During the medieval times, the island of Santorini, strategically situated in the middle of the Aegean Sea, was a frequent target for hostile invasions and pirate attacks.
As a defensive measure, castle-like fortresses were formed in the centre of its major settlements, using the outer walls of the buildings as the perimeter of the castle and with watchtowers – or Goulades – on their highest part to ensure early warning of the incoming dangers.
Some had underground tunnels to facilitate potential escapes; others had a hatch over the entrance from where they could douse the intruders with boiling oil; all of them had a church of Santa Theodosia, the protector of castles somewhere near the gate.
These fortresses where called Kastelia, and Santorini boasted five of them; even though only little remains of them today, you can still feel their heavy, silent aura dominating the air around where they once stood tall and proud.
The oldest Kasteli of Santorini is the Skaros at Imerovigli, also known as Rocka.
Built on the highest spot of the caldera at the beginning of the 13th century, it was an impregnable stone structure that housed the Venetian nobility of the island. Its only entrance a wooden drawbridge, the base of which remains to this day.
The Kasteli of Saint Nickolas of Oia is probably one of the most famous spots on the island.
From this vantage point, the habitants of Oia overlooked the Aegean and guarded their city from the menace of the pirates; today visitors gather by the thousands to gaze at the deep blue water and admire the spectacle that is known as the most beautiful sunset in the entire world.
From the actual Kasteli, nothing remains but the Goulas to remind of Oias medieval glory and tremendously long history.
The Kasteli and the Goulas of Akrotiri, also known as La Ponta, severely damaged through the passing of time and the devastating earthquakes that have hit Santorini, has been given a fresh breath of life as it is now a Folklore Museum of Traditional Musical Instruments and a delightful café that host impressive musical events.
The Kasteli of Pyrgos is probably the newest of all of the island’s fortresses, with an aura that tingles your senses and travels you to a time long past but hardly forgotten.
Its cobblestone alleys, its churches and even the underground tunnels that served as a getaway in case of an intrusion seem unmoved through time, giving you a taste of life in those eerie times.
Finally, the best preserved Kasteli of the island is that of the Emporio; walking through the narrow pathways among the medieval homes and market places will transport you back to when this place was bustling with life, and what seems exotic today was part of the everyday life.
Tip: This is this closest Kasteli to Megalochori village!
The Kastelia and Goulades of Santorini are the spots that encapsulate all of the island’s magnificent history. Walk at the footsteps of our ancestors, admire the astonishing views and let Santorini find its way to your heart; it will never leave.