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SANTORINI - VILLAGES

The villages of Santorini, Greece are considered among the most beautiful villages in the Greek islands. Fira and Oia are the most famous villages, perched on the edge of the caldera and offering amazing views to the Aegean Sea and the volcano. Firostefani and Imerovigli are also beautiful spots with traditional architecture. Santorini villages are really unique. Some of the villages remain untouched by the touristic development and do not have any road crossings the village and car access is restricted. Such villages are Oia, Imerovigli, Pyrgos, Megalochori and Vothonas.

Fira

Straddling the edge of the Caldera lies the town of Fira, the capital of Santorini. Fira is very attractive, with winding narrow streets, stepped, white-washed houses, ancient marketplaces, picturesque churches, arcades and a quarter where the Catholic nobility once dwelt. It's located on the west coast of the island, on the caldera cliffs opposite the volcano. Modern day Fira is the cultural and commercial center of Santorini. Apart from the museums, galleries and cultural events, it has the island's largest shopping center and the biggest choice for dining and entertainment. Fira heads the nightlife section, many bars and cafes are actually on the caldera, while others, as well as the large clubs, are tucked into the quaint cobbled streets weaving through the town.

There is so much to choose from and so many places to explore. The whole of the Caldera is connected by a path at the cliff's edge that starts just above the Mayor's office and finishes up on the hill at the Nomikos Conference center. The volcano can be seen from every point, as can the mesmerizing sunsets. Sunset time in Santorini seems to be the only hour of the day when everything, and everyone stops moving.

Oia

Oia, pronounced Ia, is the most famous of all the villages of Santorini. It is known throughout the world for its quiet life and fantastic sunset, and is certainly the most beautiful and picturesque village of Santorini. The village is also situated on top of an impressive cliff and offers a spectacular view over the volcano of Palia and Nea Kameni and the island of Thirassia. Oia is situated on the north of the island, 7 miles away from Fira.

It is a traditional village with charming houses in narrow streets, blue domed churches, and sun-bathed verandas. Its streets have plenty of tourist shops, taverns, cafes, and other shops. Oia is a lot more quiet that Fira and the busiest area is the main pedestrian street that runs along its length. Oia is home to artists and writers from around the world, who are drawn to its aura of serenity and beauty; you will therefore find countless art galleries offering the creations of its inspired inhabitants. At the entrance of the village is a parking lot where visitors can leave their vehicle and enjoy long walks in the picturesque paths. The volcano from here is much less imposing but you can still get some gorgeous views.

Oia has several cultural attractions like the Maritime Museum, which houses a small library, items from the maritime life of the area, and the vestiges of a Venetian fortress. Oia also has a small port, Ammoudi, which can be reached by a set of 300 steps leading down. There, small boats can take you to the island of Thirassia. The beach of Armenis is also located there. Taverns in Oia offer visitors tasty meals of fresh fish.

Immerovigli

Immerovigli is a picturesque village situated at the north of Santorini, only one and a quarter miles away from the capital of Fira. It is a continuation of Fira and one of the most beautiful balconies of the island. The village is known as the ultimate romantic destination.

The name of Imerovigli comes from the word 'vigla', which means view spot. The position of the village provides a clear view of the caldera, and during ancient times it allowed villagers to see the pirate ships approaching. Today, Immerovigli is one of the recognized traditional settlements. There are many taverns and cafes with stunning views to the caldera. In front of Immerovigli lies an enormous rock called Scaros. On top of it is a castle that was built during the 13th century but it was abandoned in the early 1800s. The castle housed all the administrative offices of the island. This part of the island collapsed after an earthquake, and only the huge hill of Scaros is left today. Immerovigli has numerous chapels and churches built on the rocks overlooking the blue sea.

Firostefani

One of the spots with the best view on the island. Firostefani lies to the north of Fira and there is little difference that separates it from its considerable larger neighbor. Without a doubt, the views from this part of Santorini are spectacular, offering another perspective of Santorini volcano. One can enjoy the magnificent sight of Fira itself and the breathtaking sunset in the evening. The village has plenty of restaurants and cafes located on the most fabulous locations. Between the village of Firostefani and Imerovigli lies the Agios Nikolas Monastery. Hotels are plenty, and quite picturesque, with vividly colored houses. There are also a few shops, most of them concentrated at the main shopping street at the center of Firostefani.

Pyrgos

Pyrgos used to be the capital of the island until the early 1800s, it is situated 5 miles southeast of Fira. The village is located on a fabulous spot on top of a hill and displays incredible panoramic views of the island. The village consists of traditional houses built all around the Venetian castle, and the small streets that follow the natural flow of the surrounding landscape. The houses are the perfect example of Cycladic design and in superb condition. The Venetian castle is one of the five on the island of Santorini and dates back to the 13th century. The fortified settlement is amphitheatrically built on the hill and offers superb views of both sides of the island. The village has many churches: the church of Theotokaki with its beautiful frescoes and old icons, Agia Triada, the church of Agia Theodosia, the Archangel Michael and many others. The most famous church of Santorini is also found just 2.5 miles from Pyrgos, the Monastery of Prophet Elias which is built at the highest spot of the homonymous mountain. It hosts a small collection of ethnographic material and old icons.

Akrotiri

Akrotiri is located next to the famous Red Beach. It is amphitheatrically built at the southeastern side of the island. Akrotiri was originally a Minoan settlement and today is one of the major tourist attractions and the most important archeological site of Santorini. The prehistoric town was destroyed due to a massive volcanic eruption around 1600 BC. Nowadays, the picturesque streets, the two-storey buildings, the lovely frescoes and plenty of tools are witnesses to the way of life in the prehistoric times. Today, the beautiful frescoes of the ancient city of Akrotiri can only be seen in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Some splendid houses are dotted around the village as well as a traditional windmill. Many tour boats arrive in Akrotiri and tourists are scattered to the nearby beaches of the area. Another place of interest is the Venetian castle that dominates the settlement of Akrotiri. The town has lovely hotels and also many local taverns with a splendid view to the sea. Akrotiri has plenty of churches to visit and one of the most beautiful is the church of Agios Nikolaos built right above the impressive reddish rocks, on the way to the Red Beach.

Karterados

Karterados is a picturesque village of Santorini just a mile and a quarter away from the town of Fira. The village is well known for its unique architecture and natural landscape. The lovely Mediterranean village is surrounded by uncountable vineyards that create a beautiful setting. Karterados offers an abundance of modern amenities like ultra modern sport facilities, ethnic taverns with scrumptious delicacies, cozy cafes and lively bars. In addition, there is an old bakery making homemade bread and delicious cookies. Several whitewashed churches with brilliant architecture are found around the village, while the location of the church of Agios Nikolaos will take your breath away. The beaches are truly attractive offering total tranquility. A visit to Karterados reveals a number of traditional stone built houses and 19th century elegant mansions that many ship owners built here witnessing its prosperity in the past. A road past the village leads to the tranquil rocky beach of Exo Gialos.

Emporio

Emporio is the largest settlement of Santorini located 7.5 miles from Fira on the foothills of Mount Prophet Elias. The village itself has a strong medieval character and most of the houses have been well preserved. At the entrance of the village stand two lovely, blue domed Cycladic churches with an impressive bell tower that dominate the town. Half way up the village is a 15th century fortress, which looks as though it will slide down the hill at any moment. To the east of the town you will see the market and some nice hotels leading down to the well known Perissa beach.

Messaria

Messaria is a small quaint village situated 2.5 miles southeast of Fira, around a vast area of vineyards at the center of Santorini. Most of the inhabitants are involved with wine making and there is a local winery to see and taste a wide range of wine flavors. You can sit at the main square for a nice Greek coffee under the trees. In Messaria you can find a few beautiful churches with impressive bell towers that dominate the area. Visit Argyros mansion, one of the best examples of neoclassical architecture in Santorini built in 1888.

Megalochori

One of the most traditional Villages of Santorini, Megalohori lies on a hill creating a labyrinth of steep alleys and streets. The uncountable vineyards, which extend beyond the countryside, offer a magnificent setting and the top quality wine in Santorini. Megalochori is definitely a place to experience the rich wine tradition. The famous Boutari winery is found on the village's outskirts. Megalochori offers a nice mix of white Cycladic houses, several churches and narrow alleys witnessing the strong Aegean tradition. Follow the road to the main square that hosts a couple of nice taverns serving delicious food.

Vothonas

The village of Vothonas is located 4 miles away from the town of Fira. It is among the most picturesque settlements of Santorini, offering a peaceful and beautiful setting. Vothonas village is built on a picturesque ravine with traditional houses, which are literally carved out of rocks. A stroll around the paved streets leaves any visitor spellbound by the creativity of the craftsmen who knew how to protect their houses from violent storms. Vothonas is characterized by this unique layout and stylish details that match perfectly with the white domed churches and the traditional houses. A trip to Vothonas village would be incomplete without visiting the magnificent church of Agia Anna, the oldest church of the village that dates back to 1827. The most beautiful part of the church is actually the carved wooden panel, which artistically portrays scenes from the Old Testament. If you have enough energy left, you may as well visit the pretty chapel of Panagia Trypa located on the edge of the cliff. The walking trail is about 20 minutes.

Ammoudi

Ammoudi is the charming port of Oia, a tiny settlement with just a few traditional buildings built around the natural bay. In Ammoudi, there are port services and a few taverns. Several fishing and tour boats moor there during the summer, creating a very picturesque scenery. Ammoudi is encircled by the impressive high red cliffs. Approximately 300 narrow and steep steps lead the way between Ammoudi and Oia. Donkeys can also be used for transport. A small rocky beach stands right next to Ammoudi, ideal for diving. Several tour boats stop in Ammoudi on the way to Thirassia islet and the famous volcano.

Finikia

Finikia is a small village which contains some traditional Cycladic churches and some of the cave houses that are dug into the rocks. These houses of Santorini are designed to insulate the occupants in the winter and if you get the chance to enter one during the summer you will notice how nice and cool the temperature is. Finikia is one of the most well-preserved settlements in Santorini. The small church of Kyra Panagia (Lady of the Virgin) is the ideal spot to enjoy a breathtaking sunset in total peace.

Mesa Gonia

A rural village, just 5 miles from Fira set amidst the vines of Santorini. Before the devastating earthquake in 1956 that entirely destroyed the village, Mesa Gonia used to be one of the most important wine tasting places of the island. At the entrance of the village you can visit Roussos Winery, one of the oldest wineries of the island that dates since 1836. Mesa Gonia is much quieter than the nearby Kamari. One of the best attractions of Mesa Gonia is the Church of Panagia Episkopi, the most important Byzantine monument of Santorini.

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