Santorini, officially known as Thera, is about 200 miles southeast from Greece's mainland. It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago that is the remnant of a volcanic caldera. The region first became volcanically active around 3-4 million years ago, though volcanism on Thera began around 2 million years ago.
A caldera (or cauldron in English) is a cauldron-like volcanic feature formed by the collapse of the island following a volcanic eruption. I've copied in below some images of how a caldera is formed as shown on Wiki.
The island is the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history: the Minoan eruption (sometimes called the Thera eruption), which occurred some 3600 years ago at the height of the Minoan civilization. It destroyed the earliest settlements on the formerly single island and left the large caldera surrounded by volcanic ash deposits hundreds of metres deep and may have led indirectly to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 110 km (68 mi) to the south, through a gigantic tsunami.
With an area of approximately 73 km2 (28 sq mi) and approximately 15,550 people, it is one of the two or three most popular islands in Greece. Cruise ships anchor below the town of Fira and cable cars take tourists up the steep cliff of the caldera about 300 m (980 ft) to Fira where they overlook the lagoon which measures about 12 by 7 km (7.5 by 4.3 miles).
Fira Down to Where Cruise Ships Anchor
Below, the two sets of 6 cable cars in a series can be seen rising up and down the caldera edge.
As you can imagine, the anchoring in the lagoon is limited due to the caldera edges continuing steeply into the seabed. Although there are places to anchor, it is difficult to leave your boat comfortably without worrying about it while you tour the island. Therefore, we decided to leave Onward at the marina in Crete and take the fast ferry across to Santorini, a 1 ½ hour ride.
The capital of the archipelago is Fira but we stayed at the north end of the island in a smaller, quieter village named Oia. Oia is a pedestrian village of winding, fairly steep pathways set among the white villas, tavernas, cafes and shops that "fall" down the edge of the caldera to the beautiful blue Aegean Sea.
One day we hiked 14km from Oia to Fira along the top edge of the caldera. In this photo you see 3 of the villages we passed through. The views were impressive and we were guided about ½ way by a local dog.
Once we made a wrong turn, and low and behold, she came back for us and redirected us back onto the correct path! We nicknamed her "Santos". After the 3 hour hike, we enjoyed wood fired pizza and pasta (not so Greek but it's been a while since we were in Italy or had good Italian food) before returning back to Oia via bus.
A Little Side Story
The nicknaming of animals has become a tradition with us since our first lonely animal adopted our children and us on our sailboat while crossing Georgian Bay in the Great Lakes of Canada. "Roger" as he became known with the kids, found us many miles off shore on our way to Roger City, USA. He was so tired; he sat on our life lines for several hours resting. Another time, a similar incident happened with "Lion" on our way to Lion's Head, Ontario, and then again a dog we nicknamed "Monty" who followed us on a hike in Montenegro
We enjoyed the view just sitting on our patio of our small cave room villa overlooking the lagoon, walking the village paths stopping in a few of the many boutiques and shops, and looking for places to eat lunch or dinner.
One evening we were like lemmings (much to Trevor's disgust) sitting with just about everyone else in Oia at the tip of the island for the famous sunset photo opportunity that all the guidebooks refer to. Unfortunately, the sky wasn't clear enough for a really good photo.
We saw many brides having their photographs taken, sometimes the groom would be around, but never were the wedding parties. Maybe they are actually on their honeymoon and brought their clothes from the ceremony for photo's??
Donkeys are used to carry heavy loads of bottled water etc. to shops on the hillside and to carry tourists up the steep pathways.... the poor things.
After three days/ two nights, we headed back to Crete via the fast ferry, but this time the crew handed out sea sickness bags just as we left port. Good thing too! The ferry had to slow down due to the rough seas and the crew was busy the entire trip making their rounds handing out more bags (and unfortunately for them collecting used ones too)! I guess our sea legs were good enough to not need any.
We were glad not to be sailing in those conditions. I had to smile as Trevor said to me while on the ferry, "It would be nice to be able to go this fast sometimes wouldn't it.
" A trip that took us 2 hours on the ferry would have taken us a very uncomfortable 12 hours or more and I would have needed some of those bags for sure!