acropolis

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

hercules

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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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.

greece

7 of the Most Exciting Museums to Visit While Traveling around Greece

Greece remains one of the most beautiful countries on the planet, offering a number of exciting outdoor adventures for its travelers. However, tourists should not ignore the incredible culture that also exists in Greece. This country has a rich heritage that visitors can explore through a number of different museums. Specializing in everything from archaeology to art, Greece boasts some of the most celebrated museums in all of Europe.

Some of the must-see museums across the country include the following:

 

  1. Archaeological Museum of Delphi

Located in Delphi, the Archaeological Museum of Delphi contains relics from the Delphic sanctuary, which formerly housed one of the most important Greek oracles. Here, visitors can see a wide range of sculptures and statues that were left at the sanctuary as donations. These pieces of art speak to the religious and political conditions of Greece through the entire Classical period. The museum presents the story of Delphi in chronological order and does a great job of explaining the context of each part of the permanent exhibit. This exhibit explores the various ups and downs of the sanctuary over the centuries, with a focus on the Archaic period. Visitors should be sure to check out the bronze Charioteer, as well as the digital reconstructions of the sanctuary.

Delphi

Image by Egisto Sani | Flickr

 

  1. National Archaeological Museum

The largest museum in Greece, the National Archaeological Museum has become one of Athens’ primary attractions. When it was first established, the museum held findings from archaeological digs in and around Athens, but it now holds interesting pieces from across the country. Altogether, the museum has more than 11,000 exhibits that look at Greek culture from the Prehistoric period up to Late Antiquity. Today, the museum has five main permanent collections that examine prehistoric art, vases, sculptures, and metallurgy from Greece, as well as antiquities from Egypt and the Near East. One of the major highlights of the museum is the Antikythera device, which people in the first century BC used to make astronomical calculations.

 

  1. Archaeological Museum of Iraklion

Visitors to Crete should make time to explore the Archaeological Museum of Iraklion, which provides a comprehensive glimpse into Minoan culture. The museum has everything from bronze figurines to intricate gold jewelry. It also boasts some of the incredible frescoes that come from Knossos and feature various dancers and athletes that still speak incredibly well to modern culture despite being more than 4,000 years old. In addition to Minoan artifacts, the museum has pieces on display from Greek, Roman, and Neolithic peoples who inhabited the island.

 

  1. Battleship Averof Naval Museum

To get more acquainted with modern Greek history, visitors can head to Faliro, a seaside suburb of Athens that is home to the Battleship Averof, which contains a naval museum. This unique floating museum allows individuals to explore most of the ship, which was built in 1909 and played a critical role in the Greek navy. At the museum, people get a glimpse of all the missions it took part in while learning about how the ship actually operated. Located in the same Faliro Bay complex as the battleship is the Trireme Olympias, a reconstruction of the ships the Greeks used in the ancient world. The reconstruction is meant to be as faithful as possible to the ships that were used more than 2,500 years ago.

 

  1. Museum of Cycladic Art

Rated one of the top museums in Athens, the Museum of Cycladic Art looks at prehistoric artworks produced on the Cyclades, a string of Greek islands. Most visitors are struck by how modern the artwork here looks despite the fact that it is several millennia old. Cycladic art is defined by minimalism with smooth and elongated figures that have inspired artists like Picasso, Modigliani, and Henry Moore. Some art historians contend that the pieces in this museum represent the first attempts at artistically depicting a human face. Alongside the main collection, the museum often houses travelling modern exhibits and displays some Ancient Greek and Cypriot work.

 

  1. Acropolis Museum

A newer museum in Athens, the Acropolis Museum is architecturally stunning, five-story structure that displays many of the riches recovered from the ancient Acropolis. The museum features 36 of the 115 frieze panels that are on display in Greece, as well as numerous sculptures and statues. Interestingly, the path through the museum is designed to mimic the climb toward the Acropolis. On the ground level, the museum has a glass floor that provides views of current archaeological digs taking place at the Acropolis, which include excavations of an early Christian settlement and an ancient neighborhood.

 

  1. Palace of the Grand Master

At the peak of the Castle of the Knights in Rhodes is the Palace of the Grand Master. This palace was first constructed as the residence of the Grand Master of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem and served as an administrative center for the government. Now a museum, visitors can see beautiful mosaic floors brought to the fortress from the island of Kos and a furniture collection representative of the 16th and 17th centuries. In addition, the interior yard features a number of Greek and Roman statues. A highlight of any visit to the palace is an exhibition that covers 24 centuries of the island’s history.