City Life: Lazy days and candlelit dinners
This rugged Aegean beauty, the southernmost of the Cyclades, is famed for its sunsets, wine and the turquoise sea that surrounds it.
From its terrifying birth in the apocalyptic volcanic explosion of 1450 BC to the snow-white cubist villas hugging its sheer cliffs, Santorini (also known as Thira) is arguably the most dramatic of all the Greek islands. Barhoppers and gourmets will love its lively tavernas and outstanding restaurants, where just-landed fish is always on the menu. Shopping urges can be similarly sated in the glamorous little town of Oia, with its smart jewellery boutiques and cute narrow streets. Take a hotel room facing the vast volcanic bay (the caldera) and, as you watch ships criss-cross below, you'll realise that you're looking at one of the most awe-inspiring, and romantic, views on the planet.
You'll need a car to tour around the island. There's free parking outside the towns of Oia and Thira. There are also various places where you can rent scooters. Your best bet for a hire car is from Hertz at Fira airport (+30 22860 33670) or go to www.hertz.co.uk. Smith cardholders get a 10 per cent discount; simply quote 635230 when you reserve a car.
The airport is only 10 minutes from Fira, the island's capital. As of Summer 2009 Easyjet will fly direct from Gatwick. Taxis cost around six euros.
There are no train services on the island. If you arrive by ferry, it will take you 15-20 minutes to get to Fira from the port. You'll find car hire companies and taxis when you get off the boat.
Code for Greece: 30. Santorini: 22860.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin or Birds Without Wings, both by Louis de Bernières. If you're feeling intellectual, try Plato's The Republic - the Greek philosopher speculated that Santorini was created by the volcanic explosion that destroyed the lost city of Atlantis.
Do go / Don't Go
The high season is April through to October, but if you can find a hotel out of season you'll see the real Greece. Our reviewer travelled there in the second week of October and described it as 'quiet, but busy enough to give the restaurants a good buzz'.
Classic Greek food such as cheese pie, hummus and tzatziki, meatballs, barbecued meat and, especially in these parts, lots of fresh seafood.
Order one by phone or pick one up at a designated rank.
No big tipping culture, but ten per cent is always nice. Taxis don't expect a tip. It's good form to tip the hotel staff at the end of your stay - a bit of cash in an envelope will be appreciated.
Comfy shoes and an oxygen mask for smokers - your hotel is likely to be on the side of a steep cliff, which makes for lots of marching up and down stairs. In the middle of summer it gets very hot but cools down considerably come the evening; bring something to throw over your shoulders.
Most shops are open until elevenish, but almost all stop for a siesta (this starts at 14h and can last anything between two and four hours). Banks and post offices close at 13h. Chemists close for lunch between 13h and 14h.
Fira and Oia's shopping is based around a maze of streets. You'll find some surprisingly trendy clothes shops, and lovely silver and amber jewellery. The local artists also have their own shops, and some of their paintings are really worth a look.
Anywhere on the caldera will have you reaching for your camera.
Windowshop at the dozens of jewellery stores around Fira and Oia. Stroll the cliffside of the caldera and take in the view.
Most events on the island are centred around religion, with a feast day in honour of a saint falling most months. For visitors, the two best are probably: 15 August, the Feast of Panagia Episkopis in Mesa Gonia, the biggest celebration of the year; and the Feast of Agios Averkios in Emborio on 22 October - the latter is the protector-saint of wine, so everyone present is encouraged to drink their fill of the excellent local tipple.