Comprising of small circular archipelago of volcanic islands in the southern Aegean Sea, Santorini (locally known as Thira) is all that remains of an enormous volcanic explosion. The island’s spectacular physical beauty coupled with its dynamic nightlife makes it one of Europe’s most popular hotspots.
During the Bronze Age, geologists called the then-circular island of Santorini, Strongyli, which means rounded. After a devastating eruption, however, Strongyli collapsed into the Aegean Sea, creating Santorini’s now-signature crescent shape, as well as several surrounding islands.
Santorini volcano has erupted 11 times so far, but it is believed that the eruption in ~1630 BC was one of the most explosive in history. There is a theory that this eruption indirectly affected the disappearance of Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, by creating a gigantic tsunami.
Minoan civilization was considered to be the most culturally advanced society of that time. Another known theory says that this eruption is the source of the legend of Atlantis.
One of the most memorial excursions we enjoyed while in Santorini was a visit the prehistoric Akrotiri, believed to be associated with the Minoan civilization, located on the nearby island of Crete. The earliest evidence for human habitation of Akrotiri can be traced back as early as the 5th millennium B.C., when it was a small fishing and farming village.
By the end of the 3rd millennia, this community developed and expanded significantly due in part to the trade relations it established with other cultures in the Aegean, as evidenced in fragments of foreign pottery at the site. Akrotiri’s strategic position between Cyprus and Minoan Crete also meant that it was situated on the copper trade route, thus allowing them to become an important center for processing copper, as proven by the discovery of molds and crucibles.
The large extent of the settlement, the elaborate drainage system, the sophisticated multi-story buildings with magnificent wall-paintings, furniture and vessels, show its great development and prosperity. The various imported objects found in the buildings indicate the wide network of its external relations, including the Greek mainland, Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt.
The town’s life came to an abrupt end in the last quarter of the 17th century BC when the inhabitants were obliged to abandon it as a result of severe earthquakes. Upon the eruption that followed, volcanic materials covered the entire island and buried the town, similar to Pompeii. In contrast, the excavations here revealed no human remains exist, indicating the people had time to evacuate.
Perivolos & Pyrgos
On our first morning on Santorini, the coach drove to Profitis Ilias, the highest point on the island, for stunning views. There are more than 300 churches and monasteries located here and many of the iconic blue domed structures were visible from our vantage point. Thereafter, we enjoyed a walking tour of the village of Pyrgos to see the classic Cycladic architecture.
In the afternoon, we made our way to the black sand beach of Perivolos, passing picturesque villages. Here we enjoyed a traditional Greek meal at a beach side restaurant before spending the remainder of the day in leisure, swimming and sunbathing.
Often touted as the most picturesque village in the Greek islands, Oia is perched upon the island’s craggy northwestern edges. With its stunning views of the caldera and surrounding islands, blue and white church domes, and lack of power lines to clutter its panoramas, Oia is paradise.
Red, white and black volcanic rock decorate curvy footpaths, and there are other delightful elements: whitewashed windmills, fuchsia bougainvillea blooms trailing on buildings, and the occasional mural or quirky shop decoration to inject a bit of whimsy.
Oia was most prosperous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thanks to its merchant fleet, which engaged in trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly from Alexandria to Russia. Today, large number of tourists visit this place during afternoons to witness one of most beautiful sunsets in the world. This is also most photographed scenery in all of Greece.
This is the first in a five-day hopscotch exploring the Mythological Secrets of Greece:
The Acropolis & Ancient Athens
Santorini (this post)
Find more homeschool related topics to explore at the iHomeschool Network’s Homeschool Hopscotch