The village of Emporio in Santorini, located 12 km from Fira, is the largest settlement on the island. Unlike the cosmopolitan towns of Fira and Oia, which perch on the caldera, Emporio rests at the foothills of Mount Prophet Elias.
The name “Emporio” derives from the Greek word for “commerce,” reflecting the village’s historical significance as a bustling hub of economic activity. With its well-preserved medieval architecture, Emporio exudes a captivating aura of antiquity.
Originally designed as a defensive stronghold against marauding pirates, the village was constructed with closely built houses to enhance protection. Over time, as piracy waned, Emporio expanded and developed into its present layout.
At the heart of Emporio lies Kasteli, a unique castle town. Its walls were crafted using volcanic materials, lending an unmistakable character. The narrow alleys, windows, and doors further contribute to its fortress-like appearance. Essentially, Kasteli is a fortified community seamlessly integrated within its surroundings. Remarkably, the area remains inhabited, with locals dedicated to its preservation.
In the northern part of Emporio, you’ll find Goulas tower, a magnificent structure believed to have been built during the Venetian occupation around the 15th century. This colossal tower, with its square shape and multiple floors, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area when explored. Notably, other villages in Santorini, like Akrotiri and Oia, also boast similar towers.
Facing Goulas tower is Gavrilos hill, adorned with a row of eight 19th-century windmills standing at six meters tall. Though in various states of repair, some of these windmills have been converted into houses, while others remain abandoned. Interestingly, the word “Goulas” translates to “tower” in Turkish, adding a touch of cultural intrigue to the site.
Emporio is also home to some of the most captivating churches on Santorini. The Marble Church of Saint Nicholas, the Church of Prophet Elias Hamilos, and the Church of the Transfiguration of Christ are among the most revered and visited.
As for accommodation, Emporio offers a limited yet delightful selection of villas and rooms. However, for those seeking a more cosmopolitan atmosphere, neighboring Perissa provides a wider range of options. Both Perissa and Perivolos, the renowned black-sand beaches, are conveniently located just a 10-minute drive away from the village.
The Castle of Emporio
The Castle of Emporio in Santorini holds a rich history. In the past, residents faced constant threats from pirates, who sought to plunder their wealth. To ensure protection, five forts were constructed on the island, including the Castle of Emporio. This medieval stronghold stands near the well-preserved Venetian Tower.
Situated in Emporio Village, the Tower of Nimborio, also known as Goulas, is a square-shaped Venetian Tower. Built between the 15th and 16th centuries, it is believed to have been erected by the same monks who built the Orthodox Monastery of St. John the Theologian. The tower is intricately linked to Patmos island and remains a captivating sight for visitors.
Both the Castle and the Tower are captivating attractions in Santorini, showcasing unique architecture and structure. The Castle, with its single entrance, houses a maze-like interior. Here, small houses sit closely together, connected by bridges and stairways. The narrow streets and layout of the Castle resemble a protective labyrinth crafted for the locals. Additionally, the Goulas Tower once contained a chapel accessible only through the Castle’s tunnel.
Immerse yourself in the allure of Santorini by exploring these remarkable landmarks, each offering a glimpse into the island’s fascinating past.