Unmissable UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece

The Erectheion on the Acropolis, which was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in Greece. Credit: Greek journalist

The physical presence of Greece’s glorious ancient history is still visible through the countless archaeological sites, buildings and monuments of the country. It should come as no surprise then that the country has a rich list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Greece is currently home to 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 16 of which are inscribed on the cultural heritage list, while the other two – Meteora and Mount Athos – are included due to their exceptional natural landscape as well as their cultural significance.

The Acropolis was added to UNESCO World Heritage in 1987

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The Parthenon. Credit: Greek journalist

A few of Greece’s UNESCO World Heritage sites are located on the islands, while the majority of them are in mainland Greece. That first site to be included on the list was the Temple of Apollo Epicurius, which was added in 1986.

The famous temple of Apollo Epicurius, also called Bassae, was dedicated to the god of healing and the sun. Dating from the 5th century BC, it was erected on the mountains of Arcadia.

The Temple, which has the oldest Corinthian capital ever found, combines Archaic and Doric styles of architecture.

The Acropolis was included in 1987 as an entire site that includes some of the greatest masterpieces of the Classical period, such as the Parthenon, the Erechteion, the Propylaea, and the temple of Athena Nike.

The so-called center of the world for the ancient Greeks, the archaeological site of Delphi, as well as the site of Mystras and its castle, dating from 1249 AD, are also among the sites noted on the UNESCO list.

Olympia, home to the Ancient Olympic Games, which first took place in 776 BC, and an important religious center in ancient Greece, is another UNESCO World Heritage site not to be missed for any traveler in Greece.

Vergina, capital of the kingdom of Philip II

Philip Macedon Tomb Vergina
The tomb of Philip of Macedon. Credit: public domain

The town of Aigai, known today as Vergina, was the first capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia in northern Greece.

The site includes important royal monuments like the tomb of Philip 11, father of Alexander the Great, which was discovered in the ancient city in the 1970s in one of the most spectacular architectural finds in history.

This priceless archaeological site and its treasures were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1996.

The archaeological sites of Mycenae and Tiryns are home to impressive remains of the two towns that dominated the eastern Mediterranean from the 15th to 12th centuries BC.

Medieval town of Rhodes, Greece, another UNESCO must-see

Rhodes has been declared a World Heritage City due to its medieval castle and the citadel within. According to experts, Rhodes Castle is one of the most extensive castles in Europe; it is well known as one of the most beautiful castles in Greece.

Greek mythology says that the god Apollo was born on the small Cycladic island of Delos, in the center of the Aegean Sea. For this reason, the Sanctuary of Apollo in Delos was one of the most important places of pilgrimage in ancient times.

This exceptional island of Delos, “The Island of the Gods” has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1990.

Three monasteries are also on the list, including Daphni Monastery in Athens, Nea Moni in Chios, and Hosios Loukas in Phokida.

Corfu Old Town, added to the UNESCO list in 2007, is home to two imposing fortresses in its historic center, called the Old Fortress and the New Fortress.

The oldest fort is located on an island, joining the city by a bridge that was once made of wood. In the past, high protective walls connected the two fortresses, but they have since been destroyed.

The early Christian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki have also been included in this impressive catalog of sites of cultural significance.

The UNESCO World Heritage sites in Greece’s second largest city are the Rotunda, the Temple of Acheiropiitos and Saint Demetrius, the Monastery of Latomou, the Church of Agia Sophia and the Church of Our- Dame Chalkeon, as well as several other small churches, and the Byzantine baths and the ancient city walls.

On the island of Samos, the ruins of the Pythagoras, an ancient fortified port with Greek and Roman monuments and an aqueduct are among the treasures of UNESCO, as well as the Heraion, the temple dedicated to Hera which was built in the ‘Antiquity on the island.

Meteora and Mount Athos included as sites of natural and cultural significance

The Asclepion at Epidaurus. Credit: Sharon Mollerus / Wikimedia Commons /CC-BY-2.0

The main monuments belonging to the Sanctuary of Asclepius in Epidaurus, in particular the theater – a masterpiece of Greek architecture – are also on the distinguished list. The ancient temple complex housed a healing center in ancient Greece.

Patmos, known as the island where Saint John wrote the book of Revelation, is famous for its monastery and its connection to the apostle and the saint.

The Chora or historic city center of the island of Patmos, as well as the fortified Monastery of St. John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse, are listed in the Catalog of Important Cultural Sites and are a must-see for anyone visiting the island.

Phillippi is the newest addition to the list. The remains of this walled city are located in northeastern Greece, on the ancient road that linked Europe to Asia, the Via Egnatia.

Founded in 356 BC by Macedonian King Philip II, this city developed as a smaller version of ancient Rome. The bustling Hellenistic city of Philip II was complemented by Roman public buildings such as the Forum and a monumental terrace.

The remains of its basilicas are fine examples of the early establishment of Christianity in the region.

Meteors, along with Mount Athos, are the two monuments inscribed on the UNESCO list not only for their cultural significance, but also for the amazing natural features of the landscapes around them.

Meteora’s unique tectonic formations at Kalambaka are more like another planet than Earth. They are believed to date back to 30 million years ago, when the sea covering the region began to recede.

Mount Athos, which is surrounded by wild forests and steep cliffs, can only be visited by men in possession of a special pass. The complex includes twenty Orthodox monasteries.

About Cheryl Viola

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