Greece is one of the few countries in the world where are located centres of ancient civilizations. And not just one - but several. Archaeological and culture monuments here are older than in the remaining part of Europe and, in many cases - in the whole world. Wealth of important, unusual and even mysterious landmarks in Greece is overwhelming. Most interesting landmarks here are:
- Temples and other structures built in the times of Ancient Greece. These structures to a large extent have inspired the architecture for many centuries to come, in many cultures and countries around the world. Best known example is Parthenon - a temple in the Acropolis in Athens. This civilization created a huge diversity of landmarks - mysterious shrines, railway-like heavy transport tracks, tunnels.
- Byzantine churches and monasteries. Byzantine culture in many ways is Greek culture, and at the same time it is a culture which formed the identity of Christian Europe. In Greece are many great examples of this architecture, such as Daphni Monastery, Hagios Demetrios (church) but the most impressive are later structures, where the tradition of Byzantine shrines continues up to this dday - the amazing monasteries of Mount Athos and Meteora monasteries.
- Bronze age landmarks. Two great civilizations existed during the Bronze age in Greece: Minoan civilization - the first one in Europe and then Mycenaean civilization. Both have left great and very interesting landmarks such as Knossos Palace and Citadel of Mycenae.
- Gious Kambos - Crete. Rock plateau with very rich plant life. In spring the plateau is covered with flowers, many are rare or even endemic. Very impressive are the fields of the endemic Tulipa doerfleri.
- Ha Gorge – Crete. Impressive, narrow gorge which is approximately 1 km deep, 1.5 km long. At some places vertical walls are up to 300 m high. It is 1.5 – 10 m wide. Here live numerous rare plants and animals.
- Kastellorizo Blue Cave - South Aegean. Enormous, very impressive blue cave - cave where the light enters through sea water. As only the blue rays can pass the water, the cave is lighted in eerie deep blue light.
- Krassi plane tree - Crete. Giant plane tree in the centre of village. Tree has a circumference of some 24 m, it is considered to be some 2,400 years old.
- Olive tree of Vouves - Crete. Giant olive tree, one of the oldest in existence. The age of the tree can not be determined but it almost certainly exceeds 2,000 years. Circumference of the trunk is 12.5 m.
- Samaria Gorge - Crete. Some 16 km long and up to 300 m deep gorge which at some places is just 4 m wide. Here are found some endemic species of plants.
Man made landmarks
Prehistoric cave settlements and shrines
- Daveli's Cave - Attica, Athens. Since ancient times this cave is used by the followers of Pan and nymphs as a worship site. Nowadays popular due to reported paranormal phenomena.
- Franchthi Cave - Peloponnese. Cave which has been occupied by humans for very long time, from 38,000 to 3,000 BC. At the end of this period people rather lived outside, near the entrance in the cave.
- Petralona Cave - Central Macedonia. Some 2 km long cave with important finds of ancient hominins. Especially interesting is a skull of hominin, most likely Homo erectus or Archanthropus europaeus which is crystalized and perched on a stalagmite. This hominin lived here some 300,000 - 600,000 years ago. This find has caused much scientific discussion and controversies with the basic theories of early human history and distribution. Here have been found also numerous fossils of existing and extinct animals.
- Psychro Cave - Crete. Sacred Minoan cave with beautiful cave formations. Numerous artefacts found, including huge amount of semi-precious stones.
Other prehistoric landmarks
- Dragonhouses of Evia (Euboea) - Central Grece, Euboea. Group of some 25 megalithic structures - houses made from enormous stones. Their construction took place in the late Neolithic and Bronze Age. The most impressive is Dracospito of Mount Ochi - amazing house built with well fitting stone blocks without any mortar.
- Sesklo - Thessaly. Remnants of Neolithic urban centre, one of the oldest in the world. Development of this prehistoric town started around 6850 BC and by 5000 BC there were some 500 - 800 houses, some with two floors.
Landmarks of Minoan civilization
- Knossos and Knossos Palace - Crete. Ruins of Europe’s oldest city, developed since the 7000 BC (Neolithic) and abandoned around 1380 – 1100 BC. The ancient palace was the administrative center of Minoan Civilization. Area of palace is 14,000 m². Construction of palace started around 1900 BC. In a way the palace and the settlement of Knossos are one and the same as in the palace lived numerous people besides the rulers and it had some 1,300 rooms, including a theater and numerous storerooms. Some parts of palace were up to 5 floors high.
- Phaistos palace and city – Crete. Ruins of large Minoan palace and its surrounding buildings. Palace has an area of 8,400 m2. First inhabited in the late Neolithic around 4000 BC, development of palace started around 2000 BC and partly destroyed by the 1400 BC.
Landmarks of Mycenaen civilization
- Arkadiko Bridge - Peloponnese. Arch bridge which is standing since the Bronze Age, built sometimes between 1300 and 1190 BC. It was built by Mycenians. Bridge is 22 m long, adjusted for chariots.
- Gla Walls - Central Greece. Cyclopean (Mycenaean) walls which enclose the ancient city of Gla. Walls are 2.8 km long and now are 3 – 5 m high. Constructed around 1300 BC. This fortification encloses some 20 ha large area but there were few buildings inside.
- Lion Gate, Mycenae – Peloponnese. Main entrance in the major urban centre of Bronze Age, built in the 13th century BC. Above these gates is a monumental sculpture with two lions.
- Mycenae - Peloponnese. One of the major centres of Greek civilization, this city flourished in 1600 - 1100 BC. Citadel of Mycenae is built of enormous stone blocks, interesting feature is the Lion Gate. Important are also the burials in the impressive Grave Circle A and Grave Circle B.
- Palace of Nestor - Peloponnese. Best preserved Mycenaean palace, built before 1300 BC and destroyed by 1200 BC. Here have been found more than 1,000 tablets with Linear B script.
- Pavlopetri - Peloponnese. Remnants of very old submerged city - city which went under the sea around 1000 BC. Development of this city started around 2800 BC and after it submerged during an earthquake, it has been well preserved.
- Tiryns (Tirinth) - Peloponnese. Impressive ruins of Mycenaean city. Development of this settlement started in the Bronze Age and it flourished between 1200 and 1400 BC. Very impressive are its massive, cyclopean walls which are 6 – 17 m thick with tunnels crossing them.
- Treasury of Atreus - Peloponnese. Enormous tholos – royal Mycenaean tomb which was constructed around 1250 BC. Notable achievement of ancient engineers is the shaping transport and rising of the lintel stone above the doorway – it weighs 120 tons and is 8.3 m long. The domed room inside is 13.5 m high and 14.5 m wide – the largest domed structure in the world for approximately 1000 years.
- Acropolis of Athens - Attica, Athens. One of the most important European heritage monuments - citadel of the city of Athens. Contains ruins of numerous Greek temples which have left huge impact on world architecture. Most buildings were built in 460 - 430 BC, but the history of the citadel goes back to the Late Bronze Age.
- Delphi - Central Greece. Ruins of an ancient sacred city, the navel of Gaia (Earth). Inhabited since the Neolithic period, turned into a significant centre in 1600 – 1100 BC and flourished in the 6th century BC. Already by 1400 BC or earlier here was an important shrine – oracle. Here, in the Temple of Apollo burned eternal flame. Site contains Temple of Apollo – one of the most interesting and significant ancient shrines in the world, the impressive Tholos, theatre and numerous treasuries – votive structures built by other cities of Greece.
- Olympia - Western Greece. Ancient sacred city with numerous monumental structures whose ruins are impressive up to this day. Olympic Games took place here every four years from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. Here is located the oldest known stadium in the world.
- Amphiareion of Oropos - Attica. Once important religious centre with impressive ruins. This sanctuary in the 5th century BC was dedicated to the hero Amphiaraos and soon became influential. Temples were built around sacred spring. Site contains well preserved clepsydra - water clock.
- Delos - South Aegean. Ancient and even prehistoric religious centre, inhabited since the 3rd millenium BC. According to Greek mythology this was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Important cult centre in 900 BC - 100 AD when the island was "cleaned" of all ancient burials in order to turn it into shrine. Although it was inhabited, no one was allowed to die or give birth here.
- Dodona - Epirus. Site of the oldest Hellenic oracle, older than Delphi. It is possible that it was founded in the 2nd millenium BC and was active until 391 - 392 AD. The decisions in this oracle were taken by the rustling of the leaves of oak or beech or rather bronze object hanging in the branches of these trees. This shrine most likely started as a shrine of the prehistoric Mother Goddess.
- Erechtheion - Attica, Athens. Major temple in Acropolis of Athens, dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. Built in 421 – 406 BC. Famous detail of this structure is the Porch of the Caryatids with six large sculptures of women – caryatids – supporting the roof. This building contained holy relics of Athens.
- Parthenon - Attica, Athens. The most famous temple in Acropolis of Athens, dedicated to the goddess Athena and built in 447 – 432 BC. Used also as a treasury. This structure marks the zenith of the development of architecture and arts in Ancient Greece and is one of most renowned cultural monuments on Earth.
- Prinias (Rizinia) - Crete. Ancient temple with Egyptian features. Temple is made in the 7th century BC, long after the fall of Minoan civilization, and its architecture and sculptures show Egyptian influence.
- Propylaea - Attica, Athens. Monumental gateway of the Acropolis of Athens, a monumental structure which has inspired numerous structures around the world. Constructed in 437 – 432 BC, leaving it unfinished.
- Samothrace Temples - East Macedonia and Thrace. Group of mysterious temples on the island of Samothrace. Deities which were venerated here are unknown because it was not allowed to call their names, but most likely here were venerated Great Mother, Hecate, underworld deities. A national shrine of Macedonians, also in the times of Alexander the Great.
- Temple of Aphaea - Attica. One of the best examples of Doric architecture. This temple was dedicated to the mother-goddess Aphaia. Temple was built around 500 BC in the site of ancient temple. Shrine here has been located since the 14th century BC or earlier.
- Temple of Apollo Epicurius in Bassae - Peloponnese. This large, unusual temple was built in 450 – 400 BC and uses all three major Greek orders – Ionian, Doric and the first known Corinthian elements.
- Temple of Apollo in Delphi - Central Greece. Enormous temple with ruins of numerous buildings, one of the most sacred places in the ancient world. Shrine here was located already by the 1,400 BC or earlier but most of the present structures were built by the 4th century BC. Oracle was located here until AD 390, when the temple was demolished by Christians.
- Temple of Hephaestus – Attica, Athens. Extremely well preserved ancient temple of a Doric order. Constructed in 449 – 415 BC. Served as a Greek Orthodox church from the 7th century AD to 1834. Building has inspired the architecture of rather many structures around the world.
- Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion - Attica. Ruins of large temple standing 60 m above the sea. Important shrine for sailors. Built in 444 – 440 BC. This picturesque site was bellowed by the poets and artists during the 19th century.
- Vari Cave (Cave of Pan) - Attica. Sacred cave with sculptures cut in live rock. This cave was inhabited in the 6th - 2nd century BC and then again in the 4th-6th century AD. It was a shrine to Apollo, Pan and the Nymphs.
Other landmarks from ancient times
- Diolkos - Peloponnese. Ancient trackway across the Isthmus of Corinth, developed for the moving of ships across the land. It was the most efficient cargo road until the invention of railway. The road was 6 - 8.5 km long, paved and with grooves for the wheels. Development started around the 7th - 6th century BC.
- Epidaurus Theatre - Peloponnese. One of the most beautiful and most perfect theatres in Ancient Greece, built in the 4th century BC and extended later, in Roman times. Theatre has seats for 14,000 people and has exceptional acoustics which allow to hear the sounds from scene in all the theatre.
- Hellenikon Pyramid - Peloponnese. Ancient pyramid shaped structure which was built with unknown purpose. Base of the pyramid is 7.03 by 9.07 m large and now the ruins rise up to 3.5 m high. Age of this structure is not known but it is possible that it is very old.
- Hexamilion wall - Peloponnese. Ancient wall across the Isthmus of Corinth, built in the time period between 408 and 450 AD. There were 153 towers.
- Kasta Tomb - Central Macedonia. Enormous tumulus with a tomb which, most likely was made for the friend of Alexander the Great - Hephaestion. This giant tumulus was made in the 4th century BC and contains important art values including a fine mosaic, frescoes, marble sphinxes and other.
- Odeon of Herodes Atticus - Attica, Athens. Ancient theatre, still in use. Constructed in 161 AD and has a capacity of 5,000.
- Stadium of Olympia - Western Greece. Oldest known stadium in the world where Olympic games were held every four years from 776 BC or even earlier, in the Bronze Age. Located in its current place since the 5th century BC. Stadium was sacred place and had a capacity for 50,000 spectators. Last Olympiad took place here in 393 AD.
- Theatre of Dionysus - Attica, Athens. The oldest theatre in the world, initially used to honor the god Dionysus. Here could be seated 17,000 spectators while the perfect acoustics allowed performance to be audible to anyone in the theatre. Theatre was built step by step, most works took place around 390 – 325 BC.
- Tunnel of Eupalinos - North Aegean, Samos. 1,036 m long tunnel, built in the 6th century BC as an aqueduct. This tunnel was made from both ends through Mount Kastro in order to supply the capital of Samos with water. The skill of ancient engineers has been amazing and both tunnels met with a good precision. Used for some thousand years.
Roman and Byzantine towns and cities
- Mystras - Peloponnese. Historical town, the centre of the prosperous Byzantine Despotate of the Morea in the 14th – 15th centuries. Abandoned in the 1830ies but numerous structures have been well preserved or restored. Many buildings are outstanding examples of Byzantine architecture and art, such as Peribleptos Monastery Church (1348 – 1380) with its beautiful frescoes or Brontochion Monastery, Pantanassa Monastery and many others.
- Nicopolis - Epirus. Ruins of ancient centre of culture and Roman influence. The city was founded by Romans in 28 BC and became an important administrative and cultural centre, later - important centre of early Christianity in Europe. Declined in the 8th - 9th centuries. Impressive ruins of city gates, theatre, odeion and seven large Christian basilicas.
Medieval and current villages and towns
- Chania Old Town - Crete. Most beautiful historical town in Crete – a medieval port city which is partly surrounded by Venetial built city walls. City has been inhabited since the Neolithic age, Minoan times.
- Monemvasia - Peloponnese. Picturesque town perched between the sea and cliff, located on an island. The medieval town still is protected by city walls and a castle towering above it. Numerous historical buildings.
- Oya (Oia) – South Aegean, Santorini. Beautiful historical village located on a steep cliff and facing the Mediterranean. Houses in the village are white washed and the numerous churches have blue domes. Many other local villages are beautiful as well – such as Imerovigli,
Pyrgos Kallistis and others.
- Rhodes - South Aegean. One of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Although the city contains ruins of Ancient Greek and Roman buildings, the most impressive today are the fortifications and other structures built by Knights Hospitallers in the 14th century.
- Spinalonga - Crete. Small island near the coast of Crete, fully covered with ruins of medieval buildings. Served as an ancient and Venetian fortress, refuge of different groups of people and finally - a Leper colony.
- Vatheia - Peloponnese. Historical village in the far south of Peloponnese. In this village have been preserved numerous tower houses.
- Hagios Demetrios - Central Macedonia. Enormous and very old church, built in 629 - 634, in the site of earlier churches. Beautiful mosaics which were made around 730. Under the church is crypt - rooms of the baths where, according to a legend, St. Demetrios was martyred in 303. Rebuilt after 1917.
- Panagia Ekatontapyliani (Church of Paros, Our Lady of Hundred Doors) - South Aegean. One of the oldest continuously operating churches, built sometimes around 337 AD, rebuilt in later times.
- Daphni Monastery - Attica, Athens. Ornate buildings of a Byzantine monastery which was built in the 11th century using the details of the Sanctuary of Apollo Daphnaios. Especially fine structure is the church – an outstanding, well preserved monument of Byzantine art. Beautiful mosaics.
- Meteora monasteries - Thessaly. Six (earlier - 14) unique monasteries on natural sandstone pillars. Inhabited by hermits since the 9th century, first monasteries established in the 14th century. These six remaining monasteries are Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, Holy Monastery of Varlaam, Holy Monastery of Rousanou, Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, Holy Monastery of St. Stephen, Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
- Great Lavra of Athos - Central Macedonia. The most important monastery in Monastic State in Athos peninsula. Founded in 963, contains important library. Very important monuments of history and culture are also other 19 monasteries of Holy Mount Athos.
- Monastery of Saint John the Theologian - South Aegean. Impressive mountaintop fortification - monastery. Most of the present structures were built around 1091.
Other man made landmarks
- Delos synagogue - South Aegean. Remnants of a possible synagogue. If it is a synagogue indeed, it is the oldest known in the world. Constructed in between 150 and 128 BC and in use until the 2nd century AD.
- National Archaeological Museum in Athens - Attica, Athens. Museum of world importance which contains the artefacts showcasing the history of Greek civilization since the prehistory. Museum contains such famous artefacts as the Mask of Agamemnon and Aphrodite of Cnidus.
- Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes - South Aegean. Enormous palace - castle in Gothic style. Originally built in the late 7th century, since 1309 - administrative centre of Knights Hospitaller who rebuilt and extended it.
List of described attractions by regions
Greece is divided into 13 regions and one autonomous state - Mount Athos.
|East Macedonia and Thrace|
|Monemvasia||Cities and towns, City walls|
Map of Greece
Today Monemvasia is sleepy, small and nevertheless unusual town. In medieval times this fortified town was a lot more important - it was one of the last strongholds of Byzantian Empire.
Rick Steves has spent 100 days every year since 1973 exploring Europe. Rick produces a public television series (Rick Steves' Europe), a public radio show (Travel with Rick Steves), and an app and podcast (Rick Steves Audio Europe); writes a bestselling series of guidebooks and a nationally syndicated newspaper column; organizes guided tours that take thousands of travelers to Europe annually; and offers an information-packed website (RickSteves.com).
Check out our DK Eyewitness Travel Guide and make your trip to Greece, Athens, and the mainland packed with history, culture, and adventure. Visit archeological sites like the Acropolis, and take walking tours of the sites of ancient Greece. Embrace outdoor activities like hiking the Samarian Gorge or windsurfing off Corfu, or relax and enjoy restaurants that serve superb wines and lots of delicious Greek food.