Words sound poor to give - in a few lines - a representative sense of the most dramatic landscapes in the entire world. Santorini is not comparable to any other place on earth. This is the perfect hybrid of love and war. This is a destination of a lifetime, a pilgrimage for every traveller who truly respects himself. It is like the cherry on a Cyclades cake. Thira may be the most far away island among the Cyclades region, but it never seemed to be a problem, as it is the most visited one by millions of tourists every year.
Crescent-shaped Santorini (or Thira), the precious gem of the Aegean, is actually a group of islands in the southernmost part of Cyclades.
Perhaps very few know that once the Aegean Sea was actually a land connecting today's Greece mainland with the Asian side (Turkish coast) and Crete. Six million years ago, the sea prevailed in the territory, and before two million years a huge volcanic eruption shaped the island of "Strongili" (as it was called, an almost perfectly rounded island). More than ten huge eruptions occurred since then, one every 20,000 years. The last big eruption occurred in 1650 BC (during the Minoan Age), when igneous material (mainly ash, pumice and lava stones) covered the entire Aegean.
It destroyed the thriving local prehistoric civilization (evidence was found at Akrotiri), while the solid material and gases emerging from the volcano’s interior created a huge "vacuum" underneath, causing the collapse of the central part and the creation of an enormous "pot" –today’s Caldera– with a depth of up to 400m below sea level.
The largest recorded eruption in the Eastern Mediterranean came from a submarine volcano of Santorini on the 27th of September 1650, and the most recent volcanic activity occurred in 1950. The whole island is actually a huge natural geological/ volcanological museum where you can observe a wide range of structures and forms.
Exploring the island’s towns is like is a harmonic combination between colour and tradition. They are among the most picturesque in entire Cyclades region because of their unique architecture. Small white cubic houses, built upon light red rocks. Perched high up on the edge of the Caldera, it looks like a marvellous painting. Fira, together with Oia, Imerovigli and Firostefani located high above on a cliff, make up the so-called "Caldera’s eyebrow", the balcony of Santorini, which offers an amazing view of the volcano. You have seen them in a picture or a post card, but when the ferry approaches the island, is brought to life just in front of your eyes.
Cruise ships, high-speed ferries and luxurious yachts are filling up the port of Santorini, where small motorboats are carrying visitors ashore. You can choose among the funicular, cute, traditional and four-legged (mules and donkeys) or the 566 stairs to get you to Fira and around the clock alive capital, with small alleys and paved streets, where you will find almost everything.
From the most expensive jewellery and fashion stores to unique souvenirs, banks, pharmacies, taxis and public transports. Traditional taverns, exceptional restaurants and the heart of nightlife, cafés and bars.
Imerovigli is the ultimate spot to admire the view of caldera (300 heights) full of cafés and bars that seem to be to hanging or carefully placed on the rim of the cliff.
Oia is the largest village, and only 11 Km away from Fira, is full of cute little shops, handmade and folk art, galleries, bars and restaurants. Scroll around the alleys, up and down the stairs, that will take you to Armeni bay. Late in the afternoon, find a spot on the castle, and when the sun sets, admire one of the best views on the planet, the way the small cubic houses are being painted by the last rays of sun, next to Thirasia (the small island in front of you).
Oia is full of cute little shops, handmade folk art, galleries, bars and restaurants.
Other famous villages are Akrotiri and Messa Vouno, with their famous archaeological sites, Pyrgos, Karterades, Emporio, Ammoudi, Finikia, Perissa, Perivolos, Megalohori, Kamari, Messaria and Monolithos: some of them are well known and cosmopolitan full of nightlife, bars, hotels and taverns, with fresh fish and traditional local specialties; they are surrounded by vast vineyards; whitewashed cliff-top towns with castles affording amazing views out over the Aegean. Soaking up the villages’ distinctive traditional atmosphere is a very rewarding experience.
Are you here for a reason? Santorini is considered to be the most sought after place for a romantic getaway in Greece. It attracts thousands of newly married couples, willing to spend their honeymoon enjoying exquisitely clear waters while perched on the rim to be photographed in front of an active volcano in the middle of the sea. The island has a growing reputation as a "wedding destination" for couples not only from Greece but from all over the world. A trip to Santorini with the other half is a dream for anyone who has seen at least one photo of the island’s famous Caldera and exchanging kisses beneath Santorini’s famous sunset is the ultimate romantic experience.
Spots with spectacular view:
- The chapel of Profitis Ilias: the highest location on the island (567 meters) with a panoramic view of Aegean and the nearby islands of Sikinos, Folegandros, Amorgos, Paros and Naxos.
- Castle of Oia: the famous sunset of Cyclades
- Theoskepasti Skaros: the greatness of the caldera, a place for contemplation and meditation
- Fira, Imerovigli and Firostefani: the best view to caldera and the volcano’s islets
- "Santo Wines" winery: the balcony of this private winery combines the two pleasures in a single place.
Volcanic soil and the Aegean breeze. These are the hidden secrets that make every single beach to be so special. Some people like them, some don’t, but they all admit: the beaches of Santorini are the strangest and the oddest they have ever seen. Santorini’s coastal treasures have been profoundly influenced by the volcanic nature of the island. Its unique lunar landscape and the exceptional clarity of the Aegean Sea are simply superb. Their names are just a hint to realize it.
On southeast, close to the excavation site of Akrotiri you will find what is probably the most famous beach on the island, the Red Beach. What makes it absolutely irresistible is the impressive red rock formations,a breathtaking unique volcanic landscape. Access is not that easy and involves a trip by boat from Kamari, Akrotiri or Perissa. The nearby White Beach is another stunning seascape that you simply must not miss. Black sand, big grey and white pebbles and gigantic white rocks form a bizarre setting like you’ve never seen before.
Sun-loving tourists will encounter magnificent black sandy or pebbly beaches. Monolithos is strongly recommended for families, as the water is very swallow and is full of facilities, like playgrounds and children’s entertainment. Soak up the atmosphere along the lively waterfront at one of the charming beach bars or bask in the turquoise blue waters of the cosmopolitan beach of Kamari, one of the island’s most crowded and organised beaches. The most sought after beaches, especially among young people, are Perissa, Perivolos and Agios Georgios, which actually stretch out one after another to create the longest black sandy beach on the island; bustling beach bars, diving and water sport centres (including jet skiing, parasailing, wind surfing and canoe-kayak) and beautiful-people-watching. Could you ask for more?
Explore Santorini’s seaside treasures and enjoy deep blue waters and colourful beaches, volcanic pebbles, spectacular rock formations and impressive lunar landscapes. Find out more about Santorini’s beaches.
A visit to Santorini is the ultimate gastronomic experience, as the island is a true culinary paradise. Treat your taste buds to some famous traditional products like:
- cherry tomatoes: a variety cultivated since the 18th century, with a unique taste
- white eggplants: their flesh is sweet and juicy, instead of bitter like the traditional ones
- fava (split peas): used in many recipes, various combinations to be found at most of the local restaurants
- capers and
- "hloro tyri": a special kind of fresh goat cheese found on the island
Or why not try some of the exceptional wines produced from grapes grown in the volcanic soil of the island?
The island’s nickname is "the wine island". The excavations at the site of Akrotiri have proved that wine making and trading used to be among the most important activities for prehistoric locals. Over the years, grape growers have built terraces using petrified lava stones in order to prevent the soil being eroded by the strong winds, and to help retain what little rain falls.
Some of the best known varieties are: Assyrtiko, Athyri, Aidani, Mantilaria and Mavrotragano, all very distinctive and available to be tasted at the famous wineries (some of them operate as a museum as well) or at restaurants.
Every summer Santorini is turned into a meeting point for prominent artists. Festivals of international importance are held on a yearly basis, with the most important, the Jazz Festival in July. In August, the key event is the Ephestia (you could say it "Volcania" in English) which is a series of festivities rounded off with a fireworks spectacular event, presenting a virtual eruption of the volcano.
Santorini, the youngest volcanic land in the Eastern Mediterranean, is waiting for you. Don’t think twice. Experience for yourself the once-in-a-lifetime romance and charm of this pearl of the Aegean.
- Santorini is connected by ferry to Piraeus, Rafina, Lavrio and the rest of the Cyclades
- You can reach Santorini by aeroplane from Athens and Thessaloniki.
|Pharmacies||22860-22700, 23444, 25310|
|Tourist Information Office||22860-23360|
|Local buses (KTEL)||22860-25404|
|Archaeological Museum (Fira)||22860-22217|
|Archeological Site of Akrotiri||22860-81366|
|Folklore Museum (Fira)||22860-22792|
|Naval Museum (Oia)||22860-71156|