UNDERWATER MUSEUM OF ALLONISSOS, GREECE
Launched in August 2020, in June 2021 the first-ever underwater museum opened as a part of the National Marine Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades (the largest marine protected area in all of Europe).
Various seals, dolphins, loggerhead turtles, and over 300 species of fish make this their home. The museum showcases the wealth of marine life in the western Aegean Sea. The museum is located in the marine park, which is a protected area, offering incredibly rich sea life, and is full of archaeological treasures.
Back in 1985 in Alonissos, near the rocky coast of Peristera, a classical-era shipwreck that dates to 425-420 BC was discovered by a local fisherman, Dimitris Mavrikis, at a 25-meter depth. The ship is thought to have come from Mendi, which is an ancient city of Halkidiki and Peparithos (now called Skopelos island). Both areas are known for their wine. This large vessel had previously been thought to be of the Roman times but with the discovery of the Peristera, we now can document the existence back to the last quarter of the 5th-century BC.
Here on the island Alonissos in the Sporades archipelago, the first underwater museum was made using this shipwreck as its main attraction. This vessel, said to have come from Athens and either caught fire or run into stormy weather, was one of the largest merchant ships at 30 meters in length, of its time. It was ladened with 4,000 wine amphorae and beautiful black–glazed bowls, cups, plates, and tableware. This find is of great importance to archeology and often called “The Parthenon of Shipwrecks” due to the number of intact findings aboard. It is so well preserved that its cargo has remained intact in layers just as they were loaded into the hold and show the real shape of the ship. There is a huge pile of amphorae which can be viewed by the divers that reach the bottom of the sea at depths of 25 meters.
Once only open to archaeologists due to looting concerns, the site is now open since August 2020 to all divers being accompanied by professional divers. Now that it is accessible to tourists and recreational divers one can be in the middle of a marine ecosystem with corals of bright red hues and also observe the remains of an ancient civilization within 80-feet depth only. The endangered species and the famous monk seals are protected here as they reside beachside on Alonissos. Diving here opens up a diverse and magical world of sea life, colorful fish, ancient artifacts and sponges nestled in between all. It is a true paradise and one of the best of Greece’s diving spots. All divers will be monitored by a real-time solar-powered underwater system. Divers also will be accompanied by a guide from an accredited dive center.
The Underwater Archeological Museum of Peristera has attracted the attention of Europe. If you can’t dive, don’t worry as you can visit the wreck virtually by looking at the exhibits in an associated museum on the island of Alonissos.