1) AT THE STEPS OF A MEDIEVAL CASTLE
All of sudden, everything that resembles a classic Santorini postcard is behind you. Pyrgos, the island’s capital until 1800, is 10 km from Fira. Enthusiasts of the island visit it time and again to experience something out of the ordinary. The village of Pyrgos – which stands for “tower” – exudes a Medieval aura, standing proud within the island’s hinterland and looking nothing like the other villages or coastal locations of Santorini. At the tallest spot of Santorini, Profitis Ilias – an Orthodox monastery from the 10th century, and right in the heart of Pyrgos is a Medieval castle surrounded by houses built in a semicircle around it. It is a listed monument that spreads the essence of Venetian Rule, of old stately homes, of churches and of simple houses all the way through the alleys, mesmerising visitors.
2) HIGH UP IN AKROTIRI’S LIGHT HOUSE
At the westernmost edge of the island, a lighthouse which was constructed in 1892 by the French Lighthouse Company does not just illuminate the sea. It sends a message of beauty from the past to the entire island, from a spot which – often unbeknownst to visitors – is the locals’ favourite. This is exactly where the people of Santorini go to watch the sunset, having crossed Akrotiri village by car. Whether arriving by car or motorcycle, visiting the lighthouse is a pilgrimage to the past. It stands ten metres tall and used to run on petrol. During WWII, it remained unlit until 1945. It converted to electricity in 1983, while in 1988 its function was automated. Today, it gives off white light flashes every 10 seconds which can be seen from 24 nautical miles away.
3) THE SECRET LIFE OF FARMERS
Nothing was easy for Cyclades farmers. In Santorini, too, the soil lacked water, the vegetation was scarce and the island was at the mercy of strong Aegean winds. In short houses with the old wooden doors, people tallied their harvest unaware that tourism was fast approaching their doorstep. Their concerns and everyday discussions revolved around their vines, split pea fields, tomatoes and other vegetables in the patch as well as the water reserves they kept in underground tanks. Motor vehicles and transportation were not given, and that was why donkeys were the main means of transport of goods and people. Even today, donkeys graze under the hot sun next to dirt roads and dry stone walls… These short walls would outline farmlands and form small paths between the fields. Discover intriguing details of farm life away from coastal Santorini, far from the cosmopolitan glamour.
4) CLIMBING THE VOLCANO
Some visitors will find it a peculiar option. But this trip to Nea Kameni is enchanting. Following an experienced guide, the climb starts in an otherworldly volcanic landscape. Continue uphill towards the crater and you can only see few plants – a glimmer of hope against a dark background. After approximately half an hour, you reach the craters. Touch the ground and you’ll notice the temperature is much higher. The view of the volcano from Santorini may be dreamy, but the grey calmness of ground zero hides a tension that stirs powerful new emotions.