Many civilizations have left their mark on Greece over the years and it’s this legacy that continues to spark the imagination and bring in travelers from across the globe to its sun-blessed shores. It’s only right that this land of crumbling temples and mountain-side cities, island sanctuaries and ready-made museums should be awarded a total of 17 World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Here are just a few of the fascinating places which await the history-hungry traveler in Greece.
The Acropolis, Athens
The rocky hilltop of the Acropolis in Athens was not the first UNESCO-listed site but it remains the most iconic symbol of Ancient Greece for many visitors. The Parthenon temple was constructed in honour of the goddess Athena but is by no means the only sight worth seeing here; there’s the millennia-old theatre, which is still used for concerts today, the majestic gateway leading the way in, not forgetting the city-wide views once you’ve reached the summit.
World Heritage status is not reserved for temple ruins and city streets: Delos is an entire island that, despite its modest size, has been a bustling trade centre, a sacred site and now an open-air museum. Located in the Cyclades group off southern Greece, neighbouring Mykonos gets all the attention from the party crowds but with no modern-day residents, Delos makes a serene break and fascinating trip as part of your Greek Islands holidays.
The Peloponnese peninsula hosts five of the 17 UNESCO landmarks in Greece but it’s the ancient site at the base of Kronion Hill which has become famous around the world, lending its name to one of the biggest – and certainly the oldest – sporting competitions still running. The archaeological finds at Olympia date back to prehistory, while the first ever Olympic stadium was erected here in the 8th century BC and can still be viewed today.
An unusual entry into the Greek catalogues of history, the old town on the island of Rhodes is the result of changing occupation and numerous cultural influences. The majority dates from the Medieval period, when the Knights of the Order of St John turned Rhodes into a military base, with surprisingly beautiful consequences. Later Ottoman and Italian styles can also be seen in the palaces, religious buildings and fountains here, but the true pleasure of Rhodes is simply losing yourself in the nameless cobbled alleys.
Worth a mention for its stunning setting alone, Delphi was known as the ‘navel of the world’ and, situated dramatically on the side of Mount Parnassus, it’s not hard to believe. A religious site of particular significance in the 6th century BC, the ancient town is a testament to the cult of Apollo and Hellenistic ideals of beauty and nature, but it’s the vision of the Doric pillars and stadium seats overlooking the forested valley below which will linger in the mind long after a visit here.
Acropolis by danoots used under creative commons licence
Theatre at Delphi by Morda used under creative commons licence