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Santorini

Santorini (Thera) is a unique experience... Included in all tarvel guides this island is the tip of a volcanic crater... It's capital is bulit high on the rim... Breathtaking views and amazing sunsets...

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Modern Greek Thera, also called Santorini, island, the southernmost island of the Cyclades group, Greece, in the Aegean Sea, sometimes included in the Southern Sporades group. The island has an area of 76 square km and, together with other islands, forms an eparkhia "eparchy" of the nomos department of Cyclades. Geologically, Thera is the remaining eastern half of an exploded volcano. Its bow-shaped rim and the remnant isles of Thirasia and Aspronisi form an open lagoon that measures 60 km in circumference. In the centre of the lagoon are two active volcanic islets, Nea Kameni ("New Burnt Island") and Palaia Kameni ("Old Burnt Island"). Thera proper consists largely of lava and pumice, the latter of which is the island's main export. Red-wine grapes are also grown. The lagoon is rimmed by red, white, and black striped volcanic cliffs rising to almost 300 m. santorini_map.jpg
santorini_marina The summit of Thera is the 566-metre limestone Mount Profitis Ilias in the southeast. The chief town, Thira (locally called Fira), was badly damaged by earthquake in 1956. Other settlements include Emboríon and Pírgos to the south and the port of Oia at the north entrance to the lagoon, which was destroyed by the 1956 earthquake. Known as Calliste ("Most Beautiful") in antiquity, Thera was occupied before 2000 BC.

One of the largest volcanic eruptions known occurred on the island. This is thought to have occurred about 1500 BC, although, based on evidence obtained during the 1980s from a Greenland ice-core and from tree-ring and radiocarbon dating, some scholars believe that it occurred earlier, during the 1620s BC. Ash and pumice from the eruption have been found as far away as Egypt and Israel, and there has been speculation that the eruption was the source of the legend of Atlantis and of stories in the Old Testament book of Exodus. During the Bronze Age the island of Crete, some 110 km south of Thera, was the centre of Minoan civilization. About 1450 BC most major settlements in central and southern Crete were destroyed by fire and abandoned. In 1939 the Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos suggested that the eruption on Thera had led to the collapse of the Minoan civilization; his theory was widely accepted. During the 1980s, however, archaeologists found evidence that Minoan culture continued to flourish for some time after the eruption. Archaeological evidence also indicated that the amounts of ash from the eruption that fell on Crete were not enough to cause significant damage to crops or buildings. About the beginning of the first millennium BC, Dorian settlers from the mainland landed on Thera. About 630 the important Theran colony of Cyrene was settled on the north coast of Africa, in accord with a command of the Delphic oracle.

santorini_view From 308 to 145 the island, a member of the Cycladic League, was a Ptolemaic protectorate. From that period date many of the ruins of the ancient city of Thera, unearthed (1895-1903) by a German archaeologist on the east coast. The earliest excavations by the French School at Athens (1869) uncovered a Middle Minoan, or Cycladic (c. 2000-c. 1570 BC), city beneath the pumice at the northern tip of Thirasia. Of even greater significance was the excavation begun by Marinatos during the 1960s south of Akrotiri village, which revealed a rich Minoan city buried under the volcanic debris just as it stood at the time of the eruption. The city (still being excavated) consisted of large, well-built, multi-story houses that contain some of the finest Minoan frescoes found in the Mediterranean. The discoveries show that strong links existed during the Bronze Age between Crete and Thera.

Santorini was named by the Venetians in the 13th century after Saint Irene, but this is one of many names given over time to this island with the catacylismic history and controversial link to the Atlantis myth. Santorini's first inhabitants were the Minoans in 3000 BC, also known as the early Cycladic period. Their society was largely influenced by the nearby Minoan Civilization on Crete, and wall-paintings found at excavated Akrotiri are similar, showing a link, to those found at the Palace of Knossos on Crete. At that time the island was called Stronghyle, or Strongili, which means round.

The island was round before the volcano tore out the middle leaving only a horseshoe shape around the edge. In antiquity, the island was also called Kalliste, meaning the beautiful one. The Dorians renamed the island Thera (or Thira) in the 11th century BC, and they built their city of the same name high on the south-eastern side of the island. santorini_oia

During the Peloponnesian war, Santorini sided with Sparta, but it later fell to Athenian control. Santorini was part of the Duchy of Naxos when under Venetian rule in the thirteenth century. The Turks followed in the mid-16th century, when Santorini was one of the last of the Cyclades to fall to Turkish rule. When the volcano erupted, around 1450 BC, it is said to have caused tidal waves in excess of 200 metres which were sent crashing into the northern coast of Crete, causing heavy destruction. Earthquakes were triggered and the ash and debris choked the skies. It is not long after that the Minoan civilization, once rulers of the seas, ceased to exist.

After the eruption, all that remained of round Stronghyle was the horse-shoe shaped island we know today.

santorini_thira The island was covered in a layer of volcanic ash 30-40 metres deep. Eruptions continued in the 3rd century BC when the island of Thirassia was severed from Santorini, and in the 2nd century BC when the volcanic islet Palaia Kameni began to appear in the bay. In 1707, eruptions caused Nea Kameni to appear. Mild tremors are often felt on the island, but in 1956 a severe earthquake caused considerable devestation in Fira and Oia, and many of the houses along the cliffs were destroyed. You can still see evidence of this today, but in many places it has added to the interesting labyrinth of architecture that clings to the cliff face.

Santorini has 14 villages. Each one has its own character, while all together create the unique Santorini atmosphere. Fira, the island's capital, full of motion and night life, Pyrgos, with its castle, Ia, well known for its traditional architecture and sunsets, all are waiting for you to visit them.

Akrotiri

A village built on the most irrelevant part of the island about 12 km from Fira to the southwest. The excavations in that area brought up the city of Acropolis, a fortified Venetian castle during the medieval years, which after the occupation Santorini by the Turks was torn down. The remains of the castle are easily visible. There are two old churches in the village, Aghia Triada and Ipapandi tou Sotiros.

Emporio

A large village built on the centre of the plain with small picturesque streets that add to the village's beauty. Emporio also had a fortified castle during the medieval years, vestiges of which are still visible. North of the villages there is a strong, square building named "Goulas", in which the village people protected themselves from the pirates.

Episkopi Gonia

A Byzantine style church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was built in the end of the 11th century with all expenses paid by the Byzantine emperor Alexios Komninos. It is located about six kilometres from Fira near Kamari.

Karterados

Only two kilometres from Fira, with an interesting architecture and the church of Analipsis worth visiting.

Megalochori

A village about nine kilometres from Fira. The churches of Aghia Anargyri, Isodia tis Theotokou and Aghios Nikolaos Marmaritis on the road to Emborio are worth seeing. Aghios Nikolaos Marmaritis took the name Marmaritis because it is all made by "Marmaro", that means marble. The church kept its Doric style of the fourth century in touched after it was converted to a Christian one.

Mesa Gonia

The village suffered greatly during the 1956 earthquake and many of its residents abandoned it to settle in the village of Kamari. However the village has made a comeback of late and is worth visiting for its traditional architecture. Nearby is the village of Exo Gonia from were one can visit the famous church of Panagia Episkopi.

Monolithos

A typical village about seven kilometres from Fira and near the airport. It has an organized beach.

 

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Pirgos

The village has some fine old houses, the remains of a Venetian castle on the hilltop and several Byzantine churches; the most notable is the Theotokaki, with some interesting frescoes. Monastery of Profitis Ilias is three kilometres from the village. It is located on the peak of the mountain with the same name, altitude of 550 meters. The monks, Joachim and Gabriel, were the ones to start the construction of the monastery in 1771, with the help of the bishop of Fira, Zacharias, and the approval of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril. After the Patriarch's spiritual protection the monastery was named a "Patriarchical Monastery". Around the 19th century the monastery was expanded from its original form, when the King of Greece, Othon, charmed by the landscape, ordered its expansion. The monastery's museum is full of ecclesiastical articles of unlimited value. Also, there are icons from 15th and 18th centuries, a 20th century iron cross, silver bound scriptures, and the diamond-adorned mitre of the Patriarch Gregory E'.

Vothonas

The village has a small church built inside a cave worth seeing. Other villages on the island worth visiting for their landscape are Kodochori, Firostefani and Vourvoulos

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More info can be found in the following links:

 
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