Santorini: Where east meets west

Santorini is the island of rough shapes, colors, wild primitave beauty, but also the place of the most breathtaking sunset of the world. This is a peculiarly unique island very different from the other islands comprising the Cyclades.

The island was named Thira, after the king of the Dorians who settled there after the Phoenicians. The name Santorini came much later, in 1204, when the island was conquered by the Franks. The entire island is actually an accumulation of volcanic rock. Its ground is not part of the earth's crust, but it is made of a very thick liquid that sprang out from the depths of the earth and then went dry, after the great volcanic explosion that took place around 1500 BC.

Santorini's capital is Fira, built on the edge of a cragged cliff, found 260 meters above sea level. The combination of this landscape, with the volcano and the magnificent and famous Cycladic architecture, make Fira one of the most beautiful places in the world.

One can get to this picturesque village by car from Athinios, which is the port of the island, or from the small port of Fira, called Skala, by climbing hundreds of steps, or even on the back of a donkey passing through the wonderful cobbled road. Nevertheless, a more easy and modern way of reaching Fyra is by using the calble car from Skala.

A stro;; in the small alleys of Fyra is a true delight. The beautiful white houses and their archways, the terraces, and the small balconies enchant all visitors to Santorini.

By following the road leading to the North side of the island from the square of Fira we reach the village of Firostefani, which is actually an extension of Fira, built along the length of the cliff and offers a wonderful view of the caldera, the volcano, different than the view from Fira. You should not neglect to visit the impressive church of Saint Gerasimos once you are there, which is surrounded by tall cypresses which are very rarely found on the island.

Just two kilometers outside of Fira, you will come across the village of Imerovigli. Its name derives from the time of pirate raids. Indeed it is located in a key point, right in the middle of the Santorini caldera and on the highest point, allowing the control of the entire area of the island and therefore in the case of a pirate raid all islanders would be informed in time. Imerovigli is truly built on the island's most advantageous position, it is very beautiful and the view to the volcano is exquisite. It is a wonderful combination of cosmopolitan environment and tranquility and harmony that one can rarely find in other areas of Santorini. From the square of Imerovigli, we follow the road which takes us further north to the village of Oia (Ia).

Oia is 12 klms from Fira and it rules over the northwestern part of the island. It is one of Santorini's most beautiful and picturesque small villages. Its unique architectural style is admired by all the visitors. Its houses, which are hewn on the volcanic rock, are usually two storied and colorful giving the village its exceptional character. Their walls are painted in ochre and the window sills along with the door frames are made out of red limestone. The main streets of Oia are coated by marble slates, instead of the cobbled roads we find everywhere else on Santorini. The striking beaches that look as if they were drawn around the area come to complete the beauty of the place. Two roads of steps go down the cliff. One leads to the bay of Armenis with the samll chapel of St.Nicholas built on the top of a rock and the other leads to the idyllic beach of Ammoudi which is a wonderful place to either swim, or walk along its beach while gazing the sunset. Oia and Perivolos, which is one of the most beautiful beaches of the island, along with Finikia, a very small village known for the hospitality of its people and its picturesque little alleys, compose the north part of the island which is called Apano Meria.

Pyrgos is the village that has maintained the characteristics of the old medieval settlement of Santorini. It is built on a hill, far from the sea and it used to be surrounded by a wall, the remains of which have survived today and can be found inside the village. Pyrgos has also the advantage of being close to Perissa and Kamari, the two most well known and mostly visited beaches of Santorini.

Perissa has three elements that attract the attention of visitors: its black sandy beach, the massive rock of the mountain that frames the beach on the one side, and its church which is the biggest on the island.

Do not forget to try:
First of all you should try the famous wines of Santorini, known all over the world along with the local, small but particularly tasteful tomatoes with which the islanders make tomato paste. Also you should definitely try the "chloro", a kind of cheese made of goats milk and last but not least try "fava", coming from a most tasteful legume which is smaller than a pea.

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