The breathtaking Akrotiri Excavations in Santorini – The Pompeii of Greece!

In this article you will find general information about the Islands of Santorini in Greece and the ancient Minoan city of Akrotiri at the southwestern part of the main island. The Akrotiri Excavations are considered Santorini’s Pompeii. Recall that Pompeii was an ancient Roman city near today’s Naples in Italy that was buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.


The Akrotiri settlement was destroyed in the Theran eruption sometime in the 16th century BC and buried in volcanic ash. This is about 1500 years before Pompeii, which makes the preservation of the buildings, streets, frescoes and pottery of the ancient city of Akrotiri even more impressive!

Nowadays, the excavations at Akrotiri is an archaeological site you can visit. There are several guided tours that start at other places in Santorini that take you to the Akrotiri ruins.

Caldera in Santorini Island

The Greek island group of Santorini is most famous for its still active volcano. Exactly the eruption of this volcano created thousands of years ago the stunning cliffs which are so typical for Thira (which is the official name for Santorini).

It also created the enormous lagoon around which the islands of Santorini are situated. This spectacular volcanic eruption caused part of the island to sink into the sea, creating a caldera or crater filled with water with a depth of four hundred meters.

Akrotiri excavations are located on the beautiful island of Santorini in Greece.
View over the caldera around which the islands of Santorini are located. Photo by Esteban Chiner.

The biggest island, Santorini, bears the same name as the island group. Here you find the capital Fira on the highest point of the cliff, looking out over the caldera in Santorini.

At the main island is also the archaeological site of Akrotiri located.

Akrotiri, a quiet stay in Santorini

Santorini is one of the most photographed islands in the world because of it’s natural beauty. The impressive architecture of the white painted houses hanging off the cliffs, the small winding alleys and blue topped churches add to the special character of Santorini island.

If you wonder where to stay in Santorini you can choose between the famous busy towns of Oia and Fira. You can also opt for a more quiet alternative like around the Akrotiri village. The famous Akrotiri ruins of the ancient Minoan city of Akrotiri are only two kilometers away.

The time to get from Oia to Akrotiri is only forty minutes.
Dream village Oia on Santorini by night. Photo by by David Spender.


Vistiting the Akrotiri Excavations

The Pompeii of Santorini – The Ancient Minoan City of Akrotiri

Santorini is the southernmost island of the Cyclades. Six thousand years ago it was home to one of the most important ancient Greek settlements of the Aegean.

A prosperous Minoan town existed in the south of the island of which the ruins can be seen at Akrotiri. This ancient settlement is only a twenty minute drive from Fira or forty minutes from Oia. The remains at Akrotiri ruins are even older than the ruins of Pompeii! The area is huge and only a tiny little part has been uncovered until now.

The Akrotiri Excavations with ancient houses.
The Akrotiri Excavations in Santorini have uncovered a complete ancient Minoan city. Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis.

Akrotiri was a Naval Power

The Minoan settlement on Santorini didn’t comprise of palaces like the Minoan settlement on nearby Crete, instead it was a high functioning merchant town. The people of this town became one of the main naval powers of the Aegean. Objects found on the site of Akrotiri prove that it had relations with the Greek Mainland, Syria and Egypt.

The Akrotiri Archaeological Site

The archaeological site of Akrotiri has a surface of about twenty hectares, but most of it hasn’t been excavated yet. After an accident, they stopped the excavations for a couple of years.

Visiting the site you will notice that the stairs within the multi-storied buildings have been preserved, just like many other characteristics of the once one of the most important Minoan cities of ancient Greece. How is this possible?

Actually, in Santorini exactly the same happened as what happened in Pompeii, Italy. After a series of earthquakes and a volcanic eruption the island was covered with lava, pumice and ashes. This helped to preserve the objects in the buildings, the buildings itself, the roads, the eight-meter high walls, the amazing wall-paintings and even furniture and vessels.

A chapel nearby the Akrotiri Excavations in Santorini
A typical Cycladic, white painted chapel with blue accents not far from the Akrotiri Excavations. Photo by Randy Connolly.

Maybe you will spend some time in Athens before and after visiting Santorini. Check out this blog post on 50 things to do in Athens. The blog post is written for families with kids, but even without kids you definitely will get inspiration out of the many ideas.

Some scholars state that the volcanic eruption caused the end of the Minoan civilization because the earthquakes and tsunami even reached Crete. But actually it is still unknown how exactly the Minoan civilization ceased to exist.

Busy sea traffic around Oia and Fira in Santorini

Even though Santorini is not a naval power any longer, it is always very busy in the sea around the island. Yachts, sailing boats and cruise ships struggle to get the best places in one of the harbors at Fira and Oia. Accessing land from sea can be very hard because of the traffic, and in the summer the harbor is crowded with people arriving from the ferries and cruise ships.

The pottery production in ancient Akrotiri was impressive.
Pottery at the archaeological site of Akrotiri in Greece. Photo by Carolyn Sugg.

Visit the Akrotiri Excavations, the Pompeii of Greece

Nowadays the island is immensely popular for its amazing views, and the hotels in Santorini are among the best of Greece. But even though you will have a great time in your hotel, don’t stay all day on its premises wondering what to do in Santorini. If you are interested in history, archaeology and more general, the culture of Greece, it is absolutely worth to take a guided tour to the Akrotiri Archaeological Site.

Beaches of Cape Akrotiri

There are a couple of beaches around the Akrotiri Excavations. Some are difficult to reach beaches without any amenities, but beautiful views. Other beaches around Akrotiri are pretty luxurious. You will even find some beaches at the Caldera. Everything about these beaches you can read in the blog post >> Caldera Beaches and more beaches around the Akrotiri Excavations.

Nice things to take with you on your trip to Santorini:

Moosejaw Kavu Women’s Rope Bag
Moosejaw S'well Wood Collection Bottle
Moosejaw S’well Wood Collection Bottle
Moosejaw Garmin Vivoactive 3 Watch
Moosejaw Garmin Vivoactive 3 Watch

Image credits: Featured image: Pixabay. | Flickr: All were made available under a CC BY 2.0 licence.

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