Akrotiri Archaeological Site – Santorini, Greece

Going to Santorini and not visiting the Akrotiri Archaeological Site would make your entire trip incomplete. 

Akrotiri is one of the best, well-preserved, and all-around remarkable archaeological sites in the world. It has a rich collection of frescoes, artifacts, pottery, and many other items. 

This article details the history of Akrotiri, why you should visit this historical place, and how to get there. 

Artifacts found at Akrotiri
Artifacts found at Akrotiri

The History of Akrotiri Archaeological Site

Akrotiri was one of the settlements on the island of Santorini up until the volcanic eruption of ancient Thera. 

It is believed that Akrotiri served as a major trade route due to its position between the sailing routes of Cyprus and Minoan Crete. 

After the eruption in the 16th century BC, Akrotiri was left untouched for centuries. Because of this, Akrotiri is also known as the Greek Pompeii since it was covered in volcanic ash. 

An interesting fact is that there was no official name for Akrotiri and it was named after a nearby town which means ‘cape’ in Greek. 

Even when the rest of the island of Santorini was occupied, Akrotiri remained more or less the same under all the rubble. 

In the late 1800s, excavations began under the French geologist Fouque but those didn’t continue for long. 

Then in the 1900s, the Greek archaeologist Professor Spyridon Marinatos rediscovered this place and the excavations properly began. After his death, the excavations continued under Christos Doumas. 

Today, Akrotiri is a well-preserved site of many excavations that display the life and culture of the people of the Middle Bronze Age. 

What is at the Akrotiri Archaeological Site

The Akrotiri Archaeological Site has a lot to offer since its excavations are extremely well-preserved. 

Researchers have proved that Akrotiri was inhabited back in 4500 BC when it was primarily a fishing and farming-oriented settlement. 

But as mentioned, it enjoyed a strategic position due to which it became an important city for copper trade and so money came in until the volcanic eruption ended all the hustle and bustle. 

Despite the fact that it was a well-populated city, there have been few, if any, human or animal remains found. Archaeologists believe that since the people living there were rich, they had the means to escape by ships or boats which is why there are no fossils. 

However, the city life is almost perfectly preserved because there was such a thick layer of ash on it. It is said that only about one-third or even less of Akrotiri has been excavated yet and it could take centuries to fully rediscover this city. 

The Architecture 

The excavations at Akrotiri display two to three-storey houses with drainage systems that were ahead of their time. 

The houses were made of stone and mud with balconies, underfloor heating, and hot and cold running water. Akrotiri had one of the first indoor toilets that you can still see today. 

Politics of Akrotiri 

Akrotiri was a democratic place with a parliament but no proper social hierarchies or palaces. 

People showed off their wealth through their displays of art and had a better standard of living than the general public. 

The Livelihood

The main occupations at Akrotiri were farming, fishing, shipping, beekeeping, and animal husbandry. Crops like wheat, barley, legumes, and olives were cultivated in this area. 

Women of Akrotiri enjoyed weaving and saffron collection amongst other things. 

Pottery 

Many vessels were found in the excavations at Akrotiri which were used for storing, transporting, cooking, eating, and possibly more activities. 

Using liquid plaster, archaeologists have been able to preserve these artifacts and other items like pieces of furniture and sculptures. 

Frescoes

Arguably the most famous part of Akrotiri is its beautiful and well-preserved frescoes. The frescoes show off the culture of the place with the main themes being sea, plants, and animals. 

Frescoes were found in many buildings which meant that they weren’t only for the elite class and were an important part of the culture of the city. 

Some famous frescoes include The Boxer Fresco, The Fisherman Fresco, The Lillies Fresco, The Ladies Fresco, and many, many more from big to small. 

How to Get To Akrotiri

Akrotiri is located about 15km south of the main city of Fira on Santorini island. 

There are many ways you can get to Akrotiri. You can take a car, bus, or even get on a cruise ship. 

If you are coming to Akrotiri from Fira, then it’s only a 20 minutes drive either by car or bus. There are local buses which will charge around €2 for one way. The rates for private cars vary depending on where you rent them from. 

To make things more interesting, you can hop on a bus tour that passes the Red Beach which is a site to behold on its own. 

Visiting the Akrotiri Archaeological Site

To get into the Akrotiri Archaeological Site, you have to pay €12 (or a reduced €6) for the ticket as the entrance fee. 

You can also get a €14 ticket to visit the Archaeological Site of Akrotiri, the Archaeological site of Ancient Thera, and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera all together. 

On a few specific days, you can get in for free without the ticket fee. Also, the site is closed on Tuesdays so make your plans accordingly. 

The Akrotiri opening hours are from 8 am to 6.30 pm from April to October and until 3.30 pm the rest of the year.

There are a couple of options on how you want to experience the site. Of course, you can go in all on your own and look at the ruins. 

You can also get a self-guided audio tour which is available as a paid app that will then work without Wi-Fi to help you around the site. 

Another option is to book a private tour guide with an archaeologist or hire one near the entrance of the site. 

In this way, you will get to learn about the history of each excavation and artifact in more detail. 

The building of the archaeological site is made of steel and wood and is airy to keep the excavations intact. There are walkways suspended around the ruins so that you can get a good look at them. 

The walkways lead to the various buildings of the site including Xeste 3, House of the Ladies, Sector B, The West House, and many more. 

What to do after visiting Akrotiri

Unfortunately, there is no museum at Akrotiri, but that is to preserve the excavations of the city as it once was. 

However, you can go to the Archaeological Museum of Thera in Fira and the National Archaeology Museum in Athens to see artifacts from Akrotiri there. 

You can then visit the other museums and archaeological sites on the island or you can go for something completely different like going to a winery or looking at a beautiful sunset at one of the beaches in Akrotiri. There is also a lighthouse West of the Archaeological Site at Akrotiri. 

If you would like to learn more about Santorini then you can check out our blog for details about other locations on this island.