Allowing visitors an extravagant glimpse into the past, the once glorious castles of Santorini play a compelling role in telling the rich history of the volcanic island and its inhabitants. Discover below the 5 fortresses that back in the day protected the locals from foreign armies and hordes of marauding pirates.
The Castle of Akrotiri
Built in 1335 by Venetian rulers, the Castle of Aktoriri was originally called ‘Punta Castelli’ or ‘La Ponta’, which in medieval Italian meant ‘the peak’. Eager to fortify the island, the Venetians constructed a number of fortresses and watchtowers at key locations around Santorini. The Akrotiri Castle was once owned by the Gozadini family who received the land as a donation from Nikolas Sanudos, the fifth Duke of Naxos. The fortress was sadly reduced to ruins by the 1956 earthquake, nonetheless, it still attracts hundreds of visitors for its panoramic views.
The Castle of Pyrgos
Perched above the quaint, wine-producing village of Pyrgos, the youngest fortress of the island was built at the end of the 16th century. At the top of the fortress, stood the Goulas, a watchtower, which served as an important observation point. Pirate attacks posed constant threats in the medieval times, therefore, most of the castles were built strategically to protect the inhabitants from foreign invaders. The castle only had one entrance with a wooden structure above it, where people poured boiling oil on the enemy that attempted to break into the castle.
The Castle of Skaros
The ruins of Skaros, a medieval fortress town that served as the capital of Santorini until the 18th century, are situated on the highest vantage point of the island. The castle was designed by Venetian architect Giacomo Barozzi, in the 13th century, who was hired by the Byzantine Empire to construct a fortress around the promontory. However, the 1650 volcanic eruption caused part of the town to collapse into the sea. The remaining ruins are a popular destination among hikers and photography lovers.
The Castle of Emporio
Constructed in the mid-15th century, the Castle of Emporio is found in the middle of the Emporio village which once functioned as an important commercial hub in Santorini. Interestingly, the story of the castle is also connected to Patmos island as it is said that the walls of the fortress were built by the same monks who erected the Orthodox Monastery of St. John the Theologian. Both the castle and the neighboring Nimborio Tower are must-visit attractions in Santorini due to their characteristic architectural style.
The Castle of Agios Nikolaos
The famous Castle of Agios Nikolaos, also known as Oia Castle, needs no introduction. The ruins of the 15th-century medieval castle are the favorite spots of sunset lovers for their sweeping views of the volcanic caldera and the Aegean Sea. The fortress was built by the Venetian Dargent family and stayed in their possession until Turkish forces occupied it in 1577. The fortress suffered another blow when the devastating 1956 earthquake hit the island. In spite of all this, the Castle of Agios Nikolas managed to preserve its eternal beauty that still stuns visitors up to this day.