What to See in Santorini
A walk through the town will give you the chance to visit its main sights. Do not forget to visit:
- The orthodox cathedral of Ypapanti and the catholic cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
- The Archaeological Museum including a big collection of 7th and 6th-century B.C. vessels as well as statues dating back to the Archaic and Roman periods.
- Thira Prehistoric Museum: one of the most important Greek museums, which, among other things, exposes mural paintings from the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri.
- The Folklore Museum housed in a traditional building built in a rock in 1861.
- The Gkizi manor house (18th centuries) with remarkable collections (chalcographies etc.)
- Aghia Aikaterini monastery of Dominican monks.
- Bellonio Cultural Center and “Petros Nomikos” Conference Center hosting conferences, exhibitions, concerts, etc.
- Firostefani, a traditional settlement with interesting architectural features and offering a wonderful view.
- The caldera and the islets of Nea and Palaia Kameni, monuments of particular natural beauty, which present great scientific interest and which are accessible by boat. In Nea Kameni you will also find the crater of the active volcano.
Fira the capital of Santorini is built on the edge of the caldera at the west side of the island, at an altitude of 250 meters and was founded in the late 18th century. It was the time when the inhabitants of the old capital of the island, the castle of Skaros which was just underneath the village of Imerovigli, began to abandon it because it was heavily damaged by the earthquakes. In the early 19th century, Fira became the capital of the island, and had access to the sea through the port of Fira that is used until today mainly for cruise ships. Fira is the seat of both the Orthodox, and the Catholic Diocese of Santorini.
What impresses at first glance in Fira is the typical architecture of the houses and the stunning views. In the town are based the public offices of the island, most of the shops, restaurants and hotels and the town itself is the most populated of the island. In Fira you can visit also the the art exhibition in the famous mansion Gizi . the Archaeological museum and the Prehistoric museum where in both of them you can see items from the excavations in Akrotiri as well as many artefacts and sculpture e covering the rich historical past of Santorini from the Prehistoric times to the Neolithic and Minoan era, the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods.
The main square Theotokopoulou is the centre of the town. There you will find most of the banks, the buses and taxi terminals and many shops.
During the evening all the terraces of the privileged cafes at the edge of the caldera filled with tourists that are coming to enjoy a drink as the sun sets over the deep blue Aegean.
At night the small streets along the east side of the town over the caldera are bursting with crowds of holiday makers that walking up and down the steps and narrow labyrinthine stone streets in a colourful environment among numerous shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. During the summer the city never sleeps, numerous cafes and snack bars are open for the clubbers until the early morning hours. In Fira there is also a folklore museum, a citadel from the Middle Ages, two Metropolis - Christian centres - a Catholic and an Orthodox. In Fira you can go to the church of Ag Mina, which is the church that most postcards of Santorini portray . If you come to Fira in September, there is a renowned classical music festival every year.
At Oia you get the best sunsets, and both Oia and Fira are excellent towns for just strolling around and shopping. The main street of Oia bursts of tourists, especially when cruise ships are arrived, strolling around the numerous tourist and souvenir shops. Be sure to find a table at one of the cafes at the edge of the caldera before the sunset.
Imerovigli It is located about 2 miles north of Fira and south of Oia. The village of Imerovigli is buid on the top of the Caldera at 300 metres over the sea level. It has a few hundred inhabitants and is a national heritage village with many chapels and churches. The most famous landmark of Imerovigli is the castle of Skaros on the top of the rock beneath the village that use to be the capital of the island of Santorini until the 18th century. There are many hotels but more quite as Fira and Oia. You can walk there from Fira going through Firostefani.
Akrotiri is an ancient town that was buried when the volcano erupted 3500 years ago. Archaeologists are still excavating it, but you can walk around in the little street quarters and see the buildings almost like they were back then. You'll be impressed by the modernity: the houses were two or three storey high, and they even had running water. The excavations have also revealed beautiful frescoes, tools and everyday life objects.
In Pyrgos a few kilometres from the capital you can see the medieval fortress Kasteli and admire a 10th century church and a monastery both with beautiful Byzantine icons and relics. The village ofMessaria is also located close to Fira and is surrounded by vineyards, you should visit the two small churches that are built in caves. In Megalochori 5 km southeast of Fira interesting is the unique way that this village combines the Cycladic architecture with neoclassical mansions, there are some interesting churches to visit and many places to stay. In Perissa in addition to the beautiful black sand beach with all kinds of shops, accommodations and water sports facilities worth visiting is the ancient site with buildings and ruins from different time periods. There is an ancient theatre, the ancient market, the ruins of a temple of Apollo, a shrine of Egyptian deities and many buildings from the Hellenistic period. In Kamari in addition to the well organised beach you can visit a church of the 11th century with significant Byzantine frescos and sculptures from an earlier chirch. Don't miss to visit Finikia a small traditional village, Mesochori, Emporios the traditional old market village of the island and Karterados.
It is very nice to go on one of the boat excursions offered. There are sunset trips in the evenings, and daily trips to the volcano and the opposite islands Palia Kammeni, with warm natural wells, and Thirasia, where there is a tiny picturesque village.
Ancient Thira: is situated on top of high cliff just above Kamari, and there is also and old church there from 1100 . This was the Roman head quarters. Right at the top of the southeast peak of the highest mountain of Santorini in Profitis Helias is the ancient settlement of Thira. The winding road that leads to this settlement begins at the south end of Kamari at the foot of the mountain. The physically fit can walk up the winding mountain road. which takes around 45 minutes, but the easiest way is to drive up or take a bus and reserve your energy for the final climb to the settlement itself as this last part is only accessible by foot. The road is carefully constructed from hard stones and ends at the beginning of the archaeological area of ancient Thira. Here you will find a refreshment hut, seating and car parking space. Buses also go to this point. From the top of the Ancient Thira there are breathtaking views over the eastern coast of Santorini, with the coastal villages of Kamari and Perissa as tiny toy towns far below. If you intend to walk or take your car it is advisable to go before 11am, in this way you will avoid trying to negotiate passing oncoming traffic on the narrow mountain road. If you are intending to walk it is recommended to wear suitable footwear because the climb from the car park to the settlement itself is not dangerous or difficult but it does not have a properly constructed road to walk on. The other most historic area of Santorini located in Akrotiri where the excavations brought to the light the remains of the Minoan town.
Thirasia belongs to Santorini island complex and is opposite of Oia. Its today’s shape is what was left from Stroggili west coast after the volcano's eruption in 1.500 B.C. The imposing natural landscape with impressive geological formations, well preserved folk architecture of houses and churches, the amazing view of Santorini, Palaia and Nea Kameni and the scenic Korfos coast with traditional taverns are the main features of this beautiful but not very popular island. It extends over 9000 sq. m and has a population of 260 inhabitants. Archeologists have found here settlements of later Copper period and Classic period. You can reach Thirasia by boat from Santorini or by sailing boat from Oia.