Port of Santorini
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This is the island for lovers of natural beauty, though sun seekers may not fancy its beaches. Best views are from the cliffs bordering the caldera, which was formed when the center of the island basically collapsed into itself. Geologists marvel at the cliffs' multi-hued strata of rock, lava and pumice, so take your camera and be prepared to feel the earth move (perhaps even literally -- Santorini's most recent major earthquake was in 1956, although there was one nearby as recently as June 26, 2009).
It's worth remembering that the bay surrounding Santorini is actually the world's largest volcanic crater, created 3,500 years ago by a massive eruption of the Thera volcano (which is still active). The bay is also believed by some to conceal the legendary lost city of Atlantis. There's plenty here to set your imagination working, even though the modern-day city of Thira, officially Fira, was completely rebuilt after an earthquake in 1956.
If you're happy to enjoy a browse around the shops and a lazy lunch with a view, Fira will fit the bill perfectly -- and it even has some 9th-century clifftop ruins to explore. But to see the best of Santorini, you should take a shore excursion, via bus or taxi, further afield.
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Where You're Docked
There are actually two ports within caldera, Fira and Athinos. Ships have to anchor off Santorini and tender passengers into Skala Fira, the small port below the capital, Fira (also known as Thira). Thira dates from the 9th century and lies atop 1,000-foot cliffs at the edge of the caldera. You can reach it by funicular, bus or go up the steep, winding steps the fun way -- by donkey! Some ships transfer their passengers direct to Athinos from where there are bus transfers to the top.
Good to Know
Ubiquitous -- and noisy -- Greek motorcycles. Also, be prepared to be hustled onto a donkey at the port.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Euro. There are banks and exchange bureaus in Fira.
Greek, but virtually everybody speaks English.
The best art shops are in Oia, although Mati Art Gallery in Fira (00 30 22860 23814) and Santorini Art Center on the Caldera Steps, Fira (00 30 22860 23577) are well worth visiting. Mati is one of many small art-cum-jewellery shops running north from the Orthodox Cathedral. The Art Centre sells a lot of sculptures and oil paintings out of an old wine cellar. Oia has a fine independent bookshop, Atlantis Books (00 30 22860 72346).
The wine industry has taken off massively, with a Wine Road running the length of the island. If your ship will allow you to, buy this gorgeous wine (70 percent of the output goes direct to the U.S.). Santo Wines in Pirgos (0030 2286 028058) is the island cooperative and seems to be a must for cruise ships. It's right above Athinos port. As the wine is so good -- and the view superb -- this is one excursion not to miss.
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