In the southern part of the Cyclades in the Aegean sea, lies one of the most renowned islands of Greece. This is no other than Santorini or Santa Irene, which is, in fact, a cluster of islands. Always scoring high in travel rankings but most importantly in the hearts of its visitors, Santorini is labeled as romantic -given its world famous sunset and the many weddings taking place there every year- adventurous and timeless.
Its history goes back thousands of years ago, in Prehistoric times, when the great volcanic eruption caused the submergence of a big part of the initially circular island. Along with its geological spectacles -its active volcano is submarine, which is really rare- its beaches, its iconic architecture and its local delicacies, Santorini is simply unique. As if you aren’t tempted already, let us trigger you even more by giving some alluring suggestions about what you should definitely not miss during your stay in Santorini!
A site inhabited from Neolithic times but mostly known for its Minoan city, it was buried for centuries under thick layers of volcanic ash just like Pompei! This fact allowed the high quality preservation of its findings and it is now a treasured highlight of visitors and history buffs.
It is located on the southwest part of the island. The city is comprised of multi-leveled houses built right next to each other. The urban plan and the sewerage system are surprisingly good for that time. Some of the most astounding frescoes in art history which decorated the internal house walls, like the “Spring” fresco, have been found here. Many of the original art works have been transferred to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
It lies on the southeast between Kamari and Perissa and 8,5 km away from the island capitalwhich bears the same name -although slightly changed- from Thera to Fira. After the big volcanic eruption in the 17th century BC, the island was deserted for a few centuries. In the 9th century BC, it was resettled. The Spartans founded the city of Thera, which survived until the Byzantine Period, but was especially prosperous during the Hellenistic period when it became a naval base of Ptolemaic Egypt.
In the site you can see important monuments such as the sanctuary of Apollo Karneios (6th century BC), the Hellenistic theatre -with a breathtaking view to the sea- and the sanctuary of the priest Artemidoros (3rd century BC).
If you are on a cruise, you will arrive at the old port and then head directly to the city of Fira by cable car, by foot or even by donkey! Ample shops, luxurious restaurants, traditional taverns, museums, cultural centers and a lively nightlife are waiting for you to discover them. Remember to visit the museum of ‘Prehistoric Thera’ where you will see material mainly from the Akrotiri excavations and some fossils. Other notable places are the Archaeological Museum and a cultural center named Megaro Gyzi; a 17th century mansion which houses an admission free festival every August and a rich collection of engravings, paintings and old manuscripts.
Here, the sunset is a given pleasure. But there are plenty of other reasons to visit Oia. Just a few out of many are the Venetian castle of St. Nicolas, the enchanting mansions that used to belong to ship owners of the 19th and 20th century in the so called “Captains’ Neighbourhood” as well as the traditional rock-hewn houses in the “Crew’s Neighbourhood”. You can learn more about the rich naval tradition of the island at the Maritime Museum. Don’t forget to check the windmills and the traditional knitting factory where you can buy beautiful souvenirs.
5. Geological Park, Nea and Palaia Kameni
Maybe the most exciting thing about Santorini, is its intense volcanic past and geological treasures. The two islets which are visible in the center of Caldera, are solidified material which emerged from the sea pretty recently – especially Nea Kameni. In both you can see volcanic craters and hot springs. In Palaia Kameni you can even apply mud in your body and enjoy its therapeutic properties. If you’re visiting during summertime, be aware that it can be quite strenuous when hiking the uphill path under the scorching sun.
6. Local delicacies
Based in a long culinary tradition, the dishes of Santorini will amaze you. The fertile volcanic land produces high quality products, some of which are really unique. Do try the fava (yellow split peas), the sundried cherry tomatoes, the Greeksaffron(crocus) as well as the localwine. Tomatokeftedes (vegetable meatballs with tomato), marinated fish and garlic pasta are the perfect options to satisfy your palate. Don’t miss the chance to try also Santorini’s white eggplants baked in the oven with balsamic vinegar or in an exquisite eggplant salad mixed with fresh red peppers.
Swimming in the deep blue waters right under the sheer cliffs of bronze, red and black colours and walking barefoot on the volcanic sand and pebbles can be a once in a lifetime experience. Make sure not to miss the Kokkini/Red Beach -close to Akrotiri- Kamari and Perissa beaches near ancient Thera, and Vlyhada with its lunar scenery.
Santorini is the perfect place for sport’s lovers and adventure fans. There are diving spots inCaldera and close to the volcano. There is also a shipwreck in Palaia Kameni while many diving centers all over the island can offer you a dive to remember!
9. Traditional Festivities
Throughout the year but especially in August, many religious festivals take place in Santorini. Folk dance and music accompanied by mouthwatering local food will give you a full taste of what it means to be an islander in the Cyclades. The most popular is on the 15th of August in the church of Agia Episkopi -an important byzantine monument- in Mesa Goniavillage.
10. Santorini Wine Tours
The cultivation of the vine on Santorini island goes back almost 5.000 years ago. The volcanic soil in which the varieties of Santorini’s grapes grow is mainly responsible for its unique character of wines. This island offers you a great opportunity to try its most ancient and well – known varieties, Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani (full-bodied, white, dry wines with citrus aromas).
It’s highly recommended that you also try Vinsanto, Santorini’s famous sweet, dessert wine, a combination of the three aforementioned varieties that stay sun-dried for 10-15 days before they get pressed. Take the chance and do one of the really popular wine tours that include wine tasting followed by an excellent guide presentation of a sommelier and book a seat at one of Santorini’s Wine Roads tour!
All in all, Santorini will amaze you; it is not by chance that this island is considered amongst the most beautiful in the world. But there is only one way to discover it by yourself... right?