Above: The Theater at Taormina with Mt. Etna in the background

The Road to Ruins: Favorite Greek Ruins in Turkey, Italy & Greece

More than 2,000 years after their construction, the great buildings of classical Greece still have power to stir the heart. Architects have drawn inspiration from their elegant proportions and graceful ornamentation for millennia, and yet the remaining original structures have not given up all their secrets. Even the Parthenon, the most iconic Greek building, remains shrouded in mystery. How could an ancient civilization construct such a monumental edifice in less than 10 years, if the histories are to be believed? And how did they achieve such exquisite balance and engineering precision with the technology at their disposal? The great theaters, too, leave as many questions as answers. We can only speculate about how a Greek play was actually performed, and what any accompanying music might have sounded like.

Yet the distant echoes of priests and performers haunt the ruins to this day, their settings on hilltops or coastlines still as dramatic as they were 2,500 years ago. And the Greeks did not confine their monument-building to the present-day boundaries of the country. Sicily contains ancient Greek ruins as spectacular as any in Greece, as does western Turkey. The Andrew Harper Travel Office has assembled a list of 10 favorite Greek ruins which represent the majesty and sophistication of the civilization. Headlines about Greece today tend to focus on its economic troubles, but seeing one or two of these ruins will leave no doubt that Greece was once a great world power.

1. The Athenian Acropolis

Ancient Greek architecture arguably reached its apotheosis with the Acropolis, built atop a rugged hill in the heart of Athens. Even though it was converted to a church, a mosque and an ammo depot which exploded, the Parthenon—the Acropolis’s centerpiece—retains its gloriously calm, well-ordered beauty. Arrive early in the day to see the monuments before the crowds arrive and, at sunset, head to the roof terrace of the Hotel Grande Bretagne for magnificent views of the Acropolis from the bar and restaurant.

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Above: The Theater at Taormina with Mt. Etna in the background