The Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri was one of the most important Minoan settlements and ports in the Aegean Sea. It is often called the ‘Pompeii of Greece’ as it was covered by volcanic ash in the 17th century BC, only it is 4000 years older! Make sure that a visit to Akrotiri Archaeology Site is on your itinerary for Santorini.
PLANNING A TRIP TO GREECE?
Whether you’ve been before or it’s your first time it can be hard to process all the information out there. Be sure to check out our complete Planning Guide as well as our FREE 13-page downloadable itinerary.
And come join our private Facebook Group where you can ask questions and get advice from real travelers!
Note: This article may contain affiliate links.
Where is the Akrotiri Archaeology Site?
Akrotiri Archeology Site is located a the southern end of the island of Santorini, in the Cyclades Islands in Greece.
The site is roughly 15 minutes from both the ferry port and airport and 30 minutes from the famous town of Oia which is at the other end of the island. It is located between the village of the same name (Akrotiri) and Red Beach.
Akrotiri Opening Hours
Friday to Sunday and Tuesdays : 08:00 – 20:00
Monday to Thursday: 08:30 – 15:30
12euro per adult
6 euro for >65 EU citizens, <25 and teachers from non-EU countries & accompanying students ( valid ID card required)
free admission for children <5, EU Citizens <25, Journalists, disabled and ‘Culture Card’ holders
free days: March 6, April 18, May 18, last weekend of September, October 28
How to get to the Akrotiri site
There are a couple of ways to visit the site.
Join a tour
There are several excellent tours to Akrotiri Archaeology Site. Some visit the site only while others combine a visit with other highlights of Santorini.
These are our recommendations:
Private Cultural Villages Tour
This private tour includes pick-up from your hotel, airport or ferry in a deluxe van with a licensed Guide to:
- Akrotiri Archaeological Site (admission included)
- Castelli of Emporio
- Megalochori – Traditional Village
- Faros Market
Small Group Akrotiri and Wineries Tour
This private tour includes pick-up from your hotel in a Mercedes Benz Van guided by a qualified Archeologist to Akrotiri and 3 wineries: The tour includes:
- Akrotiri Archaeological Site (admission included)
- 12 wine tastings with a professional Sommelier
- Local Snacks and Greek Meze
- Maximum 15 people
Private Guided Tour
This 1-hour private tour for up to 8 people is hosted by a licensed Guide who will walk you through the city with fascinating commentary about the ruins and their history.
We highly recommend renting a car on Santorini, at least for one day. This gives you the flexibility to explore the island at your own pace and in air-conditioned comfort.
We use and recommend Halaris who will deliver your car to you anywhere on the island.
There is a large car-park right across from the Archeology site, which costs a few euro.
If you would prefer a driver to take you to the site, and anywhere else on the island, it is possible to hire a private driver by the hour.
The other way to get to Akrotiri is by bus. The bus system on Santorini is quite efficient and covers the whole island at a very low cost.
You will need to read the timetables carefully to ensure you know your pick up and drop off times. There may be a fair bit of walking involved depending on where you are staying and how far it is from the bus stations.
At the time of publication prices were between €1.60 and €2.90
The History of Akrotiri Archaeology Site
Akrotiri is one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean. The settlement was one of the major cities and ports of the Aegean during the Middle and Late Bronze Age (20th-17th century BC). It was a crowded city of 20 acres with a remarkable social structure, public roads, sewerage and sanitary engineering and multi-storey buildings.
The history of Akrotiri is fascinating for many reasons. The site was actually discovered accidentally in 1866 when contractors were mining volcanic soil for the construction of the Suez Canal.
In the early 1870s, the French Archaeological School of Athens started official excavations but it wasn’t until the acclaimed archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos took over in 1967 that serious work commenced.
Within a few years, it was evident the site was the remains of an ancient settlement dating back to 4500BC that was destroyed by an earthquake in the 17th century. A new town was then built on top of the old one but it, in turn, was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in the 18th century.
Unlike Pompeii there have been no human remains found at Akrotiri Archaeology Site, which makes historians and archaeologists believe that the initial earthquake gave the residents sufficient time to flee before the volcano erupted. This eruption likely shaped Santorini as we know it today as a set of 5 islands with Fera being the one we are mostly familiar with.
Fresco from Akrotiri 1600BC
Points of interest at Akrotiri
Midway up Telchines road was a small square where you will find The West House and a small unexcavated building.
The West House was a typical home for a wealthy family. This two-story house had been modified several times, likely due to earth-tremors and weather events.
It is believed the building was probably used for weaving given the many loom-weights found in the main rooms which was also well lit and overlooked Triangle Square.
The west wing of the second floor was the most important part of the house. Here, in room 5, there were wall paintings of the local fishing fleet, the fishermen and swimmers (as well as men drowning). In room 4 there were paintings of the Priestess.
In the south-east corner of the second floor was a lavatory with a working drainage system, which was remarkable given the era.
House of the Ladies
This three level house is completely excavated and takes its name from the many wall-paintings featuring women on its walls. The house is located in the north of the excavation zone above West House.
Professor Spyridon Marinatos named this room which was the first room in the Akrotiri Archeological site to be excavated, in 1967.
On the southernmost floor of the largest room was a column that head up the upper storey and close to the entrance was a hearth for a fireplace. The floor of the middle room was covered in crushed murex shells and numerous loom weights which are believed to have fallen during the eruption from the room below .
There was also a lot of large jars and vessels found here which leads experts to believe this building was a storeroom.
An impressive three-story building that dominated the entrance to the city from the west harbour.
Many of the rooms in this building were interconnected and there is evidence of Cretan architecture here in the northeast corner with what was called a ‘Lustral Basin’.
Most of the walls of this building had impressive wall-paintings and to this day are the largest known wall-painting collection in the Aegean.
Given there were few domestic items found here it is believed Xeste3 was probably a place of worship and sacrifice and was where various rituals of the local people were held.
One of the most incredible things about Akrotiri is the relatively sophisticated plumbing and water supply techniques used.
It is not known where the city got its drinking water from yet it seems a natural water supply probably existed given the inhabitants could not live on sea water alone. All water seems to have been stored in large earthernware vessels in the Pithio Storeroom and other buildings.
Remnants of clay pipes suggest there was some sort of Aquaduct built at Akrotiri which probably bought water from Mt Prophitis Ilias. One of the wall-paintings in West House suggests a fountain and well may have been part of the city too.
Visitors will note an obvious network of streets and alleys in Akrotiri which would have been extensive.
The central axis of streets ran north to south following the top of the promotory around which the village was founded.
Excavation work so far has uncovered Telchines Street which runs south and Dactyls Street which runs north. A further network of alleys and cul-de-sacs seemed to have ventilated the houses and provide natural light.
There were also many town squares which were lined by houses, likely used to store animals and supplies which was common at the time.
Drainage and Sewerage System
There is evidence that many houses were connected to clay pipes that served as a rudimentary sewerage system. The pipes followed the natural slope of the land and led to a trap built with stone slabs, that in turn channelled the waste into a small cesspit and sewer that ran under the streets and out to sea.
Dimitri’s Taverna and Beach
Where to stay near the Akrotiri Archaeology Site
Today Akrotiri is a small village in southern Santorini that is mostly known for the Archaeology site, Akrotiri Lighthouse and nearby Red Beach.
While it is a little isolated it’s not a bad location to stay as Santorini is a small island and all of the main attractions are within 40 minutes of each other. It’s a place where you can be assured of no crowds year-round and much lower prices than better-known towns like Oia and Fira.
It’s easy to get to the airport and port from Akrotiri and parking is rarely an issue.
The closest hotel to the site is Hotel Akrotiri, a charming small hotel right on the beach and within walking distance of the archaeology site and Red Beach.
A little further west you will find Sublime Villa and Cave which also has a swimming pool on the beachfront.
Further north in the town of Akrotiri itself check out Goulielmos Hotel and Kokkinos Villas which overlook the caldera and are a short walk down to Caldera Beach and beautiful Panorama Taverna which lives up to its name with its wonderful views.