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Santorini

General Info

Santorini is the apotheosis of the magic moments holidays in Greece have to offer. The views of the traditional cube-shaped houses hanging from the high cliff tops of Thira Crater (caldera), the crystal clear Aegean blue and the bright light of the sky all combine to create a unique and indelible experience. This majestic island has many traditional villages, each with its own character, history and style. The centre of the Santorini island group is an active volcano and probably the only one in the world whose crater is underwater. Santorini has often been ranked ranked by travel gurus as the top island in Europe and one of the five must-see destinations in the world. Here is where legendary Cousteau searched for the lost city of Atlantis and where couples from all over the world come to marry in a magnificently romantic setting… Welcome to that enchanting destination which is Santorini.

History

The excavations at Akrotiri have confirmed that human presence on Santorini was uninterrupted from 3000 BC until a catastrophic volcanic eruption around 1600 B.C., which entirely buried the island beneath very thick layers of volcanic ash. Human activity reappeared on the island around the end of the 13th century B.C. Herodotus informs us in his History that in the beginning the island was called Strongili (the circular isle) and later, thanks to its unique beauty, Kallisti (meaning “the fairest isle”). The first to settle on the island after the eruption were the Phoenicians. Then, the Spartans arrived and renamed the island after their leader, Theras. In classical times (5th - 4th century B.C.)Thera had a minor role in history, however in the Peloponnesian War it took the side of Sparta. In the Hellenistic period the island’s central position in the Aegean Sea made it an important naval base for the fleets of the successors of Alexander the Great. Later, Thera became the seat of one of the four Catholic Bishops of the Duchy of Naxos, which was founded after the surrender of Constantinople to the forces of the Fourth Crusade (1204). This is when the name Santorini was given to the island, after the church of Aghia Irini (Santa Irene). Santorini took part in the fight for independence from the Ottomans, and in 1830 became part of the independent Greek state. The 1956 earthquake was a major catastrophe for the island, but since the mid 70’s the high-quality tourist market has brought development and prosperity.

Must see

The Archaelogical site of Akrotiri is one of the most important prehistoric settlements of Europe. Akrotiri was a prosperous, well developed Minoan town whose existence came to end in the 17th century BC after a series of severe earthquakes. The volcanic eruption that followed covered the buildings of Akrotiri and their contents with volcanic materials, just like in Pompei. Ancient Thira, another site, is home to impressive ruins from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. Its main street with the Roman baths, old mosaic houses and an old marketplace is a must-visit. This is also the location of the Terrace of the Festivals, where ceremonies to honour the Greek god of light Apollo took place in the ancient times. The Museum of Prehistoric Thira is a treat for those interested in history as it offers insights into human life of the past times on the Aegean Archipelago. Santorini has no less than around 250 churches of all sizes and shapes. Their delicate, minimal and unique architecture is one of the most characteristic sights of this blessed island.

Things to do

The sunset in Oia is probably the best ranked in the world and draws many fans who simply cannot get enough of it and witness it every day. Thira has an excellent nightlife for all tastes and budgets. There are a plethora of tours to be had on the island: volcano, hot spring, boat tours – among much else. A wine tasting tour of Santorini’s vineyards and wineries, whose remarkable wine is appreciated by connoisseurs around the world, is also a must! Santorini is an excellent haute cuisine destination. It is home to white aubergines - much sweeter than the purple ones; the renowned sweet cherry tomatoes, round courgettes, fava beans and spicy capers. Another excellent idea is the exploration of the Caldera or the whole of the archipelago by boat – choose from a wide choice of available vessels which are available for private hire. The panigiria (local festivals), where the villagers come together to celebrate various occasions with traditional dishes, live music and dancing, are also well worth attending. Walks along the Caldera cliff or in the countryside will reward the trekker with close views of spectacular geologic features, breathtaking vistas and the chance to experience Santorini’s picturesque villages and extraordinary architecture that makes use of the volcanic rock and its formations.

Beaches and nature

Santorini is internationally famous for its amazing beaches, each one of which has special, outstanding characteristics. The rare land formations, the bright shining pebbles, the white, red and black sand, create an amazing Hollywood - like backdrop. Most of these are well organized, offering lounge chairs, umbrellas and water sports. On the northern coast the beaches on Oia coastline are noted for their wild beauty and the secluded relaxation they offer, a result of the fact that they are not visible from the road crossing the island. In the southeastern part of the island the beaches of Monolithos, Avis and Kamari are also organized and boast a variety of hotels, restaurants, tavernas and little shops. Perissa and Perivolos, to the south, are probably the most famous beaches of Santorini. Together they create Santorini’s longest black-sanded beach. The most southern beaches are Vlychada with its impressive carved landscape, White beach and the enchanting Mesa Pigadia are more inaccesiible but worth the visit.

Need to know (practical info)

Santorini is actually a group of islands consisting of Thera, Thirasia, Aspronisi, Palea and Nea Kameni. The crescent shape of the island is a result of volcanic activity in prehistory, which created the myth that the Lost City of Atlantis was once located on the island. Santorini is what remains of an explosion dated 3,600 years before, which created a giant rectangular lagoon, the geological caldera, surrounded by high and steep cliffs on three sides. The mild activity of the volcano after this huge eruption has built up two small islands within the caldera, Palea and Nea Kameni which are uninhabited but visited by thousands of people during the tourist season. Santorini is located in the southern part of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, 100kms north of Crete. Santorini International Airport, located north of Kamari village, 6 km of Thira town, is daily connected with many 45min flights to and from Athens. During high season, there are also very frequent direct flights from many European countries. The island is of course connected by boat with Athens and its port Piraeus, as well as with other Cycladic islands, and Crete. The climate in Santorini is typically Mediterranean: throughout most of the year there are extended periods of sunshine, summers are relatively warm and dry and winters are not too cold or wet. Shopping on the island is full of opportunities - in Fira Town, Ypapantis street is considered to be one of the most significant gold markets in Greece.

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