Feel Like an Archaeologist In Greece
Nowhere has ancient history like Greece. It’s impossible to travel here and not set off in search of ruins and monuments. 3500-year-old temples in a redolent state of ruin; the mazy walls and courtyards of provincial palaces; sublime pillars rising over a walkway polished smooth by footsteps. Nowhere in the world has so many ruins, nor a storyline as complex. For more than 4000 years there have been battles between the Minoans, Spartans, Mycenaeans, Hellenists, Macedonians, Romans, Carthaginians, Athenians, Byzantines, Saracens, Venetians and Turks. And that’s just the start!
Evidence of this ancient history is found all across Greece. You don’t need to visit Athens to view ancient ruins and temples. While the Acropolis and Parthenon are incredible monuments, the country’s landscape is dotted with thousands of ruined cities, restored palaces, sacred temples, evocative shrines and far-reaching foundations. One of the country’s great highlights is that you start to feel like an archaeologist, piecing together the clues left behind by civilizations. There’s a wonderful sense of discovery when there are so many ruins to find, something that makes the ancient history come alive in your eyes and mind.
The Greek Experience: Focusing on a Specific Era
Don’t try and understand all of the history. Nobody does. And nobody will. Even after reading a thousand books the history only gets more confusing and convoluted. There is no place in Greece which has significantly more, nor better, ancient sites than elsewhere. Most are only ruins, made more real by the stories that accompany them. In many countries the recommended approach is to visit attractions from different eras. In Greece, it’s well worth focusing on a specific period of history. When there is only one civilization to understand you can take more from the experience. You can’t possibly understand all the history, so why not get a deeper sense of a particular period of history?
The Crete Experience: The Legacy of the Minoans
Crete’s history is older than most of Greece. The island was a hub of a Bronze Age empire that ruled the Aegean more than 4000 years ago. Knosos was the Minoan capital and somewhat remarkably, more than a dozen ancient sights are still being excavated. To get you started there’s the story of bull-headed Minotaur, who hunted victims in a labyrinth beneayh King Minos’s palace. It may be myth. It is certainly mysterious. Ancient Knosos is one of Greece’s best preserved ancient sites and the unmissable highlight of any visit to Crete. Images of sacred bulls, stone thrones, Procession frescos, leaping dolphins and royal courtyards – if you only visit one historical site it has to be this one.
Knosos serves as the introduction to the Minoan story. It’s best to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon, avoiding the tour buses that descend during the hottest part of the day. With a month on the island of Crete there are many more ruins, allowing you to stitch together the puzzling tale of the Minoans, the first sophisticated European civilization.
Phaestos – A tangle of courtyards and walls, this hilltop palace is second only to Knosos in size and grandeur. Check out the hieroglyphics and you’ll be as baffled as the scientists.
Gournia – With its roofless stone walls and well-preserved houses, Gournia is a great example of a typical Minoan town.
Gortys – While Knosos is busy Gortys is always quiet. It’s a vast ruined city that feeds the imagination.
Irakleio Archaeological Museum – Packed full of frescoes and striking exhibits, this museum is home to most of the treasures unearthed on the island. The Hall of Frescos is spellbinding while the Bull’s Head Rhyton shows how they used to drink wine.
Praisos – After the Minoans came the Eteocretans (“true Cretans”). This was one of their enclaves and the ruins are free to visit.
Are you ready to explore these ancient ruins and more? Join us in April as we depart on a 90-day trip to Italy, Spain and Greece. Click below to learn more!