|Colin Murison Small's|
Size: 20km x 6km
Santorini is unique - the detritus of a giant volcanic eruption. White villages adorn the rim of the crater like icing on a cake whose bottom has dropped out. It is a popular cruise stop, making the capital, Fira, rather frenetic when the fleet’s in; but its position overlooking the Caldera atones for everything and it’s a good base. In fact the villages don’t stop at the rim, but cascade (increasingly each year) down the sheer face of the cliffs, with much of the accommodation being housed in the Gruyere-like caves and indentations; vaulted bedrooms carved into the rock are all the rage – the more their construction owes to Nature the more the owners charge for them.
The archaeological site of Akrotiri, dating from 1500 BC, is a must, as is a boat trip across the Caldera to the other main island of Therasia, visiting on the way the "Burnt Islands" of the crater for a swim in the sulphur springs. On these islands there are hot sulphureous fumaroles so, if you happen to have a frying pan and a couple of eggs on you, you may cook breakfast on the hoof. Fira (confusingly, the Greek name for the island Santorini is Thira) is amazing, most of it being built into the almost vertical cliffs. Along the rim, the pedestrian lane is packed with fashionable shops and bars where you can drink something whilst you also drink in the view. It’s not cheap.
At the tip of the island is Oia where, again, accommodation has been carved out of natural caves; it’s fascinating to wander round and well worth walking to the end and taking the stepped path down to the tiny port (and nearby beachy) of Ammoudi, with its fish tavernas for lazy lunches. Oia is gradually becoming a mini-Fira (though much quieter), with new hotels in panoramic settings and plenty of shops, tavernas and even some night-life of its own.
The eastern coast is the “flat” side of the original mountain whose centre dropped out some 3,500 years ago. At the northern tip facing Ios there is a long, if often windy, sandy beach whilst as you go south the beaches turn a volcanic black – oddly, that’s where the Martians mostly stay, particularly at Kamari and (just south of a forbidding mini-mountain) Perissa which we recommend should be visited only by incorrigible voyeurs of Martian life.
There are direct charters on Tuesdays from Gatwick and Manchester to Santorini and direct scheduled flights 2-3 times a week from Gatwick. Alternatively you can fly on any day from Heathrow to Athens and continue either by domestic flight or take one of the increasing number of fast ferries from Piraeus.
Pension Villa Gianna, Fira
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