An alternative name for Santorini is Thira. Santorini is also a name for the
family of islands surrounding Thira--once forming a single island prior to a
major volcanic event in approximately 1500 B.C.E.
The small island cradles a rich variety of landscapes and villages. Visit
traditional architecture in the small village of Mesa Gonia containing a mixture
of ruins from the 1956 earthquake and restored villas as well as a winery at the
foot of the settlement. Pyrgos is another notable village set inland with its
grand old houses, remains of a Venetian castle and several Byzantine churches.
Fira is the fiery capital clinging to the rim of the caldera. Nine hundred feet
above the port town, you can take a mule or a cable car up the zigzagging steps.
A marriage of Venetian and Cycladic architecture, the white cobblestone streets
bustle with shops, tavernas, hotels and cafes.
Walking along a path about 20 minutes will bring you to Imerovigli where you can
take in the magnificent views of the island’s unique scenery from the tiny town.
Just above Fira at the highest point of the island is the quintessentially
Santorininian town of Ia, also sometimes spelled Oia, with its whitewashed walls
sunk into the volcanic rock and it’s blue domes rising above the sterling beauty
of the stunning russet Ammoudi Bay. At dusk, the town attracts crowds of people
venturing to see the sunset. Santorini's sunsets, as viewed from Oia, are
reputed to be among the world's most beautiful.
Due to the spectacular and unique natural beauty of Santorini, many Greek
singers have chosen the island, as the setting of their videos. Greek and also a
Brazial TV series have been shot of Santorini, as well as some Holywood movies (eg.
Tomb Rider II). Generally Santorini is a pole of attraction for Greek and
The season starts on March 1 -- recommended by locals, as it's not too hot and
not crowded at all.
There are several villages on Santorini Island.
* Fira - the main stunning cliff perched town, featuring all that Oia has, but
much more overcrowded
* Kamari - black pebble beach
* Oia or Ia - for unforgettable sunsets, probably the most charming place on the
* Pyrgos - highest point on the island; picturesque monastery and
streets, can compete with Oia
* Perisa -Nice well organized beaches and good Greek fish taverns.
* Akrotiri -Visit the archeological site of Aktotiri(due to an accident the
facilities are closed for the public).
* Mesaria -The centre of the island.There is a small market on the road every
morning with fresh fish.Do not miss the Argiros Estate to see a 19th century
house fully rebuilt.
* Monolithos-Nice beach and a few good taverns.Very good for children, then
water level is low.
Also there's Thirasia, a village on the nearby island with the same
name--visited it by less tourists. There are daily excurisions to the Kameni
(volcano) Island which also reach Thirasia island.
The fastest and most comfortable way is by air. Santorini has its own airport
(pretty small one) near Kamari village and next to Monolithos, with regular
flights from Athens by Olympic Airways and Aegean Airlines and charters
from many European towns. Flight duration from Athens to Santorini is about 30
Take the ferry from Piraeus past Paros and Naxos to the new port on Santorini.
More details in Cyclades. There is also daily connection between Heraklion city
of Crete and Santorini during high season.
If you prefer sea, most popular and recommended transport are high-speed
catamarans, like Hellenic Seaways Highspeed (bright-red Vodaphone-logo boats).
Pireaus-to-Santorini trip takes only 3.5hrs, which time is comparable to air,
and is more stress-free.
Ferries dock at the port of Athinios, where buses and taxis meet each arrival to
transport passengers to Oia, Fira, and elsewhere. All vehicles climb up a very
steep, winding road (it makes seven 180 degree turns) to get anywhere from
If you travel by cruise boat, the experience will surely leave you with lasting
memories. Cruise ships, that reach the island of Santorini, do not anchor at
Athinios port, but one or two miles open from the old port of the island. Locals
with fisher boats reach the cruise ship to transfer tourists to the old port,
which seems not to have changed over the last 50 years. From there you can
either use the cable car to reach the town of Fira , which will take no more
than 5 minutes, or in case you like small adventures you can ride a donkey,
which climbs up a small path on the cliff till Fira. The latter option will last
longer, but is definitelly a unique experience.
The island is amply serviced by independent buses, which cost between 1 and 2
euros depending on where you're going to and from. They fill up quickly (even
outside of high season), but they are a great, efficient way to get around the
island. Boats also run between major coastal towns on the island. Cars can be
rented from about 30 Euros a day. Scooters and 4-wheelers (quads) are available
to rent starting at about 15 Euros per day.
Some hotels advise to book a taxi in advance, as there are not enough available
taxi cars on the island during high season. As is the rule in the Cyclades, taxi
fares are typically shared between multiple passengers, so don't be surprised if
your cabbie picks up more passengers during your trip.
It takes about 50min to drive the island from end to end (from Vlichada to Ia).
The main attraction of Santorini is the volcano. The caldera was flooded during
a cataclysmic event thousands of years ago, leaving the cliffs of Santorini
surrounding a lake of ocean and newly upthrust lava in the center. The towns of
Fira, Oia and Thirasis cling to the steep cliffs facing into the caldera bay.
Tours to the volcano center are plentiful and one can see and feel steam vents
and recent (1950s) lava flows.
Another popular reason for coming to Santorini is the legend that its sunsets
are one of the most spectacular in the world. Ia is one of the few places on the
island which is both close to a sea and offers a good view to a sunset over the
sea: in other towns, sun disappears behind a volcano.
Additionally the towns of Fira and Oia are stunning.
Santorini ranks among top destinations for wedding celebrations for at least 4
years -- primarily for sunset and peace, like those in Oia. Couples often arrive
with few friends, stay in Ia (places like Fanari Villas). Groups often arrive in
the beginning of the week -- judging by demand for cabrios and number of
corteges seen on Mon compared to weekend.
While the island is full of medium- and top-cost hotels and villas, there are
still lots of abandoned caves and modest private houses where noone seems to
live for a long time -- even in western Oia where every inch seems to be
occupied by some villa. And this doesn't seem to change for years, judging by
* Thirassia: small island near Santorini; place for more authentic villages,
buildings and even churches. Take a look at hymnasia: in the yard, pupil painted
children on the walls.
* Boat excursion: volcano island (Nea Kameni) - hot springs (Palia Kameni) -
From Ia: departure from Ammoudi bay at 10:50 (starting point and final end); bit
later from Armeni bay. 1hr 30min at volcano island; 45min for hot springs; 2hrs
for Thirassia (incl. time for lunch). Meals are not included, normally the guide
advises you to visit Captain Jack self-service tavern, which is so-so; it's
smarter to wait half an hour and have your meal on Santorini where competition
is higher and choice is better. Expect to pay around 15 euro for the excursion.
* Faros -- a lighthouse, west of the southern part of the island. Rocky cliff,
interesting for making photos.
* a viewpoint behind Iris hotel (close to center of the island): great for
making sunset photos with a sea and palm trees.
Public beaches do not seem to have showers or places for changing.
* Black Beach- see Kamari and Perissa
* Red Beach- worth taking the Red Beach/Akrotiri bus from Fira and then climbing
over the very rocky trails to get to (though there are water taxis and various
schooners that make their way here as well). Red Beach earns its name from the
iron-rich sedimentary rocks in the cliff face towering above you, as well as the
red sand. It's quite crowded; you can rent an umbrella and a pair of chaise
lounges for 7 euros, though there is also some good free space nearby that gets
packed by midday. The first few meters of the water near the shore are quite
gravelly, so be prepared to step on some stones. Women are frequently topless.
Many distant yachts see can be seen from the beach -- it looks really romantic
at sunset time. Great snorkeling - an abundance of sea life is present, as with
Perissa. The tavernas built into the caves on Red Beach seem to have no
electricity or running water, so if you eat or use the washrooms there, bring
along hand sanitizer!
* White Beach- available only from the sea; get there by boat from Red Beach.
* Vlichada- relatively uncrowded. An umbrella with 2 chaise longues cost €10.
* Volcan Wines Museum & Winery: +30 0286 31322; open 12pm-8pm
* Santo Wines: open 9am-sunset
* Argiros Estate: Mesa Gonia near Kamari
* Roussos winery: Mesa Gonia near Kamari
* Boutari winery: Megalochori
* Hatzidakis winery: Pyrgos
* Horseback riding in Exo Gonia
* Scuba diving
* Caldera Cruise and Oia Sunset
Akrotiri, in the south, a roughly 3,500 year old Minoan town preserved in
volcanic ash like Pompeii, is one of Santorini's "must-sees". The excavation
site is covered by a roofing system, which makes it something that you can
comfortably visit no matter what time of year. The ruins, are extremely well
preserved. Streets, buildings, stairs and even second floors of buildings are
still visible. Visitors can stand in the ruins and look at Minoan pottery and
frescoes, and with a little imagination, feel what it would have been like to
live in ancient Greece. Due to an accident in September 2005, the excavation
site is closed to the public in the whole season of 2006 and is expected to be
opened again in early summer of 2007.
Ancient Thera, the Classical city of the island is located on Mesa Vouno, 396 m.
above sea level. It was founded in the 9th century B.C. by Dorian colonists
whose leader was Theras, and continued to be inhabited until the early Byzantine
period. The preserved ruins belong to the Hellenistic and Roman phases of the
city. The residential area and the larger part of the cemeteries were excavated
by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902. The cemeteries on the NE and NW
slopes of Sellada were excavated by N. Zapheiropoulos in the years 1961-1982.
Fira has the Archeological Museum that contains some of the artifacts, which
were found in the ruins of Akrotiri. So first visit Akrotini, where the items
came from and then Thira to understand what the items are. The museum has more
pots, pottery and other household items than you can shake an antique stick at,
but the highlight is the frescoes of the blue monkeys -- a mystery since
historians say there is no evidence that there were ever monkeys on Santorini.
The Cycladic Islands are world-famous for their picturesque towns of cubic
white-washed homes and blue-domed churches. Santoríni is especially famous for
the towns of Firá and Oía, whose white and pastel-colored homes and churches--
seemingly stacked on top of each other-- are perched on the cliffs of the
caldera. Many of these traditional homes are built on cliff-side caves, thus
having a much larger interior than their exterior would suggest. The
architecture of Santoríni's picturesque towns is typically Cycladic, but with
strong neoclassical and baroque influences visible in many of the island's
churches and public builings.
While Santorini cannot claim a prominent art collection, why not see some local
and international artists work by visiting the Art Space Gallery and Winery in
the small village of Exo Gonia, on the way between Fira and Kamari. Art Space is
a winery built in 1830, an old canava. Owned by the same family (Argyros) for
Scenery and nature
The landscape here --the blue sky, the little white houses perched on gigantic
rocks on hills that plummet to the sea, the lemon and orange groves, the pink
and white churches that look like pastrycakes, the faces and warmth and
expressiveness of the Greek people -- little wonder this may be the most
photographed scenery in the world.
* Atlantis Books. The largest selection of English language books on the island.
Also stocks Greek, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch.
* Santoríni is one of Greece's most prominent wine regions, whose wines enjoy
special designation of origin status from the European Union. The method of
growing grapes (with vines close to the earth and individual vines spaced far
apart from each other) is unique to the island, with its dry soil and windy
climate. Wineries open to the public are located throughout the island.
* Buy Santorini wines on Iama Wine Store in Oia.Very nice shop with all
Santorini wines and over 350 lebels of other Greek and international wines.
Santorini specials include: the white aubergine; fava; sutsukaki (slices of
tomatoes fried in batter). Another must-try is fresh fish grilled in tavernas,
esp. those close to a sea.
If you decide to eat or drink in a taverna overlooking the caldera or having a
good view to a sunset, expect prices to be higher than a similar establishment
in one of the many side-streets as you are charged extra for the view –- but
what a view!
For those who enjoy the Mediterranean diet--fresh fish, vegetables, and meat
dishes can be found at several moderately priced restaurants (average $50 for
two) in Imerovigli, Oia, and Fira. To save money, stay away from places that are
overtly commercial and go to the family run fish taverns located nearby the
smaller beaches and communities.
Gyros here are reported to be 10 times better than in the US and half the price.
Don't miss the fried tomato balls of keftades and be sure to ask for local
tomatoes in your salad. They may be the best tasting you have ever had.
Santorinia is particularly well known for its cherry tomatoes.
Santorini Island Guide