4 Visitable Underwater Archaeological Sites in Greece

Dive into Greece's rich maritime past as we explore four underwater archaeological sites that will soon be open to diving enthusiasts.


Renowned for its rich cultural heritage, Greece offers a unique glimpse into the past through its underwater archaeological sites. From ancient shipwrecks to submerged prehistoric landscapes, these underwater treasures unveil stories of trade and maritime exploration dating back thousands of years. With over 6,000 islands and an extensive coastline, Greece boasts a wealth of submerged sites waiting to be discovered and explored.

To that end, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture is set to unveil a thrilling opportunity for diving enthusiasts: guided visits to four underwater archaeological sites off the east coast.

 

This latest initiative marks the culmination of a pilot phase launched in 2020, starting with the iconic Peristera Shipwreck off the island of Alonnisos, Greece’s first underwater museum. Spearheaded by the Ministry’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, the project aims to create an immersive experience while safeguarding the country’s rich maritime heritage.

In a recent statement, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni emphasized the significance of this endeavor: “Our commitment to showcasing our underwater cultural legacy has led us to open four underwater archaeological sites in the Magnesia region of Thessaly. This underwater archaeological park not only enriches our cultural landscape but also positions Greece as a prominent destination for diving tourism.”

In Greece, access to underwater archaeological sites is strictly regulated by law, which stipulates the protection, management, and study of submerged cultural heritage. This law grants the Greek State ownership and jurisdiction over all underwater antiquities within its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. Unauthorized access, excavation, or the removal of artifacts from underwater sites is forbidden and subject to severe legal penalties.

Until recently, underwater archaeological sites in Greece were off-limits to all but a handful of highly specialized maritime archaeologists. This policy was initially designed by the country’s Ministry of Culture to protect the potentially thousands of submerged sites from would-be looters. With the vast potential for diving tourism, restrictions were steadily relaxed in 2005, opening a select number of sites to the scuba-diving public.

 

A list of the currently accessible wrecks can be found here.

In this latest initiative, overseen by personnel from the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities, the Ministry is laying the groundwork for structured visits to four underwater sites: one off the island of Alonnisos, and three in the Pagasetic Gulf, east central Greece.

With funding from the Regional Operation Program of Thessaly, and with a completion schedule at the end of 2025, the regulations will dictate the number of divers per visit, establish a network of designated diver trails around each site, and enforce strict prohibitions on touching or interfering with the artifacts.

 

Divers embarking on these organized visits will depart from certified diving centers in the company of professional guides. Mooring points, surface marker buoys, and dive lines will ensure the safety of the divers, as well as the protection of the antiquities from fishing, anchoring and the passage of boats.

In addition, advanced technologies, including the Submarine Optical Monitoring System and a network of surface cameras, will provide real-time surveillance of the sites by the Hellenic Coastguard, allowing for remote supervision and the swift response to any potential threats.

Underwater Treasures

Peristera Shipwreck, Alonnisos

The Peristera Shipwreck, nestled east of Alonnisos within the marine park of the Northern Sporades, stands as a testament to ancient maritime trade. Discovered in 1985 by a local fisherman, this remarkable site, dubbed the “Parthenon of Shipwrecks,” offers a glimpse into the bustling commerce of the late 5th century BC.

At depths ranging from 22 to 30m, the shipwreck reveals an enormous cargo of some 3,500 to 4,000 amphoras (two-handled ceramic storage jars), heaped in a large hull-shaped mound on the seabed. These clay vessels, used for transporting goods such as wine and olive oil, form the backbone of the ship’s cargo, which would have exceeded 100 tons.

 

Of particular interest are the two distinct types of amphoras identified: those hailing from the Macedonian port of Mende (Chalkidiki), and others from ancient Peparethos (Skopelos). Thought to have carried wine, these vessels provide valuable insights into ancient trade routes and cultural exchanges during the time of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC).

Also among the findings are luxurious vessels (black-glazed bowls, drinking cups and plates) serving as secondary cargo, everyday items (oil lamps, jugs) of the crew, and objects related to the ship’s rigging (lead anchor components and nails).

For our complete guide to the famous Peristera wreck, click here.

Telegrafos Shipwreck

Discovered in Telegrafos Bay (Pagasetic Gulf) in the year 2000, this shipwreck presents a rich concentration of Late Roman-era amphoras, including one known type from ancient Palestine in the southern Levant.

Nestled on a rocky seabed with sandy patches at a depth of 17 to 23m, this site offers a fascinating glimpse into the maritime trade networks that linked the northeast Aegean with the wider eastern Mediterranean world in Late Antiquity. Among the discoveries are eight distinct types of commercial amphoras, all dating back to the 4th century AD. Traces of pitch found within 20 of the vessels – the largest known concentration in Greece – suggest their use in transporting wine.

 

The shipwreck site exhibits two main concentrations of amphoras on the seabed, indicating that its sinking did not happen quickly. The mystery surrounding its fate adds an aura of intrigue to the site.

Kikynthos Shipwreck

Archaeological surveys on the uninhabited islet of Kikynthos, located at the entrance of Amaliapolis Bay in the western Pagasetic Gulf, have revealed an assortment of artifacts ranging in date from the early Christian period to the 19th century. As such, the local Ephorate has designated the islet a protected archaeological site.

In 2005, at a depth of 3.5 to 12m, a large mound of broken transport vessels was discovered off the northwest coast of the islet, including fragments of amphoras typologically dating to the 9th century. Other amphoras were more precisely dated to the 11th and 12th centuries.

 

The archaeological data so far indicates the wreck of a small merchant ship of the Middle Byzantine period, probably of the 11th century.

Cape Glaros

Situated on the southwest coast of the Pagasetic Gulf, Cape Glaros stands as a testament to the perils faced by ancient mariners. This location served as a passageway for ships attempting to enter the sheltered waters of the gulf from the open sea.

Traces of at least four ancient shipwrecks, one Hellenistic, one Roman, and two Byzantine, dot the seabed, along with pottery and anchors from other periods that represent possible discards – items that were deliberately thrown overboard.

 

Of particular note are the findings of over ten iron Byzantine anchors, found in two distinct concentrations – the largest collection found in Greek waters to date. These anchors are believed to be associated with amphoras dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, suggesting a wreck of a large Byzantine merchant ship.


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