The archaeological site at Akrotiri is finally open on Santorini Island. The breathtaking site was unfortunately closed for nearly 7 years due to a tragic accident in 2005 when 1 visitor was killed after the collapse of a poorly constructed roof. But now, finally, Santorini travelers can visit the archaeological site located at the southern end of the island. The entrance fee is 5 euros per person and parking will run 3 euros if you bring your own car and use the general parking lot located just near the entrance.
Akrotiri should definitely be at the top of your list for things to do in Santorini. It’s a rare opportunity to take a peak into the ancient past of the island and to imagine what life was once like here during antiquity.
I visited the Akrotiri site just today, Sunday, June 10, 2012, and thoroughly enjoyed walking through the excavation. The inside of the site has a very modern, updated look with a carefully constructed building and roof that both add a nice touch to the experience. I can definitely reassure you that the site is very safe and well constructed despite the unfortunate collapse back in 2005.
I also created a few videos for you to enjoy. Please forgive the low sound level on these (I was doing my best not to disturb the ancient village.)
My “silent film” from inside Akrotiri…
Take a quick look around the site…
How To Get To Akrotiri
To get to Akrotiri by car, you’ll simply take the main road towards the southern tip of the island and follow the blue signs that point to “Akrotiri” and “Red Beach.” As you approach Emporio (if you’re coming from Fira or Oia for example), just keep an eye out for the signs to travel off the main road and towards the archaeological site.
Once you arrive, you can park your car in the open parking lot. Just be sure you stop at the booth to pay the parking attendant a small 3 euro fee to park your car and walk to the entrance just across the road. A ticket booth located just inside the gate will require 5 euros per person to obtain tickets to gain access inside the excavation area. After grabbing your tickets, you’ll walk down an open outdoor path to the main entrance where you’ll hand off your paper ticket to another attendant and retain your stubs.
Inside The Updated Akrotiri Exhibit
During my visit, fairly early in the season, the exhibit itself was still “underdeveloped” in terms of tourist signage and excavation labels. From my conversations with local Greek friends, more exhibit content is on the way and should be available later on this year and going forward.
If you’re a history buff or a Santorini enthusiast, I would recommend booking a tour guide. I did spot 2 or 3 guides leading larger groups of 5 to 15 people at a time through the exhibit. I had a chance to stop and listen-in on some of the commentary and really enjoyed the additional insight and commentary they provided. I’ll be sure to take this option during my next visit. Opting for a tour guide will probably add an hour or perhaps more to your visit so be sure you’re up for it before committing. (I really love these types of tours, but I realize some people would rather just take a leisurely stroll through at their own pace.) Either option is available.
The History Behind Akrotiri
Akrotiri is a prehistoric excavation and the site itself represents findings from the Minoan civilization that once inhabited the island during the Bronze Age. Apparently, these observations are deduced from the Linear A writings found on pottery, frescos, and other elements found in the dig. The site is so well preserved because it was buried in volcanic ash and rubble after the cataclysmic eruption (also known as the “Minoan Eruption”). That eruption is believed to have occurred somewhere around 1600-1500 BC.
The eruption was so massive that it devastated not just the entire island of Santorini, but also affected many surrounding islands including parts of Crete.
Some have proposed that Akrotiri may be the basis for the “Myth of Atlantis” originally crafted by Plato, though many historians and scientists disagree on this point. (Personally, I prefer to pretend that it’s all true. It adds a bit of magic to the experience.)
The curious part of the archaelogical findings is the complete absence of preserved skeletons or remains of the people who lived there. The archaeologists and anthropologists have basically decided that a lack of remains indicates that the locals had some warnings of the massive volcanic eruption and evacuated before being trapped there. In my very un-archaeological opinion, it also seems possible that anyone attempting to escape may not have been trapped within their homes but on their way out. Perhaps someday another archaeological find will produce remains at one of the ancient ports.
Why You Should Visit Akrotiri
Again, visiting Akrotiri should be on your “must do” list for Santorini. Unlike the museum in Fira, you’ll enjoy a window into the original settlements on the island. The experience will deepen your appreciation for the island’s history. Highly recommended!
General Information For Visiting Akrotiri
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 – 17:00
Cost: 5 euros per person
Parking: 3 euros per car
Location: Southern end of Santorini (near the modern village of Akrotiri)
When you arrive at Akrotiri, you’ll have to pay a 3 euro (price I paid in June 2012) parking fee at the booth. Doesn’t the parking booth attendant look excited to see me?