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A Visit to Santorini

The picturesque, volcanic island of Santorini famed for its dramatic sunsets belongs to the Greek Cyclades group of islands. It lies between the little known islands of Anafi and Ios and is relatively small in size enabling you to drive from one end to the other in around 50 minutes. One way to explore is on foot or by bike - it's a sure way to take in the opulent landscapes and authentic villages. Some of the villages like Mesa Gonia and Pyrgos display remarkable traditional architecture a mix of ancient and old style grand houses.

Getting There

You can fly to Santorini's Kamari Airport directly from Athens with Aegean Airlines, AirSea Lines or Olympic Airways and this is by far the fastest route at only 30 minutes flight time. However tickets go fast during the summer season. There are also many charter airlines flying in from key European cities. The island is also connected to some of the other islands by Sky Express during the summer making island hoping a great option. Once you have arrived at theairport you can take a bus into Fira and from there take other busses to other towns. There are also plenty of ferries from Paros, Naxos and Piraeus to Santorini's brand new port as well as a daily ferry to Crete during the peak season. If you enjoy travelling by sea then take one of the fast catamarans, like Hellenic Seaway's Highspeed; it will only take 4.5 hours to get to Piraeus from Santorini. Many cruise ships include Santorini on their route through the islands, but they dock near to the old port and you are rowed to the landing bay by local fishermen. Once you are on the quayside you can take the cable car to Fira or ride on a donkey. The island is well served by public buses and taxis as well as little boats that ferry people between the island's key coastal towns.

A Dip Back in Time

The island was created through a succession of volcanic eruptions, whose effects touched the whole of the Aegean Sea as far as Crete. The island used to be known by the names Kallisti, which meant ìthe beautiful oneî and Strogyli, meaning ìthe round oneî.  There have been many settlers over the ages from the Pre-Hellenes and Phoenicians to the Dorians, who called the island Thira in honour of their king, Thiras. In the 16th century BC, the Minoans colonized the island creating a key centre for their civilization.

Sunset Point, Santorini

Geologists estimate that around 1550 - 1500 BC there was a powerful  volcanic eruption, which submerged  the central part of the island and made an enormous basin, the Caldera, 83 square miles in size. When the Persian Wars commenced Santorini joined the Athenian Alliance, but later it was occupied by Sparta.

During Byzantine the rule it became a Christian colony with its own bishop and Christian church. Following the fall of Constantinople in 1204 AD, the Venetians ruled the island and gave it its present name in honour of Santa Irini. By 1207, the island was given to the Venetian Duke of Naxos and although it was captured by the Greeks for a short period, it was reclaimed and stayed under Venetian Rule until 1579, when the Ottoman army conquered it.  It was part of the great Ottoman Empire until it received its independence in 1821. In 1830 it joined the Greek Republic.
In 1956, disaster struck the island when another violent another volcanic explosion brought severe devastation. Notwithstanding, the island picked itself up from this catastrophe to become one of the most well-liked and admired holiday destinations in the world.

Must See

One of the main attractions on this island is its dramatic land and seascapes caused by earlier volcanic explosions have made Santorini one of the world's remarkable natural wonders. If curiosity gets the better of you and you want to learn more about the volcano there are tours to the towns of Fira, Thirasis and Ia, which balance on the sheer cliffs in front of the caldera bay and to the "smoking" islands like Nea Kameni, where you can touch the steam streaming from the vents and collect pieces of lava from the 1956 eruption.

Santorini is famed for its wine production from the locally grown Assyrtiko grape. You can see the vines growing quite a distance apart along the hillsides spiraling down to collect the moisture from the dew on the ground. The grapes are protected from the elements by growing inside the spiral vines. Growing vines is a difficult task in Santorini because the island has no natural source of fresh water; right up until the Nineties water cisterns were filled with rainwater that was collected in water butts as well from a few small springs and from water imported from the mainland. More recently a desalination plant has been built but it does not provide any drinking water. Nevertheless, the wine is produced here is of superb quality particularly the sweet, strong red Vinsanto. The island's whites are very dry a strong, citrus bouquet and a slightly sulfurous taste thanks to the volcanic ash in the soil.