For centuries, the island of Santorini was known under a different name, Thera, after the namesake Spartan king who first settled on the island roughly in the 8th century BC, after its abandon for centuries due to the devastating volcanic eruption of 1600BC.
The island’s capital was the city of Thera, situated on the hill of Mesa Vouno, overtopping the entire southeastern region of Santorini. Today, the ruins of the ancient city of Thera are an archaeological monument of extreme historic significance that attracts thousands of visitors.
Ancient Thera was an urban center, the religious, cultural and administrative capital of Santorini, and in its ruins, you can visit and admire – among others – the city’s agora, the gymnasium, a theatre, a royal arcade featuring statues of Ceasar’s family, a temple of the god Dionysos and several sanctuaries dedicated to Hermes, Apollo and Hercules.
To best enjoy the ancient city of Thera, a guided tour is highly recommended, so as to get as much information on the history of the city and the actual purpose of every building, template or artifact found on the site.
When visiting Ancient Thera, apart from its immense archaeological value, you are rewarded with the beauty of the location; on top of a hill, overlooking the blue vastness of the Aegean Sea, with panoramic views to the beaches of Perissa and Kamari.
The way up is gorgeous as well, one of the most favourite routes for avid hikers on the entire island of Santorini, with awe-inspiring views and spectacular surroundings, and the hiking path starting from Kamari climbs up the Mesa Vouno mountain, passing by the monastery of Prophitis Elias and reaching all the way to the village of Pyrgos.
Alternatively, you can begin your hike from Pyrgos, and make your way to Ancient Thera descending the path – which of course is less strenuous.
The route is highly rewarding; the only mountain in Santorini, a Natura 200 area is covered with fragrant wildflowers, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see plenty small animals.
But the most rewarding is the panoramic view stretching as far as the eye can see to the depths of the Aegean Sea and the gorgeous Santorini.
Also note that like most archaeological sites in Greece, Ancient Thera is closed to the public on Mondays, and that reaching uphill and walking around the ruins requires comfortable shoes and a supply of water, but there is a kiosk selling water and beverages once you reach the site.
Ancient Thera travelled through centuries of history, turmoil and natural disasters, but still today it stands proud, showing what’s left of its former glory to the visitors that travel far to admire its beauty, to hear its stories and to briefly walk around in the steps of countless generations past.
Visit Ancient Thera for a closer look to one of the many facets of this wondrous island’s history, and stand in awe in its grandeur; just like every part of Santorini, it will capture your heart.