The volcanic eruption of Thira that put an end to the thriving Minoan civilization was so cataclysmic, it may have spawned the legend of Atlantis.
The explosion occurred around 3600 years ago, scooping out the once-circular island’s center and west coast, and creating the sea-filled caldera and signature sheer cliffs where Santorini’s townships teeter today. Since then, there have been perhaps a dozen major eruptions.
The volcano is quiet today, though the nearby island of Nea Kameni in the center of the caldera still emits puffs of steam. It’s thanks to the caldera that towns like Oia boast such stunning sunsets, providing a low-lying, obstruction-free observation point as the sun sinks into the sea.
The Acropolis (Akropolis) means 'city on a hill' and dates from the 5th century BC. Dominated by its main temple, the Parthenon, the Acropolis can be seen from all around the city of Athens. In 510 BC, the Delphic Oracle told Pericles that this hill should be a place to worship the gods so he set about an ambitious building project which took half a century and employed both Athenians and foreigners. It reflects the wealth and power of Greece at the height of its cultural and influence.
Even now, the Classical architecture of the temples influences the building styles of our modern cities. But the thick pollution of Athens has taken its toll on the gleaming white marble of which the temples are made, as have souvenir-hunters, including the British Government who still have the famous Elgin Marbles (a frieze from the Parthenon) in the British Museum. These days the area is heavily protected, undergoing restoration, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you came to Santorini for the sunsets, the town of Oia is where you want to be when the sun sinks towards the horizon to such glorious effect.
Perched on the steep edge of the caldera, with open views of the sea, the village is quieter than the island’s main town, Fira, at least outside sunset hours.
A string of tavernas turn their faces to the caldera for those views, and it’s fun exploring the town’s tiny backstreets and rocky cliff face, where homes have been carved from the volcanic rock.
There’s some seriously chic boutique accommodations in Oia, complete with infinity pools and spas. The lucky people staying on for the evening dine in Oia’s gourmet restaurants, perched on terraces to catch the best views. Follow the 300 steps leading from the top of the caldera and you reach the fishing port of Ammoudi. Boats sail from here to the nearby island of Thirassia.
The Parthenon (Parthenonas), one of the world's most famous buildings, represents a high point in ancient Greek architecture. Built around 440 BC, the Parthenon's classical architecture has influenced buildings ever since - and still does today.
Built for worship of the goddess Athena, it was to give thanks for the salvation of Athens and Greece in the Persian Wars. Officially it is called the Temple of Athena the Virgin; the name Parthenon comes from the Greek word for virgin.
In the 2,500 years of its existence, the building has been a temple, a treasury, a fortress, and a mosque; in the 6th century AD the Parthenon became a Christian church, with the addition of an apse at the east end. Today it is one of the world's leading tourist attractions.
Until the 17th century, the Acropolis stayed largely intact until being hit by gunpowder, a Venetian bombing and tourists. After the creation of the Greek State, it was decided that a museum was needed to protect the heritage of Ancient Greece. The first museum was built in 1865 but it was replaced in 2007 with the new 25,000 square meter (6.2 acre) museum near the base of the Acropolis.
Today the Acropolis Museum (Museo Akropoleos) houses original pieces from the temples of the Acropolis. In the Parthenon Gallery, the famous marble frieze is recreated with both original marbles and casts.
The Archaic Gallery has statues which pre-date even the Acropolis itself, and the Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis shows items used by earlier settlers.
Perched on its craggy escarpment overlooking the heart of Athens, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Acropolis (its name means ‘high city’ in ancient Greek) is the most famous classical site in the world. The colonnaded Parthenon may be first stop for most visitors, but the marble remains of the Erechtheion stood at the very soul of the Acropolis, marking the spot where the mythical ancient Greek gods Poseidon and Athena fought for ownership of the fledgling city. Named after the legendary King Erechtheus, the temple was built on the north side of the Acropolis hill between 420 and 406 BC, to a design by Athens’ great statesman, Pericles. It was a relatively late addition to the complex of temples and theaters, replacing an older temple as the center of religious ritual at the Acropolis.Built on a slope and fronted by six Ionic columns – still almost complete after 2,500 years – the Erechtheion is best known for its ornate Porch of the Caryatids.
De Propylaea is een oude entree in Athene, Griekenland, die leidt naar de bekende Akropolis. Het omvat de natuurlijke ingang naar het plateau waarop de Akropolis staat. De entree is eigenlijk een verzameling van indrukwekkende gebouwen uit de periode 438 tot 432 voor Christus. Tegenwoordig ziet u twee grote gebouwen met een kleinere ertussen, maar dat komt omdat een deel van het middelste gebouw ontbreekt. Toen dit nog compleet was, zag het eruit als de voorzijde van een tempel met Dorische zuilen. Binnen in het gebouw zijn diverse Ionische zuilen te vinden.
De trap waar bezoekers oplopen als ze de Propylaea benaderen is gebouwd in een natuurlijke rots van het plateau. De Propylaea zelf is gemaakt van dezelfde marmer als gebruikt is voor de bouw van het Parthenon. Hoewel het er nu als een ruïne uitziet, is het nog steeds een indrukwekkend gebouw, en bezoekers kunnen zich nog prima een voorstelling maken van hoe het gebouw er in vervlogen tijden uitzag.
Plaka is the oldest residential district of Athens. Its historic narrow lanes and stepped alleys wind up the lower slope of the Acropolis. Once the heart of working class Athens, then the centre of music and nightclubbing, nowadays it's full of cafes and restaurants, also shops which tend to be aimed at tourists with prices to match. But it's definitely the nicest part of Athens to wander around between visits to the nearby archaeological sites and museums.
Head up the steps to the small area of Anafiotica. This is like a little Greek island village transplanted to Athens. It was built by the migrant workers who came to build the Presidential Palace in the 19th century when it was King Otto's palace.
De beroemde Agora van Athene is het politieke en sociale hart van de oude stad Athene. De Agora, of Forum van Athene, is de belangrijkste archeologische plek van de stad. Daarnaast is het een restant van het stadscentrum en de markt waar de Griekse democratie tot leven kwam. Tegenwoordig worden de ruïnes gezien als het best bewaarde voorbeeld van een oude Griekse Agora. Deze staat op de noordwestpunt van de Acropolis tussen de heuvels van Areopagus en Kolonus Agoraios. Het stamt uit de 6de eeuw voor Christus (daarvoor was het een woongebied) en de enorme ruimte werd oorspronkelijk ontworpen door Peisistratus en had een uitgebreid drainagesysteem, een serie fonteinen en een tempel gewijd aan Olympische goden. Later kwamen daar de tempels van Hephaistos, Zeus en Apollo bij met een serie altaren en een concertzaal. De Agora werd tenslotte verlaten na een Slavische invasie in de 6de eeuw.
Het Kotzia-plein ligt midden in Athene, Griekenland. Er staan neoklassieke gebouwen uit de 19de eeuw aan het plein, waaronder het stadhuis van Athene, dat versierd is met borstbeelden van bekende inwoners van Athene, zoals Perikles en Solon. Een ander indrukwekkend gebouw aan het plein is de Nationale Bank van Griekenland. Het plein werd in 1874 aangelegd en heette in eerste instantie het Loudovikou-plein. De huidige naam is afkomstig van een voormalige burgemeester van Athene, Konstantinos Kotzias. Dit plein werd als start en finish gebruikt voor de straatwedstrijden tijdens de Olympische Spelen in 2004.
The best place to capture the mystery and magic of Crete’s ancient Minoan civilization is the ruins of Knossos, just outside Heraklion. The secrets of this enigmatic civilization were only unraveled in the 20th century, by the man who would go on to restore the palace ruins, Sir Arthur Evans.
The Palace of Knossos was built at the height of the Minoans’ glory, in around 3400 to 2100 BC, reflecting their wealth and sophistication. Best known for their incredibly naturalistic frescos and exquisite ceramics, the Minoans traded with other contemporary great powers in Egypt and Asia Minor.
The original palace was destroyed by an earthquake in around 1700 BC, and a more sophisticated complex was built over the ruins. Knossos was eventually destroyed by fire in 1400 BC.
Minoan pottery, jewelry, frescos and sarcophagi from Knossos are displayed in Heraklion at its fabulous archaeological museum.
With nearly 40 acres of well-kept gardens, sky-high forests and ancient ruins the National Gardens of Athens offers travelers a natural escape unlike any other. Commissioned by Queen Amalia in 1838, this unique destination is home to more than 500 species of plants and animals and a vast landscape dotted with the busts of Greek poets, gods and political figures.
Travelers can wander the grounds, which offer a scenic escape from the chaos of Athens, and sip hot coffees at the small outdoor café after combing through the Botanical Museum or the garden’s small zoo. Close proximity to the Olympic stadium makes it a perfect stop for those on a tour of Athen’s most famous historical sites.
The Benaki Museum competes with the Acropolis Museum and National Museum of Archaeology as one of the top three museums in Athens. It was established in 1930 by wealthy philanthropist Antonis Benakis in his neo-classical family mansion opposite the National Gardens, and he kick-started the collection by donating nearly 40,000 pieces of Byzantine and Islamic art to the museum. Further donations from private collectors over the decades swelled the exhibitions and resulted in the museum being extended several times.
Following a revamp in the early 21st century, the oriental and Islamic art was moved to thesatellite Museum of Islamic Art in Kerameikos and there is also an annexe on Pireos Street in the newly trendy district of Rouf, showcasing all that’s best on the Athens contemporary art scene. The Benaki Museum itself now concentrates solely on Greek history from the fall of Constantinople in 1453 through the formation of the Greek state in 1821 and on to the 1922.
Delphi is de op een na belangrijkste archeologische plek in Griekenland (na het Acropolis in Athene). In de oudheid werd Delphi beschouwd als de plek waar hemel en aarde samenkwamen. De goden waren altijd dichtbij. Delphi is gesticht in de 7de eeuw voor Christus en was een heiligdom voor de god Apollo. Hier was het Orakel van Delphi te vinden, dat gezien wordt als het meest betrouwbare orakel in de oudheid, waar de geest van Apollo advies gaf over allerhande zaken, van familiezaken tot oorlogen.
Delphi had daarnaast ook theaters en tempels. En er is een goed bewaard gebleven stadion, waar ooit wedstrijden met paard en wagen werden gehouden. Dit werd halverwege de 18de eeuw opgegraven en de ruïnes steken nu indrukwekkend af tegen het berglandschap. Velen geloven dat deze plek speciale magie heeft en dat ze spiritualiteit voelen in Delphi. Oude inscripties in stenen zoals “Know Thyself” en “Nothing in Excess” zijn waarschijnlijk van huidige persoonlijke “therapieën”.
Meteora, in central Greece, is a place of natural beauty and man-made wonder. The huge natural rock towers are home to cliff-top monasteries built by Eastern Orthodox hermit monks in the 14th century. The monks settled in the area from the 9th century and began by living in the caves and fissures of the rocks. They built the inaccessible monasteries - 6 of 20 survive - to fend off Turkish invaders. UNESCO has identified the area as of world significance.
You'll need a bit of time to explore Meteora and you can stay overnight at Kalambaka, a modern town since the old one was burned in World War II, or smaller Kastraki closer to the rock. There are guided tours from Athens or buses and trains run to Kalambaka. From Kalambaka there are buses to Meteora.
Be warned, there can be many steps to climb and there is a dress code appropriate to religious buildings.
Athens was the site of the first modern Olympic games in 1896, but the stadium where the events took place - the Panathenaic Stadium - predated those games by many hundreds of years.
The Panathenaic Stadium (also called Panathinaiko Stadio) we see today was built on the remains of a 4th century B.C.E. stadium, which was a refurbished version of a 6th century B.C.E. stadium. It retains its original name, built for the Panathenaic Games in about 566 B.C.E., although the original seating was wooden. In 329 B.C.E. it was redone in marble. In 1869, the entire site was excavated and renovated, and in 1896 it was the setting for the first modern Olympic Games, when roughly 80,000 people packed into the white marble stands. Today, the stadium holds about 45,000. When Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics, the Panathenaic Stadium was the location for the marathon finish line.
One of Rhodes’ three most prominent ancient cities, the site of Ancient Lindos lies 45km south of modern day Rhodes city, making a popular attraction for those intrigued by the history of ancient Greece. Founded by the Dorians in 10th century BC, Lindos was once a major trading center connecting Greece to the Middle East, before falling into decline after the city of Rhodes was established in the fifth century.
Today, the modern town of Lindos has grown up in the shadow of the acropolis and a 14th century medieval castle surrounds the ruins of the ancient citadel, keeping watch over the town from its dramatic clifftop perch. Standing proud atop the 116-meter tall rock, the remains of the acropolis include the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia, dating back to around 300BC; parts of the 20-columned Hellenistic stoa; and a 5th-century BC propylaeum (temple entrance).
Keeping watch over the northeastern tip of the island, the remains of the ancient Acropolis of Rhodes dominate the skyline of Rhodes city from atop the hill of Ayios Stefanos. Although lacking the typical fortification walls of other ancient acropolis, the Hellenic city of Rhodes is notable for its architectural flair, seamlessly blending the buildings and sanctuaries into the natural landscape. As one of the most accessible and evocative of all Rhodes’ ancient sites, touring the acropolis makes a popular excursion for those staying in the modern city.
Today, parts of the site are still being excavated, but the viewable ruins paint a striking portrait of the former city. The undisputed star of the acropolis is the grand Temple of Apollo, exquisitely restored and partially reconstructed as part of the Monte Smith Park, which crowns the hill. Other notable ruins include the remnants of an 800-capacity Roman Odeion theater; the Temple of Athena Polias and Zeus Polieus.
Archaeological buffs and lovers of legends mustn’t miss the trip to the sacred island of Delos. On Delos, the archaeological jewel of the Cyclades, you can see firsthand where the ancients lived and clamber over the ruins they left behind. Held sacred as the mythological birthplace of Apollo, Delos was at the heart of the ancient world as an important religious and commercial center, reaching its zenith in the Hellenic period around the 5th century BC.
The huge site sprawls along the island’s west coast, from the stadium in the north to the old trading warehouses to the south. Standouts include the Sanctuary of Apollo temples and the Terrace of the Lions. The remains of private houses surround the semicircular Theatre, and the site includes several agoras, monuments, sanctuaries and temples. You can see finds from the excavations at the site museum, including the original lions from the much-photographed Terrace of the Lions.
Samaria Gorge is legendary amongst hikers, with more than 1,000 walkers hitting the rugged river valley trail daily in summer. Europe’s longest gorge offers a wildflower-bedecked river trail with cliff-top views of Crete’s endangered wild goat, the kri-kri. The walk begins at Xyloskalo, where a steep stone pathway with wooden rails enters the gorge. It finishes 16km (10 miles) later on the coast at Agia Roumeli. Along the way, the stone walls of the gorge close over the trail, at some points reduced to only a couple of feet wide. At their most impressively narrow, the craggy canyon walls are known as the Iron Gates. Water fills the stream in spring, while in summer the riverbed rocks become stepping stones. And at the end of the trail, in Agia Roumeli, the beach offers hikers a chance to revive with a refreshing dip in the sea. Samaria Gorge and its rare wild kri-kri goats are protected by national park on Crete’s southwest coast, between the towns of Agia Roumeli and Sougia.
For centuries the island of Spinalonga has been known for its Venetian fortress, and more recently it was the setting for the 2005 novel 'The Island' by Victoria Hislop.
The now-abandoned island is the perfect place to lose yourself for half a day. You’ll discover how the island was once part of the mainland, and was created by the Venetians to protect the Gulf of Mirabella. You’ll also see where salt was harvested by the Venetians, but the main attraction and dominating landmark is the fort.
The Venetian fortress was built in 1579, and over the years it’s been used as a Turkish bastion and leper colony. Built to watch over the neighboring mainland port of Elounda, the massive fort is surrounded by a circular walk passing ruined churches, homes, fortified structures and turreted walls.
Along the shore there are sheltered pebbled beaches for paddling, but that’s about it when it comes to facilities.
A hugely important historical port in Greece, Piraeus is also one of the largest in the Mediterranean. A full-on city, Piraeus is a great place to go exploring, with traditional European town centers, parks, lovely churches and houses. The tree-lined streets and gorgeous harbor alone warrant strolling rights. The port is one of the chief ways to get to destinations in the Aegean Islands and earshot locations in the Mediterranean.
As a modern city, Athens has modern accommodations. To get to Piraeus, quite simply hope on the metro, which by line one gets you to pretty much right to the Saronic Gulf Ferries. One in, a number of buses will escort you around the perimeters of the harder to reach locations in the spanning area, in fact, it is recommended that you plan your trip around the area with plenty of spare time, as it can take the better part of an hour to go from one location to another. Private transfers can also be arranged for more flexibility.
Known world-over for its cosmopolitan lifestyle and booming nightlife, Mykonos is a favorite amongst visitors on the Greece leg of their Mediterranean tour. With a load of wonderful beaches to park at, Mykonos is also filled with museums and other tokens of cultural life. The town itself is a wonderful maze of charming little streets and traditional buildings full of shops, cafes and restaurants. Feel free to get lost when exploring Mykonos.
Now with two ports, one of which is the relatively new, but smaller marina, all sorts of cruise liners, yachts and other boats swarm the island of Mykonos - making it a common ferry destination from places like Rafina or Piraeua, where you can catch a ride daily. Mykonos also has an international airport only a few miles away from the town itself, offering flights from a number of major European destinations.
Volgens de Griekse legende zou de koning van Athene vanaf een rots in het water gesprongen zijn en daarmee verbond hij zijn naam, Aegeus, voor altijd aan de Egeïsche Zee waar hij in viel. Kaap Soenion zou de plek zijn waar hij sprong.
Kaap Soenion ligt op het zuidelijkste puntje van het Griekse vasteland buiten Athene. Naast de legendarische betekenis van de kaap zijn er in de buurt ook oude ruïnes te bezoeken. Er is een Poseidontempel uit de 5e eeuw voor Christus, waarin de dichter Lord Byron in 1810 zijn naam zou hebben gekerfd. Vanwege de ligging is Kaap Soenion ook een populaire plek om de zonsondergang te bekijken. Archeologen werken nog steeds aan projecten op Kaap Soenion, maar het gebied is meer bekend als dagbestemming vanuit Athene. Veel rijke inwoners van Athene hebben hier een tweede huis en veel dagjesmensen komen dan ook uit Athene en zijn geen buitenlandse toeristen.