Everyone is familiar with the main town of Santorini, Fira, with its limitless alleys full of shopping — and great views of the volcanic islands from its cliffside path. Equally – if not even more – famous is the village of Oia (pronounced Eea or Ia), for its sunset views and high-end stores and hotels. If you have visited Santorini, or have been planning to visit this beautiful island, you might also have come across Imerovigli, the “quiet beauty” of the caldera, and Perissa or Kamari, the popular and organised black beaches on the South-East. As locals, we feel obliged to share with you 5 “unknown” villages that are worth your time and camera memory.
Finikia / Foinikiá / Φοινικιά
Finikia Village is located on the north part of Santorini island, right before you reach Oia. It is not easy to be found, even with all the signs directing you to it. Once you are off the main road to Oia and have turned right (and downhill) following the sign to Finikia, try to find a space to park your car. There is a small parking space right at the entrance of the village, but it is almost always full, so be prepared to park further up or down the road and walk a bit to reach this lot. Walk through the parking lot from its’ entrance to the other side and follow the little downhill alley that cars don’t fit in.
Finikia is a village built inside 3 parallel gorges, with traditional architecture and colourful buildings. It has been shortlisted as a UNESCO Heritage site and has been preserved very well from the locals. There are a couple of great lunch or dinner options in the village, but make sure you research and reserve your table ahead of time to make sure you get one, as you will be far from other good options if they are full.
Messaria / Mesariá / Μεσαρία
Messaria Village is located in the centre-east side of the island. Due to its expansion in the recent years, when you are driving through the village to get to the airport or Kamari beach, it won’t appeal much to you as you will find it busy with cars and people crossing the road without order. But head west, towards the opposite side of the airport and park your car before you start exploring. There are 4-5 entrance alleys to get in from, depending on where you will park.
The existence of this village has been documented since the 17th century, and in the 19th century, it was the industrial centre of Santorini. While you are walking around the narrow alleys, you will find abandoned mansions and factories with extraordinary beauty, even if they are half-demolished.
Exo Gonia / Ekso Goniá / Έξω Γωνιά
Built behind Pyrgos Village, Exo Gonia is its quieter sibling. Built on a slope with virtually no hotels and just a couple of -great- restaurants, if you manage to find it, you might not easily find your way out! To get in, spot the only non-white church on the island, on the hill below the Profit Elias mountain. Park anywhere you find available space and disappear in an alley behind the street. As you explore, you are likely to find more than 10 ruined wineries that were fully operational before the big earthquake of 1956.
Akrotiri / Akrotíri / Ακρωτήρι
Akrotiri, as a village, in the Southern side of Santorini, has been overshadowed by the fame and importance of the Akrotiri excavations near the seaside. You will find yourself driving through that beautiful village on your way to the Akrotiri excavations, or the Red Beach. Akrotiri village was built on the foot of the castle that stands in the top of the hill, and its main tower – Goulas. Roaming around you will see some of the old traditional houses and spectacular views of the caldera from the top of the hill.
Emporio – Kasteli / Emporeío / Εμπορείο or Εμπορειό
Also on the south side of the island, further to the east, the biggest village of Santorini, Emporio village has more than 1700 inhabitants. One more village of Santorini that you won’t like if you just drive through, but park your car and start walking uphill to enter a new world! The old village itself is wonderful. However, what will really make you fall in love is its “Kasteli”. A small, hidden village in the centre of the old village, surrounded by tall castle walls. When you are on the outside, you can only see a gate and windows along the walls. There are 2 gates on opposite sides and you can use both to enter/leave. Inside the walls, there is a picturesque village, with steep and narrow steps, cute little entrances, colourful doors, and even a church of their own! We promise – you will feel like you are walking inside a beautiful painting.