DISCOVER THE WILD BEAUTY
OF THE ISLAND
Explore a magical holiday destination in Greece. Besides a hugely popular honeymoon destination, Santorini draws millions of visitors every year for its unique landscape and gorgeous sunsets. One simple word that brings to mind images of unprecedented beauty. Nowhere else in the world is there such an impressive and magical combination of landscapes: the mysterious volcano and the golden sunset that sinks into the blue Aegean waters, the colorful beaches that are surrounded by high cliffs made of volcanic rock, bright white houses carved into the reddish cliffside, and dominating ancient monuments are evidence of one of the most significant civilizations in history.
According to searches and excavations on Santorini, the first human presence on the island is situated back to the Neolithic Period. Santorini hosted an important civilization around 3600 BC. Discoveries made in an important city near Akrotiri and the famous Red Beach showed the existence of an ancient Minoan colony. The city was very similar to those found on the island of Crete (like Knossos), with many wall ornaments and pottery showing naturalistic landscapes of animals and humans of the same ancient Minoan style.
In Ancient times, Santorini Island was known as Strongili, which means round in Greek. Strongili was the victim of an enormous volcano eruption in 1,500 BC. The eruption was so huge that many consider it to be the main cause of the destruction of the great Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, situated 70 nautical miles away.
The specialists believe that the explosion was so strong that it created gigantic waves that reached the shores of the surrounding islands and Crete. After the explosion, the centre of Santorini sank, and the many earthquakes that followed destroyed a big part of the rest of the island. Many studies and researches have been presented in our days about the volcano of Santorini, including a series of documentaries in the National Geographic.
‘’The heart-warming magnificence of Oia Santorini’’
Santorini is undeniably one of the most popular summer destinations. With visitors coming from the corners of the earth to spend some memorable relaxing and romantic times here, it is no wonder that Thira is such a beloved paradise in the southern Aegean Sea. Everything about Santorini is extraordinary, from the oddly formed landscape that owes its unique character to the volcanic activity of Santorini to the unusually coloured black-sand beaches.
Of all places on the island, Oia, Santorini gathers the most attention. Rightfully Oia, Santorini, Greece is one of the most diverse areas that provide opportunities to enjoy a wealth of activities. Here, you get to experience first-hand the majestic glory of the world-famous Santorini sunsets.
Oia village is a scenic, absolutely charming town sitting on the north-western tip of the island that dazzles with the cubic-shaped, whitewashed houses, the majority of which are carved into the rugged mountain tops. Overlooking the adorable Caldera, Oia village draws visitors’ eyes on things like the Oia Castle and the Naval Maritime Museum, among others. And, while here, you could also include a stop at one of the many peaceful churches with the characteristic Santorini blue domes that have become synonymous with the island. In fact, the Oia, Greece, three blue-dome church is probably the most photographed site on the island (and perhaps the entire Cyclades complex). That aside, Oia village is a starting point for many tours and wine tasting adventures, with most world-known wineries being only a short walk away!
“Submerging to the exquisite allures of the Santorini Volcano’’
There are times when words seem so inefficient to describe or depict a sensation. That is precisely what happens to everybody visiting Santorini. The alluring Cycladic Island with the unique landscape that has literally risen from its ashes after multiple eruptions of the active volcano on the island is love at first sight for thousands of visitors every year. Even if you only have a couple of days to take in the beauty of this Aegean pearl, do make sure you visit the Santorini volcano and the Santorini Hot Springs. Both are sights that will please not only your eyes but also the soul and body.
Besides the whitewashed houses with the characteristic cubic forms and the bougainvillea-filled balconies, the cobblestone streets, and the famous blue-domed chapels and churches that are scattered throughout the island, Santorini has another face as well that is almost eerie but definitely glorious.
The Santorini volcano has been active for nearly three millennials, though its activity has calmed down the past century or so! In fact, the popular attraction has given the island its current morphology and shape. Long before the last eruption, Santorini was actually quite larger and rounder than today. The name that was referred to back then was Strogili, which means round or circular. Today, it comprises of five separate islands, including the volcanic islands of Nea Kammeni and Palaia Kammeni, the uninhabited Aspronisi island, and Therasia island, all of which make a marvelous sight across the Aegean Sea.
The Santorini volcano has also affected the formation of the beaches, most of which are covered in black sand and red, white, or black pebbles made of solidified lava!
The caldera covers a big part of Santorini and is home to picturesque settlements that are built on the cliffs, providing a staggering view and wild beauty.
‘’The rejuvenating Hot Springs’’
Part of most Santorini volcano tours is also a visit to the Santorini Hot Springs. So, besides exploring the volcano, you can take a Santorini Hot Springs tour, step foot on the Palaia Kammeni island, or the Agios Nikolaos cove to dive into the health-promoting and relaxing waters of the sulfur-containing hot springs.
Note that getting a sulfur spa treatment anywhere in the world is quite expensive – here, it is free! And, don’t worry; the waters are just warm (around 35°C), not scorching hot! Alternatively, you could also have an equally therapeutic mud bath.
A boat tour to the Santorini Hot Springs usually departs from the old port of Fira or the port of Athinios and can be as personalized as you want it to be. It may involve a single-day exploration or include multiple destinations, such as Therasia island or the Nea Kammeni National Geological Park.
AGIOI THEODOROI CHURCH (SAINTS THEODORE CHURCH)
Photos of this particular church have been traveling around the world for decades. In fact, chances are pictures of this church inspired numerous people to visit Santorini. The charming white chapel sitting high above the sea is roofed with a blue dome and accompanied by a sugary three-bell belfry. The Santorini Blue Domes at Agioi Theodoroi is, without a doubt, a quintessential image of Greece.
PANAGIA PLATSANI (VIRGIN MARY PLATSANI)
AGIOS SPYRIDONAS & ANASTASEOS CHURCHES (THE CHURCHES OF SAINT SPIRIDONAS & THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST)
PANAGIA THEOSKEPASTI (VIRGIN MARY UNDER THE PROTECTION OF GOD)
AGIOS NIKOLAOS MONASTERY (SAINT NICHOLAS MONASTERY)
PANAGIA EPISKOPI CHURCH (AKA CHURCH OF EPISKOPI THIRAS)
‘’Gastronomy of the island’’
Santorini is the oldest vineyard in Europe. It is actually the only one that continuously produces grapes for more than 3000 years. The first inhabitants of Santorini arrived on the island around 3000 BC. It was a very advanced civilization, as they lived in two and three-story houses, had storage rooms, drainage systems etc. What is important is that they also appreciated wine.
The vineyards of Santorini were all destroyed when the island was buried under a thick layer of lava during the Minoan Eruption of 1640 BC. A new soil was created around 1200 BC. After that, and over the years, different inhabitants tried to cultivate a variety of plants in Santorini. However, grapes were the only ones that survived.
The volcanic soil of the island gives to the products a delicious flavour. The fava, a type of beans, has been cultivated on the island for more than 3.000 years and belongs to a variety found only in Santorini. The cherry tomatoes of Santorini have a distinctive shape and flavour. Small sized with hard skin but with an “explosive” taste as you bite one or more. In Santorini do not miss tasting the white aubergine, caper in salads and other dishes that you will find in the restaurants of Santorini.
All in all, the best way to enjoy the local wine-making produce is by visiting Santorini’s wineries with a wine tasting tour. The visit to the vineyards and the ensuing tasting – often paired with Cycladic cheeses, local bites and delicacies – will marry perfectly the visual satisfaction, offered generously by the imposing landscape, with the mind-boggling riot of flavors and aromas that jump out of your glass.
Credit: Ventouris Photography