Santorini is a peaceful treasure in the middle of the Aegean Sea crafted from a violent and destructive force. What used to be a single island was the site one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions ever recorded in history. It literally is a volcano that blew its top. In fact, the eruption was so huge it created a giant tsunami of 150 meters high (almost 500 feet) that traveled south to Crete and significantly altered its landscape as well as contributed to the collapse of the Minoan civilization there. The volcano Thira (Santorini’s original name) is now the site of a giant caldera, deep blue waters, white villages hugging the high steep cliffs, vineyards, scenic views, blue domed chapels and the most gorgeous sunsets in the world.
(Before you continue on, I encourage you to click on the photos to get the full view version which still doesn’t even do it justice!)
Mel first experienced Santorini as a side trip when her friend, Gini from the States made a trek to Crete for a visit. The girls boarded a fast ferry and headed north. Sixty-eight miles and roughly an hour later they were in Santorini.
We stayed in the beautiful cliff side village of Oia (pron. ee-ah)
Besides the obvious sites of beauty over the sea we discovered some gorgeous flora in the village. This was one single bush. Just look at that color!
The fishing port of Ammoudi just under Oia on the cliffs was a great place to catch some local flavor.
This fella was one of many “town dogs”. They seriously hang out wherever they want and are the well fed mascots of Santorini. They have little interest in tourists – only to find a quiet place to add to the scenery. All part of the Santorini experience. The Santorini dogs have a good life – they get fed very well, sleep all day and occasionally pose for the pesky tourists. What a life!
Mel had such a good (but short) time she decided to return in a couple of weeks with Richard in tow. We traveled on the ferry with some good friends and their boys.
From a distance, the white covered hills look like marshmellow villages melting over the cliffs.
We stayed in Oia at a nice little family run cliff hotel called Lauda. All the rooms were traditional cave houses each with a terrace overlooking the caldera. Beautiful, comfortable and surprisingly affordable! Our particular room was 96 steps down (and I think 596 UP!)
Our breakfast spot…
Our dinner spot…
One of our Santorini experiences was to go on a boat ride which offered great views of the island…
a swim from the boat to some natural hot springs…
a guided tour of the volcano…
and a docking at a neighboring port, Therisia, where we took in more views and a delicious Greek lunch by the water.
These boats looked like they were suspended in air.
Love the color!
Another fun side trip was to the little inland town of Exo Gonia where we toured the winery called Art Space. The owner is a Greek gentleman who has as much passion for art as for wine making. The winery that was originally built and operated by his grandfather used to be a tomato processing plant. It eventually was altered to include the wine making processes including large stone “rooms” used for everything from grape stomping to distilling raki. He now has a substantial collection of art from Greece as well as some German and English works displayed in the cave-like cisterns. He has preserved and updated one area of the winery to continue his family’s tradition of making some of the best Santorini white wine available! We hauled back 6 bottles of his white reserve and his vin santo.
In Santorini, the grapes are grown close to the ground rather than on trellises. This is to maximize moisture containment in this extremely dry climate. The grapes are not irrigated. They are watered exclusively by the morning dew and very rare rain shower.
(For our “Winer’s Group” here’s a link about Santorini wine making: http://www.simply-santorini.com/santorini-wines.html)
Is that SNOW on them thar hills?!
One of the many gorgeous vistas was from the Monastery up on the highest point on the island. The village of Oia is at the end of the crescent in the picture.
Ancient Thira is the site of a large settlement that dates primarily back to the Hellenistic period but there are also extensive Roman and Byzantine remains. (800 BC – 800 AD)
There are many beaches on the other side of the island from the caldera. This one is called Black Beach for obvious reasons. There is also Red Beach and White Beach each with sand that represents the volcanic geology of that area.
We hiked up to the “Castelli” in a cute little village called Pirgos. Great views and fun locals.
This sweet old guy was making a living by posing with his donkey for photos. Just couldn’t pass it up!
Speaking of donkeys, they are a Santorini icon. Originally used for transportation and farming they are now part of the tourist industry.
You can always hail a donkey taxi if you don’t want to walk the, literally, HUNDREDS of steps up.
After all the cruise ships leave port in the afternoon, the village of Oia takes on a completely different feel. Quiet, peaceful, empty of crowds and beautiful night views.
Santorini is famous around the world for its sunsets especially in Oia. Crowds of people gather on the west side of town, sitting on every available stone wall to wait for the show. (If you look closely at this photo, you can see a bride and groom posing for their wedding shot.)
And what a show it is!