Santorini is a small group of islands in the south of the Cyclades, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece. Santorini and Mýkonos to the north are the top travel destinations in the Cyclades. When people talk about Santorini, they generally refer to Thira, an island rising steeply on the edge of a caldera. The island's visitor magnets are the "capital" Fira, which is located high above the caldera, and the small town of Oia, twelve kilometers away.
Santorini - island capital Fira
Santorini - Oia with the port of Armeni
Santorini - an archipelago formed from volcanism
The Santorini archipelago was formed after volcanic eruptions that hit the Aegean Sea an estimated 1,6 million years ago. The eruptions originally created an island with an assumed diameter of 16 kilometers. The archipelago received its present form less than 4.000 years ago. At that time, renewed volcanic activity caused major parts of the island to collapse.
This disaster created a caldera that was more than 80 square kilometers in size and up to 700 meters deep. The main island Thira and the much smaller islands Thirasia and Aspronisi surround the volcanic crater. In the center of the water surface lie the collapsed volcano and the two islets Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. The remote island of Christiana and the underwater volcano Columbos also belong to the archipelago. Because of its beauty, Santorin's caldera is one of the most famous volcanic craters in the world.
Santorini - Caldera with the island of Thirasia
Santorini in numbers
The total area of the islands of the archipelago is little more than 92 square kilometers. The main island Thira accounts for 79 square kilometers of the land mass. The capital and at the same time the largest town on the island is Fira. 1.600 people live there permanently. The village of Oia in the north of the island, including all its incorporations, has 1.200 inhabitants. The northern tip (Cape Mavrópetra) near Oia and Cape Exomýtis near Agios Georgios in the south are 24 kilometers apart. The highest point on the island, the Profitis Ilias massif in the south of the town of Pyrgos, measures 567 meters.
In the west of the island, the world-famous, phenomenal steep coast rises from the caldera. Above the coast lie the municipalities of Fira and Oia at around 250 and 150 meters above sea level. The houses in both places were built on top of each other in a terrace construction for reasons of space.
Santorini - built on the slope - island capital Fira
Around 80 percent of the island's area is used for agriculture. Mainly wine is grown. Wine has been a major export item on the island for the past three centuries. The wine trade spurred the growth of the Santorini merchant fleet. At the beginning of the 19th century, Santorini's shipowners owned the third largest fleet in Greece.
Santorini - marked by overtourism
More than five million visitors from all parts of the world have come to Santorini in recent years. Locals and tourism experts look at this number with one crying and one laughing eye. The guests come to see and experience the unique island; they all contribute to overtourism.
From an economic point of view, Santorini is dependent on tourism. In addition to overnight guests, day tourists visit the island with ferries and cruise ships. Santorini International Airport handles charter flights to and from many European destinations. Beach vacationers reside in the southeast of the island in the towns of Perissa and Kamari. The communities Fira and Oia are crowd pullers because of their spectacular location, their winding streets and the diverse shopping opportunities. Well-developed roads, a tried and tested public bus network, taxis and lots of rental cars, quads and motorbikes keep holidaymakers mobile.
Santorini - bus station in Fira
Santorini - the destination of cruise ships
The guests arriving by cruise ship are to be envied. The ships are moored in front of Fira, and the place looks like something out of a picture book to the passengers. According to Bild.de, the Greek port authorities recorded 2015 calls by cruise ships for Santorini in 636. A total of 790.000 passengers were counted. In the past, it happened that on individual days up to 12.000 guests rushed to the island from the cruise ships, which inevitably led to bottlenecks on land. In the meantime, the number of cruise passengers has been limited to a maximum of 8.000 passengers per day.
Santorini - cruise ships in front of Nea Kameni