This Village on Santorini Gets a Fraction of the Crowds — and Has 2 Beautiful Luxury Hotels

Sneak away from Santorini's crowds with a visit to Megalochori, on the southwestern side of the island.

Street scene in the traditional Greek village of Megalochori on Santorini Greece
Photo: Mary Baratto/Getty Images

For most travelers heading to Santorini, the most sought-after part of the island is the northwestern tip: The village of Oia and its cliffside clusters of whitewashed buildings overlooking the Aegean. Oia has not only become the poster child for idyllic Greece vacations, but is also home to some of the most luxurious hotels in the country. But the fabulous resorts and the stunning views of the iconic caldera also bring noisy crowds and congested streets. You can still visit Oia for the sunset views and meals inside those gorgeous hotels, but if you base yourself on the other side of the island, you can enjoy a more tranquil stay.

Megalochori, a compact village on the southwestern side of Santorini, was once a thriving winemaking hamlet, where mansions weren't just family homes, they were used for wine production, too. While the village was abandoned in the 1950s, the last couple of decades have seen the slow but steady restoration of Megalochori, with special attention paid to retaining its age-old ambience.

Records show that Megalochori has been settled since the 17th century, and as you walk through its meandering, car-free alleyways paved in cobblestones, it's easy to feel transported. Historic homes (now villas, shops, restaurants, and bars) come with high walls that were originally built to keep marauding pirates out. That Megalochori doesn't have sea views or world-famous resorts means it receives but a tiny fraction of the tourist traffic that Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli enjoy. But the village's easy, breezy atmosphere defines the allure of staying in Megalochori. And traveler interest is slowly beginning to pick up. There are even tours on horseback in Megalochori these days. Before more of them trot over, we've curated a short guide to this under-the-radar Santorini village.

Where to Stay

The pool at Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini
Courtesy of The Luxury Collection
Interior of the Olympian Villa at Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini
Claus Brechenmacher, Reiner Baumann/Courtesy of The Luxury Collection
The entrance to Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini
George Fakaros/Courtesy of The Luxury Collection
The Canava Wine Bar at Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini
George Fakaros/Courtesy of The Luxury Collection

Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini quietly put Megalochori on the map when it transformed a 400-year-old winery into a 59-suite property in 1993. Back then, Vedema was truly the only thing that a traveler might come to the village for. And in fact, Angelina Jolie stayed at the hotel when she was filming "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" on the island. (She likely even used the helipad to get here.) Now Vedema is as classic a luxury stay can get on Santorini. In addition to dome-topped, whitewashed suites that orbit around a crystal-clear pool, the hotel also has Alati, an atmospheric Mediterranean restaurant beautifully located in one of the Old World caves of the winery.

Interior of Ducato Wine Hotel & Villas
Courtesy of Ducato Wine Hotel & Villas
Exterior and pool at Ducato Wine Hotel & Villas
Courtesy of Ducato Wine Hotel & Villas

If you'd rather a more intimate stay, check out Ducato Wine Hotel & Villas. It's less a traditional hotel and more a collection of historic mansions and buildings that have been lovingly transformed into bookable villas. They vary in size and are scattered all over the village. Like Vedema, some were once wineries and still have their original aging cellars; while others were private homes and local businesses. Villa Jasmine, for instance, was once the village bakery and still has the old oven in the middle of the villa's courtyard. All come with private pools (one has a fun waterfall feature) and some have rooftops that look over Megalochori's modern-day vineyards.

Where to Eat

A restaurant on the street of Megalochori, a cat in a tunneled alleyway in Megalochori
Alessandra Amodio

Booking one of Ducato's villas afford travelers a truly local stay. Breakfast, for example, is served at Raki, a restaurant in Megalochori's main square. Before the village wakes up, fuel up on iced coffee along with Greek yogurt loaded with granola and other superfoods, and "peinirli," a boat-shaped open-face calzone topped with fried eggs. For lunch and dinner, there's a livelier atmosphere here, and you can join visitors in indulging in chunky pieces of perfectly grilled lamb souvlaki and fresh salads tossed with feta.

From the rooftop seats at Alisachni Art & Wine Gallery, catch fabulous sunset views while learning about local winemaking in a cellar boasting 500 different labels of wine. Many of the bottles are from Greece, and specifically from Santorini, including rosé, organic skin-contact wines, and, of course, plenty of mineral-forward white wines to complement the warm weather and the freshly prepared fish and seafood coming from the kitchen.

Farther up this street is Traditional Kafeneio Megalochori, a cozy cafe serving a modest selection of local fare, from simple salads of fresh veggies and marinated octopus to grilled sardines. Its outdoor patio is a great spot to take an afternoon freddo espresso (that's what they call iced coffee in Greece) while you people watch and stare at the towering belfry that has become an iconic symbol for the village.

What to Do in Megalochori

The historic winemaking legacy of Megalochori is being carried on by three local wineries. Among the best on the island is Gavalas, which has been in the same family for five generations. As one of Santorini's oldest wineries, Gavalas is the only one on the island that makes wine from Katsano, an indigenous white grape that is partially harvested from old-vine vineyards in the village. Gavalas produces a handful of assyrtiko wines — Santorini's most famous white grape — and the winery's assyrtiko tasting will showcase the unique profile of the grape, from its salinity to its high-alcohol content.

Check out what's going on at Symposium, a cultural center celebrating the confluence of music and mythology. The building it's in was — surprise — another one of Megalochori's old wineries, but the same caves that used to ferment and age grapes are now used for art presentations and musical performances. During the season, there's a rotating calendar of concerts that pay homage to Greek history.

Ducato Wine will open a spa this year, too, offering Greek-inspired deep-tissue rubdowns and hydrating facials that feature products loaded with ingredients (olive oil, raki, orange extract, avocado, and various herbs) sourced all over the country. Elsewhere in the village, make pottery with award-winning ceramicist Andreas Makaris. His workshop and gallery Earth & Water Studio is located just at the entrance of Megalochori. You can then pop into Transit Mask, where owner Stelios Drosos calls on his 30 years of experience to hand-make all sorts of leather items: simple strappy sandals and bags of all shapes and sizes, from crossbody satchels to trendy wristlet pouches, the perfect accessory for when you finally take on Oia's nightlife.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles