Today was a busy day! We set out this morning to see the ruins of Akrotiri, an ancient civilization that populated a small area of the island before the volcano eruption of 1600 B.C. Like Pompeii, much of the town was preserved by the volcanic ash—but no humans or animals were found on this site. The theory today is that earthquakes warned the people and they fled. Evidence suggests that they returned after a time to care for their friends and relatives who didn’t make it out, which explains why no earthquake victims were found. There is also evidence that the population was either starting to rebuild the city or had begun to pack up their belongings before making a second hasty escape: furniture is stacked outside many of the dwellings.
The people of Akrotiri were very advanced. Their multistory houses were made of volcanic cement and even had indoor plumbing with clay pipes. They were a society of travelers and traders. No weapons were found in Akrotiri, but there are many artifacts from neighboring civilizations of the time, such as ceramic pots and even a golden animal figurine believed to be from Egypt. Many of their cave paintings show people depicted in profile, a style thought to be influenced by the Egyptians. Some believe they wove their own wool cloth and traded it for the wheat and barley that was found in the clay jars within the settlement. There is also evidence that they made wine.
Leaving Akrotiri, we took a short drive to Pyrgos, a small village on the island. Named for its Venetian Fort, the town is known for its large number of churches—there are 68 for a population of just 600. Our Tour Director Gloria told us that the town also has more water than wine and more donkeys than men. What was most impressive, though, was the view—shown below stretching out behind Jenna until the land meets the sea.
After Pyrgos, we went even higher up the mountainous island to the monastery. While the monastery is not open to the public, the surrounding area offers many vantage points for visitors, like this one below me as I looked out from the highest point on Santorini.
We returned to the hotel by lunchtime and again we had our sights set on the beach. Santorini is home to white sand, red sand and black sand beaches and we were determined to see them all (and Jenna was determined to sketch them all).
We grabbed a cab from the hotel to the red sand beach. The cab driver told us to walk up and over a small, craggy hill and the beach would be on the other side. The walk was fairly treacherous, but the view (like all views in Greece, we’re learning) was well worth it. Just below us, the turquoise water swirled around dark red rocks and maroon-colored cliffs loomed above.
From the red beach, we hopped aboard a small boat for just five euros and got a look at both the white and black beaches. Each was beautiful in its own way. The white cliffs actually contained many light colors mixed together: pinks, greens and ivories.
This evening, Gloria organized a special optional trip to the town of Oía. The whole time we’ve been in Santorini, we’ve all been excited to see the resort village’s iconic blue dome roofs.
Gloria walked us through the town to some of the best vantage points before we had free time for dinner. We grabbed a couple seats on a scenic terrace and ordered several local specialties to split, including fried tomato fritters (a must-try in Santorini) and a carafe of the island’s refreshing white wine.
Jessie and Jenna are making their way through Greece, from Athens to the islands of the Aegean. Follow along as they blog on tour!