The Greek Islands are synonymous with sun-drenched beaches but this fascinating region of the world also offers a plethora of archaeological sites dating back thousands of years. From the Minoan Palace of Knossos to the ancient ruins of Delos, the Greek Islands hold a wealth of ancient cultural artefacts.
Europe’s oldest city
Two million people have booked Crete holidays this year and if you’re one of them, make sure you don’t miss the chance to visit the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Legend has it that Knossos is the palace of King Minos and the city was abandoned sometime around 1380 to 1100 BC. This ancient city, located in Heraklion, dates back to around 2,700 BC but was only discovered in 1878. The site has been substantially restored by expert archaeologists over the years including the Throne Room, the Royal Villa and the many beautiful frescoes.
The birthplace of Apollo
A boat ride from the island of Mykonos will take you to the uninhabited island of Delos, one of the Greece’s most important archaeological sites. Mythology claims that this island was the birthplace of Apollo and the island was and is still considered a sacred site. Delos contains a wealth of historical artefacts including monuments such as the Temple of Apollo, the Terrace of Lions and the ancient theatre. The sites on Delos allow you to step back in time to the 3rd millennium BC and there are over 50 acres of excavations to be explored.
The Temple of Aphaia
The Greek Island of Aegina is home to the ancient Aphaia Temple, first built in 570 BC but then destroyed and rebuilt in 510 BC. The temple is located on the island’s eastern side and provides more than enough of a reason alone to visit beautiful Aegina. Located in a natural beauty spot at 160 meters high, you can be assured of spectacular views across the sea from this monument’s location. Visitors are permitted to walk around the 20 well-preserved columns and the view at sunset, along with the tranquil atmosphere, will provide an unforgettable experience.
The most beautiful Greek Island
Yes, Santorini does seem to win hands down as the one of Greece’s most stunning and picturesque islands. This island is also home to the ancient Doric town of Thira (the classic name for Santorini), which dates back to the ninth century BC. Many of the ancient ruins here date back to the Hellenistic era but you will also find examples of Roman and Byzantine buildings. Sites include the Temple of Dionysos, the Sanctuary of Artemidoros and the cemeteries of Ancient Thira.
One of the most famous Greek islands
Rhodes is a very popular Greek Island destination and is in many ways a living museum. The island is home to the majestic Palace of the Grand Masters of the Order of St John, and this is an amazing example of Grecian gothic architecture. The Archaeological Museum is worth visiting for the collections of pottery, coins and sculptures, some of which date back to the 1st century BC. Other historic sites on Rhodes include the Citadel and ancient temple ruins such as the Pythian Apollo and the temple of Athena Polias.
The Greek Islands are indeed a place of beauty and if you know where to look you can find many amazing historical treasures not too far from the beaches. Take a little time to explore these historic works of art and watch Ancient Greece unfold in front of your eyes.
Images by Σπύρος Βάθης, Jack Keene, Ava Babili, George M. Groutas and Paul Simpson used under creative commons license.