Santorini or Thira as it is sometimes known is the precious gem of the Aegean. Thira is crescent shaped and located in the southernmost part of the Cyclades. It is actually a group of islands consisting of Thira, Thirassia, Aspronissi, Palea and Nea Kameni.
It is without a doubt, considered to be the most sought-after romantic hotspot in Greece and for very specific reasons. Almost anywhere you go on the island you will be presented with a magnificent view. Literally breath-taking sights seem to be around every corner. There are not many places in the world, where you can exclusively enjoy panoramic views, of the most glorious sunsets while perched on the rim of a massive active volcano in the middle of the sea! The island has a growing reputation as THE perfect wedding destination with couples tying the knot from all over the world here. A trip to Santorini with the other half is a dream come true 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!
Out and about Fira is the picturesque capital of the island; perched high up on the edge of the Caldera, it looks like a marvellous painting. Fira, together with Oia, Imerovigli and Firostefani which are all located high above a cliff, make up the so-called Caldera’s eyebrow, the balcony of Santorini, which offers an amazing view of the volcano. Other popular smaller villages are Akrotiri and Messa Vouno, with their impressive archaeological sites. Akrotiri also has an ancient light house that is great to visit too. Some villages are cosmopolitan and some more peaceful, all beautiful, traditional and distinctive. Many are surrounded by vast vineyards and with whitewashed cliff-top towns with castles affording amazing views out over the Aegean.
These are may ways to explore the islands quickly shifting landscape of rolling hills and steep cliffs. One great way is by taking a horse-riding tour as well as the usual private car tours or on foot of course. If you're up for a trek, for the ultimate experience, take the road from Fira to Oia! Just remember to take plenty of water and sunscreen along the way as well photos! On the 3-hour trek you will get to experience some of the most beautiful scenery on any of the Greek islands. It’s definitely not for the light-hearted, it’s a good 10km and then some. Although there are a couple of rough parts, the trail itself is generally clear and you get to pass a couple of small villages along the way. Early morning or late afternoon starts are suggested to avoid the rather unforgiving sun!
Santorini has come a long way with modern amenities and entertainment. Accommodation nowadays is incomparable! Infinity pools, deluxe hotels, elite villas, and 5 stars service promise to make your stay in Santorini unforgettable! Spa treatments, wine tasting, vineyards tours, shopping in luxurious fashion boutiques and romantic dinners with a view to the endless Aegean Sea. There are infinite options to create unforgettable memories.
It is also a great place for fun and crazy nightlife especially in the islands capital Fira. Santorini clubs are many during the summer, and common for famous guest DJ appearances. A close second are the popular seaside resorts of Kamari and Perissa. There are nice beach clubs with parties all day and all night. The village of Oia also has good nightlife but a little more relaxed with mostly lounge bars as opposed to clubs.
“The Island’s History”
“The Island’s History”
Santorini is an active volcano and probably the only volcano in the world whose crater is in the sea. The islands that form Santorini came into existence as a result of intensive volcanic activity; twelve huge eruptions occurred, one every 20,000 years approximately, and each violent eruption caused the collapse of the volcano’s central part creating a large crater (caldera). The last big eruption occurred 3,600 years ago during the Minoan Age, when igneous material covered the three islands Thíra, Thirassiá and Asproníssi. The eruption destroyed the thriving local prehistoric civilization, evidence of which was found during the excavations of a settlement at Akrotíri. 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 size of 8x4 km and a depth of up to 400m below sea level. You can easily cruise around the dormant volcanos and take a dip in the hot springs. It’s a beautiful place to explore and a great way to get a different view of the beautiful coastline. They’re really more ‘slightly warm’ than hot, and the water has a rusty colour that’ll stain your swimwear, but it’s still a novel experience. However, if it’s a dive you’re after…
It’s been over 45 years since the legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau sailed to Santorini in the hopes of discovering the Long Lost City of Atlantis. Although the expedition was disappointing, Cousteau made another important discovery that he shared with the world. The treasure that continues to attract divers from around the globe is the biggest underwater caldera in the world. The most popular dive sites are located off the coast between Fira and Akrotiri. Particular interest is shown in the savage environment off Palia and Nea Kameni, where vast lava formations illustrate how the small islets emerged from the bowels of the Earth. The conditions are ideal, with visibility reaching 20 meters and the water temperature climbing to 23-27 degrees Celsius in the summer.
Cousteau’s younger son, Pierre-Yves, visited the island in 2009 and charmed by its natural beauty, its people and, of course, the volcano he not only decided to qualify as a diving instructor here but he was also compelled to take action against the blight of over-fishing, with the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (MPA). And together with the “Thiraiki Thalassa” Society for the Marine Protected Area of Santorini and with the island’s fishermen and locals joining the battle, experts hope to establish a management body that will delineate the borders of the marine park and impose strict controls. With the objective of turning Santorini into one of the premiere diving destinations in the Mediterranean.
The beaches in Santorini due to their geological features are quite obviously very different than any other beach you will find in Greece. The shores are mainly red and black volcanic pebbles however the cliffs provide an exceptional atmosphere.
The most famous beaches are Red Beach, Perissa, Kamari and Perivolos Beach. The waters are deep blue with white, red or black sand, volcanic pebbles, spectacular rock formations and landscapes. Most are organised, some secluded, some nudist friendly.
A visit to Santorini is the ultimate epicurean experience, as the island is a true culinary paradise! Wine growing in Santorini is known to date back to 1200 BC. The local method of cultivation is to cut the vines back to virtually ground level and then weave the vines into little baskets, with the grapes nestled inside and protected from the strong winds and harsh volcanic sand. The indigenous white Assyrtiko grape is the most commonly grown, and produces an extremely dry wine with a citrusy, earthy flavour. To this day it is still home to a flourishing wine industry. The flavours and varieties are simply exceptional. As well as Assyrtiko the Athyri, Aidani, Mantilaria and Mavrotragano are just some of the distinctive varieties that you can savour. A visit to the wineries is highly recommended as some operate as museums and some as restaurants too! You can go it alone or if take a wine tour. Boutari winery is a great visit and they are located in the village of Megalochori. And as an added bonus it also offers one of the islands many magnificent sunsets spots.
As for the local food, the produce is amazing. The cherry tomatoes, white egg plants, fava, caper and fresh goat cheese are some of the best in Greece. Of course, you will get to savour the local cuisine in the many tavernas and restaurants but why not treat yourself to a cooking class? It’s a great way to learn how to make those tomatokeftedes (crushed fried tomatoes) for yourself when you return home.Skippers Tip
The island of Thirassia opposite Santorini is picture perfect with its port and fish taverns. The south-eastern cape has the shape of the crocodile's head and a cave with the shape of a heart. Beautiful and overlooked, it is well worth a visit!