Greece has long seduced travelers from around the world with its beauty and amazing historical sites. So it’s not surprising that we’re excited about the itineraries with Princess Cruise Line and their many opportunities for a Greek Isles cruise.
But for newcomers to this area — and even for those who’ve already visited Greece — it can be difficult to decide which destinations and islands are absolute must-sees. And it doesn’t help that there are approximately 6,000 Greek islands and isles scattered throughout the Aegean and Ionian Seas — 230 of them inhabited.
While it would be impossible to take in all that Greece has to offer in one trip, the following are five sites that are definitely worth a visit and easy to find on my Princess Cruise line sailings.
Piraeus is not just the biggest port in Greece, it’s also of the largest in Europe. The area’s most popular attraction? The world-famous Acropolis of Athens, which is located just a short distance from the port and can be easily reached by public transportation or a taxi.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, this ancient citadel sits on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city of Athens. Its main buildings were built by Pericles in the 5th Century BC and include the magnificent Parthenon, which is considered by many to be the finest example of Greek architecture ever built.
This port city is also home to the Piraeus Archaeological Museum, where you can view a fine collection of antiquities, including statues and pottery. Because this museum is within easy walking distance of the port, it is a great diversion if you only have a limited amount of time in Piraeus.
Do you love the Olympics? Then you’ll definitely want to visit Olympia — the site of the original Olympic games. To get to this historically significant site, which was also a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, your cruise ship will first stop in the small seaside town of Katakolon.
From there you’ll travel approximately 40 minutes to western Peloponnese, the “Valley of Gods,” where the ruins of Olympia are located and where the Pan-Hellenic Games were once held every four years.
While in Olympia, you will have the opportunity to view the remains of a number of ancient structures, including the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Zeus, the living quarters for the athletes and the stadium where the Games were held. You’ll also want to check out the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, which is where many of the sculptures and statues that once graced the structures found on this site can now be found.
In ancient times, Ephesus was a major seaport and center of commerce. Although located in Turkey today, this city was once part of the ancient Greek Empire and also spent time under Roman rule.
This major archeological site is remarkable in a number of ways. For one, it’s the site of the Temple of Artemis, a huge structure that was four times larger than the Parthenon and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Ephesus is also home to several historical Christian sites, including the Great Theater where the Apostle Paul preached and the Church of Saint John, which is believed to have been built over the apostle’s tomb. In addition, it is also considered to be one of the best preserved ancient cities on the Mediterranean.
Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese archipelago and is also one of Greece’s most popular islands. Its major claim to fame is its impressive Old Town, which is an UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the best-preserved and largest medieval cities in Europe.
As you walk through Old Town with its formidable walls, medieval buildings and cobblestone streets, you’ll feel as though you’re stepping back in time. This is especially true as you stride down the Street of the Knights, which is one of the best preserved medieval streets in all of Europe.
Rhodes is also famous for something that is no longer there — the Colossus of Rhodes, a huge statue that once straddled the entrance of the harbor and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The great statue was destroyed in an earthquake not long after it was built, but there are plans now to rebuild a bigger version.
Of course, there’s more to do in Rhodes than visiting Old Town. This island also boasts beautiful beaches and picturesque villages.
Located in the beautiful Aegean Sea, Mykonos is arguably the most popular of the Greek Islands. It’s known for stunning white buildings, vibrant nightlife and wild-and-crazy beach parties.
Are you an adrenaline junkie? Then you’ll love Mykonos, where you’ll find plenty of activities, including horseback riding, parasailing, windsurfing, snorkeling and diving.
Or perhaps you’re a history buff. If so, enjoy a tour of the nearby island of Delos. In ancient Greece, Delos was considered the “most sacred of all islands” and, according to myths, it was also the birthplace of Apollo. Today, it is home to a large number of ruins, including temples and the beautiful Terrace of the Lions.
No matter where you stop, you’ll find yourself immersed in history, surrounded by beautiful views and drenched with warm sunny days.