Santorini (Thira) Island, Greece

Santorini, one of the most famous islands of the Aegean, differs from the other islands of the Cyclades thanks to its geographical morphology, the result of the activity of a now dormant volcano. The large eruption which took place in the 16th century B.C. caused large parts of the island to sink and created a large crater (caldera), a phenomenon rarely seen anywhere in the world. Some scientists make indeed a connection between Santorini and ancient Atlantis. The steep coastline to the west gives way to vast beaches on the east side, some of them sandy and others with pebbles. From the landing-place, Athinios, we can climb up to Fira, the capital, on foot, go by car or on donkeyback. There is a funicular railway for those who wish to avoid the hundreds of steps. Fira is very attractive, with winding narrow streets, arcades and a quarter where the Catholic nobility once dwelt.

There is a most important Archaeological Museum, with a large collection of vases dating from the 7th and 6th centuries BC (including the pieces known as “Thera ware”), a few Archaic and Classical pieces, and some Hellenistic and Roman sculptures and portraits, as well as the Museum of Prehistorical Thera, with an exhibition of the finds from Akrotiri and other areas of the island, dating from the neolithic era up to the 17th century B.C. There is a superb view from Fira to the Kamenes, the two islets of black stone created by the volcano. The islets can be visited by launch. Ancient Thira is a site of great archaeological interest which was occupied by Phoenicians, Dorians, Romans and Byzantines. Down the centre of the city runs the Sacred Way. The buildings include groups of houses, marketplaces, baths, theatres, sanctuaries, the residence of Ptolemy Euergetes, tombs of the Archaic and Classical periods and Early Christian remains. On the surrounding rocks the names of the god Apollo and of men and boys are inscribed in the ancient alphabet of Thira. The site at Akrotiri, one of the most significant archaeological sites of Greece, has yielded the remains of a Minoan city destroyed around 1500 BC by an eruption of the volcano. In effect, this is a prehistoric version of Pompeii buried beneath volcanic ash, with two and three-storeyed houses, with squares, shops, workshops and so on. Among the finds from the houses are marvellous murals (on display in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens), vases, and every-day utensils. On the highest peak of Santorini is a monastery of the Prophet Elijah (Profitis Ilias), where a picturesque religious feast is held on 20 July each year.

The traditional village of Ia, 11 km. to the north of Fira, is a place of incomparable beauty. The unique appeal of Ia lies in its little houses hewn out of the soft rock (some of them whitewashed, others painted blue or ochre), its neo-classical mansions with their courtyards, its narrow paved alleys. There is a superb view out to sea, while it is also famous for its sunset. Also of interest are the villages of Imerovigli, (which has been declared a preservable settlement), with a marvellous view of the entire area, and medieval Pyrgos. Among the best bathing beaches - some of them with black sand and others with pebbles - are Kamari or Armeni, Amoudi, Baxedes, Perivolos, Perissa, Monolithos and Kokini Paralia. Finally, it is worthwhile to take an undersea trip with the submarine Atlantis. Trips take place only during the summer. The peculiarities of the natural environment, the unusual architecture and the outstanding monuments of Santorini attract very large numbers of visitors in the summer.

 

Useful telephone numbers:

Police: 22860 22.649

Community Office: 22860 22.231

Archaeological Museum : 22860 22.217

Museum of Prehistorical Thera: 22860 23.217

Airport: 22860 31.525