Santorini (or Thira) is a volcanic island, erupting with beauty. A volcano in the Aegean sea, this small island in the Cyclades complex has breath-taking charm. This is one of the reasons Santorini is one of the most well-known destinations in the whole world.
Santorini took its current form after a series of volcanic eruptions that affected all the Aegean sea. The island was inhabited even before 16th century B.C. and was an important trading centre. Around 1500-1600 B.C. a big volcanic eruption caused the cleavage of three quarters of the island and the creation of two smaller islands: Thirasia and New Kameni, along with the Caldera, the “crater” on the main island which gives these magnificent views. In 1956 another eruption and earthquake hit the island and destroyed it completely. But the strong will of the residents helped them to overcome this difficulty and make Santorini the small white and blue diamond it is today.
It is not by accident that Santorini is considered an island of outstanding natural beauty, thus many couples choose it for wedding or honeymoon. Go there and you’ll be dazzled by the heart stopping views, the golden sunset, the traditional blue and white settlements and the unique beaches.
How to get to Santorini
You can reach the island by airplane or by boat.
The Santorini airport (JTR) is a domestic flight airport. That means that you need to take a second flight to reach the island, from Athens, Thessaloniki or Heraklio (depending on the season you can also find flights from Rhodes and Mykonos). During the summer season there are also plenty of charter flights going to Santorini directly.
Many European visitors coming from different locations prefer to reach the island by ferry, from Piraeus and Thessaloniki. There’s also a hydrofoil connection with Rafina. Main reason for this, is the island hopping. The ferry from Piraeus to Santorini has also connections to most of the Cycladic islands, so it is preferred in case you plan to visit other islands before or after your visit to Santorini.
Top Resorts in Santorini
Fira – Fira is the island’s vibrant main town, with traditional narrow streets that are full of shops and restaurants. It is on top of the caldera and in the middle of the island so very convenient to stay there and move around easily. No cars allowed (no cars fit, to be more precise) but this adds to the beauty. As the island’s capital, you can find many museums and galleries there.
Firostefani – Fira’s neighbouring hamlet (literally meaning Fira’s wreath), is ideal for those who want breathtaking views of the Caldera but without the crowds of Fira. Situated next to the main town, it is walking distance from it, yet you can find the peace you want.
Imerovigli – Next to Firostefani and only 3 km from Fira you can find this village. Also developed along the Caldera it gives one of the highest views from Santorini, as its name suggests (Imerovigli means daily watchtower). Do not forget to visit Skaros, the old Venetian Castle when you go to Imerovigli.
Kamari – Situated on the back side of the Caldera, it is a well-developed village of the island, hosting the Black beach (ideal for water skiing) and the ruins of Ancient Thira. Kamari is full of big and smaller resorts and great taverns along the beach.
Megalochori – A village with great vineyards & wineries and even greater beaches. Close to Megalochori you can find virgin (and not so crowded) places for your swim. The village is well developed, with a lot of hotels and restaurants.
Monolithos – The village lies on the eastern coast and is sparsely populated. It is nearby the airport and an ideal place for a quiet relaxing holiday, with crystal clear water in a black sand beach.
Perissa – One of the most well known villages of Santorini, attracting younger crowds. If you want beach parties, dives and accommodation with a volcanic view, Perissa is the place.
Perivolos – In the area between Perissa and Ai Giorgis lies Perivolos with a nice beach and many chill out beach bars.
Top Attractions in Santorini
Oia – The absolute must visit, postcard-perfect village. Most of the photos you’ve seen from Santorini come from Oia. It offers one of the best sunset views of the whole island, but be prepared for large crowds during this time. Again, no cars are allowed in the village, so stroll around and be dazzled by the unique architecture, the breath taking views and the amazing resorts.
Ancient Acrotiri – An ancient Minoan city which only came to light almost intact in 1967. The city was buried under the volcanic ash from the eruption of 1600 B.C. You can walk through the three-storey ancient buildings and see pottery, beds and other household items. It is one of the best preserved ancient cities and maybe the most important historical attraction of Santorini.
Kammeni – Regular boat tours are organized in both Nea (New) and Palia (Old) Kammeni, the two small islets opposite Santorini. Nea Kammeni requires a bit of a hiking, but if you do this you’ll be among the few people stating to have visited the crater of an active volcano! Just make sure to wear long trousers and sturdy shoes and have adequate water and sunscreen with you. In Palia Kammeni, you can dive in thermal Sulphur water, a natural volcanic spa! Both sites provide equally unique experiences!
Santo wines – If you are a wine lover, Santorini is your place. The island is renowned for its local and unique wine varieties, like Vinsanto, coming straight from the 3,000 years old volcanic vineyards! Santo wines is the best place to start your “roads of wine” adventure. It is the grape producers cooperative of the island and there you can have a short tour of the production process, along with several wine tasting options. Did I mention that you can do all these on the edge of the Caldera, with some amazing views?
Megaro Gyzi museum – There you can find great photographs of Fira before and after the 1956 earthquake, along with a good collection of maps, engravings, and old manuscripts.
When to Visit
Besides summer, Santorini is also an ideal destination for Easter holidays, with many festivities happening in the villages and the whole island “blooming”. If you still prefer summer time, make sure not to miss the reenactment of the volcanic eruption in late August every year, or some the famous “Panigyria”, the folk celebrations of the religious days, happening mainly in July & August.
But no matter when you visit this small white and blue island will definitely steal your hearts with its unparalleled beauty.