Who hasn’t seen photos of the traditional villages of Santorini filled with whitewashed houses located on the edge of a volcanic cliff? Who hasn’t dreamed of the blue-domed roofs and gorgeous bougainvillea vines overlooking the deep blue of the Aegean Sea?
Ever since the 1970s, Santorini has turned into a beloved holiday destination, most popular among couples. What you might not know, though, is that Santorini boasts a rich and eventful past and some of the most delicious wines in Greece.
The first settlements in Santorini date thousands of years back. In Ancient times, it was called Strongili – meaning round in Greek. This name does not reflect the current shape of the island. A massive volcanic eruption in 1,500 BC sank parts of it and destroyed all that was left over the sea level.
Ever since, Santorini has been under Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman rule. The history of the island tells the story of periods of great trades and prosperity, followed by invasions and destructive earthquakes.
The volcanic nature of the island has largely influenced its development and its unique past. This has shaped the mentality of the locals. You might often hear them say: “We are not people- we are Santorinians.”
Oia Village is one of the best places to spend time in Santorini. It is a traditional settlement with a long history and unique architecture.
Nowadays, Oia Village is an ultra-glamorous vacation destination that hangs suspended above the Aegean Sea, looking down on Ammoudi Harbor.
Oia village is highly-photographed and is most famous for its breathtaking sunsets. Right before twilight, the sky paits shades of rich okra, deep fuchsia, cobalt blue, oyster pink, and earthy red.
Pyrgos, once the island’s capital, sits on a top of a hill in Santorini. It has a magnificent panoramic view of the village of Oia.
You can walk up to the fortified medieval districts that crown the village’s hilltops. It will require a short ascent, but the sigh of Theotokaki, a tiny 14th-century church, and the nearby islands will reward you.
In the cenre of Pyrgos village you will find cafes, elegant restaurants, and small art galleries. You can also enjoy local wines or ouzo in the shade of the main square.
Emporio village, once the commercial centre of Santorini, is located in the south of the island. Narrow passages and traditional houses make up its signature look. It also houses a Venetian castle and defensive tower dating from the Middle Ages.
Following the road signs uphill, you will come to the castles or kasteli. These settlements are typical of Santorini and most islands dominated by Venetians. To protects the land from pirates, they used to build tightly packed houses that made part of the fortification.
Megalochori is another unique and picturesque village in Santorini that is well worth your time. Founded in the 17th century, it boasts historical mansions, old traditional houses, pirate hideaways, and wineries.
There is a beautiful traditional square with taverns, restaurants, and trees in the centre. This is the best place to try a glass of the Vinsanto wine that has been produced here for centuries.
Spiraling out from the centre there is a maze of winding cobbled streets and smooth-edged pathways just waiting to be discovered.
Megalochori village is not as touristic as the others. So here you can savour a sense of calmness and tranquility.
How to explore the villages of Santorini
The best ways to explore the villages of Santorini are to book a private tour or rent a car. In this way, you can visit different parts of the island rather than being stuck in one particular area.
The magical sunsets of Oia, the panoramic views of Pyrgos, the historical richness of Emporio, and the peaceful atmosfere of Megalochori, you will surely be enchanted by Santorini.