Whitewashed towns balanced on cliffs, black-sand beaches, and deeply scarred hills make Santorini’s landscape nearly as dramatic as the volcanic explosion that created it. Despite all the kitsch in touristy Fira (pop. 2,500), the island’s capital, nothing can ruin the pleasure of wandering the town’s cobblestoned streets, browsing its craft shops, and taking in the sunset from its western edge. On the southwestern side of the island, the excavations at Akrotiri, a late Minoan city, are preserved under layers of volcanic rock. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 8:30am-3pm. ‚5, students ‚3.) Buses run to Akrotiri from Fira (30min. 16 per day, ‚1.30). Frequent buses also leave Fira for the black-sand beaches of Perissa (15min. 30 per day, ‚0.90) and Kamari (20min. 2-3 per hr. ‚0.90) to the southeast. The bus stops before Perissa in Pyrgos; from there, you can hike (40min.) to the Profitis llias Monastery, whose lofty location provides an island panorama, and continue an extra VAhr. to the ruins of Ancient Thira. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 8:30am-2:30pm.)

Ferries from Fira run to: Ios (lidir. 3-5 per day, ‚6.30); Iraklion (4hr. daily, ‚14); Mykonos (7hr. 2 per week, ‚13); Naxos (4hr. 4-8 per day, ‚11); and Paros (4V6hr. 3- 5 per day, ‚12). Most ferries depart from Athinios harbor; frequent buses (30min. ‚ 1.50) connect to Fira. Head 300m north from the plateia in Fira to reach the friendly Thira Youth Hostel , in an old monastery. (22860 22 387. Open Apr.-Oct. Dorms ‚8- 12; doubles ‚20-40.) Take a bus from Fira to Oia (25min. 30 per day, ‚0.90) for more options; the impeccable rooms at UYouth Hostel Oia are a good choice. ( 22860 71 465. Breakfast included. Open May-Oct. Dorms ‚12-14.) The cheery and colorful Mama’s Cyclades Cafe 0, north of Fira on the road to Oia, serves up a big breakfast special. ( 22860 23 032. Entrees ‚5-8. Open daily 8am-midnight.) Postal Code: 84700.

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