View of Fira in Santorini, Greece, in the afternoon https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Fira#/media/File:Thira_afternoon_(1204436245).jpg Wolfgang Staudt
Santorini is a group of islands on the Aegean Sea in Greece. It is a volcanic island that owes its semi circular shape to a massive eruption - one of the largest in recorded history - that occured some 3500 years ago. This eruption left a huge caldera which is now partly submerged into the sea. I want to offer you a glimpse on this gorgeous Greek island, with details on getting there.
The name Santorini refers to the group of islands, but the name is often used to indicate the largest of these islands, which is otherwise known as Thera or Thira. Santorini is located about 200km southeast of the Greece mainland. It is in fact a group of islands, of which the main island and the main town on that island are both called Thira (also written Thera and Fira). Nevertheless, the island of Thira is usually simply referred to as Santorini, to differentiate it from the town of Thira.
As the southernmost island in the Cyclades group, Santorini is situated between the islands of Ios and Anafi. What makes it famous the world over are the spectacular views from its slopes, especially the picturesque village of Oia (also written Ia) at sunset.
Oia is located on the northern part of the island of Thira. It overlooks the sea on two sides, Ammoudi Bay on the west, and Armeni Bay on the east. The western side is the place to be to watch the sunset.
Of late, Oia has become a major tourist village. Visitors come to explore its meandering lanes, take photographs and have a relaxing meal in its restaurants. To avoid the crowds, one should visit it in the morning, before the cruise ships disgorge their load of passengers. One day is not sufficient at Oia, one should plan a vacation of a few days, to make the trip worthwhile.
Oia can be reached from the central bus station in Thira. Alternatively take a taxi from the port in Thira. It costs 20 euros per group. Be forewarned that the road from Thira to Oia is extremely winding.
About Santorini's Volcanic Eruptions
The eruption that created Santorini is believed to be one of the most violent in recorded history. Archaeological discoveries made in 2006 noted that as much as 61 cubic kilometres of magma and rock were expelled.
This is a lot higher than the previous estimate of 39 cubic kilometres made in 1999. The centre of the eruption is now a small island just north of the island of Nea Kameni. The eruption layered Santorini with a deposit of white tephra which is as much as 60m thick. It consists of three distinct layers indicating three different phases of eruption.
Santorini's Ancient History
One of the earliest settlements on Santorini was founded by the Phoenicians around 1200BC. The town of Thira is said to be named by the Dorian Greeks, who founded a city on Mesa Vouno around the 9th century BC. The city is named after their leader Theras.
Doric inscriptions in stone have been discovered by archaeologists. In the Peloponnesian War in the 5th century BC, Thera, which sided with Sparta, lost the war to Athen, and was occupied until the Battle of Aegospotami, in 404BC, with the defeat of Athens. Thera was part of the Roman Empire until it divided, and then it became part of the Byzantine Empire.
In the 13th century, Venetians settled on Thera and annexed it to the Duchy of Naxos. They gave it the name Santorini, meaning Saint Irene, one of the best known saints among the Greeks. Santorini came under Ottoman rule in 1579, and remained so until it was annexed by Greece in 1912.
How to get to Santorini
Most people (apart from those who come by cruise ship) arrive at the Santorini National Airport at Kamari village, on the east side of the island.
Regular flights taking approximately 30 min are provided by Olympic Airways and Aegean Airlines connecting it to Athens. Airlines servicing the airport are Aegean Airlines (Athens, Milan-Malpensa, Rome-Fiumicino, Thessalonki), Air Berlin (Nuremberg), Austrian Airlines (Vienna, Graz), Condor Airlines (Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart), First Choice Airways (London-Gatwick, Manchester), Jetairfly (Brussels), Lauda (Saltzburg, Linz), MyAir (Milan-Malpensa, Milan-Orio Al Serio), Olympic Airlines (Athens, Thessaloniki [seasonal], Rhodes [seasonal]), Scandinavian Airlines (Stavanger, Oslo, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen [seasonal]), Sky Express (Heraklion, Rhodes, Mykanos, Samos), Thomas Cook Airlines (London-Gatwick, Manchester), Thomsonfly (London-Gatwick, Manchester), and XL Airways (London-Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle).
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