Santorini (Greek: Σαντορίνη) is a small, circular archipelago of islands of volcanic origin, located in the southern Aegean Sea 110 km north of the island of Crete and is the most southern of the Cyclades. The island has an area of 73 sq km and a population of approximately 13,000. The name Santorini was given to it by the Latin empire in the 13th century, and is a reference to Saint Irene. It is also known as Thera or Thira (Greek: Θήρα).
It is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion, destroying the earliest settlements on what was formerly a single island, and leading to the creation of the current geological caldera. The giant central lagoon now measures 11 km by 7 km and is surrounded by cliffs that rise to 300 meters on three sides. On the fourth side of the island, the lagoon is separated from the Aegean by a much smaller island called Therasia with a population of less than 300 inhabitantsi.
Santorini is one of the most scenic islands of the Aegean.
It is renowned for the beautiful views from the villages situated on the cliffs of the lagoon and archipelago. These are especially magnificent at sunset. During the day you can marvel at the moon-like landscapes and beaches or visit the volcanic islands of Palea and Nea Kameni by taking one of the daily cruises. On the shore of the larger island Nea Kameni, visitors can walk through the "lunar" landscape to finally see the volcano's crater and some holes where the sulphur steam comes out from.
Once a major exporter of pumice, the quarries of Santorini were closed in 1986 to protect the volcanic caldera and now the primary industry is tourism, which in summer significantly increases the resident population. Santorini"s spectacular natural beauty and many attractions make it one of Greece"s top tourist destinations.
Fira, the island"s capital, is dramatically perched high on the cliffs overlooking the lagoon and at first glimpse, from your plane or ship, the whitewashed houses look like a scatter of sugar cubes on the cliff top. If you want to experience the full dramatic impact it"s worth arriving by a slower ferry with open decks, rather than by enclosed catamaran or hydrofoil.