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Created by a massive volcanic explosion that blew the middle out of the island some 3600 years ago, Santorini’s caldera, a huge sea-filled crater, is one of the world’s most dramatically beautiful natural sights, along with he island’s bizarre black sand beaches that rim the southeast coast. Perched 300m above the caldera, the cliff-top towns of Fira and Oia are made up of whitewashed Cycladic buildings and blue-domed churches (just like on the postcards), plus gourmet restaurants and lavish hotels with infinity pools. The island is very couple-oriented – Tara Reid and Zack Kehanyov had their honeymoon here in 2011 – and appeals to those who like their romance glitzy.
Main City Athens
Surface 90.69 km²
Density 151 /km²
Santorini nightlife tends to centre on Fira, but those in the know head to Hassapiko bar in Oia for after-hours drinking. Also called Marikey (after the owner), it’s a favourite haunt of local shop and restaurant staff, who gather here around midnight to unwind after their evening shifts. Occupying a former butcher’s shop (hassapi means butcher in Greek), it has a traditional white interior, with a marble-top bar and the meat hooks still visible. Expect subtle lighting, lively music from DJs, excellent mojitos and an everything-goes crowd. It stays open late – don’t be surprised if the sun is rising as you leave.
Just a 20-minute walk from pretty Oia (up and down a few hills), Katharos beach lies hidden away between rugged cliffs and rocks. A total escape from the brasher aspects of the island, it remains blissfully undiscovered (no sun beds, no umbrellas), and its fine black volcanic sand, moody sea and stunning sunsets give it an other-worldly vibe. Along a path and up some steps, above the beach, the boho-chic Katharos Lounge (Tel: 6970 966 754; daily 11 am-2 am) serves freshly-squeezed juices and light snacks, and stages live music most evenings.
Just outside Oia, the Sigalas vineyards are organic and produce some 300,000 bottles annually. Santorini’s volcanic soil produces two of Greece’s top white wines, Asyrtiko and Nykteri, as well as the sweet Vinsanto, a dessert wine made from sun-dried grapes. Come here to sample their wines on a stone patio overlooking the estate, and purchase bottles to take home. The grape harvest takes place in mid August, so if you’re here around that time you’ll also get to see the first stages of the wine-making process.