For those into history Ancient Thira is not to be missed although it is less famous than the Akrotiri site. It is located on top of Mesa Vouno mountain at an altitude of about 400m (offering spectacular views down to the sea but also over Kamari and Perissa that are located on both sides of the mountain).
From Kamari is only 3km away but you have to drive the steep winding road that will take you up to the parking lot from where you have about 500m to reach the main site (most part is not accessible for impaired mobility). If you decide to walk from Kamari start early to avoid the heat and take a bottle of water with you (there’s a small canteen with refreshments and snacks at the parking lot to have some with you on the way back). There’s also a path connecting Ancient Thira with Perissa village on the other side of the mountain. There are also mini vans that takes you there from Kamari and back.
The ancient history of the settlements begins at 9th century BC. It was founded by Doric colonists from Sparta and it was named after the mythical King Theras. The cit was extended during 3rd c. BC when Ptolemaic soldiers stationed in Thira and then again during roman times when it was still a prosperous city. The necropolis of Ancient Thira was at the foot of the mountain and had a port named Oia (where Kamari is in our days so not to be confused with modern Oia). During early byzantine times it was the only urban settlement on the island but it had lost its old glory. It was destroyed in 726 when it was covered by pumice due to an eruption of the volcano.
The excavation begun in 1895 by Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen and continued during 20th century by greek archaeologists. Most of the findings are now on exhibit at the archaeological museum of Athens but also in the archaeological museum in Fira (not to be missed anyway). Walking around the excavated site I saw the ruins of numerous buildings that are spread over a long terraced area (there’s no shadow so don’t forget your hat and some sun cream). There are small signs in front of the ruins that give you basic info about each area as there are many foundations of houses, temples, baths, a theatre, the agora/market area etc
On early may there were only a few visitors on site (I stayed for about 40’ and didn’t meet with more than 10 other visitors!) which was quite impressive considering the ancient city housed more than 5000 people! A 800m wide road was running through the ancient city with most residential structures around the Agora opposite the impressive theater that was built on the slope.
pic 3: the ancient amphitheater, what a view to attend a play! It was constructed in 2nd c. BC and had a capacity of about 1500 persons in five wedge-shaped seating sections. The roman type scene building with proscenium was constructed in the 1st c. AD.
pic 4: a church that was built on the ruins of an early Christian basilica (6th c. AD). It is dedicated to Agios Stefanos(Saint Stephan) and dates from 8th or 9th c. AD.
pic 5: a tourist admires the view from Ancient Thira down to Perissa
The site is open 8.00-15.00 Tuesday to Sunday
They supposed to have toilets but there weren’t working on may 2016
The entrance fee is 4euro (2016 price) but I used the combo 4day ticket (14e) that includes Akrotiri, Ancient Thira and 3 museums on the island (archaeological museum in Fira, museum of Prehistoric Thira in Fira, Collection of Icons in Pyrgos).
Ancient Thira is situated on top of a high cliff just above Kamari. It is an excavated site of the foremost post-Minoan settlement on the island. The buildings are spread over a long terraced area and include remains of an early Christian basilica, market-places; foundations of temples and houses, baths, an impressive amphitheatre, and relief rock carvings.
There is a 4km hairpin road leading from Kamari to the parking lot, but it is steep and will take you about an hour to get there. By car, it is much faster and you can park at the entrance where you will find a kiosk for drinks. From the parking lot it still takes you some minutes to walk up the path towards the ancient town.
Ancient Thira is situated on a switchback up mountain right before Kamari, 2,110 ft high. After driving up the mountain you will have to leave your car or your means of transportation ( I saw many people climbing up the mountain...oops!) and go even more up.
I have to say that I gave up climbing when I reached the remains of an ancient church! Up there , there are relics of a Dorian city, with 9th-century BC tombs, an engraved phallus, Hellenistic houses, and traces of Byzantine fortifications and churches.
You will have amazing views from up there.
For those who like to go back in History and be amased by the genius minds of those that built a city for 5.000 people on the 9th. century before Christ. Using about 700 water reserves.
You can also find around sculptures and buildings almost intact..
After driving to the top, there is a 10 minute hike to Ancient Thira. It's quite a hike but doable for all ages. Once I got to the top I was quite surprised. I was expecting to see a few old buildings and columns but to my surprise there is an excavated ancient city above. Standing in all those ruins was almost mysterious and mystical. The clouds was covering the mountains and drifting slowly by. I felt like I was transported back in time. This is a must see destination. I recommend going early in the morning when the temperature is cooler and the sun hasn't reached its full height. Bring water.
I couldn't rave on about the views from Ancient Thira without showing some, and also without illustrating the way up to the place. Here we see views in three of the four directions possible from Ancient Thira, all that is missing is the listening station at the top of the even higher outcrop towards Profitas Ilias. From Ancient Thira you can see just how close the airport runway is to Kamari, and the planes come in to land BELOW you, it's quite a sight.
Ancient Thira stands on top of the rocky outcrop between Kamari and Perissa. From either resort it is a good stiff uphill walk to get there, from the Kamari side this is at least on a paved road and is not difficult. It took us about 30 minutes to climb to "the top", which is where the mini buses that also make the journey up said road stop. From there, inside the site, there is even more climbing to do – you’re not at the top at all. If you are not good on your feet don't be led to believe that taking the bus will get you all the way there!
Once at the top there are two things that stand out. The first is the ancient city itself and the second is the views that you get from up there. You can see across the resorts of Perissa and Kamari, out to see and back up towards Profitas Ilias. Magnificent views indeed.
As with a lot of Greek (Island) archaeological sites, there's little information about what you're looking at. Our guide book had some basic information, but we really just wandered around the site enjoying what we could see without really knowing what it was. The Odeon was obvious however.
Entry was free, despite our guide book saying it was E3, maybe we were lucky and it was the ticket collectors lunch break, or maybe they dropped the admission charge. Even at E3 it would be well worth the entry fee.
Whilst staying in Kamari you can visit the ancient town of Thira that lays on top of the headland that separates Kamari form Perissa ,there are a few ways of getting up to the top, the expensive taxi ,the next alterative a donkey or the cheap option walking (if taking this option take along a lot of water as it is very hot) and the van at the top selling drinks and ice creams is not cheap
The site was excavated by the German archaeologist Hiller V.Gaertingen at his own expense between 1895-1903. all the finds are in the museum in Fria ,most of the signs explaining what you see are in German only.
The first settlers of Thira were Dorian Greeks from Sparta ,Theras being there leader thus giving his name to the town and also the island . thera became part of Alexander the Greats empire and up on his death passed to the Ptolmies in 275BC to 146BC when Rome occupied Greece
On the site can be seen the ,temples from the hellenistic period to Dionysos converted in roman times to be a temple to Augusta ,south of the Agora is the city's theatre ,Egyptian temples to Isis ,Serapis and Anubis on the N W side are the city barracks and the gymnasium a temple to Ptolemy III has also been uncovered
LOOK ON THE FOOTPATH IN THE CITY FOR THE DIRECTIONS TO THE BROTHEL
Ancient Thira stays on hte Mesa Vouno headland.
You can reach Ancient Thira from Kamari or Perissa. Don't take any excursion bus. From Kamari you can walk a cobbled road or ride a dunkey and from Perissa you can follow the zigzag path. The paths from Kamair and Perissa meet at at a saddle between Mesa Vouno and Profitis Ilias. From the saddle the path to the site zigzags up to the top.
First you pass a chapel dating bach to the fourth century AD (picture 5) before skirting round to hte Temenos of Artemidoros with bas relief carvings of a dolphin, eagle and lion representing gods Poseidon, Zeus and Apollo and the Artemidoros. (picture 3 ) The ruins are impressively large and the views from the top are awesome.
Close to Basilika Stoa stays a house with a fallus carved in a wall (picture 4). Probable the house was a "heartbreak hotel" ;-).
The entrence is free but the doors are closed at 3.pm. Take water and food. There is a refreshment van but the drinks are expensive.
A collection of ruins from an ancient settlement, high atop the hills of Santorini. Getting there in a car is a white-knuckle experience! There are many fascinating carvings, the remains of an ampitheater and other buildings, and the views are spectacular.