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. A world away from the caldera villages of Fira and Oia, this is what Santorini was like before it was discovered.
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.
Many stick to the more ovious things to do in Santorini, especially with time constraints. Hence you can visit Emporio, one of the most beautiful places in Santorini, and have it virtually to yourself.
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, including in a cave house in a castle, no less.
Emporio Santorini – An Introduction
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
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.
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.
There is a line of eight windmills – in varying states of ruin – on Gavrilos Hill, to the south of the village.
Getting to Emporio Santorini
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.
Check the KTel Santorini website for current bus times.
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 in 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.
Exploring Emporio Santorini
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.
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.
There are several Santorini churches to discover around the village. Agios Spiridon is one of the most attractive but was closed when I visited.
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.
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 simply one of many beautiful villages in the Greek islands. After entering the castle, things get really interesting.
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 Santorini landmarks, visible from miles away.
An Emporio Santorini Tour
An ideal way to explore Emporio and experience nearby Pyrgos and a caldera sunset at Oia is this full day tour of the Venetian castles in Santorini. It’s one of the best off the beaten path Santorini tours, with a magical finale overlooking the caldera.
Things to do near Emporio Santorini
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.
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.