Greece is world renowned for its ancient history, synonymous with its enchanting mythology. Its lands preserve incredible temples of Gods, and arenas where men were sent to meet them. Birthplace of the Olympic Games and the fathers of the first western philosophical traditions, here are 5 amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites from the abundance that Greece has to offer.
1. The Acropolis, Athens
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The Acropolis of Athens, and its towering Parthenon, are universally recognised as an unimaginable feat of Greek architectural and artistic complexity.
Following a victory against the Persians, the city of Athens took a leading position amongst the ancient world's other city-states. This rocky hill, through unprecedented design and labour, was transformed into a monument of thought and arts. The Acropolis consists of many brilliant works, and the most important monuments were built during the time of the hill's transformation: the Parthenon, the Proplaea, the small temple Athena Nike, and the magnificent entrance to the Acropolis. It is hard to imagine how, with ancient tools and methods, such an incredible place was completed.
2. Mount Athos
Since 1054, Mount Athos has been an Orthodox spiritual centre. Even today, 20 of its monasteries are currently home to around 1,400 monks! The Beautiful buildings are filled with a history of Orthodox art; its school of painting greatly influenced the artistic movement itself.
The beauty of the monasteries' architecture is equalled only by its surroundings; a stunning combination of sea, forest and mountain. The aesthetics of both the buildings and the setting, however, should not cause their contents to be overlooked. The monasteries of Athos conserve a great inventory of masterpieces, ranging from wall paintings to portable icons. Athos holds a wealth of gold objects, embroideries, and illuminated manuscripts which each monastery jealously preserves.
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In comparison to the difficult construction of the Acropolis in Athens, this amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site is in a league of its own. The image above paints a better picture than a thousand words, and it is almost unimaginable as to how twenty-four of these monasteries were built in the region.
The landscape is made up of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks. It is documented that, from the 11th century onwards, monks began to settle on these 'columns of the sky'. This site truly is a marvel to behold; an incredible feat of construction, perseverance, and sheer brilliance. The Monasteries of Meteora must surely be seen, to be believed.
4. The Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
This vast site, dating from the 4th century, is considered to hold some of the purest masterpieces of Greek architecture. Located in a small valley in the Peloponnesus, the Sanctuary of Asklepios consists of some of the most tremendous monuments that Greece has to offer.
Wonderfully preserved on the site are the Temple, the Tholos, and the Theatre. Providing insight into the healing cults of Greek and Roman times, there are also hospital buildings devoted to the site's healing gods and goddesses. It is thought that the shrine to Asklepios, the god of medicine, developed from a much earlier cult of Apollo, and acted as the official cult of the city of Epidaurus.
5. The Archaeological Site of Olympia
Also found in a valley in the Peloponnesus, the Site of Olympia is one of the most recognised names in modern day society. A tradition that has continued into contemporary history, the Games were held here at Olympia every four years, beginning in 776 B.C. The site preserves the remains of ancient sports structures erected for the first Olympic Games in history!
It is documented that the site has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and became a centre for the worship of Zeus, the father of Greek Gods, in the 10th century B.C. The Altis - the sanctuary to the Gods - at Olympia has one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces from the ancient Greek world.
The UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Greece are a master class of historical preservation. There are few other places in the world that offer such marvellous sights and experiences, alongside a wealth of documented ancient beliefs and understanding. Greek history and mythology have had a phenomenal influence on the modern day, and visitors will leave with a similar, lasting impression. So what are you waiting for, book your Greek holiday today!
Image Credits: danoots and Â© Giorgio.