The most prominent archaeological site in Santorini -and one of the most important archaeological sites in the Aegean– is Akrotiri and the findings of the excavations that began in 1967.
Akrotiri (Promontory) is located at the southwestern tip of the island, 15 km from Fira. It is a real promontory, with sheer cliff shores stretching three miles west of the southernmost part of Santorini.
After several years, the archaeological site re-opened for the visitors since April 2012, after the new roof was in place.
The big excavation
First signs of habitation in Akrotiri date back to the Late Neolithic Period (at least from the 4th millennium BC). By the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC), there was a settlement in Akrotiri that was expanded in the Middle and Late Bronze Age (20th-17th centuries BC) becoming one of the main urban centers of the Aegean.
Covering about 50 acres, the settlement had a very well-planed infrastructure and an elaborate sewage system. Imported products found inside the buildings prove that Akrotiri was well developed, held strong ties with Minoan Crete and conducted business with the Greek mainland, the Dodecanese, Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt.
The growth of the town ended abruptly at the end of the 17th century BC, when its inhabitants left due to powerful seismic foreshocks. Then, the volcano erupted, and volcanic material covered the town and the rest of the island, preserving the buildings and their contents to this day.
Professor Spyros Marinatos began systematic excavations in Akrotiri, in 1967. He had decided to excavate there to prove an old theory of his, i.e. that the eruption of the volcano caused the collapse of the Minoan civilization in Crete (see also Attractions-Volcano).
After Marinatos had died, in 1974, excavations continued under the direction of Professor Christos Doumas.
Xeste 3: A big, at least two-storied, building with 14 rooms on each floor. Many of them are connected with pier-and-door partitions (polythyra) and decorated with frescoes, while there is a “Lustral Basin” in one of them. The most impressive frescoes are the Crocus Collectors, depicting three women in a field of crocus clusters and an altar, as well as the Altar, which depicts women collecting crocus and offering them to a sitting deity, surrounded by an ape and a Griffin.
Section Β: It probably includes two separate buildings attached to each other. The frescoes of the Antelopes and the Boxers originated from the floor of the western building. The eastern building is the origin of the fresco of the Apes, a composition with monkeys climbing on rocks at the banks of a river.
The West House: A relatively small, but well-organized edifice. On the ground floor, there are food storage areas, workshops, a kitchen and a mill facility. The first floor has a spacious room where looms, a food and utensils storage area, a toilet and two consecutive walls with frescoes were located. Of these, the one is decorated with the two frescoes of the Fishermen, the fresco of the Priestess and the famous miniature frieze of the Fleet that runs its four walls. The frieze depicts a fleet visiting coastal cities, the last of which identifies with Akrotiri itself. The other space is decorated with the eight frescoes of the Ship Cabins.
Building Complex D: It consists of four buildings. A room of the east edifice was found decorated with the Spring Fresco, which consists of a rocky landscape with blossoming lilies and swallows flying between them. Tablets of Linear A script were found in the same building. All the buildings of Building Complex D gave remarkable mobile finds.
The House of the Ladies: The Ladies and the Papyruses Fresco, to which it owes its name, was found in this building.
Xeste 4: This is a magnificent three-storied building, the largest uncovered so far. All facades are lined with carved rectangular blocks of chalkstone. The fragments of the frescoes that have come to light up to the present day belong to a composition that decorated the entrance’s staircase and depicts a parade of gift-bringing men at a natural size, climbing on a staircase. It probably was a public building.
- Visiting hours 10.00-17.00
- For information, please contact: +30 22860 81939 and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera: +30 22860 23217
- From 1999 to 2002, as foundation works for the new roof proceeded, a significant excavation was conducted in Akrotiri, bringing to light two earlier towns/phases of the settlement: One from the Middle Cycladic and one from the Early Cycladic period.
There are plenty of beaches to go around the island. Some of the most famous are Perissa, Kamari, Red Beach, Vlyhada, Plaka, Almira and more.
Oia and The Oia Sunset
Santorini is famous for its beautiful sunsets, and the village of Oia is the most popular spot. The village praised for its beauty and charm and can be enjoyed at any point of the day; however, the sunset is its most enchanting feature. It is said that it is one of the most beautiful sunsets on earth. It can only be seen from the tip of the island which means the number of visitors waiting to see this incredible sight can sometimes make it a little hectic.
For ages, Oia was called Epano Meria (Upper Side), since it is built on the northern side of the island. It is a significant settlement known all over the world for the magnificent sunset from its Goulas. In recent years the buildings have become hotels, restaurants, cafes, stores.
The settlement is very attractive and therefore from dawn until dusk it is filled with visitors. Nights in Oia remain peaceful, though, and walking in the center marble laid road, loitering the impressive and exquisitely lit buildings is a real pleasure.
During the sunset, tens of people full of awe from the greatness they face, sit on roofs and balconies silently admiring one of the rarest spectacles on earth.
Carved-in buildings and captains’ houses
Characteristics of the settlement are its carved-in buildings and the so-called captains’ houses (“kapetanospita”) having unique neoclassic elements. As writer Kadio Kolimva from Oia notes: “…carved-in buildings of Oia with stubbornness from the downslope are trying to find a space to exist. Houses without foundations spread out in the light, illuminated early, with nothing to disturb their concatenation of lines and colors. Always at the front, a tiny courtyard with a tiny “alitana”, a flower-bed with fragrant jasmines, honeysuckles, verbenas, and lavenders.”
In 1993, Oia was characterized as a traditional settlement by presidential decree, and the entire island of Santorini as an area of “exceptional natural beauty.”
Oia suffered from the 1956 earthquake. During 1970 through the GNTO pilot program “Development and Utilization of Traditional Settlements,” Oia got its first sewage system, the weaving mill, and the original edifice of the Maritime Museum. Churches, windmills and other buildings were restored. The GNTO project won awards at the 1979 Europa Nostra and the 1986 Sofia Biennale of Architecture, inspiring private initiatives for the restoration of buildings that are now used as hotels, restaurants, shops, cafés, etc.
Oia is now a model community with modern infrastructures. There are no aerial power and phone cables, as all cable networks are underground. There is also a seawater desalination plant and units for the biological cleaning of waste water.