The official name of the island is Thera, but the name Santorini has prevailed. The visitor of the island lives a rare experience when the ship, sailing slowly, passes and leaves Aspronisi behind, and enters the deep blue waters of the caldera. Tall reddish-back cliffs and granite rocks, of imposing appearance, frighten and cause awe as they rise vertically from the surface of the sea. Barely seen is the road
which, like a snake, unfolds on the cliff and joins the town with the harbour. The deep blue colour of the sea, the reddish-black of the cliffs, and the smoke that is seen in the background from the crater of Nea Kameni, compose a unique picture of wild beauty. On the edge of the cliff, literally hanging over the sea, a long white ribbon is discernible. It is the town of Fira, the capital of the island and the district of the same name. As the ship approaches, the beaches of black sand begim to be discernible, the red-black stones of the coasts, the cable railway, and the road which leads from the coast to the top of the cliff, where the white town spreads. Narrow streets which seem to be -but are not- cul-de-sacs, bring the visitor to some beautiful crossroads on a roof, which is not only a roof but the courtyard of the house above, or even a road, or bring you in front of the door of some picturesque Santorinian house.

If you happen to be in Oia, the other big village of the island, one of these streets may bring you, where it ends, to the edge of the cliff. If you are lucky and evening approaches, and the sun is getting ready to dive into the vastness of the sea, don’t turn back, do not commit the crime of turning your back to it. Stay, even if you are not a romantic. If you leave, it will be your loss; so stay and enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets that your eyes may ever see. The beaches of Santorini, if we compare them with the beaches of the other Cyclades, have their own beauty, that makes them special. The black sand, the black gravel, and the pumice-stone give the beaches of the island their own colour.
In the south and east, in contrast to the awesome landscape of the west part of the island, lie shores many kilometers long, with wide sandy beaches, some organized and some free, which offer the visitor the joys of sun and sea. The means of transportation in the interior of the island are extremely good. A dense road network joins the villages, the archaeological sites, and the beaches of the island with the town of Fira. Buses leave Fira on a regular time-table, about every half-hour, for the villages and archaeological sites. There are taxis not only in Fira but in all large villages of the island. Moreover, there are boats for hire, either speedboats or rowboats.
The possibilities for recreation are not limited. There is great choice in the kind of entertainment offered on the island, from discos to local folk music and dances. You still may, if you like, attend the local fairs, which honor the memory of various Saints. Some take place in the summer, as, for example, the fair of Aghios Ioannis on 24/7 at Monolithos, or the Stavros fair, or the Profitis Ilias fair on 20/7, or the Panaghia fair on August 15, etc.
The possibilities of one occupying himself with sports other than swimming or fishing, with a boat you own or rent, are limited. Only in Kamari you may find places which rent surfboards. There is only one tennis-court on the whole island, in the Karterados area.
If you want to buy the famous Santorinian fava, be careful and don’t buy it from a store; there is great possibility of it being imported. You should buy it directly from a producer. Also, if you buy wine, prefer bottled wine, or, again, buy it from a producer. For any emergency that may occur, the visitor should refer to the Police in Fira, or to the Port Authority, also in Fira. In the summer season, before one arrives on the island, he should have made certain he has a place to stay. Otherwise, it is very probable that he will not be able to find shelter. In such cases, he should ask the Police or the Port Autority for help.
In cases of sickness or accident, there is a Health Station in Fira, as well as country doctors in Oia, Emporio, Pyrgos and Therasia. There is a Post Office, an office of O.T.E. (Greek telephone and telegraph company), and an office of E.O.T. (National Tourist Organization of Greece) at Fira. Oia also has offices of E.O.T. and O.T.E. A bank is also located at Fira. The great number of churches is impressive. The churches and chapels reach the amazing number of 352.


The town of Fira stands out like a white eagles’-nest, hanging between sea and sky. The climb from the bay to the town can be made on foot for those who want to try their strength, climbing the 600 steps of the road, or with the cable railroad. There also are good-natured donkeys, who offer their backs to those who want to enjoy the experience of donkey-riding. Their pack-saddles are decorated with blankets of many colours, “kilimia”, and the coloured beads on their harnesses give a unique and joyful colour, which is still maintained on an island which is fighting to keep its local colour and its folk personality.
The capital of the island was moved to Fira from Pyrgos Kal- listis in the beginning of the 19th century. Now Fira is a growing town with a population of about 1500 people, which lives in the present but tries to retain the local traditions of the past.
In the summer, a loud and good-natured crowd of people strolls, carefree, on the roads which are parallel to the cliff and the small streets that cross them.
The central part of the town, the market, is here. Numerous shops offer a great variety of merchandice, satisfying even the most demanding customers. Also, the offered merchandice, from the cheapest (cotton shirts and blouses) to the most expensive (furs and jewelry) give it a particular accent which is quite interesting to the visitor. The visit to the picturesque market of Fira is a pleasant walk. Small houses, dug in the land, one -or two- storied, have a view of either the sea or the land. Lit and crowded against each other, as they are, on the top of the cliff, they seem to be wanting to support each other, so they can reach outward, over the abyss. Terraces of houses which are not terraces but balconies or passages, vaults and archways, and small, white, decorated facades. Straight lines are unknown, everything is in curves, giving a unique architectural characteristic to the houses of Fira which are sunk inside the earth. “Skafta” (dug) as the locals call them, they are built from stone and the earth of the island.
Do not wonder if, when passing through the door of a building which is, at first glance, one-storied, you walk many steps down and yet do not end in some dank and dark basement, but, when you open your window, you see the sea reflecting the sun, although you have descended two or three storeys inside the earth. At Fira, buildings do not have height, they have depth.
The ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM of the town of Fira features collections from the excavations of Mesa Vouno, where Ancient Thera and the Sellada cemetery are, from Akrotiri, and various utensils from other areas. Amphoras, pottery, earthen casks, marble Kouroi, female statuettes, coins, etc. are sheltered in the halls of the museum. These collections cover a long period, which starts in the third millenium B.C. and ends in the Roman years.


Fira is the seat for both an Orthodox and a Catholic bishop. The Metropolitan church of Ypapanti was built 01 1827 by Marko Belonias, and tha is why it is called “Panaghia o Belonia”. The original building was destroyed by the earthqua kes of 1956 (July 9). In its place s new church, Metamorphosis, was built. There also are the Catholic church and the Convent of the Dominican Order.
The visit to the old mansions and houses of the town is interesting. Among the mansions, Gyzi’s, an authentic building of the Venetian years, stands out. Today it belongs to the Catholic church of the island. It has been restored and is used for various cultural meetings. The building houses an impressive collection of antiques, furniture, engravings, and other art objects from centuries past.


It’s a small, elongated village, very near Fira, which seems more like a neighborhood of Fira than a separate village. Among the sights of the village are the churches of Aghios Minas and Aghios Georgios. The view of the volcano and the caldera are panoramic. The most picturesque part of the village is its rebuilt part, which is next to the edge of the cliff. The Catholic church is also interesting. The Catholic’s area, the “Frangika”, is located between Fira and Firostefani. The convents of the Dominicans and the Sisters of Mercy are there. Also, the Lazarists founded there the Greco-French school of St. Joseph.
IMEROVIGLI OR MEROVIGLI, as the locals call it, is very near, about 1km. N.W. of the village of Firostefani. Its location near the edge of the cliff, its name, of the day-Vigla, as well as the time when it was built, show that during the years of the pirates’ attacks it had been a daily observatory. The Viglator -guard- watched the sea, and, if pirates appeared, apprised the population of the approaching danger. Most old buildings are ruined. The church of Panaghia Malteza is interesting. It is called Malteza (Maltese) because the icon of the Virgin was found on the port of Malta by a Santorinian captain and carried to Imerovigli, where the captain built a church for it.
THE CONVENT OF ST. NICHOLAS is the oldest convent of the island. It was built in its present position on 1815-20. Originally, the convent had been built in inaccesible Skaros, but the nuns moved it from the ruined castle of Skaros to its present position. The Gyzis family had a private temple in impassable Skaros, dedicated to the memory of St. Nicholas. On 1651, the family got permission from the Bishop to convert the small church to a convent. The girls of the Gyzis family became the first nuns. The convent became property of the Greek state on 1849.
In the center of the convent’s courtyard, there is the handsome triune church of St. Nicholas. The 32 cells of the nuns are in the buildings around the church. The attention of the visitor is drawn to the temple screen and the old icons.


Majestic Skaros rises perpendicularly to the coast, on the most northern end of the area. The medieval capital of Santorini was built in an inaccesible and unapproachable area. The castle was built by a Roman noble named Scaurus, who was governor of the island when it was possessed by the Romans. The castle, built on top of a steep, dark, and dreadful crag, was one of the five medieval castles of the island, seat of the Venetian Archons and of the Catholic bishops. The remains of the castle and the ruins of the Venetian buildings are discernible. Ancient ruins and graves have been found in the area.
The church of Theoskepasti (“God-covered”) is interesting. The church was built by a seaman who believed that he was saved from a great storm with the Virgin’s help.
Most of the 352 churches of Santorini have been built by seamen whose patron Saint saved them from storms or other great dangers.


The village Vourvoulos, the village of the mule-guides of Santorini, is located east of Imerovigli. Most Santorinian mule-guides are descended from this village. In the area Kato Vourvoulos we find the wonderful church of St. Panteleimon.


Lies about 9km. from Fira. Good roads and regular transportation connect this village with the capital of the island. Foinikia, Oia, and Tholos, with its few houses, are the villages of north Santorini, the Upper Side, as the locals call it. Foinikia is a representative traditional Santorinian village. Houses built with the traditional ways, harmoniously attached to each other, present a wonderful totality of traditional architecture. A black stone wall rises like a fence near the entrance of the village. In the Gonia region there is an archaeological site.


The distance that separates Oia from Fira is not over 10km. of paved road. The small houses, carved into the rock, the mansions with their stairways and their neoclassical architecture, with white and ochra as their dominant colours, the walls decorated with small stones, the roads paved with flagstones, and the flowers, form a harmonious total of the impressive picture of the village. The village square is a balcony looking at the caldera. The view of the volcano and the infinity of the sea take a different dimension when seen from here. The wealth of the villagers of the last century is exhibited in the Nautical museum of Oia. Oia’s inhabitants were sailors, and became rich in the last century by working in the sea. They decorated their village with neoclassical buildings which today bear witness to an age that has passed. The church of Aghiou Sozonto (Saviour) was built before 1680. The sunset will be not forgotten by those who enjoy it.
There are two beaches in the Oia area. The access is difficult though, as they cannot be reached by car. One can only go on foot. If someone wants to go to the “Armeni” beach, where the harbour is, he should descend about 300 steps. The road to “Ammoudi” beach has about 200 steps. A good road is the one that goes to the huge beach of the “Baxedes” area. This area is about 3km. away from Oia. Near the back side of the village is “Katharos” beach. There is a country infirmary in Oia.