Santorini


Santorini (also Thera, Santorin) is on of the most spectacular natural wonders in Europe. The once circular island blew up in a massive volcanic eruption about 3500 years ago. The crater collapsed and was flooded. Only a fraction of the original island remained but by looking at the so called caldera - although now a lagoon - you can see how big the island once was. The most impressive feature however is the up to 300 metres high cliff which is a result of the caldera collapsing. It's like a geological museum and most impressive.


Some archaeologists reckon that Santorini is identical to Plato's Atlantis. There is loads of evidence against it but since it is a nice story people keep telling it. And it does make sense after all. How many islands do we know that literally sank?

We recommend pension Villa Dimitris in Perissa (Santorini).


The best way to go to Santorini is a ferry. The scenery is impressive. The ferry enters the caldera and approaches the steep cliff. The ferry port is located near the capital Fira. From there a bus will take you. The narrow and steep serpentines up the cliff are both: scary and impressive. And it is getting better.

The local capital Fira (Thira) is located north of the port at the edge of the cliff. The view from there is spectacular. Towards sunset sit down in one of the many cafes and restaurants and just enjoy when the sun is setting over the massive caldera. Despite Santorini being very touristy and quite expensive it still is one of the most beautiful spots in all Greece. Follow the narrow lanes through the old town; enjoy the beautiful houses overlooking the caldera and try the local wine. It is one of the best.


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There are plenty of things to do on Santorini. Most famous is the old Minoan settlement Akrotiri. During the eruption of the volcano the whole village was covered by ash and preserved. The wall paintings found in situ are by far the most impressive ever discovered. Thanks to the protective layer of volcanic ash they appear brand new although they are more than 3000 years old. They are kept in the National Museum in Athens though.

Another place to visit is Oia which is famous for the sunsets but also a picturesque village at the edge of the cliff. You can also book a day trip to the two islands in the centre of the caldera. They are the living proof that volcano is still active.

Nea Kameni only appeared in the 16th century. The other one Palaia Kameni is much older. It first appeared around the year 46. Today's shape is a result of eruptions in 726 and 1457. It is well known for the hot springs. Don't bring a white towel though. The water is yellowish (sulphur) and will ruin it. The trip is amazing. You can almost feel the sleeping volcano underneath your feet. When I was there loads white smoke came from one spot on Nea Kameni. It made us feel a little uncomfortable but from all I know it is perfectly safe - until the next eruption anyways.

Santorini is part of the Cyclades and an important ferry hub. There are daily ferries to Piraeus (Athens port), Naxos, Ios, Paros, Mykonos, Amorgos and most of the surrounding islands. There are also frequent ferries to the Dodecanese (Rhodes) and the western Cyclades Sikinos, Anafi, Folegandros, Sifnos, Serifos and Milos for example. The trip to Athens takes about 10 hours on a regular ferry and costs about 16 Euro. During summer you can also take a fast ferry that will get you to Athens in half the time. Needless to say they are much more expensive.
Two to three times a week there is a ferry to Crete (Iraklio). The trip takes 4 to 5 hours and costs about 10 Euro. The fast ferry is twice as fast but also twice as expensive.

Coming from Iraklion you will arrive around 2 AM. That obviously is not exactly a convenient time but not a big problem either. Normally there will be a huge crowd of people offering rooms to rent and they will also give you lift. Santorini is quite big so make a wise choice and get some info before you arrive. Among them would someone from the youth hostel in Perissa (most of the times anyways). The hostel is quite OK and one of the cheapest accommodations in all Greece. Even during high season you will get a bed under 10 Euro, in low season they charge 5 Euro. They also have cheap double rooms and the hostel is next to one of the best beaches on the island. If you are staying in the hostel the minivan that gets you to Perissa is free of charge.

There is another hostel in the capital Thira but it did not impress me. The rules are strict, the place is not exactly clean and it lacks any kind of modern conveniences. There is a hostel in Oia as well. It has an excellent reputation but is quite far away from the port. I wouldn't go there if I stayed for one night only. Another option is camping. There are a few campsites on the island for example in Fira and in Perissa.


Since Santorini is one of the major tourist attractions in - well you have to say Europe - prices are well above Greek average. Restaurants and bars are a rip off and especially in the capital Fira. You will end up paying 5 Euro and more for a beer. If you are used to Irish prices or London city centre this may not sound like much but by Greek standards it's outrageous.

At least accommodation is still reasonable. May be not in July August but you would normally get a double room 20-25 Euro. There are countless guest houses, hotels and rooms to rent on Santorini.


The island is one of the most beautiful and spectacular sights in Greece if not all Europe but coming in high season is a night mare. The island is packed with tourists, walking through the narrow lanes in Fira becomes a struggle, queues at for example Akrotiri seem endless and prices in the sunset bars go through the roof. Worse case scenario is when a few cruise liners stop at Fira. These happened to me once and trust me on this: a cow herd rampage is nothing in comparisons. If you can, avoid the high season. In winter for example the island will reveal its true beauty.

The best beach on the island is Perissa at least as far as I am concerned. Some prefer the red beach but I tend to disagree. Perissa is a black beach, result of the volcanic origin. Be carful when walking on it. It gets really hot. You can burn your feet easily so get some sort of shoes.

Perissa is a good base camp. From there you get anywhere without any problems and you have a decent beach. The bus system is quite good so you won't have any problems. Santorini is not a small island but it isn't that big after all.




 

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