The birthplace of democracy and since then under the yoke of many undemocratic empires such as the Roman and Ottomans: Greece has been constantly topped up with a history for many thousands of years meaning wherever you go it is now brimming with it.
The Ancient Greek sites are of course the most famous but later sites are just as well worth visiting including many fine Ottoman Mosques and Greek Orthodox Churches and Cathedrals.
Heading to the Greek islands don’t assume you’ve seen one and seen them all, some are centers for watersports, some clubbing and partying, some are strewn with ancient sites and some are just fantastic for relaxing on the beaches.
Olympia and the Site of the statue of Zeus
Site of the Ancient Olympics, Greeks would come from across the Greek states, under a truce if needed, to compete in the games.
There is a lot to see at this ancient site including the site of the original Olympic stadium and Gymnasium. The temple of Hera is one of many Temples and close to where the Olympic flame is lit using a Parabolic mirror every 4 years for the Olympics, it is then taken to wherever the modern Olympics are being held.
Olympia is also famous of course as the site of the Statue of Zeus, one of the wonders of the ancient world, destroyed in around 425 it is believed, or possibly removed and taken to Constantinople, the temple still remains as ruins. For more information on all the sites here, which include several more temples, you can also visit the Olympia Archaeological Museum.
2. The Parthenon at the Acropolis
The Acropolis has been a key site since the 5th century BC originally as a defensive position and with temples added over the centuries. The Temple of Athena Nike was built right back between 421 and 415 BC and Erchtheion is a temple dedicated to Athena, Poseidon, and Erechtheus, both can be viewed from the top. The Parthenon of course can be seen from across Athens but is most awe-inspiring up close, itself a temple to Athena as well the columns mainly still stand despite damage during a 17th-century siege.
3. The Greek Parliament House and Syntagma Sq
An area where many of Greece’s biggest companies are based Syntagma is a modern square with the Greek Parliament House on one side, in what was originally a Royal Palace completed in 1843. Outside the parliament, you can watch the changing of the Presidential guard every hour and though you can’t visit the parliament you can walk the Syntagma Place gardens that surround it.
4. Knossos, Crete
No one is quite sure how ancient Knossos is but estimates suggest a Neolithic settlement was here 8500 years ago and as early as 8000 BC.
The height of the Civilisation here though was between around 2000BC and 1300BC, when the Royal Palace was abandoned. The Palace is though still the main attraction today, King Minos if he existed, may have lived here and his Labyrinth may have been nearby. What is here is in remarkable condition and even parts of the city around it remain; you can see the restored entrance to the place, columns, water systems, and the throne room, complete with frescoes.
Founded in 408 BC the city of Rhodes is situated on the northeastern tip of the island, itself located closer to mainland Turkey than Greece.
The citadel of Rhodes, apart from the beaches, is the main attraction on the island built by the Knights Hospitalier it dates from the Middle Ages and remains wonderfully well preserved containing the medieval city within its walls that itself is well preserved too. Sitting at the harbour you can only imagine how it would have looked in ancient times with the Bronze Colossus of Rhodes, one of the wonders of the world, watching over the harbor entrance.
6. National Archaeology Museum, Athens
Though some of ancient Greece’s most famous artifacts are in international museums outside the country, which the Greeks feel should be given back, there are still a huge variety of exhibits at the recently refurbished National Archaeology museum making it one of the world’s best.
Among the most famous exhibits is the massive bronze Statue of Poseidon, god of the sea, and the death mask of Agamemnon, now proven not to be that of Agamemnon but still impressive covered as it is in gold.
Site of the Oracle of Apollo ancient Greeks would come here for guidance and often receive only cryptic answers. Today you can visit the ancient ruins and the trip is easy as a day trip from Athens by bus.
8. Mount Olympus
Home to the 12 gods Greece’s highest mountain is popular with those with an interest in Greek Mythology, as well as those that enjoy walking or climbing in beautiful settings.
The Mountain is within an Ancient Park, easy to reach from Salonika, most people start a climb from the town of Litochoro and hike as far as they can: to the Skala summit with a climb required to reach the highest peak known as Mytikas.
A charming little island with great beaches and a good nightlife and probably the best gay scene or any destination in Greece.
The houses across Mykonos are famous for their traditional whitewashed look dazzling in the sun as you approach by ferry. The main town of Chora has a maze of small streets the slightly larger ones eventually leading to the waterfront where the best cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs can be found.
10. Corinth Canal
The Corinth Canal can be enjoyed from the water itself or by walking along close to it; it is an impressive feat cut deep down into the rock. Bridges crossing at the tops of the man-made cliffs offer a view along the perfectly straight channel.
Begun in 1881 the canal had been first attempted in the 7th century BC and abandoned, the canal was finished in 1893 but is now mainly used for tourist boats and few cargo ships make use of the shortcut.
With Knossos close by this was actually originally the port of the ancient city but is now a large modern city, Greece’s fourth-biggest. As well as everything you would expect from a city of 138,000 residents and many more tourists you can enjoy the historic old town and Korai with its narrow streets and many Tavernas. The old Venetian era castle sits atop the harbor wall in counterpoint to the modern yachts, ferries, and cargo ships, which remind you this is still an important port today.
12. Thessaloniki (Salonika)
A city of many parts it was not a major Ancient Greek city, though founded by the King of Macedon in 315BC, it became a busy and vibrant port under the Romans though and is today Greece’s second city and a center for culture.
There are Greek Orthodox, Jewish, and Ottoman descended Muslims with large communities in the city. Everywhere you will find small churches, Synagogues, and Mosques with few larger establishments for any of the resident religious groups. Amongst these you will also find a large number of Tavernas, themselves all small but each worth exploring.
A sleepy island where tourism doesn’t seem to have too much effect on the way of life. The small town of Naxos has its waterfront shops and restaurants but always comes across as quiet, relaxed, and unspoiled, this is as lively as the island gets as well. As you go round the coast you will find endless secluded sandy beaches and the island’s interior is filled with Olive Groves and smallholdings; all in all a fantastic place to really get away from it all.
Kos is a great island for those looking for activity, there’s always something happening and many take part in watersports during the day, Kos is famous as a windsurfing destination and waterskiing, banana boating and jet skiing are all possible too plus some of the more secluded beaches are great diving and snorkeling spots.
At night things get even more active with bars and clubs open all night long and the main town of Kos and other resorts turning into giant parties spilling out onto the streets and beaches.
Wherever you go in Greece you’ll find it a laid back country with friendly people, you’ll also find that Greek cuisine is among the best in the world and goes a lot further than Moussaka and Vine Leaves.