Stunning Santotini Island, Greece, is known by many names – classically Thera/now Thira, “the Wild Island”; Kalliste, “the Fairest One” – terms of endearment for an enchanting, seductive gem that is the southernmost member of the Cyclades group of islands. Born of a violent eruption thousands of years ago, Santorini’s volcanic origins are very much in evidence today. Two small islands in the caldera (including Nea Kameni in front of which our ship “anchored”) grew in size as recently as 1950, the time of the most recent eruption. The island’s dramatic striated cliffs and black sand beaches are further evidence of its volcanic origins.
The town of Fira provided tender service to our ship to the harbor, from which we took the cable car (a three minute ride) – when very large ships are in the harbor the lines are long, notwithstanding the cable car system’s capacity of 1,200 people per hour. Fira is the main town with a tremendous number of shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels, along with the Catholic Cathedral and Greek Orthodox Cathedral and many Greek Orthodox churches (with the Santorini blue domes).
We also visited Oia, a picturesque village known for its quality shopping. Its white houses, domed churches, and spectacular sunsets are part of its famous charm. We enjoyed a colorful sunset from the roof terrace of 1800 Restaurant that we enjoyed with friends from the ship. For two days we went out on a motorized 40-foot catamaran sailboat to explore the caldera, enjoy snorkeling, swimming in the volcanic hot spring that flowed into the bay from Nea Kameni, and good meals aboard. The sunset on the second cruise was one of the most spectacular we have ever watched.
There is a lot of speculation that the major volcanic eruption 3,600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, nearby, destroyed much of Santorini which is the source of the legend of the lost city of Atlantis.