The island of Thira, or Santorini, is the most beautiful island in the Aegean Sea. And connected with his most terrible story. The fact is that this crescent-shaped island, and three more smaller ones, are a volcanic ring left by an eruption that happened around 1500 BC.
Once there was a large round island with a mountain in the center. The current island of Thira and its satellites (Santorini is the name of the entire archipelago) are the remains of the original large island. At the time of the eruption, a huge funnel was formed, into which water poured - it swallowed up most of the island, and then a tsunami wave emerged, which swept across the Mediterranean and actually "washed" into the sea an entire civilization - the Cretan-Minoan. The famous Palace of Knossos in Crete was destroyed just then.
Most likely, it is Santorini that is the ancient sunken Atlantis, at least, its prototype.
Volcanoes continue to be active - in 1956 there was an earthquake, during which the island was significantly damaged. In the 1970s, buildings were rebuilt or renovated, and now Santorini is the most beautiful Greek resort.
Top 10 Santorini Attractions
Excavation at Cape Akrotiri
The only thing left of the Cretan-Minoan civilization in Santorini is the ruins. Here was a thriving and developed city that was completely buried under volcanic ash - and therefore surprisingly well preserved to this day.
The city was found in the middle of the 19th century: volcanic ash was mined in these places, from which excellent concrete was obtained for the construction of the Suez Canal. But real excavations began only in the 20th century and continue to this day. Now about 30% of the territory of the ancient city has been cleared for inspection and is accessible - these are several dozen buildings.
The city was a real megalopolis: its layout was regular, the houses here were 3-4 storeys and were equipped with a full-fledged water supply and sewerage system. The remains of numerous workshops and trade warehouses have been found. Even reserves of grain untouched by time, numerous dishes, and most importantly, unique frescoes, which gave scientists a lot of information about the city and its inhabitants, have been preserved here.
The best news is that, unlike Roman Pompeii, not a single human body was found here, and almost no jewelry was found: apparently, the inhabitants of the city took the most valuable with them and managed to escape during the disaster.
Ancient Fira and its museum
Life did not end with the fall of the Cretan-Minoan civilization, it was replaced by the Greek one. The remains of the ancient Greek city of Fira (or Thira) are also open for inspection, they are located on the highest mountain of the island - Mesa Vuno, on which the only fresh water source in Santorini is located - a real aqueduct was drawn from it to the city.
In the archaeological museum in the city itself, you can see finds from both cities. There are many ceramics and terracotta items, funerary statues and sarcophagi, some of the frescoes from Akrotiri - original and in copies. The second part of the collection consists of finds from the ancient Greek period, when the Dorians settled on the island and founded their own city. One of the most interesting finds is a stone weighing 470 kilograms with an inscription that the athlete Eumasta was able to lift it.
Kutzogiannopoulos family wine museum
This museum is rightfully considered one of the most interesting among its kind in the world. The Greek traditions of winemaking go back many thousands of years, but in Santorini they had their own specifics: the slopes of the volcano, covered with volcanic rock and a layer of ash, are fertile and at the same time require special methods of growing grapes.
The museum tells about the production of wine since the 17th century, and it was founded at the end of the 19th century. One of the main exhibits is the memorial office of the founder of the museum, Grigory Kutsoyannopoulos. It is a huge underground labyrinth of wine storage facilities and expositions located at a depth of 8 m, telling about the process of wine production: these are movable funny mannequins, the movement of which is accompanied by sound compositions, so it will be interesting not only for adults, but also for children. There are sketches about everything - from the production of wine barrels to the accounting and control of the wine produced. You can take an audio guide, including in Russian. In addition, of course, the wine museum has a tasting room and a shop.
Everyone associates Santorini with the snow-white walls and domes of Fira against the backdrop of the blue sky and sea. But besides white, black is abundant here.
The best beaches in Santorini are located at the eastern end of the island: the western rocky is the remains of a volcanic funnel, while the eastern one is a canopy. There are five beaches covered with black volcanic sand: Kamari, Perissa, Vlahida, Perevolos and Monolithos. The water of the Aegean Sea is exceptionally clean and transparent, so the spectacle here is unusual and beautiful: the surrounding beaches are cliffs lighter than sand.
But besides the black ones, there are other beaches - for example, not far from the ruins of Akrotiri there is a beach with brick-red sand, and there is also a small and secluded White Beach - it is strewn not with sand, but with snow-white pebbles.
Elijah the Prophet Monastery
The monastery was founded at the very beginning of the 18th century on one of the highest points of the island at an altitude of 556 m above sea level. There is a gazebo on the cliff - an observation deck, in good weather even the island of Crete is clearly visible. The sunsets are especially beautiful here.
For the most part, the current buildings of the monastery were built (or reconstructed) at the end of the 19th century, but one unique building from the times of Ottoman rule has survived here. This is a school that was set up on the site of several cells - Greek was once secretly taught here.
Now less than 10 monks live here, who manage their household: the monastery produces its own wine, honey and olive oil, a chapel is open for visitors, and there is a small museum.
Catholic Cathedral of John the Baptist
One of the main attractions of Fira is the Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist. Santorini has been considered a separate diocese since 1204: there is a fairly large Catholic community.
It was built in the first third of the 19th century, but was badly damaged during the terrible earthquake in 1956 - however, then almost all the buildings of the island were damaged. Now it has been restored and is operational, but little remains of its original architecture and decoration.
The cathedral looks quite unusual and combines both the classical Greek traditions, in which the main volume was built, and the Baroque - the clock tower-bell tower was built in this style. During the restoration of the 1970s, when almost the entire island was being rebuilt, we tried to give the whole city a single style - this is what we now admire in photographs and postcards.
Paglia Kameni Island (Old Volcano)
Volcanoes, which are now located on the site of the entire archipelago, are still active. For example, on the island of Paglia Kameni: it was formed in the 1st century AD. at the next eruption and changed significantly in the VIII century. Now there are hot sulfur springs, as well as a small church of St. Nicholas.
Traveling here is rather an easy attraction: the ships do not land on the shore, and the springs are located by the cliff right in the sea. You have to swim up to them by jumping from the ship, and the main pleasure here is the contrast between the warm water of springs (about 33 degrees) and cold sea water.
Nea Kameni Island (New Volcano)
If there are thermal springs on the first island, then the island of Nea Kameni is a real volcano, which last erupted in 1926. And it is he, the youngest of the local volcanoes, who is responsible for the 1956 earthquake.
The landscape here is deserted - the slopes are covered with solidified lava, on which full-fledged soil has not yet formed, the water near the island is muddy from volcanic deposits. This volcano remains active: there are no hot lava and open craters now, but the real volcanic heat and the smell of sulfur, being on it, can be felt.
One of the main attractions of the entire island is the small tourist town that supplies the most beautiful "postcard" views of Santorini. Once there was the Venetian fortress of St. Nicholas and the big port, and now - hotels and restaurants.
Oia was badly damaged during the 1956 earthquake, and what we see now is the result of a 1970s restoration. However, the architectural style itself remained unchanged - small houses with domed roofs have always been built here: they made it possible to protect themselves from strong winds blowing from the sea.
The city center is completely pedestrianized. The remains of a fortress have been preserved in the vicinity, and the main attraction (besides the views of the sea and the snow-white walls of the houses) is the church of St. Sozonta (Ayu-Mina). The church was built in 1650, but its current appearance is also the result of the 20th century restoration. The interior decoration is very rich and beautiful, and the appearance of the temple is one of the symbols of the island.
Church of Panagia Episcopa (Assumption)
The church is located not on the coast, but in the interior of the island - this allowed it to survive the 1956 earthquake better than many. It was built in the XII century, on the site of a previously existing basilica. Here frescoes of that time have been partially preserved and partially restored. One of the icons of the Mother of God kept here, Panagia Glykofilusa ("Sweet Kissing"), is considered miraculous. This is a list from the icon that is kept on Mount Athos. The decoration of the temple is the marble iconostasis - it was made in the middle of the 20th century, after restoration.