Santorini officially Thira and classic Greek Thera is a Greek island.
It is located in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) southeast of Greece‘s mainland.
As of July 2019, the population of Santorini is about 15,000 people.
The total land area is 91 square kilometers (35 square miles).
It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago, which bears the same name and is the remnant of a volcanic caldera.
The summit of Santorini is the 566-metre (1,857-foot) limestone Mount Profítis Ilías in the southeast.
Firá is the modern capital of the Greek Aegean island of Santorini. A traditional settlement, “Firá” derives its name from an alternative pronunciation of “Thíra”, the ancient name of the island itself.
According to Herodotus, the island was initially called Strongyle (the Round One).
Then later, because of its beauty, it was named Kalliste (the Fairest One).
Santorini was named by the Latin Empire in the 13th century, and is a reference to Saint Irene, from the name of the old cathedral in the village of Perissa – the name Santorini is a contraction of the name Santa Irini.
The name Thera was revived in the 19th century as the official name of the island and its main city, but the colloquial name Santorini is still in popular use.
The island was the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred about 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization.
It may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110 kilometers (68 miles) to the south, through a gigantic tsunami. Another popular theory holds that the Thera eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis.
The excavations at Akrotiri have confirmed that human activity on the island continued until the eruption of the volcano around 1500 BC, which entirely buried the island beneath very thick layers of pozzuolona. At that point, all traces of human activity vanished from the island until the end of the 13th century BC.
The five castles and their ruins are among the attractions of the island. These fortified settlements were constructed from the 14th to the 18th century as a means of protection from the incessant pirate invasions. Their special architecture was of purely defensive nature.
Built on the highest point of the island, the monastery of Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elijah) stands tall. Offering all-encompassing views over the entire island of Santorini, this 18th-century sanctuary still captivates those coming to visit the island. The monastery has its own museum, which houses a collection of rare ecclesiastical artefacts, books and stunning Byzantine icons and sculptures.
One of the major reasons why the island of Santorini stands out is its distinctive architecture.
Santorini is characterized by its Cycladic architecture: white painted villages that stand on the top of the high red-colored cliffs. Santorini architecture is featured uniquely throughout its settlements. Whitewashed houses in complete harmony with its volcanic scenery, it is without a doubt that the villages of Santorini were built to meet perfection.
Among the narrow paths of Santorini are the beautiful churches, architectural jewels that blend in the island’s landscape.
The island remains the home of a small, but flourishing, wine industry, based on the indigenous grape variety, Assyrtiko, with auxiliary cultivations of two other Aegean varietals, Athiri and Aidani.
Fava is probably the most famous dish in Santorini, and while its name might suggest fava beans, it is actually a yellow split pea purée. The creamy dish is usually served warm with olive oil and lemon and sometimes topped with chopped onions or capers.
During the Second World War, Santorini was occupied in 1941 by Italian forces, and in 1943 by those of the Germans. In 1944, the German and Italian garrison on Santorini was raided by a group of British Special Boat Service Commandos, killing most of its men. Five locals were later shot in reprisal, including the mayor.
The 1956 Amorgos earthquake resulted in the demolition of many buildings in the north of Santorini, leading to the desertion of many of its villages. The expansion of tourism has resulted in the growth of the economy and population.
Santorini was ranked the world’s top island for many magazines and travel sites, including the Travel+Leisure Magazine, the BBC, as well as the US News.
An estimated 2 million tourists visit annually.