The village of Oia enjoys incontestable top billing among Santorini sights – to the point that some travel publications caption a photograph of Oia as simply “Santorini” – but we took time to explore other parts of the island. Our intent to take a closer look at the main town of Fira was thwarted by the breakdown of one of our ATV rentals, but being chauffeured around on another day by a terrific local guide allowed us to see more of the island.
Like the historical capital of Santorini, Pyrgos Kallistis, which is dominated by several of – you guessed it – blue-domed churches.
This one is called Saint-Nicholas.
From this angle it looks as if it is the highest point in the village, but we will climb higher until we are level with the church of Christos with its distinctive tower…
… and even above that.
This is the center of the village, underscored by the obelisk commemorating local sons and daughters who had fought and fell in the world wars.
A few interior shots of the church of the Virgin Mary. The walls may not be painted with brilliant frescoes, but there still is an incredible richness of art and craftsmanship on display even in a relatively backwater house of worship.
We are finally at the highest point of Pyrgos – the remains of its castle. The panoramic views over the entire island and the caldera are incredible.
Website-friendly compression is far from an ideal vehicle for retaining detail in the original panoramic picture, but you can still see roughly in the center of the pano the northern tip of the island where Oia is.
A look towards the village of Megalochori and the south side of the caldera beyond. A blue dome can always provide an expressive foreground when on Santorini.
Remember how we thought that Saint-Nicholas was at the top of the village? We are obviously standing higher than its dome in this picture.
A few other fragments of Pyrgos Kallistis.
From a viewpoint close to the western tip of the southern edge, a look across caldera towards Oia.
The old port of Santorini – on the right side of the below perspective – is unable to receive large vessels. The cruise ships of all sizes drop anchor several hundred meters out and then use small shuttleboats to ferry passengers to the shore.
After setting foot on the shore you have to get on the funicular to ascend the cliffs to Fira. We bumped into a group of American tourists who were visiting Santorini on a cruise, and they told us that it took them around 3 hours from the time the ship had dropped anchor to start their sightseeing on the island; they expected to spend at least as much time getting back on the ship. The island-exploration return on investment for visiting Santorini via a cruise appears to be fairly insignificant.
The boat in the foreground of the above picture is one of the inter-island ferries that depart from the “new” port a couple of kilometers south of Fira.
The peculiarities of the local climate produce the curiosity that is a Santorini vineyard. The grape trees are conditioned to form low-sitting “baskets” which helps them survive the winds and get more moisture from the comparatively parched land.
We tried some local wines. I would probably stop short of making an outright recommendation, but they were not bad at all; I did not expect any reasonable product to be possible in these conditions.
A fragment of the village of Akrotiri in the southern part of the island.
During our guided tour of the island we stopped by the Akrotiri Archaeological Site – another example of the Minoan Civilization. Because it was buried under the ash from the volcanic eruption that had left Santorini in its present shape, the ancient city is remarkably well-preserved. It also has the distinction of being the only archaeological site known to me that is purposefully protected from the elements.
It is nothing short of incredible that these structures remain after more than three and a half thousand years.
The artifacts displayed at the site include pottery, other household items, and even furniture such as these bed frames.
Skaros Rock, a monumental formation near the village of Imerovigli.
Caldera view from a terrace in Imerovigli.
And yet another view of Oia, from the same approximate spot as above.
The wonders of long focal-length compression bring the island of Ios in the background pretty close by in this perspective. Its nearest point is in fact over 20 kilometers away.
A few shots from the open upper deck of the ferry that took us to our next destination.
One remaining glance at Oia in the distance.
Having to endure the barely organized chaos of the “new” port as we were departing quite significantly tarnished our overall impression of Santorini. But there cannot be any argument that it is a striking destination.
If you are coming to Santorini and are interested in a guided tour around the island, you can hardly do better than to engage Chara Abelioti.