Thirassia, the other face of Santorini

Through the eruptions and earthquakes that have shaken Santorini's geology, Thirassia has become detached from the main island. Now an island in its own right, it forms part of the small Santorini archipelago, along with tiny Aspro Nissi and the volcanic islands of Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni. Only an arm of the sea separates Thirassia from Santorini, with which it shares exactly the same landscapes and the same sublime Caldera. However, Thirassia's destiny is very different from that of its big sister: kept away from mass tourism, its landscapes have remained unspoilt. In this respect, Thirassia is a place apart, a breath of calm after the hustle and bustle of Santorini. With its countryside-by-the-sea atmosphere, its secret spots and its inhabitants who are just like their island, austere and authentic, this is a chance to really get off the beaten track in Santorini.

Le petit port de Korfos à Thirassia
© Heracles Kritikos / Shutterstock

Thirassia, the mirror opposite of Santorini

Apart from the gigantic volcanic eruption of 1600 BC, the ancient history of Santorini is still relatively poorly known: we don't know exactly when Thirassia broke away from its neighbour, apart from Pliny the Elder, who puts the date at 237 BC!

Facing Santorini, Thirassia
© serg_dibrova / Shutterstock

Eruptions and earthquakes have shaped the geography of Santorini. If you look at the map of the island, you can see from the shape of Thirassia that it is simply a continuation of Santorini: the geology is the same, as is the vegetation and relief.

The inlet between Riva, the port of Thirassia, and Oia on Santorini is less than 2km long: this section, probably collapsed by an earthquake, now serves as the gateway to the Caldera for passenger ships sailing between the Cyclades and Athens.

Passenger ships don't usually call at Thirassia, which, despite being so close to Santorini, has never been a popular tourist destination! Worse still, it is the poorest of the Cycladic islands... the main activity remains agriculture, with its plots of vines, vegetable gardens and chicken coops. On the roads of Thirassia, you often come across more mules than inhabitants!

An inlet separates Oia from Riva, on Thirassia
© Karis48 / Shutterstock

In fact, there are no more than 250 people living on Thirassia. Every day, however, the island's population doubles, even triples, with the arrival of the excursion boats from the volcano of Santorini: they stop for a while at Korfos, a small port on the cliffside, leaving their passengers to have lunch in the tourist-friendly tavernas, climb the stairs leading to the capital Manolas, only to return just as quickly when it's time to leave.

Thirassia regains all its tranquillity.

A day trip to Thirassia... or even longer?

As soon as you set foot in the port of Riva, the main town of Thirassia, the contrast with Santorini is stark: the luxury hotels and neat little streets of Oia give way to ramshackle shacks and the odd fish taverna. And that's the beauty of Thirassia!

Ruelle de Manolas
© Zbynek1 / Shutterstock

You can easily spend a day on the island, using the small ferry from Ammoudi, the port of Oia, early in the morning. The distances on Thirassia are not insurmountable: everything can be done on foot for hikers, but it is also possible to explore the island by electric bike with a guide.

The main objective will be to reach the edge of the Caldera, but on the Thirassia side, for unparalleled views of Santorini: from the promontory of Kommares and its ancient quarries, through the ghostly lanes of Manolas, to the majestic monastery of Kimisi Theotokou, at the very southern tip, the view is permanent.

Thirassia cliffs
© Gildas_29 / Shutterstock

Along the way, take the time to appreciate these agricultural landscapes reminiscent of Santorini before tourism, with only the sound of birds disturbing the peace... a break interspersed with a few discoveries, such as the chapels with their multicoloured facades, a speciality of Thirassia, and the ancient troglodyte houses of Potamos or Agrilia.

From Manolas, the stairs descend steeply to the port of Korkos, from where the return link awaits you back to Oia... unless you prefer to stay longer and sleep on Thirassia!

Thirassia Paradise Suites Santorini

Thirassia Paradise Suites

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Practical information

👉 How do I get to Thirassia?

There is a daily ferry service from Ammoudi, the port of Oia, to Riva and Korfos on Thirassia.

  • From Ammoudi: 8am - 12.30pm - 5.30pm
  • From Korfos/Riva: 7.45am - 12.15pm - 5.15pm
  • Price: €1 per crossing

Much more expensive, you can hire a water taxi.

🥾 How do I get around Thirassia?

The easiest way is on foot, with good walking shoes.

To explore the island by bike, call Explore Thirassia, which offers guided tours.

🍴 Where to eat and drink in Thirassia?

Small supermarkets and two tavernas with a view in Manolas, the capital.

by Faustine PEREZ
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