Few countries can pride themselves on a heritage as important to Western civilization as Greece. A range of first class historic landmarks remind one of the days when the great Greek emperors and writers made their mark on the development of science, literature and democracy. No less than 17 of those monuments are listed as World Heritage Sites. However, the many charming little islands, sandy beaches and picturesque whitewashed coastal towns are at least as much a reason to come for the millions of tourists that this Mediterranean country receives each year.
World famous are the iconic Parthenon in the bustling capital Athens and the splendid site of Delphi, where the mighty emperors sought the prophecies of the most prominent oracle in the ancient Greek world. There's the temple of Apollo at Bassae and the gorgeous old city of Rhodes, once overlooked by the Colossus of Rhodes. The archaeological site of Olympia is the birthplace of our modern Olympic Games and the place from where the Olympic flame is sent across the world. The many Eastern Orthodox monasteries of Meteora are just stunning to look at, built high on natural sandstone rock pillars. At the small town of Vergina the ancient site of Agai was found, and many valuable artifacts were discovered in several untouched tombs, one of them being the tomb of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Proudly situated on Mt. Taygetos is the ancient town of Mystras, close to and often mistaken for ancient Sparta. Another great site is the island of Delos, not far from the popular holiday destination Mykonos. According to myths, this is were Apollo and Artemis were born. The island used to be the main Panhellenic sanctuary and is now dotted with archaeological remains.
Some major sights are nicely located on one of the beautiful Greek islands, allowing for a delightful combination of sightseeing and relaxing on one of the many fine beaches. Patmos is a lovely example, boasting the historic centre Chora, the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse, but also some pleasant sea side restaurants with pretty views. Corfu has the same characteristics, being a popular holiday destination with good beaches and an impressive historic town centre. The beach towns of Samos, just a stone's throw away from the Turkish mainland, are a good place to try the islands local wines famous in the ancient world!. On the island are also the World Heritage Temple of Hera, the remains of the fortified port of Pythagoreion and the famous Tunnel of Eupalinos, a 1 km long subterranean aqueduct built in the 6th century BC. Although not an island, the ancient Mount Athos is located in the north of Greece, on the peninsula of Chalkidiki. It's one of the country's most popular tourist regions with excellent beaches, numerous other ancient sites and many charming villages.
If you still want more of the historic stuff, admire the massive Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus or the Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns. The Monasteries of Daphni Athens, Hosios Loukas Beotia and Nea Moni on the island of Chios complete the World Hertiage listings for Greece.
When it comes to Greece's famously gorgeous islands, it's hard to take your pick out of the 6000 options you have, 227 of them being inhabited. Their rocky coast lines, sandy beaches, charming villages, sheltered bays and many yacht harbours make them extremely popular among all kinds of travellers. The large island of Crete is a highly popular tourist destination, with landscapes varying from great sandy palm beaches to snow-covered high peaks and stunning river gorges and a good deal of night life in its main tourist towns. If you're looking to party at night, lovely Mykonos or Ios are good options too. The volcanic island of Santorini is one of the most romantic picks and offers some spectacular views. Its whitewashed capital of Fira is dramatically situated on the edge of a 400m high cliff, overlooking a beautiful blue lagoon. Other popular ones are Lesbos, Paros, Lefkada and Kos. The National Marine Park on Zakynthos is the primary nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles in the Mediterranean. The rugged, green hills and valleys of Kefalonia boast a number of vineyards, and the island's cliffs and beautiful beaches make it a tourist hotspot. For a slightly more authentic and less touristy experience, try Syros, Amorgos, Thasos or any of the other small and less developed islands.