Crescent-shaped Santorini (or Thira), in the southernmost part of Cyclades, is the jewell of the Aegean, and is actually a group of islands consisting of Thira, Thirasia, Aspronissi, Palea and Nea Kameni.
Did you know that the whole complex of Santorini islands is still an active volcano and the only volcano in the world whose crater is in the sea? The whole island is a huge natural geological/volcanological museum where you can observe a wide range of geological structures and forms.
The islands that make up Santorini came into existence as a result of intense volcanic activity; 12 huge eruptions occurred, one every 20,000 years, and each violent eruption caused the collapse of the volcano’s central part creating a large crater (caldera). The volcano, however, managed to recreate itself over and over again.
The last major eruption occurred 3,600 years ago (during the Minoan Age), when igneous material (mainly ash, pumice and lava stones) covered the three islands (Thira, Thirassia and Aspronissi). The eruption destroyed the thriving local prehistoric civilisation, evidence of which was found during the excavations of a settlement at Akrotiri. The solid material and gases emerging from the volcano’s interior created a huge vacuum underneath, causing the collapse of the central part and the creation of an enormous ‘pot’ – today’s caldera – which measures 8 x 4km at a depth of up to 400m below sea level.
Searching for romance
Santorini is considered to be the most popular place for a romantic getaway. The island has a growing reputation as a wedding destination for couples from all over the world.
Explore the island’s towns
Fira is the picturesque capital of the island. Perched high on the edge of the caldera, it looks like a marvellous painting. Fira, together with Oia, Imerovigli and Firostefani located high above on a cliff, make up the so-called ‘caldera’s eyebrow’, the balcony of Santorini, which offers an amazing view of the volcano. Other famous smaller villages are Akrotiri and Messa Vouno, with their famous archaeological sites, and Pyrgos, Karterades, Emporio, Ammoudi, Finikia, Perissa, Perivolos, Megalohori, Kamari, Messaria and Monolithos. Some of the villages are cosmopolitan, others more peaceful. They are surrounded by vast vineyards; whitewashed cliff-top towns with castles affording amazing views over the Aegean. Soaking up each village’s distinctive atmosphere is a very rewarding experience.
Food for thought
A visit to Santorini is a great gastronomic experience. Treat your taste buds to some famous traditional products – like cherry tomatoes, white aubergines, fava, caper and hloro tyri, a fresh goat’s cheese, or why not try some of the exceptional wines produced from grapes grown in the island’s volcanic soil! Assyrtiko, Athyri, Aidani, Mantilaria and Mavrotragano are just some of the distinctive varieties you can taste at the island’s wineries or restaurants.
Head to volcanic beaches
Venture to Santorini’s seaside treasures and enjoy deep blue waters and beaches with white, red or black sand or volcanic pebbles, spectacular rock formations and lunar landscapes.
Santorini can be reached by plane, or by ferry from Piraeus.
Courtesy of GNTO