The Cyclades most southerly and fabulous offering, Santorini is a veritable jaw-dropper. Actually an archipelago, the largest of which is named Thira, Santorini is what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion; the lagoon around which the islands gather is the sunken caldera, the abrupt cliffs towering over the sea the caldera’s walls. Oia, on the caldera’s northern rim and Santorini’s loveliest town, is as dramatic as your fantasies could conjure. Cubist houses, whitewashed and blue-framed, cling impossibly to the vertiginous red-brown barren cliffs, the volcanic beach far below. The village is a classic Greek tangle of passageways and staircases, each eventually leading to intoxicating views of the sea. And it just gets better as the day goes on: Oia is at its best at sunset. The failing late afternoon light paints the town rose, then come sunset the whole scene is ablaze: the cliffs a deepening maroon, the buildings golden, the sky a thin ribbon of yellow and purple against the island’s deep, dark waters.
The ancient catastrophic volcanic explosion that created Greece’s most attractive island also helped to forge one of its prettiest walks. Wandering the trail that links the dramatically sited villages of Fira and Oia is the finest way to see Santorini. Whether it’s looking out towards nearby volcanic islets lying west or eastwards towards Anafi, a painter’s palette of colours awaits walkers, with lonely whitewashed churches and golden wildflowers contrasting with cliffs of red and brown, black-sand beaches and the Aegean’s deep blue. Start early before the fierce afternoon heat descends, and adopt a gentle pace to take in the surrounding grandeur.