SEMI PRIVATE TOURS OF SANTORINI – LICENSES TOUR GUIDE ON THE BUS
The semi private tours starting from Athinios port and this is how the licenses tour guide will start :
Athinios Port is the new port of the island. Athinios Port is the only commercial port of the island. Here is where all of the Greek – ferries come as well as of the cruise-ship excursions. Athinios port is the only port which is accessible by car and bus. The old port of the island is located at the bottom of the islands capital, Fira. The cruise ships are docked at the old port. The old port is accessible by three ways: by foot for the exercise lovers, by donkey for the adventurous or by cable car, for people like me… The cable car was built by a local, Nomikos, who thought that it would be better and easier for the people to come up to Fira using it. In this way he gives 20% of the income to the donkey’s owners and the rest of it are charity donations. The Northern most tip of the island, Oia, has one of the most beautiful views on the island.
Coming up if we look to our left, we can see the beautiful caldera. There are 4 islands in the Caldera. The islands farthest back with the houses on top is Thirassia or Small Thira. This island is inhabited by approx. 350 people and it has 2 villages. The village that is visible is the capital of the island Manolas.
The island next to Thirassia that looks like a cupcake is the island of Aspronisi or the White island. Aspronisi is an inhabited island that is made up of 100% Pumice Stone. The island closest to us is Nea Kameni or the New Burnt island. This is the new volcano of Santorini and it is approx. 400 years old. There are 7 craters on Nea Kameni, the last crater, St. George is still active. When I say active, I don’t mean that if you visit the crater you will see lava coming out, but you will see and smell the sulfur smoke that is still being emitted by the volcano.
The small island in the back of Nea Kameni is Palea Kameni, or the Old Burnt Island. This is the old crater of the island which is no longer active. Palea Kameni was erected in 137 b.c. The biggest and main crater is not on Nea Kameni, remember Nea Kameni is the New volcano of the island. The original-first crater of the island is actually the caldera or the gulf that we see next to us. This is the original and still active crater of Santorini.
Thousands of years ago, Santorini had a different shape. The island shape was actually circular until the devastating eruption of 1625 b.c., but let me start at the beginning of the islands history. About two million years ago, the Aegean Sea use to be dry land that was connected from Athens to Crete to Asia minor. Through many different upheavals, the earth broke into pieces and water rushed in, to fill the gaps. All that remained from the continent of Aegean was the tops of the mountains. These tops of the mountains are the present islands of the Aegean Sea.
Santorini, 2 million years ago, used to be three tiny islands or rocks, there was no crater or volcano visible at the time. (I will be able to show you these rocks in a little bit). As the volcanic rain which was located near the 3 rocks became active, lava started pouring out of the volcanic vein. Throughout the various eruptions lava filled the gaps and connected the three small rocks into one large circular island. If we look at the map, located at the front of the bus, we can still see the outline of the original shape of the island. All we have to do is connect the different islands. If we connect Oia, the northern tip, to Thirassia, to Aspronisi, to Akrotiri, the Southern tip we can still see the outline of the once circular island.
Santorini was a circular island with a crater in the middle which was located where the caldera is today. The crater reached 1,000m. (3,000ft) in height. In 1625b.c. there were many devastating earthquakes and a terrible eruption which followed. This great eruption was so large that it caused the crater to collapse inward and break the central and western parts of the island into pieces allowing water to rush in creating the present day caldera. Caldera is a word often associated with Santorini. It is a Spanish word which means “cauldron”. More than half of the island was destroyed. Santorini now occupies a total area of 72sq. kilometers. This is the size of our caldera 83sq. kilometers. Santorini’s caldera is one of the largest of the world.
The remainder of the island was buried under 60-70 m of pumice stone and volcanic ash. The explosion was so great that scientific research tells us that the blast was heart in the Scandinavian countries and ash was found in California, Greenland, the land, and Asia Minor. Remember that the actual crater of Santorini is not Nea Kameni, but it is the actual caldera, the gulp next to us. The rein is actually located where your cruise boat is docked. The crater is located under the water and is presently active but quiet. Not only has Santorini’s shape changed but the islands shape has also changed throughout time. Santorini’s original name was “Strongili” which comes from the Greek word “strogilo” meaning round.
At the top of Athinios port, we can see the other part of the island. The view is not as dramatic as the cliffs of the caldera but the view is quite peaceful.
The highest point of the island is Profitis Ilias, the mountain that we will see with the radar antennas on top. The mountain of Profitis Ilias is 565m. high. On the top of Profitis Ilias or Prophet Eliya, there are Greek and Nato military bases. The name of the mountain comes from the monastery of Profitis Ilias which is located at the top. The monastery was built in 1771 and there are currently 5 monks living there today. The mountain that we will see slopes downward. At the lower peak of the mountain is Ancient Thira.
Pirgos. The small hill that we will see is the highest village on the island. The village of Pyrgos was the capital of the island until 1810. This village is virtually untouched by tourism. For centuries the island was invaded and inhabited by many nations, but the Venetians were the ones that left a finger-print in the islands history. On top of the hill, there are remains of an Venetian castle, which was built by the Venetians in the 13th Century, during their occupation on the island. The Venetians built the castle on the top and their houses around the hill to protect themselves against island attacks. But in 1537 a pirate called Barbarosa captured the island and handled it over to the Sultan of Turkey. There are 50 churches in Pyrgos and 250 inhabitants. It is a saying that Pyrgos has more churches than houses, more donkeys than people and more wine than water.
The airport is an international airport and it was built in 1971. According to statistics, there are 75 domestic and 85 charter flights per week. Santorini belongs to a group of islands called “Cyclades”. “Cyclades” comes from the Greek word “cyclos” which means “circle”. If you look at a map of Greece you will be able to see that the Cycladic islands form a circle on the map. Santorini is the Southern most island of the Cyclades.
On our right we will see the village of “Messaria“. Messaria is the geographical center of the island. Messaria comes from the Greek word “mesi” which means “middle” “Messaria” means “in the middle”-in the middle of the island.
Years ago the economy of the island was based on the export of pumice stone. Pumice stone is a porous volcanic rock and when mixed with cement it is a good insulator underwater. In 1866 when the Suez Canal was being built, they made quarries to export the pumice stone. There are three quarries on the island. Because so much pumice stone was being exported, more than 2 million tones annually, the government made a strict law which forbade the exportation of pumice stone from the island. We will be able tosee the quarries and the factory and how much of the hill is missing. If pumice exportation was not banned, a big damage would have been made to the island. The whole island would have been destroyed.
At the town of Fira. After the second World War, Fira became the capital of Santorini. You will be able to see some of the public buildings of Fira- Post office- and the Archeological Museum of the island. The new museum built in 2000 and contains the new findings of Pre-Historic Akrotiri, which is the islands excavation site. The Orthodox Cathedral of the island, the beautiful bell-tower of the Catholic Cathedral. 95% of the islands is Greek orthodox. In the main square of the capital are all the banks and some cafes. Fira has a population of 2,500 inhabitants. For the young and young at heart, Fira is where the most night life is. It is build 30 meters above sea level, is famous for its views and sunsets. This were 42 gold stores are located, which contain jewelries brought from all over the world and of course the Greek hand made pieces.
There are three different parts to the capital of Fira. The lower part is Fira, the middle part is Firostefani and the highest part is Imerovigli. Firostefani gets its name from “stefani” which means “crown”. The village of Firostefani forms sort of a crown around Fira. Imerovigli gets its name from the Greek word “imero” day and “vigli” watch. The islanders use to keep their day watch or “imerovigli” from this village. There are two different theories on how the capital Fira got its name. Firstly the capital has two different names “Fira” and “Thira”. The first theory is that during Turkish occupation the Turkish could nor pronounce the “th” sound in Thira, so they changed it to the “f” sound and called the capital Fira. There is a problem with this theory. Many linguists disagree with this theory. The other theory is that the name comes from the Greek word “firos” meaning a yellow-radish color, the color of fire. the color of the rocks under Fira have a deep radish color. There are different layers of this color and the name of the capital comes from the color of the rocks under Fira. This is the most popular and mostly accepted theory.
During the 13th Century, there was a Venetian occupation on the island. The occupation took place in 1204. The Venetians fortified 5 different places on the island. Imerovigli was the capital. They chose Imerovigli because it is the highest point on the Caldera. there is a strange rock formation that protrudes from the front of the village. This rock formation is called “Skaros” and it is here that the Venetians built their strongest of the five castles. This castle was never defeated. the castle was destroyed in 1956 during the terrible earthquake that registered 7.8 on the Richter scale. Santorini is a very seismic island. Earthquakes are common on the island but they are usually very small registering from 1-3 on the Richter scale. Santorini is 72sq. kilometers and has a permanent population of 10.000 inhabitants. There are 13 villages on the island.
The green plants that we will see everywhere are the grape vines. Usually grape vines are cultivated 1.5m high. The Santorini grape vines are cultivated near to the ground to protect them from the strong winds that hit the island. The vines are cut, leaving the three strongest branches and are weaved into a basket shape. The grapes are grown inside the basket. This protects the grapes against the winds. the vines that we see here are very young. On the Southern cape of the island, Akrotiri, there are vines that are 65 years old. In the winter, when all the leaves fall off, the island looks like it is covered in baskets. Santorini and Mykonos are the windiest islands in Greece. In August, the islanders pick the grapes by hand and transfer them by donkeys to their wineries. White, red, semi-sweet and very sweet are some of the wines Santorini produces.
Below you will find a typical guiding sample but since each one of you it is unique the tour will take its personal character and if you want to see specific parts of the islands we can always customize the tour to your expectations.
Santorini personal tour: Santorini’s soil is very fertile because of its volcanic nature. Because there is no water on the island, everything grows without any irrigation. Santorini’s atmosphere is 70-80% humidity. the plants absorb the water they need from the islands humid atmosphere. Santorini is almost dry, the hottest month being July, when the temperature goes up to 40 degrees and the coldest is January with a temperature of 12 degrees. There are few springs and they don’t supply much water. For their daily needs the inhabitants use drills or rainwater carefully collected in cisterns. Almost every house has its own cistern. Theses days the island is also supplied with tankers, carrying water, but this water is not drinkable as it is usually not very tasteful or even salted.
This is the narrowest part of Santorini which is 2 kilometers from left-right. There is also another crater near Santorini. This crater is not connected with the crater of Santorini. It is 2.5 miles away from the shore and 20m (60ft) under the sea. The last eruption was 350 years ago in 1650. The eruption caused a great tidal ware that submerged part of the island underwater. “Kouloumbos” is quite at the time, but it is still a very active volcano. Usually, this crater is more active than the Santorini crater.
(as the bus drives show the white-red-black walls on the left)
Prehistoric Akrotiri is 4.000 years old. It is still in good condition because it was preserved under volcanic ash. The life of the island is based on the life and activity of the volcano. Every time the volcano erupts, the island changes. Tradition says that through the eruptions to come, the island will return to its original circular shape.
Finikia, which we will see to our right is the most traditional part of Oia. Oia was the commercial center and the capital of the island until1956. It was a rich village where sailors, captains and mechanics lived. Here they would export the products of Santorini. There were 9 shipyards in the village. as you will see, the main road is paved with marble stones. In 1956 an earthquake of 7.8 on the richter scale destroyed the village and the island. 80% of the houses were destroyed. Also after the last eruption in 1950 many left for Athens in fera of a stronger eruption.
After the eruption in 1625 b.c. the island was inhabited for 300 years. I would like to give you an idea of how large the eruption was. There was a tidal ware that was 210m. high when it left Santorini and still 70m. high when it reached Crete, washing and destroying the Minoan Civilization. The sound of the blast was heard in the Scandinavian countries and Asia minor. It is the 5th largest eruption of the world.
During the 13th century, the Venetians named the island after a church called “Santa Irene”. In Greek it is pronounced “Santa Irini” and over the years the name became Santorini. The official name of the island remains to be “THIRA” after the Dorian King “Thiras”.
The island of Santorini is known for two characteristics: her cave houses and her many churches. There are over 550 churches on the island, even though they say that there are only 457 churches, one for each day of the year. Cave houses or spilies are common in Santorini. These houses are very inexpensive and easy to built. The volcanic soil is soft enough to dig into, but sturdy enough to hold for many years. The care houses even to this day, stay very cool in the summer and very warm in the winter.
In 1978 Custo and his boat “Calypso” come to the island. He wanted to visit the part of the island that was lost under the sea. The water between the volcano and Thirassia is the deepest water in the caldera, reaching 400m depth. This was not a problem for Custo. the problem was that when caldera was formed the land sunk 1,000m deep. After each eruption, lava covered the land. The lava measures approx. 600m. The lost island is buried under 600m of lava which is under 400m of water. Maybe one day we will be able to discover what was lost all those thousands of years ago.
In the books you will read that the eruption took place in 1450b.c. This is the old theory. Five years ago, 150 geologists, volcanologists and scientists did a research about the eruption. They found that in California on a rim of a tree, the found that a great eruption had changed the atmosphere. The rig dated to 1625b.c. +/- 30 years. the only eruption that great near +/- 400 years was the eruption of Santorini. Scientists also found volcanic ash in the layers of ice in Greenland from an eruption that took place in 1625b.c. +/- 30 years. the great eruption of 1625b.c. has altered the atmosphere of the whole planet. Although Santorini is a very quite island, it has a very explosive past. Who knows what the future holds…………