Akrotiri is one of the most famous villages of Santorini, known all over the world for the great archaeological discovery of a prehistoric settlement, which can be visited today at the unique archaeological site. The modern village is built at the southern end of the island, very close to one of the most famous beaches of Santorini, the Red Beach. The village has about 500 residents and its most characteristic sight is Kasteli, the medieval castle built at its highest point. As it receives tens of thousands of visitors annually, the village has excellent tourist facilities, from tourist accommodation, to cafes, restaurants and watersports.
Akrotiri can be reached through a beautiful route with an excellent view of the wonderful volcanic scenery of Santorini. The village itself, traditionally built around the old castle, does not disappoint its visitors. The small, whitewashed Cycladic houses with their tidy yards and shining roofs, and the colored domes of the churches are a great backdrop for a walk through the narrow streets and allows the visitor to get a great taste of authentic village life.
If you do not have your own vehicle, you can reach Akrotiri by using public transportation, as the village is connected with Fira by a daily bus (15 kilometers).
Apart from the Red Beach, which can be reached on foot from Akrotiri, you can also visit Mesa Pigadia and White Beach, where you can go, though, only by sea.
Kasteli castle on Akrotiri
The old castle catches the visitors attention as it is situated at the highest point of Akrotiri. It is surrounded by residential complexes, others older and others more modern, while right in its center stand the old tower, or ‘goulas’, known also as La Ponta, after the Latin name it was given by the Venetians. Today it is privately owned, has been restored and is open to the public. There you will also find a workshop and and an exhibition on ‘tsabouna’, the typical traditional musical instrument of Santorini. The original ‘goulas’ of Akrotiri was built according to estimates in the 13th century and, up until the catastrophic earthquake of 1956, the subsequent modifications and restorations had kept it in excellent condition.
Find out more informations about the Castle in Akrotiri here
The churches in Akrotiri
As on most of the Cyclades – the geographical group of islands that Santorini is part of – countless churches and chapels adorn the residential environment of Santorini. In Akrotiri you can see the Holy Trinity church, the church of Ipapanti, St. Nicholas and others. The church of St. Theodosia stands out from the rest, though, and you can find it near the entrance of the castle as she is considered to be the protector of Kasteli. Every year, on May 29th, which is the date she is celebrated, a big festival takes place in the village. Worthy of the feast of St. Theodosia is the feast of the Assumption (15th of August), as the festivities take place around the magnificent church of the Assumption, while another festival takes place during the celebration of St. Epifanios, on the 12th May.
The prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri
A few meters after you pass through Akrotiri, you come across the site where at the end of the 1960s, the archeology professor Spyros Marinatos discovered the extremely important prehistoric settlement. Dating back to the 18th century BC, the settlement was destroyed by the great eruption. Precisely because of the volcanic activity, though, and the soil and subsoil, the settlement is still preserved in a very good condition: visitors have the opportunity to admire a prehistoric city, which might have been the capital of Thera in prehistoric times and had commercial and cultural relations with Minoan Crete. Noteworthy is the fact that despite the dozens of important objects that came to light during the excavations, not one human skeleton segment was found, which means that the “warning” tremors of the volcano alerted the residents to abandon the city.
Find more detailed information on the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri here
The Akrotiri Lighthouse
The Lighthouse of Akrotiri is one of the most famous sights of the whole island. It is located about 3 km (asphalt road) from the village and from its balconies you can enjoy one of the most spectacular sunsets in the world. The lighthouse reaches a height of 10 meters and has been automatic since 1988. It was built in 1892 by the French Company of Lighthouses and is considered one of the most important lighthouses of Greece as it is situated on the route that connects Piraeus with Alexandria, Egypt. The Limnionari, a sheltered from north winds bay to the south of the lighthouse is classified as one of the safest anchorage points in Santorini.
More information on Akrotiri Lighthouse here
One of the areas that is worth visiting in Akrotiri is Balos or Palos, a small cove just outside of the village. It was named after the famous traditional dance ‘balo’, as, according to the tradition, that was were the girls of the village went to dance, while in the 19th century it served as a commercial product distribution port. Today one can reach it by carefully crossing the winding path to admire the chapel of St. Nicholas built on the rocks, and the cave chapel of Our Lady of Balos, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. According to tradition, the caves and caverns of the caldera of Balos, was where hermit nuns lived, while popular tradition insists that the caves were connected by an underground network through which women could escape in an emergency.