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Santorini - White Beauty at the Edge of the Caldera

With its sea of white houses and the sapphire blue roofs along the caldera, the volcanic island of Santorini (officially "Thira") is the most popular and best-known Greek postcard picture. However, there is so much more to discover and explore here.

The island of Santorini in the Cyclades

Geography - Towns at the edge of a crater

The Cycladic island of Santorini (officially "Thira") is the main island on the archipelago of the same name in the South Aegean and is only about 100 kilometres away from Crete. It is one of the best-known and most popular travel destinations in Greece. The archipelago consists of the main island of Thira and the four smaller islands of Thirasia, Aspronisi, Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. Santorini is a volcanic island whose volcano erupted about 3,500 years ago and broke apart due to the power of the eruption. The major part of the volcano sank. What is referred to as "Santorini" today are only the rims of the crater (caldera). With a diameter of about 20 kilometres, the caldera of Santorini is the largest on earth. Altogether Santorini has an area of 92.5 km² and about 13,400 inhabitants. The archipelago's capital is the city of Fira, which is located 300 metres above Skala Harbour. Other important towns on the island are Oia, Perissa and Kamari. Santorini has a very dry climate in summer but the cool Meltemi wind creates a pleasant humidity. There is no more than one rainy day per month in summer. The rainy season is in winter.

A typical town on Santorini

Nature - Of golden sunsets and black beaches

While the coast on the island's western side is very steep, the east coast is very flat. Travellers find beautiful long sandy beaches here, which are not white like in other Greek regions but rather dark because they consist of black lava sand. Beautiful beaches are Red Beach, Perissa Beach, Kamari Beach and Vlychada Beach. Perissa Beach is the longest beach in the Cyclades. You will not find any small bathing bays here. Since Santorini is a purely volcanic island, there is still seismic activity. About 80 percent of the island are used for cultivation, especially for vineyards. In addition, there are smaller areas on which fruit and vegetables are grown. With 550 species, Santorini is very rich in ferns and seed plants. The island's fauna is much poorer in species with only five mammals (black rat, house mouse, European rabbit, southern white-breasted hedgehog and an unidentified type of bat) and a rather poor reptile fauna.

A sea of flowers on Santorini

Culture - Following the traces of Atlantis

The first settlement of the volcanic islands began 3000 BC. A thousand years later, the Minoan civilisation flourished here but it was ended prematurely around 1500 BC by a volcano eruption. This eruption was so powerful that the resulting flood wave flooded great parts of Crete, thereby ending the Minoan culture. Researchers now think that the two islands are the sunken Atlantis. Excavations revealed the settlement of Akrotiri, which had been covered by a layer of lava and is therefore referred to as the "Pompeii of the Aegean". A visit is highly recommended. The Archaeological Museum of Thira in Fira accommodates a great collection of ancient vases such as the famous stone vases. In addition, there is a Maritime Museum in Oia. Other highlights on the island are the excavation site of Ancient Thera, the cliff coast hiking trail from Fira to Oia and a visit to the neighbouring islands in the volcano's crater (Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni). Pyrgos is a mountain village in the centre of the island and constitutes the oldest settlement which still exists, while Megalochori in the south of the island still has native charm.

The ancient settlement of Akrotiri on Santorini

Experience - Enjoying island atmosphere and the Greek cuisine

Travellers can already see Santorini's extraordinary beauty when they enter the caldera by ship. The first thing you ses is the scenic small town of Oia in the north, followed by the city of Fira. They both lie at the slope of the caldera and are characterised by traditional white houses with blue roofs. Fira impresses with its many winding alleys and roofed stairs, which are waiting to be discovered. You hardly see any traditional Greek villages on Santorini because the island has been fully developed for tourists. Nevertheless, it is very beautiful and characterised by a fascinating atmosphere. The island also has a lot to offer when it comes to food. The white wines from the island, which are produced in many wine-growing areas, are a must for wine lovers. Culinary highlights are fava (chickpea porridge) and keftedes (delicious vegetable burgers). Of course, you also get typical Greek dishes such as Greek salad, moussaka and souvlaki. In the evening, countless taverns and discos invite visitors to enjoy Santorini's vibrant nightlife. Besides the typical souvenirs, travellers can buy precious jewellery.

Fava on Santorini

Activities - On the back of a donkey

A trip to Santorini is not only a memorable experience for families but also for water sports fans and party-goers. Visitors can relax at one of the stunning beaches and swim in the sea by day and visit the island's many bars and discos by night. Water sports fans will have a lot of fun going diving and snorkelling. During sunset, you should be in one of the taverns at the edge of the caldera or climb the island's highest mountain Profitis Ilias to enjoy the unique panoramic view of the archipelago. The sun transforms the island's landscape into a sea of gold. Holidaymakers can reach Skala Harbour in two ways: either by cable car or climbing the hundreds of steps of the famous stairs. Visitors who go for the stairs can choose between going on foot or on the back of a donkey. Despite the island's small size, there are excellent bus connections. You can reach and explore all destinations on the island starting from the bus station in Fira. In addition, travellers can go on a round trip by car, scooter or quad.

The donkeys on Santorini on the famous stair

Information

The best way of arriving on the island is by plane via the Santorini Airport (JTR). You can also arrive by ship. There are connections to many Cycladic Islands, Crete and the mainland (via the harbour in Pireaus). Most locals call the island "Thira", which is something you need to know when you want to buy a ferry ticket, for example.

Santorini is a real treasure for families and water sports fans but most of all for culture enthusiasts who are not only interested in Greek history but also in the legendary Atlantis.

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