One of the best-known of the Cyclades, differs from the other islands in the group thanks to its geological morphology, the result of action by a volcano now dormant.
The landscape on the western side of the island, where towering cliffs crowned by tiny and blindingly white houses plunge straight into the depths of the sea.
The steep coastline of the west is countered by the vast beaches of the east side, some of them sandy and others with pebbles. From the landing-place, Skala, we can climb up to Fira, the capital, on foot or on donkey-back. There is a funicular railway for those who wish to avoid the hundreds of steps. Fira is very attractive, with winding narrow streets, arcades and a quarter where the Catholic nobility once dwelt. There is a most important Museum , with prehistoric finds (mostly pottery), a large collection of vases dating from the 7th and 6th centuries BC (including the pieces known as 'Thera ware'), a few Archaic and Classical pieces, and some Hellenistic and Roman sculptures and portraits. There is a superb view out from Fira to the "Kamenes" the two islets of black stone created by the volcano. The islets can be visited by launch.
Ancient Thira is a site of great archaeological interest which was occupied by Phoenicians, Dorians, Romans and Byzantines. Down the centre of the city runs the Sacred Way. The buildings include groups of houses, market-places, baths, theatres, sanctuaries, the residence of Ptolemy Euergetes, tombs of the Archaic and Classical periods and Early Christian remains. On the surrounding rocks the names of the god Apollo and of men and boys are inscribed in the ancient alphabet of Thira.
The site at Akrotiri has yielded the remains of a Minoan city destroyed around 1500 BC by an eruption of the volcano on Thira. In effect, this is a prehistoric version of Pompeii buried beneath volcanic ash, with two and three-storeyed houses, with squares, shops, workshops and so an. Among the finds from the houses were marvellous murals (on display in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens), vases, and every day utensils. On the highest peak of Santorini is a monastery of the Prophet Elijah (Profitis Ilias), where there is a picturesque religious feast an 20 July each year.
The old-world village of Ia, 11 km. to the north of Fira, is a place of incomparable beauty. The unique appeal of Ia lies in its little houses hewn out of the soft rock (some of them whitewashed, others painted blue or ochre), its neo-classical mansions with their courtyards, its narrow paved alleys. There is a superb view out to sea.
Among the best bathing beaches some of them with black sand and others with pebbles are Kamari or Armeni, Amoudi, Baxedes Perissa, Monolithos and Kokini Paralia.
The striking landscape, the peculiarities of the natural environment, the unusual architecture and the outstanding monuments of Santorini attract very large numbers of visitors in the summer - so many, in fact, that the excellent tourist amenities of the island can only just cope with them.