A small, circular group of Aegean islands located about 120 miles (193 kilometers) southeast of mainland Greece, the isles of Santorini are actually the edges of a submerged caldera, the remains of a larger island blown apart by volcanic eruption around 3,500 years ago [source: Manning]. Their shared landscape is suitably dramatic, a vertical protrusion of vertiginous cliffs sloping gently oceanward to terminate in beaches of red, black and white. Perched atop the inner cliffs are the key cities of Fira and Oia, their white and blue domes glinting in the sun as they overlook the calm inner sea.
On-season or off, you'll find Santorini's main streets packed with people ducking in and out of its many shops, discos and restaurants. Eat, drink and be merry on the islands' famous wines, tomatoes, eggplant and capers, then get out of town and explore Santorini's two archeological wonders, Akrotiri and Ancient Thira. Akrotiri was preserved, Pompeii-like, by the very volcanic materials that destroyed it. Ancient Thira, a city of Greek, Roman and Byzantine influences tumbling along its soaring headland, is worth the trip for the view alone.