Greece is well known for its beaches, beautiful islands, and party towns. But this Mediterranean country has also had a significant impact on the Western world. Greece gave us philosophy, art, drama, literature, and even the principles of democracy! With its multiple gods, plentiful stories and tales, as well as its importance in ancient Greek culture, Greek mythology has played an integral part in the development of Western civilisation and there are numerous greek mythology places to visit in Greece.
Even today, the myths remain stitched into Western heritage – from stories you learn at school to the basis for Hollywood blockbusters.
There are, of course, plenty of places dotted across Greece where you can learn about that mythology firsthand – from the top of Mt Olympus to the Underworld itself.
Here are some of the most noteworthy, to give you some inspiration on your next trip to this most mythical of countries.
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When to visit Greece for mythology sites
The best times to visit Greece are April-June and September-October. The weather is mild and most places have few crowds. High season is late June to early September when prices and crowds will reflect this.
Summer is still great, especially for beach time and in some of the lesser-known spots. The water is warm, there are blue skies every day and a fun holiday atmosphere.
Mainland Greece is really a year-round destination with plenty of beaches and ocean-based activities but also beautiful mountain villages, wine regions, and charming towns that are open year-round.
As a result, much of the year is perfect to discover greek mythology places to visit.
Greek Mythology and Athens
The capital of Greece, Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world. With a history that stretches back over 3,400 years, this city certainly deserves its reputation. There is a lot to see and do in Athens and numerous sites that played pivotal roles in the world of the ancient Greek Gods.
Once a powerful city-state and pivotal player in ancient times, Athens was a hub of philosophy, literature, art, and politics.
It is both a cradle of Western civilisation and the birthplace of democracy as we know it today – “democracy” is a Greek word, after all! Its impact on the Western world should definitely not be underplayed and it is definitely one of the best known Greek Mythology places to visit.
Architecture from the Classical era remains in abundance all over the city, with connections to Greek mythology. Its two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Monastery of Daphni are major draws to the city.
The Acropolis of Athens, sitting high above the city on a rocky outcrop, is a sight to behold. This ancient citadel is home to the Pantheon, a stunningly-preserved temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, from whom the city actually gets its name.
Needless to say, there is history galore here – from the Theatre of Herodes Atticus and the Kerameikos, an ancient cemetery, to the Ancient Agora, where merchants would trade alongside great thinkers, such as Socrates, who would debate philosophy with each other.
A fantastic way to learn about Greek Mythology in Athens is to book a private guide with a local writer who can tell you all about the Gods and Legends.
Listen to: Athens podcast episode
Where to stay in Athens
There is a huge selection of hotels and apartments in Athens that suit all needs and budgets. In fact, it is one of the most affordable capitals in Europe.
Further reading: Where to stay in Athens ( suburbs, neighbourhoods and hotels)
Part of the Cyclades Archipelago in the Aegean Sea, and not far from Mykonos, the island of Delos is the place to start for any journey into Greek mythology in Greece. In fact, it’s the most excavated place in the whole of the Mediterranean.
There’s a good reason for that. Tradition has it that Delos is the birthplace of Greek god Apollo and goddess Artemis, but the island’s religious history goes back more than a millennium before Greeks of the day decided it was here that the two deities were born.
Not only Apollo but other gods are enshrined at Delos: a peak on the island, Mount Kynthos, features a sanctuary to Zeus himself at its summit.
Because of its truly ancient history and mythological credentials, Delos is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. In fact, it’s so important that there aren’t any hotels here; Delos is far from a resort island.
But it can be visited on a day trip. Nearby islands such as Mykonos, Paros, and Naxos offer daily ferry services that connect to Delos. Once there, you can head out on a self-guided tour and there’s also the option to hire a guide for further insight into this fascinating place.
A good place to begin a trip to Delos is the Archaeological Museum of Delos. Here, you’ll find artefacts on display, and further information on the history of the island.
Outside of the museum, all of Delos is strewn with ruins of statues, streets, and temples. A good way to take it all in is to walk the Sacred Way, formerly lined with impressive statues of kings past, which runs from the Agora of the Competaliasts to the steps of the Sanctuary of Apollo.
A trip to Delos not only makes for a day of intriguing history but soaking it all up in its original settings allows you to explore and imagine what it would have been like all those years ago.
Where to stay for Delos
As stated Delos is uninhabited and there is nowhere to stay on the island itself. Visitors usually stay on nearby Mykonos and visit Delos as a daytrip.
There is a lot of accommodation on Mykonos to choose from ranging from cheap and cheerful backpacking lodges through to mega-luxury resorts and villas.
Crete Greek Mythology
Largest of all the Greek islands, Crete is a popular destination in Greece for holidaymakers, who delight in the natural beauty, beaches, and delicious food on offer here. But there is also thousands of years of history to uncover here too.
This mysterious island has long been home to humans – 130,000 years, in fact – and was once at the centre of the first advanced civilisation in Europe – the Minoan Empire.
It has since been ruled by Hellenic Greeks, the Romans, Andalusian Arabs, Venetians, and Ottomans, but it is Crete’s ancient history and connections to Greek mythology that is most enduring.
One of the most famous Greek myths is that of Theseus and the Minotaur, a bull monster said to have roamed a labyrinth at the whim of legendary King Minos at Knossos Palace. And you can still visit that palace today – even if the original was largely destroyed in an earthquake in 1700 BC (not AD!). Don’t forget to book your skip-the-line tickets before you go!
Dubbed “Europe’s oldest city”, Knossos survives today as a great place to explore for history buffs and families alike, with ancient frescoes to see, re-enactments to enjoy, and charming courtyards to discover.
In the centre of Crete, just east of UNESCO-recognised Mount Ida – the highest point on the island – visitors will find Ideon Andron or Ideon Cave. Of great importance to Greek mythology, the cave was held by Ancient Greeks to be the birthplace of Zeus, king of the gods. Visitors can check out this vital sanctuary, feel the atmosphere of the large cavern, and spend the day exploring.
However, there is another potential birthplace for Zeus, this time in eastern Crete in Psychro Cave. This ancient Minoan religious site is worth a visit, if only for its impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites.
Where to stay in Crete
There is a lot to see and do in Crete and, as the largest Greek island, it is like visiting another country in its own right.
Knossos is near Heraklion, the capital, although many people choose to stay in Chania or Rethymnon which are close by and have retained their charming Venetian history.
It’s a good idea to divide your stay in Crete between a couple of different places so you can explore all that this island has to offer. There are a number of excellent and often quirky private homes and apartments to rent too.
It’s an excellent place for a driving holiday which is the best way to get around.
It’s a friendly place with a local feeling and somehow feels untouched by modern life.
It seems the perfect setting to be the home of Odysseus – the legendary king of the island and the central figure of two of the most important pieces of literature in the Western world, written by the ancient Greek poet, Homer.
Though there aren’t any verified physical connections to these great works of literature, or to Odysseus, on Ithaca (most of Ithaca’s buildings were destroyed in a 1953 earthquake), a visit to the island is still definitely an adventure.
There is the Palace of Odysseus, still in the midst of excavations. Some scholars doubt that it’s actually Odysseus’ palace, but there’s no doubt that – even if not mythological – this is still a remarkable find of the Classical world. It’s still ancient!
Walking trails wind throughout the island, and there are relaxed villages to discover. It’s not hard to feel, at times, that you may well have been transported back hundreds (if not thousands) of years!
Where to stay in Ithaca
Most visitors to Ithaca will stay in the main town of Vathy or the pretty seaside village of Kioni.
The ruins of the Palace of Odysseus are located in the interior of the island close to the village of Stavros or the seaside village of Frikes.
Further reading: A complete guide to Ithaca
Mt Olympus Mythology
The tallest mountain (actually a volcano) in Greece, it’s no surprise that epic Mt Olympus – made up of 52 soaring peaks and steep gorges – is the mythical home of the Greek gods and goddesses.
Its highest peak, Mytikas (meaning “nose” in Greek) is 2,917 metres above sea level. It’s on this particularly prominent peak where the 12 Olympian Gods are said to have resided, including Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Athena, and Aphrodite.
Sitting between Thessaly and Macedonia, the mountain can be visited, of course, and if you’re wondering whether you can climb it – you sure can!
First climbed in 1913, today the mountain is connected by bus from Athens and Thessaloniki to the nearby village of Lithoro, where most expeditions will start from.
If you are staying in Thessaloniki you can do a day trip to Dion and Mt Olympus or half-day canyoning trips are popular too. Alternatively, you can arrive by bus or car and stay a few nights ( see below).
Warm clothes (even in summer) and sunscreen are a must. You should also allow two or three days to trek Mt Olympus. Don’t worry; there are refuges – 15 to be exact – that you can stay in along the way.
There are a number of different trails, with varying difficulties and regulations, so be sure to visit the Olympus National Park Information Center before making a decision.
At the foot of the mountain, ancient Dion is an important site. It’s at this sacred spot that Alexander the Great himself used to make sacrifices to Zeus at the sanctuary. Wandering the Archaeological Park of Dion, with ruins of ancient public baths and temples, makes for a good pre-Olympus adventure, with an accompanying museum for more information.
And if hiking isn’t your thing, no sweat. You can also drive part-way up!
Where to stay near Mt Olympus
Like most huge mountains there doesn’t happen to be a chain of luxury hotels perched on top and accommodation is mostly located in the nearby villages and towns in the surrounding valleys.
There are some basic hostels or ‘refuges’ for mountaineers, strategically spread around the mountain however, for the die-hard climbers.
Even closer and right at the entrance to the mountain is Ktima Faki which has beautiful views in a tranquil, rural setting.
Delphi is most well-known for being the home of one of the most important figures in Greek mythology – the Oracle.
She is present in many legends and myths of the ancient world and would be consulted by kings and great leaders for her thoughts on crucial decisions.
Located on the southwestern slope of Parnassus, ancient Greek tradition has it that Delphi was actually the centre of the world. Once upon a time, Zeus is said to have released two eagles, one from the west and one from the east. The place in which they met was to become Delphi, and deemed to be central to all civilisation.
Pilgrims travelled to Delphi from all over the Mediterranean to seek prophecies and advice from the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle herself, Pythia, was the high priestess at the Temple of Apollo and would answer in a trance-like state, speaking on behalf of Apollo.
Today, Delphi is easily reachable from Athens on a day trip and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its many well-preserved ruins make up an impressive archaeological landscape to discover and it’s worth paying for a guide to give you a private tour and explain everything to you.
The foundations of the Sanctuary of Apollo remain, as do other structures, columns, and pathways. The setting, on Mount Parnassus, makes a visit here even more scenic.
If you really want to delve into a more in-depth history of this vital spot, then Delphi Archaeological Museum, with its vast collection of artifacts discovered around the area, is well worth your while.
Where to stay in Delphi
There are a number of options for Delphi.
You can either do a day trip from Athens, combine it with an overnight trip to Meteora, stay in the nearby seaside towns of Itea, Galaxidi or Nafpaktos or stay in the town of Delphi itself which has several small hotels and charming apartments.
In Galaxidi, Archontiko Hotel is quite lovely as is Galaxa Mansion.
Nafpaktos is a very pretty town with a small Venetian harbour and a number of excellent hotels and small Pensions that are very inexpensive too.
Tucked away in the Epirus region of northwest Greece, the Acheron River isn’t just a site of natural beauty; it’s also very important in the world of ancient Greek Mythology.
Once known as the “River of Woe”, the Acheron River actually makes up one of the five rivers of the Greek Underworld (or Hades), as described by epic poet Homer. Flowing through dark gorges and at times disappearing underground, it’s easy to see how ancient Greeks thought this river might have flowed down into Hades itself.
Locals believe that the Acheron Narrows is the actual gateway to Hades. Others believe it could be at the Acherusian Lake, from where the mythological ferryman Charon would take the deceased over to the other side.
Yep, it may have a mythologically “dark” past – and sure, it may contain along its source somewhere the gates to Hell, but it’s actually a beautiful spot that can be explored purely for its nature today.
As a bonus, the Acheron River is also thought to be a place of healing: the waters are said to cleanse sins!
One of the least known destinations in the region, the river stretches for 52 kilometres through rugged canyons, tranquil groves, and soaring green trees. Trails run along the riverbanks and cliffs overlooking the clear waters, complete with suspension bridges at times.
Not just hiking and horseback riding can be utilised to explore this hidden gem of a river to its fullest potential. Around three kilometres of the river itself are navigable, which makes kayaking and rafting very doable indeed.
It’s a must-visit if you find yourself on holiday in the coastal resort town, Parga. The river isn’t far from the town and makes for a great day out for fans of the great outdoors
Where to stay near the Acheron River.
The river is long and windy and flows through and around a number of towns and villages before flowing out to see in Ammoudia on the western coast of the mainland.
Near it’s widest point and just where it arrives down from the mountains is the small town of Glyki where Piges Hotel at Acheron Springs is very popular and has spectacular views across the valley.