What we know of Western civilization first originated in ancient Greece 4,000 years ago. The land is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee determines which locations make the list. Each site has cultural or natural significance. In Greece, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites showcase some of the country’s natural wonders and culturally influential locations.
There are currently 18 official sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and even more are being considered for official designation. If you are passionate about traveling, definitely add visiting some of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece to your bucket list.
In This Article
- The 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Visit in Greece
- The Acropolis of Athens
- The Archaeological Site of Olympia
- The Archeological Site of Delphi
- The Island Delos
- Medieval City of Rhodes
- Mount Athos
- Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
- Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
- Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki
- Old Town of Corfu
- Archeological Site of Mycenae and Tiryns
- Archaeological Site Of Aigai
- Archaeological Site of Philippi
- Archaeological Site of Mystras
- Monasteries of Nea Moni, Hosios Loukas and Daphni of Chios
- Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
- Historic Centre (Chora) With The Monastery Of St. John
- Visit World Heritage Sites in Greece With Windstar Cruises
The 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Visit in Greece
Greece has much to offer visitors who want to delve into history and natural beauty, such as historical temples, monasteries, medieval cities and the city-states of Ancient Greece. Below, you’ll learn about the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece.
1. The Acropolis of Athens
The Acropolis of Athens is one of the most recognizable UNESCO sites and embodies the spirit of Ancient Greece, combining the artistic and architectural greatness of the ancient civilization. Athens sits beneath the eye of the Acropolis and includes the Parthenon, Erechtheion and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The Acropolis was completed in the fifth century B.C. and has since influenced many architectural projects worldwide.
The Acropolis features exceptional stonework and design balanced with the natural landscape. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect place for history buffs and those who enjoy architecture and natural beauty.
2. The Archaeological Site of Olympia
Olympia’s archeological site is a sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, the Greek king of the gods who controls the sky, thunder, rain and lightning. Thousands of athletes and spectators once flocked to Olympia to participate in the Olympic Games. You can even find the remains of sports structures used for the games, which makes it an excellent travel destination for sports and history enthusiasts.
Some visible monuments at Olympia include the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, an ancient hotel, the bouleuterion (or council chamber), training facilities and the grand stadium where the athletes would showcase their talents. You can also find a museum that includes athletic equipment, sculptures, weaponry and more.
3. The Archeological Site of Delphi
The archeological site of Delphi is one of the most visited sites in Greece, second only to the Acropolis. Delphi is famous for being the center of the world in the eyes of the ancient Greeks. According to myth, Zeus sent two eagles in separate directions to find the center of the world, and the eagles met in Delphi. Delphi was also the location of the fabled Oracle of Delphi, and it was believed that people would travel from all over to consult with the Oracle.
You can visit the ruins of Delphi, which overlook beautiful mountains and the countryside. The Archaeological Museum of Delphi is also close by for visitors to discover the archaeological artifacts found at the site. The Tholos at Delphi is another structure that is a short walk away, so travelers can make the most of their visit.
4. The Island Delos
The island of Delos is one of the most important archeological sites within the Mediterranean. The ancient Greeks believed Delos was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, making it a site full of rich history and ancient religious culture. The City of Athens embellished the island with various monuments after it became a sanctuary in the culture. Afterward, the Romans made the island one of their earliest settlements, making it a center for trade and giving it tax privileges.
As a result, the island of Delos has a rich history. Travelers and visitors can walk the ancient squares and streets to view the ancient temples, shrines and homes.
5. Medieval City of Rhodes
Rhodes is the medieval capital of Dodecanese and a place of extraordinary historical depth. The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem occupied Rhodes from 1309 to 1523 C.E. The city is located along a wall and divided into a high town and a low town.
The city is one of the most preserved medieval cities and is comprised of impressive moats and walls that bring you back in time to get a glimpse of what it was like to be alive during medieval times. Inside the city, you can find different monuments, such as historical chapels, churches and the old headquarters of different branches of knights.
6. Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a holy site for the Orthodox church dating back to 1054 C.E. with a history tied to the Virgin Mary. Mount Athos only allows 100 Orthodox and 10 non-Orthodox visitors to tour the historical site each day with a maximum stay of three days. All visitors to the site are, by definition, pilgrims. Mount Athos is also one of the most controversial Greece UNESCO World Heritage Sites since only men can visit the site. Even female wildlife, such as chickens, cows and sheep, aren’t allowed at the holy site.
However, it’s still possible for everyone to see the UNESCO site on a boat tour. You can view the beauty of the structures and the surrounding mountains from the boat, which makes for an incredible trip.
7. Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
The temple honoring Apollo — the Greek god of the sun and healing — was constructed in the middle of the fifth century. The Temple of Apollo sits in the Arcadian mountains and is currently covered by a tent to preserve and protect it from the elements. The temple combines Archaic and Doric architectural styles with striking features, such as its unnatural orientation, the central placement of Corinthian columns, a side entrance to the inner sanctum and more.
Visiting the Temple of Apollo is ideal for those who want a glimpse into the religious history of ancient Greece. The temple is one of the most well-preserved ancient temples that survived since the fall of the Ancient Greek empire.
8. Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
The Sanctuary of Asklepios is well-renowned for its serene atmosphere and rich history. The shrine is known for its ancient amphitheater and is located in a picturesque and peaceful site in the Mediterranean.
The natural amphitheater is considered one of the best of its kind, supported by natural acoustics and a strong sense of focus. The amphitheater can also seat 14,000 people. The ancient Greeks used to wear large masks during their performances to help the audience determine the difference between characters who sat far away from the stage.
The Sanctuary of Asklepios is also an excellent place to visit for those interested in religious history since the site initially started as a location for a cult of Apollo until it turned into a shrine to Asklepios, the god of medicine.
9. Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki
The Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments were founded in 315 C.E. and were one of the first bases for the spread of Christianity. Many Christian monuments are on-site, including churches built along the natural landscape. Thessaloniki is still a bustling modern city, allowing you to get the best of the modern and historical world.
10. Old Town of Corfu
The Island of Corfu was once strategically positioned at the start of the Adriatic Sea, with a history steeped in the eighth century. The Old Town of Corfu sits off the western coasts of Greece and Albania and has three forts designed by Venetian engineers. These forts were used for centuries to defend the trading interests of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice.
Today, the Old Town of Corfu is filled with Venitian-influenced pastel homes and contains Byzantine churches. Visitors can enjoy a glimpse into history while engaging in a modern, revitalized city.
11. Archeological Site of Mycenae and Tiryns
This site includes the ruins of two of the greatest cities from the Mycenaean civilization. This civilization dominated the area between the 15th and 21st centuries B.C. and was critical in the development of the classic Greek culture we know today. Mycenae and Tiryns are also associated with the famous Odyssey and Illiad, which is classical literature that has influenced literature and art for centuries.
12. Archaeological Site Of Aigai
The archaeological site of Aigai, referred to as Vergina in the modern day, is the first capital of the city of Macedon. Aigai is the historical location where Alexander the Great became King and Philip II was assassinated. Aigai boasts a beautiful royal palace and tombs belonging to Philip II.
The archaeological site of Aigai is an excellent place to visit if you want to catch a glimpse of what royalty used to live like. The stunning architecture and the history surrounding this UNESCO site are ideal for visitors who want to see the most of Greece.
Meteora is a beautiful natural landscape located in central Greece. The location was chosen by monks in the 11th century as the place to build their monasteries, which sit on top of sandstone pillars. There are 24 monasteries located in Meteroa, often called the “columns of the sky.” Meteora has the most monasteries after Mount Athos. Six of these monasteries are still active and open year-round for visitors.
Meteroa offers picturesque views for travelers, overlooking the Plain of Thessaly. You can learn about the religious history in the area while spending time in nature.
14. Archaeological Site of Philippi
The archaeological site of Philippi dates back to 356 B.C. and is located along an ancient route that connects Asia and Europe. The site is full of Roman influence and later became the site of a Christian center after being visited by the Apostle Paul.
Philippi was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2016 and is one of Greece’s most popular travel destinations. The city sits atop an acropolis that was once the city of Thrace and Macedonia. Philippi was also known as “Small Rome” when the Roman Empire was established in the area.
15. Archaeological Site of Mystras
Mystras was a critical city toward the end of the Byzantine Empire. The city was the last stronghold before the Ottoman Empire overtook the Byzantine Empire. The medieval city winds up the natural hillside and acts as a well-preserved open-air museum. The monasteries and ancient citadel are a must-see for visitors to the Peloponnese. The area is rich with history and natural landscapes that make it an ideal destination for visitors.
16. Monasteries of Nea Moni, Hosios Loukas and Daphni of Chios
This World Heritage Site recognizes some of the most influential monasteries in Greece. While the monasteries are separated by distance, they feature the same aesthetics and are part of the same typological series. The monasteries were constructed between the 11th and 12th centuries around the second golden age of Byzantine artistry. The Neo Moni, Hosios Loukas and Daphni monasteries represent the influx of Christianity to the country, making them an ideal place for history enthusiasts to visit.
17. Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
Many ancient civilizations have called the island of Pythagoreion their home since the third century B.C. Today, you can still see the remains of the site with several Greek and Roman monuments and a fortified port. The island is also the birthplace of Pythagoras, Samos and Epicurus, which are influential historical figures. Heraion is the home to the Temple of Samian Hera. Visiting the temple is an excellent opportunity to view the impressive architecture and history of ancient Greeks.
18. Historic Centre (Chora) With The Monastery Of St. John
Historians believe that St. John the Theologian spent time on Pátmos to write his Gospel and Apocolypse. In the 10th century, a monastery was built in Pátmos to honor St. John’s contribution to religion. The historic center is a popular destination for religious pilgrims, making it an ideal place for learning more about Greek Orthodox history. The historic center and monastery dominate the island of Pátmos, making it the key destination to visit.
Visit World Heritage Sites in Greece With Windstar Cruises
If you want to visit the historical World Heritage Sites in Greece, Windstar Cruises can get you there. We are a yacht-style cruise company that accommodates travelers looking to make the most of their experience as they navigate the globe. Our small ships encourage an immersive travel experience with like-minded individuals. Our crew is welcoming and friendly and will do whatever it takes to make your trip more enjoyable.
Our small ship sizes also allow us to dock at more intimate ports, allowing you to travel to Greece without the hustle and bustle of conventional tourist destinations. You can enjoy attentive service aboard our cruise ship, giving you time to rest between your tours of Greece. Request a call with Windstar Cruises today to learn more about how you can take your travels to the next level on one of our cruises.