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Santorini, Greece

Destination:
Santorini is a volcanic island in the Cyclades group of the Greek islands. It is located between Ios and Anafi islands. It is famous for dramatic views, stunning sunsets from

Oia town

, the strange white aubergine (eggplant), the town of Thera and naturally its very own active volcano. There are naturally fantastic beaches such as the beach of Perissa, maybe the best beach in Santorini, the black pebble beach of Kamari, white beach and red beach.

Villages and Towns

There are several villages and towns on Santorini Island, four of which are perched along the top of the crescent-shaped cliff of the caldera.
  • Fira

    - the main stunning cliff-perched town, featuring all that Oia has, but much more overcrowded.
  • Karterados - 2km south of Fira. Here you can find the traditional Santorini architecture.
  • Kamari

    - black pebble beach.
  • Firostefani - just 10 minutes walking distance from Fira, offering unique views of the volcano and sunset from it cliff-perched site.
  • Imerovigli - small resort town perched on the cliff a short bus ride away from Fira. Has absolutely stunning views of the sunset (all the way down to the horizon) and of Oia.
  • Oia or Ia - for unforgettable sunsets, probably the most charming cliff-perched place on the island.
  • Pyrgos - highest point on the island; picturesque monastery and streets, can compete with Oia.
  • Perissa - Nice, well-organized beaches and good Greek fish taverns.
  • Megalochori -Traditional village with a lot of old white cycladic churches.
  • Akrotiri - Visit the archeological site of Aktotiri. Stunning history. Visit the Venetian Castle and on the top with amazing views the tower La Ponta- Greek Bagpipe exhibition workshop-Daily music!
  • Mesaria - The centre of the island. There is a small market on the road every morning with fresh fish. Do not miss the Argiros Estate to see a 19th century house fully rebuilt.
  • Monolithos - Nice beach and a few good taverns. Very good for children, as the water is shallow.
  • Vlichada - a small village and a beach.
  • Vothonas - a small rock village, the church of St. Ann is here. Architecturally it is the strangest village on the island, as all the buildings were cut from the ravine that it is in.
Also there's Thirasia, a village on the nearby island with the same name--visited by fewer tourists. There are daily excurisions to the Kameni (volcano) Island which also reach Thirasia island.

Understand

An alternative name for Santorini is Thira. Santorini is also a name for the family of islands surrounding Thira, once forming a single island prior to a major volcanic event in approximately 1628 B.C.E.
The small island cradles a rich variety of landscapes and villages. Visit traditional architecture in the small village of Mesa Gonia containing a mixture of ruins from the 1956 earthquake and restored villas as well as a winery at the foot of the settlement. Pyrgos is another notable village set inland with its grand old houses, remains of a Venetian castle and several Byzantine churches.
The island has one natural source of fresh water, a small spring situated in a cave behind a small chapel located halfway up the steep footpath between Kamari and the entrance to Ancient Thera. It only provides a small quantity; it is of good quality as it comes from the only remaining limestone outcrop of the pre-volcanic island. Prior to the early 1990's, it was necessary for water to be delivered to the island via tanker from Crete. However, most hotels and homes now have access to water provided by a local desalination plant. While this water is potable, it is still rather salty, so most everyone drinks bottled water while visiting Santorini.
Fira is the fiery capital, a marriage of Venetian and Cycladic architecture, whose white cobblestone streets bustle with shops, tavernas, hotels and cafes, while clinging to the rim of the caldera nine hundred feet above the its port. If arriving by sea you can take a cable car up from the port or alternatively take a trip on one of the hundreds of mules up the 588 zigzagging steps. You could also attempt to walk up the steps but be warned, they are winding, narrow in parts with only low walls, they are covered in donkey excrement and the donkeys themselves will make no attempt to avoid you.
Walking north from Fira for about twenty minutes will bring you to Imerovigli, where you can take in the magnificent views of the island’s unique scenery from the tiny town.
At the northern end of the caldera is the quintessentially Santorininian town of Oia, also spelled Ia and pronounced EE-ah, with its whitewashed walls sunk into the volcanic rock and its blue domes rising above the sterling beauty of the stunning, russet Ammoudi Bay. At dusk, the town attracts crowds of people venturing to see the sunset. Santorini's sunsets, as viewed from Oia, are reputed to be among the world's most beautiful.
Due to the spectacular and unique natural beauty of Santorini, many Greek singers have chosen the island as the setting of their videos. Greek and Brazilian TV series have been shot of Santorini, as well as some Hollywood movies (e.g. Tomb Raider II). Generally Santorini is a pole of attraction for Greek and international celebrities.

Get around

The island has a public bus service, with buses costing € 1.60, € 1.80 and € 2.20. Buses run between every 30 minutes to every other hour. The buses occasionally miss trips, and some drivers are less than friendly. Buses are air-conditioned but may be overcrowded during the high season. If you prefer getting a private or shuttle transfer from airport or port to your destination or even a private tours service throughout the island, there are companies such as Santorini Transport offering such services. In addition, there are "hop on hop off" private bus services. Boats also run between major coastal towns on the island.
Cars can be rented from € 45 a day from Santorini Car Hire by Damigos Rent a Car. An international driving permit is recommended. Without one, many car rental places will rent cars, but travel guides have mentioned tourists having insurance problems in case of accident. Scooters and 4-wheelers (quads or all-terrain-vehicles) are available to rent starting at about €15 or €30 per day, respectively. A drivers license is required to rent these 4-wheelers. Be aware that most of the people in Santorini are tourists. As a result, road conditions are extremely unsafe, with many people driving by the laws and conventions of nearly every country in the world.
A popular method of getting around is to rent ATVs, though the "all-terrain" part is a misnomer, as most ATV riders are tourists riding on the paved road. ATVs share the road with other drivers and are usually all over the island. The island is small enough to travel around on an ATV, and is a cost-effective way to self-explore the further reaches of Santorini. ATV rental shops are all around the island, so it's best to ask your hotel owner/concierge on the closest/most trusted vendor. You will need your local driver's license to ride one of these, and a helmet is recommended.
Some hotels advise booking a taxi in advance, as there are not enough available taxis on the island during high season. As is the rule in the Cyclades, taxi fares are typically shared between multiple passengers, so don't be surprised if your cabbie picks up more passengers during your trip.
It takes about 50 minutes to drive the island from end to end (from Vlichada to Ia).
By bicycle
The island is small enough that it can be thoroughly explored by bicycle, or with a few bus trips, by foot. Bicycle rentals are fairly hard to find - most places advertising bike rentals refer to motorbikes, rather than bicycles. The maps are designed for hikers, however, so the recommended routes are impassable by bicycle.
Santorini is not very bicycle-friendly - there are no dedicated bicycle routes, so you must share roads with vehicular traffic. In addition, the island is very hilly. The traffic was more friendly to bicycles than to pedestrians or other vehicular traffic, however.
By foot
Recommended routes by foot include the amazing walk from Fira to Oia (note that this walk is less nice in reverse, it can take less than three hours but can be difficult, for up and downhill climbs, the rocky surface at times, and the proximity to unprotected cliffs that drop sharply into the caldera) along the caldera, as well as the paths over Perissa Rock connecting Perissa, Kamari, and Pyrgos. The walk between Perissa and Kamari is fairly short (via Ancient Thera), while the walk to Pyrgos is somewhat longer, passing through the highest point on the island.

See

Santorini is one of the great natural wonders of the world, and its main attraction is the landscape and seascape of the island itself. The configuration of the present, roughly semicircular island is the result of an enormous volcanic explosion which occurred probably around 1630 bce, literally blowing the top off the island and changing what had been a typical half-submerged mountain of an Aegean island into a flooded crescent caldera, in the middle of which a few small smoking islands still bear witness to volcanic activity. Some have speculated that this event was the inspiration for the myth of Atlantis. The towns of Fira, Ia (also known as Oia) and Thirasis cling to the steep cliffs facing into the caldera bay. Tours to the central "smoking" islands are readily available and one can see and feel steam vents and recent (1950s) lava flows.
Another popular reason for coming to Santorini are the legendary sunsets, some of the most spectacular in the world. Ia is one of the few places on the island which is both close to a sea and offers a good view to a sunset over the sea: in other towns, the sun disappears behind the volcano.
Additionally the town of Fira is stunning.
Be sure to explore the areas outside of the towns. There is beautiful countryside where tradition still survives. Cave houses (both abandoned and occupied), gardens, vineyards, small family business, and tiny churches are there to be discovered.
Santorini ranks among top destinations for wedding celebrations for at least 4 years - primarily for sunset and peace, like those in Oia. Couples often arrive with few friends, stay in Ia (places like Fanari Villas). Groups often arrive in the beginning of the week - judging by demand for cabrios and number of corteges seen on Mondays compared to weekends.
While the island is full of medium- and top-cost hotels and villas, there are still lots of abandoned caves and modest private houses where noone seems to live for a long time - even in western Oia where every inch seems to be occupied by some villa. And this doesn't seem to change for years, judging by 2001-2005.
  • Thirassia: small island near Santorini; place with more authentic villages, buildings and even churches. Take a look at hymnasia: in the yard, pupil painted children on the walls.
  • Boat excursions: volcano island (Nea Kameni) - hot springs (Palia Kameni) - Thirassia.
  • From Ia: departure from Ammoudi bay at 10:50AM (starting and end point); a bit later from Armeni bay. 1hr 30min at volcano island; 45min for hot springs; 2hrs for Thirassia (incl. time for lunch). Meals are not included, normally the guide advises you to visit Captain Jack's tavern, which is self service if you arrive with a big group or operates with waiters if you don't. This restaurant serves amazing fresh seafood at the cheapest prices. Testament to how good it is, is the fact you will notice that none of the adjacent restaurants are ever busy. Only this one.
  • Faros. A lighthouse near Akrotiri, west of the southern part of the island. Rocky cliff, interesting for taking photos. Although you cannot enter the lighthouse, which is run by Greek Navy, it's a great and tranquil place for taking photos.  
  • A viewpoint behind Iris hotel (close to center of the island): great for taking sunset photos with a sea and palm trees.

Beaches

Public beaches do not seem to have showers or places for changing.
  • Black Beach - see Kamari and Perissa.
  • Red Beach - it's worth taking the Red Beach/Akrotiri bus from Fira and then climbing over the very rocky trails to get here (though there are water taxis and various schooners that make their way here as well). Red Beach earns its name from the iron-rich sedimentary rocks in the cliff face towering above you, as well as the red sand. It's quite crowded; you can rent an umbrella and a pair of chaise lounges for € 8, though there is also some good free space nearby that gets packed by midday. The first few meters of the water near the shore are quite gravelly, so be prepared to step on some stones. Women are frequently topless. Many distant yachts can be seen from the beach - it looks really romantic at sunset time. Great snorkeling - an abundance of sea life is present, as with Perissa. The tavernas built into the caves on Red Beach seem to have no electricity or running water, so if you eat or use the washrooms there, bring along hand sanitizer!
  • White Beach - available only from the sea; get there by boat from Red Beach or Akrotiri. There is no pier so the only way to get there is by getting of the boat and walking through water that starts at about you waist. It is very small with only a few beds.
  • Vlychada - this is a nude beach. On the left side of the beach, you will see that people are clothed, but as you go toward the right, you will find everyone in nude. An umbrella with 2 chaise longues cost €5 if you stay on the left side of the beach.
  • Amoudi - this is not really a beach with sand, but is a wonderfully secluded swimming area reachable from Oia. There is a road around the far side of Oia that leads down to a small parking lot. From there, you can reach the swimming area on foot past a few small restaurants. There is also a platform on a large rock that people can swim to and dive off.
  • Perivolos - lighter sand than Perissa beach, and is very enjoyable when the North Wind is blowing. It has beach bars and restaurants that makes it feel like a "beach day club".
  • Monolithos - quiet but well organized beach with all the comforts of the other beaches such as clubs, restaurants, and umbrellas.
  • Baxedes - this is the main beach at the north side of the Island. Baxedes is a peaceful place with black sand, it is much more like how Santorini was like before tourists discovered the island. This is not the best beach when the north wind is blowing. It is easiest to get there by rented or private car or motorbike.
  • Pori - this is an amazing beach on the east side of Santorini where the rocks have a very unique red color to them. This is an excellent beach for those who do not mind walking a bit to get there. No facilities, restaurants, or shopping are located here.
  • Mesa pigadia - A beautiful rocky beach near the nature side of the island by the town Akrotiri. About 800 meters away from the Akrotiri main road there are restaurants on the beach itself. There are several ways to reach the beach which include driving, biking, or taking a small boat from Akrotiri. The price is about € 7 for the ride and another € 7 to rent an umbrella.
  • Agios georgios - at the southern tip of the Santorini this beach has everything from water sports to beach bars. There are a few small taverns here and it is the perfect spot to have a quiet swim and avoid the massive crowds. You can reach this beach from Emporio and Perissa by rented or private car. Walking is also an option.
Wineries
  • Volcan Wines Museum & Winery: +30 2286 31322. open 12PM-8PM.
  • Santo Wines: open 9AM-sunset (the only winery that charges a fee for a tour).
  • Argiros Estate: Mesa Gonia near Kamari.
  • Roussos winery: Mesa Gonia near Kamari.
  • Boutari winery: Megalochori.
  • Venetsanos Winery: Megalochori; open 10:00 - 22:00.
  • Hatzidakis winery: Pyrgos.

Do

  • Walk along the caldera from Fira to Oia
  • Climb to see Ancient Thera, or more ambitiously, the monastery, for an amazing view of the ocean, beaches, and island from up high.
  • Horseback riding in Exo Gonia
  • Scuba diving and snorkling. Even non-qualified divers can dive up to 14 metres down on a wreck next to the volcano.
  • Caldera Cruise and Oia Sunset
  • Plan your wedding in Santorini
  • Santorini Yachting club (Santorini Yachting club), Oia 84702, Santorini, Greece. Live an incomparable experience that provides the opportunity to explore virgin bays, swim in transparent waters and gaze at a fantastic scenery.  
Historic sights
Akrotiri, in the south, a roughly 3,500 year old Minoan town preserved in volcanic ash like Pompeii, is one of Santorini's "must-sees". The excavation site is covered by a roofing system, which makes it something that you can comfortably visit no matter what time of year. The ruins are extremely well preserved. Streets, buildings, stairs and even second floors of buildings are still visible. Visitors can stand in the ruins and look at Minoan pottery and frescoes, and with a little imagination, feel what it would have been like to live in ancient Greece. Due to an accident in September 2005, the excavation site was temporarily closed to the public, but as of April 2012, the site is once again open.
Ancient Thera, the Classical city of the island is on Mesa Vouno, 396 m. above sea level. It was founded in the 9th century B.C. by Dorian colonists whose leader was Theras, and continued to be inhabited until the early Byzantine period. The preserved ruins belong to the Hellenistic and Roman phases of the city. The residential area and the larger part of the cemeteries were excavated by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902. The cemeteries on the NE and NW slopes of Sellada were excavated by N. Zapheiropoulos in the years 1961-1982.
Fira has the Museum of Prehistoric Thera that contains some of the artifacts, which were found in the ruins of Akrotiri. So first visit Akrotini, where the items came from and then Thera to understand what the items are. The museum has more pots, pottery and other household items than you can shake an antique stick at, but the highlight is the frescoes of the blue monkeys - a mystery since historians say there is no evidence that there were ever monkeys on Santorini.
Also in Fira, near the cable car station, is the Archeological Museum that contains artifacts from various eras. Most of the exhibits are dated from the Classic and Roman period from the ancient town of Thera and it's cemeteries.
Architecture
The Cycladic Islands are world-famous for their picturesque towns of cubic white-washed homes and blue-domed churches. Santoríni is especially famous for the towns of Firá and Oía, whose white and pastel-colored homes and churches - seemingly stacked on top of each other - are perched on the cliffs of the caldera. Many of these traditional homes are built on cliff-side caves, thus having a much larger interior than their exterior would suggest. The architecture of Santoríni's picturesque towns is typically Cycladic, but with strong neoclassical and baroque influences visible in many of the island's churches and public buildings.
The arts
While Santorini cannot claim a prominent art collection, why not see some local and international artists work by visiting the Art Space Gallery and Winery in the small village of Exo Gonia, on the way between Fira and Kamari. Art Space is a winery built in 1830, an old canava. Also an museum with old installations for raki and tomato-juice. Owned by the same family (Argyros) for three generations.
Scenery and nature
The landscape here - the blue sky, the little white houses perched on gigantic rocks on hills that plummet to the sea, the lemon and orange groves, the pink and white churches that look like pastrycakes, the faces and warmth and expressiveness of the Greek people - little wonder this may be the most photographed scenery in the world.
Scuba and Snorkelling
Santorini has 5 dive shops. Prices are typically around € 80 for two dives, including equipment rental, transport, and usually, a light lunch. The offerings are otherwise quite similar. Prices are sometimes lower when booked directly through dive shop, rather than through a travel agency. Try the Mediterranean Dive Club (divecenter.gr, info@divecenter.gr). Their dive station is on Caldera Beach near Akrotiri, but they also have an office on Perissa Beach. There are also two dive shops in Kamari: Navy's Waterworld Dive Center (+30 22860 28 190), and Aegean Divers (+30 22860 33210, info@aegeandivers.com).
Diving, visibility is amazing, but there are not as many fish as more popular scuba and snorkelling locations. Dive sites include a wreck near the volcano, caverns, reefs, as well as wall diving. The wall dive is the most interesting. Octopus are not uncommon. To minimize environmental damage, all five dive shops go to the same locations (although not at the same time), with moorings shared by all the dive shops. If you want to go to a specific dive site, call ahead, and find out which dive shops are heading to which locations on which day (or ask to go to a specific location).
Recommended sites for snorkelling include Mesa Pigadia beach, somewhat out (some people recommended a diving buoy for boat safety), the beach South of Oia, as well as Perissa Rock (esp. somewhat further around the rock). There are supposed to be some nice spots between Perivolos and Vlichada Beach as well. The beach on Thirasia also has some reasonable snorkelling. Caldera Beach, near Akrotiri, has a few amazing snorkelling spots. When walking down to Caldera Beach (follow the signs to Santorini Dive Center), you will see some rock formations further out into the water. If you can find those once in the water, and swim to them, you will find wonderful snorkelling.
Virtually all beach-side shops will sell cheap, low-quality snorkelling gear.

Buy

  • Atlantis Books. The largest selection of English language books on the island. Also stocks Greek, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch.
  • Santoríni is one of Greece's most prominent wine regions, whose wines enjoy special designation of origin status from the European Union. The method of growing grapes (with vines close to the earth and individual vines spaced far apart from each other) is unique to the island, with its dry soil and windy climate. Wineries open to the public are located throughout the island.
  • Buy Santorini wines on Iama Wine Store in Oia.Very nice shop with all Santorini wines and over 350 labels of other Greek and international wines.
  • Activities Santorini Sea Kayak, Akrotiri, 00306951801051. Sea Kayak, Stand Up Paddling, Rock Climbing and hiking activities.  

Eat

Santorini specials include: the white aubergine (eggplant); fava caper ; a variety of tomato keftedes, with whole slices of tomatoes fried in batter; dolmades, stuffed vine leaves. Another must-try is fresh fish grilled in tavernas, esp. those close to a sea.
If you decide to eat or drink in a taverna overlooking the caldera or having a good view to a sunset, expect higher prices than a similar establishment in one of the many side-streets as you are charged extra for the view – but what a view!
For those who enjoy the Mediterranean diet - fresh fish, vegetables, and meat dishes can be found at several moderately priced restaurants (average 40 Euros for two) in Imerovigli, Oia, and Fira. To save money, stay away from places that are overtly commercial and go to the family run fish taverns located nearby the smaller beaches and communities. restaurants in santorini
Gyros places are everywhere.
Don't miss the traditional fried tomato balls of tomato keftedes and be sure to ask for local tomatoes in your salad. They may be the best tasting you have ever had. Santorini is particularly well known for its cherry tomatoes which are very sweet. The cherry tomatoes are usually sundried or sometimes made into sweet tomato marmalade.

Drink

Wineries
Tour local wineries and enjoy the local wines, well thought of, if not world famous. A combination of climatic factors and the tastes of those who have occupied and lived on the island have formed an eclectic cuisine.

Contact

There are some local radio stations in Santorini, mainly in Greek language. When in Santorini, turn your radio at: Volcano Radio at 106.4 MHz and Top Melody Fm Radio at 104.9 MHz.
Internet
You can find internet cafes in Kamari, Perissa, Thera (wireless access also available) and in Oia. As of year 2014, most hotels and cafes offer free Wi-Fi Internet access (available even on the beach). (at least, in Perissa, Perivolos and Kamari),
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