Pyrgos Santorini is one of the most beautiful villages on the island. And when we say that, we include the caldera villages in Santorini – island capital Fira and Oia included.
Also known as Pyrgos Kallistis, Pyrgos village is only around 3 km (2 miles) from the rim of the caldera, but is a world away from Fira and Oia, the villages where Santorini tourism is mostly concentrated.
Most visitors to the island will spend time in the caldera villages and at some of the volcanic beaches in Santorini before considering Pyrgos. There are so many things to do in Santorini that many don’t have a lot of time to linger and appreciate lesser known places around the island.
You should definitely consider visiting Pyrgos if you’re spending any longer than 4 days in Santorini, or if you’re there for a shorter time, check out this Santorini tour which includes Pyrgos, Emporio and Oia. It’s one of the most beautiful villages in the Greek islands, full of whitewashed Cycladic architecture, cave houses, Santorini blue domes, you name it. It’s one of my favourite places to visit in Santorini, and I’ll be returning there with my family next time, for sure.
Pyrgos Santorini – An Introduction
If you want to discover off the beaten path Santorini, you need to tear yourself away from the caldera for a few hours
Pyrgos is the highest Santorini village, on a mountaintop with fantastic views of the whole of Santorini island
The village is also known as Pyrgos Kallistis, but Pyrgos is used far more commonly
Pyrgos is 8 km (5 miles) from Fira, the main Santorini town
Most of the present village dates from the period of Venetian occupation (13th century onwards), including the ruins of Pyrgos castle
The main things to do in Pyrgos Santorini are exploring the labyrinth of whitewashed lanes and tunnels in the upper part of the village, and admiring the many churches
Getting to Pyrgos Village Santorini
KTEL Santorini buses regularly pass through Pyrgos, but their timetable page isn’t very helpful. If you go by that, it will appear that just two buses a day (departing 0710 and 1400) stop at Pyrgos en route to Exo Gonia. Disregard this.
The website doesn’t make it at all clear, but there are over 20 buses from Fira to Perissa beach daily in season. The services timetabled to take 30 minutes stop at Pyrgos, whereas those scheduled to take 20 minutes – the Express services – do NOT pass through Pyrgos.
It’s worth bearing in mind that services from Pyrgos to Perissa also call at Emporio, another of the most beautiful Santorini villages. You could comfortably explore both villages in a day, especially in the more comfortable temperatures of April, May and October.
If you’re in Santorini in peak season, be aware that the return Fira bus can be unreliable. It’s often full by the time it leaves Perissa, and you can’t always get a seat, either at Emporio or Pyrgos.
Exploring Pyrgos Santorini Village
The historic village is a short walk uphill from the main road where the bus stops. You can reach the top of the hill within five minutes.
The most striking thing about Pyrgos Santorini is that it’s built into the side of the hill like an amphitheatre. It’s a phenomenal sight, a broad curve of whitewashed Greek buildings, from curved troglodyte-like houses to a blue domed church. This is Santorini, after all.
It’s an open-air gallery of the very best Cycladic architecture. Locally it’s called a cultural village, and unlike Fira and Oia it has very much kept its soul. I was stood at a high vantage point overlooking Pyrgos, and including myself, there were a grand total of five visitors looking around what is one of the most beautiful villages in Europe.
There are a total of 48 churches in Pyrgos – and several of these are among the most beautiful churches in Santorini. The one disappointment I felt with Pyrgos was that very few of these Pyrgos churches are open – it’s such a shame. Apparently this is because many are privately owned.
Eisodia Tis Theotokou, in the castle precincts was open, and worth seeing for the fine late medieval chancel screen. Agia Triada (Holy Trinity) across the small square is also usually open – this is now used as a museum of church icons.
Agios Nikolaos church, about halfway up the village, was also open, and this 17th century church is also worth a short visit.
One of the prettiest Santorini churches I’ve seen is Agios Nikolaos Theototaki, which is to the left of the ‘amphitheatre’, on the west side of the ridge.
Pyrgos Castle looks most impressive from below, on the road down to Exo Gonia and Kamari. When you’re inside it you can’t really appreciate it as much. It’s absolutely worth the walk to see the churches and enjoy the view over the whole of the island of Santorini.
There’s also a lovely café in the Castle with a grandstand view south over the coastline. A little lower down the hill, Franco’s Café serves some local dishes and cool refreshing drinks to quench the thirst acquired in the heat.
Around Pyrgos Santorini
There are several Santorini wineries within a short drive of Pyrgos, and some produce the Vin Santo dessert wine for which Santorini is famous. Hatzidakis Winery is on the slops to the south-west of Pyrgos, and several others are below Exo Gonia village, along the Kamari to Fira road. The Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum is on this road, on the right as you head north towards Fira.
Pyrgos is also close to Profitis Ilias, the famous Santorini monastery on top of its highest mountain. It’s a 3 km trek or drive up the mountain from Pyrgos, and there are several churches to see in the monastery complex, not to mention the amazing Santorini views.
Pyrgos is also close to several Santorini beaches, and if you hire a car in Santorini they are all within easy striking distance. Perissa and its extension, Perivolos, is one of the most popular beaches of Santorini, and they’re just ten minutes away by car.
Vlychada beach is one the best in Santorini, with just the right mix of spectacular scenery and relative lack of crowds.
Further to the west, there are several beaches around the village of Akrotiri. Caldera Beach Santorini is the one actual beach on the Santorini caldera, and it’s down a short, slightly rough road down from the village – less than a ten-minute downhill walk.
Beyond Akrotiri, on the road to the lighthouse (pharos), Black Beach Santorini, also known as Mesa Pigadia beach, is a stunning volcanic beach. I can vouch that the sand there is the nearest to black out of all the beaches in Santorini.
Santorini Red Beach is 2 km (a little over 1 mile) south of Akrotiri village. It’s an amazing sight, with dramatic red cliffs and sand, but the area is prone to landslides. Many venture onto the beach, but I opted against doing so. The superb view from the clifftop path is reason enough to go there – there’s no point in risking life and limb for an afternoon on a beach.
Pyrgos Santorini Hotels
The Zannos Melathron Hotel (pictured) is in the Castle precincts, housed in a magnificent mansion that is now one of the best boutique hotels in Santorini.
It’s also possible to stay in cave house accommodation in the village – Pyrgos Kastelli Villas is a 4-star hotel where you can stay in a typical Cycladic cave-like building with all the luxuries you could hope for.