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A massive volcanic eruption around 1650 B.C. forced the center of what was then a single island to implode and succumb to the sea. Some say that this was the original home of the lost city of Atlantis, which long ago disappeared into the ocean’s depths. Whatever remains of this mythological metropolis is now guarded by beautiful beaches and stately whitewashed homes. Today, Santorini consists of two inhabited islands and several islets. Most visitors spend their time on Thira (the archipelago’s largest island), which is home to Santorini’s major towns, including Fira and Oia. Sleepy Thirassia makes for a relaxing daytrip too. And don’t count out the quieter islands: Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni are worth exploring.
Your first order of business in Santorini is to hit the colorful beaches – the black and red sands make for a memorable visit. Next up, indulge in the archaeological delights of the impressively preserved Ancient Akrotiri or hike to Ancient Thera to see the ruins of three empires, including the Romans. From there, catch a breathtaking view of the caldera, a brilliant turquoise pool of water that serves as the nucleus for the varied isles of this archipelago. Some would say you only need a day to enjoy these islands’ charms (they are a popular port of call for cruise ships), but to really drink in all Santorini has to offer, you’ll need a few days to a week. Then you’ll have plenty of time to learn there’s more to these comely dots of the Cyclades than meets the eye.