The Villages of Santorini...

The island capital of Santorini, Fira clings to the edge of a cliff, which is, in fact, the rim of the crater. It is 900 feet above the landing port and about 800 broad, zigzagged steps up from the port. You either take the donkeys or mules up the winding steps or modern-day travellers prefer the cable car. Climbing the steps with a mule had been a tradition on Santorini for years, until 10 years ago when the cable car made its appearance. The Swiss-made cable car, also known as the "teleferique," was installed as a gift from the wealthy Santorini ship owner Nomikos, whose ships are regular customers to the island. This made things easier for tourists who had luggage to carry with them as the mules were overworked. Of course, the mule owners did not loose completely on the deal as a percentage of the money earned from the cable car is given to the mule owners. Fira is a comparatively modern town, with houses built mostly during the 19th century when the old Venetian capital at Skaros became untenable due to earthquakes. The architecture is a jumble of Cycladic and Venetian, side by side, the similarities between the two being the stark whiteness. The impact of Aegean tourism has made itself felt in Fira, judging from the abundance of taverns, hotels, discotheques and shops. It is the largest town on the island and has gained preference with travellers because it is central and access to other parts of Santorini is made easy by either taxi or bus. From Their you can indulge in some inspiring coastal walks. Wondering through the white cob bled streets of Fira, a town of about 2,000 inhabitants; one gets the feel of the old-world charm blended in with the modern day comforts. The town's archaeological museum is crammed with finds from excavations at Akrotiri. But besides being so interesting archaeologically, Santorini is essentially a beauty spot, an island whose cliffs seem to glow under an exceptionally clear light all day, but which at sunset glow redly, evoking that vast explosion more than 3.000 years ago

If it's a summer resort you are looking for on Santorini, then Kamari is the place for you. The black sandy beach, at least two kilometres in length, is the main attraction of Kamari. On the beachfront you will find hotels, restaurants, bars, discos and shops to please all tastes and budgets. The town is connected with frequent bus service from Fira. There are also travel and rent-a-car facilities available for further exploration of the area.Completely rebuilt after the 1956 earthquake, Kamari was the most important strategic point on the island after the decline of Acrotiri in ancient times. Not far from the village is the archaeological site of Ancient Thira. Also interesting in Kamari is the church of Panaghia Episkopi which was built in 1100. The best time to visit the church is on August 15th during the feast of the Virgin Mary when the church celebrates with a large festival. You are invited to join in on the marry making with plenty of food, dancing and singing taking place. If you are around on September 24th the church Panaghia Myrtidiotissa celebrates with festival where again the tourists are invited dine and wine with the inhabitants.

In the southern corner of the island is Perissa, known as another summer resort of Santorini. The seven kilometres long black sandy beach attracts thousand of visitors every year to its shores. A number of hotels, restaurants, taverns, bars, discos and other facilities are available for the visitor. The beach offers one of the best water sports facilities on the island with windsurfing,water skiing and pedals for hire. The Byzantine church of Aghia Irini (St. Irene) is worth visiting and especially during August 29th and September 14th when festivals are held in honour of the patron saint of the island. Aghia Irini died on the island while exile in 304 A.D. Ancient Thira is not far from Perissa. The site is located on Mesa Vouno mountain, at an altitude of 264 meters. Excavations were done between 1895 and 1903 by Baron Hiller Von Gartringen, which revealed many artifacts of the Dorian city. One kilometre away from Perissa is the beautiful village of Emporio with its impressive traditional Cycladic style architecture buildings

A beautiful village, centrally located, Messaria is surrounded by gardens and vineyards. Just four kilometres from Fira to the southeast, transportation is available toward and from every possible island destination. During the last few years the village of Messaria has seen the building of luxury accommodation and a variety of specialty shops. Messaria also produces the famous Santorinian wine. The churches of Metamorphosis tou Sotiros and Aghia Irini, both build between 1680 and 1700, are worth visiting, as is the Metropolis church. Messaria has a Cycladic charm with its picturesque white washed houses and tiny winding street paths. One of the most impressive sites in the village is the Argiros mansion, built in 1888 by winemaker George E. Argiros, and just recently restored. It is a typical home of Santorini of the previous century with its outstanding architecture. Seriously damaged by the 1956 earthquake, the owner's grandson with the same name used his own funds to restore the mansion, including the furniture inside. Take a pleasant stroll among the shops and when you feel like getting a bite to eat, good food and entertainment can be found in the numerous quaint taverns. The hospitality of its friendly people gives one a warm feeling and a promise of an easy hassle free stay.

The traditional settlement of Ia is located on the northern tip of the island, high on the cliff-top. Ia hosts the most magnificent views on Santorini and a picturesque road, with cliffs on one side and sea on the other, leads to this attractive town. A square overlooks the sea and visitors are encouraged to observe a truly fantastic sunset well worth saving on film. Directly below is the beach of Ammoudi across the bay are the Burnt Islands. Ammoudi, accessible only by foot, is 214 steps below, and Armeni beach is 286 steps below. The architecture of Ia is typical Santorini with houses sunk deep into the volcanic soil, their whitewashed walls and blue domes sparkling in the sunlight. Ia in 1900 had close to 9,000 inhabitants with virtually all of them mariners and who today many live in Piraeus. They owned 164 seafaring vessels and seven shipyards. In the area there were 79 churches. After the devastating 1956 earthquake and the passing of 80 years, 1980 presented us with the following: just 500 permanent residents, 75% who are mariners and who have 112 seafaring vessels. In 1951 Captain Antonis Dakoronia established a Maritime Museum. Although it was destroyed in 1956 earthquake, it was reopened in 1979 and is functioning today. Ia today also hosts a cultural centre, a central art gallery and many other Greek art galleries. Many shops sell handicrafts, souvenir, jewellery and other items to help you remember your visit. If it's peace and quiet you seek, Ia is the ideal spot to enjoy a peaceful vacation surrounded by unique natural beauty. But that's not to say that the town is dull.

Santorini has a number of spots where one can take magnificent pictures of the unique scenery the island offers. But perhaps the most outstanding is one offered at Imerovigli, at the highest spot of the rim of the caldera (300 meters high). Imerovigli which means day watch, is near Fira and a place which should not be missed while on Santorini. The castle of Scaros is worth a visit. When Venetian leader Marko Sanouthos conquered the island in 1207, he raised the flag on the castle. It was at this point that Thira became known as Santorini (Santa Irene). The castle guarded the western entrance to the island from attacks. The castle had two portions, one called Rocka and the other where Roman nobles and Catholic bishops had their residence. The castle was never defeated during the 600 years of existence. Because of its proximity with Fira, it is connected with a public road or by the old path, offering a tremendous views as you walk along the rim. It's only a 20-minute walk and one that must be on your itinerary. Taverns, restaurants, bars, hotels and rooms to rent are plentiful in Imerovigli.

A large village built on the center of the island with small picturesque streets and hills with windmills that add to the village's beauty. Emporio also had a fortified castle during the medieval years, vestiges of which are still visible. Here are two castles both built by the Venetians, Casteli and north of the village a strong, square building named Goulas, in which the village people protected themselves from the pirates. You can also visit the site of ancient Elefsina here.
A village only two kilometers east of Fira, with an interesting architecture and the three lovely churches worth visiting. Analipsis, in the center of the village, has the Italian ecclesiastical architecture style but as it transformed in the Cyclades islands and it resembles to the Cathedral of Fira. The other two, Eisodia tis Theotokou and Aghios Nikolaos are typically Santorinian. Karterados has a quiet black-sand beach that is the closest from Fira.
One of the most peaceful and traditional villages of Santorini, located about nine kilometers from Fira. The churches of Aghi Anargyri, Isodia tis Theotokou and Aghios Nikolaos Marmaritis on the road to Emborio are worth seeing. Aghios Nikolaos Marmaritis took the name Marmaritis because it is all made by marble-marmaro in Greek. The church kept its doric style of the fourth century untouched after it was converted to a christian one. Megalohori hosts the most vineyards of the island and is a traditional settlement with vaulted houses and stone-cobbled streets.
This village suffered greatly during the 1956 earthquake and many of its residents abandoned it to settle in the village of Kamari. However the village has made a comeback of late and is worth visiting for its traditional architecture. The most significant byzantine monument on the island, Panayia Episkopi is located here. This byzantine style church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin, was built in the end of the 11th century with all expenses paid by the byzantine emperor Alexios Komnenos. Nearby is the village of Exo Gonia, a small settlement built on the side of a mountain and featuring the church of Aghios Charalambos from where you can see the entire island. The church is adorned with wall-paintings by Christoforos Assimis.

A typical village about seven kilometers from Fira and near the airport. The village took its name from the rock named Monolithos on top of which St. George church is built. It has an organized black sand beach, crystal-clear sea and is an ideal spot for children.

Built at the feet of Profitis Ilias hill, this traditional settlement has three churches to see, Aghia Triada, Aghia Anna with the beautiful wood carved temple and Panaghia.

Located north of Fira, Firostefani offers stunning views to the volcano. It is build by the cliffs and features the churches of Aghios Charalambos and catholic Panaghia ton Aghion Theodoron that celebrates on August 15.

The east part of Fira hosts two wonderful mansions and the folklore museum where you can witness the daily activities of the past inhabitants of the island.

Peaceful and traditional, Vourvolos is an agricultural village and has quiet, lovely beaches with wonderful fish taverns.