Written by Missy Johnston

Rooftops of Santorini, Greece

Blue Domes of Santorini

Santorini is one of the most well know and most photographed of the Greek Islands. Located in the Cycladic Island Chain, Santorini is popular with everyone, including the Greeks. With the eruption of the island volcano around 1500 B.C., the terrain of Santorini changed forever, as the bulk of the center of the island fell into the sea, leaving a crescent shaped ring, with one opening out to the sea. In fact the bottom of the interior bay is yet to be found.

Santorini Anchorage and Quay
Santorini Anchorage and Quay

The name Santorini is derived from the Greek word Stongilli, meaning round, as round this island was until the volcano erupted. Settlers began colonizing this island as early as 3200 BC. A variety of civilizations existed on this island, one of which, displaced by the volcano eruption, has yet to be identified. The civilizations that built another city on the island called Thira, now in ruins, however are easily identified as ancient Greek and Roman. The ruins of Thira sit on one of the highest peaks of the island and are well worth a visit if only for the panoramic view of the whole island

Many people consider Santorini to be one island; however it is a complex of five islands. Santorini (Thira) is the main island and around it are Thirasia and Aspronisi (parts of the ancient Stongilli) and the two volcanic islands Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni.

Sunrise in Santorini
Sunrise in Santorini

Around the Caldera, is the bulk of modern Santorini, with buildings and homes built one on top of another, all reached by meandering footpaths. If you are on the Caldera, you will always have a view of the bay below, and the interior sheer sides of the remaining crescent of land.

Cruising to this island can be a challenge. The opening of the island to the Aegean Sea is situated in such a manner that when heavy Meltemi winds blow, it can be very difficult to enter into the interior bay. And anchoring in most of the interior bay is not generally possible due to depth. There is a very small dockage area just below the main town of Fira, where dockage reservations must be requested well in advance. On the eastern side of the interior bay, an underwater shelf of earth still exists in waters shallow enough to allow a small anchorage area. There is a quay built into the side of the caldera in this anchorage area, which is where the ferries arrive in Santorini and also the tenders of the private yachts anchored here can be tied up for shoreside access.

Following is more information on Santorini.

Santorini Greek Orthodox Church

Greek Orthodox Church

Many reasons made this island famous worldwide including its oft photographed white buildings overlooking the blue Aegean Sea. Jules Verne made Santorini famous with the books “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and “The mysterious island” where captain Nemo and his crew watch the volcano eruption. He was one of the visitors and scientists that came to Santorini during the eruptions of 1866 – 1870 and just after wrote this well known book. It is an island where the volcano rules and the caldera view is breathtaking!

The manner in which buildings are built one on top of one another nestled into the hillside is unique to Santorini. Some of the buildings are actually dug into the hillside with cave like rooms with arched ceilings.

Things to Do

Wine Tasting: Boutari is one of the great wine houses of Greece and their winery in Megalochori is the largest on the island. The company gives tours of the installations and wine cellars and a fancy multimedia show in a remodeled vault followed by a wine tasting.

Akrotiri Excavations: Akrotiri are the ruins of an ancient city buried by the 1500 B.C. volcanic explosion. A truly amazing archeological site, it’s currently undergoing major renovations (the tourist/viewing facilities) and is still very much under excavation. This is an entire village that was discovered in the mid-19th century. It had been covered in volcanic ash, much like Italy’s Pompeii, and appears to be undisturbed after being buried for so long. This civilization has yet to be identified, and stories abound about this site as being the lost city of Atlantis. The civilization appears to have been very sophisticated with apartment buildings running water, and murals showing large monkeys acting as house servants. Were these monkeys painted in the murals as decoration or is this a true reflection of a unique aspect of this unknown civilization?

Santorini Akrotiri

Excavation of Akrotiri

Fira: The capital of Santorini, Fira, straddles the edge of the caldera. Stroll its winding, narrow streets, visiting ancient marketplaces and churches. There is a superb view out from Fira to the Kamenes, the two islets of black stones created by the volcano. This is the largest town on Santorini and features a large number of shops offering goods from local crafts to the latest couture. Night life is this town is very lively, and you might find yourself on an outdoor terrace of a bar or restaurant that is the roof of the building below. Where ever you find yourself, the view will be spectacular.

Fira

Fira

Oia: The most charming and well preserved of all the Santorini villages, Oia is 12 km from Fira. There’s plenty of fine dining in restaurants with views of spectacular sunsets, as Oia is on the very western tip of the main crescent of the island. Oia is home to artists and writers from around the world who are attracted to its stunning beauty and light. Here you can wander through art galleries and other artists’ shops. Early homes here, like in other areas of the island, were often excavated right out of the hillside, with only a built front of manmade materials. There are many of these home built in this manner to be seen in Oia. Just below Oia, is a narrow beach with a number of tavernas. Walk to the farthest taverna for the best food. The seafood is said to come straight from the sea right in front of this taverna. Here, they are often grilling octopus, small bites of which are served with a glass of ouzo in the late afternoon.

Greece Typical Village Island Taverna

Oia, Santorini Taverna