19 Mar Best Santorini Villages
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Santorini villages are among the most picturesque places in the world. It is well known for its picture-perfect village of Oia, its Caldera, and its unique beaches. But Santorini is far over this. Boasting a rich history, a long wine tradition, and fascinating geology, it’s home to many villages, all as interesting and distinct because the next. Here are the towns and villages you ought to visit when you come to Santorini. Some reasons make Santorini a fascinating destination to visit. One of these reasons is its geological peculiarity.
The volcanic activities and the lava flow deposits gave birth to the present island. Its central part sank due to the large eruption in 1635 B.C. That is how the only inhabited Caldera (=cauldron) within the world was formed at a depth of 400m below the ocean surface, truly one among the wonders of the world! As a result, we’ve today emerged the islands: Santorini, Thirasia, Aspronisi, and the newer ones, Palia and Nea Kameni.
Santorini’s people construct their houses, the so-called ‘yposkafa’ (=dwellings carved within the pumice stones) with the lava. The soil of the island is very easy to dig because of its volcanic origin. The low-income families used to live in those cave houses. The only thing that they had to build is a facade full of openings to let the light and the air penetrate. Their places are warm in winter and cool in summer. Want to find the beautiful villages of Santorini with ease and totally carefree? View our organized tours & activities or book a car rental!
Santorini villages – Fira
Fira, also known as Chora, is the most famous Vilage in Santorini. It is the capital of Santorini and has a permanent population of 2000 residents. Fira is at the edge of the Caldera, some 260 meters above sea level. The volcano lies exactly opposite, still emitting puffs of steam. The close view of the volcano and the open sea combine to make Fira one of Greece’s most breathtakingly beautiful places. The town dates from 1810, when the inhabitants of Skaros, no longer terrified by the pirate threat, began to abandon the castle and establish themselves in this flatter area, with access to the sea.
Fira is a long, narrow collection of buildings with steep, narrow, stepped alleyways. The residents dug-out their houses on the Caldera side, constructed on different levels, one on top of the other so that the roof of one forms the next’s courtyard.
You can reach the town by car or bus from Athinios, the port for Fira and the only harbor on the island where ships can dock. Also, you can reach it from Mesa Yialos. Usually, the cruise liners choose the spot. From there, you may ascend to Fira by funicular, on foot, or donkey back. Among its best-preserved districts is Kato Fira. The churches of St. Menas and Christ are located here, both masterpieces of ecclesiastical architecture. The former has a typical Sanntorinian dome, and the latter an exquisitely carved screen and bishop’s seat.
Between the Catholic and Orthodox quarters stands the Archaeological Museum of Fira. It houses the finds from the excavations at Akrotiri and Mesa Vouna. A new museum was recently founded in Fira. It contains a collection of interesting wall-paintings from Akrotiri. There are two Catholic convents in the Catholic quarter, belonging to the Sisters of Mercy, founded in1841, and the Dominican nuns. The Greek Handicrafts Organization has a school for carpet weaving. Apart from the sights, Fira is the center of life among all Santorini villages. There are numerous places to visit in Santorini. Hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, and clubs to satisfy the visitor and shops selling everything from folk arts and crafts-pottery and hand-woven fabrics-to costly gold jewelry.
Santorini villages – Firostefani
Near Fira is Firostefani, another long, narrow settlement built along the rim of the Caldera. Boasting a superb view of the volcano, it has a picturesque square, a church dedicated to St. Gerasimos. The only church on the island where you will find it to be surrounded by cypress trees – hotels and restaurants. On the way to Imerovigli, which is the next Santorini village on the caldera edge, stands the old Orthodox monastery of St. Nikolas. Gizis family founded it and was initially located at Skaros. In 1651, the monastery housed an order of nuns. It moved to its current position in 1890.
Santorini villages – Imerovigli
The name of this village comes from the old-time of the pirates: vigla=watchtower, imera= day. Its position at the center and the caldera rim’s highest point gave it visual command of the whole area. Enabling it to signal timely warnings to the population when pirates sailed into view. It also gained importance from its proximity to the fortress at Skaros. The “Malteza” church has a marvelous carved wooden screen with icons depicting scenes from the Old Testament.
You will find there a path from Imerovigli leading to Skaros. Up here, you can see what remains of the old castle. The trail, which heads south initially and then bears west, ends at the whitewashed chapel of the Our Lady “Theoskepasti which,” looks as though it has been hollowed out of the rock.
Santorini villages – Oia
Sometimes referred to as Apano Meria, Oia village is located at 10 kilometers of paved roads to Fira and faces Therassia. It is actually a group of six Santorini villages: Oia, Perivolas, Finikia, and Tholos on the ridge and Ammoudi and Armeni at the Caldera base. Oia stands lower than Fira, nearer the sea. One cobbled step to Ammoudi bay has 214 steps. The other to Armeni has 286. At Armeni stands the little church of St Nicolas, a short distance from the coast.
The existence of Oia is referred to well before 1650. Under the Venetians, it was the capital of one of the five administrative districts into which Santorini was divided. Oia reached the summit of its prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its economic development was based on its merchant fleet, which plied the Eastern Mediterranean and especially the route from Alexandria to Russia. In 1890, Oia Boasted 2500 inhabitants and 130 of the ships in Santorini’s fleet, while there was a small shipyard at Armeni.
Today, Oia is Santorini’s second-largest village. It is less cosmopolitan than Fira, but in its way, it is more picturesque and is, undoubtedly, one of the most breathtaking spots on the island. It has many troglodyte houses carved out of the cliffside by the merchant ships’ crews for their families. The two-story captains` houses, built at the highest part of the village, reflect its former affluence. The streets of Oia are paved with slabs of marble rather than the cobblestones encountered else-where on the island. There are churches of singular beauty, and the sunset at Oia is justly renowned.
In Medieval times, Akrotiri was one of the most essential 5 fortified settlements on Santorini. Akrotiri is a village of great attraction on the southwest coast of Santorini. Apart from having several magnificent views of the isle: beautiful Santorini sunsets, excellent fish taverns, quiet, unorganized beaches, and small churches, it is also home to 2 of Santorini’s jewels, the Akrotiri Excavations and Akrotiri Castle.
During the Venetian occupation, Akrotiri was one of five castles on Santorini. At the same time, today, it has become a small village with 450 residents. Akrotiri Castle was a fortified settlement, with the core located at the center and consisting of the Tower (goulas) and the church. It was surrounded by the defensive enclosure formed by the houses’ walls on the outer ring. There was a second Tower located at a short distance outside the castle. Today, the remains of the castle continue to dominate the landscape above the settlement.
Pyrgos is the village in which the character of the medieval communities of Santorini is best preserved. Built on a hilltop and far from the sea, it was surrounded by a wall. You can still see the ruins of the wall in the village. At a later date, the Middle Ages’ dangers vanished, and the inhabitants began to build outside the wall, with the village taking the shape it has today.
The castle has survived in the walls and in the town’s name, which means “tower” or “castle. “You will find all the necessary tourist facilities in Pyrgos Village: hostels, rented rooms, restaurants, a doctor, and so on. The village has the further advantage of being close to Perissa and Kamari.
Megalochori is located at the top of a hill and “looks” to the east. Walking towards the village center, you will realize that the roads become narrower and narrower. Many of them have a “family” character, as they end in courtyards. Megalochori stands out among the vineyards, which are the source of prosperity for its inhabitants. Historically, Megalochori existed from the beginning of the 17th century.
The blue domes of its churches stand out in the white sea. It is a genuine picture of an insular village with flowers in its houses, older women sitting outside at their doors, and famous wineries. As is the case in most villages in Greece, several churches are standing out and being worth also seeing in this village.
Santorini villages – Emporio
The largest village in the south part of the island stands in the heart of a fertile plain. Emporio village was one of Santorini’s five castles and its trading center during the Venetian occupation, as its name implies (Emporio = trade, commerce in Greek). The village’s name and its ruined windmills bear witness to its commercial activities in the past.
Emporio is picturesque, with narrow alleyways, old neighborhoods. What is not perhaps evident at first glance is that the villagers also engage in fishing. In former times a person with a lamp used to walk from house to house before dawn to wake up the fishermen- a kind of community alarm clock. The port for Emporio was Perissa.
Mesa Gonia Village
The 1956 earthquake almost razed Messa Gonia. Its residents abandoned it at the time, but reconstruction began a few years ago. The village used to be one of the biggest local wine producers, so it is ideal for wine tours. At the same time, today, there are two vineyards, Roussos and Argyros. The biggest attraction here is the Byzantine church of the Episcopacy of Gonia, which dates to the 11th century. The Byzantine emperor Alexis Komminos has founded the church of Panagia tis Gonia and has since served as the seat of Santorini’s Holy See. In 1207, the Venetians conquered the island, who turned the church into a Catholic one.
When the Turks took over the island in 1537, the church’s land was parceled between Catholics and Orthodox. Both communities were allowed to hold mass at the church. The relationship, however, was not free of tension as they fought over operating hours. In 1768, the Patriarch and the Sultan agreed to hand over the church entirely to the Orthodox Christians. The church has a beautiful icon screen made of sky-blue marble with white veining.
The next stop on our tour is Kamari. The residents organized it very well in terms of tourism services, and it is inhabited all year round. The army had built Kamari after the 1956 earthquake to house the people who lost their homes in Mesa Gonia. Kamari holds excellent allure for tourists because it offers the whole package of best things to do in Santorini: numerous modern hotels, a large selection of restaurants and tavernas, and beach, bus tours, to Ancient Thira, Profitis Elias, and the Episcopacy, as well as a lot of other amenities. You must be cautious when swimming at Kamari Beach because the sea becomes very deep quite suddenly and there can be strong currents.
Santorini, the island of the senses, will offer you idyllic holidays thanks to its particular landscape, unique color, lacy beaches with crystal clear waters, the curved, cobblestone streets of the Santorini’s villages. They expect us to explore them, the life by night it prides as well as to its local delicacies and hospitable inhabitants. It is an island the visitor of which cannot forget and dreams of revisiting. We wish you fascinating holidays, a comfortable stay, and exciting itineraries!