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 >  Cyclades  >  Santorini  >  Santorini tempts winter visitors

Santorini tempts more winter visitors

- by Andy Cornish

Santorini wants more winter visitors to the island and hoteliers are to launch a major initiative to tempt off-peak travellers.

Not only have hotel owners been persuaded to stay open throughout the winter months but visitor attraction will keep their doors open too.

Without the soft sand beaches of many other Greek islands, Santorini has never actually based its tourism model on the usual sand and sea attractions.

Its biggest draws are the amazing cliff-top villages around the rim of a volcanic caldera, some impressive archaeological sites and its world famous food and wine.

The plan has the backing of island mayor Nikolaos Zorzos who launched a collaborative initiative 'Santorini: Year-round Destination'.

"Santorini may already be acknowledged internationally but we will not rest on our laurels as we are aiming for the island always to be on the top of the traveller's mind," the mayor told a tourism meeting.

This winter around 100 hotels on Santorini have agreed to stay open along with a number of restaurants, bars and shops.

Other initiatives aimed at promoting all-year-round tourism include keeping transport services active over the winter including regular flights from Athens and daily ferry services.

The initiative may well pave the way for other Greek islands to cash in on attracting more winter visitors.

As tourist numbers look set to reach record levels this year, the Greek government has already committed to backing moves to extend the tourism season beyond the traditional months of May to September.

Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura added: "I am sure also that Santorini will be an example and encourage other destinations to invest in 12-month tourism."

Santorini is well placed to pioneer winter tourism in the Greek Islands with a number of key attractions that don't just rely on sea, sun and sand.

Not least is nightlife in capital Thira, which sits on the edge of 300 metre high sheer cliffs overlooking the flooded caldera of an ancient but still active volcano.

A favourite docking port for cruise ships, the village along with neighbouring villages of Imerovigli and Oia are famous for their sunset views over the islet-dotted bay.

To the south is Akrotiri and one of the finest and best preserved archaeological finds in the Cyclades, if not the whole of Greece.

A former Minoan city was buried in volcanic ash around 1500 BC and remained untouched until the 1860s when excavations unearthed paved lanes lined with well preserved three-storey houses.

Inland from the holiday resort of Kamari is the site of Ancient Thira where excavations are spread over a long terrace with exhilarating seas views.

Regular boat excursions can take visitors on trips to the active volcanic islets that sit in the Santorini caldera such a Palia Kameni and Nia Kameni while the volcanic soils are ideal for growing some of the finest white wine in the world.

Santorini certainly has lots to offer the holiday visitor at any time of year.