Subsequent eruptions caused the present shape of Santorini and its sister islands, including Palaia Kameni and Nea Kameni. Today these islands have a black lava landscape, hot springs and sulphur vents, showing that geothermal activity still bubbles beneath the surface. Across the sea is Thirisia island, Santorini’s unspoilt counterpart, and easily visited on a day trip from Santorini. On Santorini, layers of lava and ash have painted Santorini’s steep cliffs in colourful orange, grey and brown hues.
Santorini’s pretty capital Fira, along with its nearby black-sand beaches Kamari and Perissa, is a tourist hotspot, with a lively nightlife and charming cobbled streets. Like many popular Greek islands, however, it’s easy to keep away from the crowds and find secluded coves and forgotten villages. Ammoudi Bay, for example, is a small harbour down a few hundred steps from Oia, while the tiny village of Imerovigli is only a 3-km stunning walk away from Fira centre along the cliff top.
Near Fira is the ancient site of Thira, on a high rocky headland between Kamari and Perissa beaches, with magnificent views of the sea. Thira was occupied by the Romans and Byzantines, but most buildings dated from the Hellenistic era, from around the 4th century BC. The most important archaeological site on Santorini, however, is the former Minoan settlement of Akrotiri, 10 km south of Fira. It’s one of the country’s best preserved sites due to being smothered in volcanic ash after the huge eruption, a kind of Greek Pompeii.
Oia in the north is a picture-perfect cliff-top town with Venetian, neoclassical houses and former fishermen’s cave houses cascading down steep hills. It’s ideal for a ringside seat at sunset, while sipping a glass of dry white wine, Assyrtiko, produced from Santorini's volcanic vines.