Interesting tidbit of information. It was the Venetians that gave Santorini its name. It is derived from Santa Irene and when travelers from Western Europe came to the island for supplies, they saw it as an appropriate name. It is said that the ancient name of the island, Thera, comes from its first settler, a Spartan named Theran.
There are traces of the decades of Venetian occupation of Santorini. The castles at Skaros, Pyrgos and Emporio are only some of them and Dandelion Travel can help you visit them. There is a strong Catholic presence on the island because of Santorini’s Venetian years and this also shows in the architecture, especially in churches and monasteries, that sometimes is a mix between Aegean and Roman-Catholic.
The people of Santorini know how to have a good time. Summer is the season of festivities, mainly religious ones. Attending one will bring you that much closer to the local culture. Make sure to be at Santorini around the 15th of August, which is when many churches and monasteries around the island celebrate the Assumption of Mary. At Kamari, Oia and Perissa, you will see people dancing, enjoying local delicacies and generally having lots of fun.
The ancient, prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri is one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the past decades. It was built in the Neolithic era and was considered a very important city in the Aegean, until it was destroyed by the volcanic eruption that also brought down the Minoan civilization. You can also visit the archaeological site of ancient Thira at Mesa Vouno that was built in the 9th century BC and was inhabited until the Byzantine era.
There are many picturesque Santorini villages to visit: Megalochori in the west plain that overlooks the caldera, Pyrgos, at the highest point of Santorini, that naturally offers magnificent views, Emporio, the largest village with a beautiful castle, Kamari, a sought after destination for travelers from all over the world, and Firostefani, quite close to the capital, at the edge of the caldera, an essential destination in Santorini.
Santorini is also famous for its colorful beaches, due to the volcano. Perissa hosts the famous black beach, which is also the longest beach on the island, fully organized with umbrellas, beach chairs and shops (among which is a beach bar). Adjacent Perivolos’ beach is also black. Of special interest is the red beach, that is a bit harder to get to. Admittedly, the best beach of Santorini is Vlichada, a very organized beach with red cliffs looming over the swimmers.