Best of Santorini
Minoan City of Akrotiri|
Akrotiri is an ancient city underground, and preserved by, the volcanic ash. It is one of the major attractions of Santorini, and maybe one of the world’s most important archaeological places, which is located on the southern side of island. Some call it the Pompei of the Greek Islands. Discovered in 1866, it has become closely connected with the legend of the Lost City of Atlantis. One of the particularly interesting aspects of Akrotiri is that it is a live dig with ongoing excavations. The excavation site is covered by a roofing system, which makes it something that you can comfortably visit no matter what time of year. The ruins are extremely well preserved. Streets, buildings, stairs and even second floors of buildings are still visible. Visitors can stand in the ruins and look at Minoan pottery and frescoes, and with a little imagination, feel what it would have been like to live in ancient Greece. Many of the frescoes that were found adorning the houses have been removed to several museums, most notably the Archaeological Museum in Athens. The best known examples are "The Young Fisherman", of a boy holding blue and yellow fish, and "The Young Boxers" showing two dark skinned boys with long black hair and almond-shaped eyes. The frescoes kept their color all this time because they were preserved in the lava.
The second attraction most important of Santorini, the Ancient Thira, is situated on Mesa Vouno, 396 m. above sea level between the beaches at Kamari and Perissa. It was founded in the 9th century B.C. by Dorian colonists whose leader was Thiras, and continued to be inhabited until the early Byzantine period. The terraced ruins that overlook the sea date back to the 3rd century BC and the Ptolemies, with also the remnants of Hellenistic and Roman civilization. The residential area and the larger part of the cemeteries were excavated by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902. The cemeteries on the NE and NW slopes of Sellada were excavated by N. Zapheiropoulos in the years 1961-1982. The most important monuments of the site are: The Sanctuary of Artemidoros, The Agora, The Royal Stoa, Temple of Dionysos, The Sanctuary of Apollo Karneios and the The Theatre lies to the SE of the Agora. Many of the relics found in ancient Thira can be found in the Prehistoric Museum of Thira.
The Archaeological Museum of Santorini
The Archaeological Museum of Santorini, situated in the centre of town close to Martiou, is home to a wide selection of artefacts dating back to 7th century BC. Its displays include amphora, idols, figurines, earthenware, kouroi, inscriptions and other ceramic and clay objects as well as volcanic rocks (sculptures of the Hellenistic period, Byzantine art and prehistoric time’s remains). It was built in 1960 by the Ministry of Public Works in order to replace the old museum (built in 1902), which had collapsed during the earthquakes of 1956. This museum costs a couple of Euros to enter and with the same entry pass you can also get entry to the Museum of Pre Historic Thira. It is not very large and can be explored in half an hour. Open daily (except Mondays) from 08.30 am to 15.00 pm. Tel +30 2860 22217.
The Museum of Pre Historic Thira
The Museum of Pre historic Thira is located in Fira and has an extensive collection of ancient relics from excavations in Akrotiri and Ancient Thira, conducted under the auspices of the Archaeological Society at Athens. The exhibition covers units such as the research history at Thira, the island's history from late Neolithic to late Cycladic period and the heyday of Akrotiri with aspects as the architecture of the city, the emergent bureaucratic system, wall painting and pottery art etc. Noteworthy are the furniture plaster casts, household equipment, weapons, seals, impressive wall paintings and the unique gold ibex figurine. Even from the outside this museum is quite spectacular. As you enter the first thing you notice is the air-conditioning which aids your tour around. The explanations of the objects here are detailed and very interesting. The museum is square and you go to your right as you enter. Open daily (except Mondays) from 08.30 am to 15.00 pm. Tel +30 2860 23217
The Museum of Megaron Gyzi
Megaron Gyzi is situated in Fira, it is a beautiful mansion erected in the 17th century, which contains the Cultural Center of Santorini, one of the few remains that survived the earthquakes of 1956. It is a typical example of Cycladic architecture with its pebble stone yards and dome-shaped walls, surrounded by a collection of manuscripts dating from the 16th to the 19th century, as well as engravings, traditional clothing, maps, photographic archives and paintings. It was donated by the Catholic Diocese of Thira for the activities of the Cultural Centre that was established through the Diocese's initiative. Apart from permanent exhibitions, the Megaron's halls host each year cultural events such as periodic painting exhibitions, concerts, recitals, stage plays and traditional dances. The Cultural Centre holds that this activity constitutes a positive contribution to the cultural life of Santorini, a contribution addressed to both the permanent residents of the island and to its numerous friends and visitors. Open daily from 10:30 am to 20:00 pm. Tel. +30 22860 22244, 22721.
There are everyday cruises to the volcano and the hot springs where guests can swim. Boats to the volcano depart every morning from Athinios port or from Fira old port and the usual route is climbing the volcano, stop at the hot springs for swimming, a stop of about 2 hours at Thirasia for swimming or lunch and return to the port of the departure. The cost is around 20 to 25 € according to the route. Children under 12 years old pay half admission. If you opt to depart from Fira old port you can walk down to the Port for approximately 45 min on a rough route, or choose among take the cable car, which run every 15 minutes from 7:30 am to 9:00pm or riding a mule. Both the mule riding and the cable car cost about 3.5 €.
If you are looking to find out more about Santorini's nautical history, the Nautical Museum in Ia is the spot not to miss. It is housed in an old and beautiful mansion in the village of Oia (Ia). Here you will find all kinds of exhibitions featuring marine objects which trace the history of the island, especially during the 19th century. This museum is over two floors and costs a couple of Euros to get in. Downstairs is not that good for only English speaking visitors as there is little in the way of explanations of the items. Upstairs things improve with the ship figurehead interesting collection. The models of ships are worth a close look but, again, could be helped by some better labeling. Uniforms and portraits are also upstairs. There is also a great library in where you will find a CD-ROM of the Museum, which includes all the above and a detailed report of the Nautical history of Thira throughout the centuries. Open daily from 11 am to 12 noon and 4 to 5 p.m.
The Argyros mansion is situated in Mesaria village and it is one of the most prominent recent monuments of the island of Santorini. It was erected in 1888 by the landowner and wine merchant G. Argyros. It combines the traditional architecture of Santorini with elements and influences of heterogeneity. Many morphological elements decorate the building's facets and there are ceiling paintings of exceptional art in its interior. All the upper floor's furniture and utensils are conserved and explained to as in a museum so the visitor can get accustomed with the residence of 19th century land owner of Santorini. The ground-floor serves as a five star hostel whilst there are guided tours for the public on the upper floor. Opening Hours: Daily programs April-October. Entrance Fee per person: 3 € including a guided tour
The Church of Panagia Episkopi
The church of Panagia Episkopi is located close to Mesa Gonia village and was founded by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus. The church has stayed alive, the invasions of Venetians, Francs, Russians and Turks and still relics as an inspiration to the islanders. Panagia Episkopi was erected in 1115, but had to withstand not only invasions and fires, but the tremendous earthquake of 1956. Any destruction incurred by all these elements were quickly repaired by the faithful. The church is not only known for its ecclesiastical architecture, it is also admired for its remarkable Byzantine paintings and hagiography. A number of important icons can be seen in the church, although it bears to mention that 26 of the finest works were stolen in 1982 and never to be found. August 15th is the feast day of the church and after religious ceremonies, the islanders join in celebration with the visitors to Santorini with plenty of food, dancing and singing.
The Folklore Museum
The folklore museum of Santorini is situated in Kontohori, Fira, in a cave house built in 1861. The museum exhibits workshops of carpenters, barrel makers, shoe makers and tinsmiths as well as an original old winery, a gallery with works of local current artists and document archives. It is operating daily from 10.00 - 14.00 and 18.00 - 20.00 (Tel: +30 22860 22792)