Emporio Santorini Village Guide

by Greece

Emporio Santorini is one of the most beautiful traditional villages in Greece.  Along with nearby Pyrgos, it’s one of the most fascinating villages in Santorini, a medieval village almost untouched by tourism. The contrast with the Santorini caldera villages of Fira and Oia could not be greater.

As with Pyrgos and its near-neighbour Megalochori, most people are going to head for the better-known places to visit in Santorini, either on the stunning caldera or at some of the volcanic beaches in Santorini.

Places like Emporio tend to be lower priority things to do in Santorini for many, especially with time constraints. Hence you can visit Emporio, one of the most beautiful places in Santorini, and have it virtually to yourself.

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

Emporio village is what Santorini was like before tourism arrived and changed it forever – but much of it is older and even more atmospheric. Its architecture is, like Fira and Oia, typical of the Cyclades islands, with Santorini blue domes, curved walls and chimneys.

Much of it is whitewashed, though there are more splashes of colour than you’ll find at nearby Pyrgos.

So put on your walking shoes and join us on a virtual tour of Emporio. You might enjoy it as much as I did, and even wish to stay there. This would be an amazing experience, as Emporio has some of the most unusual places to stay in Santorini, in a cave house in a castle, no less.

Emporio Santorini – An Introduction

Image of a church tower in Emporio Samtorini
Palea Panagia church tower in the Kasteli of Emporio

Emporio village is the largest Santorini village, and it’s located 11 km from island capital Fira and 4 km from Perissa beach Santorini, one of the best of the island’s volcanic beaches

It’s name is also spelt – or transliterated – Emborio, Emborios and even Nimborios

Image of signs pointing to Emporio Castle Santorini
This way to Emporio Castle

Emporio Castle, or Kastelli, was built in the Middle Ages to provide refuge from frequent pirate raids

The old village is full of classic Cycladic architecture, a tangle of narrow streets and alleyways

Image of houses in Emporio village Santorini built in the Cycladic architectural style
Classic Santorini architecture in Emporio

Emporio also has some of the best churches in Santorini, including Panagia Mesani Church in the Kastelli, and the tiny marble chapel of Agios Nikolaos Marmaritis, on the outskirts of the village

The village is at the foot of Profitis Ilias mountain, home to the impressive Santorini monastery of the same name

Image of a yellow painted house in Emporio Santorini
A bright yellow house below the castle in Emporio

There is a line of eight windmills – in varying states of ruin – on Gavrilos Hill, to the south of the village

Getting to Emporio

Image of a 'No Motorcycles' road sign in Emporio village Santorini
No motorbikes, cars or donkeys – the only way to explore Emporio is on foot

The main Fira to Perissa road runs through Emporio, so driving there is easy – it’s only around 11 km (7 miles) from Fira, a 20-minute drive.

Getting around Santorini by bus can be easy if you’re not planning to go to some of the outlying areas of the island. No such problem with Emporio, which is on the Fira – Perissa bus route, which runs around 20 times a day during the season.

Image of a church in Emporio village Santorini Greece
A fine Emporio church just below the kastelli

Getting back from Emporio to Fira during the peak summer season can be a little more problematic. The bus tends to fill up before it leaves Perissa, so there often isn’t even standing room. Around ten of us ended up un this predicament, so we caught the bus to Perissa to make sure we got our seats for the way back to Fira.

Otherwise, Santorini taxis can be expensive, especially during summer. You can hail them from the village square, next to the bus stop.

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Exploring Emporio

Image of the new church in the modern part of Emporio village Santorini
The modern church at the bottom of Emporio village

The old village of Emporio is to the north of the Perissa-Fira road, and it can be reached within a 2-3 minute walk from the bus stop. You pass a modern church in the village square and some lovely painted houses before turning left up the hill.

Image of a chimney on a house in Emporio Santorini
Amazing Greek architecture – a simple chimney on a house in Emporio

 

The village is full outstanding Cycladic architecture, including some of the oldest in the whole of Santorini island. There are so many intriguing details, from chimneys that serve as ventilation shafts to curved windows and doorways.

Image of a church in Emporio with flowers Santorini Greece
A beautiful little church in Emporio

There are several Santorini churches to discover around the village. Agios Spiridon is one of the most attractive but was closed when I visited.

Image of the Kastelli in Emporio Santoirini Greece
The front of the kastelli of Emporio

Everywhere in the village, signs point you to the Castle, or Kastelli. It’s a Santorini must see, and you’ll be rewarded if you continue the walk up the hill to the entrance.

Image of a tunnel and street in the Kasteli district of Emporio Santorini Greece
A subway, 14th century style, through the rock of the Kastelli in Emporio

The Kastelli is believed to date from the 14th century, when the island was under the rule of the Venetians. Until this point, Emporio is one of many beautiful villages in the Greek islands. After entering the castle, things get really interesting.

Image of a cave house in the Castle at Emporio Santorini Greece
One’s Santorini accommodation, perhaps? A cave house in Emporio kastelli

Emporio kastelli is a rabbit warren of tunnels, arched streets and tiny cave houses. There are also some churches built within the confines of the Castle compound, including Panagia Mesani, also known as Palea Panagia. The tiered bell tower is one of the most prominent Emporio landmarks.

Things to do near Emporio

Perissa Santorini Image of people on Perissa beach in Santorini
Perissa, one of the largest Santorini black sand beaches

The black sand Perissa beach and its extension, Perivolos, are a world away from Emporio, fully organised with umbrellas, sun beds and beach bars galore.

That said, it is one of the best Santorini beaches, certainly for facilities and general vibe. It’s 4 km (2.5 miles) down the hill from Emporio – one road leads to Perissa, another to Perivolos.

Best things to do in Santorini Image of sun shades and loungers on Vlychada beach in Santorini
Vlychada Beach with its fantastic volcanic cliffs

We also strongly recommend Vlychada beach Santorini, which you can easily reach by car. Buses also run there from Fira (though not terribly frequently – it’s quicker to walk!) and the tourist train runs there from Perissa via Perivolos in the summer season.

There’s also an intriguing tomato factory that’s now a museum – which gives a great insight into the once-flourishing Santorini tomato industry.

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