town of Fira teetering on the edge of the slumbering volcano of Santorini in Greece, the country's most unique island. The
heady romance of the place is undeniable especially
since it's all going to end in a big bang and a short slide one dark day.
Santorini Buildings | Santorini Beaches | Greece Map | Santorini Map & Atlantis theory
Santorini - officially known as Thira - is the outstanding Greek island, strange, beautiful, dramatic and enigmatic, it's the one every visitor to the islands needs to see, even if it's just a couple of days of soaking in the breathtaking views from one of the two pretty and labyrinthine towns of Fira and Oia.
Fira is the more attractive
option as Oia has partially ruined its panoramic spectacle by
permitting shops to build on the razor's edge. One decent shake and
a million dollars of jewellery is going for a fast slide and that
time may not be so far away, the volcano is by no means dead. Oia (also known as Ia), however, is the favoured sunset-viewing spot as the islands of Kameni and Thirasia interrupt the sight of the glowing orb when see from Fira.
The photo above was taken from a ferry crossing the caldera
(volcanic bowl), which we Bugheads believe is the site of Atlantis -
or rather the Atlantis legend, because the district/town that existed
here was never called 'Atlantis'.
The north, west and east sides of Santorini's caldera can be seen in this picture, though the southern horn is behind the camera.
A Fira suburb is on the right and Oia in the distant centre.
Santorini weather: the best time for moderate heat and bearable crowds is May-June and September-October. Mid summer is survivable but book hotels well in advance and be prepared for heat, sun and other people.
Avoid December to March when many businesses are closed and the weather is likely to be cold, wet and windy.
The view from Oia across to one of the smaller towns, perhaps Imerovigli.
Things to do on Santorini
• walk along the caldera rim from Fira to Oia at least, timing it to get sunset at Ia (Oia). The walk from Perissa beach to Kamari beach along Ancient Thira route is also recommended.
• hit the beaches, but you'll have to tolerate hot stones and cool water, apart from Red Beach where they take the trouble to lay wood shavings on the pebbles. Kamari has a pleasant promenade environment, Red Beach is the fashionable one and near to Akrotiri ancient site while other isolated beaches await the adventurous. You'll probably need your own transport. Beaches pictures and more information.
• visit Akrotiri ancient Minoan site (photo below), preserved by volcanic ash from the massive eruption about 3,500 years ago that arguably spawned the Atlantis legend. If the ruins and frescoes ring your bell then you could also visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira in Fira to see a lot more recovered artifacts.
• take a ferry/excursion across to Nea Kameni and/or Thirasia islands for a short hike and long view or even to Palia Kameni for a dip in the hot springs.
• tour the wineries and taste locally grown wines. Mesa Gonia and Megalochori both have a couple of wineries that welcome tourists.
• Scuba dive the caldera. There are several dive shops on Santorini, including on Kamari, Perissa and Caldera beaches. All scuba centres dive in the same location to protect the environment, though not at the same time! Visibility is extremely good but fishy life forms quite limited, other than octopi that are thriving. The main sights are a wreck near the volcano and a popular wall dive.
• Snorkelling. Again, very clear, warm waters and some extravagant rock formations though not a lot of fish. Caldera Beach near Akrotiri is popular, as are Perissa and Perivolos beaches and Potamos beach off Thirasia island.
- Driving around to visit villages though we were very disappointed by much touted Pyrgos, the highest point in the island (Picturesque? No. Friendly? No. Interesting. No. Great views? No. etc.etc.) and see some delightful modern adobe architecture.
• Cycling. Nope, biking is not so good here as the landscape is hilly, there are no dedicated bike trails and rentals are few and far between
Archaeologists are still excavating Akrotiri, a Minoan site
in the far south of Santorini that was buried in the massive volcanic
eruption in 1640BC. Building remnants reveal beautiful frescoes and
a very sophisticated society that had street drains and inside toilets
3,500 years ago - not a feature in Europe until 100 years ago. Photo by K.P. Kapoutsis.
View from Fira on the caldera rim with Thirasia island on the left and Oia a distant right.
Considering the steep views a steep café tab is acceptable.
Fira old port where ferries still unload and the walk down the zig-zag is bad enough. The walk up...but wait! The Greeks have a traditional solution for this, donkeys, though not cheap of course.
An inter-island ferry seen from Imerovigli between Fira and Oia. Next, Santorini beaches or Santorini buildings.
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