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Especially if you arrive by sea, you won't confuse Santorini with any of the other Cyclades. The breathtaking view as you enter the port by ship is worth the 8 hour boat ride from Pireaus. What will confuse you is that the island is also known as Thira. While large ships to Santorini (pop. 7,000) dock at the port of Athinios, many small ships arrive in Skala, a spectacular harbor that's part of the enormous caldera (crater) formed around 1450 B.C. when a volcano blew out the island's center. To this day, some scholars speculate that this destruction gave birth to the myth of the lost continent of Atlantis. In short, this is physically one of the most spectacular islands in the world. Santorini's cliff-faced crescent isle graces tourist brochures and posters in Greek restaurants the world over. Many Greeks joke, somewhat begrudgingly, that there are foreigners who know where Santorini is -- but not where Greece is!
The real wonder is that Santorini exceeds all glossy picture-postcard expectations. Like an enormous mandible, Santorini encloses the pure blue waters of its caldera, the core of an ancient volcano. Its two principal towns, Fira and Ia (or Oia), perch at the summit of the caldera; as you approach by ship, their whitewashed houses resemble a dusting of new snow on the mountaintop.
Akrotiri is Santorini's principal archaeological wonder: A town destroyed by the volcano eruption here, but miraculously preserved under layers of lava. If it weren't that Akrotiri steals its thunder, the site of Ancient Thira would be even more famous. Spectacularly situated atop a high promontory, overlooking a black lava beach, the remains of this Greek, Roman, and Byzantine city are extensive. Ancient Thira is reached after a vertiginous hike or drive up and up and up to the acropolis itself.
Arid Santorini isn't known for the profusion of its agricultural products, but the rocky island soil has long produced a plentiful grape harvest, and the local wines are among the finest in Greece. Be sure to visit one of the island wineries for a tasting. And keep an eye out for the tasty, tiny unique Santorini tomatoes and white eggplants -- and the unusually large and zesty capers. Most importantly, allow yourself time to see at least one sunset over the caldera; the best views are from the ramparts of the kastro and from the footpath between Fira and Ia.
The best advice we can offer is to avoid visiting during the months of July and August. Santorini experiences an even greater transformation during the peak season than other Cycladic isles. With visitors far in excess of the island's capacity, trash collects in the squares, and crowds make movement through the streets of Fira and Ia next to impossible. Accommodations rates can marked down by as much as 50% if you travel in May, June, or September.
Many people would argue that Santorini has the most majestic Sunset in the world. There are many places you can enjoy the Santorini Sunset from, alhtough most people do it from the village of Ia in the northern tip of the island. It has the most comprehensive and breathtaking view of the Volcano Caldera. It can get crowded during the summer months, so go there early and pick a good spot. If you get there late, all you will be able to see is a peek-a-boo view of the sunset behind the massive crowds of tourists.
Another option woudl be to view the sunset from the villages between Fira and Ia, such as Imerovigli or Firostefani. There are plenty of good hotels there that you can stay at if budget is not an issue. Rooms start at $200 per night during the summer months and go as high as $2000 per night for a luxury suite...
THE TOWN OF FIRA
Fira is the capital of the island and the most important village. Early in the 19th century the capital of the island was moved from Pyrgos to Fira. After the earthquake of 1956 a part of the town was destroyed (only a small part of the 18th century buildings were saved). Fira is perched on the edge of an impressive cliff 260m high and offers a great panorama over the submerged volcano. It is made of many white painted houses in stepped streets with blue domed churches and sun-bathed verandas. Plateia Theotokopoulou (Theotokopoulou Square) is the main square of Fira and it is where all the locals meet. The small streets during peak season period are crowed and filled with all kind of shops, jewelleries, cafe, restaurants, bars and night clubs. The main road of 25 Martiou (25th March) intersecting the square and is lined with travel agencies. The bus and the taxi station are located at the begining of the road also. Erythrou Stavrou, one block west of 25 Martiou, is the main commercial thoroughfare. Another block west, Ypapantis runs along the crest of the caldera and provides some staggering panoramic views.
THE VILLAGE OF AMMOUDI
Ammoudi, is a tiny charming port with a very small beach in the caldera at the foot of the village of Oia (it is located some 200 steps below Oia) with clear blue green water which get deep just after a few steps (something that families wiht children should cautious about). Ammoudi offers several excellent fish tavernas. Thanks to its scenic enviroment with the imposive colorful volcanic rocks shadowind the sea it attracks many visitors.
Kamari was completely rebuilt after the 1956 earthquake and was the most important strategic point on the island after the decline of Acrotiri in ancient times. Kamari, is a tourist hotspot situated on the southeast side of Santorini. The area is famous for its beautiful beach extends all the way to Monolithos and for its green landscape. On the beachfront you can find hotels, restaurants, bars and many shops that can please all tastes and budgets. In Kamari also, every year, the Jazz Festival takes place, in the lovely atmosphere of its outdoor cinema. The official name of the village is "Episkopi Gonia" and took its name from the interesting church of Panaghia Episkopi which was built in 1100. The best time to visit the church is on August 15th during the feast of the Virgin Mary when the church celebrates with a large festival. Also, on September 24th the church Panagia Myrtidiotissa, celebrates with festival where the food and the wine is plentiful.
Situated at the eastern part of the island, long enough, with dark sand, deep blue clear water, the beach of Monolithos is more quiet than the near by Kamari, but the landscape is the same beautiful. In fact it is the same beach starting from Perissa at the South and ending to Monolithos. The beach offers some accomodation in the village and meals and snacks at the beach. Access is easy by car; public buses run frequently in summer to the homonymous village.
Situated at the Southeastern part of the island, it is one of the most impressive beaches in the Aegean. Black sand, made of lava, is extended for some 7 km, combined with crystal clear water and a glaring and burning sun. Due to this unique combination, Perissa is the most popular beach. Well organised, it offers accomodation facilities, including a camping (it is advised to check if it is available), food and drink at the sea front taverns and bars, and a range of sea sports as windsurfing and water skiing; there is also a diving club. Some trees at the sea front make the beach ideal, since they offer the precious shade, in general difficult to find at the Aegean islands. It is well connected with the rest of the island by public buses, running regularly especially in summer, by rented or private car and motorbike.
MAP OF SANTORINI:
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