However, Greece has so much more. Situated in south-eastern Europe with thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas, it is referred to as the cradle of Western civilization. There are few people who are unaware of the 5th-century B.C. Acropolis of Athens, an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and containing the remains of several ancient buildings of which the most famous is the Parthenon.
Popular with tourist are a number of archaeological sites dotted all around Greece, many of which can be found in Athens, including the Acropolis, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Ancient Athenian cemetery of Kerameikos, Philopappou Hill, Tower of the Winds, Plato’s Academy and the Ancient Agora.
In Attica are the Marathon tumuli, burying mounds that house the ashes of the Athenian and Plataean hoplites that were killed in the homonymous battle. Thebes, an ancient city featured in Greek myth, Delphi, site of the Oracle, and Thermopylae are worth a visit. It would be easy to rattle off dozens of sites that can be visited but Greek names do not roll off the tongue easily and there are many other tourist attractions in this ancient country. One worth mentioning is Lycosura, said to be the oldest city in the world.
Places to visit
Surely one of the most beautiful places in the world, Santorini was devastated by a huge volcanic eruption in the 16th century which destroyed most of the island along with its inhabitants
Only the tip of the volcanic crater remained and it filled up with water after the mouth of the volcano collapsed. This is known as the Santorini caldera. The towns on the western side of the island all face the caldera with unbelievable views in every direction. The pristine white Cycladic-style houses, clustered on top of each other on the cliff face, contrast with the dark volcanic rocks, calm deep blue waters of the Aegean sea, and beaches made up of black, red and white lava pebbles.
Santorini sunsets are famous! And spectacular. The sunlight reflects in the sea, and paints the white houses in rich orange-pink hues. The island is a mix-match of sheer magnificent beauty with a downside of being expensive with little privacy and busy towns. To my mind these issues are very minor. I would travel to Greece just to visit Santorini island.
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in northern Greece. On the eastern-most peninsula stands Eastern Orthodox monasteries, home to approximately 1 400 monks. Tourists who go into Mount Athos are strictly controlled, and only men are allowed in for a visit to one of the tourist attractions in Greece.
Lindos is a village of the middle ages consisting of various streets in the middle of the whitewashed houses. From the top of the Acropolis in Lindos, visitors have views of the harbour and surrounding coastline. Lindos Beach and the beach of Saint Pauls are only a short distance from the city centre.
In addition there are ancient ruins and remnants of the island’s occupation by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades. The city of Rhodes has an Old Town featuring the medieval street of the Knights and the castle-like Palace of the Grand Masters, captured by the Ottomans and then held by the Italians, the palace is now a history museum.
One cannot visit Athens without seeing the Parthenon, perched high on a rocky crag keeping watch over centuries of civilization. Construction in 447 BC, to replace the old temple which was destroyed by the Persians. During its history the temple has long functioned as a temple, fortress, church, and mosques in various different periods.
The Acropolis is one of the world’s most famous and breathtaking ancient ruins, a visit is almost obligatory. Awe and an overwhelming sense of smallness accompanies any visit to these historic sites. My daughter paid a visit to Greece while working on Yachts of Seaborne with just one day off and there was no hesitation in where it would be spent,
“I felt such a feeling of utter peace and otherworldliness. Ï could just imagine wearing a white toga, standing by a pillar looking out over the ancient city,” she says.
However, there are other attractions – such as getting lost in the Plaka district’s narrow pedestrian streets, lined with quaint bougainvillea-draped houses and inviting restaurant terraces. There are museum’s, the old Olympic stadiums,
Located in the North-West of Kefalonia, Myrtos beach is a tourist spot in Greece popular because the colour of the water is magical. Blue and turquoise contrast sharply with the white houses, as well as marble pebbles along the coast. The mountains are steep with high cliffs behind the beach. That increasingly adds to the beauty of this beach.
Meteora (hovering in the air) is in the centre of Greece, is a collection of six amazing monasteries located above some of the pillars of stone. The first monastery in Meteora was built in the 14th century. Access to the monasteries it deliberately difficult, with a long staircase or large nets used to transport goods and people.
Once a dark street in the Psyrri district in Athens, Pittaki Street is known for its unique light arrangement which gives the street an eerie and magical aspect. Created thanks to a non-profit association called Imagine The City and a group of volunteers, the lights illuminate this one sad-looking alley bordered by empty stores. The second highlight of Pittaki Street is that at the end of the street, you will feel like you’ve entered a fairytale haven at Little Kook, a charming café which has invaded the street with its colourful decoration.
In the island of Chios, known for its beautiful beaches, quaint villages and its cultivation of mastic, an colour-ant teardrop-shaped resin from trees growing in a specific region of the island. One particular village worth seeing is Pyrgi, a medieval village known for its famous black and white geometrical design decorating the façades of all its buildings. The village has maintained its medieval character, with narrow streets, vaults and arches.
Necromanteion of Ephyra
The Oracle of Delphi in central Greece, is well known, but few have heard about the Oracle of the Dead, the necromanteion, an ancient temple consecrated to Hades, god of the Underworld, and his wife, goddess Persephone. These temples where necromancy was practised to receive prophecies, were built in locations thought to be entrances to the Underworld. One is necromanteion of Ephyra, located in Epirus, on the banks of the river Acheron. Discovered in the 1960s, includes a few underground chambers and though the authenticity of the site has been disputed, a visit to the necromanteion is quiet an interesting experience.
Abandoned and deserted, the train cemetery on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, counts over a thousand rusty trains. In use since 1980s, the cemetery serves as the final resting place of decommissioned trains of the Hellenic Railways Organisation.
Volcanic rocks of Lemnos
The of Lemnos (or Limnos) in the North-eastern Aegean Sea is home to lovely beaches and charming little villages. In mythology, Lemnos is known to be the place where god Hephaestus’ forge was located, after he was hurled off Olympus by Zeus. Thanks to the now dormant Miocene volcanoes, the island features spectacular volcanic rock formations made of petrified lava which froze, forming bizarre shapes.
An added attraction is a small desert in Lemnos’s lush interior. Forever changing shape due to the winds, the sand dunes of Pachies Ammoudies are home to unique wildlife, including white rabbits and white lilies. Because of the heat it is wise not to visit the dunes during the middle of the day.
Deserted Bogomils Cemetery
Located near Nea Chalkidona, lies a field containing half-buried tombstones lies forgotten. These Celtic-styled tombstones are the testimony of the presence of Bogomils, members of a Christian cult in Greece, persecuted by the Christians as well as the Ottomans when they settled in the region. The small community disappeared in the 15th-century and the graveyard is all there is left from their time in Greece.
Ghost town of Gavros,
Curious minds and lovers of all things desolate really need to visit Gavros, an abandoned village located on the road connecting Kastoria to the Prespa lakes. The reason why locals deserted it and relocated nearby is not really known, but the village is ideal to discover the local architectural style of the region.
Fairytale castle of Agrilis
Greece is a country full of legends, mythology, stories of the Gods, and ancient ruins. In Messinia, Peloponnese, in the small town of Agrilia is a fairytale castle. Though a little tacky, the castle was built by a Greek-American doctor who came back to his parents’ homeland after making a fortune as a surgeon across the Atlantic. The concrete and plaster building features all the characteristics of a medieval castle, including a drawbridge. Blending fairy tales and Greek mythology, the castle has a number of huge statues in its courtyard, including one of goddess Athena, god Poseidon and one of a sitting horse. Though lying abandoned, visitors can still freely enjoy the outside of the building.
Dion, the sacred place of the Ancient Macedonians is the site of a large temple dedicated to Zeus, as well as a series of temples to Demeter and Isis. Pella, also in the region, is the capital of Ancient Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great and Philip II of Macedon.
Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos is the largest international airport in Greece, serving Athens and the region of Attica. It began operation on 28 March 2001 and is the main base of Aegean Airlines, as well as other smaller Greek airlines. As of 2021, it is the 15th-busiest airport in Europe and the busiest and largest in the Balkans.
At present there are no direct flights between South Africa and Greece but the country can be reached by a number of airlines via their hubs.