We’re heading back to Greece on the blog today after a long break! Once we visited the beautiful Greek Isles of Santorini & Hydra, we returned to Athens ready to see some of the amazing Greece. Our first stop was the Acropolis, of course! It worked out well for us to go later in the day, and even though there were still plenty of fellow travelers around, it can get much worse since it’s the main site folks cruising try to hit on their day trip from the port. While we’re on practicalities, definitely wear good walking shoes with traction so you don’t slip on the stone paths in Athens. Also, be prepared to climb up to the Acropolis; it’s named “high city” for a reason!
I’d highly recommend either investing in a tour guide or downloading an audio tour (thanks, Rick Steves) ahead of time so you learn about the history of the birthplace of Western civilization. A few of my favorite stops in the Acropolis were the amphitheater, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Parthenon, the giant Greek flag at the overlook with great views of the city below, and the Erechteion. I am always in awe to be able to see places like the Parthenon in person and marvel at what a feat of engineering it is. I’m also amazed it’s survived until now since it “has been rocked by earthquakes, set on fire, shattered by exploding gunpowder, looted for its stunning sculptures, and defaced by misguided preservation efforts” (read more in this fascinating Smithsonian article). Because of pollution & the effects of acid rain today, the Parthenon is pretty much in a continuous state of restoration.
Perhaps because of all the scaffolding at the Parthenon, I really loved the Erechteion, especially the Porch of the Caryatids. The six majestic statues are replicas of the originals, five of which you can see at the stunning Acropolis Museum. The sixth one is in the British Museum in London since it was taken by the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Lord Elgin and is yet to returned. I loved that after visiting the Acropolis you can see it pretty much everywhere else in the city, high on the hill. If you’re out at night, it’s quite a stunner!
Your 12 euro Acropolis ticket also includes admission to the Ancient Agora, where you can see the market place and center of government where daily life was lived out in ancient Greece. There’s a lot to explore here including the rebuilt Stoa of Attalos which houses the Agora Museum, the lovely little Church of the Holy Apostles, many a ruin, and the well preserved Temple of Hephaistos. The temple was very impressive to me, especially the beautiful friezes depicting various scenes from Greek mythology.
On our final day in Greece, we enjoyed a leisurely morning in Athens before setting off for Delphi where pilgrims would travel to visit the oracle of Apollo. I’d researched various one day tours to take but in the end we decided to do it ourselves as a day trip. So we rented a little Fiat and drove the few hours to Delphi. The drive was gorgeous since it was spring, and yellow wildflowers were in bloom along the roadside! By the time we had a late lunch in the cute little town and got out to the site, we virtually had the place to ourselves, which I love!
A few highlights of the Delphi’s Sanctuary of Apollo were walking the Sacred Way, seeing the omphalos (navel) which ancients believed was the center of the world, the beautiful Treasury of the Athenians, the Temple of Apollo which would’ve housed the oracle, the theater, and the stadium where the Pythian Games were held. The view above the theater with Mt. Parnassos in the background was spectacular. We also stopped by the Sanctuary of Athena, whose circular tholos with three standing Doric columns was one of the famous Delphi photos I’d seen before visiting. Pilgrims who traveled to Delphi also worshiped Athena in addition to Apollo. I’d highly recommend finding time to visit Delphi if you can fit it into your Greek itinerary!
If you’ve been to Greece, do you have any to add to this list? Which one do you most want to visit?