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Renowned for its majestic setting and beautiful sunsets, the village of Oia (pictured) on the north-side of the island of Santorini, is one of the most photographed destinations in the world and has graced countless magazine covers. Whitewashed houses with blue domed rooftops appear to rise from the black volcanic cliffs and lunar landscape, surrounded by panoramic sea views stretching as far as the eye can see.
Part of the Cyclades islands’, between Ios and Anafi, in the Aegean Sea, Santorini is renowned for its volcanic caldera which shaped the west-part of the island after an eruption. People come here for its unique vistas and exquisite boutique hotels, many built on the edge of the caldera.
Oia which also boasts more than 60 churches, is just one of many alluring traditional villages along the coastline of this captivating Greek island. Fira, Firostefani and Imerovigli, Finikas and Akrotiri are also popular with tourists for their picturesque charm.
Other resorts such as Kamari and Perissa on the south-eastern side of the island, away from the caldera’s cliff edge, offer a more affordable family-friendly holiday option with beachfront hotels at sea level and taverna-lined promenades.
A great way of exploring some of the prettiest villages along the north-west stretch the island, is to walk the (6.5 mile) scenic route between Fira, the capital of Santorini to Oia. A path winds its way through the charming villages of Firostefani and Imerovigli. In Fira, narrow winding streets lead to quaint boutiques and souvenir shops and an array of welcoming bars and restaurants.
A 15-minute walk from Fira takes you to Firostefani another popular resort with its coloured houses and tavernas, many overlooking the caldera’s edge and across the sparkling blue sea.
On route to the highest point Imerovigli, a must-visit is the Agios Nikolas Monastery, which dates back to the early 1600s. The ruins of the Venetian castle (one of five on the island) are a great place to watch the legendary sunsets.
There are two volcanic islands you can visit: Palaia Kammeni and Nea Kammeni, opposite Santorini. A short boat trip to the port of Nea Kameni from Santorini takes tourists to and from these amazing natural wonders. Step aboard and explore the wild landscape of rocks and craters, at Palea Kameni swim in the thermal waters of the volcanic hot springs.
There are plenty of wonderful, sandy beaches waiting to be discovered all over the island. The golden sands of many Greek island beaches are a million miles away from what you can expect on Santorini. Distinctive to say the least, they are volcanic beaches with black sand or, red, such as the aptly named ‘Red Beach,’ a favourite of photographers’ because of its extraordinary coloured landscape.
Other beaches include Perissa, Kamari, Perivolos and Vlychada, many of which are brimming with beach bars, and a haven for watersports including kayaking and parasailing).
In Akrotiri a fascinating sight to behold is the Archeological Site of Akrotiri. The Minoan Bronze Age settlement was covered in volcanic ash in the late 17th-century BC and has been so well preserved it is often referred to as the Pompeii of the Aegean. Excavated in the 1960s it has unearthed fine artwork including frescoes and fascinating objects giving us a glimpse of history gone by.
From delicious hot and cold mezze to freshly caught seafood such as squid and octopus and succulent grilled lamb, Santorini is a gourmet haven for many. There’s fine dining restaurants aplenty to traditional tavernas where speciality dishes are prepared including Greek salads, delicious cheese pastries and other local dishes incorporating tomato and aubergine.
Some of the best vineyards are here too, so wine flows freely. Crisp dry blends with citrusy notes and sweet fruity dessert wines are the taste of many of the islands’ producers, ouzo and Cretan raki are also popular food pairings.
While the food and drink on the island is top-notch, and the scenery is above-and-beyond beautiful, one of the most alluring things about Santorini is the fact that the weather is bright, warm and brilliant all year round, which means the island is always accessible and exciting.