Exploring Santorini’s Caldera and Nea Kameni Volcano

 

The Cycladic island of Santorini effortlessly enchants with its phenomenal landscape that’s replete with sapphire blue water, snow-white architecture, and multicolored mille-feuille-like cliffs. What I found myself equally impressed with – perhaps even more dazzled by – was learning about the powerful geological events that shaped the island 3,600 years ago with the eruption of one of the most powerful volcanoes in recorded times.

With Santorini-as-lost-civilization-of-Atlantis myth theories swirling in our minds, exploring the caldera and the still-active volcanic island of Nea Kameni were at the top of our must-see list. To make our understanding of geological events more complete, we also wanted to see the remnants of the prosperous community at Akrotiri, which was decimated by the volcano. Archaeologists believe that Santorini was once inhabited by a group of people similar to those on nearby Minoan Crete. Some even believe that the nucleus of Atlantis might have been situated in what is now Santorini’s caldera.

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Scenes from Santorini

Often touted as the most picturesque village on the Greek island of Santorini, Oia looks like a terraced wedding cake 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 a shutterbug’s 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.

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Santorini Wine: From an Eruption to Effervescence

 

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”

– Pablo Picasso

Each year, nearly half a million visitors flock to striking Santorini. Many come to the legendary Greek island in search of black and red beaches, cool-blue infinity pools, and rugged cliffs speckled with whitewashed buildings. And many, I suspect, are unaware of the island’s intriguing and violent geological history, which shaped its tantalizing cuisine and its unique viticulture. During the last of our ten nights in this paradise of the Aegean, we’d learn about the latter offering, tasting 15 Santorini wines on an excursion with Santorini Wine Tour.

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Sunrise, Sunset on Santorini

 

Santorini days are bookmarked by some of the most majestic sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen. During the ten marvelous days we spent on this legendary Greek island, our only task was just to decide how to spend the time in between. And so we filled our agenda with a cooking class, learning how to make Cold Tomato Soup with Cheese ‘Ice Cream’ and Santorini Fava. We swirled glasses of mineral-rich Assyrtiko and Athiri wine; and in hot springs, we washed off the volcanic soil we’d picked up on our feet during a promenade on a still-active volcano. We also whipped up Greek-inspired meals in our studio apartment, strolled lanes in quieter villages like Firostefani and Imerovigli, and soaked up the island’s fascinating history through visits to the Akrotiri archaeological site, and prehistoric museum which is studded with Akrotiri finds. (Akrotiri is known as the ‘Minoan Pompeii’ and predates Pompeii by more than 1,500 years.)

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Photo du Jour: The Santorini Donkey

 

A donkey, decked out in colorful beads and an evil-eye amulet, awaits the day’s passengers on the stairs leading up to the village of Fira, on the island of Santorini. When visitors arrive to Santorini’s Old Port via cruise ship or boat, they have three ways to make it up to the town of Fira: climb the almost 600 stairs, ride a donkey (5 €  one way), or ride the cable car  (4 € one way). Riding a donkey is controversial – animal rights organizations and some visitors say it is cruel, whereas the local government assures visitors, via signs posted at the port, that the animals are well-cared-for by veterinarians and offered regular periods of rest.

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Photo du Jour: The Greek Sun-Bathing Dog

 

Early mornings on Santorini, Greece belong to the villages’ canines.

Out of their villas’ twisted iron gates they trot, in search of the perfect whitewashed surface on which to soak up the sunshine.

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Cooking with Class in Santorini: Discovering the Greek Island’s Unique Gastronomy

 

As we bid farewell to our charismatic Greek cooking class Sous-Chef, Daniel, he shared parting culinary wisdom with a twinkle in his eye:

“Use your imagination and everything is possible. And remember – you needn’t measure – you must feel the taste.”

We’d come to the elegant, highly-acclaimed Selene restaurant on sun-drenched Santorini, Greece. We would spend the day learning about the island, its Cycladic neighbors, and their unique produce, cheese and wine. We would then try our hands at some of Selene’s trademark recipes and as a reward, savor what we’d prepared. As we strolled out into the Santorini sunlight after our cooking class and lunch, utterly relaxed, with creatively-stimulated minds and taste buds, we reflected on what an exemplary day it had been.

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