Greece, one of the oldest civilisations in the world, is home to 18 Unesco World Heritage Sites. Emily Eastman takes a closer look at five of them
Acropolis of Athens
Sitting high on a rocky outcrop that rises above the Greek capital is the most striking and complete ancient Greek monumental complex still standing today. The Acropolis (above) houses the remains of several ancient buildings of architectural and historic significance, with artefacts dating to the Middle Neolithic era. Today, for an entrance fee of €20, visitors can walk around sites including the Parthenon – the temple of the goddess Athena – the Pandroseion, a sanctuary dedicated to one of the daughters of the first king of Attica, and the Chalkotheke, which housed the treasury of the goddess of Wisdom, Athena.
Temple of Apollo Epicurius
The well-preserved ancient Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae is one of the most impressive in Greece, and the first of the country’s great monuments to be designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The temple was built between 420 and 400 BC, although archaeologists believe that beneath its foundations exists a temple from the seventh century BC. Dedicated to Apollo the Helper, the temple bears three types of architectural orders of classical times that visitors can take in as they stroll the perimeter. Equally impressive is the surrounding landscape – a natural sanctuary of deep valleys and towering mountains that served as a backdrop to worship of the gods of antiquity.
Archaeological site of Delphi
Once the religious centre and symbol of unity of Ancient Greece, the pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi continues to blend seamlessly with the magnificent landscape surrounding it. Nestled at the foot of Mount Parnassus, the area was inhabited in the second millennium BC, with the development of the sanctuary beginning in the eighth century BC. As its religious and political influence spread across Greece, the site became a place for pilgrims to receive an oracle from the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo – the Olympian god of light, knowledge and harmony. Today, the site remains unchanged except for the addition of an archaeological museum.
Medieval city of Rhodes
Visiting Europe’s oldest inhabited medieval city is an opportunity to get lost along the intricate network of some 200 streets and alleyways, meet locals who live and work in the same buildings the Knights of St John occupied, and delight in an area that people have been calling home for the past 2,000 years. Highlights include the Palace of the Grand Master, an impressive medieval castle which also serves as the Byzantine Museum; the charming cobbled Street of the Knights of Rhodes, once home to the Knights Hospitaller who ruled Rhodes; and the clock tower – particularly impressive at sunset, when the panoramic views are bathed in golden light.
If you’re after great photos, look no further than Meteora (below), the most photogenic spiritual site in Greece. The rock formation hosts some of the largest Eastern Orthodox monasteries, built upon immense natural pillars and enormous boulders. Meteora is Greece’s second largest monastic and pilgrimage area after Mount Athos. The rock monasteries have been characterised by Unesco as a unique phenomenon of cultural heritage and they form one of the most important stations of cultural map of Greece. Today, six of the monastries can be visited.