Trip to Santorini: Exploring the fantastic island
Apart from the much-photographed town of Fira, as we explained in the previous article, a trip to Santorini has a lot to offer: charming villages in the interior of the island and the excellent black sandy beaches of Kamari and Períssa.
Also, on a trip to Santorini, you can visit a local winery or a number of smaller islands nearby. For a closer look and exploration of the interior of the island, the bus service works quite well, but hiring a car or a bicycle will definitely give you more freedom of movement.
The magnificent places that a trip to Santorini will reveal in front of you, such as ancient Thira and Oia, are well connected by the island’s bus network.
The beautiful village of Oia
At the northern tip of the island, Oia is famous for its glorious sunsets. It is customary to dine in one of the picturesque restaurants perched on the edge of the cliff, while the sun sinks into the Aegean, behind the caldera. Also, according to legend, Oia, due to its wild scenery, was the territory of vampires, people who died a violent death or had unfinished business to take care of, so they came back to life to fulfill their promise. One more of the tourist attractions you can visit on a trip to Santorini.
Accessible by one of the most winding roads in the Cyclades, Oia was once the island's third port, and commercially important until the 1956 earthquake, which seriously damaged it.
The colorful houses with boulder walls (loose, polished rock fragments), carefully restored in the traditional way after the quake, cling to the cliff face along with the famous troglodyte dwellings and blue-domed churches. There are still some neoclassical mansions built by the ship owners. A marble-paved path skirts the caldera to Fira, and stairs descend to Armeni and the nearby fishing port of Ammoudi, with red pebble and pumice beaches. The tradition of shipbuilding lives on in the small Armeni ferry dock, at the foot of the cliff, but today the port is mainly used by tourist boats that daily sail to the island of Thirasia.
Ancient Thira, at the top of the Mesa Vouno peninsula
The ruins of the ancient Dorian city of Thira, which dominates the rocky promontory of Mesa Vouno, on the south-east coast, are still visible. Colonized again after the great eruption, the ruins stand on terraces overlooking the sea. They were excavated by the German archaeologist Hiller von Gortringen in the 1860s, and almost all of them date from the Ptolemies, who erected temples to the Egyptian gods in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC; they also conserve Hellenistic and Roman vestiges. The 7th century vessels discovered here are kept in the Fira Archaeological Museum.
The path, that cuts across the site, passes through an Early Christian basilica, the remains of private houses –some with mosaics- the agora and a theater with extensive views of the sea. At the western end, a 3rd century BC sanctuary can be seen carved out of the rock and founded by Artemidorus of Perge, admiral of the Ptolemaic fleet, with reliefs of an eagle, a lion, a dolphin and a phallus that symbolizes Zeus. To the east, on the terrace of the Celebrations, there are drawings that date back to 800 BC; the participants sing in the gymnopedies, parties in which youth danced naked and sang hymns to Apollo or competed in tests of physical strength.
In order to make your trip to Santorini even more interesting, there is the promontory of Mesa Vouno, which rises to the top of Mount Prophet Elias and descends into the sea, between the popular beaches of Kamari and Perissa. The first beach is located north of ancient Thira and is the main tourist center of the island. The beach itself is mixed with stone and black volcanic sand and is lined with bars, taverns and apartments. Perissa, meanwhile, offers 8 km of black sand, water sports and a camping site. A modern church stands on the site of the Byzantine Chapel of Saint Eirini, which gives its name to the island.