Have you ever been on holiday to the Greek islands before? There’s a good chance you may have come across Santorini before. But what is it about this island that pulls so many people back to visit time and again? Some say it’s the sun, sea, and sand. However, others flock here to take a good look at the amazing history and heritage that’s clear to see all around.
This volcanic island proves to be a tourist hotspot in more ways than one. Here are a few fun facts about Santorini which might just fascinate you – clue up before you jet away on holiday, perhaps!
1. The name has changed over the years!
Santorini used to be known as Strongoli. It’s thought this name dates back to Neolithic times.
In fact, the island’s name changed again multiple times over the years, with Thera and Kalliste having been previous identities of Santorini in centuries past.
2. What does ‘Santorini’ even mean?
The current name of the island literally translates to ‘Saint Irene’. Many believe that this name stems from a local church, identifying the island’s religious roots.
3. It’s one of scores of Greek islands.
Santorini is one of many different islands near Greece which make up the Cyclades. These and others number more than 200!
Other islands in the Cyclades group include famous tourist hotspots such as Mykonos, Delos, Sifnos and others.
4. Did Santorini help submerge Atlantis?
Santorini is famous for an ancient volcanic eruption. Specifically, many believe that the eruption during the Minoan era helped to kickstart the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis.
Atlantis was, of course, a legendary civilization believed to be home to demi-gods. However, you can actually trace back the origins of Atlantis to the works of Plato.
5. It’s more a tourism base than it is a permanent home.
There are actually very few people who live on the island of Santorini. It’s said to be home to around 15,000 people.
That said, it’s a hive of tourism, with more than two million more people flocking to the island to explore its legendary landscapes.
6. Escape for the grapes!
Santorini is well-known for its grape production! If you thought that the only two types of grape grown were red and white, you’d be mistaken. There are more than 100 different grape species grown here.
Wine-making in Santorini is curious in itself, and that’s not just because of the huge variety of fruit on offer. It’s thanks to the fact that local winemakers use the humidity in the air to help irrigate the process.
7. Christian beliefs are very important out here.
Santorini is an immensely religious island, specifically regarding Christianity. This is to such an extent that many believe there to be more churches than private properties here.
8. However, places of worship aren’t generally too large.
Many of Santorini’s churches are very small – which is likely to tip the above balance by more than a little!
9. It’s ‘Donkey Island’, too!
There’s also thought to be an overwhelming abundance of donkeys on the island! There are thought to be more of these cute critters than there are people.
10. The famous volcanic eruption really helped to put Santorini on the map.
The immense volcanic eruption which occurred here centuries ago became known as the ‘Strongoli Eruption’. It’s thought to have made its devastating impact here as far back as 1,500 years BC!
11. The deep crater here is popular, too.
There’s a deep crater in Santorini called the ‘Caldera’. The Caldera is said to have been the resultant damage from the ancient volcanic eruption which nearly destroyed civilization here. Caldera is said to be more than 1,300 feet deep.
12. The infamous volcano is still active…
The volcano which caused such destruction all those centuries ago is actually still an active part of the island. Believe it or not, it last erupted back in 1956.
13. Venetian architecture is popular here.
Santorini is well-known for its striking streets and architecture. Much of the styling here is Venetian thanks to the emergence of the empire here over the years. You’ll normally find whitewashed buildings here, too. This is fairly common across the Mediterranean.
14. Give the cobbles a wobble!
What do Coronation Street and Santorini have in common? Cobbled streets! They are iconic to the island, even if you’re used to seeing them outside the Rovers Return.
15. It’s a celebrity haven, too.
Many famous people travel here. In fact, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie once lived here for part of the year.
16. Santorini isn’t actually an island.
Santorini is referred to as an island, but it is technically volcanic rock. It is unique in that it’s one of very few locations where civilization is actively built onto a volcanic rock or soil.
17. Rain is very, very rare.
Santorini barely witnesses rainfall, which makes things extremely humid. In fact, some believe that it’s more common you’ll find wine to drink than water.
18. The Greek flag has a firm place across the landscape.
The way that buildings and homes across Santorini are painted holds plenty of significance. This is because blues and whites are the colors of the Greek flag!
Not only that, but it’s thought that people paint their homes here to show purity in white, and in inspiration of the sea (in blue).
19. Exfoliant is a big export.
One of the biggest exports for the island, believe it or not – is pumice stone! Therefore, next time you’re pumicing or exfoliating, you may well have Santorini to thank.
20. Fancy going castle hunting?
You’ll likely find that the island has plenty of ancient castles and strongholds. It’s thought that the Venetian people put these in place to help fortify the island against pirate attacks.
You’ll also find that, again, thanks to Venetian influence, the island is largely Catholic. This is rare in the Greek side of the Mediterranean, as other communities such as Cyprus tend to be Greek Orthodox.
21. Santorini was slow to modernize.
Believe it or not, electricity has only existed on the island for 60 years. Before that time, Santorini was largely a fishing community. Once again, it was overrun with donkeys, too!
22. Various empires have grappled with Santorini.
The Venetians weren’t the only people to take hold of Santorini. In fact, you’ll find that the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires had control here, too.
What’s more, there is an abundance of Greco-Roman building and influence which you can see here for miles around. That’s why so many people love coming to the island. It is not just about the fantastic weather and the commanding views, but about the incredible history which comes alongside all of that!
FAQs about Santorini
What is Santorini famous for?
Santorini is mainly famous for its volcano, however, you’ll also find it’s popular for its stunning landscape and even its eggplant production!
When is best to visit Santorini?
Santorini’s best months tend to be around September and October. The weather’s still wonderful, but the crowds are thinner!
Is Mamma Mia set on Santorini?
No - it’s actually set on a completely made-up island known as Kalokairi, but filming for the first movie took place in Skiathos and Skopelos.
Do you know any fun facts about Santorini? Share them in the comments below!