Officially known as Thira, Santoirini is part of the Cycladic island group on the Aegean Sea, located roughly halfway between Athens and Crete. In the Ancient times the island was called Stongili (which means round in Greek) due to its round shape.
It’s quite possible that Santorini is one of the most photographed places in the world, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.
Santorini is famous for its cliff-side homes, which are painted blazing white with deep blue roofs. If you are looking for a romantic getaway, this is the place.
Santorini is quite a small island, the area is only 76km². The length of the island is 16 km and the width varies between 1 and 5 km. It takes roughly 45 minutes to drive from one end of Santorini to the other.
Around 1,500 BC the island suffered a huge volcanic explosion, which 1/4 of the island sank breaking it in 3 pieces: SANTORINI, THIRASIA and APRONISSI. Probably one of the largest explosions on Earth in the last few thousand years.
The eruption had global impact and evidence can be found all over the northern Hemisphere. Ash and pumice reached the stratosphere, and created a darkness which lasted for 2 weeks, and a winter which lasted for 2 years.
What remains today of Santorini is a crescent-shaped island with a huge caldera (a crater created by the volcanic eruption) on its western side. The caldera is surrounded by the steep cliffs of Santorini and the island of Thirassia.
Santorini volcanic eruption was one of the biggest explosions in recorded history, and is responsible for giving for the island its unique caldera shape. On a boat trip, you’ll be able to walk the surface of volcano and enjoy some hot springs.
As far as Greek beaches go, Santorini lacks the idyllic, white sandy beachfront that the other islands have. Instead, they’re made up of volcanic rock and pebbles. This doesn’t discourage anyone, though, and you’ll find most beaches constantly full of people in the summer months as travelers come to soak up the hot sun and Mediterranean vibes.
There are two islands in the middle, the smaller one is the remains of the old volcano (Palea Cameni) and the bigger one is a new volcano (Nea Cameni). Although the new volcano is still active, but right now there is no risk of eruption.
The caldera hike from Fira to Oia is the most popular hike you’ll do in Santorini. It follows the caldera’s edge with sweeping views over the island and the volcano. It’s about eight miles (13 kilometers), but you’ll want to give yourself time to stop and enjoy the viewpoints. Budget at least three hours for the hike and bring sunscreen and water.
If you want the full picturesque experience of Oia without the crowds, head to Pyrgos. This used to be the island’s capital, and it still has all whitewashed homes, pristine chapels, and narrow alleyways that you imagine when you think of Santorini, but without the chaos.
On a sailing trip, you’ll get unique views of Santorini’s calderas and its cliffside buildings you otherwise wouldn’t see from shore. There are lots of sunset cruises available, and the best ones have BBQ and drinks included (and sometimes snorkeling).
Santorini’s shoulder seasons (April to May and September to November) are the best times to visit the island. Mediterranean weather is pleasant year-round, and you’ll still get warm temperatures in the shoulder seasons but without the tourist hordes. Plus, prices are less inflated. The average high is above 64°F (18°C).
Summers (June to August) are really hot, with temperatures averaging 85°F (30°C) each day. The Mediterranean is perfect for swimming and enjoying the beaches, but this is definitely when most people visit, the crowds are annoying, and the prices are through the roof!
The average low temperature in the winter months is 48°F (9°C), but sometimes it can dip even lower due to Santorini’s high altitude.! Pack some sweaters if you’re visiting between November to February. On the upside, you won’t have to compete with tourists for hotel rooms during this time. (But keep in mind that many businesses and services shut down in the off-season so the island is dead.)
You can take a plane from Athens to Santorini. You can easily get a direct flight to Athens from the USA, the UK and Canada.
During the summer season, charters from various European cities have direct flights to Santorini. The charters start from multiple cities, including Paris, London, Prague, Amsterdam, Milan, Rome, Frankfurt, and Naples.
Please note that these flights are not available every day so if none meets with your schedule, your resort will be to travel to Santorini through Athens.
PRO TIP: You probably won’t see a great deal of marine life or coral around Santorini, but the island has shipwrecks and other attractions in spades. You can get down to about 14 meters to see sunken ships, caves, and endless drop-offs around the caldera.
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