The Best Churches in Santorini

by Greece

BEST CHURCHES IN SANTORINI

The blue domes of the churches in Santorini. The Parthenon in Athens. Whitewashed villages on stunning islands. What image comes into your mind when you think of Greece?

We recently visited Santorini for a week, and were blown away by the sheer number of churches around the island. And this is our guide – and tribute – to some of the best Santorini churches around the island.

Our Santorini church guide takes you to all corners of Santorini island. We visit the famous blue domed church that features in many a Santorini sunset photo, and also the other churches with a Santorini caldera view. As you explore the various villages in Santorini, there are also beautiful roadside chapels, churches inside medieval castles, and even a whitewashed chapel built into a giant gouge out of the side of a mountain.

This article isn’t just about the churches of Santorini – it also shows you some of the best places to visit in Santorini, Cycladic architecture and some of the best photo spots in Santorini.

The Best Churches in Santorini – Our Top 5

Image of St John the Theologian Church in Fira Santorini
St John the Theologian Church in Fira Santorini
  1. Three Bells of Fira, Firostefani
  2. Santorini Catholic Cathedral, Fira
  3. Panagia Mesani Church in Emporio Kastelli
  4. St John the Theologian Church, Fira
  5. Anastasi Church, Oia

How many churches in Santorini are there?

Im,age of a church in Pyrgos Santorini Greece
One of over 40 churches in the village of Pyrgos alone

Including cathedrals, Orthodox and Catholic churches and roadside chapels. There are around 450 Santorini churches.

Metropolitan Cathedral, Fira

The Orthodox Santorini Cathedral sits on the rim of the caldera, and it’s one of the most impressive churches in Santorini. The cloister and courtyard is a wonderful spot to sit in the shade out of the summer heat, and its belltower is one of the most recognisable Santorini landmarks. The Cathedral is usually open, and is adorned by a series of beautiful frescoes.

Catholic Cathedral, Fira

Image of the Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Fira Greece
The Roman Catholic Cathedral in Fira at dusk

The Roman Catholic Cathedral in Fira is a short walk inland from the clifftop path in the town.  It stands out from the other churches in Fira because of its colour scheme, a striking mixture of blue, white and peach. The Cathedral is usually open until early evening (7pm) and the similar colour scheme inside also (surprisingly) works as well. The Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Fira, and was founded in the 17th century, soon after the town was.

St Stylianos, Fira

Santorini Greece Image of St Stylianos Church in Fira Santorini
Agios Stylianbos church overlooking the caldera of Santorini

What ingredients make a perfect Santorini photo? Sunshine, a cliff-edge setting overlooking the caldera, and a bright, white church dome glowing in the late evening sun. St Stylianos is a Catholic church just down the hill from the Catholic Cathedral, with which it shares a blue, white and peach pastel colour scheme. It’s one of the most photogenic Santorini attractions, on the main pathway from the  

Three Bells of Fira, Firostefani

Blue dome Santorini Image of the famous Three Bells of Fira church in Santorini
The Three Bells of Fira at sunset

This small church in Firostefani is one of the most iconic Greek islands sights. It has the famous Santorini blue dome, the picturesque triple bellcote and one of the most amazing Santorini views as a backdrop. It’s the Catholic church of Agioi Theodori (Saints Theodore) and was built in 1757.  When I visited for sunset it was very quiet, with only around 15 people there to enjoy the sunset spectacle.

St John the Theologian Church Fira

Attractions in Santorini Image of St John the Theologian church at sunset Santorini Greece
St John the Theologian church, one of the best places to watch a Santorini Greece sunset

This is another Fira church where you can watch a wonderful Santorini sunset. It’s one of the oldest Santorini buildings, believed to date from the 17th century. It’s a short walk down a couple of staircases from the top of the hill and the Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s one of the best sunset spots in Santorini, with a minute fraction of the numbers usually to be found in the Byzantine Castle in Oia. The simple dome, cross and island of Nea Kameni in the background make for an amazing sight. When we visited several people were clambering on the roof of the church to get a better view of the caldera sunset – not something we’d recommend. Nonetheless, if you want to shoot Santorini pictures without selfie sticks all around you, this is the place to be.

Roadside chapel, near Karterados

Image of a roadside chapel in Santorini Greece
The gorgeous roadside chapel near the Karterados road

I was immediately struck by the simple beauty of this chapel next to the Fira to Perissa road. It’s very typical Santorini architecture, a tiny whitewashed church with one of the most beautiful blue domes in Santorini. It was sadly closed, and I asked several locals for information on this, but nobody knew anything about it. It’s about 100 metres past the Shell garage on the Perissa road, on the right-hand side.

Agios Minas, Fira

Greece white buildings Image of Agios Minas church and the caldera Santorini Greece
The brilliant white church of Agios Minas during a fine Santorini sunset

Agios Minas (St Minas) is the name of the church and surrounding district at the southern end of Fira town. A series of stepped streets takes you down from the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral to the brilliant white church, which has some of the best caldera views. It’s one of the best places in Santorini for caldera photos – the church is built into the volcanic cliff, and looks out over the stunning blue Aegean Sea.  Agios Minas dates back to the 16th century, and I would have loved to take a look inside, but it was closed the week I was there and this seems to be the way of things. This is a real pity – for now, everyone will just have to make do with it being one of the best Santorini photo spots.

Panagia Mesani Church, Emporio

Image of Panagia Mesani church in Emporio Santorini
Panagia Mesani church seen from the cave houses in Emporio Castle

Emporio is one of the most beautiful Santorini villages, and one of the best things to do in Santorini is to take a purposeful wander around Emporio. The purpose is to slowly, eventually reach the top of the hill where the kastelli, or castle is located.  This complex dates back to medieval times, and there is a tunnel and cave houses, some of which serve as accommodation. In the middle of all this, Panagia Mesani church is beautifully concealed, its tower soaring high above the cave buildings all around.

Panagia Flevariotissa Church, Akrotiri Castle

Image of Panagia Flevariotissa church in Akrotiri Santorini Greece
Panagia Flevariotissa church can be found in the old Venetian kastro, or Castle, in Akrotiri

This tiny church dedicated to St Mary is hidden away in the lanes around the Venetian castle in Akrotiri village. The ruins are substantial but not really maintained – you just walk up the hill and enjoy the views from around the summit. It’s worth the walk to find this small church with its almost obligatory Santorini blue dome, and the views over Akrotiri and the south of the island of Santorini. It wasn’t open when I visited, unfortunately.

Panagia Katefiani Church, Perissa

My first question to myself on seeing this mountain chapel was,”How on earth did they build that there?”  It’s one of the most amazing places to visit in Santorini, built into an enormous gash in the side of Mesa Vouno mountain. It is on the steep path from Perissa village to the site of Ancient Thira, higher up the mountain.  The name ‘katefiani’ is derived from ‘katefio’, the Greek word for ‘refuge’. The chapel dates back to the 16th or 17th  centuries, and it’s also worth the climb for the spectacular view of Perissa beach Santorini.

Holy Cross Church Perissa

Image of Holy Cross church in Perissa Santorini
Holy Cross church towers above the village of Perissa

Holy Cross Church Perissa is one of the largest churches in Santorini, and dominates the small town of Perissa on the south-east coast of Santorini. The church, with its tiered belltower, is one of the most interesting things to see in Perissa, and if it’s open, take a look inside. It’s two minutes’ walk from the bus station and Perissa beach.

Chapel off Fira-Perissa Road near Emporio

Image of a blue roof church near Emporio Santorini Greece
A lonely chapel near Emporio

This is a beautiful little white chapel off the Perissa-Fira road. It’s a classic Santorini church with a light blue roof and a small bellcote. I was on foot so walked up to the church, and it’s as exquisite close-up as it is from afar. Sadly it was locked – I would have loved to see inside, but it wasn’t to be. There’s a great view from the chapel to the windmills on Gavrilos Hill, just outside Emporio.

Agios Nikolaos, Red Beach

Image of Agios Nikolaos church near Red Beach Santorini
Agios Nikolaos church, next to the path to Santorini Red Beach

This remarkable little whitewashed church is built into the base of a red cliff on the path between Akrotiri beach and Santorini Red Beach. It arouses a lot of curiosity from visitors passing en route to the supposedly forbidden Red Beach. The bright white church stands out against the burgundy red rock of the cliff, and white crosses painted onto the cliff face give it extra effect.

Eisodia Tis Theotokou, Pyrgos

Image of Eisodia Tis Theotokou church in Pyrgos village Santorini
Eisodia Tis Theotokou church is at the top of Pyrgos village in the medieval castle

Pyrgos village is staggeringly beautiful, a world away from Fira and Oia on a mountain top in the south of the island. There are over 40 churches in this amazing medieval village, and most of these tend to be closed – apparently many are privately owned. One of the few that were open when I visited is Eisodia Tis Theotokou, a fine 17th century church in the precincts of Pyrgos Castle. There’s also a café with a great view of the coast from Perissa to Vlychada to Akrotiri close by. There is an exhibition of icons in Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) church which is just to the left in the Castle grounds.

Anastasi Church, Oia

One of the most popular Santorini sights is the Orthodox Anastasi church in Oia, overlooking the northern rim of the Santorini caldera. The church is towards the eastern end of Oia village, and is private, so getting to visit the interior isn’t possible, unfortunately. Not that that bothers most visitors who come to photograph these famous three blue domes of Santorini – and themselves, of course.

DAVID ANGEL

DAVID ANGEL

AUTHOR

David Angel is a British writer, historian and photographer. He has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 20 years and his work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the Guardian, BBC, Times and Sunday Times.

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