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The Greek island of Santorini, located in the Aegean Sea, between the islands of Anafi and Ios, is a unique, crescent-shaped island formed by an ancient volcanic eruption said to have taken place in 1650 B.C. Perhaps the most alluring characteristic of Santorini is its volcano, whose eruption has resulted in the submersion of the island’s center. What remains is a crater and a dramatic 980-foot-high cliff, ideal for viewing the region’s traditional Cycladic villages.
Visitors are also lured by the island’s verdant landscape and well-maintained historic sites that offer a glimpse into the Minoan civilization of the Bronze Age. Excavations of the ancient city of Akrotiri, for example, have revealed sophisticated multistory buildings with rooms that showcase pottery and ceramic collections still intact. There are also remnants of large wall paintings depicting flowers, animals and scenes from everyday life, which have kept much of their original color. Also unearthed were pipes with running water and water closets, which are among the oldest of such utilities discovered. Dubbed the Minoan Pompeii, Akrotiri was buried by a devastating volcanic eruption that took place in the late Minoan period.
Another draw for Santorini is the historic village of Oia, known for its picturesque collection of narrow streets, traditional houses and churches. Situated on the northern end of the island, atop a cliff, the village offers expansive views of the neighboring island of Thirassia, which is easily accessible via tour boat. Many inspired artists have settled in Oia, and the charming village features art galleries, souvenir shops and cliffside taverns where guests can top off a day of exploring with a view of the sunset and a plate of fresh, locally caught seafood.