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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSantorini, undoubtedly the most extraordinary and the most popular island in Greece, is a mandatory stop on the Cycladic route. The volcanic explosion, that some say, destroyed the Minoan civilization , was one of the largest in human history and the views it left behind are some of the most spectacular on Earth. When the sun sets the glow of the orange and red in the cliffs can be truly spectacular.
The beaches are situated along the eastern coast of the island. If you don’t mind black sand, there are some great beaches in towns like Kamari and Perissa. The caldera villages are trendier, the restaurants more sophisticated, the clubs more chic and the hotels more luxurious. The beach resorts are more laid-back and less expensive. The island is small and getting around is easy and quick.
Santorini has a lively nightlife. Most of the bars and night clubs of Santorini are situated in the island's capital, Fira , but you can find some also in Oia, and in the two major beach resorts. Riding a donkey is a form transportation, however the cable car is the same price as the donkey ride, so choose the better option.
The island is most enjoyable in late spring, when the sea has warmed up to appropriate swimming temperatures, but the crowds have yet to descend and early autumn, when the summer hordes have departed and the sea is at its warmest. In both spring and autumn, you can also expect better prices for accommodation compared to summer. Santorini is just as stunningly amazing as the photos and you can easily avoid the crowds if you set things right. Explore Fira early in the morning or evening and go to Oia in the afternoon. And you can always head to quieter parts of the island, if the crowds are a bit too much to handle.
AttractionsIt would be very easy to simply find a bar with a sea view, sip wine, eat delicious Greek food and watch the sun set into the Aegean sea. But in case you actually do want to get out and do some sightseeing, here are some suggestions.
Ancient AkrotiriAncient Akrotiri, also known as the“Pompei of the Aegean” is an incredible archaeological site, located next to the famous Red Beach. The site re-opened in April 2012 after undergoing lengthy structural repairs. The city was one of the Aegean Sea's most significant before earthquakes and a volcanic eruption destroyed it in the 17th century BC. The volcanic material preserved the buildings and their content. Housed within a cool, protective structure, wooden walkways allow you to pass through various parts of the city, providing a rare glimpse into urban life in the Minoan period.
OiaOia, located on the northern part of the island, is built on the border of the caldera. It is known throughout the world for its splendid views, quiet life and fantastic sunset. What was once small fishermen's community, has now become one of the most beautiful and picturesque village of Santorini.
Traditional settlement with charming houses in narrow streets, blue domed churches, and sun-bathed verandas is much more quiet than Fira. It perches on the top of the cliff; offering a stunning view over the volcano of Palea and Nea Kameni and the island of Thirassia. The streets of Oia boast plenty of shops, taverns and cafes. The village is also a favorite haunt of artists, many of whose works can be found in the local galleries. Be sure not to miss the Martime Museum, which houses a small library, the vestiges of a Venetian fortress and items from the maritime life of the area. The village also has a small port, Ammoudi, which can be reached by a set of 300 steps leading down.
The perfec spot to enjoy the sunset are the ruins of the Kastro and the surrounding cobbled streets, but be aware that, you have to get there in time to secure a position. Or simply get a front-row seat on the terrace of one of the many cafes lining the caldera and enjoy a drink or two while watching the stunning setting sun.
Oia can be reached by bus from Fira, the journey takes about 20 minutes. If walking is your thing, there is also a path from Fira to Oia with excellent views over the caldera. The path is well signed and generally sound, though it can get slippery if you don't wear suitable footwear.
FiraThe island's capital and the busiest commercial town was founded in the late 18th century. The picture-book beauty is located on the edge of an impressive cliff. Here you'll find several excellent museums, a fantastic archaeological site, great shopping and dining opportunities, and some of the island's best hotels. Despite the town's growing popularity, Fira has managed to keep its traditional charm with its narrow, winding streets, charming white houses, blue domed churches and colorful markets.
The main square , Theotokopoulou is the center of the town. There you'll find most of the banks, buses and taxis. Be sure not to miss the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, which houses finds from the Archaeological site of Ancient Akrotiri, dating from the 17th and 18th century BC, inclouding some amazing wall frescoes. There is also a small Archaeological museum of Fira, located close to the cable car station, offering an insight to the human presence on the island, from the Dorian colonization to late Roman times.
There are dozen of churches in Fira of all shapes and sizes. The highlight are: the Orthodox Cathedral; occupying a quite commanding spot on caldera and the Catholic Cathedral, which stands a bit further along the caldera path on the way to Firostefani. It's easy to find though, because of its tall, colorful bell tower.
At the base of the 300 meter high cliff is Thira port, from which daily trips are offered for the nearby volcanic islands of Thirassia, Palea and Nea Kameniand and cruise ships and ferries unload their passengers.
Imergovili & FirostefaniImergovili, located high on caldera on the western side of the island, only 2 kilometers away from the capital of Fira, is also know as the 'balcony to the Aegean'. You can walk there from Fira going trough Firostefani. Its steep cobbled streets are lined with traditional taverns, bars, cafes and shops. There are lots of lovely little churches; especially the church of Ai-Stratis in the village center and the Monastery of Saint Nikolaos are worth a visit. One of the most famous landmarks in Imerovigli is the massive rock known as Skaros, which has the ruins of a castle upon it and offers some of the best views on the island.
The charming village of Firostefani is located halfway between Fira and Imerovigli. Perched on the cliffs of the caldera, the peaceful village offers an excellent view out over the bay, and the volcano itself. Like Fira, the clifftops are packed with hotels and apartments.
Palea & Nea KameniMake a boat trip to the volcano and admire the stunning natural scenery as you walk around the crater. The island of Nea Kameni, also known as the Santorini volcano, is a volcanic island at the center of the impressive Santorini caldera. Nea Kameni was formed around 1570 after a series of volcanic eruptions. Its highest point is 127 m above the sea level and it has two ports east (cove of Taxiarchis ) and north of the island (cove of Erinia ). Behind Nea Kameni lies older Palea Kameni; where you can also relax in some natural hot springs.
KamariKamari, located on Santorin's east coast, is a charming seaside village with black sandy beach and a laid-back atmosphere. The modern village is a popular resort destination, with a range of activities and entertainment. Along the coastline are located most of the resort's taverns, bars and shops, making the traffic free seafront promenade a great place to stroll along. After dark you'll find the narrow streets coming to life with lively bars, music venues and nightclubs. The Ancient Thira, a mountain-top settlement that dates back to the 9-th century BC, located above the beach should not to be missed. From the top of the ruins of Ancient Thira there are breathtaking views over the eastern coast of Santorini, with the coastal resorts of Kamari and Perissa.
PerissaPerissa is a popular beach resort with a bustling selection of restaurants, cafes and bars. It is not a party town, but there are plenty of lively bars open until the early hours. In the village center you will find 2 churches; the 16th century Agia Irini and the blue-domed Timios Stavrou in the main square. Have a dip in Perissa, a beautiful beach, situated 15 km southeast of Fira. The beach features unique characteristics, black sand, crystalline waters and various beach facilities. From Perissa, there is a small path that crosses the mountain and leads to the ruins of Ancient Thera.
EmporioThe largest village of Santorini, Emporio is conveniently located between the wonderful beaches of Perissa, Perivolos and less touristy Vlychada. It is characterized by its narrow, whitewashed lanes, rounded buildings, and the two blue-domed churches with a magnificent bell tower that stand at the village entrance. On the hill above the village, you will find the ruins of a fortress known as Kasteli. To the north of the village you will notice Goulas; a fortified mansion built as a protection against pirate attacks. Make sure you also visit the beautiful church of St.Spyridonas, overlooking the entire village and the southeastern side of the island.
MessariaAway from the crowds, Messaria has managed to maintain its traditional style and atmosphere. Explore around the charming, peaceful village, located in the center of Santorini island, take in the magnificent neoclassical architecture and restored mansions. Make sure not to miss the impressive traditional mansion Agyros, which was originally built in 1888 and was completely restored after the earthquake in 1956. The lovely churches of Metamorfosis Tou Sotiros, Agia Irini and the Messaria Cthedral are also worth a visit.
MegalochoriIf you are looking for a very quiet, peaceful village try Megalocori. The picturesque inland village is located in the heart of the wine making region on the west side of the island. Megalochori has preserved much of its traditional appearance from the early 17th century, with old traditional houses, wonderful main square, ancient mansions and pirate hideaways.
Food & DrinkSome Santorini specialties include cherry tomatoes and white eggplant, along with fresh seafood. Try to stay away from places that are overtly commercial and go to the family run taverns where locals eat. If mother is in the kitchen you know you're in for a treat but one of the things you need to know when visiting a tavern is to insist on local tomatoes in your food. Just remember that generally the better the view of the caldera, the higher the prices.
And don't leave the island without trying traditional Gyros Pita . Santorini is famous mainly for its wine. Ask for homemade wine, which is called a "karafaki".
There is also Ouzo, a strong aniseed drink similar to French 'Pastis' normally served to mix with water, which turns it milky white.
Getting there & Around
By PlaneYou can reach Santorini by air and arrive at Santorini International Airport, located north of Kamari village, 6 km of Thira town, with regular flights of 45 minutes duration from Athens with the companies Olympic Air or Aegean Airlines. During the summer season, you can reach Santorini with direct flights from many European countries.
By BoatSantorini Island features two ports; the main port is Athinios, where all the ferry and commercial boats arrive, and there is also the Old Port, mostly used for cruise ships. The main port to take you to Santorini from Athens is Piraeus, but there are also ferry departures, from the port of Rafina. To reach Santorini by sea, there are two types of ferries; the high-speed ferry which takes approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes and the normal ferry which is slower and takes approximately 7 hours.
You can easily travel around Santorini if you take the local bus service which is air-conditioned, reliable and really low cost. Buses are adequate for main routes. The island is small and easy to get around. To be completely free to discover it, hire a scooter or a car. You just need a standard driver’s license from any country.
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Author: Ayda. Last updated: Mar 17, 2015