By Cacinda Maloney
All over the islands of Greece, there are crisp white and sea foam blue churches, many only accessible by boat or private entrance. People say that there are over 300 churches on the more well-known islands of Santorini and Mykonos, depending on your sources.
They seem to be everywhere I looked. I even heard there is one on the island of Mykonos for every day of the year! I found out that many are built by local families in their backyards to help family members commemorate their lives, some so are so small and are only one room in size.
I know for sure I counted and photographed literally hundreds of them, as our two-door, 5 speed Fiat zoomed pass them with their whitewashed walls and their gorgeously painted blue domes and matching doors, usually with a crystal white cross on top. I honestly wanted to stop at every one of them to take a photo, but I had many adventures to take that first day in Santorini, so I tried with all my might as a passenger in the tiny Fiat to get a decent shot!
Many of the churches are located in beautiful and yet hard to reach places on the crescent shaped island. I was lucky enough to find one of the most secluded ones on the island of Santorini, known as the Chapel of Agios Nikoloas. My guide was my friend and fellow travel writer Chrissy Travels, who had lived here a few years before and knew the perfect place to take me. Honestly, it was the quintessential place for me to go on my first moment in Santorini, the southern most island in the Cyclades chain, since I was in love with the “Dream of Santorini“ for so many years. She had dubbed the area “lover’s cove”, or “the heart of Santorini” and had previously scoped it out as one of the perfect places for a man to propose marriage to a lucky gal in Santorini! Thus began my whirlwind three days of visiting this island of enchanting beauty and my love affair.
Zooming around on old dirt roads, going up hills and zipping past pastures of green fields spattered with golden yellow daisies, then a second right, then a left, then on to a dirt field!
“Really? This is where you wanted to take me?” I muttered, as I stepped my foot out on to the dusty land.
Her lips were sealed.
“Yes, come on, let’s go!” she said as she took off on a skinny hiking trail that looked like it lead to no where.
And so off on the weedy, dirt foot path we went.
Chrissy had previously lived on the islands a few summers back and when I mentioned a trip to Santorini, she jumped at the chance to go back with me! While my husband has never had a desire to go there, Chrissy on the other had loved it and couldn’t wait for more. When she was in Santorini before, she had scoured the island for amazing sites to write about on her travel blog, even asking around to the locals and she said she couldn’t find even a single one that knew about this spot!
This spot is where there is a heart carved naturally into the side of the caldera, giving a stunning view of the volcano and only steps from the Chapel of Agios Nikoloas, which was built carefully into the side of the caldera. It is in the Megalochlori area of Santorini and tucked deep away from the eyes of the guide books, so you won’t find it there, but I can tell you, it exists and it is absolutely worth a visit! I don’t think I would have ever found it if wasn’t for her and I am glad I did!
This church was aptly named after St. Nicoloas, the patron saint of sailors and as the story goes, a sailor was out to sea in dangerous high waters, he prayed to God to help him get home safely, and swore if he returned he would build a church in honor of his prayer and so here it is: a gorgeous, small white church built cliff side.
Not only did I see this church in Santorini, but I saw literally hundreds in Mykonos as well. Maybe one day, I can be hired to go back and document each one, with a name and an address/location marker and make a coffee table book out of them, now that would be a dream come true!
I found my Lost City of Atlantis right here in the Aegean Sea. Plato’s classic story of Lost Paradise has been found!
Directions on how to get to the heart carved in the cliff and the chapel of Agios Nikolaos from Fira or you can google directions to Artemis Suites Caldera and take it from there:
-Take the main road out of the center of Fira going South
-Follow straight along the edge of the caldera
-Follow the fork to the right with signs to Pyrgo, Perissa, Port and Akrotiri
-Pass the Santo Winery
-Continue to follow the road to the right
-Look for Artemis Suites Caldera on the right
-Turn right into their driveway
– Follow the road that is on the right through the chicken, goat and donkey field! (goats where there the day I went)
-Park on the dirt driveway, look toward the ocean
-Follow the hiking trail towards the ocean until you come to a set of stairs
-Follow the stairs down and you will see the heart on your right and the bell tower of the chapel down the path on your left, keep descending down the steps till you come to the tiny door of the chapel. It is unlocked, and you go can inside.
I have found the “Lost City of Atlantis”, Plato’s classic story of Lost Paradise! Tell the world that it has been found!
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Disclosure: This post was written on July 24, 2014 without a sponsor. This trip came from deep within my heart and was a gift to me.