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Akrotiri

Akrotiri Penisnula, SantoriniThe Akrotiri peninsula is known of course for the famous ruins from the Minoan period. The actual village of Akrotiri is not as well known and that is for a number of reasons. The main reason is that the road to the archaeological site does not even go through the town. Tourists see the site and then head for the next spot on their itinerary or else to the beach. Very few go to the village. So on the island that is probably the most popular tourist destinations in Greece there is a village with many of the qualities of a remote island. You will still see poorly spelled signs outside of restaurants advertising mousaka, Greek salad and fresh fish, but these are generally small family run restaurants with home-style cooking, mixed with the dishes they think the tourists want, and being a basically agricultural village you should expect to find fresh vegetables, especially tomatoes in season, and the meat may come from the family farm. The same goes for the hotels, most of which were actually built on the family farm so if for example you ask for fresh goat milk with your coffee you may actually get it.

Akrotiri, Santorini There is not much to see in Akrotiri town. People go about their work. They are farmers mostly or engaged in some kind of craft. Probably many of the people work in hotels and restaurants around the island and commute back and forth. But it is a quiet village and enjoyable to wander around in and people are friendly as they are all over the island. There is an old fortress at the top of the town which was destroyed during the earthquake in 1956. This was the original site of the town and instead of restoring it they rebuilt the town below the fortress where it extends right up to the fields of grape vines. You can still go up and wander around. From the top of the village you can see the caldera of the volcano and miles of grapes. In fact you can see most of the island.

Ancient Akrotiri RuinsAs for the ruins of Akrotiri, the roof to the site has been restored and it is open for business again. If you are wondering what I am talking about several years ago the archaeologists put on a new roof that would be able to withstand the Santorini winds and whatever other dangers mother nature could throw at it. It was said to be the Titanic of protective shelter roofs and like the Titanic it did not prove to be as durable, collapsing upon the ancient site and an unlucky British tourist who perished. But after many years the new even stronger roof has been completed and as of this writing it is still covering the site. If you are wondering why Akrotiri needs a roof and the other archaeological sites don't it is because the ancient town of Akrotiri is the actual town, made of mud-brick and preserved for centuries, while the other sites are pretty much just the foundations of temples and some important buildings and anything else that was not carted away to be used in the construction of churches, buildings and walls if not ground into powder and used for whitewash. You need to get here early to avoid the buses from the cruiseships but once you get in you can walk down streets thousands of years old and see what the ancient city looked like.

Red beachIn my opinion the narrow section of the island which contains Akrotiri has the two best beaches (Red Beach and Vlichada), some of the best (and cheapest) tavernas, and is close enough to the popular Perissa and Perivolas beaches too. Within the volcano crater is Caldera Beach which you get to by going down a series of switchbacks from the top of the caldera til you reach the bottom. It is not a popular beach and not a bad one, however  when the wind blows from the north probably every napkin and empty water bottle that has blown off a restaurant table in Oia or Fira ends up here. Between the ruins of Akrotiri and the path to Red Beach is the family run Dolphins Fish Taverna which prides itself in having the freshest fish every day which comes from their own boat. If you are going to Red Beach there is a cmall canteen by the church and the beach parking lot where you can buy water, though there is also a small cafe on the beach itself. It is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from the parking lot to the beach.

Akrotiri viewAs for staying in Akrotiri you have a few choices. Many years ago we stayed at the Villa Mathios which is a very nice hotel for not a lot of money. It has two pools, no caldera view though since it is across the street in what used to be a field of grapes. We were treated very well though I have heard some complaints of a clash of cultures which can happen when people who were once simple farmers build a beautiful hotel and have to learn how to run it. But I have to say they treated me well and I had a lot of fun there and the hotel restaurant was pretty good for a hotel restaurant. Right next door the Hotel Kalimera is owned by the uncle of the man who owns the Villa Mathios. I don't know if they get along but for years I sent people here with no complaints. If you want a pool and a caldera view you have to cross the road to Avant Garde Suites which has pretty reasonable rates for a 4-star hotel. If a pool is not essential and a view is the Hotel Kokinos Villas has triples for under 100 euros even in August. You want cheaper? The Hotel Goulielmos has doubles with caldera view for 40 euros in August. Keep in mind that you will want a car if you plan to go to Fira for your nighlife because besides dinner and drinks there is not much happening in Akrotiri, though if you are only spending 40 euros a night for a room for two you can probably take the money you save and take a taxi home if you miss the last bus from Fira. For more choices in the actual village of Akrotiri see Booking.com's Akrotiri Hotels and you may find something even cheaper. Villas in Santorini are for the most part expensive but the Papalexis House, owned by the Hotel Kalimera is affordable though difficult to find availability.

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