Thira (also spelled Thera) is the main island of Santorini. The fascinating ruins of Ancient Thira are located on a high rocky headland called Mesa Vouna, from which there are spectacular views down to the sea.


This hilltop on Thira was first inhabited by the Dorians, whose leader was Theras, in the 9th century BC. Thira was later occupied in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. Most of the buildings that survive today date from the Hellenistic era (around the 4th century BC).
The ancient houses and larger part of the cemeteries of Ancient Thira were excavated by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902, while the cemeteries on the northeast and northwest slopes of Sellada were excavated by N. Zapheiropoulos in 1961-1982.

What to See

The ruins of Ancient Thira are located on a headland called Mesa Vouna between the two popular beaches of Kamari and Perissa. In addition to its ancient ruins, the site offers spectacular views over cliffs that drop into the sea on three sides.
Most of the ruins of Ancient Thira date from the Hellenistic era, but there are also extensive Roman and Byzantine remains. Buildings from different periods are mixed together throughout the site along one main street, which is intersected by smaller streets.
The main street passes through two agoras, which include ruins of several Greek temples. The arc of the theater embraces the town of Kamari, Fira beyond, and the open Aegean. The extensive ruins also include Hellenistic shops, Roman baths, Byzantine walls, and the stone church of Agios Stefanos.
The Hellenistic Temple of Dionysos (3rd century BC) is a small Doric temple built on a man-made platform north of the Agora. The facade and roof were made of marble while the rest of the building was of local stone.
Founded by Artemidoros of Perge in the late 4th or early 3rd century BC, the Sanctuary of Artemidoros was entirely hewn from living rock. It includes various inscriptions and engravings of Artemidoros as well as the symbols of major gods: an eagle for Zeus, a lion for Apollo, a dolphin for Poseidon.
Part of the Sanctuary of Apollo Karneios (6th century BC) is hewn from rock, while the rest is constructed on a platform. It includes a temple with pronaos and cella, a square courtyard with six monolithic pillars and an underground cistern and a small building, probably a repository.
There is a fine view over the site from the large Terrace of the Festivals, where boys danced naked to honor Apollo (the performance was called the Gymnopaediae). This is likely related to the phallic-centered graffiti visible nearby, which dates from the Archaic to Roman period.
The cemeteries of Ancient Thira are on the slopes of the Sellada, either side of the roads that lead to the villages of Kamari and Perissa. The excavated graves span every period from the Geometric to the Roman.

Quick Facts

Names: Ancient Thira; Ancient Thera; Old Thira
Type of site: Archaeological site
Faith: Ancient Greek
Status: Ruins
Dates: 800s BC to c.800s AD
Location: On a hilltop 3km (2 miles) south of Kamari by road, Santorini, Greece
Phone: 22860/31-366
Hours: Daily 8am-2:30pm
Cost: €4

Getting There

You can reach the site by taxi, but if fitness allows, it is better on foot. The walking route passes a cave that holds the only spring on the island. Allow several hours for Ancient Thira - at least four if you walk up and down.
A Greek column at Ancient Thira. Photo Creative Commons License Yanick Bédard.

Ancient Thira, Santorini
The dramatic hilltop ruins of Ancient Thira. Photo Creative Commons License Dan Cross.

Temple of Pythian Apollo (and the sea beyond). Photo Creative Commons License Yanick Bédard.

Church at Ancient Thira
Agios Stefanos at Ancient Thira. Photo Creative Commons License Jim Moran.

Ruins of Greek theater. Photo © Andreas Neumann.

Path through the extensive ruins. Photo Creative Commons License Jim Moran