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Santorini Travel Guide

Santorini, classically Thera, and officially Thira, is an island in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200 km (120 mi) southeast from Greece’s mainland. Santorini is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic explosion that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island, and created the current geological caldera. A giant central, rectangular lagoon, which measures about 12 by 7 km (7.5 by 4.3 mi), is surrounded by 300 m (980 ft) high, steep cliffs on three sides. The main island slopes downward to the Aegean Sea. On the fourth side, the lagoon is separated from the sea by another much smaller island called Therasia; the lagoon is connected to the sea in two places, in the northwest and southwest. The caldera being 400m deep makes it possible for all but the largest ships to anchor anywhere in the protected bay; there is also a newly built marina in Vlychada on the southwestern coast. The principal port is called Athinias. The capital, Fira, clings to the top of the cliff looking down on the lagoon.

Santorini and Anafi are the only locations in Europe to feature a hot desert climate according to the Köppen climate classification system.

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.

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 sativus – 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.

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, and also as premium storage space for produce and especially for wine cellaring: the Kánava wineries of Santorini.

Airport

Santorini (Thira) National Airport is an airport in Santorini/Thira, Greece (IATA: JTR, ICAO: LGSR), located north of the village of Kamari. The airport serves both as a military and as a civil airport. With its relatively small apron, the airport is only able to serve up to 6 civilian planes at the same time. The tower (freq. 118.05) also serves as approach / departure, up to FL170.

Santorini is one of the few Cyclades Islands with a major airport. It is about 6 km southeast of downtown Thira. The main asphalt runway (16L-34R) is 6972 feet/2125m in length. 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. Scheduled airlines include Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines, with chartered flights from other airlines during the summer. Transportation to and from the air terminal is through buses, taxis, hotel car-pickups and rental cars.

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