Known as the "Black Pearl of the Aegean," Santorini has one of the most dramatic backdrops of cliffs, sea and sky in the world. The island was not always crescent-shaped as it is today. A volcanic eruption during the Bronze Age caused the middle of this once-circular island to sink, leaving an enormous sea-filled crater flanked by mammoth cliffs. This cataclysmic event is the reason for many of the island's remarkable features -- from its black-sand beaches and exquisite wines, to its fascinating archeological sites.
Visit Akrotiri, where Minoan Pompey, a well-preserved archeological site from the Bronze Age, was excavated. This ancient city was covered in pumice when the island's volcano erupted. Evidence of virtually intact walls and houses, frescoes, pottery and furniture revealed this to be a highly developed civilization, although no skeletons of humans have been found. Some believe these ruins to be the lost city of Atlantis.
THE ART OF WINE
Santorini's climate and volcanic soil allows for an exceptional grape-growing region. The Boutari Winery, in the quaint village of Megalochori, produces Greece's most famous and finest wines, including a sweet dessert wine, vinsato. The island's cuisine, dependent on locally grown produce and seafood from the Aegean Sea, is unlike any other. Local food specialties include Tarmosalata, smoked fish roe, and Keftedes, spicy meatballs.
BREATH-TAKING VIEWSPhotographers the world over come to Santorini just for the magnificent vistas. To see the Aegean in all its blue-green splendor, make a morning visit to the Mountain of Prophet Elijah, where you can enjoy sunrise from the island's highest peak.
The capitol town of Fira, located on the island's west end, is perched on the edge of sheer 260-meter cliffs. Wonderful views combine with quaint streets filled with souvenir shops, jewelers and fine dining restaurants to make this a most special place. To truly appreciate this cliff-clinging spot, descend by cable car to the port of Athinio below. If you're truly daring, zigzag down the face of the cliff on a donkey!
At day's end, be sure to visit Oia, pronounced E-ah, a romantic, traditional settlement located on the northern tip of the island on a steep slope of the caldera. Visitors flock here at sundown to witness a spectacular Greek sunset.