Top Things to Do in Athens, Greece

Athens is certainly one of the most historic cities in the world and there is plenty to see if you decide to travel there. It is probably true that no matter where you dig in the city, there is a high likelihood that you will discover new ruins and they continue to find new artifacts and sites continuously. As we walked through the town, we even came across a new find that had recently been discovered during the digging of the subway system. You can certainly hire a guide to take you through all of the famous sites, but it is certainly possible to visit them on your own as we did. These are the places that we enjoyed most while we were in Athens, but be sure to take your time, eat some fresh seafood, and perhaps have sip of ouzo.

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View of Athens, Greece
  1. The Acropolis – This is really a complex of historic sites that made up an ancient citadel. Sitting atop a rocky mount that overlooks the city, there are many famous ruins that have been reconstructed. There is the Parthenon, the Erechthion, the Temple of Athena Nike, and more. We recommend that you buy a package bundle ticket that provides access to many of the other famous sites as you will likely want to visit them all anyway. No visit to Athens would be complete without going to the Acropolis.

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    Temple of Athena Nike
  2. The Agora of Athens – Located at the base of the Acropolis, walking these ancient grounds with the statues, pottery, and stone walls is truly fascinating. The highlight of the site is the Temple of Hephaestus, which is one of the most well-preserved ancient temples in all of Greece. Among the statues that you will see as you walk the ancient roads is the remaining torso of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. There is also a museum on the grounds with many historical artifacts.

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    The Temple of Hephaestus above the Agora
  3. Temple of Olympian Zeus – Although it is now just a series of columns, this site must have been a central point for the people of ancient Athens. Looking down at the temple from the Acropolis will give you a sense of its true size as it carves out a large portion of the city.

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    Temple of Zeus in Athens
  4. The Roman Agora – Although smaller than the Agora of Athens, it is definitely still worth visiting. One of the most interesting structures on the site is the Tower of the Winds. It is an ancient clock tower where archeologists have discovered an ancient sun dial, wind vane, and a water clock. There are several outdoor restaurants in the area, which makes it a great place to visit during lunchtime where you can have a meal overlooking the ancient ruins.

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    First Glimpse of the Roman Agora
  5. The Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – If you are in Athens on a Sunday, you should definitely make your way to the Syntagma Square at 11:00 am for the changing of the guards. Although the changing of the guards happens every day at 11:00 am, the performances on Sunday has more participants and more elaborate uniforms. While you are there, take time to see the Parliament Building and Presidential Mansion.

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    Dramatic High Stepping
  6. Odeon of Herodes Atticus – Sitting on the southwest slope of the Acropolis, this is something that shouldn’t be missed. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an ancient amphitheater and standing at the top provides incredible views of the city beyond the columns. Although truly part of the Acropolis, not everyone makes there way to this ancient site, so it is worth pointing this one out on its own.

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    View of the Amphitheatre
  7. Acropolis Museum – With nearly 4,000 objects on display, there is a wealth of treasures housed in the museum.  Although we didn’t actually make it to the museum during our visit due to it being over the holidays, we have included it on our list as we have heard nothing but wonderful things about the museum.

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    Ancient Pottery

We have been to many fascinating cities, but Athens is definitely one of our favorites. It is one of those special places where you can really feel as though you’ve been transported back thousands of years in time to see things that could have been lost to time. A week in Athens would allow you to do some day tours to the outlying areas, but you should plan for at least three days in the city itself.

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Parthenon

 

Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado

Located near Durango, Colorado, are the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. It is a wonderful location to see the remains of the homes of the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived there over a thousand years ago. We have been to ruins in Europe as well as South America, but it is still interesting to visit the ruins in the United States as well. It is important to understand that there was a thriving civilization in North America long before it was discovered by the people from across the ocean.

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Mesa Verde National Park
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Ladder on the Side of a Cliff Dwelling
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Approaching the Cliff Dwellings

One of the great things about Mesa Verde National Park is that you’re able to climb up to and walk through the cliff dwellings located there.  The ancient Pueblo people inhabited the dwellings for about 700 years between 600 and 1300 AD.  Some of the most interesting buildings are the Kivas, which the Pueblo people used for ceremonies.  There is a whole in dug into the center of the floor of the Kivas called a sipapu, which represents their belief that their ancestors came to the surface from the underworld.  It is well worth taking a tour while you’re there so that you learn about the ancient Pueblo people as well the current efforts to preserve the ruins.  One of the enjoyable things is that you are able to walk through the ruins, through the doorways, hallways, into the Kivas, it is a true hands on experience.

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Kiva with Hole at the Center
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Walking Among the Cliff Dwellings
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Aztec Ruins

Mesa Verde is the most well-known ruin in the area, but take the time to visit the Aztec Ruin National Monument.  These aren’t cliff dwellings, but the more typical ruins of the ancient Pueblo people.  A smaller version of the ruins found at Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, this not as well-known ruin is another great place to explore the history of the Southwest.  You are able to walk through these ruins as well, although not as well-preserved as the ruins at Mesa Verde, it is still a treat to visit.  Understanding that there was a civilization building large cities here in the United States over a thousand years ago is often a surprise to people as we always think of Europe and the Middle East as the cradle of civilization.

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Mesa Verde
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Petroglyphs
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Cliffs of Mesa Verde

 

 

Walking in the Steps of the Incan Empire

During our trip to Bolivia, we truly enjoyed visiting Incan ruins such as Incallajta and Tiwanaku. We learn so much about the ancient civilizations of Rome and Egypt, but very little is taught in schools about the Inca and the empire that they created in South America. Its size and political systems rivaled any other empire of the early 16th century. While we were in the ruins of Incallajta, we walked the same paths that the guards walked around the ancient city as they protected it from rival tribes that lived in the forests. Since there were no other tourists at the site and it was just us and our guide walking the trails, it was especially awe-inspiring. We climbed to about 11,000 feet (about 3,350 meters) where we had a spectacular view of the entire complex. Join us on the trails of the ancient Inca and walk with us as we traverse the outer wall of the ancient city of Incallajta.

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Walking an Incan Trail
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Looking Down on the Ruins
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Walking along the Ancient Walls
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Ancient Trails Converted to Roads
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The Path of the Incan Guards
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View from the Observatory