Spectacular Santorini -- scene of one of the world's most violent volcanic eruptions around 1450 B.C. -- is inarguably the most scenically dramatic of all the Greek Islands. Officially the island is Thira, yet the Latin name of Santorini persists. With its pitch-black beaches, rugged landscape and stunning caldera (volcanic crater), it's more akin to one of the Canary Islands than the Cyclades, though its whitewashed buildings and clifftop houses score highly in the charm stakes.
This is the island for lovers of natural beauty. Best views are from the cliffs bordering the caldera, which was formed when the center of the island basically collapsed into itself. Geologists marvel at the cliffs' multi-hued strata of rock, lava and pumice, so take your camera and be prepared to feel the earth move (perhaps even literally -- Santorini's most recent major earthquake was in 1956, although there was one nearby as recently as June 26, 2009).
If you're happy to enjoy a browse around the shops and a lazy lunch with a view, Fira will fit the bill perfectly -- and it even has some 9th-century clifftop ruins to explore. But to see the best of Santorini, you should take a shore excursion, via bus or taxi, further afield.
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