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Simon Calder

Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: What's on your must-do list for Santorini?


Q. I'm jetting off to Santorini next week. What's on your must-do list?

Jamie Lewis, London

A. Perfect timing. The Cyclades of Greece are at their absolute best in May. While the Med has yet to heat up, the breezes should be fresh yet warm.

Santorini is unique. It wasn't the Atlantis of myth, but it was a thriving community until the abrasive plate tectonics of the eastern Mediterranean caused an eruption that tore the core from an island the size of the Isle of Wight.

The main town, Fira, comprises a mix of delicate white cottages on the crest of the caldera, laced with narrow lanes that resonate with church bells. However, Santorini is a favourite cruise destination, with 1,000-plus visitors brought ashore on most days between about 9am and 5pm. Avoid Fira during these times and explore the rest of the island instead.

The highlight is Akrotiri - a town on Santorini where up to 5,000 people lived until an eruption around 3,500 years ago. It suffered a similar volcanic smothering to Pompeii, but was twice as old. Two- and three-storey buildings bear witness to advanced engineering, and vibrant wall paintings and elaborate pottery depict a sophisticated society. Visit as soon as you comfortably can during your stay, because last summer opening days/hours were a little erratic.

If you have not yet booked a place to stay, consider the Porto Fira Suites (portofira.gr), a traditional property on the brink of the crater. It provides an excellent platform for watching the sun set. The place has been luxuriously upgraded, yet in the past few years rates have fallen - a double room currently costs €195 including breakfast, down by about one-third.

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