In 1956 a major earthquake near Amorgos island resulted in the demolishing 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. The major settlements include Fira (Phira), Oia, Emporio, Kamari, Perissa, Imerovigli, Pyrgos, and Therasia. Akrotiri is a major archaeological site, with ruins from the Minoan era. Santorini's primary industry is tourism, particularly in the summer months. In 2007, the cruise ship MS Sea Diamond ran aground and sank inside the caldera. The island's pumice quarries have been closed since 1986, in order to preserve the caldera. Santorini was ranked the world's top island for many other magazines and travel sites, including the Travel+Leisure Magazine, the BBC, as well as the US News.
Santorini has no rivers, and water is scarce. Until the early 1990s locals filled water cisterns from the rain that fell on roofs and courts, from small springs, and with imported assistance from other areas of Greece. In recent years a desalination plant has provided running, yet non-potable, water to most houses. Since rain is rare on the island from mid-spring till mid-autumn, many plants depend on the scant moisture provided by the common, early morning fog condensing on the ground as dew.
Due to its unique ecology and climate, and especially its volcanic ash soil, Santorini is home to unique and prized produce. Santorini tomatoes are renowned; they are cherry tomatoes that are extremely tasty and sweet, and with an intensely red, staining colour. Santorini "fava" is a purée made of the hulled, then sun-dried, then boiled legume Lathyrus clymenum - not from the yellow split pea as in the rest of Greece. The white eggplants of Santorini are very sweet, with very few seeds, and can be eaten raw. The katsoúni is a unique local variety of large cucumber which, if left unpicked when green, turn yellow and acquire a sweet taste almost indistinguishable from that of melon.
Cuisine - Local specialities
Brantada Koskosela (local Strapatsada) Santorinio Sfougato Tsounisti (Manestra) Melitinia (dessert)
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. The vines are extremely old and resistant to phylloxera (attributed by local winemakers to the well-drained volcanic soil and its chemistry), so the vines needed no replacement during the great phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century. In their adaptation to their habitat, such vines are planted far apart, as their principal source of moisture is dew, and they often are trained in the shape of low-spiralling baskets, with the grapes hanging inside to protect them from the winds.
The viticultural pride of the island is the sweet and strong Vinsanto (Italian: "holy wine"), a dessert wine made from the best sun-dried Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani grapes, and undergoing long barrel aging (up to twenty or twenty-five years for the top cuvées). It matures to a sweet, dark amber-orange, unctuous dessert wine that has achieved worldwide fame, possessing the standard Assyrtiko aromas of citrus and minerals, layered with overtones of nuts, raisins, figs, honey and tea.
White wines from the island are extremely dry with a strong, citrus scent and mineral and iodide salt aromas contributed by the ashy volcanic soil, whereas barrel aging gives to some of the white wines a slight frankincense aroma, much like Vinsanto. It is not easy to be a winegrower in Santorini; the hot and dry conditions give the soil a very low productivity. The yield per acre is only 10 to 20% of the yields that are common in France or California. The island's wines are standardised and protected by the "Vinsanto" and "Santorini" OPAP designations of origin.
The traditional architecture of Santorini is similar to that of the other Cyclades, with low-lying cubical houses, made of local stone and whitewashed or limewashed with various volcanic ashes used as colours. The unique characteristic is the common utilisation of the hypóskapha: extensions of houses dug sideways or downwards into the surrounding pumice. These rooms are prized because of the high insulation provided by the air-filled pumice, and are used as living quarters of unique coolness in the summer and warmth in the winter. These are premium storage space for produce, especially for wine cellaring: the Kánava wineries of Santorini.
When strong earthquakes struck the island in 1956, half the buildings were completely destroyed and a large number suffered repairable damage. The underground dwellings along the ridge overlooking the caldera, where the instability of the soil was responsible for the great extent of the damage, needed to be evacuated. Most of the population of Santorini had to emigrate to Piraeus and Athens.
Bus, Private shuttle and TAXI services depart from Fira to all parts of the island.
Santorini has two ports: Athinios (Ferry Port) and Skala (Old Port). Cruise ships anchor off Skala and passengers are transferred by local boatmen to shore at Skala where Fira is accessed by cable car, on foot or by donkey. Tour boats depart from Skala for Nea Kameni and other Santorini destinations.
Santorini airport viewed from ancient Thera. Santorini is one of the few Cyclades Islands with a major airport, which lies about 6 km (4 mi) southeast of downtown Thera. The main asphalt runway (16L-34R) is 2,125 metres (6,972 feet) in length, and the parallel taxiway was built to runway specification (16R-34L). It can accommodate Boeing 757, Boeing 737, Airbus 320 series, Avro RJ, Fokker 70, and ATR 72 aircraft. Scheduled airlines include the new Olympic Air, Aegean Airlines and Athens Airways, with chartered flights from other airlines during the summer, and with transportation to and from the air terminal available through buses, taxis, hotel car-pickups and rental cars.
Towns and villages
Kamari Akrotiri Ammoudi Athinios Emporio
Finika Fira Firostefani Imerovigli Kamari Karterados
Messaria Monolithos Oia Perissa Pyrgos Kallistis Vothonas Vourvoulos