Visit Ancient Thera or Akrotiri? (This will help you decide!)

Are you planning on coming to Santorini for a short time and can’t decide if Ancient Thera or Akrotiri is worth visiting? Well, you are in the right place to find your answers!

In this article, we will be highlighting the main attraction of both these places and cover some frequently asked questions that will help you pick the right place for your trip.

Let’s get started!

About Ancient Thera

Ancient thera columns
Norbert Nagel / Wikimedia Commons

The island of Santorini was previously known as Thera but that has little to do with Ancient Thera as it is just a small tourist spot on the island.

Ancient Thera is located on top of Mount Vouno and overlooks the Aegean Sea. There, you will find ruins of the past back from the Minoan civilization.

The view from the top is beautiful and unique compared to all the other places on the island, so this is definitely one of the biggest pros of choosing to visit Ancient Thera.

You also get to see many structures that have been perfectly preserved such as an ancient theater, the city center, and sanctuaries.

You can hike up from Perissa or Kamari to reach Ancient Thera or you can take a car along the winding road because there is no public transportation available there.

Along the way, you will come across many churches, a few snack shops, and other small attractions.

Going to Ancient Thera is worth it if you love hikes, history, and extravagant views. If you want to learn more about it, you can read our detailed article here.

About Akrotiri

Inside historical Akrotiri
Christos Koudounis

While Ancient Thera is just a small location, Akrotiri is a town on the island of Santorini with a lot to offer.

The excavations found in Akrotiri are unmatched by any other historical preservations. Akrotiri was buried under volcanic ash for decades after the minoan eruption of the Thera Volcano.  excavations on it began with a fairly new technology which is why they are so well-preserved today.

It provides a remarkable outlook on the way that the Minoan civilization lived as the excavations make you time travel back into the past. There are a wide array of pottery, artifacts, and the infamous Akrotiri frescoes.

Accessing Akrotiri is easier compared to Ancient Thera because you can take one of the public buses on Santorini, from Fira to Akrotiri.

There is also a lot to do after you’ve gone through the Akrotiri Archaeological Site. You can hike up to the Akrotiri lighthouse to watch a beautiful sunset and eat some local seafood.

Or, you can go to any one of the many Akrotiri beaches to finish off your day with a bang!

We also recommend Akrotiri as an excellent place to stay during your visit to Santorini. If you prefer a quieter base, so you can escape the bustle of the more popular towns on the island, then Akrotiri is a great option. You’ll have a fantastic caldera view and unspoilt sunsets to rival other locations.
See our list of the 15 best hotels in Akrotiri.

If you are interested in learning more about the Akrotiri Archaeological Site and the history of Akrotiri, you can read our article here.

Quick Questions

If you are still super confused by this point then answering these next few questions will help you out.

Let’s go through the frequently asked questions then we will give you our final verdict.

Do you have any mobility issues?

Hiking isn’t the only way to reach Ancient Thera but it is the most common one. If walking is an issue for you then you might want to go visit Akrotiri instead.

The hike is around an hour long and not too difficult. Ensure that you are wearing comfortable shoes and have water with you if you plan on doing it.

Akrotiri is way more accessible because you can just get on a public bus.

This is obviously in case you need to choose between the two. Otherwise, you can always book a car to take you up to Ancient Thera.

Do you value history or scenery?

If your answer to this question is scenic views then you should definitely go to Ancient Thera. The view from the top gives you a unique outlook of the Aegean Sea and if you happen to be there at sunset or sunrise, then the view is unmatched in all of Santorini.

However, if you are a history buff, Akrotiri is the place to be for you! It has possibly the best-preserved ruins from the Minoan civilization which you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

This is a pretty important question to ask yourself when choosing between Ancient Thera or Akrotiri.

What do you want to do after?

Now, you won’t be in any one of these places for the entire day. So, what do you plan on doing next or even before you get there?

If you go to Ancient Thera from Kamari or Perissa, you can roam around those cities’ beaches. You can also explore churches on the way to Ancient Thera. If you plan on going there on foot then most of the time will be spent on the hike. You could also wait and see the sunset there.

On the other hand, Akrotiri has many attractions other than its archaeological site. As mentioned above, you can go to the beach, go to the Lighthouse, or eat at any one of the number of restaurants near Akrotiri.

What is special about Akrotiri and Ancient Thera?

The infamous attraction of Akrotiri is its historically accurate and well-preserved Archaeological Site. Akrotiri also has the Akrotiri Lighthouse and the Red Beach which are pretty popular locations on their own.

Ancient Thera is one big place on its own so it’s just a whole area filled with excavations, ruins, and memorabilia of the past. There are a few churches nearby but not much else unless you hike back to one of the towns and explore them.

Would you prefer a technologically better location?

Both Akrotiri and Ancient Thera have guided tours so that you don’t get lost while exploring these locations.

Akrotiri also has the option of a self-guided tour through an app. You will find an Akrotiri Audio Guide that will direct you through the ruins at your own pace. Other than that, Akrotiri is a much more modernized and well-kept location compared to Ancient Thera.

Ancient Thera has its own charm with its open space and the ability to walk from one ruin to the next.

How much time do you want to spend in one location?

Another thing to ask yourself is how long you want to spend looking around at historical items.

The tour of the Akrotiri Archaeological Site takes around 3 hours to get through all the places while giving them their due respect. If you intend on going through everything thoroughly, it may take up to 6 hours.

Ancient Thera is quite small so it will only take about an hour or two at most if you really want to extend the tour.

Choosing between the two locations based on how you want to divide your time might help you in narrowing down the answer of whether you should go to Ancient Thera or Akrotiri.

Do you value artifacts and paintings while going through a historical area?

Ancient Thera only really has ruins and excavations to wander through. Most of the stuff taken from here is kept in the Prehistoric Museum of Thera at Fira.

Some stuff from Akrotiri is also kept in other museums and sites but a lot of it is still there including beautifully intricate frescoes, pottery, and artifacts.

Therefore, if you want to see more historical items then the Akrotiri Archaeological Site might be a better option for you.


Ancient Thera


Other local attractions
Audio Tour

Final Verdict

At this stage, you hopefully have a clear-cut idea of whether you want to go to Ancient Thera or Akrotiri on your trip. If you want, you could probably stuff both of the tours into one day but it may get chaotic and possibly too much history for one day.

Anyway, if you want a final verdict to choose between the two then based on our research, we would go for the Akrotiri Archaeological Site because of its historical significance. Not only that, you get to do so much more at Akrotiri after you’ve gone through the site.

But, Ancient Thera is also worthwhile for all those who love hikes and seeing an amazing view at the end of it. While not as extensive as Akrotiri, the ruins there are also pretty interesting.

Whichever one you pick, we are sure that you are going to love your time there. You will learn many things about the history and culture of Minoans and you will look at beautiful views in both locations.

If you want to learn more about the places in Santorini then you should check out our blog here.

Happy traveling!