The “Old” Santorini

There’s the “fancy” Santorini, which faces the picture-perfect sunset. But there’s also the raw part of the island, which has its unique and very intriguing charm. It is here, inland, that you will find traces of the “old” Santorini. In the subdued villages of Megalochori, Pyrgos and Emporio, at religious festivals in blue-domed chapels surrounded by vineyards, among the ruins of ancient Thera on the summit of Mesa Vouno, a giddying rock-face flanked by the black beaches of Kamari and Perissa. I found Emporio the most interesting. The village is built in the lowlands, at the foot of Profitis Ilias Mountain. The village was probably named Emporio (“trade”), because it used to be the center of the commercial affairs in the past. Nowadays, Emporio is a peaceful settlement with beautiful houses and yards, many of which have been renovated, making the place very attractive. You can find plenty of shops, cafes, bars and traditional taverns with savory dishes and fine wines. There are some luxury hotels and villas or charming traditional houses and rooms for your stay. An asset of Emporio village is the fact that it is close to the volcanic beaches of Perissa and Perivolos. The medieval Kasteli, one of the five fortified castles of Santorini, is located in the heart of Emporio, and while you walk on streets, you realise the whole village is built around it. Inside the castle there is a church that dates back to the 16th century or earlier. Meanwhile Pyrgos, strategically built in the heart of the pre-volcanic hinterland, affords panoramic views, yet located that bit further from the famous caldera, it has been spared from the terraces, balconies, infinity pools and master suites that adorn the much glossier Oia. Pyrgos is not swamped by sunset spotters, nor is it the first choice among the hordes of cruise-ship passengers. For a great lunch and stunning view at the entire island, visit Franco’s Cafe!

One of the most underrated Santorini spots is the lighthouse. In the lovely, tranquil village of Akrotiri you can find the lighthouse located on the extreme southwest part of the island, 18 kilometers away from Fira. It is considered one of the best and most beautiful lighthouses in Cyclades. Attuned to the rest of the island, it is an admirable building with whitewashed walls standing on the edge of a high cliff right above the sea. It is, by all means, an idyllic setting. The lighthouse is situated in a peaceful place, surrounded by sea, ideal for blissful, romantic moments. It is highly recommended that you visit it during sunset when the warm light of the sinking sun floods in the lighthouse. It is an excellent sunset-watching spot and the fact that it is not commonly-held makes it more special. It is the spot the locals prefer to spend their evenings and cherish this magical hour. All these, along with the scenic view it offers, will fill you with nothing but entrancement…

All photos by Edward Kanarecki.

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