Seven Greek Destinations and Sites for People Who Love Greek Mythology

“Live your myth in Greece” – the phrase used to be Greece’s motto in some older international tourism campaigns. And that was for a good reason. Imagine stepping at the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis or cliff jumping at the home of the Cabeirian Mysteries. A trip to Greece is not just a seaside vacation but also a time-travelling experience.

If you have subscribed to Helinika’s YouTube channel, there is a great chance you love ancient Greek mythology and history, while also enjoying travelling. Here are seven Greek destinations and sites for people who would love to visit the most mythical places in Greece. Before we get started, make sure to like this video if you love travelling and mythology!

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7 Greek Destinations and Greek Sites for People Who Love Mythology

  1. Mt. Olympus
  2. Athens
  3. Delphi
  4. Eleusina
  5. Delos
  6. Samothrace
  7. Olympia

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Olympia, Peloponnese

One of the most important Panhellenic religious sanctuaries was situated in a small town in Ilia (Elis), in the Peloponnese. The town was named after the Olympian gods and goddesses, and it is still known as “Olympia”. Not only that but this is where the ancient Olympic Games were held every four years. A modern town with the same name is situated near “Archaea Olympia”, which is the ancient town and archaeological site. In ancient Olympia you will find ancient temples and training grounds that are maintained in a very good condition. Great examples are the “Palaestra”, the training grounds of wrestlers, and the ruins of the Temple of Hera. A trip to Olympia can be compared to a… time-travelling experience.

Samothrace Island, Northern Aegean Sea

Samothrace has been mentioned in many of Helinika’s articles and videos. That is because it is not just one of Greece’s hidden beauties, but also one of the country’s most mysterious sites. The Greek island is located in the northern Aegean Sea and it attracts people who love nature and mythology. Samothrace (also seen as Samothraki) was a major religious site in ancient Greece. It was the place where the ancient Cabeirian Mysteries were held, while it is still the home of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods; a temple complex to a group of enigmatic Greek gods. By visiting Samothrace you can spend your summer vacation by the sea, in close proximity to one of the world’s most mysterious places.

Delos Island, Cyclades

Delos is another mysterious Greek island. Situated at the heart of the Cyclades, Delos is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece. It was also reportedly the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site which can only be visited during the day. Overnight stays are not allowed but you can book a day trip from the nearby island of Mykonos.

Eleusina, West Attica

Eleusina (also seen as Eleusis) is a small town in West Attica, in close proximity to the city of Athens. The town is mostly known for its archaeological site – one of the most visited and well-maintained sites in Greece. The town is associated with goddess Demetra and her daughter, Persephone, and it was the place where the enigmatic Eleusinian Mysteries were held. Eleusina is a place every mythology lover should visit at least once in their lifetime.  

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Delphi, Phocis

Most Greek myths and epic poems involve a prophecy and an orator. One of the most trusted ancient Greek oracles was the oracle of Delphi in Phocis, central Greece. You may have heard the name Pytho, who had the role of Pythia. Pythia was the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, who would give oracles for the future with the rustling of the leaves. Today, the area is an archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A new town with the same name is in close proximity to the archaeological site. Visiting Delphi is truly a magical experience.

Athens, Attica

Athens is the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece and a popular destination for people who love history and mythology. Democracy was born in Athens. In Classical Antiquity, it was the most important cultural, artistic, and philosophical center in the West. The city is named after goddess Athena who, according to an old myth, offered the Athenians the olive tree. The production and export of olive oil reportedly contributed to the city’s financial success. The Greek capital has plenty of archaeological sites and museums, such as the Acropolis and the ancient Agora. Visiting Athens should definitely be on your list.

Mt. Olympus, Pieria

Ancient Greeks believed that Mount Olympus was the home of the twelve gods and goddesses who influenced every aspect of their lives. Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, and the rest of the Olympians. Olympus is a real mountain located in Pieria in Northern Greece. It is the highest mountain in Greece and a World Biosphere Reserve. Gods and goddesses were thought to reside at 2.917 meters at its highest peak, Mytikas. Many hikers and climbers ascend to Mytikas to see Greece from Zeus’ perspective. If you are not an avid hiker, there are many traditional villages all around Olympus that you can drive to. There are also countless ancient and medieval sites, such as the archaeological park of Dion and the ancient city of Pydna. It goes without saying that Mount Olympus is the number one destination for people who love history, mythology, and nature.

Now, I am curious to hear if you have ever visited any of these places. If you liked this video, you can hit the like button and subscribe to stay connected.

Vampires in Santorini…? Six Mysterious Greek Islands | Mysterious Greece

haunted greek islands

Greek islands are famous for their picturesque villages, aesthetically pleasing architecture, unique landscapes, and crystal-clear waters. But some of these islands are shrouded in mystery. For example, what is the story behind the vampire islands near the island of Skyros? And who were the “sea demons” that scared the locals on the island of Agkistri?

In the last episode of Helinika’s “Mysterious Greece” series, we discovered the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece. Today, we explore a list of six Greek islands that have sparked the interest of archaeologists, historians, and researchers of the unexplained. From Samothraki island in Northern Aegean to the tiny island of Antikythera, Greece is surrounded by legends, myths, and thrills. Stay till the end because no. 1 will surprise you!

Six Mysterious Greek Islands | Greek Mysteries

  1. Delos Island
  2. Vrykolakonisia (Vampire Islands)
  3. Samothraki Island
  4. Antikythera Island
  5. Salamina Island
  6. Agkistri Island (Kekryfalia)

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The Mysteries of Agkistri

Agkistri (also seen as Angistri or Agistri) is a small island situated in the Saronic Gulf, in close proximity to the city of Athens. It is one of the greenest islands in Greece. That is why ancient Greeks called it “Kekryfalia” – which can be translated as “decorated/ covered head”. Today, Agkistri is mostly known as a popular weekend destination for Athenians. But the beautiful island is also associated with several myths and thrills.

Since ancient antiquity, the people of Agkistri feared the “Telhines” – sea demons who visited other islands as well, such as Rhodes and Crete. Although these creatures allegedly taught humans the art of metallurgy, they were also sorcerers that could cause the “evil eye”; they could harm humans with their jealous stares.

The myth of the Telchines survived for many centuries. In Medieval times, Telchines were now believed to be amphibian monsters that terrorized islanders who wondered around the streets late at night. They were short – not bigger than the size of an average dog – but they looked terrifying.

This is reportedly the reason why many traditional houses in Agkistri have enormous staircases leading to their front door. Many of these houses have ceramic faces built on their walls to scare away the Telchines.

According to modern historians and marine biologists, Medieval fishermen were probably terrified at the sight of the so-called “Jenny Hanivers” that were caught in their fishnets. Jenny Haniver is the name given to the carcass of a ray or devil fish that has been dried out or mummified. Their appearance is… terrifying.

Although Jenny Hanivers were often modified by humans and displayed in museums in the past, they can also result naturally under prolonged exposure to the sun. It is therefore believed that the island of Agkistri was not attacked by sea monsters but rather by… dried out rays. Looking at how these rays looked like, no one can blame the islanders for being terrified!

Salamina and the Unexplained

Salamina (also known as Salamis or Koulouri) is another island in the Saronic Gulf. It is the closest island to the city of Athens and many Athenians choose to build their summer houses there. The island has a long history and it is mostly known for the battle of Salamis, the important naval battle in 480 BC, which resulted in the victory of the Greeks against the Persians.

But for reasons that are not yet clear, the island has a disproportionate amount of urban legends, ghost stories, and mysteries. For example, there is the story of the “haunted battleship” named “Lemnos” (link in Greek) that caused panic in the naval base of Salamis in 1932 and resulted in a police investigation.

Sailors had repeatedly reported seeing terrifying ghostly apparitions in the corridors. They would often exit the ship in the middle of the night, after hearing unexplained banging on the walls, along with whispers and screams coming out of nowhere.

According to newspaper reports of that time, most of the sailors had at least one terrifying experience and the police had been called to investigate the subject. But the sailors of the neighboring battleship “Ierax II” were not convinced. They decided to stay awake the whole night, staring at the nearby battleship for any paranormal activity.

A sailor named Emmanuel Maxouris couldn’t believe his colleagues believed in ghosts. He stood up and started yelling at them when he saw something staring at him from one of the portholes of “Lemnos”. He looked closely and he saw an emaciated hand touching the porthole and, right behind it, there was a skull staring back at him.

Maxouris ended up being hospitalized, since he passed out right after seeing the skeleton on the nearby battleship. It is not clear what were the findings of the police investigation but, after this incidence, everyone on Salamis believed that something out of this world lurked on the battleship “Lemnos”.

Salamina is full of many similar stories. Many believe that the forest area surrounding the monastery of Panagia Faneromeni is haunted. There is an urban legend that there is an old woman walking in the area late at night, asking people to follow her. If the person is not wearing a cross, he or she follows the woman in a trans-like state and disappears forever. Not only that but many of the nearby abandoned houses are thought to be haunted. Why Salamina has so many scary stories remains a mystery.

Mysterious Places in Athens, Greece | Mysterious Greece

The city of Athens has a history spanning over three thousand years. As you can imagine, the capital of the Hellenic Republic of Greece is the birthplace of countless important figures, revolutionary ideas, legendary stories, and mysteries. Here are some of the most mysterious places in Athens, Greece.

The Secret in the Sea of Antikythera

Antikythera (also known as Aigilia) is one of the most mysterious Greek islands, after an archaeological discovery in 1901, which changed the way we viewed ancient civilizations. The tiny island is located between Crete and the Peloponnese and it is one of the least touristic Greek destinations.

In 1901, a mysterious artifact in the sea of Antikythera drew the attention of the international scientific community. That is the Antikythera Mechanism that was discovered in a nearby Roman shipwreck by a group of sponge divers from Symi.

The sponge divers had discovered the shipwreck by accident in 1900, after getting stranded in Antikythera thanks to a storm. A year later, they helped the Greek government explore it. The divers recovered several important artifacts: statues, coins, pieces of glasswork, and several other bronze items – including a weird looking machine. Unfortunately, one diver named Georgios Kritikos died during the expedition and two more were paralyzed after suffering from decompression sickness.

The items were transported to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, where archaeologists started examining them. That’s when they realized that one of the bronze items was actually a 2000-year-old complicated mechanism that displayed the motion of the universe and calculated astronomical events. The Antikythera Mechanism -as it was named- was the first analogue computer. This finding baffled scientists, since it required manufacturing techniques that are considered too sophisticated for that time period. Its exact use still remains a mystery.

What makes the story even more interesting is the fact that the mechanism was lost in a storm, during an attempt to transport it to Rome, and it was recovered 2000 years later… thanks to a storm. Although Antikythera is not full of mysteries like many of the other islands on the list, the Sea of Antikythera is definitely a mystery!

Mysterious Samothraki

You may know Samothraki thanks to the statue of the “Winged Victory of Samothrace”, which is now displayed in the Louvre. Samothraki (also seen as Samothrace) is an island located in the northern Aegean Sea and a popular summer destination for northern Greeks.

In antiquity, Samothraki was not an area of political or economic significance. But it was an island of religious significance, housing the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, a temple complex where several religious ceremonies used to take place. It was also the meeting point for the members of the Cult of the Great Gods who participated in the Cabeirian Mysteries.  Just like with the Eleusinian Mysteries that we have seen in the past, details regarding the Cabeirian rituals remain a… mystery.

Due to its religious significance, Samothraki continues attracting spiritual people from all around the world. Some of the most popular sights are its waterfalls and Oros Feggari (translated as Mount Moon in English). The island has also its own recent urban legends and stories. For example, many new age believers avoid camping in close proximity to the river Fonias. Fonias (Φονιάς) means “killer” in Greek, but this is not the reason they avoid spending the night there. The area supposedly has a strong energy that… can keep you up at night!

But the weirdest stories about Samothraki surround the “Vdelolimni” a small lake that it is rumored to be the home of the Topakes (Τόπακες) – weird creatures that live under the surface of the Earth and visit our world late at night. If you hear the locals’ descriptions of the Topakes, it doesn’t take long to realize that they refer to what we call “fairies” and “elves” in other parts of the world.

Locals and visitors have also reportedly witnessed a weird phenomenon at Vdelolimni (link in Greek). Every ten years, the lake appears to be boiling and a weird mist surrounds the area. That is your warning sign to leave the place as soon as possible, unless you want to come across the “Skylolakas” – a terrifying dog-like monster that jumps straight out of hell!

Although stories about fairies and other creatures existed since ancient times, the story of Skylolakas is a more recent one. According to the legend, during the Ottoman occupation of Greece, an Ottoman ruler summoned a demon to make sure that locals remain obedient. This resulted in the creation of a portal to hell that opens and closes every ten years.

The Greek Vampire Islands

If you have watched Helinika’s video on ancient Greek vampires, then you already know that legends about the undead existed in Greece for thousands of years. It may be easier to imagine a vampire hiding in a misty forest in Transylvania, but, what if I told you that vampires reportedly lurked in sunny Santorini?

Greek vampires do not have the classic Hollywood look – they are more similar to zombies than to Dracula or Edward Cullen. And they would terrorize the living during the night, by destroying their properties, eating their livestock, and, if they managed to get into a house, they would violently attack anyone living there.

The main reason someone would turn into a “vrykolakas” (as Greeks call vampires) is an improper burial. But the character of the person who was buried also played a role; mean-spirited and jealous people were more at risk. The same goes for people who were wronged and needed to bring justice.

Stories like this survived in many Greek islands -Crete, Santorini, Rhodes…- for thousands of years with only minor differences. In Medieval and Ottoman Greece, locals would often bury the dead in small uninhabited islands, since the “vrykolakas” cannot cross a body of water. These islands are known as “Vrykolakonisia” (Vampire Islands).

Opposite the island of Skyros, there is also a group of islands known also as “Vrykolakonisia”. But the name was reportedly given to these islands after they were used to isolate those who had contracted the bubonic plague during the worst years of the “Black Death”.

For reasons that are not fully clear, there has been an connection between the “Black Death” and legends about vampires. During this health crisis, bodies would be casually buried in a ditch before their proper burial, to avoid spreading the disease. Some patients were buried alive by accident and, when their bodies were dug out to be transported in their final burial ground, their arms and legs were placed in peculiar positions. According to historians, that led people to believe that the dead were angry for being thrown into a ditch without a proper burial ceremony and that turned them into vampires.

The Mysteries of Delos

The most mysterious Greek island is located right at the heart of the Cycladic Archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Apart from the center of the Cyclades, it is also the center of the most extensive archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean. A place with a rich mythological and historical background. This is the mysterious island of Delos.

According to ancient Greek mythology, Delos was the birthplace of god Apollo and goddess Artemis. It is estimated that it was inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC and it later became the meeting point of the cult of Dionysus and Leto. But apart from an important religious site, it soon became a trade, political, and cultural center. Many archaeological findings were transported in Museums in Athens. Others, like the famous lion statues, remain on the sacred island.

The history of Delos has inspired many stories. For example, many people believe that Delos has a strong, almost therapeutic energy, thanks to the repeated cleansings that were performed there by the Athenians but also thanks to the island’s location (it is literally at the epicenter of the Cyclades). Moreover, some people believe that the buildings, sculptures and other items on Delos contain symbols and encrypted messages. Others even claim that the island is visited by UFOs.

Delos is now an archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that you can visit during the day by boat from Mykonos, Naxos, or Paros. The only residents are the people who have dedicated their lives in protecting and preserving the artifacts and monuments of Delos. As you can imagine, an island that is a sacred and fully-protected archaeological site deserves the first place on this list.

Which island is the most mysterious island in your opinion? Have you visited any of these places? Leave a comment down below. If you enjoyed watching this video, feel free to like and share. If you are new here, subscribe and stay connected! In the description you will find a link to Helinika’s Udemy course for learning Greek, among other helpful links!

7 Hidden Paradises in Greece | Secret Greek Destinations

Close your eyes and try to think of Greece. What was the first thing that came into your mind? Was it the white and blue houses on a hill in Santorini? The temple of the Parthenon standing proud on the Acropolis hill of Athens? For many people, Greece is connected to specific popular destinations: Santorini, Mykonos, Zakynthos, Crete, Corfu, and Athens. But what about the rest of the country? Here are seven Greek destinations that people who don’t live in Greece rarely know. Stay till the end to discover an unpopulated island that could be described as “heaven on Earth”.

Seven Hidden Gems in Greece:

  1. Chrysi Island
  2. Elafonisos Island
  3. Mount Pelion
  4. Monemvasia Fortress
  5. Epirus Region
  6. Halkidiki Peninsula
  7. Samothraki Island

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#7 Samothrace Island

Some of the most iconic Greek islands are the Cycladic islands, which are known for their dry, golden terrain, white-blue houses, and great Bronze-era civilization. Samothrace island, however, looks nothing like those islands – but it does have a rich history.

Located in the northern Aegean Sea, Samothrace has dense vegetation, a lot of natural springs, and many picturesque villages. The island used to be an important religious center in Hellenic and pre-Hellenic times.

If you have watched the video on the Eleusinian Mysteries, then you might remember a short reference to the so-called “Kabeirian Mysteries”. An ancient Greek cult with members from different parts of Greece would meet in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods that is located there and perform ceremonies to a group of chthonic gods called Kabeiri.

Today, many people visit Samothrace for its beautiful nature and numerous archaeological sites. It also has some popular camping sites. Some of the places you should visit are: the Paleopoli (where many ancient temples are located), the island’s waterfalls (including the waterfall «Fonias”, which means “Murderer” in Greek), and the mountain “Feggari”, which means “moon” in Greek.

#6 Halkidiki Peninsula

If you are not from Greece or from a neighboring country, chances are that you have never heard about (C)Halkidiki. Located in the northern Greek region of Macedonia, this peninsula can be easily located on the map; all you have to do is search for “Poseidon’s trident”.

The first two “prongs” of the “trident” are known for their beautiful beaches (which often have a natural shade), well-known restaurants, and bars. Northern Greeks are often quoted saying: «Σαν την Χαλκιδική δεν έχει», which can be translated as “No place like Halkidiki”. You might also remember from another video from Helinika that Aristotle was born there.

The third “prong” of the “trident” is known as “Mount Athos”, and it is an autonomous polity where 20 Greek Orthodox monasteries are located. Some date back to 800 AD. It is important to note that the monasteries cannot be visited by women.

Some places that you should definitely visit are: the Trani Ammouda beach, Possidi beach, and visit some archaeological sites, such as the Sanctuary of Ammon Zeus.

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#5 Epirus Region

Epirus is a region located in the northwestern part of Greece and it is one of the few places with an alpine climate in the country. It is rugged and mountainous, with a rich vegetation consisting mostly of coniferous species. Epirus has also a big variety of animal species: bears, wolves, foxes, deer, even lynxes.

All these make Epirus a very unique place in Greece. You should definitely visit the Vikos National Park, Pindos National Park, Cave of Perama, and the Dragon Lake (Drakolimne). The central city of Epirus and lake Pamvotida are also two places worth visiting. When you visit the historic city of Ioannina, you can try the traditional frog legs served in the local restaurants.

If you visit during the summer, you should definitely go to the city of Preveza, which is situated in the seaside. You can find some of the most beautiful green-blue waters in this region.

#4 Monemvasia Fortress

Although most people around the world are aware of Greece’s ancient history, fewer know its Medieval past. The Island Fortress of Monemvasia in South Peloponnese is a reminder of Greece’s Byzantine history.  

Monemvasia means “one-way”. The fortress was built in 583 AD, during the reign of the emperor Mauricius, on a rocky island which is connected to the mainland with a narrow road. Monemvasia is one of the most romantic Greek destinations and it should be on every architect’s checklist. Visit the Byzantine churches, the old castle, the folklore museums, and the house of Yannis Ritsos, one of the most well-known Greek poets.

#3 Mount Pelion

If you have watched Helinika’s video narrating the Argonautica, then you might remember Pelion; a mountain at the southeastern part of Thessaly that forms a peninsula resembling a hook. Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, spent his childhood and teenage years there, along with his teacher, Centaur Chiron. This mythical mountain was believed to be the home of the wise half-horse, half-man creatures.

Today, Pelion is often described as “paradise on Earth”, combining mountain and sea in one place. If you visit Pelion during the winter, it is worth visiting the northern part of the mountain; the picturesque villages of Milies and Zagora, but also the ski center of Chania.

During the summer, south Pelion is known for its beautiful coastline – the wild and crystal clear beaches facing the Aegean sea and the calm and family friendly beaches facing the gulf of Pagasitikos. Papa Nero and Potistika are some of the most popular summer destinations for people who love deep and wild waters, contrary to the swallow and calm waters of most Greek coastlines. Fun fact: most of the scenes in “Mama Mia 1” were filmed in South Pelion and some neighboring islands.

Pelion is also a popular hiking area for locals. The “kalderimia”, the traditional cobblestone pathways, connect small villages to each other through beautiful natural landscapes – forests, rivers, and waterfalls.

#2 Elafonisos Island

Elafonisos is one of Greece’s hidden gems and, to be honest, revealing it comes with a feeling of guilt. Situated between the Peloponnese and the island of Kythira, the beautiful island has a history that dates back to ancient times.

Its name derives from the Greek word for “deer” (Ελάφι), since it was inhabited by deer in the past.Today, it is a protected biotope of the program Natura 2000, since it is the home of countless rare Mediterranean plants and animals, including red tulips goulimyi, green sea turtles, microbats, and European blind snakes. Some of the paradise-like beaches are Simos, Panagia, and Lefki.

#1 Chrysi Island

Chrysi means “golden” in Greek. Also known as Gaidouronisi, Chrysi island could only be placed on the first position. It is an uninhabited Greek island in the South Cretan Sea, very close to the town of Ierapetra.

The island is known for its Minoan ruins from 1800 BC, its Roman cemetery, its old lighthouse and salt pan, a 13th century chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and its crystal-clear waters. The island has swallow and safe waters and it attracts anyone who loves snorkeling and diving.

The beautiful island is so small but, at the same time, it has such a long history and such beautiful scenery that could be described as the ultimate Greek destination. You can reach it by boat from Ierapetra and other places in Crete, such as Makrigialos, and Myrtos.

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Did you know any of these places? Also, would you add any other lesser-known Greek destinations to the list? Leave a comment down below!