72 Fascinating Facts About Santorini

Educational, interesting, and fun facts about Santorini, Greece

Yassas! Welcome to the Greek Island of Santorini (Σαντορίνη), one of the world’s most beautiful and famous islands! What is Santorini famous for besides its signature clifftop white & blue houses? Below is a fun collection of facts about Santorini, the “Wine Island”!

General Santorini Facts

  • Santorini is one of the 200+ major islands of Greece (there are over 6,000 if you count the smaller ones). 
  • Santorini is the largest and southernmost of the Cyclades, an archipelago of 56 islands southeast of Athens and mainland Greece.  
The islands of Santorini shot from an airplane
The island group of Santorini from above
  • Santorini is not one but a small group of volcanic islands, totaling 90.69 km2 (35mi2), about one-tenth the size of Luxembourg.  
  • Santorini is what remains of a caldera (the crater formed by a volcanic eruption) filled with seawater. 
  • The main island of Santorini is 73 km2 (35mi2), while Thirasia is 9.25 km2 (35mi2).  
  • At the center of the caldera, Nea Kameni island (3.4 km2) rises from the sea, with smaller Palia Kameni beside it. Formed by successive layers of lava and ash, they are sometimes called the “Burned Islands.” 
Classic postcard view of Santorini, with white and blue church on a clifftop overlooking the sea
The classic view of Santorini, with Nea Kameni visible at the top right
  • Santorini also includes two small, uninhabited islands called Aspronisi and Christiana. 
  • Santorini’s capital is Fira, while the whole island group is traditionally known as Thira or Thera. 
  • Thira Municipality includes all the islands of Santorini and has an elected mayor.
  • 15,500 people live permanently on Santorini.  
  • Over 2 million tourists visit Santorini annually, and that’s not even counting cruise ship visitors.  
  • 90% of Santorini’s economy is based on tourism.  
View of the whitewashed buildings of Fira, Santorini, overlooking the sea
Fira, the capital of Santorini, sits on the edge of the caldera.
  • Santorini has an arid Mediterranean landscape – it almost never rains in spring and summer.  
  • Numerous sources, including Tripadvisor, Travel and Leisure, and US News have ranked Santorini as one of the world’s best islands to visit (for another top-rated island, read these facts about Bali!)  

Random Interesting Facts about Santorini 

  • Santorini is often proposed as one of the possible locations of the mythical island of Atlantis.  
Looking out from the entrance to a cave room on Santorini
A hotel room in a cave in Santorini
  • Buildings in Santorini and other Cycladic islands weren’t traditionally painted white and blue. People started whitewashing the stone buildings in the late 1930s after a cholera epidemic in Greece. The trend stuck, with blue and other colors added to roofs and windows. Blue and white later became the norm, matching the colors of the Greek flag.  
  • There are around 450 churches on Santorini. According to a local saying, “There are more churches than houses, there are more donkeys than people, and there is more wine than there is water.” 
A blue and white church in Santorini with ocean in the background
The classic blue and white architecture of Santorini
  • Red Beach is one of Santorini’s most famous beaches. The beach gets its color from crushed volcanic rocks which also make up the huge cliff backing the beach.  
View of Red Beach on Santorini
Red Beach gets its color from the volcanic rock.
  • 1000-1500 weddings are held in Santorini every year.  
  • The lip of the caldera in Fira is lined with romantic restaurants, bar patios, hotels, and infinity pools with sweeping views of the caldera.  
  • Santorini has about 70 historic windmills.
Two traditional windmills on Santorini
A few of the dozens of traditional windmills on Santorini
  • Ferry passengers arrive in Santorini at Athinios Port, from where 600 steps lead 400 meters up to the town of Fira.  
  • Traditionally, donkeys were used to climb the steps, but the government has taken steps to reduce their use and limit their weight after overweight tourists injured the animals.  
The port of city of Fira on Santorini, with a long step staircase going up to the village
The Port of Santorini, with the staircase up to Fira
  • The town can also be reached via cable car, bus, and taxi. ATV buggies are one of the most popular ways for tourists to get around the island.  
  • Oia, at the northwestern end of the main island of Santorini, is known as the sunset village. Many consider it the prettiest village in Santorini.   
A couple riding an ATV in Santorini
ATVs are one of the most popular modes of transportation among tourists.
  • Nea Kameni, the volcanic island at the center of the caldera, has many sulfur vents. In summer, a carpet of grassy red succulents and other vegetation grows on the thin soil covering parts of the island. 
  • Visitors to Nea Kameni usually spend 90 minutes on the island as a part of a caldera boat tour and can climb to its highest point, at 114m (374 ft).   
  • In a small cove on the islet of Palea Kameni, orange volcanic hot spring water bubbles into the seawater. Tour boats usually stop there to let tourists swim in the water.  
Some sailboats parked at Nea Kameni in Santorini
Boats docked at Nea Kameni
  • Business mogul Giannis Alafouzos was from Santorini, while Spyros Markezinis (former Prime Minister of Greece) belonged to a Santorini family. Folk singer Mariza Koch also grew up in Santorini.  

Facts About Santorini’s History

Pottery at an archaeological excavation site at Akrotiri, Santorini
Ancient artifacts at Akrotiri
  • The 500 km (300 mi) South Aegean Volcanic Arc, which Santorini is a part of, became active 3–4 million years ago.  
  • Santorini itself became volcanically active about 2 million years ago.  
  • Santorini was the site of Akrotiri, a Minoan settlement, going back to 3000 BCE. The Minoans were a bronze-age civilization based in Crete, the largest Greek Island, 115 km (72 mi) south of Santorini. Akrotiri is the best-known Minoan site outside of Crete. 
  • Santorini’s greatest eruption occurred sometime around 1642 to 1540 BCE; the exact dates are fiercely debated among experts. It was one of the largest eruptions in recorded history. 
  • This catastrophic eruption destroyed Akrotiri and created earthquakes and tsunamis, destroying settlements on many nearby islands.  
A tourist climbing up a hill of volcanic stone on Nea Kameni
Mounds of volcanic stone on Nea Kameni, which has grown up from the sea since the major eruption
  • The eruption is largely believed to have sparked the downfall of the Minoan Civilization.  
  • Ash from the eruption is used as a significant marker point in the archaeological record throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.  
  • The eruption is described on the Egyptian Tempest Stele and may have caused a cold wave as far away as China.  
  • Santorini remained unoccupied for the remainder of the Bronze Age.  
  • Sometime after the Bronze Age Collapse (1200 BCE), Phoenicians (from modern-day Lebanon) established a settlement on the island called Callista.  
Ancient Thera ruins on Santorini
Ruins of ancient Thera
  • In the 9th century BCE, Greek Dorians founded Thera, named after their mythical leader Theras. Today, the site is called Ancient Thera and is on the ridge of 360-meter Messavouno Mountain. 
  • Thera colonized cities in Northern Africa, and during the Ancient Greek civilization, it often fought against Athens.  
  • Pliny the Elder reported the appearance of Nea Kameni, a new island at the center of the Santorini caldera, on July 9, 19 CE.  
  • Rome took over Thera, and later the Byzantine Empire.  
  • Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian took an eruption of Santorini as a divine omen against the worship of icons, leading him to implement a policy of iconoclasm.  
Skaros Rock on Santorini
Skaros Rock, which was fortified during the Byzantine Period
  • During the Ottoman period, Santorini was taken by the Republic of Venice and later the Ottomans themselves, but mostly remained semi-autonomous.  
  • The name Santorini first appeared in the mid-12th century. The Venetians named it after the island’s patron saint, Saint Irene.  
  • In the 18th century, residents of Santorini moved the capital from Skaros, built by the Venetians, to Fira, the present location.  
  • Santorini gained independence along with the Kingdom of Greece in 1832. 
  • During WWII, Santorini was occupied by Italian and then German forces.  
Runway at Santorini Airport viewed from above
Santorini Airport
  • The most recent eruption of Santorini occurred in 1950. It produced a new lava dome on Nea Kameni.  
  • Electricity only became widely available in Santorini in 1974.  
  • The Santorini Cable Car, which provides access from the Santorini Ferry Port to Fira town, was completed in 1982.  
A group of cars on the Santorini Cable Car
The Santorini Cable Car provides a short but very steep ride.
  • In 1986, Santorini’s pumice quarries were closed in order to preserve the caldera.  
  • In 2007, the cruise ship MS Sea Diamond sank in the Santorini caldera.  
  • The COVID-19 pandemic cut tourism in half in Santorini. Locals used the time to repair and construct facilities, including new roads and an airport terminal.  

Facts About Food and Drinks in Santorini

A bowl of fava, or mashed yellow split peas, a common dish in Santorini
Fava is Santorini’s most iconic dish.
  • Fava is the most iconic dish of Santorini. It is made from mashed yellow split peas with oil and spices.  
  • Seafood and capers are also ubiquitous local ingredients. A “Santorini Salad” is like a Greek salad but with capers.  
  • Chlorotyri is a local cheese in Santorini made with goat’s milk.  
Octopus and prawns on a grill in Santorini
Fresh seafood on the grill in Santorini
  • Another traditional dish is apochti, pork loin that is seasoned and soaked in vinegar before being dried. 
  • Due to the volcanic soil, tomatoes and eggplants (which are white in Santorini) have an especially strong flavor.  
A bowl of Santorini Salad, which is like Greek salad but with capers
Santorini Salad
  • Santorini is known for its wine, especially Assyrtiko, which is native to the island. The grape thrives in the island’s volcanic soils. Assyrtiko is a rich white wine that can be dry but is usually sweet.  
  • Wines containing at least 50% Assyrtiko and following other traditional making practices are labeled “Vinsanto.”  
Two glasses on white wine with a view of Santorini in the background
Enjoying local wine with a view
  • There are 18 vineyards on Santorini, most of which are open to tourists. 
  • Due to the volcanic soil, Santorini’s grape vines are immune to insects like phylloxera, so many of them are hundreds of years old.  
Barrels on wine in a cave cellar on Santorini
Wine cellar in a cave
  • There is a wine museum in a cave at Koutsoyannopoulos Winery on Santorini.  
  • Santorini has one brewery, Santorini Brewing Company. Their beers include Yellow Donkey, Crazy Donkey, Slow Donkey, and Lazy Ass.   

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