Pyrgos Village, Santorini
Welcome to Pyrgos.
Pyrgos Village, with its Venetian Castle, is situated 7.5 km east of Fira, in Santorini.
"Pyrgos" in Greek means “Tower”. Originally the village of Pyrgos was built on the hillside, away from the sea and surrounded by a wall. It was meant to be a defensive “Tower”.
After medieval times, when the pirate threats were gone, houses expanded outside the wall and thus the village took its current form. What remains of the old village today are the ruins of the castle and the name "Tower" aka Pyrgos.
Pyrgos has recently become a very popular destination for tourists visiting Santorini and that is for a good reason. It is truly one of the most beautiful traditional settlements you will find in Santorini and the best sample of Medieval architecture. In 1995, it was declared a “preserved monument”.
Pyrgos stands on the top of the hill, with amazing panoramic views. This village is famous for its whitewashed churches, the traditional vineyards that surround it and the cobbled narrow streets that lead up to the castle.
There are hotels, restaurants, taverns, cafes and traditional "kafeneia" as well as mini markets and shops in Pyrgos.
The main attraction is the Venetian Castle (one of the five castles you will find on the island) but there is also a museum you can visit if you want to experience “Santorini of the Past”.
Here you will experience the domestic, rural and traditional ways of life in Santorini and you will also have the chance to enjoy a large collection of photos.
Close to Pyrgos Village you will find two wineries: Santo Wines and Hatzidakis (read this article to discover the Best Wineries In Santorini). Here you will also find the the Monastery of Prophet Elias - the only place with a panoramic view to the entire island of Santorini. From the north all the way to the south (learn more about it here).
For nature lovers and trekkers, in Pyrgos you will find lovely walking routes to follow. You can either take the path to the Monastery of Prophet Elias and Ancient Thira or smaller routes that lead to churches around the village.
If you plan on Visiting Santorini off season, it is really worth coming to Pyrgos for Easter. You will be amazed.
Kids place thousands of cans in every street, alley, rooftop, courtyard on the village and they light them all up on the evening of Good Friday. This is where we celebrate “Epitaphios”.
If you look at the village from afar it looks like it is on fire. If you walk in the village, expect to be fascinated.. That is all I am going to say.
The Castle of pyrgos, santorini
The castle in Pyrgos was one of the five castles built by the Venetians in the 15th century. The other ones were in Akrotiri, Imerovigli, Oia and Emporio.
The Castle of Pyrgos followed the style of a settlement fortification- a practice followed since antiquity. Initially there was only a tower at the heart of the settlement. Later on a church was built in the centre as well and then a fortification yard was built around these two buildings.
This yard actually consisted of the external walls of houses. The walls of each house were thick and high, adjoining to the next house. This way the yard only had a few open spaces and the tower and church in the middle were safe.
The castle only had one entrance, which is also known as “The Door”. This would remain locked if there was any sort of danger.
Pathways leading to and from the castle look like a maze. In addition they were intentionally built very narrow to make it even more difficult for intruders, so only one or two people could pass at one time.
Houses inside the castle were narrow and stretched, with two or three floors. Part of them were built and part was caved. Most of them had a Cylindrical vault.
Today, near the entrance of the castle you will find a memorial plaque commemorating fallen heroes during war times. The plaque is divided into two separate sections based on dates:
From 1912(Beginning of Balcan Wars) to 1922 (The destruction of Ionia) and
From 1941(Beginning of the German occupation) to 1949 (End of civil war)
No matter which road you take from the main square of Pyrgos, if you keep heading up the hill you will find yourself at the castle (at some point). Even if you get lost, you will probably discover an amazing narrow path leading to the castle.
There was a tunnel connecting Pyrgos to the rest of the island through Exo Gonia. The tunnel was buried under the debris of the earthquake. In 1996, they started excavating only to discover the entrance to the tunnel, but had to later seize work due to technical problems.
I am starting to believe that no matter where you dig in Santorini you will discover some sort of interesting artifact or clue about the history of the island.
Prophet Elias, Santorini
Prophet Elias is the highest point of Santorini. This is also the oldest part of the island and the only one that existed before the eruption of the volcano. Once you get to the top, you can visit the Monastery of Prophet Elias and then take your time to enjoy the panoramic views of Santorini.
The Monastery of Prophet Elias was founded in 1711. Nowadays there are 10 monks living there and the monastery continues its charity work for the local community as well as the production of local products.
Churches in pyrgos, santorini
There are 48 churches in Pyrgos Village. Yes,this is not a typo. There are actually 48.
I know we are talking about way too many churches for such a small place. Especially if you take into account that there are about 600 residents in the village of Pyrgos. So there are 12.5 churches per resident if you do the math!
That is all part of Pyrgos’s beauty.
Most of these churches are privately owned which means they are not open to the public and they do not have service every Sunday. Please note that most churches are locked so you do not have access inside.
Here are the ones you will definitely see along the way:
EISODIA TIS THEOTOKOU
You will find this church inside the castle. It the largest one on the island, dating back to 1660. It has an impressive chancel screen with sculpted figures of saints and floral decorations. The church celebrates on the 21st of November and on the 15th of August.
Built at the centre of the castle, this church is a basilica with a dome. It used to be a small convent and dependency of the Monastery of Prophet Elias. Nowadays, it is an ecclesiastical museum hosting a collection of icons and heirlooms.
This church is located at the northern part of the castle and is considered to be one of the oldest churches on the island, as it was built on the 14th century.
CHRISTOS (METAMORFOSI TOU SOTIROS)
You will notice this church's bell tower from a distance. This is the only church on the island with an octagonal cupola internally and externally. It was renovated in 1953 and celebrates on the 6th of August.
Located outside the entrance of the castle, this church was built in 1660. It is a basilica with a dome and one of the five parishes of Pyrgos. It celebrates on the 6th of December.
Aghia Theodosia (Saint Theodosia) is considered to be the Protector-Saint of all Castles. That is why at the entrance of every castle there is a church dedicated to her. This one was built in 1639 and celebrates on the 29th of May.
I am thinking maybe I should write an extended post about churches in Pyrgos Village. Would you find that useful?
Walking Routes starting from pyrgos, Santorini
There are two more beautiful churches that are worth visiting. I just discovered them recently (Thanks to my dad who always discovers the coolest places).
These are ideal if you are looking for short hiking routes around Pyrgos. You will find serenity and peace of mind once you get there.
I have noted them down on the map as well, so it is easy for you to find them.
Keep reading as I have more walking routes for you.
AGHII APOSTOLI (Livades)
This church is south of Pyrgos, just outside the village. It is a single-aisled, vaulted basilica. Originally built in 1872, with a cave edifice for feasts and a basin in its courtyard. It celebrates on the 30th of June and is the perfect spot to pray or just spend some time alone.
AGHIOS GEORGIOS (Katefyo)
Now this is an impressive church. If you want to be alone with God, you should spend some time here. Built in 1754 into the mountain, this chapel is west of Pyrgos, literally in the middle of nowhere.
It was originally a single-aisled, vaulted basilica. Just above the church, you will notice ruins of many cave houses. It is believed that monks used to live there.
The name "Katefyo" means "shelter/refuge". A local story says that a princess found shelter in this church once, to escape pirates that were chasing her. Thus comes the name.
More walking routes starting from Pyrgos village, Santorini
Hike from Pyrgos to Prophet Elias
You can walk from Pyrgos to the mountain of Prophet Elias and enjoy all the views along the way. This path also passes by the church of Aghii Apostoli I mentioned earlier.
From the main square of Pyrgos head uphill, you will find the path on your left side. There is a sign to the monastery and ancient Thira. Follow that one and you will be on the right track.
First stop is at Aghii Apostoli and then if you keep going you will find the main street with a small military base and the monastery at the very top.
It shouldn’t take you more than an hour to get there.
Here is the route from Pyrgos to Prophet Elias on the map:
Pyrgos to Ancient Thira (via Prophet Elias)
As you will are looking at the radar – that is at the very top of the hill where the monastery is- on your left there is a sign and a small path that can take you to Ancient Thira. If you have time (and the will to do it) it is really worth it.
This should take you another hour.
You will need good shoes as the terrain is rocky and slippery in some parts. Once you start walking down, you will shortly find a fork on the path. Make sure to turn left there. The right side requires ropes to descent.
Keep walking and enjoy the views. On the right side you will see Perissa beach and on the left Kamari Beach. The panoramic views from this path are amazing.
Once you see the parking lot of Ancient Thira, you will know you have reached your destination.
HERE IS THE ROUTE FROM PYRGOS ancient thira (Via prophet elias) ON THE MAP:
If you feel like walking more (just in case that wasn't enough), from Ancient Thira you can walk down to Perissa or Kamari Beach.
See the hike from Ancient Thira to Perissa Santorini on the map:
See the hike from Ancient Thira to Kamari Santorini on the map:
I know there is another route that takes you from Pyrgos to Emporio Village, but I haven’t tried that one yet so I wouldn’t want to suggest it to you.
If you have, please let me know and I can share the details of it.
How to get to Pyrgos, santorini
You can catch the bus from Fira, it will drop you off right in the main square of Pyrgos. You can check the bus timetable here.
You don't have to worry about finding a place to buy your tickets, as you will do that on the bus.
Places to eat and Drink in Pyrgos, santorini
The views from Franco’s terrace are some of the best on Santorini if you ask me.
This is great spot to watch the sunset if you are looking to get away from the crowds in Oia.
A lovely traditional café, but also an art gallery, right next to the castle entrance.
You can stop here and get a drink or a snack. While you do that, you can also learn more about the history of Pyrgos and the castle. Try their lemonade and/or their cake.
Exploring a traditional village in Santorini, goes well with tasting some of the traditional specialties. Kantouni is just the place for that.
Original, traditional, home-made Greek food. Something hard to find in all the touristic places. Nektarios and his mother Voula cook all the tasty things you are looking for. Trust me, you will like it!
If you are looking for something more gourmet you can try Selene Restaurant. They do Greek cuisine with a modern twist.
There is a Mobile App about pyrgos too:
To discover more, you can also download a free iPad app about Pyrgos. It will come in handy I think.
Last but not least, this is a question I get asked often, so thought you might find it useful as well.
Which one to choose: Pyrgos or emporio?
I have met many people that were wondering whether they should go to Pyrgos or Emporio in Santorini. Say you only had to choose one. I always tell them the same thing I will tell you now.
Here are the facts:
They are both traditional settlements, they both have ruins of Venetian castles you can visit and they are both very very pretty.
Pyrgos has nicer views because it is in higher ground. But Emporio is easier to access.
In pyrgos you have to walk about 20 mins uphill to get to the castle and you will find many steps along the way (there is no access by car). In the heat of the summer that might not be the best thing for you.
Emporio is easier, since there are only some steps in the entrance of the village- rather large steps as well and after that the walk is easier. Also, it takes less time to walk up to the castle-about half the time.
To sum it up, I would say if you are struggling to walk for a long time-for any reason that might be, or you just find it very hot or you are just not in the mood for it, go to Emporio. If none of the above applies, go to Pyrgos. The view at the top of the hill will reward you.
There is an alternative suggestion-especially for people that cannot walk for long. Do not be disappointed!
You can walk around in Emporio, see the castle there and you can then drive to Prophet Elias and get the same views you would get from Pyrgos Village. Maybe even better as this is the highest point in Santorini. This way you get to see a Medieval Castle, a traditional settlement and the amazing panoramic views! Win win.
Where to find Pyrgos in Santorini on the map:
I think I 've covered it all, but if there is something I missed out on please do let me know and I will add it.
Thanks for reading!
See you soon,
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