Virtual Vacations: Santorini Islands, Greece
Posted on: May 9, 2021.

There are few incredibly beautiful places on Earth, so remotely located, that they are physically difficult to travel to. Such trips are highly challenging, at times logistically, at times financially—at times both.

While digitally scouting for a location to write about for this week’s ‘Virtual Vacations’, Santorini captured our interest making us zero in on the place.

The Virtual Vacations article this week is the FIFTH such location in the Yokibu Editorial Special Series that promises to be both entertaining and informative, vividly descriptive, and vibrantly narrative.

Where are the islands located?

Santorini, geographically part of Greece, is a group of islands located in the southern Aegean Sea, off the southeastern coast of Greece. Santorini belongs to the larger Cyclades group of about 40 Greek islands. It is the southernmost island of the Cyclades.

Virtually, Santorini is centered between Greece on the west and Turkey on the East, north of the Greek island of Crete, on the Aegean Sea that separates Greece and Turkey.

Fira is the capital of Santorini located at the top of a cliff, which renders strategic views of Nea Kameni, a still-active volcanic island to the west. Only 15,500 residents populate the island’s inhabitable areas.

How did Santorini get its name and fame?

Two words—Santa for “saint” and Eirene or Irene for “peace”—lend the island its name, Santorini, believed to be that of a church located in the Valley of Therassia. The Greek word for Santorini is ‘Thira’ or ‘Thera’.

Known as the ‘King of Islands’ among those of Greece, Santorini is also referred to as the “Drawcard of Greece”, famous for its impressive sunset and scenic streets, and unique gastronomy products.

The myth of the lost ancient city of Atlantis is linked to the island, troubling generations of scientists over its mysterious disappearance.

Why is Santorini so characteristically unique?

It is the world’s only inhabited “caldera” or crater, created by the eruption of the Strongoli Volcano that ravaged the island in 1500 BC. The caldera is very deep, plunging 1,310 feet. The volcano is still active.

Earthquakes triggered by the eruption—most recently in 1956—caused the central portion of Strongoli to collapse below sea level, leaving a series of islands—including Santorini—with dramatic cliffs.

Natural cave houses and “volcanic architecture”, can be seen in only a very few places on Earth—Santorini is one such rare place. Most of Santorini’s houses sit at the edge of a high cliff directly above the sea.

The islands are populated by only 15,500 residents, but attracts a tourist population of 2 million visitors per year, who flock to it for its spectacular cliff views, typical Greek architecture, and historical monuments.

Santorini’s houses are of typical Greek architectural style, shaped as strikingly white cubes. Also, however, Cycladic and Venetian architectural styles are of a vast majority in Santorini.

Beautiful streets paved with cobblestones, and buildings predominantly whitewashed, are all architectural motifs of Venetian influence in Santorini. There was no electricity on the island until 1960—only donkeys and fishermen.

Santorini has more churches than houses, though most of the churches are small and private. The Monastery of Profitilis, that has stood the test of time, since the Ottoman era, is a landmark structure in Santorini.

More than a hundred varieties of grapes grow in Santorini. During certain times of the year when there is very little rain, wine is more abundant than water!

What are the attractive features of Santorini?

Tiny villages clinging to rugged cliffs rising vertically from the Aegean Sea, provide spectacular, panoramic views in the volcanic crater island.

Breathtaking visual sights and photogenic landscapes await visitors at two of the most visited and luxurious settlements of the island—Fira and Oia. The “secret” hot springs here are a pleasant surprise to tourists!

The museum within the Monastery of Profitilis renders sweeping views of the entire island. Other hallmarks structures include a castle that was built during the Venetian era and some Byzantine churches.

How does travel happen among the islands of Santorini?

All of the major islands are accessible by a ferry service from mainland ports, as well as by a wide variety of inner-island ferries. Most of the larger islands can be reached by air.

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