Venture beyond the marina to lose yourself in UNESCO World Heritage Sites – and discover lands of the ancients, untouched towns and pristine palaces of days gone by.
From 5,000 year-old burial sites, to 15th century castles and 700,000 year-old ancestral caves, let Camper & Nicholsons Marinas take you on a journey back in time.
Grand Harbour Marina, Malta
For an archipelago is so small, it’s remarkable that Malta and Gozo lay claim to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. What’s even more extraordinary? How easy it is to cross them all off your list.
- First stop, the Maltese capital, Valletta – soon to be European Capital of Culture in 2018. With the whole city designated a World Heritage Site, strolling through its ancient fortifications is like stepping back in time. Be sure to stop at the Upper Barrakka Gardens for a panoramic view of the Grand Harbour.
- Take a tour around one of the finest Cathedral’s in the world – the St. John’s Co-Cathedral– with it’s stunning Baroque interior and home to the only signed Caravaggio masterpiece in existance.
- Continue your journey through the past in Malta’s south. Here you’ll find the megalithic temples of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra, commanding hilltop positions overlooking the sea. Then, just a short trip inland are the Tarxien Temples. Equally impressive are the Ġgantija Temples in Gozo, notable for their gigantic Bronze Age structures.
- Finally, don’t miss the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni. Older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids, the 5,000-year-old underground prehistoric burial site, is made up of interconnecting rock-cut chambers set over three different levels. The civilization that created this incredible structure left no other record of itself other than the Hypogeum and no real clues as to why they constructed it. With only 8 visitors an hour allowed in, a visit to this atmospheric site is indeed a privilege. It’s a very popular site, so make sure you pre-book at least a week in advance.
Athens Marina, Greece
As the capital of the classical world, Athens is a historical heavyweight. Giants of philosophy, mathematics, politics, art and drama have all graced the city throughout the ages. Ready to walk in their footsteps?
- From philosophers Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, to playwright Euripedes and the sculptor Phidias, walk through the many temples and ancient ruins of ancient agora in the footsteps of true greats.
- Traverse the cobblestone streets of Athens’ old town, Plaka, with its charming neoclassical buildings and their bougainvillea-festooned balconies.
- Don’t miss seeing the Acropolis up close – nothing can prepare you for the majesty of standing before it. Every aspect of a visit to this site is beguiling. From the walk up the Acropolis hill itself, through olive trees and along the marble path trod by the ancients themselves. To the view across the city, that stretches all the way out to sea. On a good day, you can see ships making their way across the channel.
- While you’re exploring the Acropolis, be sure to visit the Acropolis Museum, too. Lauded by many as one of the most stunning museums in the world, the modern, minimalist building with its transparent floors revealing archaelogical ruins beneath, overlooking the Acropolis. Its architecture is a triumph and makes a striking contrast to the wonderful collection of antiquities it holds inside.
- Visit the ancient Roman theatre, the Odeon of Herod Atticus, which is nestled against the Acropolis Hill. Remarkably, it’s still in use today as part of the annual Athens Festival that runs from May to October.
- Attend the Athens Festival. It’s an unmissable experience, with an eclectic programme of events that includes classical concerts, theatre and dance. Many world-famous stars have performed here including the Three Tenors, Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo, the Bolshoi Ballet, Andrea Bocelli, Elton John and more.
- Venture to the other side of the Acropolis hill, to explore the Anafiotika neighbourhood. Sat just above the bustling Plaka tavernas, bars and cafés, losing yourself here is a complete delight. The area is reminiscent of Mykonos and other Cycladic island whitewashed alleyways. Little surprise, given that the area was built when islanders came from Anafi to renovate King Othon’s Palace.
In a city with such a rich historical heritage, there are countless other ancient sites to visit. Here are just a few:
- The wonderfully preserved temple of Hephaestus in the picturesque Thision area.
- The Byzantine Kaisariani monastery.
- The Temple of Olympian Zeus. If you’re there during the summer, don’t miss going along on a full-moon night. The site remains open after dark, making for an enchanting stroll through the grounds.
- The setting of the original supreme court of Athens, Areios Pagos.
- Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion– also worth it for the sunset and views across the bay.
Sani Marina, Greece
Sun-soaked Sani, in Northern Greece’s Halkidiki peninsula, is more than a 5-star luxury resort. It also boasts its fair share of historical attractions. This is Greece, after all.
- Head to Ancient Olynthos for a lesson in architectural planning from the masters. At this archaeological site, you’ll see how the famous Hippodamian grid plan, the original foundations of town planning, was organised. Excavated houses, avenues, communal spaces, can all be enjoyed from a place with panoramic views.
- Walk in the footsteps of the great Greek philosopher Aristotle, see his birthplace in Ancient Stagira. In the village, you’ll find all the original instruments he refers to in his scientific works – the Alsos of Aristotle: a compass, pendulum and a prism. Also worth a visit – Aristotle Park.
- Journey to the extraordinary World Heritage Site of Mount Athos. This remote group of ancient monasteries is actually its own semi-independent state, known as the Monastic Republic of Mount Athos. Women are not allowed to visit, but for those that are able to, it’s an unforgettable experience. Orthodox monks have lived here since the 7th century, inhabiting 20 monasteries scattered around the peninsula, plus various caves and cells hidden in the wooded hills between. Today, there are about 2,500 monks living here, from virtually every region of the Orthodox world.
- Go subterranean and explore the impressive caves of Petralona, where the 700,000-year old remains of Arhanthropos, our oldest-known European ancestor, were discovered in 1960.
- Take a trip to the nearby city of Thessaloniki, which was founded around 315 BC by the King Cassander of Macedon, on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma and 26 other local villages.
Limassol Marina, Cyprus
Cyprus, the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, offers some of the finest archaeological sites one could ask for. Berthing at Limassol Marina puts some of the best within easy reach.
- To the east of Limassol lies the ancient kingdom of Amathus, while to the west lies Ancient Kourionwith its breath-taking Greco-Roman amphitheatre perched on a cliff-top. Back in Limassol itself, explore the medieval Byzantine castle where Richard the Lionheart is said to have got married.
- Be transported back in time at the nearby medieval village of Kakopetria. High in the foothills of the mountains, there is a quieting sense of place and time here. Locals can watch the flow of two rivers, which meet in the village, from their cantilevered, timber balconies set atop heavy, stone walls. Good humour and friendliness abound, breaking the mesmerising spell and creating memories you’ll cherish long after leaving.
- Trek through the mountains and be rewarded with splendid, sleepy monasteries and hidden, byzantine churches, several of them now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Palmarina Bodrum, Turkey
Palmarina is your gateway to the authentic Turkey of old. Immerse yourself in a world of bazaars, hamams and ancient wonders.
- Lose yourself in Bodrum’s labyrinth of cobbled alleys, lined with bougainvillea-festooned white stucco houses.
- High above the harbour you’ll find the Castle of St Peter, built in the 15th century by the Knights of St John.
- Be sure to visit the site of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of only two remaining Wonders of the Ancient World, built in the fourth century B.C. as the burial chamber of a local ruler.
Cala Ponte Marina, Southern Italy
History and antiquity are never far. The marina lies close to the cliff-top town of Polignano a Mare, an ancient city of narrow alleys and traditional architecture. Then venture beyond, to discover enchanting historical towns known for their ambiance and architecture.
- The old cliff-top town of Polignano a Mare is an attraction in itself, with its narrow winding streets and alleyways, many closed to traffic, where the traditional urban architecture of the region can be peacefully appreciated.
- Follow the cobbled streets through the heart of the old town to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, where you will find the main church in the Vecchio Polignano (the old Polignano) – the Matrice Church, dating from 1628. The “balconies” overlooking the sea offer spectacular panoramic views along the coast.
- The town is also famous for its caves, some of which are so deep that they reach down to the centre of the town. The famous Palazzese Grotto can be reached from the sea and from land, via a staircase inside the famous restaurant of the same name.
- The other grottos that can be visited by boat are Grotta Ardito, Grotta Stalattitica and Grotta della Foca. Signs of human presence dating back to the Stone Age have been found in these caves.
- Travel south through green hills studded with olive, cherry and grapevines to see the glittering crystalline columns and natural sculptures of The Caves of Castellana.
- Go a little further to experience the fairytale magic of UNESCO-protected Alberobello– a must-see for its unique, dry stone, conical-shaped houses called ‘trulli’.
- Castel Del Monte, entered in 1996 in the list of World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, is an extraordinary masterpiece of the Middle Ages. Built around 1420, it is universally recognised for its unique octagonal shape, in which every space has been designed with complex geometric rules, a harmonious blend of art and perfection – a fusion of different elements of the Classic, Gothic and Islamic style.
- Ostuni: the beautiful “White City”is a typical ancient village located near Polignano, imbued with almost magical atmosphere, characterised by unique colours. Its houses, all painted white, have a particular architectural shape, white lines that gently collide, escape and create a path similar to a labyrinth.
- Lecce: further afield, on the southern tip of Italy’s “boot”, Lecce offers a wealth of architectural delights. The local sandstone, tinged a warm pink, is so easy to work with that it fostered the rise of a local style (barocco leccese) as ornate and intricate as any the world has seen. Rather than architects, it was the local stonemasons who left their mark on this city, decorating its buildings with fanciful cherubs, monsters, flowers, fruits, beauties and beasts.
Porto San Rocco, Northern Italy
Trieste, Muggia and the surrounding areas are awash with historical interest. Not to mention Venice, which is within easy reach of the marina.
- Soak up the special Venetian atmosphere of Muggia– the last and only Istrian town in Italy.
- Traverse the winding, narrow streets of Trieste and take in its neoclassical and art nouveau architecture, beautiful castles and palaces.
- Stop for an espresso at Caffé Tommaseo, the oldest café in Trieste to get a taste of true Viennese heritage – known to locals as ‘the living room of Trieste’.
- The Castle of Miramare was built between 1856 and 1860 by Carl Junker by order of Archduke Maximillian. Its gardens boast outstanding beauty and a nearby castle annex houses the bronze statue of Maximillian, while a small chapel has a cross made from the remains of Novara, a ship in which Maximillian set sail for Mexico.
- The Castle of San Giusto provides a view of the city of Trieste, the sea and its hills. Not far from Trieste in Duino Aurisina you can also visit the Castle of Duino and follow the Rilke Path.
- The Arch of Riccardo, an Augustinian gate built in 33 BC, stands in Piazzetta Barbican, and is named because it was believed to have been crossed by King Richard of England, on his return from the crusades.
- The Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia, is the “heart of Trieste” and largest seaside square in Europe. Some of the buildings date to the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
- Go a little further to discover the renowned charms of Venice. St. Mark’s Basilica, the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco and the list goes on. For the full effect, take a gondola ride and marvel at the palazzos that seem to float.
Founded by ancient Greek colonists in the 3rd century BC, this once major Roman port was later destroyed by the Saracens in the 1100s before coming under long-term Venetian rule. Today, this medieval walled town, situated on an Adriatic island, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with signs of its colourful past evident wherever you turn – offering everything from beautiful Romanesque churches to Renaissance and Baroque buildings.
Explore the maze-like heart of this medieval walled town, with its winding streets, and unique mix of Romanesque and Renaissance architecture – with many buildings dating from the 13th century.
- Pay your respects at the three-naved Venetian Cathedral of St Lovro, one of the finest architectural structures in all of Croatia. With exquisite early Dalmatian sculptures, paintings by Renaissance masters, and several illuminated manuscripts.
- Wander round the 15th century Town Hall opposite the cathedral, with its Gothic yard and imposing staircase, decorated with many Venetian coats of arms.
Discover the 15th century Kamerlengo Fortress, where in summer you can enjoy one of Trogir Summer festival’s many outdoor concerts.
- Climb up St. Michael’s bell tower, braving its rickety staircase, to be rewarded with breathtaking views of Trogir and Split.
Çeşme is the ideal base from which to launch into an archaeological trip through time. Whether sailing to nearby island of Chios, flying to cosmopolitan Istanbul or planning a scenic coastal jaunt to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ephesus, you’re spoiled for choice. Take in pretty harbour towns and abandoned temples along the way.
- Sail to the beautiful Greek island of Chios, just 8km away, and explore its charming medieval villages. Built under Genoese rule (1346-1566), these remarkable fortified settlements, also known as Mastichochoria due to the fact they produce its world-famous mastic, were designed to defend against external invasion and are still inhabited to this day.
- Catch one of the 40 daily flights from nearby Izmir to the magnificent city of Istanbul to see its magnificent wonders that include the Blue Mosque and the majestic Topkapi Palace.
- Take a day trip to Ephesusby enjoying the scenic route via Seferihisar, hugging the inimitable Aegean coast for much of the way. Once there, immerse yourself in this vast architectural wonderland. Archeologists have only uncovered a fraction of this Greco-Roman marvel that once housed the temple of Artemis, one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world – but what 150 years of digging has revealed is Europe’s most extensive classical metropolis. See what discoveries await your own exploration.
- Have a rest along the way and divert to take in the picturesque harbour village of Sığacık. Here, trace the walls of the Genoese Castle within which the local houses nestle together – some of the dwellings merge into the stone perimeter itself.
- You can also find the nearby remains of ancient Teos, one of the most important Ionian cities. Let your imagination reconstruct the colossal temple of Dionysos – god of wine and the forces of nature – that once stood magnificently above the site.
- After walking the partially reconstructed ruins, dig a little deeper at the not-to-be-missed Ephesus Museum in nearby Selçuk. Whilst in town, a single ticket will grant you access to the once-great Basilica of St John and Selçuk’s own ancient gem, the Ayasuluk Fortress, which dates right back to the Neolithic period.
- If time permits, on the return to Çeşme, lose the crowds at the peacefulTemple and Sanctuary of Apollo at Claros. Still your senses in the setting of this beautiful lush valley, all close to the village of Ahmetbeyli.