Greece is one of the most desired destinations in the world for travellers and for good reason. Beyond its incredible weather, fantastic cuisine, and picture-perfect beaches, its historical links to the ancient past are incomparable. As such, there are currently 18 incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country, featuring some of the world’s most remarkable historical attractions. For those who are in love with history, it doesn’t get much better than booking a med cruise to Greece. Greece was the centre of the ancient world and its temples, arenas, and statues have preserved its historic legacy for future generations. In this guide, we are going to highlight a handful of the World Heritage Sites you have to visit, letting you know what to expect.
One of the most famous and recognisable landmarks anywhere in the world, the Acropolis in Athens is a must-visit for all who arrive in the city. The ancient citadel sits high above the city and is home to the remains of a number of magnificent ruins; most notably the Parthenon (a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena). Construction on the temple began all the way back in 447 BC, at the height of Athenian power. This is Ancient Greece’s most important surviving building and is a true marvel to behold.
Tamara, of the travel blog Girls Wanderlust, has visited the Acropolis and has shared her thoughts on visiting: “First of all, I loved the hike towards the Acropolis, as it's located on top of a hill (you can spot the Acropolis from many places in the city). Thanks to its location, you can have some amazing views over Athens from the Acropolis and its environment (for example from the Rock of Ares).
“Secondly, I really loved to see that so much is left over from the Acropolis and this time of history, which creates the possibility to inform travellers more about the culture and history of Athens and Greece. There also is an Acropolis Museum where you can even find more treasures which were found at this archaeological site.”
Rhonda, from travel blog Travel Yes Please, spoke to us about what she most enjoyed about visiting: “What I enjoyed most about visiting the Acropolis was walking among the ancient ruins and imagining how elegant and opulent the monuments and temples must have been when they were first built. Even in a partially ruined state, they are quite astonishing.”
Rhonda also shares this tip for visiting: “For the most comfortable visit, I recommend arriving first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun isn't so hot, and crowds are smaller.”
Shore Excursion: Leisurely Top Of The Acropolis (Wheelchair Accessible)
Shore Excursion: Acropolis and New Acropolis Museum
Yet another iconic historical site, the Archaeological site of Delphi is the famed location of the Oracle of Apollo and a staggering site to discover in person. Dating back to the 8th century BC, Delphi was the spiritual capital of the Greek World, acting as an ancient sanctuary. It was the seat of an oracle who was consulted on important decisions of the day and the area was considered the centre of the world by ancient Greeks. Today you can visit a number of magnificent structures, including a theatre, the Temple of Apollo, and the famous Tholos – a circular temple just half a mile from the main site.
Guided Tour: In-depth Exploration of Greece
Medieval Town of Rhodes
Leaving the ancient world, we have in Rhodes an exquisite example of Gothic architecture and fortification. The legendary Colossus at Rhodes may no longer be with us, but Rhodes has plenty of historic gems remaining, one of them being the Medieval old town. The Order of St John of Jerusalem occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 and transformed the area into a stronghold. This has given us a medieval city located within a 4km-long wall with a host of fascinating sites, including a clock tower, old Haman, and the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. The palace started life as a Byzantine citadel in the 7th century before becoming a palace seven centuries later.
Travel blogger Angelina, from The Lovely Escapist, has visited this special location and spoke to us about what she enjoyed most about the experience: “Don’t let the word ‘medieval’ fool you. While the idea of a ruined city may come to mind, you’ll be surprised to discover a beautifully maintained town with busy shops, quiet alleys, and friendly felines. Medieval Rhodes is so well preserved that it feels as if you’ve gone back in time to the era of knights and crusades.
“My favourite part was walking along the Street of the Knights of Rhodes, also known as Ippoton. This cobblestone street is lined with medieval ‘inns’ built for the knights crusading with the Order of the Knights of St. John. Today, they serve a variety of purposes (from art studios to government offices). If you’re lucky, some of the ‘inns’ will be open, and you’ll have the opportunity to see inside.”
Angelina also offers some advice for visitors: “The Medieval Town of Rhodes is a popular destination for cruise ships and private tours. To avoid the crowds, start your day as early as possible. Plus, walking alone through the empty streets will enhance the feeling of going back in time.
“I also recommend wearing or packing a swimsuit. North of the city walls is the sandy beach of Akti Sachitour. After wandering Medieval Rhodes on a hot, sunny day, there’s nothing quite as refreshing as taking a dip in the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean Sea.”
Shore Excursion: A Walk Through Historic Rhodes
Shore Excursion: Old Town Rhodes By Night
Archaeological site of Olympia
The place of origin for the Olympic Games, the Archaeological site of Olympia in the Peloponnese is truly the place of legends. Going all the way back, the ancient Olympic Games were held here from 776 BC and today visitors can marvel at a series of remarkable temples, sanctuaries, and other sites - including the remains of sporting structures used in the games. With a wonderful museum on-site also dedicated to the games, it’s easy to see why Olympia is one of Greece’s most visited destinations.
Jamie from the travel blog Explore With Ed, has fond memories of visiting Olympia and shared with us why he believes the site is so special: “If you've watched or attended an Olympic Games, visiting Olympia is a fascinating experience as it's where the Olympic flame is lit before its journey across the globe. Walking under what remains of the arch tunnel to the vast stadium grounds allows you to trace the footsteps of some of the first Olympians in history. These athletes were the superstar celebrities of their day and in the grounds, you can explore where they lived and trained in their pursuit for glory.”
Jamie also offered some top tips for visiting: “Booking a guided tour or excursion will help you make the most of your day in Olympia. As it's in ruin, it helps to have an experienced local expert who can bring to life the stories of the people who would've been where you are standing thousands of years ago. The museum offers a welcome respite if it's a particularly hot day with some fascinating archaeological finds and statues from the site. It may be wise to take a bottle of water, sun lotion and an umbrella for when you explore the outdoor remains.”
Shore Excursion: Olympia On Your Own
Shore Excursion: Best Of Olympia
Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki
Greece is also home to an incredibly rich Christian heritage and Byzantine historical legacy. Nowhere is this more evident than with the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments found in Thessaloniki. The seaport of Thessaloniki was founded in 315 BC and was one of the first bases for the spread of Christianity in these early centuries of the Church. Visitors to Thessaloniki are able to marvel at this legacy today in the form of its many Christian monuments. These include sublime churches that had an influence on the wider Byzantine Empire, as well as city walls, monasteries, and a Byzantine Bath.
Shore Excursion: Thessaloniki Highlights
Shore Excursion: Panoramic Thessaloniki
Top World Heritage Sites to visit in Greece
- Medieval Town of Rhodes
- Archaeological site of Olympia
- Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki
If you are looking for a way to tick some of these locations off, whilst not missing out on anything else, the In-depth Exploration of Greece Land Program allows you to visit the Acropolis, Delphi, Olympia and more. Added onto your Med cruise as a 5 pre/post-voyage tour, the programme allows you to delve deeper into the intrepid Grecian history you’ll find here whilst also allowing you to explore the port towns in full when visiting.
As you can see, the historical sites and monuments found in Greece are truly remarkable. These incredible World Heritage Sites will delight and fascinate as you explore the legendary roots of this ancient land. Hopefully, this guide has whetted your appetite for exploring the sites yourself.
For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to head to our blog page.
Image Credit: Jorge Láscar
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