The history of Santorini is undoubtedly unique from many different perspectives.
The site of one of the largest volcanic episodes ever recorded in history, the region itself is thought to have become volcanically active some 3 to 4 million years ago. The most famous eruption sometimes referred to as the Thera or Minoan eruption, took place some 3,600 years ago in the late Bronze Age.
Not only did it destroy the civilization living on the island, but is believed to have wiped out the sophisticated Minoan civilization itself whereby a giant tsunami hit the northern shores of Crete some 110 miles south of the island.
Some say that the Thera eruption is the source of the Atlantis legend. Suffice to say, that the effects of the eruption are today, spellbindingly beautiful. For what was once a single island, now consists of a water filled caldera, around which lie the island of Santorini and its satellite islands.
In the volcanic eruption that took place some 3,600 years ago, thirty million cubic meters of magma in the form of pumice and ash were blown to a height of up to 36 kilometers above the island. Pumice deposits, dozens of meters thick, buried one of the most prosperous prehistoric settlements of that period.
The most recent eruption took place in 1950.
The island today
Santorini is a small, circular archipelago of volcanic islands located in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast from Greece’s mainland.
The largest island is known as Thera, which forms the southernmost member of the Cyclades islands.
The island’s surface area is some 73 km2 (28 sq mi) and the 2001 census population placed the islands inhabitants at 13,670. It is composed of the Municipality of Thira (pop. 12,440) and the Community of Oía (pop. 1,230, which includes 268 inhabitants whom are residents of the offshore island of Therasia, lying to the west).
Prehistoric Thera: Akrotiri
The ancient city at Akrotiri, due to its excellent preserved state, is the most important archaeological site on the island and most important prehistoric settlement in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
The archaeological findings illustrate the sophistication and prosperity of its merchant inhabitants in its complicated drainage system and multi – storied buildings with their magnificent wall – paintings.
The town’ s life came to an abrupt end in the last quarter of the 17th century BC when the inhabitants were obliged to abandon it following a series of as a result of severe earthquakes which gave them due notice of the eruption that was to follow.
The volcanic ash covered the island and the site itself, which like Pompeii in Italy, protected what was to lie underneath.
The site considered a must see place since its opening the Spring of 2012, once the creation of the new roof and the layout exhibition was concluded.
Ancient Thera: above Kamari beach
The ancient site of Ancient Thera is located on a headland which juts out into the sea between Kamari and Perissa. The site itself was excavated by a German expedition in the 1860s, and you can see remains from the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods.
Although the ruins are limited, parts of temples, houses with mosaic floors, an agora, gymnasium, and a theatre with stunning and sheer views to the sea, all dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries BC remain.
On the far west of the site there is a sanctuary from the 3rd century BC that features relief carvings symbolizing the gods, an eagle (Zeus), a lion (Apollo), a dolphin (Poseidon), and a phallus (Dionysos).
To the east is the Terrace of Celebrations. Graffiti was a problem even in the 8th century BC whereby if one looks closely, one can make out the many messages scribbled on the walls. At that time, boys danced naked and sang hymns to Apollo or competed in physical contests. 7th century vases found here are now on display at the Archaeological Museum in Fira. The views from the site, like so many places on the island, are beautiful.
The islands Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni
The two small islands in the center of the Santorini caldera, Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni represent the volcano’s most recent activity whereby Palea Kameni ( Old Burnt Island ) is less than 2000 years old, while Nea Kameni ( Young Burnt Island) began to form only 425 years ago and its youngest lava are than 50 years old.
Santorini Food and Wine
Some three hundred restaurants exist on Santorini Island. These range from the sophisticated gourmet to the simplest of tavernas serving traditional island fare.
Known as a gourmet destination, many of the restaurants have excelled in producing innovative cuisine based on Meditteranean cookery that lead in their field of excellence throughout the country.
Coupled with the island’s exceptional locally produced wines which are gaining international recognition, the island is making its mark in the international dining arena.
The island’s cuisine, dependent on locally grown produce, fish and seafood from the Aegean Sea, is an example of the wondrous healthy simplicity of Greek cuisine.
Wine tasting is available in Aressana Spa Hotel & Suites and in the island’s renowned wineries.