Santorini is a one-of-a-kind Greek island, a place where whitewashed villages seem to have been dropped gently from the sky onto steep cliffs overlooking the cobalt blue Aegean. Arriving at the island’s old port is one of the great moments in travel: You anchor in the vast submerged caldera of a volcano, surrounded by crescent-shaped walls that rise dramatically from the sea.
Was this Atlantis? Some scholars point to the destruction of an ancient civilization by the massive eruption of the volcanic center of the island (in 1628 B.C.) as evidence that it was. The archaeological dig at Akrotíri provides a link to a still-mysterious history. But today’s visitors are more likely to come to the island (known to most Greeks as Thíra) to sample the local taverna specialties, enjoy the nightlife, and savor the views from the crater, including what have been called “the most spectacular sunsets on the planet.” Admittedly, the cruise-ship crowds can be overwhelming and the touts persistent. And the beaches, by Greek standards, are not remarkable. So why do travelers journey to this island again and again? For the scenery, which features the caldera as the main character in a stunning Greek drama.