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Worth Seeing (Olympic Tour)

The Acropolis of Athens

The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance. The word "acropolis" comes from the Greek words ἄκρον (akron, "edge, extremity") and πόλις (polis, "city").
Within the later tradition of Western Civilization and classical revival, the Acropolis, from at least the mid-18th century on, has often been invoked as a key symbol of the Greek legacy and of the glories of Classical Greece. The Athens Parthenon is one of four of the greatest masterpieces of classical Greek art. It was built as thanks to the goddess of Athena for the triumph of Athens over the Persians.
The Acropolis was formally proclaimed as the preeminent monument on the European Cultural Heritage list of monuments on the 26th March, 2007 and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

Mycenae

Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece located about 90 km southwest of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. From the hill on which the palace was located one can see across the Argolid to the Saronic Gulf. In the second millennium BC Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilization, a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece. The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.

Tiryns

Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nafplion. Tiryns was a hill fort with occupation ranging back seven thousand years, from before the beginning of the Bronze Age. It reached its height between 1400 and 1200 BC. Its most notable features were its palace, its cyclopean tunnels and especially its walls, which gave the city its Homeric epithet of "mighty walled Tiryns". In ancient times, the city was linked to the myths surrounding Heracles, with some sources citing it as his birthplace. A UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1999.

Epidauros

The Ancient Theatre of Epidauros is one of those ancient places that obtained universal fame and respect. The huge theatre is the one that delighted Pausanias for its symmetry and beauty and is used once again for dramatic performances. Ther is also the ceremonial Hestiatoreion (banqueting hall), baths and a palaestra. The theatre is marveled for its exceptional acoustics, which permit almost perfect intelligibility of unamplified spoken word from the proscenium or scene to all 15,000 spectators, regardless of their seating . The rows of limestone seats filter out low-frequency sounds, such as the murmur of the crowd, and amplify high-frequency sounds from the stage. UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1988.

Mystras

Mystras, the 'wonder of the Morea’, is a fortified town and a former municipality in Laconia, Peloponnese. Situated on the mountain of Taygetos, near ancient Sparta, it served as the capital of the Byzantine Despotate of the Morea, in the 14th and 15th centuries, experiencing a period of prosperity and cultural flowering. The site remained inhabited throughout the Ottoman period, when it was mistaken by Western travelers for ancient Sparta. In the 1830s, it was abandoned and the new town of Sparti was built approximately eight kilometres to the east. In 1989, the ruins, including the fortress, palace, churches and monasteries, were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurus

The Temple of Apollo Epicurus is one of the most studied ancient Greek temples because of its multiple unusual features. The temple was dedicated to Apollo Epikourios ("Apollo the helper"). It was designed by Iktinos, architect of the Parthenon in Athens. The ancient writer Pausanias praises the temple as eclipsing all others, but the ruined temple of Athena at Tegea, by the beauty of its stone and the harmony of its construction. It sits isolated at an elevation of 1,131 meters above sea level on the slopes of Kotylion Mountain. It was the first Greek site to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List (1986).

Olympia

Olympia (Greek: Ολυμπία Olympía), a sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis/Peloponnese, is known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times - the most famous games in history. The first Olympic Games (776BC) were in honor of master Greek mythical god, Zeus. The sanctuary, known as the Altis, consists of an unordered arrangement of various buildings. Enclosed within the temenos (sacred enclosure) are the Temple of Hera and Temple of Zeus, the Pelopion and the area of the altar, where the sacrifices were made. The hippodrome and later stadium were also to the east. The significance of the Olympic Games demonstrates the lofty ideals of Hellenic humanism: peaceful and loyal competition between free and equal men, who are prepared to surpass their physical strength in a supreme effort, with their only ambition being the symbolic reward of an olive wreath. A unique UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1989.

Diros Cave

Diros Cave is considered to be the first among the three most beautiful and impressive lake caves in the world (along with that of Padirac in South France and the Jeita Grotto in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut) because of its multicolored and wonderful decoration. It is an underground river and is formed of two main parallel runways with several secondary. It is situated in the south of Areopoli, in the Peloponnese. The bay of Diros with its white pebbles and crystal waters lies below the entrance of the cave. The length of the corridors of the cave that can be visited is 3100m, of which only 300m are in land. The tour of the marine area is by battery powered boat.

Cape Tainaron

Cape Tainaron, also known as ‘Cape Matapan’, is situated at the end of the Mani, Greece. Cape Matapan, almost 5.500km away from Nordkapp/Norway, is the southernmost point of mainland Greece and the Balkan Peninsula. It separates the Messenian Gulf in the west from the Laconian Gulf in the east. Cape Matapan has been an important place for thousands of years. There is a cave at the tip of Cape Matapan that Greek legends claim was the home of Hades, the god of the dead. The ancient Spartans built several temples there dedicated to various gods. On the hill situated above the cave lay the remnants of an ancient temple dedicated to the sea god Poseidon. As the most southern point of the Balkan Peninsula, the cape is on the major migration route of birds headed to Africa.

Monemvasia

Monemvasia is the best-preserved Byzantine city in the Peloponnese. The old town is located on a small peninsula off the east coast of the Peloponnese. The peninsula is linked to the mainland by a short causeway 200m in length. Its area consists mostly of a large plateau some 100m above sea level, up to300 m wide and 1km long, and is the site of a powerful medieval fortress. The town walls and many Byzantine churches remain from the mediaeval period. The town's name derives from two Greek words, ‘mone and emvasia’, meaning "single entrance”. Monemvasia's nickname is the ‘Gibraltar of the East’ or “The Rock”.

Sparta

Sparta (Doric: Σπάρτα; Attic: Σπάρτη Spártē), or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the Eurotas River in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC. During 650 BC it rose to become the dominant military land-power in ancient Greece (Athens was the marine-power of the era). In 480 BC a small army of Spartans (approx. 300 of their finest soldiers), Thespians (700), and Thebans (400), all led by Spartan King Leonidas - also known as Leonidas the brave - took part in the most ‘unequal’ battle of humanity, in Thermopylae (Central Greece). Greek forces fought against a massive Persian army (est. more than 200.000). It is considered history's most legendary last stand, since very few men were able to inflict a high number of casualties upon the Persian forces before finally being betrayed and encircled. The loss of the Persian forces, the breaking of their morale and supplies, caused by Leonidas and his men in the battle of Thermopylae, is widely considered by many historical scholars as playing a significant role in the development of upcoming battles and the course of history. The superior weaponry, strategy, bronze armour and marshal training of the Greek hoplites again proved their worth one year later, when Sparta assembled at full strength at the battle of Plataea. Pan-Greek army de facto led by Spartans achieved decisive victory essentially forcing the Persians to a truce, and put an end to the Greco-Persian War along with Persians’ ambitions of expanding into Europe. If the Persian invasion and Afro-Asiatic tribes under their command had passed the threshold of Europe, the history of western civilization as we know and live it today, would be completely different.

Simonides (Greek lyric poet), composed a well-known epigram, which was engraved as an epitaph on a commemorative stone placed on top of the burial mound of the Spartans at Thermopylae. It is also the hill on which the last of them died. The original stone has not survived, but in 1955, the epitaph was engraved on a new stone. “Stranger, go and announce to the Spartans that here we lie, having fulfilled their orders." Almost 125 years later, a man who would never forget these events, would be born. Taking his crusades to the East, he would fight for the vindication of his ancestors, making his homeland a strong invading force and leaving behind its usual defending position. His name was Alexander the Great.

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