For more than two millennia, the so-called ‘Peristera shipwreck’ lay undiscovered at the bottom of the Aegean Sea. Then, in 1985, a lone fisherman discovered hundreds of amphorae – huge wine jars – off the coast of the island of Alonissos.
Stretching out across 25 metres at the bottom of the sea, divers found a wreck of epic proportions: the cargo of a large merchant ship, likely from Athens, transporting fine wine from one part of the ancient Greek empire to another.
The site has been off-limits to the public ever since. But from today, recreational divers will be able to visit the shipwreck for the first time as it opens as Greece’s first underwater museum.
Licensed guides will be taking divers from Alonissos to the site near the uninhabited islet of Peristera in the north-west Aegean Sea. There, they will be able to swim to a depth of 28 metres to survey the remains of the ship, which is thought to have sunk around 500 BC. The wooden shell has rotted away, but much of its cargo remains.
And blimey, what a setting to go diving in. Located within the protected area of the National Maritime Park of Alonissos and the Northern Sporades, the shipwreck is now home to plentiful marine life including colourful fish and sea sponges. The sea is beautifully clear, and water temperatures can reach a balmy 25C (77F).
The trips will be available until October 2, and will reopen next summer. For autumn and winter visitors (or anyone not quite up to the plunge), an information centre in the main town of Alonissos will also offer a virtual reality tour of the site – so even non-swimmers can take a deep dive into ancient Greek culture.
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