What are the top religious sites in Greece?

Greece has a rich history and culture, and as such, there are many religious and spiritual sites to visit in the country. Here are some of the top sites to consider:

The top 10 religious and spiritual sites in Greece:

The Acropolis

The Acropolis is a citadel located in Athens. It is home to several ancient temples, including the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheion. The Acropolis is considered one of the most important cultural sites in Greece. It is a must-see for anyone interested in ancient history and culture.

The Monastery of Osios Loukas

Located in Boeotia, the Monastery of Osios Loukas is a beautiful Byzantine monastery founded in the 10th century. The monastery is known for its well-preserved frescoes and mosaics, as well as its stunning architecture.

The Temple of Apollo

The famous Temple of Apollo is located in Delphi. The temple was dedicated to Apollo, the god of prophecy, and was considered the center of the ancient world.

The Meteora Monasteries

Located in Thessaly, the Meteora Monasteries are a group of monasteries built on top of towering rock formations. The monasteries were founded in the 14th century and are known for their stunning views and well-preserved frescoes and icons.

The Monastery of St. John the Theologian

Located on the island of Patmos, the Monastery of St. John the Theologian is a beautiful Byzantine monastery. The monastery dates back to the 10th century. It is known for its stunning architecture and is a popular tourist destination for those interested in religious history and culture.

The Monastery of Panayia Hozoviotissa

Located on the island of Amorgos, the Monastery of Panayia Hozoviotissa is a beautiful Byzantine monastery that was founded in the 10th century. The monastery is known for its beauty. A white-washed building, perched on the edge of a cliff.

The Temple of Apollo Epicurius

Located in Bassae, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is an ancient temple dedicated to Apollo, the god of prophecy. The temple is known for its stunning location, nestled in the foothills of the Arcadian Mountains, and its well-preserved Doric architecture.

The Church of Seven Martyrs

The Church of Seven Martyrs is a Byzantine church located on the island of Syfnos in Greece. This unique church is dedicated to the Seven Martyrs of Syfnos, a group of Christians who were martyred on the island in the 4th century. The church is an important religious site for the Greek Orthodox Church and is known for its beautiful architecture and stunning location amongst tourists.

The Temple of Athena

The Temple of Athena is located in Sounion and is one of the most important ancient sites in Greece. The temple was dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, and is known for its stunning location, perched on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Mount Athos

Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula located in northeastern Greece. It is home to several monasteries and is considered a center of Orthodox Christian spirituality. Therefore, Mount Athos is known as the “Holy Mountain” and is believed to be a place of great holiness and spiritual significance.

The monasteries of Mount Athos are home to many monks and are known for their beautiful architecture, stunning locations, and rich histories. The monasteries are also known for their collections of icons, manuscripts, and other religious artifacts. However, Mount Athos is a self-governed monastic state within Greece, and access to Mount Athos is restricted to men only. All visitors must obtain a special permit before visiting the monasteries.

Why is religion important in Greece?

Religion has played an important role in Greek culture and society throughout history. First, there were the ancient Greeks, who had a polytheistic religion, with a pantheon of gods and goddesses that were believed to control various aspects of life. These gods and goddesses were central to Greek mythology and played a prominent role in daily life. After this, in modern Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church became the dominant religion.

The Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world and has always been closely tied to Greece’s cultural and historical identity. Since Greece as a country knows a history of many wars and occupations, religion was what kept the Greeks together. Therefore, today it is still an important part of Greek life, with many people participating in religious ceremonies and festivals throughout the year.

What to keep in mind when you visit a religious site in Greece?

Religious sites in Greece are today still inhabited by monks or used as a place of worship by the locals. Therefore, it is important to show respect to the Orthodox church when you visit. In the country, there are rules regarding what you must wear and how you should behave at a religious site. Check this article as a guide

the monastery of timios prodromes from afar. three white buildings in steep grey and red cliff on green mountain
The monastery of Timios Prodromes on the mountain

My favorite unknown religious site

The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes offers everything a culture- and nature-loving tourist in Greece desires. Including a beautiful mountainous landscape and incredible architecture coupled with fascinating stories, religion, and exclusivity. Therefore, this monastery is the hidden gem of Greece. It is located in the North of the Peloponnese peninsula, close to the town of Astros. The drive there follows a winding mountain road through a rough landscape as well as olive groves. In addition, the view from the monastery is breathtaking, and the priest who lives there is the best tour guide you will ever meet. Continue reading to discover more about this special place in Greece.

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Meteora

Breathtaking and magical. Six monasteries on top of huge rock pillars that seem surreal. No words nor pictures can capture the beauty and impressiveness of this Greek landmark, where history,…

Tips for visiting religious sites in Greece

Besides the ancient treasures, paradise-like beaches, and picturesque villages Greece is known for, there is a fourth category of sites that should be on your travel itinerary. The religious sites. All over Greece, you can find the most beautiful churches and monasteries. These places are often build on such unique and wonderful places that they are not only a place to visit for the believers amongst us. They will impress everyone. So wherever you are in Greece, find one and pay a visit!

Religion in Greece

The Orthodox Church plays an important role in Greek culture and history. While Greece, as a country, has known many occupations throughout history, the orthodox religion has always been there. For thousands of years, the Orthodox church was there to preserve Greek nationality through Ottoman and Venetian control. Many churches and monasteries are located in remote locations, far away from the wars that the country fought. In caves and on cliff sides, the religion survived. Today, the Greek culture is intertwined with the Orthodox religion, and over 90% of the Greeks today are Christian Orthodox.

The Greeks take their religion serious. Meaning that when you are planning on visiting religious sites in Greece, you have to stick to the church’s rules. Respect the religion and the etiquettes, even as a tourist.

Types of must-see religious sites

For the Orthodox faith to survive in Greece, many churches and monasteries are located in remote locations. As a result, there are three types of must-visit religious sites in Greece.

  • The monasteries build on holy sites in the most extreme places.
  • Small cave-churches build as a hideout from the occupants at that time.
  • White churches or monasteries surrounded by clear blue water.
Monasteries at extreme places

The most impressive religious buildings in Greece are the ones that connect with the extreme nature around them. Hundreds of years old monasteries, built on giant stone pillars, sea-side cliffs, or as an almost invisible part of a mountain. The most famous example is Meteora. But even less famous ones, like Megalo Spireo, Kipina, Timios Prodromos, or mount Athos, are both impressive and breathtaking. It seems impossible that human hands created them so many years ago. The structures are so surreal that even an atheist can feel the spirituality of these places.

One of the monasteries in Meteora
Cave-churches as hideout

In many areas in Greece, the Orthodox religion could only survive by hiding. As a result there are many churches around today that are hidden inside a cave. Often these churches themselves are not truly impressive, but the landscape around is. Examples are Panagia Kakaviotissa in Lemnos, Agios Stefanos in Syros, and Agios Georgios in Didyma Peloponnese.

Small cave-church inside a doline at Didyma
White and blue water sights

Less spectacular, but nevertheless extremely wonderful, are the religious sites enclosed by a sea or a lake. Clear blue water surrounding a white church situated in a remote location, truly makes the perfect Greek scenery. The tranquility around these churches is extraordinary. Perfect examples of churches like these are Agios Isidoros on Chios, Agios Ioannis on Skopelos and Agios Nikolaos on Lemnos.

Agios Nikolaos on Lemnos

Tips for visiting religious sites in Greece

Here is an overview of the most important rules and etiquettes when visiting a religious site in Greece. Although many places have these rules on a sign when you enter, not all of them do. So read these tips before you enter any church or monastery in the country to make sure you respect the Greeks and their faith as a tourist.

Follow the dress code

Since the Orthodox church is still important to the Greeks, all religious sites, even the ones in the most remote places, are still in use. Monks still live in the monasteries and Easter is celebrated in the churches. As a result, there is a strict dress code when entering a holy place in Greece.

The general rule is that men should wear long pants and women long skirts, for both shoulders, upper arms, and knees should be covered. However, every church and monastery has its own variation on this rule. A dress that allows you to enter one monastery, might be refused by another.

Safest is to always have long pants or a skirt and a light scarf to cover your upper body with you when visiting a religious site. Personally, I always have an orthodox-approved outfit in the trunk of the car while traveling in Greece. The alternative is to borrow body-covering fabric at the entrance, which is possible at many monasteries. However, these fabrics are not the most breathable, comfortable, and hygienic solutions, especially during summer. So better prepare if you have the option.

Be careful with photographs

The Orthodox religion does allow you to take pictures inside churches and monasteries. However, be careful where you point your camera at, and how you take the picture. It is taboo to use a flash inside a religious building in Greece. Also, never take a picture of the altar in a church! Many of the Greek religious sites do have a reminder about these rules when you enter.

Don’t cross your legs

In many Greek Orthodox churches it is considered rude to cross your legs. This because crossing your legs when seating is a way to get comfortable, which is not permitted inside a church. According to the religion, getting too relaxed will prevent you from a true connection with God. And even when you do not believe in the Greek God, it is a sign of disrespect when you sit down and act comfortable.

Check the opening hours

The last tip I want to give you is to check the opening hours, especially of the monasteries. Most of them close around five (often even earlier during the non-summer months) and have at least one day a week on which they do not open at all. Since the most beautiful religious sites are at very remote locations, it would be a pity to conquer the winding mountain roads, only to discover that you can not enter. Most monasteries and churches have accurate information regarding their opening hours on Google maps.

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When a monk makes camp. Panagia Kakaniotissa

Just a few kilometers West of Myrina, on the island of Lemnos, is a church that is unlike any other. Panagia Kakaniotissa. A small church without a roof but covered by the tip of the mountain it was built in. This small church is one of the most unique churches in the world.

one of the most unique churches in the world inside a cave on top of a mountain
Panagia Kakaniotissa, image from greekcitytimes.com

History

The church was built in the 13th century, when the Ottomans took over the island of Lemnos. A few monks were able to escape from the Turks. Trying to find a place to hide, they found a secluded and inaccessible cave. Covered by the roughness of the volcanic landscape around, they felt safe enough to make camp.

But what would a monk in a camp be without a church? Nothing. So the monks built the Panagia Kakaniotissa church and were able to survive here throughout time. Not being found by the occupants of the island.

Experience

Today the church is still in use and made accessible to the public. Well, for as far as possible on its very remote location. Just north of the church is a parking lot, accessible by a dirt road. From here a poorly constructed path leads you through the volcanic landscape, up to the cave.

On the way, you will be surprised by the beauty of the landscape around. Although the area seems pretty dry, there are so many different colors around you. The volcanic stones in the area are like sculptures while the sea is visible on the horizon. You’ll visit not only one of the most unique churches in the world, but you will hike through a special landscape as well.

Volcanic rock shows the face of an angry man on the path toward the church.

Tips:

  • When going to this church, make sure to navigate to the parking lot. Navigation might make a mistake when you try to drive directly towards the church.
  • The hike to the church takes about 20 minutes.
  • Bring enough water and sunscreen with you. And when visiting in summer, it is better to go either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. But make sure to be back before it’s dark, because the path, as well as the dirt road, can be dangerous in the night.
  • Although the stairs of the path are not very well constructed, it does make this hike safe for children.
  • Don’t try to visit during Easter, or maybe do if you want to explore the Greek culture. To this day, the church is still in use to celebrate this important Greek Orthodox holiday.
  • Halfway the path towards the church is a little seating area from which you can enjoy the view over the mountains and the sea.
  • Combine with a visit to the castle of Myrina or the traditional windmills in Kontias
Volcanic landscape on Lemnos overlooking the sea