When driving down to the beaches of Perissa and Perivolos, it's easy to miss the old village of Megalochori. In truth, you may not even realise it is there. Reclusively positioned below the main road, secluded Megalochori is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Once a target of marauding pirates, the villagers built their walls high and their doors strong. Neoclassical mansions and small houses line a labyrinth of pathways, most of which intersect at the village square. Bell towers perched high on archways and churches decorate the village and surrounding hillside. Vibrant splashes of hanging bougainvillea blossom like dainty maidens, now scarlet, now pink, now purple. Tranquil beauty reigns sublime.
Megalochori is a treasure trove ripe for exploration. The heart of this small settlement is the main square, a meeting point for residents and visitors alike to gather for a coffee, a chat or meal at one of the cafes or restaurants. Famed as Santorini's wine country with a patchwork landscape of vineyards and ground-level baskets of vines, Gavalas Winery within the village offers tours and wine tasting.
Saturday of Lazarus
On the Saturday of Lazarus, the day before Palm Sunday, Megalochori locals organize a great feast in the main square and a tall cross adorned with flowers is erected.
Santorini celebrates Easter in a special way and Megalochori is no exception. Holy Week culminates in the Epitafio (Big Friday) and the Anastasi (Resurrection) on Saturday. At midnight, a collective voice goes out over the island "Christos Anesti - Christ is Risen". Church bells ring, each member of the congregation lights a candle and the island illuminates with firework displays. Visitors are welcome to follow the processions and observances.
After church everyone goes home for Magiritsa, a traditional soup made from tripe and herbs, and Tsougrisma, the tapping of red Easter eggs. On Easter Sunday, forty-nine days of fasting are at an end. Friends and family gather in the yard, lamb roasts slowly in pits or on barbeques and the wine flows freely until early evening.
After a short ten minutes' drive, one arrives at the sea and the longest stretch of beach on the island, Perissa and Perivolos. The seafront road and promenade, closed during summer at various points for pedestrians, hosts an abundance of bars, cafes and restaurants. Both areas offer organised beach facilities and watersports. During the day, fashionable beach bars hold summer happenings with DJs and live music. After the sun goes down and beachgoers melt away, some establishments stay open until late, providing a mellow alternative to Fira, Santorini's nightlife mecca.
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