Santorini Villages Guide
Here is a comprehensive guide to the main villages of Santorini. You can click on the links below to read more about each village.
You can also see the location of every village on the map of Santorini below:
Fira is the capital of Santorini. It can be found on the west coast of the island, perched on the edge of an impressive cliff, 220m (722ft) above sea level. Fira is right opposite the volcano of Santorini, so it has amazing views to the caldera and the volcano itself.
Fira was first built during the 17th century, but it was in the late 18th century when it became the capital of Santorini. Before that, Skaros, a castle opposite Imerovigli, used to be the capital.
Modern day Fira is the cultural and commercial center of Santorini. Here you will find museums, galleries and cultural events, as well as the largest shopping center on the island and many restaurants. Fira also has the best nightlife in Santorini.
THE OLD PORT AND THE CABLE CAR IN FIRA, SANTORINI
The old port of Santorini is at the bottom of the caldera cliffs in Fira. It is now being used to bring in passengers from cruise ships and for smaller boats to anchor. The little harbor has restaurants, taverns and small shops. To come up to Fira town you can take the cable car, hop on a donkey (I wouldn't recommend that) or if you feel like getting your daily exercise climb 600 steps up.
From the old port you can also get on a boat tour to the volcano and the hot springs.
Oia, which by the way is pronounced Ia, is situated on the north west edge of Santorini, 11 km (6.8mi) away from Fira at a height of approximately 150 meters (492 feet) above sea level. It was previously known as "Apano Meria", that stands for "upper side”.
Significant part of the town was destroyed by the 1956 earthquake and had to be rebuilt. The heart of Oia is the main marble-paved pedestrian street. You will find all the shops, restaurants, art galleries and anything else you might be looking for here along your way. At the end of the path, you will find the famous Castle.
THE CASTLE OF OIA
The Castle of Oia is also known as "Kasteli of Agios Nikolaos". Kasteli in Greek stands for “small castle” and "Agios" is "Saint" so this was basically a small castle dedicated to Saint Nikolaos.
The castle was built around 1450 and was one of the five Venetian Castles of Santorini. The other ones are in the villages of Akrotiri, Pyrgos, Emporio and Imerovigli. This castle was also destroyed during the earthquake of 1956. What remains of it today, used to be the Goulas. Goulas was the fort of the castle but also a type of warehouse to store the harvest.
Nowadays, the ruins of that castle are considered the top spot for sunset watching (and it tends to get super crowded).
Once you walk to the castle, it is worth taking the steps down to Ammoudi or walking a bit further to discover the windmills at the end of the path.
Oia has a small port, Ammoudi, which can be reached by a set of 300 steps leading down. If you don’t feel like exercising in the heat of the summer, you can also drive around or take a donkey. Although I would not recommend the last one. Read why.
Ammoudi is a small harbour with fishing boats, waterfront taverns and restaurants. A popular destination for foodies seeking fresh fish and any kind of seafood.
From here you can also take small boats across to the island of Thirassia.
Pyrgos Village is situated 7.5 km (4.7mi) east of Fira.
"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” and thus the name.
Pyrgos has recently become a very popular destination for tourists visiting Santorini. 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”.
This village is famous for its whitewashed churches (with blue domes of course), the traditional vineyards that surround it and the cobbled narrow streets that lead up to the castle.
The Venetian Castle is the main attraction. It is one of the five castles you will find on the island and it will offer you amazing views to the island.
Further up from the town of Pyrgos, you can visit the Monastery of Prophet Elias, which is the highest point of the island. Even if you are not religious, this is worth visiting simply to admire the amazing panoramic view to the entire island.
*Tip: The views from Pyrgos are indeed lovely, however getting there requires walking up the hill for about 20 minutes. It is not an easy walk, especially in the heat of the summer. In case you have mobility issues, you could drive up to the Monastery instead. The views are the same- even better actually because you are going further up- and it is much easier to access.
Imerovigli is north of Fira to what many people consider to be the best location on Santorini. The name Imerovigli comes the words “vigla” and “imera”. "Vigla" in latin refers to the Lookout and "imera" in Greek means day.
Houses and hotels are built amphitheatrically around the caldera and offer amazing views to the sunset and the cliffside. Imerovigli is also called “balcony to the Aegean” because of the spectacular views.
In Imerovigli you will also find the castle of Skaros, that was inhabited in Medieval times. Skaros was actually the capital of Santorini until the 18th century. Today, you can hike on the top of the mountain to see the ruins of the castle and enjoy the breath-taking views.
If you ask me, I would choose to stay in Imerovigli for my holidays.
Firostefani is the village right next to Fira. You will find it on your way if you are walking to or from Oia. It is mainly known for the great views to the caldera and the volcano but the main attraction here is that blue dome church that you keep seeing everywhere on the internet and on postcards.
Akrotiri is a small traditional fishing village with a very impressive history. Here in Akrotiri, you will find the Akrotiri excavations.
Akrotiri Excavations have uncovered one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean. The first habitation at the site dates back to the Late Neolithic times (at least the 4th millennium BC). Akrotiri is often characterised as the prehistoric "Pompeii of the Aegean".
Other places of interest in Akrotiri are:
- The Medieval Castle, which now hosts a Greek Bagpipe Exhibition and Workshop. It is named LaPonta and you can read more about it here.
- The red sand beach. Needs no introductions. This is a very unique and rare sight so do visit it if you get a chance. The beach is rather narrow, so sightseeing here is amazing, but in terms of swimming you can find better places. And safer places. The red sand beach often has landslides that make it dangerous, so please be careful. There is a sign at the entrance but people seem to ignore it.
- The lighthouse of Akrotiri, that you will find at the very end of the road. Built in 1892, this is a beautiful lighthouse, with breath-taking views to the island. This is another one of the famous sunset spots of Santorini if you are looking to avoid Oia.
Kamari is one of the best organised beaches on the island. Kamari has a blue flag and black sand. By sand we mean pebbles and rock but in black color. There is no fine sand here. There are numerous beach bars, restaurants, shops and hotels here. Even if you are not going swimming you can enjoy a lovely walk along the beach anytime of the day. And get a drink at night.
Kamari is also home to the open air cinema of Santorini. Check it out- it is really cool!
Perissa and Perivolos are the same beach. With two different names on each end. It is a very long beach starting off as Perissa and then becoming Perivolos. This is the most famous beach on Santorini. And the best one in my opinion. Home to some great beach bars, Perissa and Perivilos offer plenty to do so you can easily spend the whole day chilling by the beach. Or partying on the beach.
Emporio (or Emborio) is one of the traditional settlements in Santorini and the largest village on the island with 3,000 residents. It is 12km (7.4mi) south of Fira and although it is not touristy, it is worth visiting to admire the medieval architecture of the village and the castle itself.
The name Emporio means “trade” or “commerce” in Greek and according to the locals, the village used to be the center of all trade on the island and thus took its name.
Here you will see staircases leading to tiny doors, overhead bridges between houses, the smallest possible windows, arches and a few beautiful churches. Here you will get a chance to see one of the five medieval castles of Santorini as well.
Since Emporio was the commercial center at that time, the castle basically guaranteed the security of every transaction.
Megalochori is located 9.5 km (5.9mi) away from Fira. It is a rather small village, but so very beautiful. It is perfect if you are looking for something traditional or if you want to get away from the crowds. There is one main road crossing the village and you will find some nice traditional restaurants at the main square.
The soil in the area has always been fertile; so, there were many vineyards here. Today in Megalochori you can find three wineries: Gavalas, Boutari and Venetsanos.
Athinios (The New port)
Also known as the new port of Santorini, Athinios is southwest of Fira. If you are on a ferry from Athens or any other island, this is where you will be coming in. Due to ground morphology, the road leading to Athinios is narrow and winding. And there is only one. You will know what I mean when you see it.
You will find the local bus stop and a few taxis right on the port. You can check the bus schedule here.
Karterados is very close to Fira (within walking distance) and a good alternative if you are looking for cheaper accommodation. The old settlement is actually built underground so the rooftops are on the street level.
Karterados nowadays has many restaurants, shops, coffee places and is a popular place for locals to hang out.
Mesa Gonia (episkopi)
Mesa Gonia is a small traditional village built on the foot of the mountain. It is also known as "Episkopi" because of the church of "Panagia Episkopi". This is the most important Byzantine monument of Santorini.
At the entrance of the village you can visit Roussos Winery, one of the oldest wineries of the island that dates back to 1836.
About 8km (4.9mi) from Fira, this is another beautiful traditional village in Santorini. Built on the mountain, Exo Gonia is famous for the restaurant Metaxy mas and for the church of "Agios Charalambos", which is one of the three largest churches in Santorini.
Vourvoulos is 3,7km NE of Fira. The name “Vourvoulos” means something like a bubble in Greek and it comes from the unique shape of the terrain in the area. The village has great views to the east side of Santorini, with a beautiful coastline where the beaches of Vourvolos, Pori and Koloumbo are situated.
Here you will also find a memorial site for those who died under German Occupation during World War II.
Messaria is only 3km away from Fira. The name Messaria refers to the center of the island from the word “mesi” which in greek means "middle". This is a popular place for locals (one of the largest villages nowadays), with a lot of Neoclassical mansions and cave houses.
Not much to do here in terms of touristic attractions, but you will be driving through for sure.
Vothonas is just 3,3Km away from Fira. It is not a touristy place, mainly local people live here and there is not much to do.
Finikia is located in the NW side of Santorini, very close to Oia. Finikia is a quiet traditional village, surrounded by vineyards, with lovely views to the beach of Baxedes and to Ios island.
Armeni is the old port of Oia. Nowadays it is used for small boats and private yachts to dock. To access Armeni you need to walk the steps down from Oia, or simply come in on a boat.