The island of Santorini has many well-known places, such as the capital of Fira overlooking the Caldera, providing the largest concentration of restaurants and bars, and the picture-perfect village of Oia, with its the harmonious use of blue and white to perfectly compliment its surroundings. Yet, there are a number of beautiful villages that are further away from the large crowds, which deserve their recognition for their unique features. What’s more, you won’t want to miss some time at the quirky beaches that line the shores and an opportunity to soak up the stunning Greek sun.
The village of Pyrgos- meaning ‘tower’ in Greek- is located up high, 7.5km from Fira or a 10-minute drive. It is surrounded by green beauty and has an incredible panoramic view of the entire island, that sweeps away towards the cliff edges and up to the sky. It has a beautiful and grandiose white castle, as well as the monastery of the Profit Ilias. There are also the museums of ‘Santorini of the past’ and ‘Icons and Ecclesiastical Artefacts’. This area is surrounded by wineries and has some great traditional taverns and cafes.
Akrotiri is a village and a cape in the south-west of the island, located about 15 kilometres from Fira. It has amazing views that stretch down to Oia village, with quiet, secluded beaches along the coast and a number of coves that had been used as refuge spots for nuns during raids on the island. There is also the ‘Panagia of Balos monastery’ gleaming bright white into the cliff’s edge. At Akrotiri there are two must-sees, the neoclassical lighthouse and the excavation sites- said to be the most important prehistoric archaeological site in the Aegean.
Located right in the centre of the island, only 3.5 km from Fira is the bustling village of Messaria, which can trace back its inception to over 400 years ago. In the recent past, it was the centre of industry on the island. There are many stately neoclassical mansions still standing today, reflecting the wealth of the industrialists that inhabited this part of the island. There are also landmarks of this time, such as the Markezinis knitting factory and the Argyros Mansion. It is a large and busy village with many shops and restaurants around, where you can find places open to suit any of your needs.
One of the villages to the south of the island, built up to support the increasing trade with the Venetian empire, Emporio is located 12 km from Fira, in the foothills of the Profitis Ilias mountain and close to Perivolos and Perissa beaches. It features some of the most unique architecture on the island that looks like a step into another time. It is here where there is the best-preserved castle on the island, known as the Goulas of Nimborio, with the church of Panagia Kali inside. On your way to the village, keep your eye out for the Agios Nikolaos Marmaritis church and the eight windmills on the outskirts.
Just down towards the sea from Emporio are the beach pair of Perissa and Perivolos. They come together because they are two settlements that join together along one long stretch of black, volcanic coastline. These beaches are also known as the ‘black beach’ where you can find rich black sand, pebbles and pumice stone. Come here for organised and relaxing beach lounging, which is family friendly. Perissa has received the EU’s Blue Flag award for the cleanliness of its beach, and Perivolos is the site of many beachside nightlife establishments.
Kamari similarly has a well organised black sand beach, which has also been awarded the Blue Flag. Located just 9 km from Fira and aiming at the cosmopolitan audience, there is a lot of ways to spend your time here. Visit the Ancient Thira settlement, climb the overlooking mountain ‘Mesa Vouno’ or visit the open-air cinema. From here you can also try scuba diving and a variety of water sports.
Right in the northern corner just a few (hundred) steps down from the village of Oia is the quaint little harbour of Ammoudi. It is very small, with just a couple of restaurants and some beautiful boats tied up, rocking in the ebbing waves. It’s also surrounded by the multicolour rock faces that are exposed, perfectly complimenting the blue water.
In the southwest of Fira, about 13 km, are these two beaches. The first you will come to is the organised red beach, with a number of umbrellas and sun loungers, with red pebble stone and a red cliff face surrounding it, dotted with some black. As you continue, you’ll come to the ‘white beach’, which has black pebble stone but is surrounded by the imposing white cliffs. This beach isn’t organised and therefore is relaxed and nudism-friendly. If you are planning on coming, you may wish to bring your own umbrella to have some shade if the sun is intense. Enjoy your exploring!