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02 of 06

Search for the Lost City of Atlantis in Akrotiri

The Best Things to Do in Santorini

Gail Mooney/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

Nobody can really prove that the civilization that existed on Thira (ancient Santorini), contemporary with the Minoans on Crete, was the lost city of Atlantis. For one thing, none of the Greek writers ever wrote about Atlantis except Plato, and his writings suggest a date for its destruction of 9,000 years ago — about 6,000 years before the giant eruption that wiped away half the island.

And even if archaeologists wanted to search the waters around Santorini for evidence, the deposits of thousands of years of lava and ash that cover the ocean floor are too thick for investigation.

But why should reality spoil such a good story?

In 1967, archeologists began excavating a site on the southwestern tip of the island. Now considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the Aegean, the 50-acre site has evidence of occupation by a sophisticated civilization between 4,000 BC (Late Neolithic) and 3,000 BC (Early Bronze Age). The town had large multi-story houses; paved streets, water supplies and sewage systems, and, within the houses, evidence of trade with Minoan Crete, mainland Greece, Syria and Egypt.

Then, in about 1700 BC, around the time of the historic eruption, it all came to an end.

Now, you can visit the site and imagine what life must have been like before earthquakes caused the people of Akrotiri to flee and a volcanic explosion buried their city. It's under cover and open to the public between 8am and 8pm daily during the summer and 8am to 3pm Tuesday to Sunday during the winter. Standard admission is 12€. Open days and the dates of the summer and winter seasons vary from year to year, so check their website.