Beyond the endless urban sprawl of Athens, the vast expanse of central Greece has a little of everything for the visitor, from sandy beaches and fishing ports, to one of the country’s most important archaeological sites, Ancient Delphi. Not to be missed is the Byzantine splendor of the monasteries of Dafní and Osios Loúkas, while the extraordinary mountain-top monasteries of Metéora are another of the region’s principal attractions. The beautiful wooded mountain slopes of the Pilio offer some of the best scenery of the mainland.
POINTS OF INTEREST
The temple of Poseidon, situated at the top of sheer cliffs tumbling into the Aegean Sea at Soúnio was ideally located as a place to worship the powerful god of the sea. The present temple, built in 444 BC, stands on the site of older ruins.
MONASTERY OF DAFNÍ
Founded in the 5th century AD, the Monastery of Dafni is named after the laurels that once grew here. It was built with the remains of an ancient sanctuary of Apollo, which had occupied the site until it was destroyed in AD 395. Among the monastery’s principal attractions are the beautiful gold-leaf Byzantine mosaics in the main church.
MONASTERY OF OSIOS LOÚKAS
Dedicated to a local hermit and healer, Osios Loúkas, who lived in the 10th century, this splendid monastery was one of medieval Greece’s most important buildings architecturally. Among the most impressive features of the monastery are the 10th-century crypt, which is from the original church and contains the sarcophagus of Holy Luke, and a mosaic entitled Washing of the Apostles’ Feet.
In ancient times, Delphi was believed to be the center of the earth. The site was renowned as a dwelling place of Apolla, and from the late 8th century BC people came here to worship and seek advice from the god. The Sanctuary of Apollo, also known as the Sacred Precinct, forms the heart of the complex and one of its most impressive sights is the Temple of Apollo.
The Pílio Peninsula is one of the most beautiful areas of the mainland. The mountain air is sweet with the scent of herbs, which in ancient times were renowned for their healing properties. The area became populated in the 13th century by Greeks retreating from the Ottomans. The main town on the peninsula is Vólos, which has an excellent Archaeological Museum.