General Information on Santorini
Santorini, also called Thira, is a circular group of volcanic islands in the Aegean Sea. It is the southernmost member of the Cyclades cluster. With an area of about 73km² it is inhabited by approximately 13,000 people.
The island of Santorini, as we know it today, was formed 3,500 years ago by a monstrous volcanic eruption. The eruption created a large hole in the middle of the island, which turned into a bay when the waters of the Aegean filled it in. This is the core of the volcano which, according to legend, destroyed the lost continent of Atlantis, buried the ancient city of Akrotiri (now being excavated) under tons of ash and sent tidal waves which caused the collapse of the Minoan civilization in Crete.
Santorini is a cosmopolitan resort. It is famous for its geology and landscape, its history and culture, its ancient ruins, its museums and its climate. As for those who enjoy nightlife, Santorini is the right place and caters for all tastes.
History of Santorini
The island was inhabited at around 3200 B.C. by Cretans. The influence of the Minoan culture on the island was obvious when excavations started at Akrotiri and found a whole village with houses decorated with wall paintings similar to those found in the Minoan palace in Crete. The eruption of the volcano, which was in the centre of the island, took place in 1500 B.C. During the 10th century B.C., the Dorians invaded the island and founded seven villages. They named it Thira after their Spartan ruler. In the 13th and 16th centuries B.C., Venetian crusaders named the island Santorini after the island’s patron saint Irene, who died here on the island in 304 A.D. During the occupation by the Turks, until 1832, the name of the island was Denmemezlic.
Towns & Villages in Santorini
Fira: is the capital of the island. Perched on the edge of an impressive 260-meter high cliff, it offers a great panorama of the volcano. Fira is also one of the best places to gaze at the sunset. White painted houses, small churches and tasteful balconies with a view to the Aegean compose a unique set. During summertime, the small streets of Fira are crowed and filled with all kinds of shops. Fira is also the capital of the nightlife. Imerovigli and Firostefani are two small villages which are considered to be an extension of Fira. Both villages are beautiful and quiet and offer an excellent view.
Pyrgos: This village was the capital of the island until the early 1800s. The traditional houses of the village are built around the Venetian Castle located on the top of the hill. The village has many churches, the most famous being the Monastery of Profitis Ilias. Although Pyrgos is one of the prettiest places of the island, it is not a tourist attraction, at least yet.
Karterados: is 2km to the south of Fira. This village brings you closer to Santorini of the previous century as the traditional architecture remains intact.
Emporio: This is the biggest village and it is located in the south part of Santorini. In this village there is one of the oldest churches on the island, Palia Panagia, known for ots ornately carved wooden dome on its bell-tower. It is a quiet village with a few taverns and shops.
Akrotiri: This village is built on the most remote part of the island, about 12km from Fira. The excavations in that area brought up the city of Akropolis, a Venetian Castle which after the occupation by the Turks was torn down. There are many hotels and taverns around this area and the view of the Caldera is fascinating.
Messaria: is a small village with outstanding architecture. It is surrounded by gardens and vineyards. The Argiros mansion –built in 1880– and the churches of Metamorphosis of Sotiros and Agia Irini –built between 1680 and 1700– are worth visiting.
Megaloxori: This village is located between Pyrgos, Emporio and Akrotiri at a distance of less than 10km from Fira. White painted houses, churches and calderimia (cobblestone narrow pathways) compose a classic Cycladic set.
Beaches in Santorini
Santorini has unique places to swim. Some of them are quiet and some of them are –especially during July and August– crowded and well organized with facilities of any kind.
Perissa Beach: This is one of the most popular beaches on the island. The black lava sand, the clear blue sea and many water sports facilities, are the main attraction. Seafront taverns, hotels, camping facilities and many more meet everyone’s needs.
Kamari Beach: The beautiful black sandy beach of Kamari stretches over five miles. It is one of the most popular beaches in Santorini. Along the shore there are taverns, restaurants, hotels, tourist shops and entertainment spots.
Monolithos Beach: Just north of Kamari there is the beach of Monolithos. This is probably the quietest beach of the island. However, it has many facilities, like bungalows offering snacks and meals.
Red Beach: Close to the ancient sites at Akrotiri is the Red Beach. This is relatively a quiet place ideal for relaxation. The beach is surrounded by red lava cliffs which drop right into the black sandy shore creating a magnificent setting.
Perivolos Beach: It is a quiet beach with small taverns, rooms to let and sport facilities. It is ideal for children because of the shallow waters.
Vlihada Beach: This beach is located in the Perivolos area and it is a perfect place for those wishing to avoid large crowds.
Oia: There are two beaches in Oia, Ammoudi and Armeni. Ammoudi is located directly below Oia while Armeni is a bit further.
How to Reach Santorini
Sea: There are frequent ferry services to Santorini all year round. The journey to Santorini lasts approximately 9 hours including regular stops to other islands. There are also a few high speed ferries that take half the time and cost twice as much. There are also regular connections to Naxos, Paros, Ios, Tinos, Sifnos, Thessaloniki, Crete, Skiathos, Mykonos, Milos and Syros.
Air: Santorini is connected to most international airports via Athens. The flight from Athens to Santorini lasts forty minutes. During summers, many flights from a number of European cities land directly at the airport of Santorini.
Getting Around in Santorini
During summer season there are buses from Fira bus station every hour to Akrotiri and every half hour to Oia, Monolithos, Kamari and Perissa. Less frequent buses go to Exo Gionia, Perivolos and Vlihada.
On the island there are many car and motorcycle rental agencies. Also there are many taxis on Santorini. The taxi stand is in the main square.
Weather in Santorini
The weather in Santorini is idyllic. There is rarely any rain and in summer, temperatures are lower than in other parts of the Mediterranean.
Top 10 Destinations in Santorini
All Destinations in Santorini
Map of Santorini