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Not only is Santorini one of the most beautiful islands in the world, it is also geologically and archaeologically one of the most dramatic. The island, which is also called Thira, is shaped like an enormous pair of jaws encircling a lake filled with pure blue water. This is the core of an ancient volcano, which according to legend destroyed the lost continent of Atlantis when it blew its top about 3,600 years ago, burying the ancient city of Akrotiri (now being excavated) under tons of ash and sending out tidal waves that inundated other landmasses.
The island's two towns, Fira and Oia, are perched on the cliff tops of the highest part of the island. Ferries arrive and depart in the harbour below, and visitors walk or ride donkeys up the steep winding path to the towns. The towns are equipped with hotels, good restaurants, bars and plenty of nightlife to keep tourists happy while they relax between visiting the archaeological remains of ancient Thera, dating back to the 9th century BC, on the east side of the island. Other attractions include the excavations at Akrotiri, an archaeological museum and an 18th-century monastery. Santorini has two swimming beaches, Perissa and Kamari, both characterised by their volcanic black sand.
Santorini is part of the Cyclades Island group, where the climate lends itself to hot, dry weather in summer and mild winters. Temperatures in July and August range from 86ºF (30ºC) during the day to 72ºF (22ºC) at night. Rainfall is almost non-existent in summer but showers can be expected between October and April.
Restaurants in Santorini range from bland and commercial near the tourist traps to unforgettable tavernas where tourists have to compete with locals for seats. Local specialties include tomato keftedes, white aubergine, and fresh grilled fish. Fast-food-style gyros places are plentiful in all the larger towns and resorts. Selene is a popular Greek restaurant in Fira, but those hungry for American-style burgers and beers can head to Just 4 Beer Bar Restaurant in Kamari.
Santorini is well connected with the main cities in Greece either by sea or air. Ferries and catamarans departure from Piraeus Port, in Athens, and there are boats to ports on the surrounding islands. The main arrivals port in Santorini is in Athinios, and there are boats departing for the volcano and Thirasia from the port in Fira. Santorini airport is about 3 miles (5km) from Fira and easily reached by bus or taxi. Taxis are available throughout the island and rates are fixed. There is a well organised bus network and the main bus terminal is in Fira. It is also possible to rent a car, motorbike or scooter-boat on the island.
Santorini is not one of the best islands to take children on holiday as there isn't much for them to do there. There are however some great beaches for kids to enjoy, including Monolithos, Avis and Kamari. There is also a fun water park for kids in Perissa. Other than that, older children might enjoy fishing in the islands' deep waters, going on a boat trip to explore the area, or even visiting a couple of the museums and historical sites, such as the ancient city of Mesa Vouno.
Greek is the national language, but English is widely spoken.
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, divided into 100 cents. Banks and bureaux de change are widely available and travellers cheques and major credit cards are widely accepted. ATMs are widespread and are generally the cheapest and most convenient method of obtaining euros.
With one of the best nightlife scenes in the Cyclades, Santorini has many cafés, bars and nightclubs to enjoy on holiday. Many cafés and bars are found along the caldera, and most nightclubs are in the capital city of Fira, which is the best place to go for all-night partying. The bars and clubs are always rotating, but be prepared to pay upwards of EUR15 a drink in the most popular spots on the waterfront. Oia and Kamari also have a number of bars and discos. You can hear classical music performances at the Nomikos Centre in Fira.
Shopping in Santorini offers a range of lovely holiday purchases, the most popular being gold and amber jewellery. The island's cobbled lanes are flanked by jewellery shops, boutiques, galleries and leather shops, as well as stores selling local handicrafts and souvenirs. The Hondos Center and the Fabrica Shopping Center in Fira are popular shopping destinations for jewellery and fashion items such as clothing, bags and shoes. Oia has great Art Deco galleries to browse, as well as shops selling gold jewellery and handmade wooden artefacts. Santorini is also a wine-producing region in Greece, so a bottle of wine is a popular souvenir. Keep in mind that Santorini prices are generally higher than in most parts of Greece.
Santorini has some great attractions for visitors, including volcanoes, beaches and museums; take time to explore them at leisure, sit back and enjoy the gorgeous views. In the Santorini caldera are the volcanic islands of Nea Kameni (Young Burnt Island) and Palea Kameni (Old Burnt Island), the youngest volcanic lands in the Eastern Mediterranean, with Nea Kameni only having formed some 425 years ago.
Perissa and Perivolos are two of the most popular beaches on Santorini, the black-sanded shore hosting a selection of tavernas and restaurants. Agios Georgios also has some amenities and tavernas, but at the southern tip of the island tends to be quieter. Another great Santorini attraction is the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, with its wall-paintings, golden ibex figurine and Neolithic pottery exhibits. Santorini also has a number of wineries that are worth visiting, and smaller villages with a more traditional atmosphere than the resorts, including Megalochori, Pyrgos, and nearby Thirasia Island.