Santorini, by the locals
Santorini, by the locals
Between its sublime views and its landscapes threatened by mass tourism, the island of Santorini can be heaven or hell, depending on how you approach it!
Which is why we decided to show you this old volcano of the Aegean by following the advice of some local figures. Santorini, away from the clichés – what a fine programme!
An island unlike any other
Compared with the 40 other islands of the Cyclades archipelago (which, as the name suggests, form a circle at the centre of the Aegean) Santorini is the island closest to Crete. This site, one of the most spectacular of the Mediterranean, is ideally discovered by boat coming from Piraeus or Heraklion: what an impression when, entering its roadstead with unfathomable depths (over 400 m/1,312 ft – it is impossible to anchor there), you catch sight of the immense 300 m-high (984 ft) volcanic cliff down which zigzags a stairway with 587 steps! You are now facing Firá, the capital of the island. “The daughter of supreme wrath” in the words of poet Odysseus Elytis, Santorini has always created a certain fear. The volcano violently awoke around 1530 BC, covering the entire island with vast quantities of pumice stone and ash 30 or 40 metres thick. The island, which was circular at the time (hence its first name of Strongyle, “the round one”), saw its central part collapse and the sea engulf the crater… Thus disappeared a brilliant civilisation, very similar to that of Crete and of which only a few vestiges remain. This cataclysm was also responsible for the current shape of the island, a semi-circle whose ochre and grey cliffs, situated on the west side, are the remains of the old crater. Santorini still quakes from time to time, as in 1867, 1925 and, more recently, 1956!
Santorini: what you need to know
People generally spend two or three days in Santorini before going back to Athens, which underwent a facelift for the 2004 Olympic Games (link to article). When organising your stay (avoid the very hot and busy months of July and August), you should take two important things into consideration. First, it is not easy to get around the island, the distances being quite long and the winding roads exposed to scorching hot sun! Buses do, of course, link the capital to the other villages, but not all sites are served. Hiring a car on arrival is therefore the best solution, unless you prefer a scooter or quad bike, which has just made its entrance on the island. Beware of sunburn, ravines and the driving – not always careful – of the natives! Secondly, some of the island’s scenery – particularly around Firá airport – has been disfigured by wild concrete constructions. The capital itself, despite its magnificent bird’s-eye views of the roadstead, is inundated with tourists and sellers of all kinds of objects in summer. Here, as elsewhere, mass tourism is wreaking havoc, so you may as well be selective and take two days to see only the quintessence of the island!
The easiest way to get to Santorini is still to take the plane from Athens. 50 minutes flying time. Daily flights.
Rooms to rent in Oía from Christa Braziolis, starting at 72 euros (around £50) per night in September:
Tel: 0030 22 860 71 511
Profítis Iías Monastery:
Open only Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 4pm to 5.30pm, Saturday from 6am to 8.30am, Sunday from 4.30am to 8.30am.