Squeezed between two hills on the arid plains of the northeastern Peloponnese, fortified Mycenae was the major settlement in the powerful Mycenaean civilization that held political and cultural sway over the Eastern Mediterranean from the 15th to the 12th century BC. The Bronze Age city is regarded as the home of the legendary Agamemnon and is UNESCO World Heritage-listed for its profound cultural influence upon later Greek civilizations.
Covering around 32 hectares and at its peak with a population of around 30,000, the ruins at Mycenae were excavated in 1874 by Heinrich Schliemann, who also worked at Troy. Highlights include the Lion Gate, the main entrance into the citadel carved with figures of mythical lions; the Treasury of Atreus – also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon; the scant remains of the Royal Palace; and the Cyclopean Walls, whose massive stone blocks are all that remain of the original fortifications. The true showstoppers, however, are the grave circles, believed to be the burial sites of Mycenaean royalty thanks to the numerous precious gold, silver, bronze and ivory artifacts excavated around the tombs, including a gold funerary mask Schliemann believed to be the mask of Agamemnon. Many antiquities discovered at Mycenae are now on show at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens but the smart, white museum next to the citadel still has three halls stuffed with pottery, burial urns, clay figurines, fragments of fresco and a replica of the death mask of Agamemnon. A model of the ancient site can be found just outside the museum.
Mykines. Open daily 8am–7.30pm. Admission adults €3, seniors, students and under 18 €1.50. At 90 km (56.25 miles) south of Athens, it is best accessed by car or bus from Athens in around 90 minutes.