Romantic, unique, imposing, ever changing, with ...volcanic temperament!
Santorini (Thira or Thera) is the only Cycladic island with an active volcano, and the only one that has settlements built not on sea level, but on the edge of the inner walls of the great crater formed by a volcanic eruption circa 1600 BC.
It is also one of the last sites in the world where architectural complexes of underground cave houses survive inside the volcanic earth. Santorini and Thirassia form a ring around the Caldera, the bay created when the central part of ancient Strongyli sank to the seabed. The islets Palaia and Nea Kammeni (Old and New Kammeni) are at the centre of the Caldera, in the volcano crater.
The Caldera walls are sheer cliffs, 150-350 m. tall, containing rocks such as haematite, andesite, and the volcanic soil called Thiraic earth in distinct layers formed by the eruptions of the volcano. The eastern side of the island slopes gently to the sea, lined with beaches of black volcanic sand.There are 13 villages. You can take a day trip to the Santorini volcano by boat from the ports of Athinios and Gialos.
- The Santorini Caldera and the rest of the island are considered to be of extraordinary natural beauty.
- Distance: 130 nautical miles from the port of Piraeus.
- Area: 76 sq. km.
What to see, where to go when you travel to Santorini.
Santorini is a volcanic island with peculiar geomorphology. Volcanic activity in the area began 1.5 million years ago. Each eruption either destroyed the island or added new land to it. The one that took place in 1600 BC, during the economic and cultural pinnacle of the island, was named the «Minoan eruption». It caused the volcanic dome to collapse, forming the crater of the Caldera. It destroyed not only the island’s great civilization, burying it under millions of tons of lava and ash, but probably the Minoan civilization as well.
The largest village of Santorini. Below it, to the west, lies the old port of Fira (Gialos), with the dock and the cable car terminal. The port of Athinios is to the SW; Firostefani is almost joined with the capital of Santorini. Fira village is the centre of social activities, nightlife and shopping. Having had a rapid tourist development, it exhibits many shops selling clothes and accessories, goldsmiths and galleries, gift shops, super markets, grocer’s, banks, pharmacies, cafés, bars and clubs, restaurants, hotels and rooms to let, offering a magnificent view over the Caldera. On the caldera you will find restaurants, shops , the Orthodox Cathedral, the area of Frangomachalas, Nomikos cultural center, the picturesque neighbourhood of Kato Fira and many more. The centre of the village is the busy Theotokopoulos Square, with the bus terminal and the taxi stand. The 25th of March Road goes through here, leading to Oia and the other villages (access by car is not allowed in the summer, when the peripheral road is used). Nightlife at Fira has always been a must: You can stay up all night, dancing to all kinds of music in bars and clubs.
It is almost connected with Fira and its name means «crown of Fira». The blue dome of the Aghioi Theodoroi (Saints Theodore) church is featured in many photos of Santorini. Firostefani has a few excellent hotels, houses to let, and fine restaurants-café-bars. The walk from Fira to Firostefani and on to Imerovigli via the old cobbled path is one of the nicest on the island, offering a magnificent view over the Caldera and the villages.
The village is offering a wonderful view over the volcano. It is just 3 km. from Fira, and there is access either from the asphalt road or following the cobblestone path from Fira to Imerovigli. Records show that there was residential development here since the late 16th century. It seems that this was the destination of people leaving the Skaros castle. This is also where the monastery of Aghios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas) was transferred from Skaros in 1816.
This village, famous for its sunset all over the world, is classy and sophisticated. At night, when the lights come on in the hotel buildings and pools, the effect is truly magical. But in the morning as well, its close-knit neighborhoods with the rock-hewn houses and the so-called «captains’ houses» –a type of mansion quite common throughout the Mediterranean– look stunningly beautiful in their multicolor variety. In Oia most buildings have been converted into luxury hotels, villas and suites, restaurants, café-bars, galleries, and shops. The 1993 presidential decree characterizing Oia, a traditional settlement, set strict standards for building restoration. The Venetian district, built at the site of the old Goulas -a watchtower used during the rule of the Westerners- was ruined by the earthquakes. The meeting point is the Platsani square, where people lean at the parapets to gaze at the village. In one direction, the main pedestrian street leads to the castle and the Goulas. It is lined with ethnic and tourist shops, cafés, restaurants, and goldsmith shops. In the other direction, the pedestrian street leads to Perivolas. There are less shops there, and on the cliff side you will find most of Oia’s luxury hotels. The two ports of Oia are Ammoudi, featuring fish taverns, and Armeni.Distance from Fira: 11 km. Services: ATMs, post office, shops, hotels, restaurants, coffee houses, bars, etc. Transport: By taxi: Tel. +30 22860 22555. By bus: (Tel. +30 22860 25404). Buses run from Fira to Oia, stopping at Firostefani and Imerovigli.
As far as the Santorini archaeological sites are concerned, the great «protagonist» is Akrotiri and the findings of the excavations that began in 1967. Akrotiri (Promontory) is at the southwestern tip of the island, 15 km from Fira. It became globally known thanks to the prehistoric settlement discovered there in excavations conducted systematically since 1967. First signs of habitation at Akrotiri date back to the Late Neolithic Period. By the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC), there was a settlement at Akrotiri. In the Middle and Late Bronze Age (20th-17th centuries BC), the settlement was expanded, becoming one of the main urban centres in the Aegean. The life of the town ended abruptly at the end of the 17th century BC, when its inhabitants left due to powerful seismic foreshocks. Then the volcano erupted and volcanic material covered the town and the rest of the island, preserving the buildings and their contents to this day. Professor Spyros Marinatos began systematic excavations at Akrotiri in 1967.* For more information call +30 22860 81366, the Museum of Prehistoric Thera (+30 22860 23217) and the Archaeological Museum at Fira (+30 22860 22217), where finds from the Akrotiri excavation are in display.
This historical city stands on Mesa Vouno, at an altitude of 396 m. It was founded in the 9th century BC by Dorian settlers, led by Theras; habitation continued until the early Byzantine era. Excavations have mainly brought to light the areas built during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Ancient Thera and the largest part of its cemeteries were excavated by German archaeologists from 1895 to 1902; the Sellada cemeteries were excavated by N. Zafeiropoulos from 1961 to 1982. In November 2000, an exquisite female statue of a Daedalic-style Kore, dating back to 600 BC, was found in the cemetery. The archaeological site was reorganized and ready to welcome the public in 2007, and has been attracting visitors since then.For information, please call the museum of Prehistoric Thera (+30 22860 23217).
Santorini is famous for its gastronomy and the fresh local products, used by the chefs in their gourmet recipes. One of the basic products of the island is fava (split peas) used since the old days in a variety of recipes. Caper is another plant very much used in the Cyclades as seasoning in salads or as pickles. The most tasty and popular product of Santorini is the dry cherry tomato, called anydro (waterless). Up to 1950, this cherry tomato was the base of the island’s economy – hence the many canning tomato factories some of which still stand in areas such as Monolithos, Perivolos, and Vlychada. Cherry tomatoes are also used by Santorinian women to make the so-called pseftokeftedes (tomato balls). Another extremely savory product, that you will be lucky if you taste it, is the white eggplant and chloro cheese. Among the island’s traditional dishes are atherina (smelt) small pies (the fish is fried with onions and flour), and brandada. The sweets standing out are: koufeto, with honey and almonds, offered in weddings and melitinia, small pies with hand-made dough filled with myzithra cheese and sugar, offered mainly at Easter. It is worth buying cans with whole Santorini cherry tomatoes or tomato paste to give a more savory taste to your recipes. More information in the official web site of the Municipality of Thira
Museum of Prehistoric Thirain Fira
Τhis splendid museum with the contemporary design is divided in four sections over 600 square meters. Exhibits include findings from the excavations at Akrotiri and other Theraic sites ranging from the 4th millennium BC to the 17th century BC. The four sections present the history of exploration in prehistoric Thera, its geologic history, the development of the island from the Neolithic Period to the beginning of the Late Cycladic I period (early 17th century BC) and the Akrotiri heyday (17th century BC, Late Cycladic I period).
The fourth and largest section is divided in seven smaller sections presenting the architectural structure of the city, everyday life, murals –the portrayal of the «Women’s House» stands out – pottery, and jewelry. The last room labeled «Akrotiri»: a cosmopolitan port» includes findings demonstrating that the area was a busy harbour, such as cups from Knossos, an alabaster rhyton from Egypt, a jar from Canaan and, of course, the Monkey mural. A separate display showcases the gold ibex figurine discovered in 1999, one of the most important findings from the prehistory of the Aegean Sea.Tel. +30 22860 23217
Excavation findings in Akrotiri, a prehistoric settlement, reveal that grapes were grown on the island at least since the 17th century BC. The prehistoric vineyard was destroyed by the great volcanic eruption around 1600 BC. The new igneous soil gave birth to another vineyard around 1200 BC. Therefore, we wouldn’t exaggerate if we said that the vineyard of Santorini is more than 3,200 years old, since it has been cultivated non-stop during all this time. The vine and wine have played a fundamental role in the island’s economic, social and financial life for centuries. Vines are self-rooting, live more than 50 years, and grow on the porous ground, rich in pumice and porcelain. From ancient times to this day, the vineyard is being renewed in the same way, i.e. by layering. The vines of Santorini are real works of art, and their ancient pruning technique is quite exceptional. Many factors have contributed to the development of this technique: the sandy soil, the strong winds blowing at spring, and the hot summer sun.
Varieties in Santorini include the white Assyrtiko (cultivated at a percentage of 80%), the best known variety of the Mediterranean grapevine, and, in smaller quantities, Athiri and Aidani, along with other local varieties. Among red grape varieties, Mandilari and Mavrotragano are the most prominent. You will come across wineries in many places on the –arid, as for the rest– island, such as Pyrgos, Kamari, Exo Gonia, Emporeio, Akrotiri, Vourvoulos, as well as near Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli. There are several wineries that you can visit, preferably from mid- to late August, when you can also attend to the harvesting process.
Until the 20th century, there were many kánaves (old wineries) on the island. They were outside the Castelia, around the settlements, or in the countryside, always close to their owner’s residence. Wineries were usually rock-hewn underground or protected by nearby buildings. In order to admire some of the old kanaves you may walk in Pyrgos or visit Foinikia, Perivolas in Oia, Megalohori, Mesa Gonia.
A special Santorini wine is Vinsanto. Winemakers call it “wine of the sun”, advertising it as naturally sweet. This famous, award-winning Santorini wine is being mentioned by foreign travellers on the island since the 19th century. It is a sweet wine made exclusively of white grape varieties (75% Asyrtiko and Aidani). The famous Vinsanto is produced by Asyrtiko and Aidani, sunned after the harvest and then aged in wooden vats.* Information from the Santorini Experience iPad application
You can download it from the App Store
Time zone in Greece is GMT+2.Time changes during the summer (from the last March Sunday until the last October Sunday), setting the clocks one hour back.
To access Santorini you can use sea or air transportation. There are scheduled ship trips from Piraeus port every day.
- Athens International airport (El. Venizelos): +30 210 3530000
- Santorini Airport: +30 22860 28400
- Aegean Airlines: +30 22860 28500 - www.aegeanair.gr
- Departures-arrivals: +30 22860 24444
- Customs: +30 22860 22230
Useful Phone Numbers
- Radio taxis (taxi stand/Fira): +30 22860 22555
- Cable car: +30 22860 22977
- Greek National Tourist Organization Office: +30 22860 27199
- Municipality of Thira: +30 22863 60100 www.santorini.gr
- Municipality of Fira–Wedding Registrar: +30 22860 28094
- Police (Fira): +30 22860 22649
- Post Office (Fira): +30 22860 22238
You can also find Post Office to Pyrgos, Kamari and Perissa.
- Health Center (Fira): +30 22863 60300
- Santorini Central Clinic (Fira): +30 22860 21728 www.santorinicentralclinic.gr
- First Aid Stations
- Pyrgos: +30 22860 31207
- Banks are located around Fira and on the road from Fira to Athinios- Pyrgos.
Open Monday-Thursday 08:00-14:30, Friday 08:00-14:00.
You can find ATMS everywhere. Internationally recognized credit cards are accepted at many shops-restaurants.