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215 215 9814

Volcanoes of the Mediterranean: Santorini and Sicily

June 08, 2024 5 min read.

According to volcano experts, they should not be called "active, dormant or extinct." However, it can be detailed which volcanoes must be observed because they are explosive and have a nearby population. This is the case of Etna in Sicily (Italy) and Santorini in Greece, two of the best-known volcanoes in the Mediterranean.

Santorini Caldera

It is a large volcanic caldera, much of which is submerged, which is located in the southern Aegean, 120 kilometers from the island of Crete in Greece. Above the sea surface is the circular group of islands in Santorini, which is made up of Santorini (also called Thira), which is the main island, Therasia and Aspronisi on the periphery, and the two Kameni islands in the center of the group. The cliffs of Santorini are the edge of a volcano that must be paid attention to, and that the visitor navigates east through its ancient caldera, today covered by the waters. Santorini and its four islets are the fragmentary vestiges of a larger land mass that exploded around 1625 BC: the heart of the volcanic island flew through the air, and the sea flooded the abyss creating the great bay, which It measures 10x7 kilometers and is 387 meters deep. The eruption was so violent (according to experts, greater than any atomic bomb) that the volcano itself exploded into a thousand pieces. Its center collapsed, sank and filled with water, and thus the famous "Caldera de Santorini" was formed with the islands around it.

According to some writings, the explosion that destroyed the island also signaled the end of a civilization focused on a flourishing culture since 3000 B.C. Since the remains of a city were found under layers of ash in Acrotiri and today they can be visited. As it is known, it was a prosperous civilization with good agriculture and that disappeared after the eruption.

Much has been speculated about the possible identification of Santorini with the mythical Atlantis, mentioned in Egyptian papyri and which Plato dealt with, but the matter is still under discussion.

Today, the Santorini caldera is the largest volcanic caldera in the world and one of the most beautiful, being visited by thousands of tourists. The pieces of the island that border it, broken up in subsequent eruptions, are Terasia Esprenisio, where a few hundred people live, and the small and deserted Aspronisio. In the center of the bay, black and uninhabited, there are two smoking cones, the “burned islands” of Palea Cameni and Nea Cameni, which emerged between 1573 and 1925.

The Volcanic Activity of Etna

Its volcanic activity began approximately half a million years ago when humanity was just taking its first steps, erupting below the sea surface, off the coast of Sicily in beautiful southern Italy.

So-called "volcanism" began 300,000 years ago southwest of the current summit, before activity moved to the current center about 170,000 years ago. Eruptions at that time began to build the main volcanic building, forming a stratovolcano in alternating effusive and eruptive eruptions.

Etna dominates eastern Sicily and its presence, despite anything, is always considered a blessing. A tourist attraction, linked to the island's millennial history and Greek mythology, the volcano creates a microclimate around it, with abundant rains that make possible the presence of snow at heights for at least six months of the year. In the past, the 3,000-meter volcano, under constant surveillance, was responsible for various episodes of destruction.

However, after the terrible eruption of 1669, which destroyed Catania, and the earthquake, also caused by the activity of the volcano, which caused 15,000 victims in 1693, Etna remained relatively calm, at least for now. But in recent years, this volcano has continued to confirm that it is undoubtedly the most active in Europe.

It should be remembered that at the end of December 2018, Etna began to emit lava and ash, in the midst of unusually high seismic activity. According to the information of that month, more than 150 tremors were recorded throughout the region, the largest of magnitude 4.3 on the Richter scale, according to the Catania National Institute of Volcanology. Lava was reported to have flowed from a new crevice in the southeast slope of the volcano.

At the beginning of 2017, Etna had also registered strong activity. In March of that year, an explosion that threw stones and other materials reached a group of tourists who had come to the site to closely observe the movement, leaving 10 lightly injured. However, the last eruptions represented slight consequences for the population.

Discover the Allure of these Volcanic Destinations

Visiting Santorini in Greece and Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, not only provides the opportunity to witness the grandeur of nature in action but also to immerse oneself in the history and culture of these regions. The experience of being near these active volcanoes is unique and memorable, inviting travelers to explore and learn more about the geology and natural phenomena that shape our world.

Is it safe to visit Santorini and Mount Etna?

Both destinations are safe to visit, provided visitors follow safety guidelines provided by local authorities and stay informed about current volcanic activity.

When is the best time of year to visit these volcanoes?

The best time to visit Santorini and Mount Etna is during spring and summer when the weather is warmer and there is less likelihood of intense volcanic activity.

What tourist activities are available on Santorini and Mount Etna?

On Santorini, visitors can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views, explore picturesque villages, and sample delicious Greek cuisine. On Mount Etna, options include guided crater tours, vineyard tours on the volcano's slopes, and the opportunity.

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