- VOLCANO – HOT SPRINGS (NEA KAMENI)
During summer time, there are being organized daily, excursions at the volcano and the thermal waters of the area. From Athiniios port and Thira’s old port, boats depart constantly, towards volcano. The excursion usually includes climbing at volcano’s hill, bath at thermal waters, and food and return.
- PYRGOS VILLAGE (CASTLE)
In 1995 Pyrgos was declared a “preserved monument”. Thanks to its 600 residents it remains vibrant and full of life throughout the year.
The main attraction is the Kasteli (castle). Visitors also explore the cobbled streets with the Cycladic and the neoclassical buildings, enjoy the sunset over the Caldera from the top of the castle, visit the Ecclesiastical Collection in Aghia Triada and the Cultural Village “Santorini of the past”. There are hotels, restaurants, taverns, cafes and traditional “kafeneia”, mini markets, shops.
The village is surrounded by whitewashed churches and vineyards full of the characteristic basket shaped Santorinian vines. High up, on the top of the mountain, there is Prophet Elias monastery.
Trekkers will find amazing natural beauty around Pyrgos. Among others there is the old Medieval path that leads from Pyrgos to Emporeio village (1 hour and 30 minutes).
- BYZANTINE CHURCH OF PANAGIA EPISKOPI
The most important attraction in the village is the Byzantine church of Koimisi tis Theotokou (the Assumption of Virgin Mary), or Panagia Episkopi, or Kira Piskopis, and that is why the village is also called Episkopi Gonia. It is the most important Byzantine monument on the island. The initial church was a three-aisled early Christian basilica and was transformed into a cruciform church. Later on, two chapels were added.
According to Mrs Maria Louisa Priovolou-Danezis, the Emperor of Byzantium Alexios I Comnenos (1081-1118) is acknowledged as the founder and donor of the church, which was perhaps the Katholikon of a monastery. The interior of Episkopi was decorated with wall painting, most probably commissioned by the Emperor, but during the Othoman Rule they were covered with plaster. Some wall paintings have been cleaned and revealed. Judging from the quality of the paintings of the ensamble preserved, these can be characterized as provincial works in a folk vein. The figures in the representations of the Resurrection of Christ and the Dormition of the Virgin (Koimisis) are reminiscent of wall paintings in Cappadokia. Anastasios Orlandos proposed that the painter was of Eastern provenance, and dated them in 1100. It is the first type of church with a cruciform dome covered with byzantine tiles, built on the island.
- TRADITIONAL AREA OLD MILLS (EMPORIO VILLAGE)
It is 12 km. far from Fira and has about 3,000 inhabitants. It is the biggest village on the island. People from Akrotiri, Perissa, Perivolos, Megalohori often come here to shop and tourists make a stop to take supplies on their way to the beaches.
The might not realize it, but they continue an old tradition. According to Fr. Richard, who came in Santorini during the second half of the 17th century, Emporio was the place of sale of all kinds of commodities and it is quite clear to assume that the market place was also the production place.
In the village visitors will also find cafes and taverns.
The most important attraction in Emporio is the medieval castle, a masterpiece in terms of architecture and well preserved since most of its building have been restored.
The castle and the Goulas
From the moment the visitor enters the castle he realizes that this is a small labyrinth, with alleys just wide enough for a person to go by, between staircases climbing almost vertically up to miniature balconies. There are doors in a row, seeming to lead nowhere, overhead bridges between houses, arches, domes –all characterized by the renowned plasticity of the malleable volcanic material. The irregular, flowing shapes and forms are astonishing. The castle belongs to the type of fortified settlement that derived from the original core with the surrounding defensive wall again created by the outer houses forming an unbroken line. The settlement was erected close to the Goulas (medieval fort).
Within the castle there is the church of Evaggelismos tis Theotokou (Annunciation of Virgin Mary), or Panagia (Virgin Mary) Messiani, which is dated by I. Koumanoudis in the 16th century, or earlier. It has been restored.
Outside the settlement, but only within a stone’s throw, is the Goulas and 50 m. away from it Aghia (St) Kyriaki’s church with its two chappels -Ierarches and Aghios (St) Artemios. I. Koumanoudis dates the church back to the15the or 16th century and it is influenced by the architectural style of Theotokaki church in the castle of Pyrgos.
The Goulas used to be the fort that provided protection to the lords and their peasant farmers. It was also the place to keep their crops. It belonged to the Dargentas’ family and as soon as the danger or the pirates passed, it became a dependency of the Patmos monastery, inhabited by monks who were under the authority of Aghios Ioannis (St John) Theologos monastery.
In more recent years the settlement expanded covering an area outside the wall. A building worth mentioning is the primary school, built at the expenses of Andreas Syngros, in 1900.
- BELLONIO CULTURAL CENTER Tel.: +30 22860 24960
The Bellonio Cultural Center and Library is located in the island’s capital, Fira, and proposing a nice collection of books about Santorini.
- MESA GONIA (TRADITIONAL VILLAGE)
Episkopi or Mesa Gonia (Mesa Gonia means Inner Corner) is 6 km away from Fira, near Exo Gonia and Kamari.
The settlement suffered extensive damage in the 1956 earthquake, and was subsequently abandoned by its people, who moved to Kamari. It was known for its wine production and had several wineries; today, you can visit those of Argyros and Roussos.
The settlement is illustrated by Olivier on a 1801 map of Santorini. Before the 1956 earthquake it had churches and mansions. The winery of Mosiniore (Catholic Bishop of Santorini) was an interesting one. It was a large structure with six domes in line. Episkopi Gonia suffered extensive damage during this earthquake, and that’s why the residents abandoned it and settled on the beach where today’s settlement of Kamari stands.
The village was known for its wine production and it had wineries two of which you can visit, Estate Argyros and Roussos. It is worth walking the path which starts in front of the Estate Argyros winery and admire the narrow cobblestone roads and the old houses with their yards full of flowers. Some of them have been restored.
- IMEROVIGLI (TRADITIONAL VILLAGE)
According to state files of the Catholic Bishopric of Thira, built-up web existed in the region from late 16th century. Imerovigli (or Merovigli) is a linear settlement which was developed on the edge of the cliff along the Caldera. It offers impressive view to the volcano. Fira and Imerovigli are just 3 km apart and there is access either from the asphalt road, or the cobblestone old path leading from Fira to Firostefani and Imerovigli.
The name Imerovigli comes from the words imera (day) and vigla (watchtower). Since it was at the top of the Caldera, it is possible that a lookout post for the pirates’ ships once stood here.
Visitors admire the architecture of the picturesque and peacefull village, which attracts –as it happens to all the other settlments on the Caldera- tourism of a high level.
There are luxury hotels, cafes, restaurants and taverns, mini markets, travel agencies, rent a car and many more.
- IA (TRADITIONAL VILLAGE)
The settlement is very popular and therefore from dawn till dusk it is filled with visitors. Nights in Oia remain peaceful though, and walking in the centre marble laid road, loitering the impressive and exquisitly lit buildings is a real pleasure.
During the sunset, tens of people full of awe from the greatness they face, sit on roofs and balconies silently admiring one of the most rare spectacles on earth.
Carved-in buildings and captains’ houses
Characteristics of the settlement are its carved-in buildings and the so called captains’ houses (“kapetanospita”) having unusual neoclassic elements. As writer Kadio Kolimva from Oia notes: “…carved-in buildings of Oia with stubborness from the downslope are trying to find a space to exist. Houses without foundations spread out in the light, illuminated early, with nothing to disturb their concatenation of lines and colors. Always at the front, a very small courtyard with a tiny “alitana”, a flower-bed with fragrant jasmines, honeysuckles, verbenas and lavenders”.
In 1993, Oia was characterized as a traditional settlement by presidential decree, and the entire island of Santorini as an area of “exceptional natural beauty”.
- SUNSET IN IA
The famous sunset at Ia. View from Ia onto Caldera
- OLD PORT FIRA (ON DONKEY AND BY CABLE CAR)
The old port of Santorini is at the bottom of the Caldera cliffs in Fira. The little harbour has restaurants, taverns and small shops. To reach the old port, you can walk down the 600 stone steps, hop on a mule or take the Cable Car which leaves from the top part of the Fira caldera.
The large cruise liners drop anchor at Ormos and the passengers are ferried to shore in small boats. One can spot small fishing boats, the kaikia’ as well as several pleasure boats that depart daily to the volcano ‘Nea Kameni’, the Hot Springs at ‘Palia Kameni’, Thirassia island and Oia for the sunset.
Perhaps the only way to realise what Santorini is, and where you really are, is to experience the island from the foot of the Caldera cliffs, and the best way to do that is from the sea.
- OLD PORT AMOUDI, IA (ON DONKEY)
During 1970, the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) decided to restore several buildings in Oia –and also 16 buildings in Ammoudi which were severely damaged from the 1956 earthquake. At first, between 1978-1980, they restored six of them situated in the inner road of the bay. Some infrastructure work was also done, such as the 800-metre long pedestrian street leading to the small church of Aghios Nikolaos (Saint Nicholas).
The asphalt road connecting Oia to Ammoudi was constructed in 1991.
Nowadays, most people come to Ammoudi to eat at the fish taverns by the seaside, or swim at the inlet with the tiny pebbles. For a quick swim you can also try the rocks behind the lighthouse or rent a boat to the next –equally small– beach of Armeni, or Aghios Nikolaos, where the water is really crystalline.