Panagia Episkopi is one of the most important Byzantine churches of the island, built in the 12th century. This church has managed to survive various invasions as well as the many earthquakes on the island.
It is set amidst vineyards along a bumpy road near Mesa Gonia. You will find signs when you take the main road between Fira and Kamari. It is hidden behind a high wall and covered by trees, go through the gate beyond the parking lot.
Inside you can admire some beautiful wall paintings and icons. Unfortunately many of the churches treasures were destroyed by a fire in 1915.
Entrance fee is 50 eurocent. You can take photos without flash.
- Religious Travel
Vlychada is situated in the east of Santorini. It has a picturesque fishing harbour with tavernas overlooking it and a windmill taverna on the front too. The nearby beach is less crowded than the more renowned ones of Perissa or Kamari plus the pumice rock cliffs sculptured by the wind provide interesting detail. Umbrellas and beds are available for hire. There are chimneys of a tomato paste factory nearby which seems a bit bizarre for a beach landscape but the factories are no longer in use. We drove past here and jut made a quick stop for some photos. In fact driving through this area was quite strange with its moonscape outlook.
Emporio is the biggest village on Santorini are perhaps my most favourite. Its built on the centre of the plain in the South part of Santorini. The old village part is much different to the newer part - look for signs saying traditional centre, walk up a shady avenue of trees and past some old mansions to find small picturesque streets and stepped alleyways that add to the charm of the village - in many ways it reminded me of the star wars village in Tunisia. One of the oldest church on the island is here, Palia Panagia, which is famous for the ornately carved wooden dome on its bell-tower.
Emporio like Prygos also had a fortified castle during the medieval years built by the Venetians called Casteli, vestiges of which are still visible - its right up here that the most picturesque parts are - many houses up here are now being renovated and it looked splendid.
North of the village there is a strong, square building named Goulas, in which the village people protected themselves from the pirates.
The village of Prygos has many churches, around 33 all different and many with beautiful dazzling white bell towers. We were here on a Sunday and the big church in the centre of the village was full of locals enjoying coffee and cake after their service. The most famous one is the Monastery of Profitis Ilias,one the outskirts of the village, where a small collection of ethnographic material and old icons are exhibited.
Pyrgos is one of the most popular inland villages to visit. Its built on the top of a hill and was until the early 1800, the capital of the island. We parked the car at the bottom of the climb, looked at the useful town map first and began our ascent of the village. The village is composed of traditional houses built around the Venetian Castle and the warren of white small streets follow the shape of the hill - its easy to get lost in them. Bit of a climb up but so worth it for the views of the island. Towards the top is an expensive luxury hotel we nearly booked to stay in - I'm so glad we didn't as I wouldn't have liked the climb each day.
Vothonas is a small rock village. Architecturally described as the strangest village on Santorini and just for that reason considered worth a visit - so we made a stop here when we had the car for a day. Pathways climb up to the houses, a complex of network of open and closed excavations, a unique and untouched architectural complex. As the coastal villagers did with the Caldera, so the people of the interior dug their houses into rocky walls of a ravine. The village has a small church built inside a cave and another interesting church is that of St. Anna which is the oldest in the village, being built in 1827. If you decide to go in the carved wooden screen decorated with scenes from the Old Testament can be seen.
Megalochori (or Megalohori, Megaloxori) means big village in Greek. It is one of the few traditional settlements on Santorini, located between Pyrgos, Emporio and Akrotiri less than 10 km from Fira. It is made of hundreds of small white painted houses built the one upon the other and it is characterised by its beautiful churches the bell tower was especially photogenic. It combines traditional architecture with vaulted houses and calderimia (stone-cobbled narrow pathways). A prominent feature of the historical homes and mansions are the high walls, inner courtyards and solid wooden door entrances, built for privacy and for safety against marauding pirates. Three of the island's largest wineries are located here, Antoniou Winery, Boutari Winery and Gavalas Vineyard - we had a quick look at this one. The village square has a shady taverna where you can try the local Masti drink - yes made from mastic! It tasted better than it smelt - a cross between lemonade and tonic with a hint of herbs.
Its a bumpy ride up to the village of Episkopi Gonia , also known as Mesa Gonia, not far from the beach resort of Kamari. My thanks to Helga for telling us about this place. This little village has an important beautiful Byzantine church of Panagia Episkopi. The church is considered the best example of traditional ecclesiastical architecture of the island and thus is often visited - it cost just 50 cents to go in and is worth a short detour.
This church has managed to survive various invasions as well as the many earthquakes on the island. It’s good to contrast it with some of the island’s larger and more modern churches - it has an orange tiled roof rather than a blue or white dome. Panagia Episkopi was built in the late 11th Century by Emperor Alexios A’ Kominos. It houses the icon of Panagia Glikofilousa, one of the third most priceless portable icons in the world. Other important icons can be seen in the church, although unfortunately most of the treasures of the church were destroyed in 1915 by a terrible fire and 26 of the finest works were also stolen in 1982 and never to be found. Still worth a look though. Surprisingly photography is allowed as long as no flash is used.
Karterados was our base for 4 nights. This traditional village lies less than 2 Km to the South of Fira - a mere 10 minute walk from our hotel base. Karterados was built inside two rivers, almost invisible from everywhere. It's name means the watching - hiding spot, presumably from pirates. Here you can discover traditional Santorini architecture - rocky houses literally burrowed out of a stream and house’s roofs which are at the identical level with the pavement. In 19th century Karterados evolved into a wealthy and prosperous village and many rich ship-owners had built their mansions here, the crew residing in the rock houses. Today there are several hotel and villas for rental, well served by tavernas (much less expensive than Fira), cosy cafes and supermarkets. The village centre has an attractive windmill too.
The village Exo Gonia, is a small settlement built at the slopes of Mesa Vouno (the Profitis Ilias mountain). Traditional farming village with several wineries and canaves (cave installations for production and storage of wine). The tiny village is like another world. Quiet, with nice view towards the sea and the flat land where the airport lies. The best view spot is at the church of Agios Charalambos (red roofed church).
Take the Boat Trip! A must
Seriously, take the boat trip to the neighboring volcano and hot springs. This is a once in a lifetime experience. You are picked-up by the boat in either Amoudi Bay or Armeni (both in Oia) in the morning, you visit the volcano and then proceed to the hot springs (swimming is optional). Afterwards you go to Korfos port for a wonderful lunch (cheaper here than normal, you will be surprised). I even feed the fish from where I was seating during lunch. I fed them my bread. Then you are brought back again to either Amoudi Bay or Armeni in Oia. The boat leaves Amoudi at 10:15AM and 10:30AM from Armeni and comes back at 3:45PM. Boat Trip cost is 27 euros and does not include lunch or entrance to the volcano but it includes guided tour.
- Budget Travel
On the Gavrilos hill, there are 8 old windmills that have now be abandoned. The wind here blows strongly, and the windmills have been repared several times before being finally replaced by new technologies.
There is nothing much to see here, but the atmosphere is perfect to take pictures!
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
See the island
Most people stay in Fira or Oia. Go out and see the island because it is virtually untouched outside of the city and seaside resorts. Rent a car and get lost like I did. Or even better, rent an ATV or motorcycle (like I wish I had done).
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Visit the Monastery
There is a tour that takes you up to the monastery but be away you can not go in. Do to this I would think it may fall under "Things To Do" but I think it's not too well know for most people so I put it here. The main plus is that you are at the highest part of the island and the views are great. If you drive up watch the road as it is steep and has many turns.
Some of the treasures we came across...
We rented a car. So, we took full advantage of being able to drive all over the island and discovered some beautiful and interesting spots. What's great is that there are not too many options on which way to go. It's either east, west, north or south. No street names. Your guide is the landmarks. Fun!
- Road Trip
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