Santorini in Greece

Santorini. Thira. Kamari. Oia. Greece

Island group: Cyclades | Capital: Fira | Population: 11900 | Area: 76 km2 | Highest mountain: 565 m | Airport: Yes

Santorini in Swedish. | Santorini  in Finnish.

Santorini is the most southern of the islands in the Cyclades and the boat trip from the Athens seaport - Piraeus - takes about eight hours. Around 12 000 people live here all year round and they survive mainly on tourism, wine production and fishing. Santorini is the 13th biggest of the islands in the Cyclades measuring 75 km2, which is about the same size as Serifos and Sifnos and about a fifth in size compared to the biggest island in the group, Naxos.

The official name of Santorini is Thira (not to confuse with the capital Fira) and it is the most spectacular place in the entire Greek archipelago. The reason it stands out is due to its dramatic history. For about 3 500 years ago parts of the island sank into the ocean. Back then there were no cheers. Nowadays half a million tourists go to Santorini each year for exactly the same reason. Most parts of the island are exploited and adapted to tourists; some feel that the kitsch and knick-knacks are overly represented. Happily, there are oases where the genuine Greek life continues and it is a shame that more people do not take time to discover the other side of Santorini. In a very general manner one can describe the northern part of the island as over-exploited and the southern as nicely adapted to tourism and in some places totally genuine. No matter what you think of Santorini, the island will not leave anyone untouched, it is impossible to neglect the magical and exciting landscape.

View from Santo Wines.

View from Santo Wines.



Santorini is one of the most accessible islands in the archipelago, to get there you can choose between package tours, spare seats on charter flights, domestic flights or ferry. It is the perfect base station for island hopping, there are excellent connections to the other islands, it is easy to travel to and from Santorini and it is a place well worth seeing in its on right.

Santorini is quite small and you can travel around the entire island in one day, if you go by car. But if you really want to experience the island it takes more time. You can rent cars and mopeds in Fira, Oia, Kamari and Perissa. The bus connections are good and cover more or less the entire island.

The villages on Santorini can be divided into four different categories: a bit touristic, very touristic, totally touristic, and finally the fourth category: genuine villages. The last mentioned type is definitely in minority. Unfortunately you can not escape the fact that the great attractiveness of Santorini has brought along an uncontrolled exploitation. This is most obvious in Fira and Oia. Fortunately there are places to breathe as well, like Megalochori, Emborio and Exo Gonia. Below some of the beautiful villages on Santorini are described.



The lively capital Fira is tickingly beautiful when viewed from afar, but once there it is easy to get a bit disappointed. Sure, the view over the Caldera and the volcano is stunning - no matter how many times you have admired this panorama you will never grow tired of it - but it seems as if the Greek charm went to the bottom of the sea with the last eruption. The narrow alleys are packed with tourist from all over the world looking for kitsch or centimetre-thick golden links. The last years it has become too much of everything. But the view is still amazing. So, if you are yet to visit Santorini I can guarantee that you will forgive all this business going on and let yourself be amazed by the scenic landscape.

Pronounced "Ia" in Greek, Oia is located at the northern peak of the island. The village was partly destroyed in an earthquake in 1956 and is yet to be fully restored. Even though the commerce is fully operating, just like in Fira, it is not as much in your face. The taste of Oia is culture rather than kitsch, there are more art galleries and handcrafts and traditional music is standard in the taverns. The architecture is unbelievable and the houses painted in all the colours of the rainbow. Below Oia lies the painting-like and picturesque harbour Amoudia. The fish taverns lye in a row by the harbour walk and the cosy-o-meter is sky high.

Red beach.

Red beach.

Twelve kilometres south of Fira you find Emborion. With more than 3000 inhabitants it is the biggest society on Santorini and one of the few villages completely unaffected by the tourism. It is a living Greek society all year round, there are several kafenións, schools, ordinary stores for the Greeks themselves, all the signs are in Greek and so on.

Besides the fact that Emborion is a tourist free oasis, there are also a couple of interesting sights to see. It is easy to get lost in the narrow ancient alleys that lead to the top off the village. Many houses lye in ruins, though some are being renovated. In one of the alleys there is a newly opened kafenión with a special interior decoration; here you can get lunch or something to drink. It is actually one of the cutest kafenións I have ever seen, there are five tables outside and two on the inside. Once you reach to top off Emborion you come upon the Castelli (also known as Mezaná), a village in the village which you enter through two vaults, there is one entrance from each side. Inside the little Castelli the minimal alleys winds around ancient houses with beautiful stairways that put your fantasy in motion.

The beaches is not the main reason you go to Santorini. They are not as nice as on many other Greek islands. But Santorini is an island full of different unique features, this is also true in regards to the beaches. Here you can choose a beach depending on which colour of the sand you prefer: red, white or black. Except for their dark colour, some of the beaches are really good, Perissa beach for example. Learn more about some of the beaches below.

The best beach on Santorini starts by the mountain that separate Perissa from Kamari and goes all the way to the fishing harbour Vlychada. Fine black hot sand and crystal clear water for a four kilometres long costal line - what more could you ask? Just like Kamari, Perissa is a place for tourists, alas not as exploited. By the foot of the mountain the hotels, taverns and bars lye on a row along the water. Here are many travel agencies, numerous supermarkets and souvenir stores, a diving school, an cash machine and a camping. A kilometre south of the mountain the beach changes its name Perivolos, this is the part of Perissa that I like the best: less people, finer sand and clearer water.

Next to Fira Kamari is the biggest place for tourists on Santorini. If you travel on a package holiday it is more than likely you will stay here. The beach stretches from the mountain that separate Kamari from Perissa and all the way to the airport. The sand is black and grey, coarse-grained and hot. The beach walk is just as long as the beach and is full of tourist shops, hotel resorts, bars and numerous restaurants. Hotels and pensions take up the space above the beach walk and all kind of shops can be found along the streets.

On some islands it is far between the sights, a few islands might have one special sight to show off, and still some islands have none. On Santorini you do not even have to look for them, the island itself is one big sight. Learn more about some of its special features, below.

Perivolos beach.

Perivolos beach.

Nea Kameni
The volcano is active still and an incredibly popular sight. The boats go out from the old harbour in Fira and tickets are sold through travel agencies and bigger hotels. I think you should take a boat trip to the crater, it is definitely worth the money, but the hike to the top of the volcano might not be worth the effort.

Akrotiri is the great sight on Santorini and one of the most important archaeological spots in entire Greece. Akrotiri was completely buried when the volcano erupted in 1450 BC. It was first in 1967 when the excavations started that you began to understand the importance of this place. Today it is possible to study - in place - how people lead their lives in Minoan Greece. One thing that will impress you is the architectural arts of this time. Some houses are three stores high and it was not unusual to have running water indoors. Akrotiri has been closed since 2006. They might open again 2011.

If you travel on a package holiday to Santorini you will usually stay in Kamari. Otherwise you will off course arrange for an own place to stay and that is as simple as simple gets. Choose Fira or Oia if you want to stay close to the city pulse and be near the Caldera. If you wish to stay by the beach, Kamari or Perissa is your choice. If you want to wake up looking out over the Caldera you can get a room at one of the freakishly expensive luxury hotels in Fira or Oia. You stay around the Caldera can be just as fancy as you want, if you are ready to pay for it.

Book hotel, studios and apartments in Santorini here »

Nea Kameni.

Nea Kameni.

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