Greece in a glance
- Published: Tuesday, 08 July 2014 09:18
Modern Greece (Hellas) traces its roots to the civilization of Ancient Greece, which is considered the cradle of the entire Western civilization. As such, it is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy. The cultural and technological achievements of Greece greatly influenced the world, with many aspects of Greek civilization being imparted to the East through Alexander the Great's campaigns, and to the West through the Roman Empire. This precious and unique legacy is partly rendered in the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Greece, ranking it 7th in Europe and 13th in the world.
Greece is an eminent country, popular for its long historical heritage, hospitality, sun, and breathtaking beaches. There are hundreds of archaeological and historical sites to visit in Greece that gloriously depict the country's civilization and cultural legacy.
Acropolis holly rock, situated in the center of Athens is one of the most recognizable historic sites in the world and remains an inspirational monument to the achievements of Ancient Greek civilization, with many satellite monuments located in the surrounding area. The unified archaeological sites around the Acropolis, the Agora and the Areopagus, the Hills and Municipalities of ancient Athens, Kerameikos, Hadrian’s Library, the Roman agora, the Olympieion, Hadrian’s Gate, the Kallimarmaro stadium where modern Olympics were resurrected, are filled with the echoes of great philosophers, orators, artists and scientists.
Atop steep cliffs, overlooking the Aegean Sea, the temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, about 30 miles south of Athens, was the ideal place to build a temple for the God of Sea. The city of ancient Philippoi in Macedonia was a great cultural centre of the north. The Acropolis of Philippoi, the theatre, the agora, along with fine early-Byzantine churches, the Octagon, the palaestra, are spread over a huge area in the shadow of Mount Pangaion.
Delphi, in the heart of Mount Parnassus in Central Greece, was believed by ancient people to be the omphalos (navel) of the earth, the centre of the universe. At the point where the oracle of Delphi, the most important in antiquity, lies, there used to be a prehistoric shrine dedicated to the great earth-mother ‘Gaia’.Epidaurus, with the magnificent theatre and the significant temple of Asclepius, famous Mycenae and Tiryns, as well as the archaeological sites of Ancient Messini and Mystras are some of the most brightly shining archaeological treasures of Peloponnese.
In Olympia in the Peloponnese beats the heart of the Olympic Games. Every four years, disputes among men give way to noble rivalry. The great shrine of Olympia was once home to the chryselephantine statue of Zeus, named as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Crete has many archaeological sites. The Minoan civilization was one of the most significant in the ancient world. The key feature of this civilization was the joy of life and the lack of a warlike disposition.
Excavations in Phaistos, Palace of Knossos, Palaikastro in Siteia and elsewhere, brought to light great monuments, but mainly presented a civilization so radiant and dedicated to simple, everyday joys, that it seemed invincible. Delos, a small Cycladic island in the middle of the Aegean Sea, a few nautical miles away from the cosmopolitan coasts of Mykonos is an important historical and archaeological site. According to Greek mythology, this is the birthplace of God Apollo and his twin sister Artemis.
Although the landscape in mainland is mostly rocky, the country is surrounded by the Aegean, the Ionian and the Libyan seas, creating the Greek Archipelago. The country has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin and the 11th longest coastline in the world with 16,000 km overall length. The islands are the main characteristic of Greece’s morphology and an integral part of the country’s culture and tradition. Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 islands are inhabited. This is a truly unique phenomenon for the European continent.The Greek Archipelago takes up 7,500 km of the country’s total 16,000 km coastline, offering a highly diversified landscape: beaches stretching over many kilometers, sheltered bays and coves, sandy beaches with sand-dunes, pebble beaches, coastal caves with steep rocks and dark colored sand typical of volcanic soil and coastal wetlands.
Many of these Greek beaches have been awarded the blue flag under the Blue Flags European Program, providing not only swimming, but also scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing, sailing and windsurfing. In Greece about 400 beaches and 9 marinas have been awarded the Blue Flag. Many Greek beaches have become synonymous with luxury and a carefree life. Navagio (Shipwreck) on Zakynthos, Balos on Crete, Lindos on Rhodes, Manganari on Ios, Foinikounta on the Mani coast and numerous others are inundated each year by lovers of the Greek seas. Elia on the island of Mykonos is of course the most famous Greek beach. Popular Elia is just 8 kilometers from Chora Myconos and combines the wonderful Cycladic landscape, bright blue sea and superior infrastructure.
Kolympithres on Paros with its strange rock formations carved out by the sea, captivates travellers. The beach lies in north-west Paros, in the gulf of Naoussa. Red Beach on Santorini is undoubtedly the most famous on the island. A unique palette of colours dominated by vivid volcano red leads reaching down to the crystal blue sea. Alyki Beach on the island of Thassos is another ‘jewel’ of the sea. It is in actual fact twin beaches separated by a narrow strip of land.
Elounta on Crete, Minoan Olous, is the island’s trademark. It lies on the south side, just 10 kilometers from Agios Nikolaos, a delightful complex of beaches adored by the global travel community. Myrtos beach on the island of Kefalonia receives awards every year and features in travel guides the world over. It is considered one of the most beautiful beaches on earth. Every Greek beach is engulfed in beauty. Some are lush-green with pines reflecting in the water, others were born of volcanoes mesmerizing with nature’s power, like Kipoi on Samothrace, with its jet-black pebbles. Yet again, others are hidden paradises, like Varelaioi in Evia, the ‘secret’ beaches of the Minor Cyclades, Voutoumi on the island of Antipaxos, Mylopotamos in Pelion and many more.Beaches in Greece are a true kaleidoscope, enthralling the senses with their colors and formations.
Some of the oldest European civilizations developed on the Greek islands (Cycladic, Minoan civilizations, etc.), so therefore the islands have unique archeological sites, a distinctive architectural heritage and the fascinating local traditions of a centuries-old and multifaceted civilization.The ideal climate, safe waters and small distances between ports and coasts, have made the Greek islands extremely popular among Greek and foreign visitors. The Greek islands are separated into 6 main complexes. Starting from Cyclades with its lovely white houses and the clear blue sea, with islands of natural beauty such as Andros, Tinos, Mykonos, Kea, Syros, Kithnos, Serifos, Paros, Naxos, Antiparos, Kimolos, Ios, Amorgos, Milos, Folegandros, Santorini and Sifnos. Dodecanese, likewise Cyclades known for the beauty of the landscape and the architecture, with Patmos, Rhodes, Lipsi, Karpathos, Leros, Kasos, Kalymnos, Kos, Astypalaia, Nisiros, Simi, Tilos and Chalki.
Ionian Islands known for the all-green islands and the warm welcome of the Ionian people, with the islands of Kerkyra, Paxoi, Lefkada, Kefallonia, Ithaki, Zakynthos and Kythira. Aegean Islands with clear blue seas, ideal for magestic calm vacations, with the islands of Samos, Limnos, Agios Efstratios, Lesvos, Psara, Chios, Inousses, Ikaria and Fournoi.
Sporades, known for the beauty of the islands' nature and the clear blue-green seas reflecting the pine trees that reach all the way down to the sea, with the islands of Skiathos, Alonissos, Skopelos and Skyros. And finally Crete, the huge Greek island with the big cultural history and the welcoming people, divided into four big areas: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklio and Ag. Nikolaos and the very well known beaches of Elounda and Sitia. The islands of Gavdos (situated south of Crete), Elafonissos (in the Gulf of Laconia) and Trizonis (in the Gulf of Corinth), do not form a group but are still of unparalleled natural beauty.
Greece is the ideal place for city tourism. Discovering the very soul of a Greek city is much more than a quick tour around its monuments and sightseeing. Greek cities are full of possibilities, easily accessible and visitor friendly around the year, offering a great sum of modern facilities and choices. Greek cities combine excellent conference facilities with unique museums, archaeological sites, shopping and nightlife. A walk around the old neighborhoods reveals the coexistence of different eras in cities’ heart. Old mansions, many of them well-preserved, luxurious department stores and small intimate shops, fancy restaurants and traditional taverns are located one next to another. All have their place here. Greece is a unique destination that combines business and pleasure in the best possible way. Luxurious hotels with services that combine entertainment, leisure areas and excellent conference facilities, constitute yet another powerful incentive for someone to enjoy a magnificent city break or even close a business deal in Greece.
The 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the widely acknowledged “unforgettable, dream games” left a crucial legacy to city of Athens: transport infrastructure of a new era, green parks and squares, world-class sports facilities, and a gleaming, Calatrava-inspired Olympic Sports Complex. The Olympic cities, Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion, and Volos revamped, refurbished, cleaned up.Thessaloniki is situated 520 km. north of Athens and is the second largest city of Greece and the most important centre of the area. Built near the sea, at the back of the Thermaïkos gulf, it is a modern metropolis bearing the marks of its stormy history and its cosmopolitan character, which give it a special beauty and charm.
Patra is a bustling student city, a place where entertainment, history and culture mingle together to create a destination filled with wonderful discoveries. A romantic stroll around Old city’s cobbled streets will reveal grand colorful neoclassic mansions, reminders of the city’s glorious past. A visit to the city’s Medieval Castle, built in the second half of the 6th century A.D. on the ruins of the ancient Acropolis will round up the visit. Heraklion is the largest city of Crete and one of Greece’s major urban centers. Its development begun in the wake of the 9th century AD. Heraklion came under Arabic, Venetian and Ottoman rule; its conquerors initially gave it the name Khandaq or Handak which was corrupted to Candia. During the 2004 Olympic Games, the city of Heraklion provided one of the venues for the football tournament.Among the most outstanding sights of Heraklion are the fortification walls that delimit the “old city”. In the old (Venetian) port, next to the modern facilities, one can see the vaulted tarsanades where ships used to be built, while the western side is dominated by the Koule fortress.
Finally, Volos is one of the largest and most attractive cities in Greece as well as one of the country’s most prominent ports. The modern-day city, built near the site of ancient Iolcos, dominates the region of Magnesia from its position at the foot of Mount Pelion overlooking the Pagasetic gulf. This is one of the most beautiful areas in Thessaly, in the centre of Greece combining the allure of the sea with the mystical charm of the Centaurs’ mountain. Volos is situated 320km north of Athens and 219km south of Thessaloniki.
A short break in Greece can take you onto a long and memorable journey.