Santorini is made up of volcanic ashes, and the volcano's caldera is nearby the island with the hot springs around it to take a dip. People take a boat ride into the caldera to swim, snorkel and cover themselves in mud from the volcanic spring.The volcano still smolders today. Layer upon layer of red and black volcanic rocks interspersed with desert like landscape forms an extraordinary and unique illustration.
Some facts about Santorini:
- It is born of fire.
- Santorini's official name is actually Thira.
- The island sits in the water-filled caldera of a volcano.
- 5400 years ago the first caldera appeared.
- 30, 000 years ago this island was double in size of current Santorini.
- The current semicircular shape of the island was formed 3700 years ago. Greek for "Strongili" = circular.
- In 1613 the second largest volcanic eruption out of the numerous eruptions that have happened here occured. Darkness lasted for 2 weeks. Winter lasted for 2 years. It sunk 1/ 4th of the island.
- First settlement of Akrotiri was established around 4500 B C. It was destroyed by an earthquake around 1700 BC. Then it had 30,000 inhabitants which is 2X the population of today. It was rebuilt and flourished until 2nd millenium BC
- It has red, black and white beaches due to it's volcanic past.
- Now a sophisticated integrated monitoring system is installed to predict any volcanic/seismic activity on the island.
From the airport we drove into Fira, which is the capital city of Santorini. It was early in the morning and a bit chilly. The bakeries were emanating delicious smells . Had a cup of coffee and climbed down the steep 587 steps to the Old Port of Skala. It is here that the cruise ships dock and people flock to the island. Walking down, we were in the way of the donkeys who were heading to work to the bottom of the steps to lug the tourists 300 meters above into the town. You have to keep an eye out for donkeys running through as if getting late for work and them leaving behind some surprises on the ground.The donkey taxi is the highlight of the island and have been depicted in some movies set in Greece.You can hire them to transport you to and fro from the bottom of the cliff on steep slippery rocks. Well, I opted out of a donkey ride trusting more my own two feet on the smooth, slippery volcanic rocks.For getting back into town we took the cable car and enjoyed the views of the sea.
Started our stroll along the Gold Street lined with cobblestone paths. It has quite a shopping scene and you can have a fix of your retail therapy here. From traditional souvenirs to glittering fashion boutiques offering brand names, unique handcrafted gold Greek jewelry . Typical for Santorini are accessories made from lava stones. It is also lined with cosy restaurants ,taverns, clubs and pubs. You can feel the old time charm of the city.
Then we headed south of the island towards Akrotiri , a 3500 years old Minoan town preserved in volcanic ash just like Pompeii. The ruins are quite well preserved.You can see the ancient streets, buildings and even stairs leading to a second floor in the ruins. Minoan pottery and frescos were also on display. Not far from this ancient site is the Red beach. It is an absolutely breathtaking setting, where soaring red lava cliffs emerge from the black sandy shore and immerse into the clear blue sea. It is a fun spot for swimming, sun bathing and snorkeling.For lunch we tried the famous Santorini tomato balls ( fritters of cherry tomatoes) along with fava ( yellow split pea puree) and horiatiki ( tomato, cucumber, olives and feta cheese salad) at a restaurant along the beach.
Then we drove on to the quintessential town of Oia ( pronounced ee- yah). Oia is built on a steep slope of a caldera, providing amazing views. Driving up to the villages you can see various layers of volcanic ash formed by many eruptions over a range of many years. It is quite dramatic to see stunning cliffs showing off their pumice strata on one side of the road and flat beaches on the other side. It is very easy to fall in love with the blue domed churches and white washed houses with winding narrow passageways. No matter which way you shoot your camera you are bound to get a good picture.The views are breathtakingly beautiful. I could just stand and stare at the place for hours, impressioning it on my mind. It is indeed like being in a beautiful dream. Couples put love locks at this spot as a testimony to their togetherness. We found a vantage point and waited for the sun to set.
It was hard saying good bye to this amazingly beautiful place. If I could, I would just rent a terrace with a view as Santorini is an ultimate balcony over the Aegean Sea .