The Ultimate Guide to 19 UNESCO Sites in Greece

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Discover 19 incredible UNESCO sites in Greece, from ancient temples and historical cities to stunning landscapes. Dive into history and beauty of a wonderous country.

walls and columns of Unesco sites in Greece

Lists are great. Most of us have a bucket list or a never-ending list of countries that we want to visit. But have you ever considered creating an itinerary around all the UNESCO sites in Greece?

Probably not…but you should! Once upon a time, Greece was one of the most powerful and influential places on our planet. It’s the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, major mathematical principles and, of course, the Olympic Games. 

Fast forward to today, and the fingerprints of these ancient times are imprinted throughout the country, now acknowledged as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

What is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

ruins of a Unesco site in Greece

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place or area that has been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its cultural, historical, scientific, or natural significance. 

These sites are considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. They are protected and preserved to ensure their long-term survival and enjoyment by future generations.

There are 19 UNESCO sites in Greece — 17 are classed as cultural sites, and two are a mix of cultural and natural significance.

List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece

detail of ancient Greek architecture

Here is a list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece and when they were added:

  1. Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae (1986)
  2. Acropolis of Athens (1987)
  3. Archaeological Site of Delphi (1987)
  4. Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus (1988)
  5. Medieval City of Rhodes (1988)
  6. Meteora (1988)
  7. Mount Athos (1988)
  8. Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki (1988)
  9. Archaeological Site of Olympia (1989)
  10. Archaeological Site of Mystras (1989)
  11. Delos (1990)
  12. Monasteries of Daphni, Osios Loukas and Nea Moni (1990)
  13. Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos (1992)
  14. Archaeological Site of Aigai (modern Vergina) (1996)
  15. Monastery of Saint John and Cave of Apocalypse in Patmos (1999)
  16. Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns (1999)
  17. Old Town of Corfu (2007)
  18. Archaeological Site of Philippi (2016)
  19. Zagori Cultural Landscape (2023)

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of each UNESCO site in Greece.

Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, Peloponnese

columns UNESCO Temple of Apollo Epicurius Greece

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae is considered to be one of the most well-preserved sites. If you really want to feel what it was like thousands of years ago, this is your best shot. 

You’ve probably heard of the more famous Parthenon in Athens. Well, this temple was built by Iktinos, the same architect. Built between 450 and 400 BC, the temple sits 1,131m (3,710 ft) above sea level, overlooking the endless Greek countryside.

Note: The temple is being restored under a tent, which does slightly change the experience.

Acropolis of Athens, Athens 

Unesco site in Greece Acropolis of Athens on top of the city

The Acropolis is one of the most famous UNESCO sites in Greece and the whole world. It includes a collection of buildings such as the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion. 

The structures are phenomenal, made even more magical by their location. The Acropolis is perched on a large rock and keeps watch over the city of Athens.

Pro tip: Head to a rooftop bar in Athens for unmissable views of the Acropolis. 

Archaeological Site of Delphi, Central Greece

Archaeological Site of Delphi in Greece

Pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean make the journey to Delphi to consult the Oracle on an urgent issue. Are you willing to make the 2.5-hour journey from Athens to do the same? 

While most of the temple has been destroyed, there’s just enough left to imagine the political and cultural importance of this spot. 

Once you’re done wandering around the ruins, make sure to check out the Archaeological Museum of Delphi to learn more about the site.

Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus, Peloponnese

Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus Greece

Just under a 2-hour drive from Athens, Epidaurus was once a very important healing center. 

Patients believed God would send them their cure in dreams when they arrived. Take a nap there and see if it works.

The star of the show is the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus. You’ll struggle to find a theater with a better view than this one. Forget the performance. The view is more mesmerizing. 

Medieval City of Rhodes, Rhodes Island

Unesco site walls in Medieval City of Rhodes

When most people think of Rhodes, they imagine all-inclusive resorts, incredible beaches, and great holiday deals, not a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Venture out of those resorts, and you’ll see why the Medieval City of Rhodes was added to the list. 

The city is a fascinating blend of architecture and details left behind by its occupiers. It was initially constructed by the Knight Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, who occupied the island from 1309 to 1523. Then, it was taken over by the Ottomans and Italians, who left behind Gothic architecture, mosques, and public baths.  

Meteora, Thessaly

Meteora a mountain top monastery Unesco site in Greece

Meteora is one of the mixed UNESCO sites in Greece — it’s both cultural and natural. The natural aspect comes from the rocks formed over 60 million years ago that appear to be exploding from the valley below. 

The cultural part was created in the 13th century AD when monks decided to build monasteries on top of the rocks. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy that panoramic view every morning? Initially, there were 24 monasteries, of which only 6 are open today. 

Mount Athos, Monastic Republic of Mount Athos

Mount Athos, Greece unesco site overlooking the water

Mount Athos is difficult to tick off if you’re a woman — no women are allowed! It’s considered the holiest center in Greece for the Orthodox faith and also an autonomous state, which means they get to make the rules. 

If you’re a woman and still want to get a glimpse at the impressive monasteries, you’ll have to do it by boat.

Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki

St. Paul Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki

Before Thessaloniki became a popular tourist destination in Greece, it was the second most important town of the Byzantine Empire. 

Many important religious people decided to call Thessaloniki home. They built a number of monuments and churches that are now included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  

Archaeological Site of Olympia, Western Greece

columns and cherry trees in archaeological Site of Olympia

The name hints at why the Archaeological Site of Olympia became a UNESCO site in Greece. It’s where the Olympic Games began in 776 BC. A bit different from today, the games were used to honor the god Zeus and the hero Hercules. 

Some monuments to check out include the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera and the ancient stadium. Little remains, but the two onsite museums do an excellent job of bringing it back to life and showing how it led to the modern Olympic games.

Archaeological Site of Mystras, Peloponnese

Archaeological Site of Mystras, Greece

Not everyone visits the Archaeological Site of Mystras, and that’s precisely why you should. There will be no elbow bumping like at the Acropolis. 

The fortified town of Mystras was one of the last places to fall to the Ottomans and where the last Byzantine Emperors were born. Before the Ottomans took over, several intricate churches were built inside the castle walls. These are impressive, but it’s the view that takes your breath away!

Delos Island, Cyclades

mosaic floor in Delos, and UNESCO site in Greece

The entire island of Delos was added to the list of UNESCO sites in Greece. It’s believed to be the island where the Greek God Apollo was born. It became one of the most religious spots where people flooded to show their respects to Apollo. 

Nowadays, the island is uninhabited but can be visited as an archaeological site. It’s a perfect day trip from Mykonos or Naxos.

Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni

Monastery of Daphni in Greece

Don’t go around searching in one area, trying to find all three of these monasteries. They’re actually pretty far from each other. The Monastery of Daphni is located near Athens, Osios Loukas in Central Greece and Nea Moni in Chios. 

They were all grouped as the same UNESCO site due to their similar details and architectural characteristics. These monasteries, with their orange brickwork, sheer size, mosaics and marblework, are breathtaking and well worth the visit.

Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos Island

Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos statues in Greece

Another jointly listed site, Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos, are thankfully only 10 minutes apart. 

Pythagorion was a port village that played an important role during Roman times. It’s now a quaint beach town with remnants of the Romans. 

When you’re done exploring the harbor and cobblestone streets, hop over to the archaeological site of Heraion, built in the 8th century BC. Not much remains, but the view over the turquoise sea below is picturesque. 

Archaeological Site of Aigai, Vergina

Archaeological Site of Aigai royal tomb entrace

Aigai was the first capital of the kingdom of Macedon and is now located in the modern city of Vergina. 

The spectacular thing about this UNESCO site is that it was discovered not too long ago. In the 1970s, a Greek archaeologist uncovered the burial site of the Kings of Macedon and the tomb of Alexander the Great’s father. The most incredible part was that the tombs had been left completely undisturbed. 

Head to the Museum of Vergina to learn more about the history of the tombs and its kings. 

Monastery of Saint John and Cave of Apocalypse, Patmos

Unesco Monastery of Saint John in Patmos Greece

Its religious significance put the Monastery of Saint John and the historic center of Chora on the UNESCO list. Located on the island of Patmos, Saint John was said to have written his gospel and the Book of Revelation here. 

The island is picture-perfect with its white-washed houses and labyrinth streets.

You can also visit the Cave of Apocalypse, where John is said to have received his visions. 

Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns, Peloponnese

Archaeological Site of Mycenae in Greece, Unesco

Mycenae and Tiryns are two towns not too far from each other, listed under the same UNESCO site. The village of Mycenae played a huge role in history, giving its name to the Mycenaean civilization spanning from 1750 to 1050 BC.

The town’s ruins are imposing and defensive, boasting gigantic city walls and vaulted tombs. History lovers will adore this place.

Old Town of Corfu, Corfu Island

Venetian fortress of Corfu a Unesco site in Greece

Many people visit the Old Town of Corfu without realizing it’s a UNESCO site in Greece. After a few minutes of wandering its streets, you’ll understand why this magnificent place needed to be preserved for future generations. 

The town has three forts that were used for protection from attack, and as a result, Corfu was the only part of modern-day Greece not to fall under Ottoman rule. These forts, the Venetian architecture, and Spianada Square (the second largest square in Europe) are some of the reasons why it was added to the UNESCO list. 

Archaeological Site of Philippi, Northeastern Greece

arched walls of Archaeological Site of Philippi Greece

Until last year, the Archaeological Site of Philippi was the most recent addition to the UNESCO sites in Greece, having been added in 2016. This ancient city, named after the Macedonian King Phillip II in 356 BC, is an eclectic mix of Roman and Ottoman architecture. 

Make sure to check out the phenomenal and gigantic theater from the Hellenistic period.

Zagori Cultural Landscape, Northwestern Greece

Zagori Cultural Landscape bridge in Greece

Inducted in late 2023, the Zagori Cultural Landscape in remote northwestern Greece is 45 small stone villages known as Zagorochoria. These traditional mountainous hamlets are nestled in sacred forests and showcase traditional architecture adapted to the topography. Their arched stone bridges, staircases, and paths link the villages and communities that make this area home.

Weather in Greece

treasury walls of a Unesco site in Greece with blue skies and green grass

Summer vibes in Greece really peak during July and August, with lots of sun and temperatures that can easily hit 35°C (95°F).

But here’s the catch — those are the months when everyone flocks to Greece, and prices shoot up. 

If you’re not a fan of elbow wars with other tourists and selfie sticks in your face, consider visiting in the shoulder months, June and September. It’s still warm, with temperatures ranging from 25°C (77°F) to 30°C (86°F). 

You also won’t be dripping with sweat exploring these UNESCO sites in Greece.

As for winter, it sets in from November to the end of March, with an average temperature of around 13°C (55°F).

Packing list essentials for exploring UNESCO sites in Greece

details of a mosiac in a unesco site in Greece

If you’re visiting Greece during the summertime, bring loose-fitting clothes, especially if you’re wandering around UNESCO sites underneath the scorching sun. Some other important things to bring for your UNESCO adventures are: 

  • Hat 
  • Sunglasses
  • Suncream 
  • Comfortable shoes (you’re likely to do a lot of steps)
  • Daypack or fanny pack to carry your essentials
  • Snacks and plenty of water

How to get to Greece 

ruins in Greece

Greece is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, so it’s not surprising that it’s a pretty easy country to get to. 

International flights come from a variety of countries. Fortunately, several budget-friendly airlines connect you to mainland Greece and its enchanting islands without breaking the bank. 

If you’re lucky enough to live in a neighboring country, why not consider driving to Greece. It’s better for the environment, cheaper depending on the distance, and gives you complete freedom. 

Get off the beaten track and explore the hidden gems and UNESCO sites in Greece. 

Map of UNESCO sites in Greece 

Greece’s 19 UNESCO Sites are scattered throughout the country, with the majority residing in mainland Greece. A few can be found on islands such as CorfuRhodes and Patmos

Start ticking off your UNESCO sites in Greece bucket list

street in ancient Greece with orange sky

We’re not saying that you need to tick them all at once. But there are ways to travel to Greece on a budget, just in case you want to try.

However, exploring the UNESCO sites in Greece will open your mind to a civilization that influenced so much of our modern day. 

Their structures and creations are mindblowing, even if, for some, only ruins are left. Step back in time and experience what it was like in Ancient Greece. 

FAQ

How many UNESCO sites are there in Greece?

There are 19 UNESCO sites in Greece — 17 are classed as cultural sites, and two are a mix of cultural and natural significance.

Is the Acropolis of Athens a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

For sure! It’s one of Greece’s most famous UNESCO sites. 

Is Santorini a Unesco site?

It’s not right now, but who knows what the future holds for this island. 

Posted February 27, 2024
Kate Woodley
After a 2-year career break travelling the world, Kate quit her job as a Management Consultant and went all in on digital nomad life. She continues to travel, working as a freelance writer and inspiring others to travel through her Instagram, Maskedtravelsx. Kate also shares her love of travel by running group trips to unique destinations — Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan etc. Where life will take her next? She has no idea!