The spellbinding stories surrounding ancient Greece have endured for centuries, detailing legendary tales of the Greek gods and amazing journeys like those in the Odyssey and Iliad. It’s no wonder that this wonderous land is considered the cradle of western civilization, with a rich bounty of philosophy, theatre and literature that still draws in visitors from around the globe. Greece has a gorgeous natural landscape to explore, with expansive views over the steep ravines of the Peloponnese Mountains to discover and stretches of golden sands which meet the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea. While there’s a treasure trove of historical sites to uncover, the modern Greek cities display a real zest for life and will welcome you with open arms. Travel with us and enjoy one of the most beautiful and intriguing countries in the world, catch a glimpse of the threads that tie our modern world to the distant past in ancient Greece.
A Greek holiday could be on your agenda for a whole host of reasons. Perhaps you’ve visited Greece before and want to see more or photos, a film or book have inspired you. Maybe the country has always been on your bucket list. Whatever your reason, it’s easy to be lured by the picture-perfect beaches, turquoise water, charming villages, and deliciously tasty food found on Greece’s 227 inhabited islands.
While Greece as a country is synonymous with antiquity, Athens is a city that combines ancient history with modern grace. The significance of the temples and amphitheatres dotted around the city hasn’t been lost to time and occasionally rub shoulder with other, more modern buildings. Despite being the capital city, you can still find bits which carry the intimacy of a village community, like the Plaka neighbourhood with thriving businesses and authentic eateries sat on the hillside. Athens gives you a fantastic snapshot of Greece, uniting the old with the new to create a vibrant city overflowing with cultural riches.
Guarded by two imposing Venetian castles, remnants of the Kingdom of the Morea, Nafplion is one of Greece’s most charming and sophisticated small towns you can lose yourself in. The old town is a jumble of red roofed houses which overlook a wide, sheltered bay next to the Argolic Gulf. The town’s air of quiet elegance draws weekend visitors from Athens and many of the older mansions have been sympathetically renovated. If you’re looking for a tranquil spot to while away the afternoon then take a stroll down the wide, palm lined promenade or stop by the charming central square and sample some local delicacies.
The Greek lore surrounding Delphi says that Zeus sent eagles in opposite directions around the world to find the spot their paths would meet. When they crossed at , he placed an omphalos – a religious stone artefact – and the ancient sanctuary became known as the centre of the world. This site is supposedly where mortals communicated with Apollo via an oracle, and the exceptional views do lend an air of magic. Delphi’s network of temples and religious structures speaks volumes in regards to its significance to the ancient Greek people, and the valley below the ruins reveals a silvery sea of olive groves, one of the staples of Greek cuisine and which is seemingly ever-present.
Set in an idyllic pine-forested valley, Olympia is the birthplace of the Olympic Games where the torch was first lit, kindled from the rays of the sun. You’ll find the 45,000 capacity stone stadium which is testament to the importance of the games to the people of Greece, bringing spectators from all over to witness feats of athleticism and competitors seeking the highest level of competition.
If one building can symbolise the majesty and might of Ancient Greece, it is the Parthenon – a colossal structure that stood as the centrepiece of the Athens Acropolis and was once the beating heart of the capital. Dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the goddess which the city of Athens considers its patron and where it derives its name from, the pillars and stonework is made entirely of Pentelic marble which gives the Parthenon its distinctive hue and uses curves cut into the marble pillars to create the optical illusion of being completely straight.
With around 225 individual inhabited islands in between the Aegean and Ionian seas, there’s a lot of uniquely Greek cultures to discover on each of them. From the to smaller but just as impressive ones such as Meganassi and Atokos, they all have a story to share with those that sail into their harbours. Spending some time going between these islands gives you a feel for a different side to Greece.
Greek cuisine is a prime example of less is more, having numerous dishes that utilise few ingredients but produce endless amounts of flavour. Previously unknown dishes are now becoming worldwide favourites – try dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice), souvlaki served in soft pitta bread smothered in tzatziki, or indulge your sweet tooth with classic baklava filled with honey and ground nuts. Of course, you can’t beat the atmosphere of trying Greek cuisine in its native land, like enjoying freshly-caught fish simply grilled and served under a starlit Mediterranean sky in a genuine taverna.
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Julia and Brian Moore
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