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5 Sites from Greek Mythology That You Should Visit

Greece is one of the top destinations in the world for tourists with an interest in mythology. Throughout the country, there are many curated museums that explore the rich mythological heritage of the country. While people can learn a lot from these museums, the most exciting aspect of a trip to Greece is visiting historical sites and learning from firsthand exploration. Today, you can visit a number of sites that are important in Greek mythology. Following are a handful of the most exciting destinations for tourists:

 

1. The Labyrinth of the Minotaur

The myth of Theseus and the Minotaur has become one of the most popular tales from Ancient Greece. Minos, the king of Crete and the son of Zeus, raised a son with the head of a bull and the body of a human. In order to house the minotaur, Minos built a labyrinth and sealed it inside. Today, tourists can explore two labyrinths that may have inspired this myth. The first is in Kommos, which was the home of Minos. This town has some great ruins and wonderful views of the ocean. Another contender for the inspiration behind the myth is the nearby city of Gortyn. People may want to visit both and decide which of them they think better fits the context of the myth.

 

2. Thebes

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In Ancient Greece, Thebes emerged as one of the most powerful city-states and served as the location for a number of different myths. Perhaps the most famous tale is that of Oedipus, the mythical king of Thebes, who became a tragic hero in Greek mythology. Thebes also serves as the birthplace of both Hercules and Dionysus, the god of wine. Mythology also tells the story of how Thebes was founded. Cadmus, a Phoenician, came to Greece to search for Europa, his sister. When he consulted an oracle, he was told to create the city of Thebes and forget about his sister. Thebes still exists today in the Boeotia region, although it now goes by the name Thiva.

 

3. Mount Ida and the Cave of Zeus

In the mountains of Crete stands Mount Ida, which is the place where baby Zeus was hidden from his father Cronos. Zeus’ mother, Rhea, hid her child in Ideon Cave below the mountain to protect him. According to mythology, the cave is where Zeus grew up, which made it a popular pilgrimage site. Visitors can still explore the beautiful cave, which consists of a network of various caverns and underground pools. In addition, tourists can hike along the mountain for some great views of the island.

 

4. Acheron River

 

Throughout Greek mythology, many people must venture to the Underworld, a place overseen by Hades, the god of death. Perhaps the most popular story involves that of Orpheus, who searched for his beloved, Eurydice. However, Odysseus also makes a treacherous trip to the Underworld, as does Hercules, who captures Cerberus, the dog with three heads who guards the gate. According to Greek mythology, five rivers flow into the Underworld. Four of these rivers are underground and are only accessible in stories. However, one of these rivers does still flow in the modern world, the Acheron River. This river is located in the northern part of Greece and can be accessed by a day trip from Corfu. The Acheron River flows from the heart of Greece’s mainland into the Ionian Sea. Visitors can see the source of the river near the city of Zotiko and take in the beautiful landscape of the area while pondering what it would mean for ancient heroes to take the journey to the world of Hades.

 

5. Mount Olympus

One of the most important places in Greek mythology, Mount Olympus was considered the home of the gods. The mountain, located in the middle of the Greek mainland, is a breathtaking sight and the highest peak in the country. Mount Olympus has bare, rocky peaks around it that visitors can explore on hikes. At the top of the mountain, visitors will find some of the most incredible views in the entirety of Greece. In addition, they can explore the area around the peak, which has been a protected national park for about a century. While tourists may not come across any deities or the palaces that were supposedly built in the gorges of the mountain, they will undoubtedly see some exciting flora and fauna along the way. Visitors can access the mountain from Halkidiki, the northern peninsula in the area.

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7 of the Most Exciting Places to Visit in Greece

Tourists who visit Greece can participate in a variety of activities that range from lounging on the beach in Santorini to eating at an award-winning restaurant in Athens. In addition, they may want to consider adding more unique destinations to their itineraries so that they can develop a better feel for the culture of the country and the everyday lives of its citizens. These destinations located off the beaten path can also offer individuals an interesting glimpse into Greece’s rich history by showing them a side that relatively few people have an opportunity to see. Read on to learn more about some of the unique destinations in Greece.

 

1. Necromanteion in Ephyra

Necromanteion

Image by JAL71 | Flickr

Many tourists in Greece choose to visit the Oracle of Delphi in the central part of the country. However, not many of them make it to Ephyra to see the necromanteion, the oracle of the dead. The site features an ancient temple that is consecrated to Hades, the god of the Underworld, and his wife, Persephone. In the temple, ancient Greeks would practice necromancy to receive prophecies. Similar temples were built at other locations that were thought to have a strong connection to the Underworld. Archaeologist Sotirios Dakaris found the necromanteion along the banks of the river Acheron in the 1960s. Visitors can explore the site and visit a few underground chambers.

 

2. Fairytale Castle in Agrilia

Harry Fournarakis served as a surgeon in the United States and made a small fortune that he brought back to Agrilia, a small town in Messinia, Peloponnese. He used his money to build a fairytale castle that combines features of a medieval castle from fairytales and Greek mythology. The concrete-and-plaster castle features a drawbridge and massive statues of both Athena and Poseidon, as well as a sitting horse. Although nobody lives in the castle, visitors can wander around the outside of it. Visitors may also want to check out the nearby town of Filiatra, where Fournarakis built a replica of the Eiffel Tower.

 

3. Meteora in Kalabaka

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Image by TAK | Flickr

Located in the Pindus mountains, Meteora consists of massive sandstone pillars carved out by both wind and water. Some of these pillars stretch hundreds of meters into the air. Hermit monks first began populating the area in the 11th century, and a monastery complex was constructed in the 1400s. While individuals once had to climb various ladders tied together to reach the top, visitors can now take steps that have been carved into the rock that lead up to a bridge. While Meteora once had 20 monasteries, only six of them remain standing today.

 

4. Milos in the Cyclades

While the volcanic island of Milos is famed for being the site of the discovery of the Venus de Milo, very few people actually visit it. However, some think that it will get a lot more foot traffic in the coming years. The island has dozens of beaches that are each quite different. For example, the Paleochori cliffs present travelers with a breathtaking palette of colors, yet Sarakiniko resembles the moon with its pure whiteness. The geothermal energy in some places on the island is so hot that tavernas cook stews overnight in clay pots that they bury in the sand. Milos also has a number of thermal springs purported to have healing powers. In addition, visitors can explore an ancient network of Christian catacombs.

 

5. Nisyros in the Dodecanese

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Another volcanic island, Nisyros is a must-see for people interested in geology. The small island, which sits between Kos and Tilos, houses a dormant volcano where visitors are welcome to explore the massive Stefanos crater. While the center of the crater, which sits near the center of the island, is fenced off, visitors can often see steam forming on the surface. In addition, individuals will likely feel a burning sensation if they wear shoes with thin soles.

 

6. Monemvasia in Pelopennese

A medieval fortress town, Monemvasia rests in the sea atop a dramatic cliff that rises hundreds of feet out of the water and stretches for more than a half mile. In 375 AD, an earthquake separated the cliff from the mainland. Eventually, the upper town, which housed the original fortress, became deserted, although visitors are still welcome to explore it. While there, individuals should not miss the 12th century Byzantine church Agia Sophia. People still live in the lower town, where there are no cars on the cobbled streets. Guests will find a number of restaurants and cafes to enjoy, as well as a few hotels. The area is home to Christos Elkomenos, the largest medieval church in the southern part of Greece.

 

7. Gavros in Macedonia

The town has become a favorite among professional and amateur photographers, as well as curious tourists. Located on the road that connects the Prespa lakes to Kastoria, Gavros is an abandoned village. Historians have not been able to figure out why the residents left the town, which is a testament to the unique architectural style that was once popular in this region. An exploration of the town provides a unique glimpse into country life in Greece.

9 of the Most Mouthwatering Street Food Options in Athens

Athens has undergone a culinary revolution in the past couple of years. This revolution has created an expanding interest in street food, similar to the recent growth of food trucks in many cities across the United States. In Athens, the culinary shift relates to both the recent Greek economic crisis, which created demand for cheaper foods, as well as the explosion of European migration in recent years. This migration has caused regional cuisine from across Greece to appear in Athens, as well as dishes that fuse Greek tradition with the flavors of different cultures across Europe and the Middle East. Currently, visitors will find a wide range of different street vendors with unique food offerings. Some of the options that visitors may want to try in Athens include:

 

  1. Chef and the Dog

This takeaway restaurant perfectly demonstrates the internationalization of Athenian street food. Chef and the Dog serves gourmet hot dogs, which were only introduced to Greece recently. Visitors will find a wide range of different types of hot dogs inspired by Mexican, Korean, German, and Japanese flavors, among many others. The stand even offers a lobster-inspired hot dog.

 

  1. Kostas

One of the most traditional Greek foods is souvlaki, and Kostas has sold an excellent version of the grilled meat since before 1950. The standard souvlaki order is a piece of pita bread stuffed with chunks of grilled pork, parsley, onion, tomato, and yoghurt. Tourists will find a number of different stands selling souvlaki around Athens, but Kostas remains a favorite among locals. The stand usually sells out by 3 p.m. and has very long lines. Other stands also have tasty souvlaki, though it’s usually a good idea to avoid buying souvlaki from stands in tourist areas, as these tend to charge higher prices for lower quality.

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  1. Oven Sesame

Koulouri, a baked ring of dough with sesame seed on top, originated in Thessaloniki, but has long been a popular street food in Athens. Oven Sesame is pushing this simple food’s popularity even further by experimenting with different types of filling. Depending on the time, it may serve koulouri stuffed with meats, cheese, salads, or ice cream. Many other koulouri stands have followed suit and begun offering creative takes on the original.

 

  1. Food Str

Located along the busy bar strip of Kolokotroni Street, Food Str serves many of the classic street vendor foods, from hot dogs to burgers. However, Food Str tries to put a healthy twist on these offerings. One of the most unique dishes, which leverages traditional Greek flavors, is the bakalyaro fish burger, a lightly breaded piece of fish with mayo and beetroot salad that comes on a black roll.

 

  1. Falafellas

While falafel often gets lumped into the category of Greek food in the United States, the fried balls of mashed beans were not actually popular in Athens until relatively recently. Falafellas is a hole-in-the-wall spot that caused a lot of excitement among Athens residents when it opened its doors. Now, this shop is a well-loved destination for people in need of a quick, hot meal. One of the best parts about a visit to Falafellas is the fact that a band playing traditional Greek music is almost always stationed nearby to keep crowds entertained as they wait. Diners can choose from small or giant falafel, which come with eggplant, tomato sauce, cucumber, yoghurt sauce, and other toppings.

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  1. Ktistakis

Another classic Greek street food is the loukouma—a fried dough fritter soaked in honey and coated with cinnamon and sesame. Many Greek families still head out together on a Sunday evening to grab some loukoumades. A great spot for this delicacy is Ktistakis, which produces very small loukoumades that taste like they have been saturated with honey. For people who prefer their pastries a bit drier, Krinos is another good option.

 

  1. Mirch

This tiny restaurant has some seats, but its food is mostly intended for takeaway. Mirch brings the flavors of India to Athens with Indian souvlaki. The most popular item on the menu includes a piece of naan bread stuffed with chicken tikka, vegetables, and a special sauce. Visitors will also find an incredible variety of international beers at Mirch to help wash down this spicy alternative to traditional Greek food.

 

  1. Ariston

In operation since 1906, Ariston specializes in traditional Greek pies and sells dozens of different varieties from several regions of the country. The most classic dish at Ariston is kourou, a cheese pie that makes the perfect midday snack. The pies here feature a buttery, flaky crust that most people find utterly addictive. Visitors who want pies that are more of a play on the classics can check out Pie Works, which creates a range of modern and fun dishes, including breakfast pies.

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  1. Kioftes

The name of this restaurant is derived from the word keftes, which can best be translated as “meatball.” Keftes are largely considered the Greek equivalent to falafel and have maintained a central place among street food options in Greece for a long time. Kioftes uses a recipe that is derived from the owner’s grandmother’s and dates to the early 1900s.

 

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8 of the Attractions Tourists Should Not Miss While in Sparta

One of the most historically important cities in Greece, Sparta is perhaps best known as the rival to ancient Athens. The city has become known for its extremely fierce soldiers, which have been depicted in popular culture in films like 300. Many travelers in Greece choose to skip Sparta because it is a bit far from other major attractions in the country, yet people who take the time to explore the city will find a number of exciting ruins and other attractions to keep them busy. Tourists with a strong interest in history should make it a point to visit Sparta, were individuals can learn about ancient Greece without the crowds of cities like Athens.

Some of the most exciting attractions in Sparta include the following:

 

  1. Lakonia Archaeological Site

Mystras Archaeological site

Image by Taver | Flickr

Because Sparta is second only to Athens in terms of historical significance, visitors will find a wide range of exciting ruins at this archaeological site. When individuals get tired of wandering through the different parts of the site, they can cool off in the on-site archaeological museum. This museum walks people through much of Sparta’s rich history while giving them a glimpse into what life would have been like through some interesting artifacts.

 

  1. Olive and Greek Olive Oil Museum

One of the more unique museums in Greece, the Olive and Greek Olive Oil Museum celebrates this important crop. Here, travelers can learn an incredible amount about how olives are grown and how olive oil is produced. In addition, visitors will get a more complete sense of how olive oil has been used historically to see why it is such an important part of Greek culture.

 

  1. Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia

This sanctuary actually serves as a museum to the Greek goddess Artemis, who held a great deal of significance for ancient Spartans. At this site, Spartan boys were put to an endurance test involving lashing to become men. People who enjoy mythology can learn a lot about the legends that surround Artemis while also seeing some of the ritualistic practices that surrounded her as a holy figure. The museum features some of the clay masks that people actually used during these rituals, in addition to a number of other exhibits about Artemis.

 

  1. Menelaion

While not in Sparta proper, the Menelaion is only a few miles from the city and worth a visit. This shrine honors King Menelaus and was built in the 5th century BC. Mythology buffs will remember that King Menelaus was the husband of Helen of Troy. Not much exists at the site beyond the ancient shrine, so individuals may want to do a bit of research before going so that they have more context, but seeing such an ancient structure is worth the trip.

 

  1. King Leonidas Statue

King Leonidas

Image courtesy Vassilis | Flickr

No trip to Sparta is complete without a visit to the statue of King Leonidas. As fans of the film 300 will know, King Leonidas was one of the most important kings of ancient Sparta. The towering statue remains one of the last bastions of Sparta’s ancient legacy in the city. Visitors will find the statue close to the soccer stadium. Just north of the Leonidas statue is the hill of the acropolis, which features the ruins of a theater constructed in the 2nd century BC. This theater was once of the largest in the country, but most of the stones have been scavenged for other projects. The acropolis also features the ruins of the Byzantine church of Christ the Savior.

 

  1. Diros Caves

One of the best day trips that visitors can take while spending time in Sparta is a visit to the Diros Caves. The caves consist of a network of about five kilometers of underground tunnels and caverns, many of which are directly connected to a massive subterranean lake. Visitors can explore the lake and the caves on a guided boat tour that lasts less than an hour. However, individuals should know that the tour is offered only in Greek, so it can be worthwhile to hire an interpreter to get the most from the experience.

 

  1. John Coumantarios Art Gallery

A small gallery space, the John Coumantarios Art Gallery is still worth a visit. One of the biggest attractions at the gallery is a rotating exhibit of work on loan from the National Art Gallery in Athens, which provides visitors the opportunity to see some really interesting and unique work. The permanent collection consists of about 40 different paintings from different European artists working between the 16th and 20th centuries.

 

  1. Mystras

Another important archaeological site in Sparta is Mystras. Here, visitors will find Byzantine ruins. The area is great for hiking and exploring the different sites, including a Byzantine church and a fortress. Mystras has emerged as one of the primary attractions in the region because of the sheer beauty of the remaining structures.