Santorini, an island of thousands colours


The most prominent of the Greek islands and part of a group of islands called Cyclades, Santorini, is straight away recognizable for its geological caldera, an enormous rectangular lagoon with steep cliffs on three sides in the sea, formed in the wake of a catastrophic volcanic eruption more than 3500 years ago. Although the nickname Santorini has stuck, the island is officially called Thera. Got its name shortened from Italian “Santa Irini” or Saint Irene, from the name of the old cathedral in the village of Perissa, Santorini is also best loved for its whitewashed, cube-shaped buildings ornamented with blue accents, and tangerine sunsets that light up the sky and sea. But Santorini is more than just an appealing feature. The heavenly destination located at the south Aegean Sea, witnessed one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history. The volcano’s upsurge was felt across the Aegean, sending a 150m-tall tsunami rolling to Crete, 70km south. Some archaeologists say the disaster may have brought an end to the flourishing Minoan civilization, which began in Crete and spread to other Aegean islands. There are plenty of historical sites preserving evidence to take the visitors back to the disastrous eruption; The Archaeological Museum of Thera, the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, the Minoan Bronze Age ruins at the Akrotiri Archaeological Site and a visit to the volcanic island of Nea Kameni are all solid selections.

There is no way to deny it- Santorini is a super touristy destination. In fact, it is one of the world’s top tourism destinations. 10% of all tourists that visit Greece end up in Santorini, with 2 million people flocking to the island every year. Not to mention the majority of the tourists arrive in the three or four months of summer. But just because an island is touristy does not mean anyone should automatically not go there. The fact that tourists flock to a certain spot usually mean it has something spectacular to offer. And there is no denying that Santorini is an ultimate getaway destination. The small island has deep traditional roots, breathtaking views around every corner and is bursting with unique flavors. It offers many romantic settings and has plenty of natural landscapes to enjoy. Perhaps, best of all, there is a way to enjoy the island on any kind of budget,

Panoramic view of Fira coast line, Santorini island (Thira), Greece.

Santorini is a huge island. It is a 40 minutes fly from Athens international Airport or an average 6 to 8 hours boat ride from the port of Piraeus. When deciding where to stay visitors are usually faced with two choices; to stay along the beaches that are located on the east and southern sides of the island, or to stay in the cliff top villages with a view of the volcano and mostly submerged islands slopes downward to the Aegean Sea. The capital Fira, Oia and Imerovigli, clings to the top of the cliff looking down on the lagoon, the volcanic rocks, and the world famous Santorinian sunset. Apart from the breathtaking views and the amazing sunsets Santorini is well known for the local wines which have been internationally awarded. Today, the 75sqkm Island is home to some 14sqkm of vineyards, most of which grow assyrtiko. The native grape is now found across Greece, producing white wines that are full-bodied, dry and, unsurprisingly, have a slightly mineral taste.

Beaches on Santorini come in a variety of hues. In fact, a glance at a map looks like a passage from a Dr Seuss book: Red Beach, White Beach, and Black Beach. The pebbles and sand come from hardened lava, and the colours vary depending on which geological layer has been exposed. The hue of the massive rocks at Red Beach in the island’s southwest comes from iron deposits. One of the best ways to see Red and White Beach, as well as Santorini’s famous volcano is by hopping on a boat trip. Santorini has ferry connections to basically all of the islands in the Cyclades. The best trips leave in the afternoon and end with guest being able to watch the sunset over Oia from the boat. The view of the villages on the tops of the cliffs from the boat was simply stunning as much as the view underwater. Recommended dive sites offers a wreck near the volcano, caverns, reefs, as well as wall diving, octopus are not uncommon here too. Top sites for snorkeling include Mesa Pigadia beach, South of Oia, as well as Perissa Rock. The beach on Thirasia also has some reasonable snorkeling. Caldera Beach, near Akrotiri, has a few amazing snorkeling spots.

Oia village

Besides the gifted villages that provide outstanding views on the caldera, the architecture of Santorini is also astonishing. The Cycladic architecture is characterized by simplicity and grace, free from complex additions. It comes in proportion with the surroundings and the aura of the Greek islands. It likewise is accordant to the environment and the conditions of the island and tailored to the needs of its residents. The whitewashed houses usually accompanied by blue doors and windows are evidently in absolute concordance with the light blue sky and the vast Aegean Sea. This harmony has been established many years ago for various purposes. Nowadays, these colors constitute the hallmark of Cyclades and represent Greece, as they also match its flag. As for utility reasons, the white color of the houses is of paramount importance. The ideal climate of Santorini offers hot summers and the bright sun is present several months of the year. The inhabitants, in order to confine the heat in the interior to a significant extent, had to construct their houses accordingly. The white color reflects the biggest part of the dazzling light, preventing the houses from getting warm and that was a basic goal of the traditional architecture. Making the houses heat resistant, the summers are much more tolerable and pleasant.

The best time to visit Santorini is from September to October and April to May when the weather is warm and the crowds are scarce. In winter average highs only reach the 50s and the region sees plenty of precipitation. However, all that rain does make for a very flowery and warm spring season. Room rates tend to plummet because crowds will be at a low in this season also in the spring as well, though tourists will begin invading the islands on May.

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