Santorini is an island in the Aegean Sea, one of the Greek Cycladic Islands. Google Maps nicely shows Santorini (zoom in and out to get a good idea of where the island is in the Aegean sea and its position relative to Athens). The island has two names, Santorini and Thira (TH'EE-ra, sounding very much like the English word theory).
Fira (fee-RAH, subtly different from the island name) is the capital town of the island, perched atop the edge of the caldera cliff formed by the volcanic eruption ca 1600 BC. Adjacent to Fira is the town of Firostefani (fee-roh-ste-FAN-ee). The Nomikos Centre is in Fira, toward the edge of town near Firostefani. The view of the caldera from Fira and Firostefani is majestic. In these towns you will find all kinds of shops from tourist traps to banks, public phones, jewelers, travel agencies, pharmacies, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, discos, etc.
Kamari (ka-MAR-ee) is a small town located on an impressive beach. It offers a number of tavernas, beach bars, cafes, and a diving center. Above Kamari is the archaeological site of Ancient Thera, and nearby are the active excavations at Akrotiri. A visit to one of these two archeological sites is scheduled for conference attendees.
Oia (EE-ah) is located on the northwestern end of the island at the edge of the caldera cliff. Oia is famous for its romantic sunsets, and a number of fancy cafes and restaurants can be found there. While there are many hotels in Oia, we do not recommend staying there as it is a 10 km drive from Fira along a narrow winding road, and commuting can be difficult.
What to Bring
You will be visiting a Greek island, so in addition to the conference, that means sun, sand, excellent food, and dancing! We recommend bringing suntan lotion, a bathing suit, flip-flops, a beach towel, sunglasses, loose-fitting light colored clothing, and a hat. If you want to take a swim in the sulfur springs, bring an old bathing suit as the minerals can cause cloth discoloration. If you want to visit the volcano, bring sturdy walking or hiking shoes as well. Don't forget your camera and extra storage, batteries or film.
The typical weather in late June is dry, clear, and warm (80 F / 26 C; 50% humidity; 10 mph / 15 kph breeze). The moon will be in its first quarter during the 2010 conference, so star gazing may be spotty for the early hours of the evening. Current and historical weather for Santorini can be found at The Weather Underground.
If you are planning on renting a scooter, you must have a motorcycle license.
Money, Electrical Power and Internet Access
The unit of currency in Greece is the euro. While a growing number of shops accept credit cards, the Greek island economies are still largely cash based. There are ATMs at some banks in Fira. Electrical power is 220 Volts at 50 Hz using standard European plugs (most commonly like this or like this). While there are inexpensive internet cafes available in Fira and elsewhere on the island, the conference will be providing only very limited connectivity, and none in the main hall. This is a conscious decision to encourage attendees to participate in the conference rather than being distracted by email and the Web. The response from our 2006 and 2008 attendees on this policy was overwhelmingly positive. If you need extended internet access, we recommend PC World in the central square of Fira where you can purchase connectivity in 15, 30, and 60 minute increments at reasonable rates. Their phone number is +30-22860-28595. Please bear in mind that standard connection speeds in the Greek islands are somewhat slow.
Greece has an extensive GSM network operating at 900 and 1800 MHz. Pay-as-you-go SIMs are available from many vendors throughout the country, and top-up cards are available at nearly every kiosk.
For US attendees, if you wish to use your mobile phone and home phone number, you will first need to verify that yours is a tri-band or quad-band phone (also known as world phones). Then you will need to contact your service provider before departing the US to enable international roaming. Be sure to inquire about rates for calls made and received abroad as there is often a substantial surcharge! If you wish instead to get a local pay-as-you-go SIM, you will need to unlock your phone. Please contact your service provider for information on doing that. Allow a few weeks for either of these two changes. Also, if you have a 3G phone (Blackberry, iPhone, etc.) please be very certain to understand the roaming costs associated with travel abroad.
More information about GSM phones in general is available at The Travel Insider, and about Greek mobile phones in specific at Living in Greece. While GSM coverage is quite good throughout Greece, 3G/4G coverage remains spotty on the islands. A summary of Greek GSM coverage can be found for each of the major companies at Mobile World Live.
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