Enchanting Emporio

The final village on our whistle stop day tour around Santorini is the gorgeous little Emporio.

It takes its name from the Greek word for “trade” (Emporeio) and for centuries was the traditional trade centre of Santorini.

From the main road Emporio might seem like any normal, fairly bland modern town but head up to the traditional, fortified old village and you’re in for a treat!

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Emporio is the largest village of the island with all the Greek elements you could wish for –  windmills on the top of the hills, narrow streets painted in white, blue domed churches, a cathedral, a medieval castle and a pagan church dating back to the 3rd century B.C.

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Once you reach the traditional old section of the village you are spoilt for choice in which little inviting alley to explore first. As usual I get completely side tracked by a delightful selection of blue hued doors . . .

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Here’s a few more snaps from some of the twisty alleyways of this gorgeous little village.

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We find a fab little watering hole in the centre of the old village, The Old Barbershop. We have the place to ourselves and enjoy a relaxing beverage as the sun starts to drop low.

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Next up we beetle around the incredible old Castle at the heart of the old village that is currently in the process of being restored and is a maze of twisting passageways and tiny hobbit hole doors.

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Colour burst

Here’s a final glimpse of some of the colourful sights of Megalochori. This little village is the center of the wine industry of Santorini and it is surrounded by vine yards

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While the majority of the village is still firmly dressed in the traditional white and blue uniform of the island, you can discover some mouth wateringly tasty colour combinations if you scout about a bit.

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We spot a tiny sign offering a glimpse of the inside of one of the many traditional cave houses on the island.

While many are private or transformed into fancy rental properties, this one was completely bare and you can see the actual rock it is formed from.

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As you can see below, this fascinating below ground treasure is actually just in someone’s back yard, just a tiny sign alerts you to the fact that it is there.

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Peeling paint and colourful wall heaven!

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But reluctantly dragging myself away from my frenzied orgy of papping walls and doors, there’s still more twisting alleyways to explore.

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The ubiquitous bougainvillea creeps over the blindingly white walls, while occasionally you can catch a glimpse of what lies beneath the pristine paintwork when you come across some of the unrestored houses.

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Next up, possibly the best village on Santorini . . watch this space!

Magical Megalochori

Megalochori is our next stop and it’s another picturesque village. Its existence is recorded all the way back to the 17th century.

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Home to historical mansions, old traditional houses and wine canavas it is a colourful, traditional little place. Apparently it has a history of merchants exporting the Vinsanto wine that the island still produces.

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One striking feature of the historical homes and mansions are the high walls, inner courtyards and solid wooden door entrances, built for privacy and for safety against marauding pirates.

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In the center of the village, there is a pretty little traditional square with taverns, restaurants and trees providing welcome shade and relaxation.

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The square is the heart and soul of Megalochori, a gathering place for the locals to play a game of cards or ‘tavli’ (backgammon).

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Spiraling out in all directions is a maze of winding cobbled streets and smooth edged pathways, just waiting to be discovered.

Next up we take a peek inside one of the traditional cave houses in the village and enjoy a riot of colour.

Vothonas village

Vothonas is a small rock village and architecturally it is one of the strangest villages on Santorini.

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A tangle of paths climb up to the cave houses – some perfectly restored and others derelict and deserted.

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It’s a complex network of open and closed excavations, almost like being on an archaeological dig in places.

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As the coastal villagers did with the Caldera, so the people of the interior dug their houses into rocky walls of ravines.

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The houses come in all shapes and sizes and in all states of disrepair.

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The village is as traditional as they come. With meandering, sun bleached alleys, tiered rows of bells adorning the village church and weather worn doors aplenty.

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High on the hillside this duck egg blue church welcomes dedicated (and athletic!) worshippers.

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Back in the maze of streets you can spot every shade of pastel paint and this heavy duty wooden door has so many bolts that you have to wonder what it is they are hiding!

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A traditional feature of many Santorini churches are the multi layered rows of bells that form pleasing patterns against the blue sky.

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Agia Anna is the oldest church of the village that dates back to 1827.

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The most beautiful part of the church is actually the carved wooden panels inside which portray scenes from the Old Testament.

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As you aimlessly wander and enjoy the slow, peaceful pace of life, take a moment to appreciate the village craftsmen. They knew how to build strong houses with the cheapest of materials and exploited the depth of the gully to protect them from the winds.

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To end our little mooch around Vothonas here’s a trio of perfectly coloured windows and doors.

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Pyrgos

Moving on from the delights of Oia, we decided that the best way to explore the rest of Santorini was to follow other visitors leads and hire a quad bike for the day.

Our beast cost us 40 euros for 24 hours – if we’d haggled we’d have probably got an even better deal but we were itching to be off! Here’s Neil Born to be Mild!

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The first stopover on our whirlwind tour is the hilltop village of Pyrgos and we arrived early in the morning, just as shops were opening.

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Pyrgos is at the highest point of Santorini, with panoramic views of the whole island all the way to Oia and it was declared a protected settlement in 1995.

Pyrgos is a typical fortress settlement found around the Cyclades. On the hilltop you can find ruins of Kasteli Castle, one of the five ‘kastelia’ on the island.

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As you move up from the central square you can easily start to lose yourself in the labyrinth of back streets and quaint houses.

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As early as we were, we still bumped into huge groups of Japanese tourists all frantically snapping at the pretty details including this Juliette balcony.

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Heading through the village we find lots of cute details including this little painted donkey rock sign!

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We headed directly up to the castle first of all to enjoy the panoramic views across the island. The Venetian Kasteli has a commanding position at the very top of the village although it is mainly ruins now.

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You can see for miles and miles across the island. Large areas of the island are flat but there are impressive mountains and cliff tops too.

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Santorini is essentially what remained after an enormous volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest settlements on a formerly single island.

Much of the current island is made of layers of solidified lava. However you can still find areas that are from the former non-volcanic island.

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The Profitis Ilias mountains are one such place – the exposed mountain rock is made of the metamorphosed limestone and schist that formed the bedrock of the previous island.

Pyrgos is another place where the non volcanic rock is exposed.

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After pootling around the castle for a while we head back down into the maze of streets to admire some of the traditional craft shops that have started to ply their daily trade.

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These gorgeous colourful paintings utilise all manner of wooden backdrops including old window shutters and drift wood.

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The village has many churches, around 33 in total. That’s a lot of bells to peal!

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As we wind our way back down through the narrow twisting alleyways we have time to enjoy a few more of the colourful traditional arts including painted donkey bells and an odd little wooden rider!

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There’s a multitude of blues to be seen around the village from azure to turquoise, appearing in everything from peeling paint to plant pots and window surrounds.

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Here’s a last look before we head onto the next village on our quad bike whistle stop adventure.

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Quaint little Cockington

Back to the Easter break catch up! On-route to the caravan in Brixham we take a little detour to the delightful little village of Cockington. It’s a place that I remember fondly from when I was a nipper.

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It’s just a handful of buildings but each of the dwellings are delicious little confections topped with thatch.

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According to Wikipedia the village was probably founded 2,500 years ago during the Iron age with evidence of two hill forts on either side of Cockington valley.

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The first official documentation of the village was in the 10th century.

The manor was owned by Alric the Saxon, before William Hostiarus, William de Falesia and Robery FitzMartin, who passed it down to his son Roger, who renounced his name to become Roger de Cockington.

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I love the little marshmallow houses with their intricate thatched tops. Combined with the presence of palm trees it makes for an oddly surreal scene.

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Below you can see the traditional stocks being put to good use with a variety of troublesome rabble rousers.

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Here we are in a rare coupled up moment!! Admittedly we had to be put in the stocks to get us together. . .

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And for comparison’s sake, here is the last time I sat in those stocks! With the little sister barely able to see over the top! Probably taken in about 1987. Loving our matching knitwear (thanks grandma!)

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A few final glimpses of the fairy tale cottages before we head off to the caravan.

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