Santorini : Rising from the ashes
Arguably Greece’s most beautiful island, Santorini was struck by a huge volcano in 1956 which resulted in locals deserting the island in their droves. In the 1970s Santorini emerged from oblivion and with the advent of tourism and development of transport links, it has become one of the hottest travel destinations in the world.
With its stark whitewashed houses and churches with brilliant blue cupolas, the beauty of this island has mesmerised travellers for decades. A small island which you can go around in a day its beauty is unsurpassed. Considered to be an active volcano, Santorini last erupted over five decades ago but don't worry chances that it will erupt again are very slim. Santorini derived its name from the Franks who ran the island in the 13th century in honour of Saint Irene and it has stuck although the official name is Thira.
Fira, the main town is where the action is. Its picturesque nature has ensured the place is teeming with tourists but all with good reason, as Fira is one of the best places to catch views of the sunset in Santorini, billed as one of the most spectacular in the world. The many cafes that hug the cliff side are the perfect spots to catch the sunset and also catch breathtaking panoramic views of the 18km long caldera which stretches like a crescent moon.
Akrotiri where excavations began in 1967 revealed the best known Minoan site outside of Crete. The elaborate complexes of multi-level buildings, the streets, objects and walls have been well preserved as they were buried under the volcanic ashes which destroyed the island in the 17th century BC.
Do not miss the chance to walk on dark solid lava and swimming in hot springs by joining the daily boat trips to Palia and Nea Kameni, the volcanic islands in the middle of the caldera and bigger Thirasia. Because of its unique geology Santorini has unusual beaches which are completely different to others. Perissa is a popular beach with fine black volcanic sand. There are water sports on offer and many tavernas for snacks and meals.
For a change of scenery the beautiful limestone formations in Vlihada beach create lunar landscapes and are worth a visit. The Ammoudi Port is also beautiful and a nice place to watch the changing hues of the evening skies. In Fira and Oia the narrow paths that wind down from the top of the caldera to the bottom are perfect for wandering, but do watch out for the donkeys that ply the same route transporting lazy tourists back to the top of the caldera.
The food in Santorini will not disappoint as the island has a long tradition of cultivating and consuming local produce. The island also has a sophisticated wine industry. After a day of sunbathing or gourmandizing the top question tourists have is where is the best place to catch the legendary sunsets and in this contest, Fira, Oia, Imeroviglu and Firostefani emerge the winners as their locations are just superb. When the sun sets and the heat recedes you will realise why some tourists contemplate on the age old legend on whether Santorini is indeed the lost Atlantis.
By Tina Edward Gunawardhana