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Santorini Through Nelly’s Lens

Nelly Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari (1899-1998), was an amazing Greek photographic talent better known as Nelly’s. Her unique attempts to capture the distinctive light of the Cyclades and other Greek locations are legendary. Her extraordinary work is reflected in the “Nelly’s Santorini, 1925-1930” album, which was published in 1987 and republished in 2001 by the Archive of Santorinian Studies. Famous for having traversed every goat’s path and cliff precipice on Santorini to capture this special harsh light, the view from Nelly’s lens still captivates people from every walk of life even today.
The volume published by the Archive of Santorinian Studies includes comments from the photographer about her perceptions at the time. Back in those days, travel to the island was exclusively by boat from the mainland or from Crete, and in Nelly’s recollections, this travel log of her journey’s plays a major role in the compositions of the photographs. One paragraph from the book reproduced by Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini puts things into perspective:

“I could hardly wait to set off with my equipment. In those days, one travelled by sea. The boat to Santorini arrived at dawn. It was, I recall, summertime. At 5.30 a.m. I was on deck. I wanted to enjoy my first view of the island from a distance, before entering the harbor, and to take a few photographs from there. I shall never forget that magical spectacle upon beholding the island. It seemed as if I were looking at an enormous chocolate cake, topped with whipped cream. And when the sun rose and shed its golden rays upon it, I gazed as if I would never get my fill. Never before had I seen such a vista, and I tried to make the most of those unforgettable moments, to immortalize them in the few photographs I took.”

The adventurous photographer took special note of the way the island looked from the sea as her boat approached, and the first photos of the island are from before entering the harbor. During her adventure on the island, Nelly managed to capture stunning imagery from Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, Pyrgos, Kamari, Exo Gonia and Perissa, with famous Oia proving too difficult to navigate for more than a few images.
Nelly’s work on Santorini brought the island to life in images for the first time, making the nature the focal point, adorned with unbelievably lifelike people, stunning village-scapes, and conveying the unmatched beauty of Santorini.
Even 90 years after Nelly processed these images, the vibrant captures of volcanic Santorini have left an indelible mark. Pictures from Nelly’s trip to the island in the mid-1920s now grace the collection of the Benakis’ Museum.

Horse Riding in Santorini: Experience Sunsets on Horseback

Imagine a stunning sunset over iconic Santorini’s cliffs. Now imagine one of the most unforgettable experiences in the world from horseback. It’s possible to make even the most memorable moments even more momentous with a horseback tour along the rim, winding down through narrow village streets, exploring the heart of Thira.

Booking a horse riding tour of Santorini is definitely a unique experience to be remembered. For travelers who thrive on journeys beyond the beaten path, the horseback adventures on Santorini are a real differentiator. Local companies offer custom tours on thoroughbreds through the meandering streets of the traditional village of Megalochori, in the cliffs and in the unique landscape of Vlychada. Although the most common horseback riding adventures on Santorini are along a beach (Vlychada), equestrians can choose to gallop along through awe-inspiring gorges or picturesque vineyards, and even to the archaeological site of Akrotiri, among other interesting destinations.

On horseback, visitors get a different viewpoint as they explore the spectacular villages, vineyards, hidden beaches, and as they ride along the caldera while watching the sunset. There are even combo-tours for riding and wine tasting, not to mention custom excursions for either new or experienced riders.

While some might think Santorini via horseback a novel or unrealistic excursion, it’s important to remember the horse in all Greek tradition. Remember Bucephalus, the legendary warhorse of Alexander the Great, as you ride the old dirt roads of Oia or explore the hidden ravines down toward the waiting volcanic beaches. You can also enjoy private horse rides with a romantic dinner along the way. You can even get married on horseback if you envision your Santorini visit as a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Ask our guest experience specialists when you stay at Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa to recommend you the riding tour that best decribes your preferenceces and organise it for your and your loved ones.

We urge you to avoid riding donkeys, as the animals are now under governmental protection.

Island Hopping: What Nearby Islands to Visit from Santorini

Each summer the Greek isles get a new infusion of tourists seeking their “bucket list” existential experiences. Santorini is often the bullseye destination more sought out than some others. However, many who arrive here do not realize how close other famous Greek isles are, and few take the opportunity to use Santorini as a home port for greater exploration. For those who do, the following list of nearby destinations may prove helpful.


A short distance from Santorini (1.5 hours by fast ferry), Crete is the legendary land of the ancient Minoans. The largest island in Greece, Crete is known for its rugged mountains and pristine beaches, and for charming villages set around ancient hamlets. Famed for the friendliness of its locals, the island has some of Europe’s most famous beaches including Elafonisi, Falasarna, and the well-known Vai, where Europe’s biggest palm forest hugs the shoreline. On Crete, you’ll find worlds within a world set on an island paradise where legends still echo, and where hospitality takes on a whole new meaning. Visit the Minoan Palace at Knossos, then find a lost beach cove somewhere in the mountains of Sfakia. Crete is simply amazing.


This island gem is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Mykonos is known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere and the wild party vibe too. Since forever, the island has been a favorite playground for celebrities and the jet-set crowd. Known to many as “The Island of the Winds,” Mykonos was first made famous back in the early 1930s. Key points of interest on the island are Psarou Beach, Paradise Beach, and the unspoiled hidden beach hangouts the party set searches out each season. For a non-stop beach party, this is the place to be seen. Daily ferries in between Santorini and Mykonos, take about 2 hours.


The largest island of the Cyclades group is almost as popular as its closest neighbor Mykonos. Covering an area of nearly 430,000 square kilometers, this magical atoll of 18,000 local inhabitants is famous for its pristine beaches, for Kitron, and for gastronomic wonders as well. If you desire undiscovered beach bliss or the Temple of Demeter, Naxos is a must visit paradise not far by ferry from Santorini (1.5 hours). Other attractions include the Eggares Olive Press Museum, Kouros Statue, the Temple of Apollo, the Cave of Zeus, Bazeos Tower, Zas Mountain, and the Venetian Museum.


This fantastic island is home to about 13,000 full-time residents scattered across a landscape of traditional villages and beautiful beaches few can imagine. One of the most popular of the Cyclades group, Paros covers a total area of 196.3 square kilometers. Here you will find family travelers mixing it up with romantic explorers and the youthful et. The main villages of Parikia and Naoussa get most of the action, but in all, there are 38 beaches with some of the cleanest sand and aquamarine surf anywhere. A favored spot for windsurfers and kiteboarders, the island is a watersports legend. The best-known ones, Santa Maria, Kolymbithres, and the New Golden Beach are buzzing with sporting enthusiasts. The Santorini to Paros, the ferry ride is a bit longer than to the other outlying islands, but 2-3 hours cruising the Aegean is not the worst destiny ever. Paros is another “must” if you have the time.

Coming Up in a Few Days: “Santorini Experience”, the Ultimate Sports Event in the island

October 5 to 7, Santorini will host one of the most celebrated sports events of the year, the Santorini Experience event for swimmers and runners. The event is organized by the Santorini Municipality, the Municipal Sports Cultural & Environmental Organization in Santorini (DAPPOS) and the Active Media Group under the auspices of the Greek National Tourism Organization and the Hellenic Swimming Federation (KOE). Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa has the ultimate joy to be one of the main official sponsors of the event for the second consecutive year.
Sports enthusiasts and athletes will compete in open water swimming and running races. Olympic and open water world champion Nikos Gemelos selected the swimming route this year. The race starts at the harbor of the volcano and ends at the pier of the old port of Fira. Swimmers will arrive at the starting line by boat and compete on water 2.4 kilometers. This year, the competition has joined the Global Swim Series, which encourages participation in open water swimming all over the world. This year’s event will feature many big names of the Greek National Open Water Swimming Team such as world champions Kelly Araouzou and Antonis Fokaidis, European champion George Arniakos, and Greek champions Dimitris Negris, Stellina Aplanti, Dejan Jovanovic, and Dimitris Manios.

Nikos Polias, former marathon runner, holder of national best performance on the classical route, running coach, manager of All About Running, and technical director of the running section of the event, selected the paths for the joggers. There are three routes: 5 kilometers, 10 kilometers, and 15 kilometers, all with different levels of difficulty, and all following the caldera in the south part of the island, on the usual hike path from Oia to Fira with amazing views.
Competitors will receive their racing kits at the Alafouzos Sports store in Fira. All running races start at the desalination plant in Oia, in Perivolas, next to the Saint Vasileios Church. The location offers beautiful views of the village of Oia – it will make an excellent starting point for the three running races that take place on Saturday, October 6, 2018. There will also be a separate, 1-kilometer children’s race.
The winners will be celebrated in the evening with an artistic program featuring the International Dancing Group of Santorini “Stamatina Xiarchou” & Association of Pontians Eptamyloi Serres “Akrites.” A public concert performed by C: Real in the surrounding area of the Indoor Hall DAPPOS will take place the same evening at eight.
The Santorini Experience is an international, public event that puts world-class athletes alongside amateurs competing in a friendly contest that demonstrates stamina and skill, but also builds community and friendships with like-minded people from around the world.
Registration is open to all, free of charge. You can join Santorini Experience to compete, you can race for fun, or you can attend as a spectator. Anything goes. The purpose of the competition is to encourage fitness while its participants enjoy the beauty of Santorini.

Traditions and Customs of Santorini

Tradition has it that mothers on Thira would lull their little ones to sleep each night with sweet verses from eons of time past. Today, the tradition lives on when Santorini ladies put their kids to bed for the night.

“Sleep star, sleep dawn, sleep new moon
your cradle was brought by a pearl
To set to sleep sugar, to awake honey
to give you water that angels drink”

Such is the way for every town or region in Greece. Local traditions are uniform in their richness and unique according to the history and nature of each individual place. From the foundations of towns and villages to wedding rituals and religious holidays, Santorini maintains the fabric of its cultural heritage. Here are some of the most interesting and time-honored ones.

The Name Day

Since anybody can remember, a child’s birthday has only been celebrated once. When a child reached one-year of age, relatives were (and still are) invited to celebrate his or her birth. On this day, according to tradition, parents put the child in front of a big sifter in which a variety of objects were placed. For boys, the objects might be a trowel, a carpenter’s tool, a paper boat, and so forth. For girls, the objects might include more feminine objects. In the ritual, if the boy selected the paper boat from the objects, then the superstition had it he would become a sailor, and so on. In this way, it is believed, the profession of a child could be predicted. Such traditions are considered meaningful in order to set young people on the right past very early on. After this “birthday” ritual, children and adults only celebrate their “name day,” or the day associated with the saint the person is named after.

Santorini Weddings

Weddings in Santorini take place on Sundays. By tradition, girls of the village gather in front of the bride’s house on the Thursday before, in order to break almonds and to make sugar plums. Then, on Friday, they make the bride’s bed and throw rice on it so that the wedding is solid, like the rice, and sweet, like the sugar plums.
Another part of the Santorini wedding tradition involves the father of the groom climbing on a roof at noon on the day of the wedding to shout the beginning of the ceremony to the village and the world. After this, violinists accompany the bride door to door to invite people to her ceremony saying “come to the wedding.” The total ceremony is complex and replete with many ancient traditions. At the end of the ceremony, the newlyweds put the wedding garlands they wore on their heads into a box near the religious icons they prayed before. By ancient tradition, the garlands are kept until the last survivor of the pair finally dies, and the garlands are placed in this person’s grave.

This New House

When workers first dig the trenches for the foundation of a new house on Santorini, a priest is called to slaughter a rooster on the street. After this, the parents of the owner give a blessing to the house at every corner of the structure by throwing coins into the foundation. This tradition is carried out even today, including installing a cross at every corner of the foundation. To this day, the lady of the house prepares a plate of sesame honey and raki to treat the workers and the guests.

Traditional Wear of Thira

According to ancient custom, Thirean women wear scarfs inside and outside of their homes. By the custom, the scarves are worn in a particular fashion, tightly bound and slightly upwards to reveal the forehead. Also, by custom, the married woman may welcome her visitors not wearing a scarf if her hair was done “just so” either washed or unwashed and set into a design of thick braids, and so forth. Until only recently, women of Santorini wore a hairstyle that was relative to their age and social class.
This same tradition carried through to the Thirean woman’s dress, and especially the ornate festive ones worn in past decades. Many square meters of fabric were used in the making of petticoats in previous times, and fancy corsets and bodices were also the style and tradition before the mid-20th-century.
These time-honored traditions keep the spirit of the island intact. Like all Greeks, the residents of Santorini have great respect for their ancestors and the values passed down from generation to generation.

Ifestia Festival 2018 Brings Fireworks and Magic on Santorini

Coming up every third Saturday in September the unique Ifestia Festival celebrates the gigantic volcanic eruption that altered the fates of the entire world in the second millennium BCE. Ifestia Festival 2018 will be a day-long celebration of life and light culminating in a reenactment of the eruption of Minoan Thera in 1600 BC.

What began as fireworks show back in 1991 has grown into one of Santorini’s most popular and spectacular events. This year, as in the past, Ifestia will hold the audience spellbound with a  magical Thera reminiscent spectacle, accompanied by great music and parties.

The fireworks extravaganza turns night into day as explosions reach 90 miles into the night sky over the caldera of Santorini. Organizers expect 2018 to be a repeat of last year when thousands of visitors from around the world planned visits to coincide with the show.

For those who have never witnessed it, Ifestia is not just an ordinary fireworks display, but a light and sound effects extravaganza that is a recreation of the lava flows and explosion that accompanied one of the most significant volcanic events in recorded history.

Amazingly, the locals of Santorini now embrace the power of this legendary volcano rather than fearing its might. This year’s festival will include folkloric events, dances, speeches, and exhibitions that shed light to the island’s distant past, culminating with the Thera explosion reenactment.

Many of the island visitors choose to see the Ifestia Festival from the water, booking boat tours. If that’s your case and you stay at  Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa during the event, we encourage you to get in touch with our Guest Experience Specialists to help you book a tour or assist you in finding the best spot to see the spectacle on land.

Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa Supports Santorini Experience 2018

Beginning October 5th, 2018, Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa will be among the sponsors of the three-day Santorini Experience, a significant sports tourism event coming to our magnificent island for the fourth consecutive year. The event organizers and sponsors aim to build on past successes and to promote world-class sports tourism on one of the world’s great island destinations.

Co-organized by the Municipality of Santorini, Municipal Sports Cultural Environmental Organization of Santorini (DAPPOS), and Active Media Group, this year’s event is also supported by the Greek National Tourism Organization.

The Santorini Experience 2018 will include a variety of running, swimming, and other activities including 5, 10, and 15-kilometer races, concerts, and open water swimming to name a few. This unique event puts avid sports enthusiasts right alongside world-class athletes competing in one of the most unbelievable settings imaginable. Spectators and competitors get to experience one of the most beautiful places on Earth while taking part in an incredible sports spectacle.

This year, the Santorini Experience has joined the World’s Marathons world running community, a marketing group that promotes and takes part in more than four thousand races worldwide. Running routes have been tailormade by former marathon runner and Greek classic route record holder Nikos Polias, who is also a running coach and director of All About Running.

Swimmers will confront a 1.5-mile test designed by the Federal Technical coach of Swimming, with Olympic and World medals in open water swimming Nikos Gemelos. Some of the big-name swimmers who’ve taken part in previous Santorini Experience events include Hungarian swimmer Attila Manyoki; Olympic and World Champion in open water swimming, Spyros Gianniotis; and World Champion in open water swimming, Kelly Araouzou.

If you want to see the Santorini Experience 2018 races as a spectator or participate yourself, book your stay at Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites & Spa in time, for early-bird discounts and other perks that are only available when you book directly with us.