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Santorini

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VILLAGE HOPPING: DISCOVER THE AUTHENTIC SIDE OF SANTORINI

Santorini is an island full of surprises and one way to discover them is to explore its stunning villages, each with its own unique personality and picturesque beauty. Distances are small between these delightful hamlets. They’re easy to visit, and each one, or a combination of a few, makes for a perfect day out. From north to south, this is Santo Maris Oia’s guide to Santorini’s most lesser-known villages.

Pyrgos Kallistis

Ηilltop Pyrgos comprises the best-preserved medieval settlement on the island, and at the foot of Mount Profitis Ilias, the village combines its delightful tranquil ambience with panoramic views. This is a different side to Santorini – a community that exudes the Greek village of times gone by. The main square, with its pine trees and coffee shops, is good to visit late morning when locals gather for ouzo or Santorinian beer to compliment tasty mezzedes.

Set back from the caldera, Pyrgos doesn’t need the teeming terraces, bijou balconies and infinity pools, that make up much of what is today’s typical image of Santorini.  This is a place that has witnessed a different and gentler path of development, but delightful creature-comforts are still to be found here. Its steep medieval alleys are home to some great wine bars, cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Head to the Santorini of the Past museum for insights into traditional island life. The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary dating back to 1660 is one of Santorini’s largest and most important places of worship.

Finikia

A twenty-five minute walk less than two kilometres east of Santo Maris Oia, the village of Finikia sits amongst terraced vineyards on a peaceful hillside. Pastel-coloured properties and boutique hotels plus a handful of traditional tavernas line the cobbled alleys of this picturesque community. Head towards the clifftop to the Profitis Ilias Church for a great viewing spot.

Karterados

A kilometre inland from Fira, the village of Karterados lies at the centre of Santorini, In the 19th century this was a glorious, prosperous settlement where sea captains built their stately homes and the architecture here is stunning. Cave houses dating from the 17th century, and a restored windmill in the main square add to the charm.  Surrounding streets are lined with lively tavernas, restaurants and boutiques. Looking east over a lush green valley with vineyards, the remote Exo Gialos Beach is close by, with black volcanic pebbles and deep blue, crystal-clear waters. With fascinating rock formations (a result of salt and wind erosion) Exo Gialos is one of Santorini’s most unusual landscapes.

Megalochori

Megalochori still honours its elegant seventeenth-century roots, dotted with pirate hideaways and historic high-walled mansions with hidden courtyards. Tavernas and boutique hotels offer the customary caldera views, but it’s the vineyards in the surrounding hills that make Megalochori a place to truly savour.   Wine-making is engrained in the area’s culture here and it’s where the island’s first commercial winemakers were established.  Since Roman times, Santorini has made wines from a handful of specific grape varieties – Aidini, Assyrtiko, and Athiri for whites, and Mandilaria and Mavrotragano for reds. Vineyards flourish in Santorini’s black ash-rich volcanic soil and one-sixth (more than 1500 hectares) of the island is given over to wine production.

The main grape variety grown on the island is Assyrtiko covering 65 per cent of Santorini’s vineyards, and differing altitudes and soils result in varied styles. Most Santorini wines are known for their dry, crisp mineral-laden qualities. In the Megalochori area, sometimes referred to as “the Tuscany of the Aegean”, a vast wine culture can be explored.

From centuries-old subterranean wine cellars to ultramodern wineries hewn from the volcanic rock, Megalochori is a feast for the senses.  Explore local producers like the family-run Gavalas Winery, the Hatzidakis Winery, and ArtSpace Winery – and a visit to the pioneering and architecturally stunning Venetsanos Winery overlooking the Caldera is a must.

Akrotiri

Eleven kilometres south-west of Fira, Akrotiri is a traditional village set in the island’s southernmost peninsular.  Largely untouched by mass tourism, Akrotiri is one of the least developed parts of the island, is steeped in history, and makes for fascinating explorations.

Built below the now ruined 13th-century Fortress of Akrotiri, the modern-day village lies to the north and close by Ancient Akrotiri – the most important archaeological site on the island, which dates back to to the Bronze Age. Archaeologists believe the original settlement was constructed around 4,500 BC  but destroyed by successive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  On Santorini’s westernmost tip, a lighthouse (one of Greece’s oldest) dating from 1892, makes a fine location for watching that sunset with a difference.

Vlichada

Quiet Vlichada village is famous for its black-pebble beach, backed by wind-sculpted, volcanic cliffs. Art exhibitions are held at the Santorini Arts Factory, and the village’s  Tomato Industrial Museum featuring items used in the tomato-canning industry offers fascinating insights into this historic Santorini crop. Water’s edge seafood tavernas make this a great spot for a laid-back fishy lunch.

WHY NOW IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT SANTORINI

The late summer of 2020 offers a unique chance to visit Santorini and experience its stunning delights in peacefulness.

Tranquil, serene, and above all safe,; Santorini holds out a special welcome for those wishing to embark on the Aegean journey this year.

The village of Oia, one of the most photographed destinations on earth for its beauty, is on your doorstep at Santo Maris. Fira, the island’s usually bustling capital (a lot calmer this summer), trickles into the villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli (the highest point of the caldera edge) and the delightful path that runs through these villages is lined with cafe and restaurant terraces – found in peacefulness this year.

Santorini delights
Beyond serene relaxation by our sun-kissed swimming pools, and sampling Santorini’s fine gastronomy, walking the caldera edge and taking in the breathtaking views is perhaps the most popular pastime for any visitor. A gentle stroll around Fira is spectacular, particularly heading north to Firostefani and Imerovigli along the caldera-edge pathway.

Wine tastings
Santorini is a wine lover’s paradise and most renowned for its crisp dry whites and the amber- coloured dessert wine Vinsanto. Both are made from and indigenous grape variety, Assyrtiko. Many vineyards, some dating back to the 19th century, host tastings and the award-winning Domaine Sigalas in Baxes is the closest to Santo Maris. For more details on the best boutique wineries check out [https://blog.santomaris.gr/2018/01/18/ little-boutique-wineries-santorini/]

Beyond the caldera
There is always more to find in Santorini. The laid-back east coast is less visited than the west, with black sand beaches, sun-beds, water sports, and taverna-lined promenades. Red beach, located near Akrotiri village and just a few steps away from the famous prehistoric site, is one of the most scenic beaches you can find on the Island. Beyond the beach there’s more. The island’s interior is dotted with pretty vineyards and colourful traditional villages like Pyrgos that show a glimpse of an older, simpler Santorini life.

The great outdoors
Few Mediterranean destinations offer such a diversity of activities in such a stunning natural environment as Santorini. On land, hiking and horse riding offer the chance to explore parts of Santorini ‘off the beaten track’, and in the azure and pristine waters of the caldera and beyond, enthusiasts of diving, windsurfing and sailing will be richly rewarded. Find out more [https:// blog.santomaris.gr/2020/05/28/santorini-postcard-escape-nature/]

Tours
Santorini has a huge variety of tours available including winery visits, archaeology tours, sunset- watching and more. One of the most popular options is a cruise of the caldera’s volcanic islands Nea Kameni and Palia Kameni. An exhilarating dip from a boat on a caldera cruise is an unforgettable experience.

From August 2020, Santorini and Santo Maris are ready to welcome you – a sunlit haven of peace and privacy.

Ferries and high-speed catamarans link Santorini with Athens’ port of Piraeus, Crete and the Cycladic islands. Santorini Airport has year-round flight connections with Athens and direct European connections have been reinstated since July 2020.

YOUR SANTORINI POSTCARD: ESCAPE IN NATURE

Live out your dream to discover the unseen Santorini with these five outdoor activities

Santorini is a head-turner destination for its astonishing natural allure, imposing sceneries, volcanic-sand beaches, rich history, colorful cultural life, zig-zag stair-paths and dazzling panoramic sunsets.

This destination bucket list offers many opportunities for outdoor activities that uncover the beauty of the lunar-terrain island to its full extent. If you are a seeker of adventure, our Guest Experience Specialists have crafted just for your five experiences that will fulfill your desires, needs and interests.

Hiking 

Hiking is a win-win experience – not only do you get to really take in the the explosive identity of Santorini with its eternal beauty, idiomorphic  architecture, cultural life and sites, but it’s also a great way to keep fit. Regardless of your fitness levels, age or the pace you’d like to hike at there is a path waiting for you to cross it. Most visitors to Oia will just hike on the 300 steps from Ammoudi to the heart of the village. But adventure continues to other hiking routes. The hiking trail from Oia to Fira for example, is an easy-to-medium route that offers stunning views of the craggy rocks sceneries of the island. The best time to take the hike is in the early morning, to avoid the midday heat. The route is properly marked at the most critical junctions.Explore also other popular hiking routes on the island:

  • Across the caldera, from Fira to Oia (10.9km / 4h, easy hike)
  • Emborio to Ancient Thera and Perissa (11.5km / 4h15′, moderate level)
  • A circular walk in Foinikia (4.5km / 1h30′, easy hike)
  • From the caldera to Akrotiri and Vlychada beach (4.2km / 1h15′, moderate level)
  • Circular walk around Pyrgos (5.4km / 1h45′, easy hike)
  • Crossing Nea Kameni (2.6km / 1h00′, easy hike)

Windsurfing

Windsurfing in the Caldera of Santorini adds an amazing seascape backdrop to an already exhilarating aquatic sport. The dark sandy beaches, the white and blue overhanging the amazing cliffs above, and unbelievable wind conditions year-round make Santorini a kind of windsurfer’s haven. You may find windsurf rentals & lessons at Monolithos Beach & Avis Beach.

Diving

Santorini is renowned for its volcanic landscapes and superb views of the caldera. Apart from what your eyes feast on at surface level, you can discover the allure of Santorini’s underwater world too. Since Santorini was formed by an ancient volcano, the island’s dive sites are mostly positioned in the lagoon where 400-meter cliffs drop off into the deep blue. While there are dozens of pristine dive spots to temp freedivers or SCUBA aficionados, our Guest Experience Specialists create a selection of the top dive sites in Santorini, just for you.

Adiavatous Reef, inside the rim of the caldera, near the volcano, is home to a fantastic variety of sea life.

The Caves, is situated on the south coast of the island. Enormous boulders and swim-throughs, as well as spectacular underwater canyons and caverns make for a picturesque and eye-opening experience.

House Reef, is a shallow dive attraction famous for being home to nudibranchs and lots of other invertebrates, as well as hermit crabs and other crustaceans.

The Volcano is a spectacular diving site, noted for its stunning volcanic rock formations, and for the wreck of a tour boat that lies at an easily accessible depth of only 18 meters.

Sailing

Sailing the Aegean is a rewarding activity for many visitors to Santorini. Either you book a boat tour, or rent a yacht, this is a must during your stay. Our Guest Experience Specialists will reveal you the secrets of this volcanic island from a different point of you. In Santorini you will find a range private, semi private, and guided tours. They follow several itineraries for unique luxurious excursions as well as the adventurous sailing tours. Give in to your wanderlust and embark on a reviving sailing experience through the endless blue of the Aegean waters. You can opt to enjoy a day tour with diving under the sunlit sky of Santorini or set off on a cruise into the beautiful sunset imbued by its splendid colors.Horse-riding Imagine a stunning sunset over iconic Santorini’s cliffs. Now imagine one of the most unforgettable experiences in the world from horseback.  You can ride along beautiful beaches, alongside the Caldera, through the meandering streets of the traditional village of Megalochori , through naturally fascinating uncharted territories such as the unique landscape of Vlychada or through verdant vineyard trails.

Horse-riding

Imagine a stunning sunset over iconic Santorini’s cliffs. Now imagine one of the most unforgettable experiences in the world from horseback. You can ride along beautiful beaches, alongside the Caldera, through the meandering streets of the traditional village of Megalochori , through naturally fascinating uncharted territories such as the unique landscape of Vlychada or through verdant vineyard trails.

YOUR SANTORINI POSTCARD: A Sunset to Remember

Watching the otherworldly sunset of Santorini from these five spots

It is said that the Santorini’s postcard sunsets are among the most sought-after spectacles. this magical hour of the day, the sky is painted in a glorious palette of purple, orange and red colors. And we know that nothing spells romance better than gazing at the amber skies over the comfort and privacy of your own suite relaxing at your jacuzzi at Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa.

If you wish to enjoy nature’s spectacle around the island, our Guest Experience Specialists are here for you to guide you to the five best spots to watch the mesmerizing sunset in the island.

From the Imerovigli Village

The “balcony of the Aegean”, as it is called, is impossibly beautiful at sunset. It rules at the highest point of the caldera of Santorini and has the stuff of postcard blues, especially when the sun sets into the Aegean Sea. Head to Skaros, one of the five Venetian fortresses of Santorini, once used to be an observation post providing security from pirates. Today, you will admire the remains left after the earthquake of 1817 and, of course, a striking view over the volcano from the top. Here, you will experience a true “wow” moment when you will be here to see the show put up in the sky by the sun.

From the Akrotiri Lighthouse

Travelling to the southern part of the island, the lighthouse of Akrotiri is another romantic spot at sundown. This lighthouse which was erected in 1892 by a French company is one of the oldest in Greece. This landmark is one of the most beautiful you will see in this part of the world. Sunset-watching can’t get better than this.

From the Sea

Let yourself be enchanted by the awe-inspiring landscape and the changing colors of the sunset while at sea. Choose among a wonderful variety of boat excursions and embark on a reviving sailing experience to the Caldera. Usually beginning in the afternoon, sunset cruises may include a few stops along the coast and end with a vantage point view by the volcanic islets. Several cruise options feature on-board dining and promise to be unforgettable.

From the Sunset Serenade point

Many of the stunning sunset pictures of Santorini are captured from this spot, which is full of camera-toting tourists ready to snap a million shots of the celestial spectacle. Albeit crowded, Sunset Serenade is spectacular. As the sun dips into the sea, you get to see the mesmerizing colorful glow of the light on the whitewashed cliff-houses of Oia.

From the Castle of Agios Nikolaos at Oia

At the northwestern coast of the island, lies the most famous spot for sunset viewing. This renown site among visitor is no other than the Venetian castle of Agios Nikolaos. Dating back to the 15th century, it is named after a beautiful church carved in a rock, dedicated to Agios Nikolaos. Today it is one of the most famous spots for its breathtaking sunset views attracting crowds of travelers to cherish the magical vistas.

By our Guest Experience Specialists

YOUR SANTORINI POSTCARD: OUR FAVORITE BLUES

Our Guest Experience Specialists guide you to Santorini’s five emblematic beaches

The beaches of Santorini have an otherworldly appeal and are a blessing on this enchanted island. Each beach has its own character and unique features, but most have dark lava sand, and crystal blue waters. Here’s a list of Santorini’s five emblematic beaches recommended by our Guest Experience Specialists:

Red Beach

By many accounts the most beautiful beach of Santorini, the Red Beach is at least one of the most scenic you will find on the island. It is located near Akrotiri village, just a few steps away from the famous prehistoric site. The beach has taken its name by the red volcanic rocks towering over in mesmerizing contrast with the sapphire colour of the sea.

Kamari

One of the most famous beaches of Santorini, Kamari Beach lays at the foothills of the Mesa Vouno Mountain. It is a Blue Flag, well-organized beach, with all kinds of facilities. Here you’ll find all sorts of bars and restaurants, nightclubs, and shops, as well as a delightful promenade.

Perissa

Perissa Beach is located at the foothills of Mount Mesa Vouno on the southern part of the island. Perissa is all about a typical Santorini beach. It is a black volcanic pebbles and clean waters, perfect for windsurfing, scuba-diving and parasailing. Perissa is a well-organized Blue Flag beach with lifeguards on duty and all kind of facilities, while you can also a few quiet spots for those that prefer a dose of privacy.

Vlychada

Also known as the Moon Beach, a well-deserved nickname for its spectacular lunar landscape, Vlychada Beach enjoys a striking location on the south coast of Santorini in an area dominated by impressive cliffs and shallow waters. Like most beaches of Santorini, it has black volcanic sand and pebbles, while its emblematic landscape adds an otherworldly character to this beautiful beach.

Perivolos

A famous location for wedding ceremonies and receptions, Perivolos Beach is located on the south-east coast of Santorini, not far from the village of Perissa. It is a lively destination, with beach parties galore and vibrant nightlife.

Explore Symposion: Santorini’s unique music and cultural center

Symposion is a place that should be on any ‘must-visit’ list for music lovers visiting Santorini, history buffs and anyone interested in the fascinating story of music making in Greece.

A one-of-a-kind cultural center mixing mythology and music, Symposion (the word comes from the Greek – sympinein – meaning ‘to drink together’) was conceived by Argy Kakissis and Yannis Pantazis and comprises a performance space, a cafe (the Homeric Wine Café), a herb garden (where visitors can enjoy plants and herbs from Greek mythology), and an instrument-making studio and art shop.

Yannis is both a wind instrument constructor and award-winning musician with a special interest in mythology and the music of ancient Greece. His musical career began at the Conservatoire Delidemos Lazaros (Thessaloniki) and the Conservatoire Christos Papoulakos (Larissa), where Yannis studied music theory and saxophone. From there he joined the ethno-Greek ensemble Namaste and became inspired to seek out his roots in the traditional sounds of Greece. He was especially captivated by a childhood memory, one particular sound, the keening of the ancient Greek bagpipe, the tsabouna.

In 2005 Yannis travelled to Naxos to learn how to construct and play the tsabouna from a local shepherd. Traveling on to Santorini he began playing the instrument at traditional village festivals, reawakening interest in an instrument that had not been heard in a generation. In 2012 together with his partner Argy Kakissis, they established La Ponta, the Greek Bagpipe Exhibition Workshop in the Castle of Akrotiri. Six years later La Ponta expanded and relocated to the traditional village of Megalochori, and opened its doors as Symposion.

Here Yannis performs on the tsabouna and an array of instruments he constructs in his workshop. He also runs instrument-making workshops for adults and children and gives daily presentations and performances. It’s hardly surprising that Yannis’ unique role in the reinvigoration of the Greek bagpipe has received international attention, and been regularly featured by global media.

Argy Kakissis told the Santo Maris blog: “Our mission as a cultural centre is influenced by Greek mythology’s timeless relevance to life as it is lived today. Inspired by the nine muses, our work is about encouraging people to think differently about music, its history and the links between ancient and modern times.”

For Yannis, music is a toy for learning. “It’s not a coincidence that we say ‘to play’ an instrument”, says Yannis. “Symposion is our celebration of music and mythology, and we very much look forward to welcoming you – to learn, to listen, to enjoy, and even to make your own instrument!”

Symposion is open between April and October. For more details go to www.symposionsantorini.com

Cover photo: Antonis Eleftherakis, www.symposionsantorini.com

Kitesurfing and Windsurfing in Santorini for Adrenaline Lovers

Santorini is one of the world’s most iconic travel destinations many reasons. Romantic sunsets are in the top of the list, of course, but not so many travelers consider the island’s aquatic sports offerings when they add the destination to their “bucket lists.” Take kitesurfing, for instance. After the glorious sun rises, and before it sets into the aquamarine sea, the warm winds blow kitesurfers across the crystal waters of the caldera.

Kitesurfing or windsurfing in the Caldera of Santorini ads an amazing seascape backdrop to an already exhilarating aquatic sport. The dark sandy beaches, the white and blue overhanging the amazing cliffs above, and unbelievable wind conditions year-round make Santorini a kind of kitesurfer’s haven. On any given day you’ll find enthusiasts of the sport of all experience levels gliding across the waves challenging themselves, or those learning for the first time.

Pros and first-timers end up creating a kind of kaleidoscope of weaving kites dotting the sky and the horizon on some days. Initiates take lessons from Santorini experts, old hands at the sport push the limits and search out the best conditions, and most often they are drawn to Monolithos Beach – where Santorini Kite offers classes and professional equipment rentals. To the south, Avis Beach is another excellent sport to practice the sport.

On the east side of the island, beginners and experienced kitesurfers gravitate to the beautiful black sandy beach and the constant north-east wind that sustains at 14 to 20 knots. Idyllic, this is the only way to describe such conditions. But Santorini has other secret spots that offer stellar conditions, glass smooth seas, and even boat excursions for downwind kitesurfing sessions. One expert tip is to take the boat ride to Paros or Naxos and spend a night there, to experience some genuinely pristine kiting time. Take care though, the Paros offshore winds can reach 40 knots, not exactly perfect for newcomers to the sport.
Local experts offer classes for beginners that range from 1 to 2-hour introductory lessons, all the way up to 10-hour packages that help beginners become independent riders capable of taking full advantage of the sport.

Cover photo credits: Santorini Kite (santorinikite.gr)

Ceramics and Pottery in Santorini

The roots of pottery tradition on Thira (alternative name of Santorini) can be traced long before the Minoan eruption of Santorini that occurred during the Late Bronze Age, which destroyed one of the most flourishing societies of the time. Excavations carried out at Akrotiri brought to light a settlement with multi-storey buildings and complex drainage systems, detailed furniture, striking frescoes, and ceramics that prove that the Minoan civilization at the time lived in peace and extraordinary prosperity. Most Santorinian potteries at the time were decorated with motifs, usually depicting cultivated plants, subjects from the marine life, and even terrestrial elements that echoed the Santorinian culture.The depiction of cultivated plants is a unique phenomenon in Aegean pottery and it first appeared on Thira during the Late Bronze Age. This is an aspect of art history, but also gives proof that the island occupied a significant position in the Cyclades. According to Marisa Marthari, the director of the excavations at Kastri-Chalandriani on Syros and Skarkos on Ios, Thira was “the producer of the richest pictorial pottery in the Aegean in the first period of the Late Bronze Age.” Vessels unearthed at Akrotiri support the theory that decorative painting was commonplace at the time. Popular motifs, like lilies and swallows found their way on vases, cookery pots, and frescoes quite often. Sometimes highly stylized, other times with a wealth of details, these symbols are still used by ceramists today and are characteristics of authentic Santorini ceramics. With such strong roots, no wonder that the pottery and ceramics of Santorini are among the most sought-after souvenirs from the island. Contemporary ceramists still produce vessels drawing on the rich past of this tradition. Here are some of the ceramic shops that will give you an idea of what to expect when you go pottery shopping on the island:

Akron Art Centre is owned by Dimitris Bellos and Aspasia Vovola. They are usually focused on replicas of ancient Santorini pottery art.  This is a great place to visit to learn about the history of ceramics on the island. Akron is the only workshop of its kind in Santorini and one of the largest in Greece. They exhibit and sell Minoan, Geometric, and Classical era pottery from Santorini and from all over Greece.

1260° ceramic studio, owned by Marina Taliadourou and Giannis Vlantonopoulos, displays tableware ceramic objects inspired by the life and nature of Santorini. In the artists’ words: “The black volcanic earth, the red terracotta, the blue of the sea, the white and the red-orange color of the sunset.” Each piece is a one-of-a-kind.  The name of the studio comes from a technique used to produce ceramics, firing them once at high temperatures.

1260º Ceramic studio

Galatea’s Pottery and Art in Megalohori is a studio offering pottery designed by artist Galatea Papageorgiou. She has developed an individual style based on Santorini traditional art and you will notice a variety of motifs on her ceramics: caper leaf – inspired by a ceramic mug in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, olive motif, Santorini motif – inspired by the traditional cave houses on the island, sea motif – inspired by Thalassa, the artist’s sister, wildflowers – an original theme, designed by the artist, as well as some stylized motifs, like meandros, leaves, dinner table, bamboo, and more.

EARTH and WATER, another pottery studio in Megalochori, is the studio of Athens-born ceramist Andreas Makaris, who lives and works in Santorini since 1985. As the artist testifies, his work is “inspired by the profuse light and the hidden mysteries of Santorini’s ancient past.” He shares the workshop with his wife, Kristi Kapetanaki, and their designs are in high demand on the island. They also offer pottery-making classes.

There are many other pottery stores on the island. Also, as you explore Oia, you will see ceramics in souvenir shops too. Don’t leave Santorini without visiting a ceramic store, buying a souvenir or joining a workshop that will always bring you in mind memories from Santorini!

The Volcanic Birth of Santorini

The birth of Santorini as you see it today reminds a lot of the legend of the mythical phoenix, the bird that comes back to life rising from its ashes after dying consumed by flames.
Santorini is a story of new life rising from its ashes too. The phoenix of the Greek islands has changed its shape numerous times throughout history, always because of volcanic activity in the Aegean Sea. The Minoan eruption – although scientists cannot pinpoint the date accurately – was the largest in history. It changed the geomorphology of the island and buried all settlements under ash and pumice, putting an end to the Minoan civilization.

After the Minoan eruption (1627 – 1600 BCE), Santorini remained deserted for many years. The outburst was so violent that it ejected 60km³ of ash, rocks, and pumice into the air. Its impact was global. It was followed by two weeks of darkness (night) and two-year long winter and it left the soil on Santorini bare, destroying all flora and fauna, and covering the entire island in a thick layer of ash – according to experts, 60 m high.

It’s a wonder that life flourished again on Santorini after this cataclysm. The myths that tell of the birth of Santorini relate of miracles too. In Apollonius of Rhodes’s Argonautica, we learn of Jason and the Argonauts landing on Anaphe. Here, Euphemus dreamt of making love to a nymph, daughter of Triton, messenger god of the sea. In the dream, the nymph told him she got pregnant and she needed a place to hide from the fury of her father, who would have undoubtedly reacted fiercely to the news. She advised Euphemus to throw a clod of earth from Anaphe into the sea to make her a safe hideout. When Euphemus woke, he followed up on his dream and threw the clod of earth into the waves. Just as the nymph predicted, an island emerged, and he named it Strogyli for its circular shape.

Another myth associates Santorini with the legendary Atlantis. According to some, Santorini may have been the inspiration for Plato’s prosperous and peaceful Atlantis – yet its location was never confirmed. Researchers went as far as the marshlands of Spain to find Atlantis. Besides Plato’s description of Atlantis, there are no other documents to attest its existence. In Plato’s Critias dialogue we learn that:
“Now, on the island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire, which had rule over the whole island and several others, as well as over parts of the continent; and, besides these, they subjected the parts of Libya within the Columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. […] But afterward there occurred violent earthquakes and floods, and in a single day and night of rain all your warlike men in a body sunk into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared, and was sunk beneath the sea.”

No matter how many similarities one finds between Plato’s Atlantis and Santorini, there’s no certitude that the two are the same. Moreover, archeological digs at Akrotiri on Santorini did not unearth the remains of the “warlike men” described by the Greek philosopher.

Whether or not Santorini was the location of Atlantis is less relevant than the miraculous rebirth of the island from volcanic ash after the Minoan eruption. Today, the island flourishes again and counts as the most visited of the Greek islands. Its iconic beauty is a symbol for Greece all over the world and its fiery sunsets inspire all kinds of legends still.

That Santorini is born of fire, there’s no doubt, and the volcano is still active. Its threat is real, but eruptions such as the Minoan one are likely to occur every 15,000-20,000 years according to scientists. The last volcanic eruption on Santorini was 1950 and it lasted 22 days.

Today, volcanic activity on Nea Kameni is monitored by the Institute for the Study and Monitoring of the Santorini Volcano (ISMOSAV) and life goes on safely on the island. Civilization continues to flourish, tourists come and go, and no one worries about another cataclysm.
“If there was another eruption from Santorini/Thera in the near future, the most likely event would be another small, dome-building eruption around Nea Kameni inside the Minoan caldera,” reports Erik Klemetti in an editorial for Discover Magazine. “Most of these eruptions have been VEI 2 eruptions that had phreatic explosions and the extrusion of lava domes/flows. It is very unlikely that we’d seen around Minoan-scale eruption, although Santorini/Thera has seen a number of caldera-forming eruptions (at 180,000, 21,000 and 3,600 years before present).”
With ISMOSAV and the Hellenic Seismic Network constantly monitoring the island, residents and visitors alike can enjoy Santorini worry-free.

Indigenous Grapes of Santorini

Santorini is often called “the vineyard,” because wine-making is one of the main agricultural practices on the island – and the history of vinification here is as deeply-rooted in legend and tradition. Some say the Minoans had vineyards on Thira as far back as the 5th millennium BC.

The volcanic soil layers upon limestone under the scorching sun, exposed to dry winds and essentially deprived of water, as rainfall is scarce and there are no sources of underground water either. Farmers found a distinctive way to overcome these challenges. They cultivate grapes according to the kouloura method, training the vines to coil in a wreath on the ground to protect the fruit from the heat and against the dry winds. Kouloura is the most widespread system on the island, although wineries like Domaine Sigalas use more modern techniques too – growing Assyrtiko on a vertical structure.

Due to these extraordinary natural conditions, the indigenous grapes of Santorini have unique characteristics too.

Assyrtiko

Winemakers appreciate the indigenous grapes of Santorini, especially the Assyrtiko (pronounced ah-SEER-tee-koh) – the noblest of the whites – which makes up about 75% of the overall grape production on the island.
Assyrtiko is a spectacular fruit, known around the world as the Greek grape by excellence. Master Sommelier Yoon Ha described its potency in vibrant epithets:
“Young Assyrtiko is relentless. It is a predator, and your palate is the prey. It puts you on your back and you throw your hands up. You have to submit!”
Indeed, Assyrtiko deserves its place among the grapes of renown. It’s also one of the world’s oldest varieties grape vines, traced to Thira as early as the 16th century BC. The volcanic eruption back then created the unique characteristics of the soil that make the wines produced in Santorini truly exceptional.
Assyrtiko has the potential to develop high levels of alcohol when harvested at the right time – usually mid-August and early September. The grape produces wine with a pH of 2.90 or lower and high acidity. It is mainly used for dry white wines with citrus nuances, which go well with fish and seafood, but also with grilled meats and Greek spreads like fava.

Athiri

Athiri is an ancient grape too. Its name derives from Thira, the official name of Santorini, but it is more widely cultivated in Rhodes. On Santorini, Athiri is used as a blending grape with Assyrtiko and Aidani to produce white wines. It has a fruity, lemony aroma and is usually paired with Greek mezze due to its easy-drinking, accessible character.

Aidani

Aidani is a dry varietal blended with Athiri and Assyrtiko to make vinsanto, Santorini’s famous amber-colored wine, which is produced according to the local passito tradition, using grapes dried in the sun for up to 14 days. The result is a sweet wine, golden-orange to dark amber, with a complex bouquet. Santorini is the exclusive producer of original Vinsanto. Aidani is a Muscat relative according to experts.

Mavrotragano

Mavrotragano is a tannic red varietal with small berries that produce exceptional dry wines. It is a protected grape as it was once on the brink of extinction. Winegrowers began making Mavrotragano reds in the 1990s. This wine is served at room temperature and pairs well with red meat or stews and mild cheeses.

Mandilaria

The island’s second most popular red grape, Mandilaria is tart and tannic, producing dry wines of deep color with aromas of red fruit. It is often blended with other varieties to make sweet wines.

There are several other grape varieties on the island, but these five are more popular and widespread.
Our Guest Experience Team is by your side in order to organize for you a visit and a wine tasting experience to the best local wineries and get acquainted with the winemaking history of the island and the unique characteristics of the Santorini terroir.