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Santorini: the island of Summer Lovers and Saint Ireni

Santorini: the island of Summer Lovers and Saint Ireni
25/08/2019 ASoulAwakening
Fira village Santorini Greece

Santorini: the island of Summer Lovers and Saint Ireni

Leaving Heraklion late afternoon; and witnessing the following morning open, out on the open Sea of Crete as we make our way with celestyal cruises to our first destination – Santorini GR – Σαντορίνη. With its iconic whitewashed homes that tumble down the steep incline ascent and the villages of Fira GR – Θήρα and Oia GR – Οία along with blue domed churches that are closely nestled atop the Caldera Rim.

Shaped by an earth-shattering volcanic eruption, today’s slightly obscured crescent shaped Moon Island known as Santorini, also known as Thera GR – Θήρα is what remains of the ancient crater.

The island of Santorini lies at the southernmost point of the Cyclades (meaning circle) group of islands

Evidence shows that the area known as Akrotiri GR – Ακρωτήρι on the island of Santorini was inhabited as early as 3600 BC. During the period of 1500 BC, Santorini was known as Strongili, meaning round in Greek.

It was during the early 1300 BC, that Phoenicians known for being prominent traders in the export of snails to extract ink settled on the island and remained until around 1115 BC when the Lacedaemonians, an ancient Greek military power also known as Spartans colonised the island.

The Phoenicians were also responsible for forming the basis for the Hellenic alphabet and language around 825 BC; and are further known for creating the first form of a writing system throughout history. In the coming 7th and 6th centuries BC, Thera was a major trade island of Greece, with neighbouring mainland locations of Corinth and Attica. During later centuries between 300 – 145 BC (during the Hellenistic period) Thera was a strategically important naval base.

Catastrophic change came in many forms during the next 2000 years, in both physical form and rulers of the island. During the period 197 BC and 726 AC the volcanic island erupted four times. Vying empires ruled during the preceding years from 1200 until 1821 with the successful Greek Revolution and Independence. During the Venetian rule the island changed name and became Santorini, given in honour of the islands patron saint, St Irene of Thessaloniki. St Irene was responsible for converting many Pagans to Christianity and died on the island while in exile in 304 AD. The chapel of Saint Irini GR – Σάντα Ειρήνη, is located at the tip of the small adjoining Thirassia Island visible from the village of Oia.

Santorini Greece

Arriving by sea is truly one of the world’s most captivating views. If you’re planning on staying awhile longer, and looking for some truly spectacular accommodation for Fira, check here, or maybe Oia is more to your liking, check here.

Santorini GreeceAll around me, I hear others sounding out words, like ‘Amazing’, ‘What an extraordinary view’, ‘Incredible’… ‘WOW! Santorini is clearly a place where the superlatives are certainly fitting.  The islands striking earthy cliffs topped by a prominent white cap of historic habitation first greet you and smaller ferry boats are bobbing around in the sea waiting to take you ashore to walk the steep near vertical path…or a far less strenuous option to take the cable car. Life always presents choices.

Santorini GreeceTime permitting; I walk a section along the 9km path that hugs the landscape along the paved cobblestone and narrow pavement, passing through the small hamlets of Firostefani GR – Φηροστεφάνι and Imerovigli GR – Ημεροβίγλι. The pathway is strewn with smaller winding lanes and stairs that lead to many hypnotic placed hotels the cling to the cliffs joining the two villages of Fira and Oia. I found myself pausing for a short time to ‘breathe’ in the strikingly spectacular and breathtaking views ahead, behind and out across the calming Aegean Sea.

St. Apto Santorini Greece

Oooh…Santorini, you are everything and more than one has imaged. A postcard vision becomes a reality.

Village of Oia Santorini Greece

Due to time considerations, I was unable to walk along the cliff to the village of Oia, visible in the distance, so I returned to Fira.

Fira Santorini Greece

To spend time admiring some of the 250 churches that provides a diverse collection of religious authorities and serves the islands local community. The prominent Orthodox Metropolitan Church with its white domes and gracious arched entrances stands proudly in the centre, amidst other whitewashed buildings.

Clearly St. Irene was successful in her calling.

Anastasi Church Imerovigli Santorini Greece

Passing, the blue domed and white washed Anastasi Church, in Imerovigli.

Orthodox Cathedral, Fira Santorini

I make my way to The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, in Fira that can be seen from many vantage points across the island. Built in 1827 with rolling arches and a delightfully peaceful courtyard, the cathedral was restored in 1956 following an earthquake and adorns beautiful frescoes inside, whilst outside offers an impressive view of the caldera and the volcano of Santorini.

Mati - Evil Eye Fira Santorini Greece

The labyrinth of cobble stoned lanes and gleaming white streets are peppered with places to eat and drink, along with an abundant supply of jewellery shops, art galleries and souvenir shops selling an array of Máti.

The Greek Máti GR – Μάτι dates back to the 6th century BC. The Máti, is also known as evil eye; a talisman or apotropaic that is believed to have the power to protect and avert evil influences or bad luck.

The process of casting away the evil eye is referred to as xematiasma and involves an incantation recited three times. What the incantation is can differ according to the family, the region and/or situation. Pk Cocktail Bar Santorini Greece

It’s time for a bite to eat at PK cocktail bar, to admire the view, enjoy the experience and just ‘be’.

With time passing by, I return to the old port descending on foot via the well-trodden now paved path, carved out of the sheer mountainside in 1715 that is used to transport goods and supplies by donkeys, mules and human foot traffic.

Fira Santorini GreeceFira Santorini Greece

Waiting a few minutes at the top of the path for some donkeys being guided by their owner to pass, before continuing down the winding path and encountering a few more donkeys lining the path of steps.

Fira Old Port Santorini Greece

Back at the port and I find myself drinking a girl ‘lemon’ beer and chatting to a Kiwi (New Zealand) woman who now lives and works together with her Greek husband on the island.

Sunset Santorini Greece

Time to pause and ponder for a moment and appreciate where I am and admire the breathtaking views across the Aegean Sea and the unspoilt island of Thirassia GR – Νησίτης Θηρασίας, before taking in the early rays of the sunset that graces the sky and changes the cliff face to burnt orange. Looking to stay in Santorini, you have choice; in fact a choice of more than 1700 accommodation providers offering accommodation for every budget and every occasion.

Santorini Greece

Looking back across the sea as the small boat returns us to the ship, I wonder – will a return visit to Santorini present and offer an opportunity to experience more of what this island has to share?

I hope so.

This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a commission for purchases and bookings made through these links.

This blog is part of a series of posts about the Greek Islands and ancient historic sites in Greece. I hope you enjoy reading and that I bring some inspiration (if needed) to visit this amazing and magical part of the world. Looking for additional reading on Santorini, check here.

Continue island hopping with me, as I spend time in Mykonos and other islands in the Mediterranean.

Leave a comment and let me know, and visit A Soul Awakening to subscribe and receive new blog posts as they become available.

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Comments (34)

  1. GGeorgina 12 months ago

    Absolutely enjoyed reading this blog post on Santorini very much. You have given an in-depth historical background to this island. It is such a beautiful island. I will definitely visit this place in the next year or so.

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 12 months ago

      Thank you Georgina, really appreciate your feedback and delighted to read you enjoyed.

  2. Moawia Abdelkairm 12 months ago

    Marilyn,
    This is a great post. I really appreciate the historical context. A couple of questions:
    1) I have not been to Santorini, do you think it is suitable for solo travelers?
    2) Do you think over-tourism has impacted it negatively?

    Thanks. Moawia

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 12 months ago

      Thank you Mo, appreciate your feedback and questions. Yes, definitely suitable for solo travelers. And, yes tourism has had an impact; the negative circumstances are that many tourists are visiting during the high Summer months, putting a strain on the islands resources. It would be my suggestion to visit on the shoulder seasons, clearly less tourists, less daily big cruise ships and also better prices on accommodation. The island is serviced by a local bus and there is also local ferry services to neighbouring islands.

  3. Moawia Abdelkarim 12 months ago

    Marylin,
    I enjoyed reading this post, and your photos are great. I also appreciated the historical context. I have never been to Santorini, and have a couple of questions:
    1) Do you think it is a suitable destination for a solo traveler?
    2) Do you think over-tourism has impacted it negatively?

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 12 months ago

      Hi Mo, I responded to your question through the first comments post. Thank you 🙂

  4. Gabby 12 months ago

    What a place of contrasts! Vibrant white with a backdrop of blue; an awfully big cliff to climb that sounds like it hasn’t changed a bit over time (and they say Australia is extreme!), white houses dotting a rather dark and bland landscape … but oh that last sunset <3 You live in a stunning part of the world Marilyn!

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 12 months ago

      Thank you Gabby, really appreciate your comment. Yes, Santorini is very different to other Greek Islands. Aside is business during the peak Summer months; it really does have lots to see, learn and experience. I am totally with you, the sunsets are stunning, and seeing the changing colours in the cliff was quiet spectacular: remindered me of the changing colours of Uluru. I am forever grateful that I am living here.

  5. Elsa 12 months ago

    I enjoyed your pictures so much! Santorini was easily one of the best stops during our cruise vacation.

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 12 months ago

      Thank you Elsa, appreciate your comment and happy to read you enjoyed the posts pictures. Cruising and island hopping through the Greek Islands, is an enjoyable way to see a sample of what the islands have to offer.

  6. Ann 7 months ago

    Moste articles I have seen has had the a-typical images attached. You dont, and I do appriciate a realistic view of the island. Thank you for that!

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 7 months ago

      Thank you Ann and you are welcome. I greatly appreciate you like my choice of images. 🙂

  7. Angela 7 months ago

    A lovely post on a beautiful island. I am currently arranging a holiday for my son to Santorini for his birthday so it was great to read this.

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 7 months ago

      Angela thank you for your kind words. I am sure your son will have a wonderful birthday enjoying and experiencing all that Santorini has to offer.

  8. Sharon 7 months ago

    Santorini has the deepest blues — ocean and skies — with the white white buildings. Your photos are amazing!

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 7 months ago

      Thank you Sharon 🙂 I’m forever amazed by the stunning blues in the Greek Islands.

  9. Jan 7 months ago

    I love the deep blue colors of the sea and the almost ethereal view as you approach Santorini. Looks like the perfect place to go for total relaxation and feasting the eyes. Thank you for the detailed history of this place. It is interesting that ‘Mati’ – the Greek evil eye protection jewelry is a popular item sold in many parts of the world!! I am totally blown by the beauty of Santorini! 🙂

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 7 months ago

      Thank you Jan, I appreciate your kind words. I also certainly hope that one day you find yourself relaxing and feasting your eyes on the majestic views and surroundings offered by Santorini.

  10. Jenn | By Land and Sea 7 months ago

    Wow your pictures are incredible! I’ve cruised the Greek Islands but unfortunately Santorini was not a stop on the itinerary. Looks like I will have to go back!

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 7 months ago

      Thanks Jenn, I certainly hope you get an opportunity to revisit more of the Greek Island and include Santorini.

  11. Sharon 7 months ago

    What a beautiful island, with lots of historical context. This is a place I would love to visit some day.

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 7 months ago

      Hi Sharon, thank you. I hope one day goes and you find yourself soaking up the historical and natural beauty that is Santorini.

  12. Helen 7 months ago

    Ah this post brought back so many memories! I visited Santorini over 20 years ago and your photos have inspired me to go back. Those blues are so incredible!

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 7 months ago

      Oooh that would have been wonderful to experience and I can only imagine that it would have been less touristy. I agree, the blues, the blues of the sea, the sky is spectacular.

  13. Wendy Lee 7 months ago

    I’ve never been to Greece, but when I do, I definitely want to visit Santorini. Your photos are lovely and would inspire anyone to travel here.

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 7 months ago

      Greece and her islands will spoil you with wonderful natural beauty. I hope you find yourself enjoying all that Santorini has to offer.

  14. Sinjana 7 months ago

    Stunning landscape complimented by the beautiful architecture. Santorini is so very enticing. I can’t wait to see the place in real.

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 6 months ago

      Sinjana, Santorini’s unique landscape is breathtaking. I truly hope you have an opportunity to visit.

  15. Nicky 7 months ago

    Whenever I think of Santorini, I think blue and white and your photos do not disappoint! Thank you for taking us on your journey, I was truly disappointed for you when you got back on the ship, Santorini seemed to resonate with you. I’d love to visit myself one day.

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 6 months ago

      Thank you for your kind words Nicky. It’s nice to see my love for the Greek Islands is showing in my writing. There is more that I am yet to see in Santorini, so will return.

  16. Santorini is absolutely hypnotic, to borrow your phrase. However one chooses to scale the steep cliff face to start to enjoy the island, it’s such a gorgeous place to enjoy, especially outside of the typical tourist spots. I took my college-age daughter to Santorini several years ago, and not a week goes by that I don’t hear a plea from her to go back. Don’t tell anyone if I go back on my own!

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 6 months ago

      I can appreciate your daughter love for this hypnotic island. 🙂 Santorini certainly does have its own gracious and charming feel. However, I have found that there are a number of other delightful Greek Islands that are definitely worthy of a visit and are far less touristy. ps. I am yet to write about my experiences on four other Greek islands that I found to be truly delightful in their own unique and special way. 🙂

  17. Angela 5 months ago

    A beautiful and informing post on Santorini. I finally understand the belief behind the evil eye talisman. My son was due to be staying in Santorini in May but I guess plans will be put on hold for a while.

    • Author
      ASoulAwakening 5 months ago

      Thank you for your kind words Angela. It’s helpful to learn from locals. Santorini will wait, and be worth the wait. 🙂

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