Pyrgos, meaning 'tower', just 7 kilometres inland from the capital Fira, is the highest town on Santorini. Its remoteness means it is still very much untouched by the constant stream of tourists that descend on the island, offering an insight into daily life in the still sleepy, sun-bleached parts of Santorini.
During our mini-vacation to Santorini this summer we hired a quadbike at the port to be able to explore the island and was told buy our villa host that Pyrgos should be one place we should see. To be honest, after navigating the bends of the famous cliffs surrounding the Caldara, I was hesitant to go anywhere that involved heights. But of course, we ventured there on our third day, saving it for lucky-last. We ate lunch first in the town square, at one of the only two restaurants that sit side-by-side, under the shade of enormous pine trees. Thank goodness we did, because we needed the energy - the climb up and in around the main village is steep, and being August, it was very, very hot.
The labyrinth-esque alleys that meandered up and around the village are walled by the weathered front doors of the locals' whitewashed homes - a refreshing change to the perfect and pristine whitened villas of Oia. On every bend was a little chapel, and the only way you knew where to go was to just go against the incline and head on up. Enormous bougainvillea vines draped over window frames and blue-and-white garlands patriotically flapped happily in the breeze. The very few tourists that had found their way to Pyrgos spoke in hushed tones and stray cats lounged in the shade of corners made by the winding path.
At the top we were rewarded with magnificent, unparalleled views of the whole island and the crumbling remains of the Venetian castle that once stood there. Venturing into the old bricks of the castle, we discovered the powder-blue Church of Koimisis tis Theotokou (the Assumption), built in the 10th century, sitting proud and strong on top of the whole island. The heat had finally got to us by this time and we enjoyed spending a while sitting and enjoying the flat-ground, shade and breeze around the church. The views from the very top were stunning and it was hard to tear ourselves away and start back down the hill again. But the beach was calling...
On the way we said hello again to the donkey tethered outside a hotel that we encountered on the way up; the elderly Grecian man, propped up next to the donkey on a step to eat his lunch, found it very amusing that I was taking so many pictures of his four-legged friend. We found ourselves lost heading down the hill as we decided on different paths to find different perspectives of the same scenes, but it didn't matter, we took our time to say goodbye to perfect little white-washed Pyrgos.