The island of Santorini holds an archaeological wealth that visitors, especially those interested in history and culture, can admire and become acquainted with in the various exemplary museums. Santorini owns many museums scattered all over its beautiful villages. They display notable discoveries that demonstrate the long history of the island and its prominent presence. The rich tradition of Santorini is depicted in precious collections that include rare and valuable exhibits.
Excavations of Akrotiri
Ancient Akrotiri is a Minoan Bronze Age settlement close to the modern village of Akrotiri. The ancient village was buried by the volcanic eruption that created the caldera and gave the island it’s unique characteristics. The eruption is believed to have occurred between 1642-1540 BC meaning the site is over 3500 years old.
The Ancient Akrotiri site is similar to that of Pompeii in Italy in the way that the buildings pottery and other artifacts are preserved in volcanic ash. The archaeological dig is still on going and they believe that they’ve barely scratched the surface of what might be found on the site.
Akrotiri was incredibly sophisticated for its time. The buildings in the town were multi-storeyed and faced with masonry, and the elaborate drainage system was highly evolved–it is here that we see some of the first instances of indoor lavatories. The town’s elaborate architecture and vivid frescoes indicate a highly cultured settlement.
It is perhaps this level of sophistication that has lead scholars and historians to believe that Akrotiri served as Plato’s inspiration for the city of Atlantis.
A visit to the site and a guided tour will bring the place to life, as you will explore and learn more about the remains and what happened all those years ago.
Ancient Thera, the Classical city of the island is located between Kamari and Perissa and sits at the top of mount Messa Vouno, 396 m. above sea level. It is connected with one of the most important historic period in the history, which represents a great ancient civilization.
It’s the ruins of an ancient city that was built in the 9th century BC by Dorian colonists whose leader was Theras and abandoned in 726 AD. The preserved ruins belong to the Hellenistic and Roman phases of the city. German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902 excavated the residential area and the larger part of the cemeteries and N. Zapheiropoulos excavated the cemeteries on the NE and NW slopes of Sellada in the years 1961-1982.
Some of the artifacts found can be seen at the Archaeological Museum of Fira.
Archaeological Museum of Thera
The Archaeological Museum is located in Fira and houses many artifacts that were discovered in excavations on the island, particularly from Ancient Thera as well as impressive vases and sculptures from various periods dating back to the 5th century BC.
There are three main collections on display ‒ sculpture from the Archaic to the Roman Period, inscriptions dating from the Archaic to the Roman Period as well as vases and clay figurines from the Geometric to the Hellenistic Periods.
The Archaeological Museum is a great place for those who are interested in other cultures and wish to become acquainted with the history of Santorini.
Prehistoric Thera Museum
The Museum of Prehestoric Thera is one of the most important museums of Greece as it houses the findings belonging to one of the greatest regional civilizations of the prehistoric world. The Prehistoric Thera Museum can be considered an extension of the archaeological site of Akrotiri, where visitors can walk through the amazing, well-preserved prehistoric city, since it hosts many artifacts from there and, most importantly, the frescoes, the impressive mural paintings.
The finds that are on display on the Prehistoric Museum of Thera come from the various excavations that were carried out on the island, such as at the settlements of Akrotiri and Potamos, rescue excavations at different sites on the island as well as some objects that were discovered by chance or handed over. The exhibits date back to the Late Neolithic Era up until the Cycladic Periods and are in excellent condition.
Through the exhibits visitors can witness the progress of Thera in the Prehistoric Times unfolding before their eyes, as they bear testament to a brilliant course that made Thera on of the most significant islands of the Aegean during the 18th and 17th centuries BC.
Being the only one of its kind in Greece, the Wine Museum is a surprising natural cave. It is 6 meters below ground and 300 meters long and has a labyrinth-like shape. The Museum presents the history of wine and the life of vine-growers in Santorini from 1660 to 1970. The Wine Museum of Santorini along with Koutsogiannopoulos winery that produces Volcan Wines, and the vineyards are situated in the area of Vothonas, on the way to Kamari beach.
During the tour, you will have the opportunity to see representations of the history of wine. An automatic audio guide is available in fourteen languages, and a guidebook is also available in twenty-two languages.
The stages of the winemaking process, as well as the whole range of machinery are presented in chronological order. You can experience the stages of pruning and ploughing of the vineyards, harvesting, stomping and weighing of the grapes. The rare exhibits, including winemaking machinery and tools, will take you back in time!
There is also an opportunity to join in the ritual of wine tasting, which is held in the winery.
Every Friday guests have the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Santorinian celebration in the event hall of the vineyard where guests can taste local wine flavors and food, dance with live music in combination with their Museum visit.
Folklore Museum of Emmanuel A. Lignos
The Folklore Museum of Santorini is located in Kontochori village, very close to Delenda Mansion. The lawyer Emmanuel A. Lignos, who was journalist and editor of the monthly newspaper “Theraic News”, founded the Folk Museum in 1974. It occupies a traditional cave house that dates from 1861. The house survived the earthquake of 1956 and was restored in 1976. In 1993 an extension was added to the original building in order to house an art gallery and some workshops, as well as a chapel of the Saints Constantine and Helen.
The house demonstrates the typical cave home of Santorini and represents the way of life in the beginning of the 20th century with beautiful embroideries, photographs and of course the corresponding furniture. Visitors can have an insight on historical records, lithographs, manuscripts and books from Santorini of the past century. The Museum hosts different traditional workshops with full equipment for carpenters, barrel makers, shoemakers and tinsmiths.
A visit to the museum is a time travel to a bygone era and offers valuable insight into the culture and tradition of the island of Santorini.
Naval Maritime Museum
The Naval Maritime Museum is located in the traditional village of Oia, and hosts the Maritime History of Thira. The museum was founded in 1956 by the captain Antonis Dakoronias and it is housed in a two-storeys19th century captain mansion, which was restored and converted into the current museum.
Rare figureheads, Seamen’s Chests, old maritime equipment, careening drawings and patterns, models of old and new Thiran ships, acquarelles featuring old sailing vessels, as well as rare photographs and a library, all register year by year the contribution of the Thirans to the glorious history of the Hellenic Navy. Oia reached the peak of prosperity in the late 19th and early 20th century. Its economic prosperity was based on its merchant fleet, which plied trade in the Eastern Mediterranean from the Black Sea to Egypt, carrying either pozzolana for use in the construction of the Suez Canal or Visanto, Santorini’s famous sweet wine, which for many years was used in Orthodox churches in Russia for Holy Communion.
This small jewel of a maritime museum captures the history of Santorini shipping and highlights the extroversion of the island.
Museum of Icons and Ecclesiastical Relics
The Museum of Icons and Ecclesiastical Relics is located in Pyrgos village, in the renovated chapel of the Holy Trinity (Agia Triada). Originally a catholic church belonging to a small convent, it had been completely abandoned, and in the early seventies only the north wall and part of the Sanctum were standing. Under the “Association of Pyrgos Residents in Thira” efforts were made to rebuild the church in 1975 in order to house the collection.
Its exhibits include icons of religious art, ecclesiastical items, pottery, embroidery’s, metallic artworks and woodcarvings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and corresponding to the islands period of prosperity. Among the religious icons the visitor can notice 16th century images of Saint George that probably originate from the samename convent. There are also icons from Saint John the Theologian’s chapel, two from the renowned painter Victora of Creta and two bishop icons that were donated from the Panagia Faneromeni church. The woodcarvings include three tabernacles, the Holy cross and the Epitaph. The museum can be found in Agia Triada.
Folklore and Ecclesiastical Museum
The Folklore and Ecclesiastical Museum is housed in the 18th century Monastery of Profitis Ilias (Prophet Elias), at the highest peak of the island, in Pyrgos village.
The folklore section contains traditional furniture, tools, documents and books, while the ecclesiastical section includes Cretan icons of the 15th century, chalices, crosses, holy relics and the miter of the Patriarch Gregory V.
Minerals and Fossils Museum
The Cultural Society of Thera founded the Museum of Minerals and Fossils in 2006. It stands near the church of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross), in Perissa. The oldest of the museum’s exhibits dates back to 1.5 billion years ago and the newest to 50,000 years. Here, you will find minerals and fossils from Thera and the rest of Greece, as well as other countries. Exhibits include a rich collection of priceless minerals from Lavrio, Attiki.
Of the fossils, which cover all groups of organisms, particularly important are the plant fossils of olive, mastic, and palm trees from the Santorini Caldera, dating back 50-60.000 years ago. This rare paleoflora, unique in the Mediterranean, provides evidence on the past evolutionary plant development in Europe.
A visit to the museum will give you a better understanding on the unique elements of Santorini that have given it its identity and become acquainted with the locals’ dedicated efforts to celebrate and disperse these elements, which form an integral part of the island, to the world.
Tomato Industrial Museum
The Tomato Industrial Museum is housed in the old tomato plant of D. Nomikos at the waterfront of Vlychada beach. It turned into a modern industrial museum (Santorini Arts Factory) to offer its guests a flashback, following the course of cultivation, processing and production of tomato, one of the most famous and traditional products of Santorini.
In the museum, the visitor is familiar with traditional methods followed by local farmers of Santorini, while knowing the history of the place, its inhabitants and their traditions. The exhibits include processing machinery since 1890, old manuscripts of works, old tools, the raw tags, and audio-visual material with taped narratives of people who worked in the factory.
Carved into the Santorinian landscape right in front of the sea, surrounded by volcanic sand dunes flattened by the strong Aegean winds, domes, vaults, interior and exterior industrial premises in the early 20th century, this is a rare industrial museum in Greece, waiting for all visitors to explore.
Inside the factory there is an Art Shop with selected samples of modern Greek design, small works of art, jewelry, books and music, as well as local products from small producers.