Thirasia is located west of the island of Santorini and is the only inhabited small island of Thira. Before the so-called Minoan Eruption of the volcano in 1613 BC, Thirasia was part of the single island Stroggili, most of which sank into the sea. Today Thirasia, Santorini and Aspronisi create an imaginary circle, which reflects the original shape of the island.
The area of Thirasia is 9.2 hectares, while according to the 2011 census, the permanent residents on the island are about 320. Today four villages of the island are inhabited, Agia Irini, Potamos, Korfos and Manolas, which is also the capital of Thirasia. There are also the deserted villages of Agrilia and Kera, as well as Riva, the port of Agia Irini that also serves as the modern port of the island.
Today Thirasia is connected all year round with Santorini by everyday routes to Amoudi in Oia and to Athinios. From Amoudi depart small boats that arrive in around 20 minutes either to Riva or Korfos, the port of Manolas, while from Athinios departs the ferry that connects the two islands. Thirasia offers also a direct link to the port of Piraeus by the route Paros – Naxos – Ios – Sikinos – Folegandros – Thirasia – Thira – Anafi.
The villages of Thirassia
The capital of Thirasia is Manolas, which is built in the center of the island’s caldera and offers the best and most spectacular view towards the volcano and the caldera of Santorini. It is a traditional Cycladic village with narrow streets with an untouched by time and modernity atmosphere, transferring visitors to more “pure” times. In Manolas you can also see the impressive church of Agios Konstantinos, built in 1874. It is the only village on the island that offers accommodation while there are located most of the services provided to locals and tourists alike: a grocery and convenience store, ATM, regional clinic, shops and a bakery.
Just below Manolas, located at sea level, is Korfos, a small port that is connected to the village by a snaky path through the reddish cliffs of the caldera. There dock many small boats that bring visitors for a daytrip from Santorini so by the sea you will find many taverns serving delicious local dishes: peas, tomatoes, katsounia, capers and chloro cheese. The local sweet called sikaminoglyko is made traditionally by local women from wild berries that grow in the area.
The village Agia Irini is built in northern Thirasia, and it took its name from the old church – many scholars even attributed to it the modern name of the island, at least until they discovered the Christian Basilica of Agia Irini in Perissa. Every year on May 5th, perhaps the biggest festival of Thirasia is organized by the locals, celebrating the church. The port of the village is the modern port of the island, Riva, which has also a grand beach with black pebbles. Here guests can enjoy their food in the restaurants that are located on the seashore. From Riva start the local bus routes that connect the villages, while there is also a taxi rank.
Potamos is a village in the hinterland of Thirasia, between Agia Irini and Manolas. Many of the houses are built inside the rock, while the landscape of the village is characterized by two churches, Agios Dimitrios and Panagia Giatrissa.
Agrilia was until the early 20th century, the largest settlement of Thirasia. Today it is a deserted village, which is dominated by the majestic Panagia tou Lagadiu, built in 1887 and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Yet another deserted village of Thirasia is Kera, southeast of Manolas, which offers a spectacular view of the volcano, Palea and Nea Kameni. Enjoy the breathtaking view from the chapel of Prophet Ilias, which is built high on the cliff – it only takes a short hike!
Hiking in Thirasia
The small volcanic island is ideal for those who love walking and choose to experience a place through hiking in nature. Distances are short and walking through the nature of the island, with the low vegetation and volcanic rocks is a really special experience. The most common route is from Riva to Manolas and it goes slightly uphill. From the capital of Thirasia, the options for hiking are plenty: a route with a spectacular view is towards Kommates and Ai Giannis, another one is to Potamos and Agrilia, inland, a third to the Prophet Ilias in Kera and from there to Tripiti with the impressive rock formations.
Mythology and History
According to the mythology, Thirasia was the youngest daughter of King Thira, who had granted her the island so she could build there a palace. Scientists believe that the island was created after the Minoan Eruption, in 1613 BC, when the caldera (both of Santorini and Thirasia) was also created. Ancient writers Pliny and Ptolemy mention Thirasia in their work, while during Byzantium and the Frankish rule, the small island had the same fate as its larger neighbor.
Reports from 1866 inform us that back then the pumice production and exports to Egypt were in full swing, since it was used for the construction of the Suez Canal. That was also the year that began the subsequent volcano eruptions and Thirasia had a number of great scientists like the French Foucault who contributed greatly to the discovery of the prehistoric settlement on the island.