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Santorini: Mysterious and mesmerizing

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Santorini: Mysterious and mesmerizing

In 1600 BC, the volcano of Strongili erupted, creating the world's only Caldera, a crater submerged 400 meters below the sea, giving us beautiful Santorini and the islands of Thirassia, Aspronisi and Palia and Nea Kameni. The explosion was of such magnitude that it is considered responsible for the disappearance of the Minoan civilization in Crete while it has inspired the myth of the lost Atlantis.

With breath-taking landscapes, wild beauty and stunning sunsets, delicious flavours, a great wine tradition, luxurious infrastructure and impressive beaches, Santorini is not just an international destination, but an unforgettable experience!

Routes & sights

Explore Fira, the capital of the island and sit on one of the beautiful terraces to enjoy your coffee and drinks. Visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera to admire unique treasures including the frescoes of "Spring", "Adorant Monkeys", and the "African".

Continue to Firostefani and Imerovigli, the settlements huddled on the edge of the Caldera. From there you can head to Oia via a path that passes through Prophitis Ilias and the chapel of the Cross on the Black Mountain. The view there is unreal.

Imerovigli was the medieval capital of Santorini and resembles a genuine Venetian castle. At its top is the rock of Skaros from where you will enjoy the sunset overlooking the entire Caldera. Alternatively enjoy the famous stunning sunset from the chapel of Agios Ioannis Thalassinos in Oia, from the upper district in the village of Finikia, from the old mines in Fira or from the lighthouse in Akrotiri.

Embark on a unique journey in time at the archaeological site of Akrotiri, an entire city that was abandoned in the 17th century BC and was well-preserved beneath a cloak of ash. A developed centre of trade and culture, with large buildings, impressive frescoes, streets, a sewerage system, sanitation facilities and thousands of objects that prove the relations and communication of Akrotiri with all Greece, but also Egypt and Syria.

Continue for another five kilometres from Akrotiri to visit the lonely, historic Akrotiri Lighthouse, one of the most beautiful lighthouses in Greece.

Visit ancient Thira in Mesa Vouno with marvellous vistas. You will see the market, the mosque of Artemidorus, the royal arcade, the temple of Dionysus, the sanctuary of Apollo Karneios, the gymnasium of adolescents of the 2nd century BC, the cemeteries and the theatre. The city was founded in the 9th century BC by Dorian settlers led by Thera and was inhabited until early Byzantine times.

Admire the island’s hamlets with their unique architectural features seen in the yposkafa, i.e. the vaulted houses sculpted into the ground. Leaving Fira and heading to Perissa and Perivolos, stop at Emporios.  Walk inside the citadel castle, with its irregular shapes and labyrinthine alleys, the steps, domes and bridges between houses, all made of volcanic materials.

Enjoy the beautiful Oia with the famous sunset view from the Venetian castle. Visit the Naval Museum of Thira and don’t forget to visit the nearby Finikia, the beautiful hamlet painted with colours that resemble a Mexican village.

Discover the inland of Santorini, heading to Vothonas, the settlement with the old buildings still carved inside the ravine. Do not miss Karterados, the wealthy captain's village and Episkopi Gonias (or Mesa Gonia), near Kamari with its vineyards and the most important Byzantine monument of Santorini: Panagia Episkopi (or Kyra Piskopi), which is considered to have been founded in 1115 by the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komninos.

Visit Megalochori, with its vineyards, classic villas, and its old and modern wineries, as well as the “Lost Atlantis Experience”, the modern interactive museum that "narrates" the historical timeline of the active volcano of Santorini and represents the geographical development of the island and the great earthquake.

Take a tour and wine tasting in the island’s vineyards and traditional canaves (old wineries). In Pyrgos, admire the winery of the agricultural cooperative and taste the famous sweet Santorini wines,  Vinsanto or Assyrtiko. There, you’ll also find the Cultural Village "Santorini of the past" housed in the old canaves, representing the old way of life of the island’s inhabitants.

In Vlychada don’t miss the old tomato factory with its characteristic chimney. It now houses the Tomato Industrial Museum “D. Nomikos” and Santorini Art Factory (SAF) with rich cultural activity.

Beaches and activities

The volcanic landscape of the island with its deep blue sea and dark soil, makes all beaches here unique! In the southeast of the island you will find Monolithos, an ideal beach for families thanks to its shallow waters, a children's playground, and a beach bar. Swim in Kamari, one of the most popular beaches, with black sand and crystal-clear waters. Have fun in the all favourite and youthful Perissa, as well as in Perivolos and Agios Georgios that is next on the map, forming a vast 5-km long black beach. There you will find the very interesting Museum of Minerals and Fossils.

Further south is Vlychada, a huge beach with several quite spots. Its volcanic features form a unique, mysterious landscape. Next to it is the serene beach of Almyra surrounded by volcanic rocks.

Near Akrotiri is the famous Red Beach (Kokkini Paralia) with ochre cliffs and red-black sand, a captivating sight. From here you can take a boat to the neighbouring White beach (Aspri Paralia) that spreads under an impressive white rock creating a contrast against the fine black sand and blue waters.

To the north, near Oia, you’ll find the picturesque Ammoudi bay, the port of Oia, with many picturesque tavernas. Behind you is the port of Armeni, a cove, where you’ll also find a diving centre. If you’re looking for a bit more peace and quiet, head to Baxedes and Koloumbos with the black pebbled beach. Grab the chance to swim in Katharos, a black pebbled beach backed by cliffs, and Pori, a small sandy beach with crystal-clear waters.

Tastes of the island

Fava, a product of Protected Designation of Origin, is the trademark of the island available in every possible version: "married" with onions and capers and just a bit of oil, with meat or eggplant sauce, in favaballs or with rice. The famous cherry tomatoes of Santorini, called anhydrous (waterless), are a true delight savoured as the famed tomato balls, in salads, in tomato paste or sun-dried. Also tasteful are the local white eggplants that come in various versions, such as eggplant salad, fried or grilled, mashed or in moussaka, and as a spoon sweet with cinnamon and almond.

Fresh fish is a must-have, of course, as well as the local fish specialties such as the brandada, cod croquettes in garlic sauce with eggplant, small atherina pies (whitebait) or savory fish, fried in garlic and vinegar.

Discover delicious appetizers, such as zucchini blossoms with rice or hortokeftedes (balls with greens and herbs) to which the perfect complement are the local famous wines, such as Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mandilaria or Mavrotragano. Don’t forget the famous Vinsanto sweet wine, and if you are a beer lover, grab the chance to taste craft beers from local microbreweries.

Traditions and events

At the end of August, don’t miss the representation of the volcanic eruption with numerous breath-taking fireworks and flares. The festivities culminate with a grand concert. If you’re here in the summer and, with a little bit of luck, you will enjoy the representation of a Traditional Wedding in the village of Akrotiri where participants dress in local costumes.

If you’re visiting at Easter time, you shall taste the melitinia, a traditional sweet with honey and mizithra cheese, flavoured with vanilla and mastic. On Good Friday, several customs revive, such as the custom of the bells in Emporio, where the inhabitants hit metal objects in their path, driving away the evil spirits, while in Pyrgos, Akrotiri or Karterados they fill tins with cloth and gas oil and light them up, creating an impressive spectacle during the procession of the Epitaph. In many areas, on Easter Sunday, revive the customs of the burning of Judas or the people’s court of Ovrios.

The island is also famous for its festivals where local specialties and wine are served, while participants dance to the sounds of traditional instruments. Such festivals are the May feast of Agia Irini in Thirasia or Agios Epiphanios in Akrotiri and in July the feast of Agioi Anargyroi in Megalochori or Prophitis Ilias at the top of Pyrgos or Imerovigli.

At the end of September, the great feast of Panagia Myrtidiotissa is held in Kamari with a procession of the icon and a big celebration in the school yard, while on October 20th, the most important feast of the island, that of Agia Matrona, takes place in Foinikiato.

Don't miss...

Visit the islets of the Caldera. Try the beneficial properties of the hot springs in Palea Kameni, feel the thrill of walking to the crater of the volcano in Nea Kameni and visit Thirassia that will take you back to the past, like an old miniature of Santorini.

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