Back in 1450 BC, a massive volcanic eruption caused the middle of Santorini to fall into the sea. It left a steep-edged crater known as a caldera peeping above the waves, which, today, is a spectacular sight from the island’s clifftops.
It’s not just the geological make-up of the island that turns heads, though. With its whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches and never-ending vineyards, Santorini is Greece at its traditional best. Thira, the capital, is a popular place to stay – it’s perched on top of the caldera rim overlooking the Aegean. And the northern town of Oia, which also has a spot on the caldera, is the best place to see the island’s famous sunsets.
The beach scene
If you don’t mind your sand in a darker shade of grey – a legacy of the island’s volcanic past – there are some great beaches in towns like Kamari and Perissa. Framed by jagged cliffs, Kamari’s dark sandy sweep has been given Blue Flag status. As for Perissa, the 7-kilometre stretch here comes with a good helping of watersports.
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On Santorini’s southeast coast, Perissa is a picturesque village dotted with whitewashed villas and framed by jagged volcanic scenery. It was only built in the Sixties, so is relatively new. And what it might lack in rustic appeal, it more than makes up for with its watersports portfolio, easygoing nightlife, and ancient sights.
Kamari is an upmarket town on Santorini’s east coast that combines relaxed sophistication with old-school Greek charm. But what really sets it apart is its dramatic setting, sandwiched between the Aegean Sea and the rugged peaks of Vouno Mountain.
Pyrgos is a quiet village set high on a volcanic crater on Santorini’s west coast. To say it’s postcard-pretty is an understatement. Winding lanes fan out from the remains of a Venetian castle, taking in whitewashed houses, traditional tavernas and churches with blue-domed roofs. And the sunset views from up here are pretty fantastic, to put it mildly.