Temple of Athena Nike at the Acropolis of Athens. Photo by Tamal Mukhopadhyay via Unsplash
Greek culture has inspired mankind with its ancient philosophy, open heart to patriotism, pure morality, and noble heroism. When you visit Greece, its long history is mirrored through enduring monuments scattered in between modern cities and the countryside. A memorable experience awaits whilst you explore where the heart of Western Civilisation was initiated.
Known as the most important site on the island of Crete, Knossos was discovered in the early 20th century by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. The site was found covered by ashes, guiding scientists to believe that a tsunami caused by a volcanic eruption back in 1,500 BC in Santorini led to the palaces’ destruction. Named as Europe’s oldest city, according to Greek mythology, Knossos was the ancient home to King Minos and his minotaur. Even centuries later, the monumental Palace of Knossos has kept its colors and noteworthy wall paintings. If you’re seeking to discover other treasures of Knossos, be sure to visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, including the Bull’s Head found at the temple repository.
Sanctuary of Apollo
One of the most sacred sites in mainland Greece was Delphi, the ancient home of the sanctuary of Apollo and his famous oracle. Considered to be the center – the navel – of the world, pilgrims from many parts of the Mediterranean world made the long trip to seek Apollo’s knowledge and guidance. A visitor today may take the Sacred Way and discover the remains of treasure houses and ancient Greek temples spotted along the path. The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia, the Temple of Apollo, and Delphi’s stadium are must sees of the location. To live the full experience, visit Delphi’s Archaeological Museum to see the Charioteer of Delphi and the frieze of the Siphnian Treasury.
Parthenon and the Acropolis
Characterized as the most famous historical monument of Greece, the Acropolis of Athens dominates the capital city’s skyline. Constructed in the mid 5th century BC, known as the Golden Age of Athens, the Acropolis is recognizable around the world, as its white marble columns are incomparable. A fun fact of the Parthenon is that it cost the equivalent of 469 war ships to build it! Constructed by the best craftsmen of the era, the Acropolis was largely destroyed by wars throughout the centuries. The greatest acts of destruction include attacks by early Christian fanatics, the explosion caused by Venetian guns in 1687, and the great theft in 1816 when Lord Elgin removed many parts of the Parthenon frieze.
Before leaving the site, be sure to stop by the nearby Acropolis Museum which offers a broad and deep collection of statues and monuments.
Archaeological Site of Olympia
Olympia is the place where the first Olympic Games took place in 776 BC. Every four years, these games were organized to honor Zeus, and according to Greek myths, it was the renowned hero Hercules who initiated them. Even though the games were practiced for many years, with all Greek city-states sending representatives to compete, they were outlawed in 373 AD by the Christian emperor in Constantinople. Highlights of the site include the ancient stadium, the remains of the temples of Zeus and Hera, the palaestra, and the workshop of Phidias.
Medieval Fortress of Nafplion
Constructed on top of an enormous rock over the town, the Fortress of Nafplio is known as Palamidi. Similar to many Medieval Castles in Greece, it is well-maintained and has protected the town from multiple invasions and wars taking place throughout the centuries. Built in the 17th century by the Venetians, the Fortress of Palamidi was later reinforced by the Ottomans in the early 19th century. Due to its breathtaking location, the castle gives an amazing view of the valley below and the sea.
Temple Sanctuary of Asclepius in Epidaurus
Asclepius, the god of medicine, was the patron god of Epidaurus and its shrine. It is built in a valley with many temples devoted to the healing gods. The most famous attraction at the sanctuary is the Theatre of Epidaurus. Considered one of the masterpieces of Greek architecture, it is well-preserved, with impressive acoustics. The Sanctuary of Asclepius represents is a medical facility and marks the transition from belief in heavenly healing to the science of medicine. The sanctuary includes the hospital, healing cults and rituals, a library, baths, sports, accommodations, and the theatre.
Archaeological site of Mycenae
The ancient town of Mycenae gave its name to a whole civilization, Mycenaean Civilization. Located on the northeastern side of Peloponnese, Mycenae’s huge city walls are said to have been built by Cyclops, the Lion Gate, and the Treasury of Atreus are some of the most significant monuments of Mycenae.
Archaeological site of Delos
The sanctuary at Delos, Apollo’s and Athena’s birthplace, is an ancient site on an island located in Cyclades. Since the 6th century BC, no one was allowed to give birth or die on the island of Delos, and all bodies were uncovered and moved so that the island remained purified as a sanctuary. Must do’s in Delos include seeing the sacred lake which is now empty, the Temple of Isis, and the residential precinct. If you’re up for a little activity, climbing to the top of Mt Kynthos will offer you exceptional, panoramic views which lead to an ancient path and steps.
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