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The island: Santorini, Greece
The goods: Sure, everybody who's been claims they've gone to some other, more authentic Greek island. And Fira, the cliff-hugging main town, has a lot of tourist shops. But for absolute physical beauty, especially in the late-afternoon light when the cubical houses are a dazzling shade of white against the cliffs, few islands anywhere can compare.
Be sure to: Plant yourself for an afternoon (which will undoubtedly extend into an evening) at one of the tavernas, preferably Katina, at the water's edge, just below Oia village (pictured). By the time the grilled octopus is eaten and the last bottle of Boutari wine is rolling empty on the table, there won't be much about Greece, or the Greeks, that you feel you don't know.
Best beach: Red Beach (which is indeed) is near the ruins of Akrotiri, an ancient city. Wonderfully off the beaten path, it has surrounding cliffs that form a pleasing setting, and the clear water is perfect for snorkeling.
Perfect season: Mid-September, when the weather still requires only short sleeves and the other Europeans have gone home.
Call it home: Astra Apartments & Suites, in the town of Imerovigli. Best cliff-top hotel views in Santorini, and close enough to Fira to walk, but not so close that noise from the discos will blow you off the side of the caldera.
Astra Apartments & Suites
Tel: 30 22860 23641
Doubles from $270
Tel: 30 22860 71280