Santorini, a volcanic island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, Greece, claimed to be ancient Atlantis by some scientists and fiction writers. Characterized by a big volcano explosion at 1600 BC which gave its current half moon shape, and dotted with small islands in the middle of the caldera, once forming part of the same island called “Strogili”.
Living on the edge of a volcanic crater is indeed a unique experience. Traditionally, villagers used to build cave houses by digging the cliff of the volcano, a perfect shelter from the weather and pirates. These caves remain till today and renovated they are provided as accommodation to visitors and tourists.
One of the most picturesque places to visit is the village of Oia located at the north side of the island at 12 km from the capital Fira, easily accessible via public transport with several buses running during the day. Filled with a lot of traditional cave houses and historical churches, Oia is famous for its sunset and for its romantic restaurants and cafes. The village is consisted of small and narrow marble or stone laid pathways. For those interested in photography Oia is an ideal to place to start experimenting with its bright and luminous sunlight.
Activities include day boat trips to the volcano and the island across, Thirassia. The trip starts at 10am with a stop at the volcano and the hot springs. A mud bath at the hot springs is highly recommended but make sure that you have a spare swimming suit. The trip continues to Thirassia across to stop at Corfos bay for a snack. The steps up from Corfos Bay lead to the capital of Thirassia, Manolas. From there you can experience another breathtaking view of the caldrera from a different angle. Manolas is a traditional village and you will be surprised by the silence around you. You can walk around to explore and feel for a while its quiet life. After Thirassia the boat leaves again towards Amoudi bay for the end of the trip at 4pm.
For a more private and romantic getaway, sunset cruises are also organized. The boats are usually catamarans which also provide catering. They leave Oia at 4pm and return after sunset. This is a very beautiful way to see the sunset, sailing and watching the sun slowly diving at the sea.
Another activity is to follow the hiking path from Oia to Fira. The path runs around the edge of the cliff taking approximately two and a half hours to complete at an easy pace. The road is winding, walking up and down the cliffs but very rewarding. You can see the different layers of soil as they were cut by the blast of the explosion and have an idea about the geological structure of the island. Also you will experience the wild life of Santorini and especially birds. Towards its end, the path slowly becomes paved and as you pass through Imerovigli you arrive finally to Fira to stop for a drink. For the hike it is recommended to have a hat, water and a mobile phone. To end the excursion you can visit the Prehistoric Museum in Fira, open until 8pm except Mondays and take a glance at the life, culture and art of the island before the explosion.
Santorini is also very famous for its wine varieties. Its most famous ones are Vinsanto, a sweet and strong red wine and Asyrtiko, a white table wine. There are a lot of wineries and wine museums and make sure that you have a full day to explore. Also you have to taste the traditional fava beans accompanied with kaltsounia – a local variety of cucumber – and small tomatoes.
Another beautiful activity is to visit Ancient Thira, located at the south of the island in between Kamari and Perissa. An option is to drive or take the public bus to Perissa and from there hike to Ancient Thira. The ruins of the city are aged from 800BC to 300AD and you will see the civilizations that have lived on the island during this period, mainly Greeks, Egyptians and Romans. At the end you can return to Perissa for a long swim and a meal at one of the many sea side taverns.
Famous beaches include Kamari, Perissa, Red and White Beach at the southern part of the island and Baxedes, Kolumbo and Amoudi Bay near Oia.
If you want to experience the “magic blue” as we like to call it, Santorini is definetely the place to choose and Oia in particular a very idyllic spot to stay. Be prepared for a memorable holiday, one that you will probably speak for a long time.
Author and photography, Coronae Borealis Oia Santorini