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Thursday, May 4, 2006
Santorini, officially known as Thira, is said by many to be Greece's most spectacular island. In the 15th century BC a volcano erupted and the centre of the island collapsed into the sea forming a caldera or crater, the vestige of what may have been the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history.

The precipice surrounding the caldera is one of twisted and colourful rocks and steep cliffs. The mild and dry climate produces some of the world's best wines and small tomatoes.

The eastern side of the caldera has the Cycladic villages of Thira, Imerovigli, Firastefani and Oia perched above the sea.

The 6th century town of Fira, the capital, clings to the edge of the caldera, and in 1956, earthquakes destroyed a considerable part of the town. Fortunately, many 18th century buildings survived and with the deep blue of the Aegean Sea, whitewashed houses and black, red or white sand, it's instant beauty. Six hundred steps lead to the harbour and if you don't feel like walking back, take the cable car or a passing donkey.

Fira has a maze of winding streets, arcades, lots of souvenir and jewellery shops and a quarter once inhabited by Catholic nobility. Its museum has some interesting prehistoric finds, mostly pottery, from the 6th and 7th centuries. It has a gold ibex figurine from the 17th century BC. Found in 1999, it's in mint condition. There are hotels, tavernas, restaurants, bars and cafés, and Fira is certainly a lively place.

The Castle of Scaros at the top of the whitewashed village of Imerovigli has amazing views.

At 300 metres it is the highest point of the rim and from it you can see the enormity of the semi-submerged volcano.

It is also where you find the small and charming hotel, Chromata. It faces the sea and the volcano and its 22 rooms and suites were designed by Kostas Nikolaidis. Each is air-conditioned and has a private terrace. It has the most superb infinity-edge pool which seems to join the sea, all topped off with a bar and restaurant.


The southernmost of the Cyclades Islands


Chromata Hotel rooms start at $316 a night. Breakfast and taxes are included.

For further information

Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
646 Botany Road
Alexandria, 2015
Ph: 1300 661 666; Fax: (02) 9313 4475

Santorini 847 00
Ph: 30 228602 4850
Fax: 30 228602 3278

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