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Sunsets, scenery and one smoking volcano

Santorini Part 1

 A student? Family man? Rich bastard? Fear not, there is something for everyone on the spectacular island of Santorini.

Santorini’s not half the place it used to be. Literally. 3,500 years ago, a large volcano erupted –probably the biggest explosion in recorded history – and the heart of the island collapsed and fell down into the bottom of the lake. The result? One of Greece’s most spectacular islands, with none more famed for its beauty. Santorini is Mother Nature’s work of art.

Located in the most southern group of islands known as the Cyclades, its crisp white villages teeter on top of dramatic cliff tops that sweep down onto the deep, sparkling sapphire waters of the Caldera.

Leave the baby and pram at home and bring your kneecaps

And life on Santorini is all about the sunset. Accommodation, daily activities and careful restaurant selection all revolve around their proximity and ‘uninterrupted unique views’ of said sunset. The topic of most conversations, locals can accurately predict the next ‘red sunset’ so feel free to ask, they love to advise. The idyllic village of Oia (pronounced ee-ah) is generally considered the place to be as the sun goes down, however views from Fira are equally jaw dropping.

Trips out to the volcano are abundant, with most tour operators offering a wide selection of itineraries and departure times. And yes, with the smell of sulphur in the air, it is very much active, however it is monitored daily and gives off ‘I’m gonna blow’ signals long before anything happens. So they say.

Where to stay: Budget

Sunset at Maria’s

From the main street of Fira, turn left and follow the whitewashed steps leading past Hotel Keti. Maria’s Rooms consist of two rooms (she plans to build two more) with a shared, private balcony. Clean and simple, they’re situated in a quiet nook thankfully away from party town Fira. The real gem is the large terrace that offers possibly the best views of the Caldera, all the way to the volcano. Breakfast under the shaded pergola is an experience with only distant church bells, birdcalls and the clomp, clomp of the donkey train to disturb your views of the glittering Aegean. And ever heard of budget accommodation with a 24-hour concierge? A former champion ice-skater, Maria is super friendly and is on constant standby. Her English is shaky but you somehow seem to get by. And weirder still, you start to understand Greek.

Highly recommended: Around 7pm grab a chair, some nibbles and the bottle of  Freixenet Cordon Negro “Champagne” you bought up the road and enjoy one of the best sunsets you’ll ever see.

Maria’s Room, Fira. Telephone: +30 2286 025 143, +30 6973 254 461. (no website or advertising)

Where to stay: Moderate

A room with a view, Caldera Villas

Many people consider Oia to be the prettiest of Santorini’s villages and I tend to agree. Although touristy, it’s managed to retain a whole lot of darn adorable Greek charm. Caldera Villas are twelve traditional cave apartments spilling over the cliff side at Oia. Great view, lovely pool and ideally located next to one of Oia’s tastiest restaurants, Skala.

Highly recommended: Having an afternoon nap on the shaded outdoor bed just to the left of the pool.

Caldera Villas, Oia. Web: www.calderavillas.gr Telephone: + 30 22860 71 285. 

Where to stay: Expensive

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It’s not until you step out onto a rooftop terrace, take in dazzling panoramic views and sink into an open air jacuzzi, that you can truly be thankful that you’re stinking rich.

Located in Imerovigli atop one of the highest peaks of the island, Altana Traditional Houses is a modern-day homage to Eutychia, Greek God of  Happiness. Combing indulgent luxury with old-school elegance, each room has a private terrace with views that stretch to Ios, Silkinos and Anafi. Many services are on offer including morning yoga classes, dance and a bevy of massages (there are nine to choose from). But the real point of luxury is the exceptional care of the Bekiaris family. Christos and his mother are the purist essence of Greek hospitality.

Highly recommended: Take a final nightcap downstairs in the century old Kafeneio bar. Christos can advise of the best Vinsanto to taste (Aidani Sigalas) and even offers great music tips.

Altana Traditional Houses. Web: www.altana.gr Telephone: +(30) 22860 23240 

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