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. Religious sites. All over Greece, you can find the most beautiful churches and monasteries. 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, 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. Greek culture is intertwined with the Orthodox religion and even today, over 90% of the Greeks are Christian Orthodox.
Types of must-see religious sites
There are three types of must-visit religious sites in Greece.
- The monasteries build on holy sites in the most extreme places.
- Small churches build as a hideout from the occupants at that time.
- White churches or monasteries surrounded by clear blue water.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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 and have at least one day a week on which they do not open at all. Since the most beautiful ones are at very remote locations, it would be a pity to conquer the winding mountain roads, only to discover that you can not enter.