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Anthony Sages on Santorini

April 25, 2011

Located southeast of the Greek mainland, the island of Santorini remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. Santorini came into existence after a catastrophic volcanic eruption thousands of years ago caused the volcanic cone to collapse, forming a caldera. The island features a hot, dry climate unique among other Greek islands and boasts some of the most fantastic beaches in Europe. Since different beaches expose different geologic layers with various colors of solidified lava, they each have a distinctive color, such as red, black, and white. The island’s distinctive architecture resembles that of other islands in the Cyclades, with the people of Santorini utilizing whitewashed and limewashed local stone in their buildings, except for the hyposkapha. These interesting rooms extend into the natural pumice of the island directly from the house, creating an incredibly insulated room that remains cool in the summer and retains heat in the winter.

Although tourism has increased to become the island’s primary source of income over the past couple of decades, Santorini continues to offer the world a number of unusual products, including several interesting varieties of produce. With volcanic ash soil, Santorini produces an incredible variety of tomatoes, white eggplants with unusually soft and sweet flesh, and large cucumbers that develop melon-like flavors as they ripen. The island also produces a bean dish known as fava that many recognize as the best in the world. A small, but booming, wine industry also exists on the islands and relies on an indigenous grape species. The primary wine export, Vinsanto, has achieved worldwide fame as a strong, dark dessert wine. Santorini wineries also produce dry, citrusy white wines.

Those who visit Santorini should be sure to explore the volcanic caldera, hike up to the historic capital called the Ancient Thira, scuba dive around underwater ruins, visit the wineries, and take a horseback ride along the beach. Other attractions include a gorgeous monastery and the Faros lighthouse. The tourist season in Santorini begins around March 1, which is one of the best times of the year to visit.

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