FIRA: The island capital of Santorini, Fira clings to the edge of a cliff, which is, in fact, the rim of the crater. It is built on the rim of the caldera thus offering an amazing view of the volcano.
The settlement dates from 1810, when the inhabitants of Skaros began to establish themselves in this tower flatter area, with access to the sea. It is a long, collection of buildings with steep, narrow, stepped alleyways.
One can reach the town by car or bus from Athinios, Fira’ s port and the island’ s only harbour or from Mesa Gialos, a spot usually chosen by the cruiseships. From there the ascent up the 566 steps to Fira may be made by funicular, walking or on donkey back.
Apart from the sights it has to offer, Fira is the center of life on Santorini. There are numerous hotels, apartments, restaurants, bars, cafes and night clubs to satisfy the visitor, as well as shops selling folk arts, crafts and pricey gold jewellery.
We suggest you to visit the churches of Agios Minas and Christos, both masterpieces of ecclesiastical architecture, the former with its typical Santorinian dome, the latter with its exquisitely carved iconostasis and bishop’s throne.
On the border between the Catholic and Orthodox quarters stands Fira’s Archaeological Museum which houses the finds from the excavations at Akrotiri and Mesa Vouno.
FIROSTEFANI: A long settlement, built alongside the rim of caldera, boasting a superb view of the volcano. Visit the church dedicated to Agios Gerasimos, the only one on the island surrounded by cypress trees. It also features the churches of Agios Charalambos and Catholic Panagia Agion Theodoron that celebrates on August 15 th.
Between Firostefani and Imerovigli, which is the next settlement on the caldera rim, stands the Old Orthodox Monastery of Agios Nikolaos.
IMEROVIGLI: The name of this village comes from the days of the pirates: ”vigla” means watch-tower, “imera” means day. Truly its position at the center and highest point along the caldera gave it visual command of the whole area, able to signal timely warnings to the population when pirates sailed into view.
The castle of Skaros, which was never defeated during the 600 years of its existence, is worth a visit. From Skaros you can follow the path that leads to the church of Theoskepasti, built on a rock and with a stunning view. Another church of Imerovigli is Panagia Malteza, taking its name from the icon said to have been found in the sea close to Malta. It has also a marvellous carved iconostasis with icons depicting scenes from the Old Testament.
Because of its proximity with Fira, it is connected with a public road or by the old path, offering a tremendous view as you walk along the rim. It’s only 20-minute walk and one that must be on your itinerary. Tavernas, restaurants, bars, hotels and apartments to rent are plentiful in Imerovigli.
IA: It is 10 kilometers far from Fira town. It is a collection of six villages: Ia, Perivola, Finikia, Tholos on the ridge and Ammoudi and Armeni at the base of caldera.
It is built at a lower altitude that Fira, nearer the sea, to which it is connected by two sets of cobbled steps. The one to Ammoudi has 214 steps; the other to Armeni has 286. Down at Armeni, stands the little church of Ai Nikolas, protector of seafarers, a short distance from the coast.
Ia hosts a Maritime Museum, a cultural center, a central art gallery and many popular Greek art galleries. Many shops sell handicrafts, souvenir, jewellery and other items to help you remember your visit. Ia is a perfect spot to enjoy a peaceful vacation.
Ia is one of the most magnificent villages on the island and is known for its magical sunset. In Ia with its cobbled streets and Cycladic architecture you will enjoy a panoramic view of Thirasia island, the volcano and the rest of Santorini.
MESSARIA: It lies 3.5 kilometers southeast of Fira, in the interior of the island and surrounded by gardens and vineyards.
The churches of Metamorphosis Sotiros and Agia Irini, both built between 1680 and 1700, are worth visiting, as is the Metropolis church.
Messaria has the typical 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 . The mansion has recently been restored. It is a typical home of Santorini of the previous century with its outstanding architecture. Much of Santorini’s wonderful wine is produced here.
PYRGOS: Pyrgos is built at the foot of Prothitis Ilias close to Perissa and Kamari Beaches. It is an example of a settlement that was fortified in the Middle Ages; it is the only village in Santorini where medieval features and atmosphere have been so vividly preserved. The walls of the outermost houses were an integral part of the village fortifications. When the danger of pirate raids diminished, the inhabitants started to build homes outside the walls, giving the village its present form. There are many churches worth seeing in Pyrgos such as Theotokaki, Metamorphosis Sotiros, Agia Theodosia, Isodia tis Theotokou and others. Near Pyrgos, on the top of Prophitis Ilias, is a monastery dedicated to the prophet, which has an important collection of ecclesiastical objects, manuscripts, old and more recent books.
EMBORIO: Emborio is the largest village in the southern part of Santorini Island. A bit before the entrance to the village there is a small church dedicated to Agios Nikolaos Marmaritis, virtually attached to the ruins of an ancient temple, built in the 3 rd century B.C. Its name was taken from the grey chiselled marble of which the temple was made.
Santorini’s most popular beaches are Kamari, Red Beach, Perissa, Monolithos with pebbles or black sand.
KAMARI: The beautiful black sandy beach of Kamari stretches for five miles in length along the eastern coast of the island. You don’t have to walk far to find tavernas on the seafront as well as hotels, tourist shops and entertainment spots. A number of water sports are also available like water skiing, windsurfing and paddle boats. It is located close to Avis beach, another black-sand and quiet one with sports facilities.
AKROTIRI – RED BEACH: Not far from the ancient sites at Akrotiri, is the red beach. You couldn’t ask for a more breathtaking setting for a swim. Soaring red lava cliffs, which drop right to the black sandy shore and into the clear blue sea, compose a majestic setting. Boats leave from Akrotiri to other beaches further down the southwest coast.
PERISSA: An array of water sports is available at Perissa, a famous beach of the island. The unique black lava sand and clear deep blue sea are the main attractions. The beach is located on the southeastern tip of Santorini.
MONOLITHOS: North of Kamari and on the eastern coast is the beach of Monolithos. Here you will find more peace and quiet than other Santorini beaches, however with all the comforts of the other beaches as there are tavernas and cafes.