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Dec112017

Top 5 places to visit in Greece 

Greece is packed with ancient history and known for its plethora of ancient ruins; it is the birthplace of western civilisation, democracy and philosophy, not forgetting the origin of the Olympic Games... It has a significant culture and history like no other country. Today it is a major tourist destination, renowned for whitewashed buildings, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and tasty cuisine. Here are the top 5 places you must visit in Greece to get the best experience of ancient culture and stunning coastlines.

 

Acropolis, Athens

If you were told to envision a picture of Athens, the Acropolis will almost definitely be the first thing you will think of. It is the most monumental complex that still exists to this day, and a universal symbol of ancient Greek architecture. It sits on a mountain overlooking the capital city, whilst making visitors feel superior when looking down at the rest of the Athens. It is an accurate reflection of power and wealth of a once Greek Empire.  The Acropolis was completed in the 5th Century BC and originally the Temple of Athena Nike. Now it is a major tourist attraction and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where thousands of visitors climb the famous stone steps and indulge in the classical ambiance, whilst surrounded by spectacular views of a metropolitan city.

Flickr | Tim ZollThe Acropolis can get very busy all year around so it is best to arrive early, especially in the height of the summer when temperatures can rise to over 30 degrees. What’s more is that there is a brand new Acropolis Museum at the bottom of the mountain, containing archaeological ruins that are too precious to be left at the site. This museum contains the famous Elgin Marbles, which were once home to the Acropolis. Unfortunately, the collection is almost incomplete, with the rest of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum, causing ongoing controversy with the Greek and British governments. Nevertheless, the Acropolis Museum is perfect for history and archaeological lovers, and the only museum built on top of real archaeological excavations!

Flickr | brownpauDelphi

If you thought the Acropolis was the only site filled with ancient history, then you haven’t heard of Delphi. It is here in ancient times that was once referred to as the centre of the earth. In fact, this place is the home to Greek mythology, where Apollo was considered an important oracle. In ancient times, people would come to this spot and ask the superior emperors for advice and confess their sins. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, again having remarkable inspiration in the ancient world; left behind are remains of the Temple of Apollo, The Treasury of Athenians and an ancient theatre. Needless to say, if you love a bit of culture and ancient history, it’s the place for you!

It is located in the slopes of Mount Parnassus, approximately two hours from Athens, overlooking the beautiful coastal plain of Corinth. The most famous ruin is the Temple of Apollo, dated back to the 4th Century BC; the column foundations are of porous limestone, a reason for the temple’s fast decaying over the years, with only six columns left to this date. The theatre is by far the most photograph worthy ruin at Delphi, with hundreds of steps leading up to it. This dates back to the 4th Century, being an ancient host to musical contests at the Pythian Games. The views from the theatre are breath-taking vegetated mountains. When standing in the middle of it, it feels so surreal, as though you have travelled back in time!

Flickr | Paul JenkinsSantorini

This one of the most remarkable Greek Islands; the whitewashed buildings with blue roofs, cobble paths and stunning sun sets truly make this island magical! Lonely Planet calls Santorini the ‘supermodel of the Greek Islands’, no surprise due to the amount of A-list celebrities who visit! It’s been visited by Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney and the Kardashians in the past few years, and they have definitely put the island on the map as it is now the most renowned Greek island. Santorini is outstanding when it comes to sunsets, stunning panoramas and volcanic-sand beaches, all of which could in fact be the best in Europe. Believe it or not, Santorini is the remains of a volcanic eruption that destroyed the former settlement, leaving behind a water filled caldera that surrounds the island.

Flickr | Maggie MengFor those who love to relax on holiday, it’s the place for you! You can lay on the white-sand beaches, indulge in the Mediterranean sun or enjoy the hotel infinity pool looking out into the crystal clear water. For nature lovers, there are many boat trips and cruises which take you to the former crater and hot springs. You can hike the volcano, swim at the red beach and watch the sunset from the greatest place in Europe, the ‘Oia cliffs’. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can take a 30-minute helicopter flight over the stunning island, gazing over the incredible caldera from a birds-eye view, as well as fly over the idyllic whitewashed villages. This is the perfect opportunity to take photographs of the island!
 

Meteora

If you’re a geography lover, you will adore the nature beauty of this mountainous area. Meteora is a spectacular rock formation in central Greece and one of the largest built complexes sitting on top of natural pillars and boulders that dominate the panorama; it is home to six Orthodox monasteries, built in the 1400’s. As you can see, the pictures of Meteora look very illusory, almost something from an animated film! In fact, this location features in many films such as the 1981 James Bond ‘For Your Eyes Only’, as well as the setting for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 map. Believe it or not, it was once a place believed to be sculpted by God, for monks who sought immortal life.
Flickr | Dušan ŠteharnikToday, you can discover the hidden treasures of the area on a hiking adventure! This hike will take you up to the tallest point, 400m above the town of Kalampaka, through ancient winding paths; these are the same paths the monks once walked though on their daily adventures. There are breath-taking views that you will never forget, especially the sunset.

There are a few different tours, including transport from the big cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki so it is easy to arrange. If you love nature, sunsets and rock formations, you can’t miss out on this experience when travelling Greece.

Samaria Gorge, Crete

Not only is this one of the longest gorges in Europe, it is Crete’s only national park and should be the top of the must-dos when travelling to the Greek Islands. The 16km long phenomenon is a must for visitors, especially to complete a 13km walk down the gorge to Agis Roumeli, neighbouring the Libyan Sea; this is where tourists can sail to other nearby villages and embrace the culture of the small fishing towns.

Lucky for us, local tour operators provide organised tours so you are not on your own. The walk takes five to seven hours with amazing waterfalls and picnic areas to stop off at, but it can be strenuous so a somewhat degree of fitness is required, however a shorter route is advised for those who would prefer it, especially in the height of the summer. This attraction really does save the best bit till last, where there is a very narrow passage near the end called the ‘Iron Gates’ with sides closing up to only 4 metres width and a height of almost 300 metres. The most surreal feeling is looking up at this point, and seeing a thin strip of daylight contrasting against the sandstone rocks!

Flickr | Jim ThurstonGreece has so many hidden gems that are somewhat neglected by the popular Greek Island hotel resorts. There is so much more to Greece than the precious white sand beaches that the islands have to offer. As you can see from these 5 places, there is so much ancient culture and natural beauty, which not many people know about. Why not see Greece from a different perspective and visit these mysterious attractions!

By Sophia-Harri Nicholaou - Online Journalism Intern

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