Hidden Gems in Greece

While Greece covers a relatively small amount of land in comparison with some other neighbors, it’s a huge country when it comes to the richness of its culture and history. If you enjoy learning more about the Ancient Greece way of life, you are going to love the list of historic gems we’ve put together for you.

There are of course so many more treasures – reach out if you’d like to discover more about Greece or want help planning your holidays.

Ancient Athens

Once place that pops up in anyone’s mind when thinking about historical gems in Greece is Athens.

From the Acropolis, Parthenon, Agora National Archeological Museum, Syntagma Square, Plaka, Cape Souniou and to Temple of Poseidon, this is a one big precious experience. Many of classical civilisation’s intellectual and artistic ideas originated in Athens. Greece is a magical country with its stunning sunsets and rises, endless islands and neck twisting views from anywhere you look. And Athens is like a crown jewel – it’s one of the most interesting and beautiful places to start your journey from.

Records show the Athen’s origins go back to around 3,400 years ago, making it one of the oldest cities in the world, with the oldest discovered evidence of human settlement is the Cave of Schist, which might date back as far as 11,000 to 7,000 BC! This city has seen it all, you could say. It certainly has been submitted to nearly every form of government known to this day: monarchy, democracy, socialism, capitalism, even communism. This is a fascinating city with very rich history.

During construction of the Athens Metro to support transportation needs during the 2004 Olympic Games, the works led to the greatest archaeological excavation in the Athens area, and over 50,000 artifacts were excavated. Six Metro stations displayed some of the finds.

Ancient Messene

The archeological site of Ancient Messene is inarguably one of the most impressive given its sheer size. This ancient city was, unlike most others, untouched by the later settlements and thus has preserved outstandingly.

The remains of this tremendous ancient city are complete with a grand ancient stadium, Ancient Agora, an ancient theatre (with a capacity of up to ten thousand spectators), and a fountain house. It is so well-maintained that you can clearly envision the city in all of its glory, making it an extraordinary experience. If you’ve been enjoying the Roman Empire Netflix series indulging in the high quality video reconstructions of the city, you’d really love it here – no technology is required to almost feel like you are walking through an Ancient Greece settlement.

The question is, why are more people not visiting Messene? Well there are a few reasons we can think of. Firstly, it’s not the most advertised site in Greece. Secondly, Ancient Messene is one of these places in Greece where no one can quite agree on its Latin spelling. Is it Messini or Messene? Who knows! Be careful not to confuse it with the modern township of the same name farther south.

Either way, this is a true historical gem in Greece worth a visit.

Discovering Aegina

Greece has 6,000 islands in total, scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 are inhabited. It isn’t always easy to pick a favourite one. The island of Aegina is one of the most popular tourist destinations as it is the closest island to Athens. But this is not why it made our list.

According to ancient mythology, Aegina owes its name to the nymph Aegina, daughter of the river god Asopus, who Zeus seduced and took on the island of Aegina, then called Oenone. There she gave birth to Aecus, the first king of the island and grandfather of the famous Trojan hero, Achilles. Aecus renamed the island Aegina, in honor of his mother.

The first actual recorded information about Aegina is the conquest of the island by the Doreans of Epidavros in 950 BC. They chose Aegina as their base in order to concentrate on the sea and trading, and soon became very rich and powerful. These traders imported huge amounts of silver from North Africa (where it had no value!) and introduced this as a means of exchange. From this silver, the first coins were created which were imprinted with the image of a turtle. It wasn’t always so prosperous here and many years of decline also tormented this island. In 1537, during the war between the Venetians and the Turks, the island was destroyed by the notorious pirate Barbarossa who slaughtered all the men on the island and took thousands of women and children to the slave markets of the East. The island was eventually completely deserted till about 1800 when the island became a hiding place and refuge for the wounded rebel fighters from the first steps of the war of liberation from the Ottoman Empire. It was also here, that widows and orphans from the war found refuge and once more, the waterfront became a hive of activity.

It’s a very popular spot now amongst Athenians as well as tourists.

Medieval Fortress of Nafplion

The town of Nafplion was among the first towns to be set free at the Greek War of 1821. Many war heroes and fighters moved to Nafplion, among which Theodoros Kolokotronis, Manto Mavrogenous, and Dimitrios Ipsilantis. Nafplion is one of these gems many history buffs would love to visit.

The fort of the Palamidi in Nafplio, which has been preserved in excellent condition, is one of the greatest achievements of Venetian fortification architecture. The construction of the fort was basically carried out during the time of Venetian General Superintendent of the Fleet, Agostino Sagredo, from 1711 to 1714, marking the fort not only as a major feat in terms of its fortifications but also in terms of the speed with which it was constructed.

It was from the Palamidi that the liberation of the city from the Turks began, after a long siege. On the night of 29th November 1822, a unit of Greek rebels, led by Staikos Staikopoulos, launched a surprise attack and seized the Palamidi. Dimitrios Moschonisiotis was the first to set foot inside the fort from the bastion of Achilles.

You can access the fort today by the road which terminates at the eastern gate or by the famous steps which are located on the western side to the east of the Grimani bastion.

Akrotiri Minoan Site in Santorini

Santorini is certainly one of our favourite destinations in Greece. However, the historical gem spotlight goes to the archaeological site of Akrotiri. Located on the southern side of the island, between the village of Akrotiri and the famous Red beach, this site is visited by thousands of visitors every year.

Excavations on Akrotiri started as early as the 1870s by the French Archaeological School of Athens. However, there was no public access till 2012. Archaeologists believe that the town was originally constructed around 4,500 B.C. but in the 17th century B.C. it was destroyed by an earthquake.

A new town was built on the ruins of the old town until it was also destroyed by the volcanic eruption about one century later. During the volcano eruption, the entire town was covered with ashes and lava, which preserved Akrotiri almost intact through time. As no human bodies have been found covered by lava archaeologists believe that precursory earthquakes made the residents leave before the volcano erupted. Since there have been 9 eruptions over the last 2000 years in Santorini, no eruptions are predicted any time soon.  You are welcome to explore this historical gem safely.

If you want help planning your Greek holidays, just give us a call on 1800 242 353.