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Known for its plethora of ancient ruins, whitewashed villages, sunny beaches, tasty cuisine, and friendly atmosphere, it is no wonder that Greece ranks among Europe’s top travel destinations. Greece is made up of a mountainous mainland and hundreds of islands where each one offers its share of stunning landscapes, historic sites, and cultural delights. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Greece:
10. Cape Sounion
Situated at the southernmost tip of the Attica peninsula, Cape Sounion is best known as the site of the ancient Greek temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea. The remains are perched on the headland, surrounded on three sides by the sea. The sunset over the Aegean Sea, as viewed from the ruins, is a sought-after spectacle. The site is also a popular day-excursion for tourists from Athens.
Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city and the capital city of the Macedonian region of Northern Greece. Lively festivals, social events and a buzzing nightlife make this city the cultural capital of Greece. Comprised of a historic city center and commercial district, Thessaloniki offers both old and new attractions from its Byzantine walls, White Tower and Turkish baths to colorful food markets and museums. The city’s nightlife is unmatched. From small tavernas to nightclubs and other entertainment venues, Thessaloniki offers it all.
Mykonos is famed as a cosmopolitan destination amongst the Greek islands. Mykonos Town is a stunningly picturesque Greek town with a maze of tiny streets and whitewashed houses. Although the streets are lined with small shops, boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants, Mykonos Town has not completely lost its identity. Thanks to strict building regulations its traditional Cycladic architectural style and character has remained firmly intact.
Halkidiki is a trident-like peninsula near the city of Thessaloniki, sporting excellent beaches. The three separate peninsulas can be roughly summarized as follows: Kassandra has the nightlife, Sithonia has the beaches and Athos has the monks. Being closest to Thessaloniki, Kassandra is more built-up, while the more quiet Sithonia has campgrounds, hidden coves and clear waters. Both are popular with Greek and Eastern European tourists. Much of the easternmost peninsula belongs to the Mount Athos monastic community. It’s accessible by boat and open to male pilgrims only.
Shaped much like a large leaf, Peloponnese was traditionally called Morea, which means mulberry leaf. Located in the southernmost region of both Europe and Greece, Peloponnese is a wide peninsula connected to the mainland by the Rio-Antirrio bridge. Interspersed with classical Greek temples, Venetian fortresses, Byzantine churches and Mycenaean palaces, the peninsula echoes the ancient cultures and events from its extensive history. Among these ancient ruins is Olympia, where the first Olympic Games were hosted in honor of Zeus.
Second only to the Acropolis, Delphi is Greece’s most popular archaeological site. Located about two and half hours from Athens along the slopes of the awe-inspiring Mount Parnassus, Delphi was once revered by the ancient Greeks as the center of the earth. Dedicated to the god, Apollo, Delphi was an important oracle. In ancient times, people would come to this sacred spot to inquire of the priestess for advice on a wide range of topics from farming to relationships and politics. Significant ruins and structures include the Temple of Apollo, the Athenian Treasury, the theater and hippodrome that once hosted events of the ancient Pythian Games.
The Greek word Meteora means “suspended in the air,” and this phrase aptly describes the spectacular cliffs that rise more than 1,200 feet into the air overlooking the villages of Kalambaka and Kastraki in northern Greece. What makes these cliffs even more inspiring are the historic monasteries perched along the summits. Dating back to the 14th and 16th centuries, the monasteries at Meteora were built by monks seeking spiritual isolation and freedom from religious persecution.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete is a spacious land of pleasing contrasts where landscapes range from stunning coastline to rugged mountains and rolling countryside dotted with olive trees. Bustling cities spread beyond to quiet villages centered around outdoor coffee shops. History lovers will want to explore the many historic and archaeological sites that dot the island such as Knossos Palace, which dates back to the Minoan civilization.
Inhabited for more than 3,000 years, Athens is widely known as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy. The city presents a confusing blend of historical and modern features. Athens is famous for its archaeological ruins and monuments such as the famous Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Ancient Agora and the Theatre of Dionysos just to name a few. However, Athens is not just about ancient ruins. This bustling city is also an important center for culture and nightlife.
Part of the Cyclades, Santorini is famous for its dramatic views, stunning sunsets, the white-washed houses, and its very own active volcano. Fira, the capital of Santorini, is a marriage of Venetian and Cycladic architecture, whose white cobblestone streets bustle with shops, tavernas, hotels and cafes, while clinging on the edge of a high cliff. If you arrive by sea you can take a cable car up from the port or alternatively take a trip on a mule up the 588 zigzagging steps.