Fifty centuries of history have surely left their mark on the country’s landscape. Lots of impressive historical monuments are spread around the mainland and the islands, connecting modern life with the ancient past and reminding that no doubt Greece has so much more than great beaches. If you are interested in an insight to the past, here are our best Greek islands for ancient sites.
Situated in the southern part of the Aegean Sea, Crete comes first among the best Greek islands for ancient sites. This was the birthplace of the Minoan civilization, one of the most important civilizations in the ancient world. Remnants of this great culture are found all over the island.
Located near Heraklion, the Minoan Palace of Knossos was the residence of the royal family, as well as the administrative and religious centre of the entire region. The palace is connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Minotaur and the story of Daedalus and Icarus.
Another important ancient site in Crete is Minoan Pheastos, which features basic characteristics of the Minoan architecture, like paved yards, multiple gates and well-kept facades. Archaeological findings from both these Minoan sites are exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, such as the famous disc of Phaestos and a large collection of vases with a variety of decorative colors.
A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990, Delos island is a significant historical site. Located in the Cyclades island group, Delos was never actually inhabited but constituted in the antiquity a holy island, as this was where god Apollo was born according to the myth. This is why the entire island was dedicated to the god and an important sanctuary was constructed there.
Unfortunately, only few remains from this sanctuary survive until today, but still this is an impressive ancient site to visit. An ancient theater, many mosaics and statues, such as the Statues of the Lions, are also found in Delos. Day tours to Delos are organized from Mykonos and also from Paros, two close islands.
The trademark of Naxos is Portara, also known as the Great Door. This is actually a huge marble doorway, constructed on the islet of Palatia and connected to the main town through a causeway. According to myth, this is where the Minoan princess Ariadne was abandoned by her lover, Theseus, on their escape trip from Crete.
Set in a picturesque environment near the village of Sangri, about 10 km from Naxos Town, the Temple of Demeter can also be found. Dating back to the 6th century BC, this glorious temple was constructed in the classical architectural style with high-quality Naxos marble and was dedicated to the ancient goddess of grain and fertility.
Two impressive statues of Kouros (male figures) are also found in the countryside of Naxos, one in Melanes and the other in Apollonas villages.
Situated in the south eastern Aegean Sea, Rhodes is the largest island of Dodecanese with a long history. On Monte Smith hill above the main town is the Acropolis of Rhodes, dating back to the 3rd and 2nd century BC. There are many different things to see on this ancient acropolis, such as the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, an ancient theatre, several monuments and public buildings.
Another site worth to visit in Rhodes is certainly the Acropolis of Lindos. The Temple of Lindean Athena atop the Acropolis rises impressively high above the picturesque village of Lindos. To get to the top, visitors must either walk along a steep route or pay a small fee and ride a donkey.
Ancient Kameiros is another ancient site on the island of Rhodes, dating from the 5th century BC and constructed around an acropolis with the temple of goddess Athena.
Among the best Greek islands for ancient sites is also Kos. This destination is highly recommended for the ancient site of Asklepieion, an ancient Greek and Roman sacred healing centre based on the teachings of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. In the ancient times, the Asklepieion of Kos was very famous and visitors would travel from all over the Mediterranean basin to benefit from its healing properties.