The Greek Islands and Athens
Santorini, also known as Thira, is a Greek island in the island group known as the Cyclades. Santorini is actually a complex of five islands. Santorini or Thira itself, Thirasia and Aspronisi, then two further volcanic islands, Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. Santorini is one of the best known of all the Greek islands. Originally it was a single island named Stroggili, whose name meant circle in Greek, then around 1640 B.C. a volcanic eruption destroyed the centre of the island forming a flooded crater which is now referred to as the Caldera. Later, after a number of further eruptions, two other volcanic islands, Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni were formed. The volcano is still classed as active. A major earthquake in 1956, resulted in the partial destruction of many of the islands towns and villages.
Fira, the islands capital stands atop almost sheer cliffs some 300 meters high. Below is located a small port, nowadays used almost exclusively by the cruise ships that visit the island with monotonous regularity, and the small tourist boats that pick up and drop off tourists taking excursions to other parts of the island. To get to and from the port from Fira, the tourist is encouraged to take a mule ride along the steep, zigzagging path. There is also a cable car which is far more comfortable and faster, but a less romantic choice. The other option is to walk, you will need to be reasonably fit, and to be careful to avoid the mules, and the mess they leave behind. Thira itself is very attractive, with whitewashed houses and narrow winding stepped streets that lead to a number of old marketplaces, and picturesque churches, the town has a large selection of trendy boutiques, and rather expensive jewellery shops. There are superb views from Fira over the Caldera. As with other parts of the world, with the cruise ships come higher prices, so when you visit a bar or restaurant. the better the view, the more you can expect to pay.
Furthe alon the coast from Fira, and again with splendid views of the Caldera, lies the picturesque town of Oia (pronounced Eea). There are winding steps that lead down to ahat was once a major fishing port. Although many of the houses suffered damage in the 1956 earthquake, many have now been tastefully restored. some of the houses are built so close together that the courtyards form the roof of their neighbours on the next level down the cliff face. Shops in Oia tend to sell more authentic items than Fira. Food served in the restaurants here tends to be a little more traditional than its larger neighbour. The town becomes very busy during the afternoons when the crowds start to arrive ready to view the sunsets that can be spectacular from here. Where Fira lacks any beach at all, Oia has two nearby at Amoudi, and Armeni, both are reached via steep, stepped pathways.
A popular excursion trip takes the visitor out to the centre of the Caldera to the volcanic island of Nea Kameni. From where the boats dock it is a long and not too pleasant walk along a rough, and sometimes steep track, to the high point of the island where the visitor will be rewarded with fantastic views over to both Fira and Oia perched high on the edge of the crater. As you will see from the picture above, if you do not feel up to the walk, the views from just above where the boats dock, is in itself, well worth the trip.
The resort of Perissa and its neighbouring resort Kamari, which is located on the far side of the rocky outcrop pictured above, is where most of the tourists looking for a beach holiday will stay. The beaches here are made up of black volcanic sand, and so can get very hot during the day, so beach shoes are advised. There is a good selection bars, tavernas, and hotels in the area, with Perissa boasting two 24 hour bakeries. The large rocky outcrop between the two resorts is known as Mesa Vouno, and it is here where the Ancient post eruption city of Thira once stood. Some preserved ruins dating mostly from the Hellenistic and Roman phases of the city still remain.