Hello people! As promised, this little guide on the nicest villages and town of Santorini continues with another piece. This time we are going to Megalochori!
If you miss the first part of this guide on Akrotiri, you can catch up here: 5 Amazing villages to visit in Santorini: Akrotiri
Practical information about Santorini
How to reach Santorini
Most of the countries in Europe have direct flights to Santorini. These are not always cheap and it is advisable to book your flights well in advance (like 4-5 months before) during the peak season (June-August). I personally took a direct flight from London with Easyjet lasting about 3h 55 mins and costing about £150 per person in early August. It’s quite rare that you can find a cheaper direct flight during high season but keep an eye on skyscanner and maybe you have luck! If your country doesn’t have a direct flight, the most convenient route include a first flight to Athens connecting with a second flight to Santorini. This can take longer but in certain cases can be cheaper. Another solution, (if you are on a budget), is flying to Athens and take the ferry to Santorini. There are various companies offering sea passages. Price ranges from €20-80 and journeys take usually 4-8hours (depending on the type of ferry). A third and last solution are cruise ships that stop by the island for a short time or the islands hopping tours. These ones are a sort of mini-cruise taking you from one island to another in the Aegean Sea.
Transport in Santorini
- Bus. Moving by bus in Santorini is very easy and during high season, buses run frequently and cover most of the island. The only issue is that these tend to be quite crowded and sometimes drivers don’t stop if they feel there is no space aboard. During the first part of our trip to Santorini we went around by bus and, despite the crowd, we found it pleasant and smooth. Tickets are sold on board (generally for about € 2,5) so keep the exact change with you.
- Motorbike/scooter. During the second part of our trip, we rented a scooter and I think it was the best decision ever. The scooter gives you more flexibility and allows you to visit places that are not reachable by bus. TIP. Before our holiday, I looked online for scooter rentals and prices were quite high ranging around € 150-200 for a couple of days. It sounded a bit too expensive for our pockets. For this reason, we decided to go around by bus for a while and check the situation while there. There are many companies renting scooters and motorbikes around Santorini and we did not know what of these was reliable. Therefore, we asked our hotel. It turned out that our hotel had a sort of convention with the rental people and allowed us to rent a scooter for 5 days at € 80 in total! My advice is, before booking a scooter online check if the place where you are staying has a discount/convention for its guests! Going around by scooter is one of my favourite things and loved to do it in Santorini! Main roads are quite good but to reach some beaches/sunset points you may cross gravel roads that are not pleasant to drive. For this reason, many people prefer to rent ATV. These are much more expensive and prices change according to the season. During high season Quad bikes rental go from € 45-120 per day or you can ask for an hourly price.
- Car. This is advisable if you are traveling in a group and want to save a bit of money. I did not rent a car personally, but I’ve seen the counter at the airport. I would probably rent a car also if travelling off-season during chilling months when the weather is a bit unstable.
Megalochori (in Greek Μεγαλοχώρι) lies in the mainland of Santorini and reach the coast on the east side of the island offering spectacular views of the Santorini caldera. This is one of the most traditional villages in Santorini and probably the best place where to taste a glass of Vinsanto. There is not much information I could find on the earliest origins of Megalochori but from the 17th century, records testify the village’s involvement in the trade (and smuggling) of wine. It looks like the Vinsanto was particularly appreciated by Aegean’s pirates! Some of the oldest houses in the village still preserve their home-made defensive structure built as protections from pirates and other marauders. In 1956, a strong earthquake destroyed a large part of the village that was abandoned by their residents and fallen in disrepair for a long time. Only in the last twenty years, Megalochori has been restored to its ancient glory and local people moved again their business in this part of the island.
I had a very strong impact with Megalochori because when we arrived it looked like we were completely out of place. There were locals playing with cards on tables placed literally on the streets or cooking with their door open or just relaxing under a tree in their courtyard and everyone was looking at us walking on their streets as if we were some kind of aliens! It’s true that we were probably the only tourists there and I have the feeling that people tend to skip this place although is a beautiful hidden gem! If you leave the area of the main square, where most of the village life is concentrated, you will find yourself alone in the beauty. Hidden alleys will lead you to secret caves and you can also admire the contrast between the old and new architecture.
What to visit in Megalochori
The Bell Tower
If you do a small research about Megalochori, you will immediately realise this is the most photographed point of the entire village. The bell tower, is situated on the main street of Megalochori and it is part of the nearby
Virgin Mary Church (that has an additional bell tower too). Find this (very narrow) street empty from cars, motorbike and people is quite hard because many locals cross it to reach different parts of the village and you can’t imagine how many times I had to smash myself against one of the walls because a car attempted to drive in this little street! Anyway, with a little bit of patience you can photograph this spot too! Unfortunately, climbing the bell tower is not possible, although I spotted a small door leading to the top! You can continue to explore the village from this main road and see what else you can discover!
Caves were the best surprise of our visit to Megalochori! Walking around the main street you will spot soon one of these signs (picture above) guiding you towards some Caves. Of course, I could not miss the opportunity to discover where this was leading especially because the sign stated that it was free to visit! The path leaded to what is probably the only house that is not white and blue in the whole island and what you will find is totally unexpected!
After following all the signs, we found ourselves in the most colourful of the courtyards completely alone! The signs continued towards a small door leading to an underground passage and here we found some small traditional caves. There wasn’t much information about them but Megalochori used to be an important trade village and some of these caves were often used as canaves or wharehouses by local inhabitants. During the past times, they were also inhabited by the poorest people or by merchants during their business days in the island. More recently, they have been used as perfect location for the storage of wine! Megalochori, in particular is famous for the production of Vinsanto and these caves are still used by locals to store their wine production. Some of the caves in other part of the island have been renovated and turned into luxurious hotels.
If you proceed towards the coast of Megalochori you can try to find the “Santorini’s heart”. I have to warn you that Google maps is not much reliable in making you find this spot as it drove us to the wrong place at least two times and the heart-shaped carving can’t be spotted from anywhere before you actually see it. The nearest place you can go (helped by google maps) is at the top of a cliff. From there you have to push up your explorer skills and try to find the hidden path that goes down the steep cliff! I warmly suggest you to go there with a good pair of trainers as most rocks collapsed and the stairs recently turned into a slide towards the ocean! Another hint to find the heart is going towards the Agios Nikolaos (Church of St. Nicholas) situated down the cliff. This will help to not get lost and visit both attractions at the same time!
The heart of Santorini is probably one of the most romantic spot of the island and if you are lucky enough to be the only one there at sunset time is definitely an amazing spot to watch the sunset with your loved one!
I admit I had a little Indiana Jones moment when I spotted this church from the rocks and I couldn’t believe we were totally alone in front of this beauty! We actually did not know about the existence of this place and we found it just because we were searching for the Heart of Santorini. In fact, the heart-shaped carving is connected to a (bit ruined) staircase and if you decide to go down (like we did to see where it was leading) you will find this amazing place!! The church, called Agios Nikolaos, is completely carved inside the rock, except of course for the bell tower that is visible from the staircase. A small door on the rock will lead you to a little (and quite dark) room still used by locals to pray. I found it very fascinating, also because despite outside was very warm, this little chamber was actually quite fresh! After our visit, we discovered you could also follow a short hiking trail along the coast that will lead you to the church from another direction. This last around 45 mins and is probably better to undertake it at early morning or at springtime when temperatures are more sustainable.
Where to eat in Megalochori
Megalochori is very traditional, if you stay in the main village there are some local restaurant that are perfect for a taste of the best Greek cuisine. Among the best ones Avlogyros Traditional Tavern and
Tavern Tzanakis . However, if you want to feel the real soul of Megalochori the best thing to do is a wine tasting!
As I said before, Meghalocori is famous for the production of Vinsanto and what better thing to do that a wine tasting with a spectacular caldera view? The most famous place where you can taste Santorini’s wine is surely Santo Wines located in Pyrgos. Most famous means also that the place is more crowded although the prices are competitive with other local wineries. If you decide to stay in Meghalocori and taste the famous Vinsanto the best place to do is the Venetsanos Winery. Prices for wine tasting accompanied by local tasty food range from € 30-45. The place has a beautiful view on the caldera so it’s a perfect location to escape the crowd of Oia and watch the sunset.
And that’s a wrap! Megalochor is a beautiful hidden gem and I totally recommend to not skip it while in Santorini!
See you soon with the third of the amazing villages in Santorini!
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