and pistachio nuts. Two million tons of volcanic soil is exported every year for use in the cement industry.
Santorini - The lost mythical Atlantis
Many historians have held that Santorini (Thira) is connected to the mythical Atlantis. There is a very ancient story thousands of years old about a ?lost island? in the Atlantic Ocean. This story was told by ancient Greeks and has been handed down from generation to generation. The famous Greek philosopher Plato wrote a famous story about it in 375 BC. According to the story of Plato, there were a series of islands. In the center, a hill was encircled by a ring of water surrounded by a circle of land. There are totally nine rings of water and nine rings of land. This island was created by Neptune, God of the sea for Cleito, his beloved. The people of Atlantis descended from their children.
The city was buried by a volcanic eruption in 1500 BC and was found in 1967 on Santorini. This city according to archaeologists is the ancient Atlantis. Another ancient story goes that Santorini was one island by name Stroggili (meaning circle in Greek) until about 1645 BC when the volcano erupted and Caldera was created. The two volcanic islands appeared much later from various other eruptions starting from 157 BC until the last one in the 20th century in 1950.
Santorini island is most famous for its Caldera. Caldera refers to the opening created by the Santorini volcano. It offers a breathtaking sunset view with unique beaches in myriad hues due to volcanic properties of the sand. The rocky cliffs and landscape, which are primitive and wild, add to the mystery of the Santorini Island.
Santorini Greece tourism
Santorini is considered one of the finest holiday spots in the world. The tourism in the island has a well-developed infrastructure offering several facilities to the tourists visiting the island from various parts of the world. A wide range of accommodation such as hotels, studios, apartments, traditional houses, suites, villas and rooms are available for rent. Innumerable restaurants, taverns, cafes, bars and clubs cater to the entertainment of Santorini tourists. Designer boutiques, jewelry and craft shops that sell quality goods are definite tourist attractions. Tour operators, travels offices, car rental agencies are seen throughout the island providing expertise travel services that make the Santorini Greece holiday unforgettable.
Santorini has a wonderful climate, perfect for pleasant holidays. In the summer time the weather is hot and dry. On summer evenings one can enjoy the cool breeze coming from the sea. In winter, the Santorini island weather is mild. A handy hat, plenty of sunscreen and a bottle of water are recommended.
Historical records reveal that the last huge eruption of the volcano was 3600 years ago in the Bronze Age. Millions cubic meters of ash and pumice were blown to a height of upto 36 kms. Removal of such large volume of magma caused the volcano to collapse producing the Caldera. The Kameni islands, Palea and Nea Kameni were formed after the Caldera. Since 197 BC, eleven eruptions resulted in two islands. The most recent volcanic eruption at Santorini was in 1950 on Nea Kameni northern island. The volcano is still active.
Onboard comfortable yachts, you can experience the magic of sea adventure and take in the beautiful islands off Greece. The yacht cruise also takes the tourist to hot springs where one can bathe in lukewarm waters. Santorini boat trips can be exciting and relaxing. Plenty of one-day private boat trips are available in the island. The trip starts with the picturesque old port of Fira Town and unique afternoon sailing throughout the Caldera area.
Sailing cruise to the small port of ?Neo Kameni? volcano is most popular. It is enjoyable to cruise amidst the green sulfurous waters. The cruise takes the tourist to the crater?s rim, which is hot and rocky ground from where the breathtaking scenery can be admired.
The cruise program starts from Vlihada Marine. Santorini cruise takes one to the traditional island of Thirassia, which is the second largest island of the volcanic Caldera. The beauty of this island is amazing. It is also interesting to see the way of life on Thirasia Island. This island was separated from the main mass of Santorini when the volcano erupted in 1500 BC.
Cruising to the settlement of Oia and the ports of Ammoudi and Armeni, which are located in the northern tip of the island, is an opportunity one must not miss. Oia is a traditional settlement with houses constructed right at the rim of the Caldera giving an impression that they are actually hanging from the cliffs.
A tourist can cruise along the Red Beach and the White beach, the rock formations of Akrotiri (cape). The cruise affords a chance for the tourist to admire the different layers of Santorini, the Faros (lighthouse) at the southwestern part of the island. The tourists can walk up to the crater and also swim at the hot springs where the water is green and yellow due to the sulfur and the iron content.
Santorini boat trips and cruises take the visitor around the Mediterranean to the Greek islands and other ports. During such boat trips and cruises to several places near the volcano, sulfurous smoke is emitted. Therefore tourists are advised to wear sturdy and comfortable walking shoes and hat as protection from the Aegean sun.
The Villages of Santorini
The villages of Santorini offer the most picturesque scenarios in the Cycladic cluster. This is owing to their unique architecture of the small white houses built on reddish cliff sides alongside colorful sandy beaches. On the eastern side of the island facing the Caldera are the villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia. On the western side near the red white and black beaches are the villages of Kamari, Perissa and Vivhada. Inland villages such as Pyrgos, Emporio, Messaria offer the tourists a panoramic view of the island and the Aegean Sea. Santorini has 13 villages in all.
The villages are built on the sheer cliff top and the tourist can gaze down at the gentle green outer slopes of the mountains. The sea has filled the crater of the volcano. The contrast between the two faces of Santorini namely the green mountains and the blue sea is dramatic and extraordinary.
Fira (Hora): Fira is the capital of Santorini islands. Early in the 19th century, the capital of the island was moved from Pyrgos to Fira. Fira is situated on the west side of the island over a precipitous rock 260 m high. It offers a magnificent view of the sea. The city has about 1500 inhabitants with snow-white houses that shine under the sunlight. Picturesque pebbled streets, vaults and arches are common sights in Fira.
The name Fira comes from the word ?pyrros?, which means burning or reddish and is reminiscent of the existing volcano. The city has a series of beautiful churches and monasteries; some of the famous ones being Agios Minas, the cathedral of Hypapandi, the cathedral of Christ, the monastery of Panagia ton Dominikanidon and Panagia tou Radariou. The monasteries and churches have a small collection of gems, paintings, documents and maps.
Fira also has excellent archaeological and prehistoric museums that are home to exquisite collections of objects found during the excavations of Santorini Island. The Fira folklore museum has a superb collection of traditional objects of the people of Santorini. Fira also has an archeological museum with remarkable exhibits from the excavations of the island near the volcanoes of Nea and Palia Kameni.
Kamari: Kamari is a popular holiday haunt on Santorini islands. It is situated 10 kms southeast of Fira. It was historically Ancient Thira?s port called Oia. The sandy beaches in Kamari are main crowd pullers. From Kamari, one can travel to the nearby Anafi isle and visit the archeological site of Ancient Thira.
Messaria: This is a beautiful island situated 4 km south east of Fira. It has traditional houses and mansions and all the features of Cycladic architecture. Agriculture is the main occupation of the villagers in this place along with production of excellent wine. The picturesque chapels of Panagia Sergeina and Panagia Trypas are next to the Vothonas village. They are carved within the rocks and situated near the Messaria village.
Oia: This is a beautiful tourist settlement, which is situated about 11 kms from Fira. Oia was an important commercial center until the Second World War. Traditional chapels, two-storeyed houses and mansions with their beautiful colors and well-tended yards on the rock, a notable marine museum and a library are some of the most interesting spots on Oia.
Perissa: This is a seaside tourist settlement situated 15 kms from Fira. The large organized sandy beach, small taverns, restaurants, bars and hotels are main attractions. The beautiful picturesque houses are built around a large church of the Holy Cross. The archaeological site of Ancient Thira at Mesa Vouno, which is a part of Ancient Aegeida, is the main tourist attraction.
Pirgos: This is the most mountainous village on Santorini. It has a population of about 500. This was the island?s capital till 1800.Above this village is the Kastelli fortress where the view is breathtaking. The church of Theotokaki with its wonderful wood carved screens, beautiful frescoes and old icons, the churches of Agia Theodosia, Agia Triada, Metamorphosi tou Sotira, Agios Nikolaos, Eisodia tis Theotokou and the Archangel Michael are all the significant highlights of Pirgos. The monastery of Prohitis Ilias, which is situated at 4 km distance from Prigos with its precious ecclesiastical gems and rare manuscripts, is definitely worth visiting.
Vourvoulos: This is a traditional village located on the northeastern side of Fira. The serene atmosphere of this island is worth enjoying. A view of the valley and the sea at a distance of 1.5 kms only can be had from this village. Vourvoulos also has an organized beach. The tourist can enjoy the sunset, the nightly voyage of the moon and the sunrise.
Santorini nightlife entertainment does not leave a tourist disappointed. Fira and Kamari are famous for dancing and loud music. Take in a spectacular view of Santorini Caldera from the numerous cafes that dot the streets. Greek islands boast of lively nightlife. Santorini is famous for its delicious cuisine. A wide selection of traditional tavernas and gourmet restaurants are located throughout the island. Local dishes such as tomato balls, squash balls, fried white eggplants, sun dried cherry tomatoes, lentil dip and a plethora of sea food dishes are scrumptious. The famous Santorini wine has a unique bouquet due to its volcanic properties of the soil of this island.
Wines of Santorini
Like everything else in the wind swept Santorini, the wines are also unique. Santorini is famous for its wineries. Viniculture is an ancient art in Santorini and the fact that vines thrive at all is amazing, considering the fact that the island has limited water resources. The Volcanic soil is excellent for producing grapes, especially the Assyrtiko grape ? a rare white variety.
Wine is mainly produced on two Cycladic islands namely Santorini and Paros. There are about ten grape varieties in Santorini many. Grapes mature fast and retain their acidity due to a unique combination of climate and terrain. In order to protect the grapes from Meltemia (etesian winds), the people of Santorini prune the vines in such ways that they look like a wreath within which the grapes grow. Like Santorini, Paros is also famous for its wine production. The people of Paros have developed their own unique methods for cultivation and protection of the vines. In Paros, vines grow on very steep slopes. Paros is known for two basic varieties of grapes and most of its wine is combination of both. These varieties are red grapes Mantilaria and the white ones Monemyasia. With the increase of tourists, better quality of wine in produced on Santorini islands. Nowadays unique wine in combinations of red and white grapes is produced.
Santorini possesses some of Greek?s finest archaeological sights with spellbinding sunset views and splendid beaches The Santorini jazz festival takes place every year in July; the Santorini Music festival in August and September at Fira. Traditional festivals such as the ?Ifaisteia? cultural festival that takes place in Fira and the Episkopi festival in Mesa Gonia in August are well known on this island. The most impressive Santorini sight is the Minoan city of Akrotiri, which is located on the southern side of Santorini. This city is also connected with the legend of the lost city of Atlantis. Many tourists catch a glimpse of a genuine Minoan town, which includes a number of three storeyed buildings, drainage systems, storage rooms, a mill, staircase, and ceramic storage jars.
Another significant archeological jewel of Santorini is the site of Ancient Thira situated on the southeastern side of the island on the Mesa Vouno headland. Today tourists can see the remains from the Hellenistic and Roman Periods as well as the ruins of several monuments built in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC by the Ptolemies.
Traveling to Santorini
There are direct flight services from Thessaloniki Airport in Greece as well as many chartered flights from other European airports to Santorini directly or via Athens. The flying time from Athens to Santorini is 40 minutes. There are a number of ferries to Santorini from Athens and other Cyclades islands and Crete. The ferry transportation is also very frequent.
Santorini is the most spectacular of the islands of Cyclades. The high cliffs, the charming villages, the brilliant flooded Caldera make Santorini the perfect vacation destination. Santorini no doubt has been rightly called the ?black pearl of the Aegean?.