After a rocky nine-hour ferry ride from Rodos, I arrived early Tuesday morning in Santorini. It’s the largest island in a circular archipelago of the same name. Santorini is about 120 miles southeast of Greece’s mainland and part of the Cyclades group of volcanic islands.
It was 1:00 am when the ferry arrived but the island’s spectacular volcanic rock formation was even clear at that hour of the day. It was raining with thunder and lightning and the storm lasted most of the day. Summer season doesn’t begin until late June and spring storms continue in May.
The archipelago is the remains of a volcanic caldera formed after the Minoan eruption 3,600 years ago. It’s known as one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history.
“A popular romantic theory holds that the Minoan eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis.”
The Santorini archipelago consists of six islands but only two have inhabitants – Thira and Thirassia.
Most tourists spend their time on Thira, the largest island at 28 square miles. Thira has several towns, historic sites, and famous beaches. Thirassia is mostly untouched by civilization and has a rocky, difficult to navigate landscape.
There are five major villages and towns on Santorini – Fira, Oia, Kamari, Perissa, and Akrotiri. Fira is Santorini’s capital, and main transportation hub. It’s known for cliff-side boutiques, trendy restaurants and clubs, and fancy expensive hotels.
Oia is north on the tip of the archipelago and has a world-famous dazzling sunset which can make the whole town “glow as if it were on fire”. An earthquake devastated Oia in 1956. Residents rebuilt by carving buildings into the cliff side. Like Cappadocia in Turkey, Oia is has romantic cliff-side cave hotels. Greeks call this type of accommodation a “yposkafo”.
My hotel is in Kamari, a traditionally Greek village known for black-sand beaches and crystal-clear water. Perissa is a recently developed town south of Kamari. Like Kamari it has beautiful black-sand beaches.
“Named by the Latin Empire in the thirteenth century, Santorini is a reference to Saint Irene, from the name of the old cathedral in the Greek village of Perissa.”
Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elijah) Mountain is named after the monastery at its top. The mountain is north of Perissa and has a great hiking trail that leads to the ruins of Ancient Thira. I hope to hike the trail to the ruins and walk from Fira to Oia. Still have vertigo after the long ferry ride so will do more sedentary things for a few days. I have also heard about the famous mule ride up the caldera.
Akrotiri is “Greece’s Pompeii” and “features the remains of Ancient Akrotiri preserved beneath layers of lava after a volcanic eruption”. Akrotiri has Santorini’s famous red-sand beach surrounded by towering red volcanic cliffs.