Why You Should Visit Akrotiri in Santorini
The romantic Mediterranean queen enchants with its unique allure, natural beauties, idyllic sunsets, Cycladic architecture, luxury accommodation, and history-drenched lands. Like a real-life Phoenix, she has managed to rise from her ashes (literally) and be reborn after a 1600s catastrophic volcanic eruption that threatened her entire existence.
Indeed, amidst nothing but volcanic rocks and barren landscapes, the islanders made an awe-inspiring effort to bring life back to their place and find their feet again. In this quest, the ancient settlement of Akrotiri in Santorini is the living proof of how the past cannot define the future unless you let it.
So, if a Santorini holiday or getaway is in your coming plans, then a visit to the Akrotiri archaeological site is definitely a must, as it will help complete your overall experience on the island. Here are some exciting facts that could put it on your map!
Home to a superbly sophisticated civilisation
According to historians and archaeologists, the ancient 17th-century village was a thriving area on the island and home to the Minoans – a highly advanced civilisation. According to findings from the excavation site, the Minoans were living in multi-storey houses with jaw-dropping features from the distant future, such as underfloor heating, private showers, elaborate mosaic floors, impressive frescoes, groundbreaking drainage and sewerage systems, latrines, masonry facings, airy rooms overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and wooden-beam-reinforced walls to withstand earthquakes.
And, all that at a time when all these could not even be imagined! When people lived in the simplest form of dwelling! Besides the pioneering housing, though, they also were way ahead of their time in regards to the social structures and community organisation, among many others.
The mother of all volcanic eruptions
The Theran volcanic eruption (between 1560-1546 BC) is considered the largest geological event in human history, and put an end to the great Bronze Age Minoan culture. Sadly, the massive volcanic eruption of the Santorini volcano buried the entire settlement under solidified volcanic ash, which was, eventually, the reason why it has been so perfectly preserved to date. Indeed, the eruption that took place in the 1600s was the most devastating one in the past 10 millennia and even affected the earth’s climate, while altering everything within a radius of nearly 60 kilometres!
In these sad times, the inhabitants of the settlement had enough time to escape their village, unlike the unfortunate citizens of Pompeii. This is probably because the ash and gases of the eruption were blown to the east from the northern Meltemi winds, enabling the people to flee to the west of the island and either get on boats or protect themselves.
On the other hand, though, there is literally zero evidence that the place’s inhabitants did survive the exodus. Chances are post-eruption tsunamis drowned anyone trying to escape the island at that time. What we do know, though, is that the archeologists found no human remains in Akrotiri, which had fueled the myth of the lost Atlantis, with many people making the connection between the legend and iconic Santorini!
Tip: You can see most of the artefacts and relics unearthed from the archaeological site at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, which will steal your heart, one way or another! You can thank us later!
The myth of the Lost Atlantis
The story around the prehistoric settlement, from how it used to flourish to how it vanished from the face of the earth overnight, has led many people to believe that Santorini is related to the legend of the Lost Atlantis.
Based on reports, Akrotiri is a modern-day name that was given to the ancient site and nobody is certain about its original name. That aside, Plato, the famous Greek philosopher, also mentions the mythical Atlantis in two of his writings, though its precise location has been fiercely debated over the years. Perhaps, the future manages to solve this dispute once and for all!
Note: The island hosts the very first interactive museum devoted to the myth of the Lost Atlantis. Even if you are not a museum fan, you’ll be amazed by the multiple digital installations and the thrilling walk-through of the legend and the history surrounding the Lost Atlantis!
What to expect from a visit to the Akrotiri archaeological site?
After you pay admission, you will be greeted with a huge, covered structure featuring a bio-climatic roof housing the areas that have been excavated up to this moment (only 5% of the total area). You’ll be able to wander through the site (also, above it) via the suspended walkways and the clear path that leads through the alleys of the ancient city.
Feel free to take a peek through the doorways and windows for a glimpse into the everyday lifestyle of the Minoans and feel how airy and light their homes actually were! Thanks to the volcanic materials that covered the site, the archaeologists have managed to recreate every single thing that has been excavated so far, from the houses and household items to the furniture (they created replicas through the “negatives'' of the wooden furniture used back then and placed precisely where the house owner had originally put them), the religious shrines, and the streetscapes!
Don’t be surprised if you start imagining yourself being spoiled with a glass of wine at a rooftop balcony, while laying eyes on sweeping vistas of the Aegean Sea, some 3,500 years ago!
How to max out your visit
The Akrotiri archaeological site is close to major local attractions definitely worth visiting, including the:
- Red Beach – The infamous volcanic shore with the red sand offers a superb opportunity to explore the beautiful and somewhat peculiar beach and soak up some warm sun rays or dive into its crystalline waters. Other nearby volcanic shores are White Beach and Eros Beach, both of which dazzle with their unusual scenery, superior sea views, and scenic landscape.
- Akrotiri Lighthouse – An imposing still-operating giant dating back to the late-1800s that stands like a watchful guard atop a hill near the ancient settlement. Even if you are not particularly fascinated by its origins, the stunning seascapes and the amazing Caldera views will be a good enough reason to get you up here!
- Kasteli Castle – A charming Venetian-style, mediaeval fortress that used to protect the islanders for many centuries, when pirate raids were more than often. Also a sign of local wealth and richness, the castle has managed to maintain some of its old glory, even after the massive earthquake that shook the very foundations of the island in 1956.
- Ancient Churches – Built to honour the castle’s protectors, three chapels adorn the hills surrounding the enticing fortress, enclosing the magnificence of this Cycladic spot like a valuable treasure, right next to sugar-cube, chalky houses.
Must-combine experiences with an Akrotiri Santorini tour
Our top recommendation is to go after a guided tour of the ancient site to have an all-around escapade and experience as much as you can of the allures and surprises this island has in stock for you. Having that said, the majority of guided tours include hotel transfers and even private options, alongside services catered to travellers with limited mobility.
Now, depending on the tour you have opted for, you could enjoy a short tour in the prehistoric city (perfect if you wish to learn about the ancient city but also want to make your own way to the site and its ruins). Or you may prefer a longer, more elaborate tour that will take you to all the interesting locations, sites, and attractions of the area!
A wine-tasting adventure
Whatever you do, we strongly suggest a wine-tasting venture as you explore the ancient region. The local wines are not only delicious but also internationally-acclaimed, with numerous awards and a unique flavour and taste. Most wine-tasting and/or wine-making tours last several hours and allow you to see many charms of the Santorini ruins, the stellar coastline, and the traditional villages with the winding alleys that host the most renowned wineries.
In addition, you’ll have the chance to sample several different varieties from multiple wineries while caressing your palate with local treats and mouth-watering mezedes and appetisers. Not to mention the absolutely heart-stopping views of the glistering archipelago and the Santorini volcano in the background!
Horse riding experiences
The old settlement is home to a wonderful ranch and horse riding business that will allow you to discover the remote gems of the place on a horse back. The most romantic souls out there choose to gallop the shores of Eros Beach, which is also a popular wedding location due to its picturesque scenery and idyllic seascapes. However, you can explore much more than just the shoreline and even head towards the inland!
Scuba diving ventures
The aquatic cosmos in Santorini is absolutely breath-taking. There is plenty of beautiful sea life waiting to welcome you if you decide to dive in the crystalline, azure waters. Just outside Akrotiri, you’ll find the Santorini dive centre, where you can rent scuba diving equipment and explore the underwater volcanic caves, the shipwrecks, and other wonderful sights sleeping below the water.
After such an exciting adventure, a fulfilling meal or a relaxing private massage at the comfort of your luxury Kivotos Hotels suite or villa is probably the dreamiest way to close this day’s chapter!