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Finding and photographing the Santorini churches blue domes

Picturesque Santorini island is one of the top reasons to visit Greece. Much of its magical appeal comes from its iconic blue dome churches hanging from the staggering drops of the volcanic rock caldera. Set against the glittering Aegean sea, these churches feature the quintessential Cycladic architecture of whitewashed walls and blue domes. Follow my quick guide around the blue-domed churches of Santorini Greece to get perfect photos!

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Things to know about the whitewashed architecture of the Cyclades and its blue domes

White houses, narrow alleyways, and whitewashed surfaces set against the sapphire Aegean Sean and impossibly blue sky are all part of the magic of this most well-known Greek island.

Besides the intrinsic beauty and connection to their surroundings, this architecture is also very practical – whitewash reflects the harsh summer sun, while the high density of the buildings with narrow streets breaks the force of the winter winds (and confused pirates who used to raid the Greek islands!)  

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Chapel of Agios Ioannis Apokefalistheis, Santorini

White walls are also easy to maintain – every Easter the buildings are whitewashed and it is a pride and joy of every family. Traditionally, it used to be a women’s task, as whitewashing is considered a part of cleaning duties, and not maintenance.

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Everyday life in Akrotiri village homes, Santorini, Greece

During the 20th century, white color with blue details became codified in Cycladic islands and an unmistakable symbol of Greece all around the globe. There was a period during the Greek military dictatorship years when it was a law.

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Sunset over the volcano, Santorini Island

Churches are famous sunset spots, but rooftops are strictly off-limits.

Where to find the blue domes

Most of the iconic Santorini blue domes are located in Oia village, on the northern tip of the island. Oia is just a short drive from the island’s capital Fira and is my favorite place in Santorini Greece.

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Oia, plunging down to Amoudi Bay, Santorini, Greece

Besides the churches, Oia village is the place to watch the sunset, but also explore those unique Santorini small pathway streets and peek around the terraced houses. Here are all the other best things to do in Santorini.

You will find more blue-domed churches all around the island, in Fira town, Imerovigli, Pyrgos, Megalochori, and Emporio (Emborio) village. A walk along the cliff path from Fira to Oia will take you past the impressive blue-colored dome of St Gerasimos Orthodox Church in Firostefani. This hike will be a highlight of your trip and the pictures you take will be phenomenal!

The famous Santorini blue dome churches in Oia Santorini

The classic postcard shot of three blue domes is actually composed of two churches built next to each other.

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Agios Spiridonas and Anasteseos Church in Oia, Santorini

So, you are after the churches of Agios Spiridonas (Saint Spyridon) and Anasteseos (the Church of the Holy Resurrection). Their spectacular blue domes and white walls hang above the shimmering Aegean sea and you should follow a winding path down from the Oia’s main square to reach them.  

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 Anasteseos (the Church of the Holy Resurrection), from the cliffside path, approaching from the south.

Actually, while on the square, check out another blue domed church – Church of Panagia Akathist hymn (or Panagia Platsani)– after which you turn right downwards towards the sea. After 60 meters you will notice another remarkable church with a blue dome and three bells (marked on Google maps as Staurós) after which there is a left leading pathway.

Turn left and soon you will reach another iconic site – the “floating” brown door (private entrance, do not enter). Take right and voila – you can start taking photos as the three blue domes are right in front of you.

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Panagia Platsani, Oia, Santorini

TIP: Take time to walk the path below the churches and take photos from below. The pink-color facade and bell tower of Anasteseos church are worth the extra steps around Oia Santorini.

Agioi Theodoroi church (Saints Theodore Church) in Firostefani village

This Santorini blue domes church is the second most photographed object on the cliffs.

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Agioi Theodoroi church, Firostefani, Santorini

Built in the 19th century, this church “floats” on the waters of the Aegean when observed from the cliff. You will get fantastic contrasts in colors as the seascape meets the wild terrains of Santorini’s volcanic soil.

Church of Agios Gerasimos (Saint Gerasimos) in Firostefani village

While in Firostefani, take chance to visit another blue-domed church, that of Agios Gerasimos.

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Bell tower and dome of the parish church of St. Gerasimos located in Fira of Santorini

Built in 1807 close to the village square, it features elaborate interiors along its whitewashed walls. (Don’t just take the perfect shot of the blue dome, check out the interior of this beautiful church).

Panagia Theoskepasti, Imerovigli village

This intimate chapel has panoramic views of the sea around Santorini island. Encircled by bougainvillea flowers, the church is just behind Skaros rock.

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Panagia Theoskepasti , Imerovigli, Santorini

Its unique feature is the location, away from the village on a steep slope. The dome is small and elegant, with three bells tower in front.

TIP: It takes around 20 minutes of easy hiking to reach it.

Agios Nikolaos Monastery between Firostefani and Imerovigli villages

The second oldest monastery on the island, it was established in 1651 and moved to its present location in 1820. It’s dedicated to two saints and the Virgin Mary. Its large walls and blue dome with a special finish on top now are home to the folklore museum and an ecclesiastical museum with old manuscripts.

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Agios Nikolaos Monastery, Santorini, Greece

TIP: Leave enough time to enjoy a wonderful collection of rare Byzantine icons.

Don’t confuse the monastery with the little Church of Agios Nikolaos near the Red Beach in Akrotiri, or the tiny chapel of Agios Nikolaos on the island at Amoudi Bay, below Oia.

Churches in Episkopi Gonias (or Mesa Gonia)

Episkopi Gonias is a small picturesque village in mainland Santorini with beautiful blue domed churches and stunning views towards the East Aegean. Its Byzantine history and wine-making tradition were abruptly stopped by the 1956 destructive earthquake that made the soil extremely unstable, after which the village was almost abandoned.

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Panagia Episkopi Church, Santorini, Greece

Check out the Church of the Holy Trinity (Agias Triadas), Church of Irene of Cappadocia (Agia Irini Chrysovalantou), and Church of Saint John (Agiou Giorgiou tou Sideri) for some wonderful mainland blue domes.

Episkopi Gonias is also a nice place to watch the sunrise on Santorini.

Other not-to-miss Santorini Greece churches

Although Santorini’s churches are most famous for their distinguishing blue domes, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Santorini and see the other stunning churches just because their domes come in other colors. My three favorites are:

Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral Panagia (Virgin Mary) Ypapanti

Located in Fira Town is an all-white metropolitan cathedral built in 1827 and an ecclesial administrative center for the surrounding islands.

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White dome of Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in Fira (Thera) of Ypapanti, on Santorini island

Featuring Aegean and foreign influences, it holds one of the most impressive domes on the island.

Catholic Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist

This church stands in the center of Fira town since 1823 and together with the museum that is part of the complex tells the story of the thriving catholic community of Santorini.

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Catholic Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist, Fira (Thira), Santorini

Its baroque elements and pastel colors make a perfect contrast to the whitewashed churches and bright blue domes that surround Fira.

Panagia Sergena

The unusual “Virgin Mary of the Hole” church dates from 1700 and is carved in volcanic rock in a magnificent gorge near Vothonas village.

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Panagia Sergena (Virgin Mary of the Hole), Santorini, Greece

This cave church used to provide shelter during the island’s pirate raids. In fact, “Sergena” means a “patroller,” because it was a lookout for pirates!

Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve enjoyed this hunt for the blue dome churches of my favorite Greek island. Maybe now you should try getting the perfect shot of the amazing bell towers of Santorini with the sparkling sapphire Aegean as a backdrop!