SANTORINI

SANTORINI

Santorini, officially known as Thira in Greek, is probably the most famous island in the whole Mediterranean and the absolute top destination in Greece. It is characterized by a unique architecture of traditional white washed houses perched on the edge of steep cliffs, numerous wind mills, small cobbled streets, picturesque churches, old villages, magnificent sunsets, black & red beaches with crystal clear waters, a legendary volcano and breathtaking views to the Aegean Sea, surpassing any expectation.

This spectacular scenery has given image to thousands of postcards and attracts visitors from all over the world for leisure holidays, honeymoons and also wedding ceremonies. The island boasts a wide range of accommodation to suit every taste and budget; hotels of all categories, self-catering units, villas and traditional guest houses. Most of them are small complexes with a small number of units, built in typical Cycladic architecture, preserving the traditional style of the island. Also, there is a special accommodation type on the caldera side namely renovated cave houses with vaulted ceilings and verandas with panoramic view. The island is also popular for its vivid nightlife; cozy bars with view to the caldera, playing soft or classical music, noisy bars, beach bars, dance clubs and “after hours” clubs. Santorini is also included in most of the island hopping programs in the Aegean.

Geography

Santorini is part of the Cyclades (meaning circular islands), which is the largest and most popular island group in the Aegean Sea, composed of 39 islands. The archipelago offers a great variety of landscapes and character, from the dramatic cliffs of Thira to the lush valleys of Naxos. Santorini Island itself consists of semicircular complex of small volcanic islands, located at the south of the archipelago, between Ios and Anafi. The municipality of Santorini comprises the inhabited islands of Santorini and Therasia and the uninhabited islands of Nea Kameni, Palaia Kameni, Aspronisi, and Christiana. The name” Santorini” has derived from Saint Irene, although the island is officially called Thira (after its capital town).

The entire population is about 15,500 people and the area of Santorini is 90 sq km whereas the coastline surrounding the island stretches for almost 69 km. The island has 2 ports; the main port is Athinios located in the area of Pyrgos, where there is car access. Here it gets extremely busy in summer with all the commercial ferries arriving. Secondly there is the old port in Fira, known as Skala, where only cruise ships and excursion boats dock. Here the only way up and down to the town is by donkeys or by cable car.

Santorini has always been subjected to volcanic eruptions since ancient times. The view of the giant Caldera reveals the dreadful volcanic activity that has taken place in the past on this island. The crescent shape of Santorini Island as we know it today is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic explosion that destroyed the earliest settlements, on a formerly single island, and created the current geological caldera. This famous entirely water filled Caldera is circular in shape and is the only sunken caldera in the world. It resembles to a lagoon, which measures about 12 by 7 km, as the water depth here is 400 meters.

It is surrounded by 300 m high steep cliffs on three sides (some of these are believed to be crater walls). These sheer inner walls of the caldera, exposing the various layers of solidified lava on top of each other and capped by white washed villages, steeply drop into the caldera bay, forming one of the scenic highlights of Greece. The ground then slopes outwards and downwards towards the outer perimeter, and the outer beaches are smooth and shallow. Beach sand colour depends on which geologic layer is exposed; there are beaches with sand or pebbles made of solidified lava of various colours: the Red Beach, the Black Beach, the White Beach, etc. The water at the darker coloured beaches is significantly warmer because the lava acts as a heat absorber. On the fourth side, the lagoon is separated from the sea by another much smaller island called Therasia; the lagoon is connected to the sea in two places, in the northwest and southwest.

Main destinations

The island’s villages are considered amongst the most picturesque in whole Greece. In total there are 13 villages, most of them keeping the traditional style and architecture. They consist of typical white Cycladic houses with blue painted windows and offer stunning view to the Aegean Sea and the submerged volcano: a sight that has inspired many artists especially when meddled with a horizon tainted by the amazing colours of the sunset, one of the most spectacular in the world.

Fira & Firostefani

Fira or Thira is the capital town of the island. It is built on top of the caldera cliffs, offering panoramic view to the volcano and spectacular sunsets. The town is situated above the old port, which is accessible by 556 broad, winding steps leading to it. The Venetian and Cycladic architecture meet here, in an extraordinary combination of dazzling white houses, domed churches, sun-bathed terraces and stepped alleys. There are all kinds of bars and clubs hosted in traditional dwellings, stylish cafes with magnificent view, elegant restaurants built on the edge of the rock and traditional tavernas.

Wondering around the cobbled streets of Fira, one gets the feeling of the old-world charm blended in with the modern-day comforts. But above all, there is a multinational young crowd walking up and down the narrow streets of the village, until early in the morning. The unique atmosphere together with the vivid day and nightlife are to be remembered for a long time after. Firostefani, located on the upper level, is the westernmost part of the town, with a breathtaking panoramic view to caldera and the volcano. Here you will experience one of the best sunsets in Santorini. The village has now become one of the most cosmopolitan tourist resorts. Luxurious hotels, restaurants, cafes and clubs create the ideal scenery for dreamy holidays.

Imerovigli

The name Imerovigli comes from the old Greek word “vigla” which means “observatory”. It is a unique place, offering a spectacular, panoramic view to the volcano, the caldera and over the whole island. The traditional village is located on the highest point of the caldera cliff at a height of 300m over the sea level. It is close to Fira town and offers luxurious accommodations, most of them built in traditional style, with magnificent view to caldera and the Aegean Sea.

Oia

Located in the northernmost part of the island, the traditional settlement of Oia offers panoramic view to the volcano and caldera. The typical Santorinian houses built deep in the volcanic soil with whitewashed walls and colourful arches, as well as the tranquillity and special character of the village, make Oia a major attraction. The small picturesque harbour of Amoudi, with its typical fish tavernas, is accessible from Oia by either going down the 286 steps or by donkey ride. In Oia you can watch the world famous sunset. Oia is considered “the village of artists” and many art galleries and craft shops can be found here. A variety of classy coffee shops and restaurants with local and international specialties are at your disposal as well. Oia is the ideal place for sophisticated and romantic vacation.

Kamari

The famous resort of Kamari lies on the East side of the island along the beautiful black sandy beach. In Kamari you can find very nice accommodation of any type to suit any taste and budget. It is ideal for comfortable, relaxing vacations. A variety of tavernas, restaurants, coffee shops, clubs and various shops can be found in the vicinity. You may enjoy swimming and relax, or join a diversity of sports, from scuba diving to horse riding. There is something available for everyone. You can have romantic evenings watching the moon rise from the sea, enjoy a delicious dinner at the local restaurants, or experience the active night life, strolling around the cosy open-air bars and clubs. Thira, the picturesque capital village of Santorini, is very close and easily accessible from Kamari. Excitement, relaxation, or both, go along with convenience for guests who choose to stay in Kamari!

Perissa

Perissa is a popular summer resort on the South East coast of the island, separated from Kamari by Mesa Vouno mountain. The beach is long and spacious, with black sand and clear deep blue waters. Perissa, as well as the adjacent beaches of Perivolos and Agios Georgios, is well organized with straw umbrellas and colourful sunbeds. Here you can find the best water sports facilities and the most fancy beach bars. Also, there are many tavernas and restaurants, most of them on the beachfront, serving very good Greek and international cuisine. You can stay in very nice accommodation on the beachfront or close to it. This resort is ideal for enjoyable holidays!

History

Gazing upon the three islands of Thira, Thirasia and Aspronisi, one can realise the original shape of the island and understand the name Strongyle (The Circular One) by which it was known in ancient times according to the ancient historian Herodotos. It was also known as Kallisti (the most beautiful one).

Human presence on the island according to the archaeological finds at Akrotiri was first recorded in the Bronze Age in 3000 BC. The buildings containing wonderful wall-paintings, furniture and pottery show the island’s great development and prosperity.

The event that marked the history and nature is the enormous volcanic eruption of 1,650 BC. With its tremendous force it dragged a part of the island to the depths of the sea along with its civilization, and what remains today is a submerged volcano and a caldera. This eruption, known as the Thera eruption, is reputed to be responsible for the destruction of the Minoan civilization that flourished at that time (the huge tidal waves also hit the northern coasts of Crete) and inspired the legends of the lost Atlantis.

Later the island became a Spartan colony under their leader King Thira, from whom it took its present official name of ‘THIRA’. Then the town of Ancient Thira on the mountain of Mesa Vouno was founded with the two seaports on the coastal areas of Oia and Elefsis, thus turning the island into a valuable naval base. In the 6th century BC, Thira created its own currency and the two dolphins became the official emblem of the island. During the Byzantine era, the island adopted Christianity and from the 4th century onwards, an organized church existed there named Episkopi Thira under the bishop Dioskouros. It is worthy of note that Alexios Komninos built the church of Panagia Episkopi at Mesa Gonia. During the Byzantine years, the greatest problem faced by the Aegean islands including Santorini was that of pirates. Due to this, the islanders built the Kastelia (castles) to protect their villages. There are five Kastelia on the island, ‘Skaros” at Imerovigli, the ‘Kasteli of Agios Nikolaos’ at Oia, the ‘Kasteli of Pyrgou’, the ‘Kasteli of Goula’ at Emboreio, and the Kasteli at Akrotiri.

In 1204 the island was conquered by the Venetians (Crusaders). The name Santorini appeared at that time, originating either from the old cathedral of Saint Irene in Perissa village or from Saint Irene in Riva Thirassia. Santorini was annexed to the Duchy of Naxos and later came under Ottoman rule. Trade prospered greatly at that time. In 1830 it was united with the New Greek State.

Culture

Tradition and customs are not bypassed. On the contrary, they are cherished and preserved by the people of Santorini and are integrated in their modern culture. The family, including the extended family, is held in high regard and the islanders are hospitable people, warmly welcoming visitors, especially children.

The majority of the events have a religious character. People start preparations for a holiday beforehand. Some churches on the island have a separate building meant for holding festive events and preparing food for the guests. One should live the event on the night of the Epitaph taking place on Good Friday night in a small village of Pyrgos. Visitors will feel the enchantment and magic of the moment created by the stunning setting and enhanced by the lit tin lanterns carried by participants. “Lazaros” is another religious tradition that is celebrated with splendor in Santorini. When visiting churches and monasteries, shoulders and legs should be covered to avoid offence.

Smashing Plates

A custom all over Greece is to smash plates at celebrations, especially weddings (though it often happens other times such as a celebratory meal that involves music and dancing in a restaurant). It is said to be a great stress reliever that was traditionally thought to ward off evil spirits and when done during a wedding, it was believed it would promote a successful marriage. In recent years the practice is dying out in public places due to the cost and the health and safety risk.

Marriage

Traditionally, a marriage on Santorini takes place on a Sunday and a few days earlier, the bride to be is joined by other local girls to make sugar plums. On the Friday before, the bed is made and rice is thrown upon it to symbolize a solid marriage. At noon on the big day, the groom’s father fires a gun shot from the roof of his house to signal the start of the wedding and a woman of the village would traditionally have the job of going door to door at this point to invite people to the wedding.

The best man, bride’s maids and other important guests then meet at the bride and groom’s new home before the priest and best man prepare some wine and garlands for the happy couple. When the ceremony ends, all the guests put some money into a plate and the newlyweds head home to feast with their families for two or three days.

Traditional Santorini Dress for Women

Scarfs are traditionally worn by the women of Santorini which are tied a little upward to reveal the forehead. Unmarried women should wear these scarves indoors and out but it is acceptable for married ones to not have them on indoors, according to tradition. They would also wear a combination of petticoats, corsets and bodices, especially in the smaller villages though these days the women of Santorini dress as everyone else does in the Western world, as fashion, or their own tastes dictate.

Easter customs

Traditions at Easter on Santorini are largely centered around food and delicacies, which keeps the local bakeries busy at this time of the year baking cheese pies, buns, cookies and melitinia (traditional Easter pastry), tsourekia (brioche type) amongst other things. It’s also the time for white-washing the houses and yards and decorating the churches with flowers. The village becomes adorned with florally decorated epitaphs on Good Friday which go from village to village in the evening to the sound of bells from the monasteries.

The streets of Pyrgos village are lined with thousands of oil lamps to help the processions see where they are going and the two epitaphs eventually meet in the central square of Fira. The beautifully preserved white streets are packed with locals holding lighted candles. In Megalochori, the locals organize a great feast on the Saturday of Lazarus at the central square.

Locals set up a huge cross, about 12m high which is decorated with flowers and rosemary. Of major interest is the Holy Week in Oia, where various services are held at the picturesque church of Panagia Platsani. On Saturday, people go to the church at midnight to get to Holy Light. That time, many fireworks explode in the sky giving the happy message of the Resurrection of Christ.

Gastronomy

The dazzling light and the Aegean breeze combined with the island’s fertile volcanic soil nurture the local agricultural products, endowing them with top quality and a unique taste. The most renowned products from Santorini are:

  • Kopania: Barley bread rolls filled with raisins.
  • Koufeto (sugarplum): Boiled honey with roasted almonds. It is usually served in weddings and shop opening ceremonies.
  • Melitinia: Traditional Easter dessert. It is made of soft cheese, sugar and mastic.
  • Raw haddock: Uncooked haddock cut in small pieces. It is usually served with tomato salad./li>
  • Stuffed "birds": Flowers of zucchini stuffed with rice.
  • Santorinian pudding: Dessert made from semolina and milk (the pudding of the poor is made of bread and milk while that of the wealthy is made of eggs and chocolate).
  • Garlic pasta: Thick pasta with lots of garlic and fresh tomato.
  • Sfouggato: Scrambled eggs with potatoes or zucchini.
  • Marinated fish: Fried fish (horse mackerel or bogue) with lots of vinegar and rosemary.
  • Psarolia: Cooked small fish. They are dried out under the sun for several days. Usually a winter food. It is considered a good wine snack.
  • Tomato balls or "pseftokeftedes" (fake meat balls): Fried meat balls made of chard, mint, tomato, zucchini and various other greens in batter.
  • Sgardoumia: entrails wrapped in a bowel.

The over century-old vines of Santorini find their best expression in the assyrtiko grape by giving world class wines. The wine reflects the pure character of the variety, the microclimate and the volcanic soil. High acidity, intense minerality and citrus flavors upfront are the key elements creating the complex character of assyrtiko, highlighting the Santorinian earth in perfect harmony. Another famous wine is Vinsanto; a wine with a rich gold colour and an exceptional aroma achieved thanks to many years of maturation and aging in the bottle and the extra-mature sun-dried white grapes from which it is made.

Highlights / Things to see

Two important archaeological sites are considered the main attractions of Santorini namely Akrotiri excavations and Ancient Thira. Also the volcano, hot springs, Oia and other traditional villages, Byzantine churches, remnants of castles and museums are major points of interest. The beautiful beaches with their crystal clear waters, the black or red sand and volcanic rocks offer a wonderful sensation of relaxation and pleasure. Kamari and Perissa are considered the best organized ones while Perivolos, Agios Georgios and Monolithos are worth a visit. The Red Beach and Vlychada with their extraordinary natural beauty are highlights of the island.

Events

Ifestia Festival

One of the biggest events of the year in the Cyclades is the annual Ifestia Festival, taking place during August and including various cultural events, music concerts, traditional dance performances etc… The festivities end on 28th August with an impressive firework display and a stunning recreation of a volcanic explosion. Images, colours and sounds will bring together once again an unforgettable sensations and emotions experience. It was volcanic activity that created the island of Santorini and the locals celebrate the fact with the annual Ifestia Festival. Due to this volcanic morphology and the presence of these active craters, Santorini has many privileges: from the unique agricultural products until the stunning and global famous image. The festival is an annual tribute to the volcano that never sleeps.

Santorini Jazz Festival

The Santorini Jazz Festival takes place in July, in the heart of the summer and attracts the lovers of Jazz music. Famous performers from the Greek or international scene will entertain with their jazz rythms.

The International Music Festival

Held at the beginning of September with famous artists from every corner of the world appearing at the ‘Nomikos’ Conference Centre in Fira.

Excursion program

Discover the Southern part of Santorini

Discover the Southern part of Santorini (Bus Tour) (11)

This tour will take you to the Southern part of the island. Our first visit will be at Prophet Elias Monastery built on the highest point of the island from where the panoramic view of the entire island is majestic. Next, we visit the most traditional village of Santorini, Megalohori. Our escort will lead us through the narrow streets where you can admire the traditional architecture of the village and the unique craftsmanship of the local masons.

Afterwards we visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri village, Akrotiri Excavations are the most famous excavation in Greece that brought to light a Minoan town preserved under the pumice for 3000 years. Excavations are still going on to uncover another 300 buildings. Our tour guide will lead an informative and interesting tour of about an hour and a half, on a trip to the past in this amazing civilization.

Then we continue upwards to visit the famous beach of Perivolos for swimming or lunch. We end our day by going to a winery with volcano view to taste the wonderful wines and purchase some local goods. If you are lucky you might find the lost treasure of pirates.

Type of excursion: Landscape
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, Swimming suit, camera
Note: The entrance fee in the Akrotiri excavations is not included.

Stops Approximate time of stay
Phrophet Elias 25 min.
Megalohori Village 50 min.
Akrotiri Excavations 1½ hours
Perivolos Beach 2 hours
Winery 50 min.
Sunset in Oia & Traditional Villages

Sunset in Oia & Traditional Villages (Bus Tour)

Our first visit will be at the Mesa Gonia - the “ghost village”, this village was deserted after the earthquake of 1956 and now it is barely inhabited. We will walk around to take photos of the ruined houses and old churches. Then we visit the traditional village of Pyrgos with Cycladic architecture, Byzantine churches and a Venetian castle.

On our way to Oia, we stop at the idyllic Santo Winery to enjoy the most wonderful view of the caldera. Our last stop is the breathtaking Oia village. Oia is famous for being the place of gathering artists, who are inspired by the beauty of the landscape and the magnificent purple sunsets.

Type of excursion: Landscape
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Mesa Gonia 50 min.
Pyrgos 50 min.
Santo Winery 30 min.
Oia 2 hours
Ancient Thira

Ancient Thira (By Mini-bus)

The excursion starts from Kamari it takes about 10 min. by the bus and then 10-20 min. by foot to arrive at the site. Ancient Thira is situated in a unique location on the top of Messa Vouno mountain at a height of 356 m.

This strategic point was chosen by the Dorian settlers to built their capital town in 8th century BC. The excavations uncover the ruins of ancient buildings, sanctuaries and temples, inscriptions and carved stones of archaic period and also the ancient theatre situated in an excellent location with panoramic view to Aegean Sea. The bus will be waiting for you to take you back to Kamari.

Type of excursion: Landscape
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Ancient Thira 1½ hours
We provide you a map with the description of the area.
Caldera Morning Boat Tour

Caldera Morning Boat Tour

We go by bus to Athinios port where we board the boat King Thiras that will sail to reach the lava islet Nea Kameni. We will walk an ascending soil path to approach the crater of the still active Volcano. Then back to the boat and we sail to the second lava islet called Palea Kameni where we find Hot Springs.

Here, you will have an opportunity to swim in the green sulphur waters. We then set sail for the island of Thirassia. There you can explore the island or swim at the beach next to the port. We stay for about two hours and then the boat will cruise along the caldera cliffs, so you will have the chance to take wonderful photos of the amazing cliffs.

Type of excursion: Full day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, Swimming suit, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Volcano 1½ hours
Hot Springs 30 min.
Thirassia 30 min.
Cruise below Oia 20 min.
Caldera Oia Sunset

Caldera Oia Sunset (Boat Tour)

Arriving at Athinios port we board the traditional boat king thiras.Our first stop in the volcanic island of Nea Kameni where we walk an ascending soil path to approach the crater of still active volcano. We continue to the island of Palea Kameni where we can swim in the green sulphur waters or bath in the warm therapeutic mud.

After half an hour, the boat will sail to the nice traditional island Thirassia, where you can have lunch at one of the picturesque seafront tavern’s or swim at the beach next to the port. The boat tour ends up at the village of Oia where we will stay and admire the spectacular colorful sunset.

Type of excursion: Full Day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, Swimming suit, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Volcano 1½ hours
Hot Springs 30 min.
Thirassia 2 hours
Oia 2½ hours
Morning Boat Trip at the Volcano & the Hot Springs (Boat Tour)

Morning Boat Trip at the Volcano & the Hot Springs (Boat Tour)

Our bus takes you to port, then we will board on the boat Manolios to head for the volcanic island of Nea Kameni, we will walk up the active volcano and take photos of the crater. Then we will cruise towards the second volcanic island of Palea Kameni, in order to swim in the hot springs and to enjoy the therapeutic mud. Finally we will return to Athinios port where the buses will be there for us to return.

Type of excursion: Boat tour
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, Swimming suit, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Volcano 1½ hours
Hot Springs 30 min.
Evening Cruise (Sunset & Magic Night in Caldera)

Evening Cruise (Sunset & Magic Night in Caldera)

Arriving at Athinios port, you will be welcomed on board by the captain and the crew. You enjoy a welcome drink & watch the changing colours of the sunset. The captain will set sail for a cruise along the magnificent Caldera while the crew prepares a delicious buffet dinner that you will savor during the cruise.

Type of excursion: Cruise/ Boat tour
Should take: Comfortable shoes, Jacket, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Cruising in the Caldera 4 hours (in total)
Sunset n/a
Dinner on Board n/a
 

SANTORINI

SANTORINI

Santorini, officially known as Thira in Greek, is probably the most famous island in the whole Mediterranean and the absolute top destination in Greece. It is characterized by a unique architecture of traditional white washed houses perched on the edge of steep cliffs, numerous wind mills, small cobbled streets, picturesque churches, old villages, magnificent sunsets, black & red beaches with crystal clear waters, a legendary volcano and breathtaking views to the Aegean Sea, surpassing any expectation.

This spectacular scenery has given image to thousands of postcards and attracts visitors from all over the world for leisure holidays, honeymoons and also wedding ceremonies. The island boasts a wide range of accommodation to suit every taste and budget; hotels of all categories, self-catering units, villas and traditional guest houses. Most of them are small complexes with a small number of units, built in typical Cycladic architecture, preserving the traditional style of the island. Also, there is a special accommodation type on the caldera side namely renovated cave houses with vaulted ceilings and verandas with panoramic view. The island is also popular for its vivid nightlife; cozy bars with view to the caldera, playing soft or classical music, noisy bars, beach bars, dance clubs and “after hours” clubs. Santorini is also included in most of the island hopping programs in the Aegean.

Geography

Santorini is part of the Cyclades (meaning circular islands), which is the largest and most popular island group in the Aegean Sea, composed of 39 islands. The archipelago offers a great variety of landscapes and character, from the dramatic cliffs of Thira to the lush valleys of Naxos. Santorini Island itself consists of semicircular complex of small volcanic islands, located at the south of the archipelago, between Ios and Anafi. The municipality of Santorini comprises the inhabited islands of Santorini and Therasia and the uninhabited islands of Nea Kameni, Palaia Kameni, Aspronisi, and Christiana. The name” Santorini” has derived from Saint Irene, although the island is officially called Thira (after its capital town).

The entire population is about 15,500 people and the area of Santorini is 90 sq km whereas the coastline surrounding the island stretches for almost 69 km. The island has 2 ports; the main port is Athinios located in the area of Pyrgos, where there is car access. Here it gets extremely busy in summer with all the commercial ferries arriving. Secondly there is the old port in Fira, known as Skala, where only cruise ships and excursion boats dock. Here the only way up and down to the town is by donkeys or by cable car.

Santorini has always been subjected to volcanic eruptions since ancient times. The view of the giant Caldera reveals the dreadful volcanic activity that has taken place in the past on this island. The crescent shape of Santorini Island as we know it today is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic explosion that destroyed the earliest settlements, on a formerly single island, and created the current geological caldera. This famous entirely water filled Caldera is circular in shape and is the only sunken caldera in the world. It resembles to a lagoon, which measures about 12 by 7 km, as the water depth here is 400 meters.

It is surrounded by 300 m high steep cliffs on three sides (some of these are believed to be crater walls). These sheer inner walls of the caldera, exposing the various layers of solidified lava on top of each other and capped by white washed villages, steeply drop into the caldera bay, forming one of the scenic highlights of Greece. The ground then slopes outwards and downwards towards the outer perimeter, and the outer beaches are smooth and shallow. Beach sand colour depends on which geologic layer is exposed; there are beaches with sand or pebbles made of solidified lava of various colours: the Red Beach, the Black Beach, the White Beach, etc. The water at the darker coloured beaches is significantly warmer because the lava acts as a heat absorber. On the fourth side, the lagoon is separated from the sea by another much smaller island called Therasia; the lagoon is connected to the sea in two places, in the northwest and southwest.

Main destinations

The island’s villages are considered amongst the most picturesque in whole Greece. In total there are 13 villages, most of them keeping the traditional style and architecture. They consist of typical white Cycladic houses with blue painted windows and offer stunning view to the Aegean Sea and the submerged volcano: a sight that has inspired many artists especially when meddled with a horizon tainted by the amazing colours of the sunset, one of the most spectacular in the world.

Fira & Firostefani

Fira or Thira is the capital town of the island. It is built on top of the caldera cliffs, offering panoramic view to the volcano and spectacular sunsets. The town is situated above the old port, which is accessible by 556 broad, winding steps leading to it. The Venetian and Cycladic architecture meet here, in an extraordinary combination of dazzling white houses, domed churches, sun-bathed terraces and stepped alleys. There are all kinds of bars and clubs hosted in traditional dwellings, stylish cafes with magnificent view, elegant restaurants built on the edge of the rock and traditional tavernas.

Wondering around the cobbled streets of Fira, one gets the feeling of the old-world charm blended in with the modern-day comforts. But above all, there is a multinational young crowd walking up and down the narrow streets of the village, until early in the morning. The unique atmosphere together with the vivid day and nightlife are to be remembered for a long time after. Firostefani, located on the upper level, is the westernmost part of the town, with a breathtaking panoramic view to caldera and the volcano. Here you will experience one of the best sunsets in Santorini. The village has now become one of the most cosmopolitan tourist resorts. Luxurious hotels, restaurants, cafes and clubs create the ideal scenery for dreamy holidays.

Imerovigli

The name Imerovigli comes from the old Greek word “vigla” which means “observatory”. It is a unique place, offering a spectacular, panoramic view to the volcano, the caldera and over the whole island. The traditional village is located on the highest point of the caldera cliff at a height of 300m over the sea level. It is close to Fira town and offers luxurious accommodations, most of them built in traditional style, with magnificent view to caldera and the Aegean Sea.

Oia

Located in the northernmost part of the island, the traditional settlement of Oia offers panoramic view to the volcano and caldera. The typical Santorinian houses built deep in the volcanic soil with whitewashed walls and colourful arches, as well as the tranquillity and special character of the village, make Oia a major attraction. The small picturesque harbour of Amoudi, with its typical fish tavernas, is accessible from Oia by either going down the 286 steps or by donkey ride. In Oia you can watch the world famous sunset. Oia is considered “the village of artists” and many art galleries and craft shops can be found here. A variety of classy coffee shops and restaurants with local and international specialties are at your disposal as well. Oia is the ideal place for sophisticated and romantic vacation.

Kamari

The famous resort of Kamari lies on the East side of the island along the beautiful black sandy beach. In Kamari you can find very nice accommodation of any type to suit any taste and budget. It is ideal for comfortable, relaxing vacations. A variety of tavernas, restaurants, coffee shops, clubs and various shops can be found in the vicinity. You may enjoy swimming and relax, or join a diversity of sports, from scuba diving to horse riding. There is something available for everyone. You can have romantic evenings watching the moon rise from the sea, enjoy a delicious dinner at the local restaurants, or experience the active night life, strolling around the cosy open-air bars and clubs. Thira, the picturesque capital village of Santorini, is very close and easily accessible from Kamari. Excitement, relaxation, or both, go along with convenience for guests who choose to stay in Kamari!

Perissa

Perissa is a popular summer resort on the South East coast of the island, separated from Kamari by Mesa Vouno mountain. The beach is long and spacious, with black sand and clear deep blue waters. Perissa, as well as the adjacent beaches of Perivolos and Agios Georgios, is well organized with straw umbrellas and colourful sunbeds. Here you can find the best water sports facilities and the most fancy beach bars. Also, there are many tavernas and restaurants, most of them on the beachfront, serving very good Greek and international cuisine. You can stay in very nice accommodation on the beachfront or close to it. This resort is ideal for enjoyable holidays!

History

Gazing upon the three islands of Thira, Thirasia and Aspronisi, one can realise the original shape of the island and understand the name Strongyle (The Circular One) by which it was known in ancient times according to the ancient historian Herodotos. It was also known as Kallisti (the most beautiful one).

Human presence on the island according to the archaeological finds at Akrotiri was first recorded in the Bronze Age in 3000 BC. The buildings containing wonderful wall-paintings, furniture and pottery show the island’s great development and prosperity.

The event that marked the history and nature is the enormous volcanic eruption of 1,650 BC. With its tremendous force it dragged a part of the island to the depths of the sea along with its civilization, and what remains today is a submerged volcano and a caldera. This eruption, known as the Thera eruption, is reputed to be responsible for the destruction of the Minoan civilization that flourished at that time (the huge tidal waves also hit the northern coasts of Crete) and inspired the legends of the lost Atlantis.

Later the island became a Spartan colony under their leader King Thira, from whom it took its present official name of ‘THIRA’. Then the town of Ancient Thira on the mountain of Mesa Vouno was founded with the two seaports on the coastal areas of Oia and Elefsis, thus turning the island into a valuable naval base. In the 6th century BC, Thira created its own currency and the two dolphins became the official emblem of the island. During the Byzantine era, the island adopted Christianity and from the 4th century onwards, an organized church existed there named Episkopi Thira under the bishop Dioskouros. It is worthy of note that Alexios Komninos built the church of Panagia Episkopi at Mesa Gonia. During the Byzantine years, the greatest problem faced by the Aegean islands including Santorini was that of pirates. Due to this, the islanders built the Kastelia (castles) to protect their villages. There are five Kastelia on the island, ‘Skaros” at Imerovigli, the ‘Kasteli of Agios Nikolaos’ at Oia, the ‘Kasteli of Pyrgou’, the ‘Kasteli of Goula’ at Emboreio, and the Kasteli at Akrotiri.

In 1204 the island was conquered by the Venetians (Crusaders). The name Santorini appeared at that time, originating either from the old cathedral of Saint Irene in Perissa village or from Saint Irene in Riva Thirassia. Santorini was annexed to the Duchy of Naxos and later came under Ottoman rule. Trade prospered greatly at that time. In 1830 it was united with the New Greek State.

Culture

Tradition and customs are not bypassed. On the contrary, they are cherished and preserved by the people of Santorini and are integrated in their modern culture. The family, including the extended family, is held in high regard and the islanders are hospitable people, warmly welcoming visitors, especially children.

The majority of the events have a religious character. People start preparations for a holiday beforehand. Some churches on the island have a separate building meant for holding festive events and preparing food for the guests. One should live the event on the night of the Epitaph taking place on Good Friday night in a small village of Pyrgos. Visitors will feel the enchantment and magic of the moment created by the stunning setting and enhanced by the lit tin lanterns carried by participants. “Lazaros” is another religious tradition that is celebrated with splendor in Santorini. When visiting churches and monasteries, shoulders and legs should be covered to avoid offence.

Smashing Plates

A custom all over Greece is to smash plates at celebrations, especially weddings (though it often happens other times such as a celebratory meal that involves music and dancing in a restaurant). It is said to be a great stress reliever that was traditionally thought to ward off evil spirits and when done during a wedding, it was believed it would promote a successful marriage. In recent years the practice is dying out in public places due to the cost and the health and safety risk.

Marriage

Traditionally, a marriage on Santorini takes place on a Sunday and a few days earlier, the bride to be is joined by other local girls to make sugar plums. On the Friday before, the bed is made and rice is thrown upon it to symbolize a solid marriage. At noon on the big day, the groom’s father fires a gun shot from the roof of his house to signal the start of the wedding and a woman of the village would traditionally have the job of going door to door at this point to invite people to the wedding.

The best man, bride’s maids and other important guests then meet at the bride and groom’s new home before the priest and best man prepare some wine and garlands for the happy couple. When the ceremony ends, all the guests put some money into a plate and the newlyweds head home to feast with their families for two or three days.

Traditional Santorini Dress for Women

Scarfs are traditionally worn by the women of Santorini which are tied a little upward to reveal the forehead. Unmarried women should wear these scarves indoors and out but it is acceptable for married ones to not have them on indoors, according to tradition. They would also wear a combination of petticoats, corsets and bodices, especially in the smaller villages though these days the women of Santorini dress as everyone else does in the Western world, as fashion, or their own tastes dictate.

Easter customs

Traditions at Easter on Santorini are largely centered around food and delicacies, which keeps the local bakeries busy at this time of the year baking cheese pies, buns, cookies and melitinia (traditional Easter pastry), tsourekia (brioche type) amongst other things. It’s also the time for white-washing the houses and yards and decorating the churches with flowers. The village becomes adorned with florally decorated epitaphs on Good Friday which go from village to village in the evening to the sound of bells from the monasteries.

The streets of Pyrgos village are lined with thousands of oil lamps to help the processions see where they are going and the two epitaphs eventually meet in the central square of Fira. The beautifully preserved white streets are packed with locals holding lighted candles. In Megalochori, the locals organize a great feast on the Saturday of Lazarus at the central square.

Locals set up a huge cross, about 12m high which is decorated with flowers and rosemary. Of major interest is the Holy Week in Oia, where various services are held at the picturesque church of Panagia Platsani. On Saturday, people go to the church at midnight to get to Holy Light. That time, many fireworks explode in the sky giving the happy message of the Resurrection of Christ.

Gastronomy

The dazzling light and the Aegean breeze combined with the island’s fertile volcanic soil nurture the local agricultural products, endowing them with top quality and a unique taste. The most renowned products from Santorini are:

  • Kopania: Barley bread rolls filled with raisins.
  • Koufeto (sugarplum): Boiled honey with roasted almonds. It is usually served in weddings and shop opening ceremonies.
  • Melitinia: Traditional Easter dessert. It is made of soft cheese, sugar and mastic.
  • Raw haddock: Uncooked haddock cut in small pieces. It is usually served with tomato salad./li>
  • Stuffed "birds": Flowers of zucchini stuffed with rice.
  • Santorinian pudding: Dessert made from semolina and milk (the pudding of the poor is made of bread and milk while that of the wealthy is made of eggs and chocolate).
  • Garlic pasta: Thick pasta with lots of garlic and fresh tomato.
  • Sfouggato: Scrambled eggs with potatoes or zucchini.
  • Marinated fish: Fried fish (horse mackerel or bogue) with lots of vinegar and rosemary.
  • Psarolia: Cooked small fish. They are dried out under the sun for several days. Usually a winter food. It is considered a good wine snack.
  • Tomato balls or "pseftokeftedes" (fake meat balls): Fried meat balls made of chard, mint, tomato, zucchini and various other greens in batter.
  • Sgardoumia: entrails wrapped in a bowel.

The over century-old vines of Santorini find their best expression in the assyrtiko grape by giving world class wines. The wine reflects the pure character of the variety, the microclimate and the volcanic soil. High acidity, intense minerality and citrus flavors upfront are the key elements creating the complex character of assyrtiko, highlighting the Santorinian earth in perfect harmony. Another famous wine is Vinsanto; a wine with a rich gold colour and an exceptional aroma achieved thanks to many years of maturation and aging in the bottle and the extra-mature sun-dried white grapes from which it is made.

Highlights / Things to see

Two important archaeological sites are considered the main attractions of Santorini namely Akrotiri excavations and Ancient Thira. Also the volcano, hot springs, Oia and other traditional villages, Byzantine churches, remnants of castles and museums are major points of interest. The beautiful beaches with their crystal clear waters, the black or red sand and volcanic rocks offer a wonderful sensation of relaxation and pleasure. Kamari and Perissa are considered the best organized ones while Perivolos, Agios Georgios and Monolithos are worth a visit. The Red Beach and Vlychada with their extraordinary natural beauty are highlights of the island.

Events

Ifestia Festival

One of the biggest events of the year in the Cyclades is the annual Ifestia Festival, taking place during August and including various cultural events, music concerts, traditional dance performances etc… The festivities end on 28th August with an impressive firework display and a stunning recreation of a volcanic explosion. Images, colours and sounds will bring together once again an unforgettable sensations and emotions experience. It was volcanic activity that created the island of Santorini and the locals celebrate the fact with the annual Ifestia Festival. Due to this volcanic morphology and the presence of these active craters, Santorini has many privileges: from the unique agricultural products until the stunning and global famous image. The festival is an annual tribute to the volcano that never sleeps.

Santorini Jazz Festival

The Santorini Jazz Festival takes place in July, in the heart of the summer and attracts the lovers of Jazz music. Famous performers from the Greek or international scene will entertain with their jazz rythms.

The International Music Festival

Held at the beginning of September with famous artists from every corner of the world appearing at the ‘Nomikos’ Conference Centre in Fira.

Excursion program

Discover the Southern part of Santorini

Discover the Southern part of Santorini (Bus Tour) (11)

This tour will take you to the Southern part of the island. Our first visit will be at Prophet Elias Monastery built on the highest point of the island from where the panoramic view of the entire island is majestic. Next, we visit the most traditional village of Santorini, Megalohori. Our escort will lead us through the narrow streets where you can admire the traditional architecture of the village and the unique craftsmanship of the local masons.

Afterwards we visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri village, Akrotiri Excavations are the most famous excavation in Greece that brought to light a Minoan town preserved under the pumice for 3000 years. Excavations are still going on to uncover another 300 buildings. Our tour guide will lead an informative and interesting tour of about an hour and a half, on a trip to the past in this amazing civilization.

Then we continue upwards to visit the famous beach of Perivolos for swimming or lunch. We end our day by going to a winery with volcano view to taste the wonderful wines and purchase some local goods. If you are lucky you might find the lost treasure of pirates.

Type of excursion: Landscape
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, Swimming suit, camera
Note: The entrance fee in the Akrotiri excavations is not included.

Stops Approximate time of stay
Phrophet Elias 25 min.
Megalohori Village 50 min.
Akrotiri Excavations 1½ hours
Perivolos Beach 2 hours
Winery 50 min.
Sunset in Oia & Traditional Villages

Sunset in Oia & Traditional Villages (Bus Tour)

Our first visit will be at the Mesa Gonia - the “ghost village”, this village was deserted after the earthquake of 1956 and now it is barely inhabited. We will walk around to take photos of the ruined houses and old churches. Then we visit the traditional village of Pyrgos with Cycladic architecture, Byzantine churches and a Venetian castle.

On our way to Oia, we stop at the idyllic Santo Winery to enjoy the most wonderful view of the caldera. Our last stop is the breathtaking Oia village. Oia is famous for being the place of gathering artists, who are inspired by the beauty of the landscape and the magnificent purple sunsets.

Type of excursion: Landscape
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Mesa Gonia 50 min.
Pyrgos 50 min.
Santo Winery 30 min.
Oia 2 hours
Ancient Thira

Ancient Thira (By Mini-bus)

The excursion starts from Kamari it takes about 10 min. by the bus and then 10-20 min. by foot to arrive at the site. Ancient Thira is situated in a unique location on the top of Messa Vouno mountain at a height of 356 m.

This strategic point was chosen by the Dorian settlers to built their capital town in 8th century BC. The excavations uncover the ruins of ancient buildings, sanctuaries and temples, inscriptions and carved stones of archaic period and also the ancient theatre situated in an excellent location with panoramic view to Aegean Sea. The bus will be waiting for you to take you back to Kamari.

Type of excursion: Landscape
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Ancient Thira 1½ hours
We provide you a map with the description of the area.
Caldera Morning Boat Tour

Caldera Morning Boat Tour

We go by bus to Athinios port where we board the boat King Thiras that will sail to reach the lava islet Nea Kameni. We will walk an ascending soil path to approach the crater of the still active Volcano. Then back to the boat and we sail to the second lava islet called Palea Kameni where we find Hot Springs.

Here, you will have an opportunity to swim in the green sulphur waters. We then set sail for the island of Thirassia. There you can explore the island or swim at the beach next to the port. We stay for about two hours and then the boat will cruise along the caldera cliffs, so you will have the chance to take wonderful photos of the amazing cliffs.

Type of excursion: Full day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, Swimming suit, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Volcano 1½ hours
Hot Springs 30 min.
Thirassia 30 min.
Cruise below Oia 20 min.
Caldera Oia Sunset

Caldera Oia Sunset (Boat Tour)

Arriving at Athinios port we board the traditional boat king thiras.Our first stop in the volcanic island of Nea Kameni where we walk an ascending soil path to approach the crater of still active volcano. We continue to the island of Palea Kameni where we can swim in the green sulphur waters or bath in the warm therapeutic mud.

After half an hour, the boat will sail to the nice traditional island Thirassia, where you can have lunch at one of the picturesque seafront tavern’s or swim at the beach next to the port. The boat tour ends up at the village of Oia where we will stay and admire the spectacular colorful sunset.

Type of excursion: Full Day
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, Swimming suit, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Volcano 1½ hours
Hot Springs 30 min.
Thirassia 2 hours
Oia 2½ hours
Morning Boat Trip at the Volcano & the Hot Springs (Boat Tour)

Morning Boat Trip at the Volcano & the Hot Springs (Boat Tour)

Our bus takes you to port, then we will board on the boat Manolios to head for the volcanic island of Nea Kameni, we will walk up the active volcano and take photos of the crater. Then we will cruise towards the second volcanic island of Palea Kameni, in order to swim in the hot springs and to enjoy the therapeutic mud. Finally we will return to Athinios port where the buses will be there for us to return.

Type of excursion: Boat tour
Should take: Comfortable shoes, hat, sun cream, Swimming suit, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Volcano 1½ hours
Hot Springs 30 min.
Evening Cruise (Sunset & Magic Night in Caldera)

Evening Cruise (Sunset & Magic Night in Caldera)

Arriving at Athinios port, you will be welcomed on board by the captain and the crew. You enjoy a welcome drink & watch the changing colours of the sunset. The captain will set sail for a cruise along the magnificent Caldera while the crew prepares a delicious buffet dinner that you will savor during the cruise.

Type of excursion: Cruise/ Boat tour
Should take: Comfortable shoes, Jacket, camera

Stops Approximate time of stay
Cruising in the Caldera 4 hours (in total)
Sunset n/a
Dinner on Board n/a