If you are spending any time in Athens during your trip it is impossible to avoid the Acropolis and the historical buildings which are built on the hill which overlooks the city. Known as the ‘Sacred Rock’ of the city, evidence of its first habitation dates back to the Neolithic period. Since then the rocky hill has been used as a place of worship or simply a place to live or as a combination of both. Remains of the three most important of these buildings – the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Nike - can still be seen today and so too can the Propylaea, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis. All of these ruins date from between 450 and 330BC.
The Parthenon is the most important monument of the ancient Greek civilization and has remained its international symbol since its completion in 432BC. It is built in the Doric style which was popular at the time and is made almost entirely of marble. Dedicated to the patron goddess of Athens, it has retained its religious character throughout the centuries and has served as both a Byzantine and a Latin church as well as a Muslim mosque. Despite some damage when it was bombed in the late sixteen hundreds and the fact that its main decoration was stolen and sold to the British museum (it can still be seen there) it is a magnificent building which is guaranteed to amaze you.
Palace of Knossos, Crete
Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, is home to the most luxurious palace built by the Minoan civilization. One of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, this palace had to be rebuilt about 1700BC but the result was an even more impressive construction than its three hundred year old predecessor. Unfortunately about 1500BC the second palace was destroyed, probably by a volcano, and it lay buried until 1900 when the English archaeologist, Arthur Evans, carried out his excavations and proceeded to reconstruct certain parts of the ruins. If you’re looking for history, you won’t get much more impressive than this.
With the Olympic games returning to its birth place in 2004, a trip to ancient Olympia on the Peloponnese peninsula where the very first games took place is a topical excursion at the moment. As well as being topical, however, it is also a trip that you will thoroughly enjoy. Excavations which have been taking place since the beginning of the last century have uncovered some remarkable artefacts including several temples and the stadium as well as the hippodrome, the crypt, the baths and twelve statues of Zeus.
Also situated on the Peloponnese, Mycenae was the most powerful influence in Greece for over three hundred years. With evidence suggesting that it was settled as early as 6000BC, there is still a great deal which lies in wait for the archaeologists who have already discovered the Lion Gate, Europe’s oldest monumental sculpture, as well as the royal tombs. It was in these burial places that the Mask of Agamemnon was found as well as several gold objects – these artefacts are now ranked among the world’s greatest archaeological finds and can be seen in the National Museum in Athens. But, you really should visit the site where they were found too. You could also combine your trip with a visit to the nearby Epidaurus or Corinth, two more of Greece’s myriad of historical areas, each housing their own particular archaeological treasures.
Delphi, Central Greece
In ancient times Delphi was the political and religious centre of classical Greece. This was the case mainly because it was home to the god Apollo and the world famous Delphic oracle. Today the ruins of the Temple of Apollo are among the best preserved in the country allowing the visitor to get a clear insight into how amazing the ancient Greece actually was.
The island of Rhodes offers a unique mix of medieval and modern attractions which never fail to fascinate its visitors. In a country with such a wealth of ancient monuments, and Rhodes too has its fair share, the medieval aspect is unusual and surprising. Walking through the town you will encounter the trademark buildings, arches, vaults and rows of little shops which have become synonymous with medieval towns throughout Europe. And, in the middle of all of this you come across traces of the Temple of Venus which dates from the third century BC and the kneeling Venus of Rhodes from the first century BC. Add to this the multitude of unspoilt beaches for which the island is famous and you have the perfect destination for any type of holiday.
Thirty nine islands, twenty four of which are inhabited, form the Cyclades and if you came to Greece for the wealth of beaches, this is where you will find some of the best in the world. Once such island, Mykonos, offers swimming locations which look like something taken straight from a travel brochure. With its emerald green water and white sandy beaches, it is said to have been a gift from Apollo. As soon as you get there, you will understand why. Of course, there are numerous others which compare quite strongly to those on Mykonos – one thing you will not be short of when you’re in Greece is places to swim.
Monastiriki Flea Market, Athens
If you feel like a change from trekking to monument after temple after museum, then check out Greece’s biggest flea market. Taking place every Sunday, there really is not much in the line of junk that you won’t find. The people selling their wares are from all over the world, many are refugees from the former Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria and Eastern Europe, others are local gypsies. Be prepared to haggle and don’t expect to find any treasures because there aren’t any but one thing you are guaranteed is an eventful afternoon.