Travel Tips and Stories

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Ancient City: Ten Things to See and Do in Greece

The Greek nation, most known for fostering the Olympic Games, had drama, art, philosophy, and science at its core from the very beginning. Today, the same elements continue to thrive in the culture and values of the people, which is why over 15 million tourists are drawn to the country every year. When going on holiday in Greece, you’ll find that a good chunk of the important attractions are in Athens but the countryside and outlying islands offer as much satisfaction. This article presents what every discerning visitor should see and do in Greece that will make for a much fuller holiday experience.

1. Visit the Acropolis. The most recognized symbol of the Greek nation, it only makes sense for it to be the first stop on anyone’s itinerary. It’s like a courtesy call wherein you must first pay respect to the guardian before exploring his country. In the day, you’ll stand in awe of the majesty and intricacy of the Parthenon. At night, you can catch a light and sound presentation retelling the Olympus legends.

2. Visit Ancient Agora. These ruins lie in the valley below Acropolis, where Plato and Socrates taught and deliberated their philosophies some 2,500 years ago. The Temple of Hephaestos, imposing and well-preserved, stands on a low hill on the western side of the site. Some of the shrubs and trees in the area are as old as the ruins themselves.

3. Go on a helicopter sightseeing tour of Athens. You’ll be picked up at your hotel and flown low over the major spots. The tour takes around 30 minutes and flies everyday during daylight hours. The ride offers a unique view of Athens landmarks and vantage points that are a photographer’s dream so remember to keep a keen eye for photo opportunities.

4. Catch a Hellenic National League football game. Called soccer in America, football for the rest of the world, it’s a whole religion unto itself. Fans get notoriously rowdy, not hesitating to storm the field when displeased with results. The rampant tomfoolery notwithstanding, this one-of-a-kind experience can be compared to a rock concert where both performers and fans compete for your attention and sport equals passion.

5. Run in the Athens Marathon. If you find yourself in Greece in November, sign up for the Athens Marathon. This follows the same route as the Olympic marathon last year. Just ask yourself, how many people can claim they ran with the gods in Greece?

6. Volunteer for a cause. There are many organizations in need of various skills and talent to facilitate its projects in Greece. The ARCHELON Sea Turtle Protection Society, for example, monitors the natural habitat and overall welfare of sea turtles. The group sees around 400 volunteers from around the world every summer helping these creatures through their nesting period. Other opportunities are in teaching, social and medical work, carpentry and painting, or just general clerical work at several organization offices.

7. Visit the National Archaeological Museum. Included in the museum’s collection is Schliemann’s Agamemnon, so called because it is believed to be the king’s death mask dating back to the 16th century B.C. However, the Trojan War didn’t actually occur until 4 centuries later, which means the mask can’t be Agamemnon’s at all. Nonetheless, crowds keep coming to see relics from ancient civilizations in what’s known as one of the world’s greatest museums.

8. Go hiking down the Vindos Gorge. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this gorge located in Northern Greece is the deepest canyon in world. Climbing down to the bottom, you will find plants and trees unique to the region. Although it can get really hot and humid, it gradually becomes cooler as you descend because the cliffs provide shelter from direct sunlight.

9. Hit the beaches at Crete. Long been a popular retreat to German and British citizens, Crete’s nightlife reminds you of something seen on E!’s Wild On program. With its white-washed houses and sheltered naturist beaches, guests quickly shift into holiday mode, further induced by the Mediterranean breeze that fills the island.

10. Attend the Rockwave Festival. Every summer, this 3-day music festival features bands and artists performing on three separate stages. Each stage corresponds to a musical genre: the red stage is for metal, the green stage offers rock, and the blue stage churns up dance music. After immersing yourself in history and antiquities, this event pulls you back up for some of the latest styles in musical entertainment.


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