Epidaurus: A living ancient theatre, a one-of-a-kind archaeological site and the famous Asclepius of antiquity – all within a natural landscape that makes for an ideal beach and culture holiday.
You are in the Peloponnese, in the concave of the ancient theatre of Epidaurus. On the upper tier of the ancient theatre you’ll gaze, entranced, at the horizon. Peace, tranquility. You’ll understand immediately why the ancients chose this place to construct the most famous Asclepion, or holistic healing centre. Take a deep breath and look around at the grandstand, the seats, the place where the musicians play and the stage from which you can hear the proverbial pin drop and where all eyes are fixed.
You’re in the most beautiful open-air, ancient theatre in the world. In the birthplace of Psychagogia, meaning entertainment, in the fullest sense of the word. The theatre was built with the intention of being a place for patients to have therapeutic fun. And it is an ancient theatre that is still alive today. Since 1955, sensational performances of ancient tragedies have found their natural home here. A Unesco World Heritage Site, it is still a therapy for the body and soul, whether you attend a play or not.
What to do in Ancient Epidaurus
The ancient theatre of Epidaurus: A Unesco World Heritage Site
The famous theatre at Asclepius of Epidaurus is one of the most important monuments of ancient Greece and a world-class attraction. It combines perfect acoustics, elegance and symmetrical proportions. It was built around 340-33 BC, so that the patients of the Asclepion could watch theatrical performances and was in use until the 3rd century AD. Imagine it how it once was, when musicians, singers and actors performed here every four years in the spring. Imagine the dramatic performances and rituals that honoured the god of medicine, Asclepius, and be transported to another time.
A living theatre and modern myth
An institution from 1955 onwards, the ancient theatre of Epidaurus once again holds a prominent position in modern Greek culture. It has hosted acclaimed ancient dramas, operas, symphonies and dance performances, featuring top Greek and foreign actors, directors, set designers, choreographers, musicians and composers. The most famous of all the performances were those of the Greek National Opera in 1960 and 61 when the legendary diva Maria Callas sang Bellini’s ‘Norma’ and Cherubini’s ‘Medea’ respectively.
The Epidaurus Asclepion: the ‘mother’ of medicine in the Peloponnese
This lush green landscape in the Peloponnese, with its sunny climate and numerous thermal springs was the perfect location in which to build the Asclepion – the headquarters of antiquity’s god-physician and the most important healing centre in the Greek and Roman world. Its fame travelled beyond the borders of the Argolid and it is known as the birthplace of medicine. Its monuments are renowned masterpieces of ancient Greek art and have borne witness to the practice of medicine in ancient Greece. The worship of the god Asclepius was established here in the 6th century BC.
Coastal and cosmopolitan Old Epidaurus
This seaside settlement in the Peloponnese, with its latticework of beaches took life thanks to the performances in the ancient theatre. Every summer dozens of yachts and sailboats moor at its harbour. Actors and theatre aficionados have chosen it as their ‘hangout’ and many celebrities have built their villas here, among the citrus and olive groves.
Nea (New) Epidavros: a picturesque settlement in the heart of the Peloponnese
This picturesque settlement spreads across the rocky slopes. The sheltered little harbour has a marina and from the Venetian castle you can admire the Vothylas gorge.
Lygourio: a town with a long history
Built at the foot of the Arachnaio Mountain chain, Lygourio comes to life every summer thanks to the famous Epidaurus Festival. Its many sights are indicative of the long, rich history of the region. At the highest point of the village you’ll see the ruins of the walls of ancient Lyssa.
Hidden gems of Ancient Epidaurus
Little Theatre of Ancient Epidaurus
Built at the end of the 4th century BC, the little theatre of Ancient Epidaurus was discovered after 23 centuries of silence and oblivion, in 1972. The seats and thrones of the theatre are inscribed with the names of donors. It opened its doors for the first time ‘in some while’ with the Greek Festival, ‘Musical July’, in 1995.
Travel to the hangouts of legends
At a number of the traditional tavernas in the area, there are numerous reminders of the big names that have passed through here – actors, directors and opera divas, who dined here during rehearsals and after the premieres of their great performances in the ancient theatre of Epidaurus. The tradition lives on.
Kotsiomitis Museum of Natural History
At the entrance of Lygourio you’ll find this museum, which features rare exhibits that showcase the mineral, paleontological and natural wealth of the Peloponnese and of Greece. Its most impressive exhibit is a 235 million-year-old ammonite found at the site of the ancient theatre of Epidaurus.
Mycenae: One of the most significant archaeological destinations in Greece and a Unesco World Heritage site
The most important, and lavish, palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece: Homer’s “gold-rich Mycenae”. According to the mythology of Ancient Greece, its founder was Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae. The myth of the Cyclops and the story of Heinrich Schliemann’s discovery of the so-called Mask of Agamemnon is fascinating, as is a tour of the archaeological site in the Peloponnese.
What to do in Mycenae
The Cyclopean Walls
According to myth, Perseus, the founder of Mycenae, commissioned Cyclopses – huge, one-eyed mythical creatures from Asia Minor – to build the walls. Hence their name.
A symbol of the power of the Mycenaean Kingdom, it’s perfectly symmetrical and unique in Europe. The main entrance to the citadel of Mycenae dates from about 1250 BC. The monument is named after the relief sculpture of two lionesses that stands above the entrance. As yet, nobody has discovered how it was constructed. So why not stick with the Cyclopses theory?
The Mask of Agamemnon
Five gold-plated masks were discovered in Mycenae by the renowned archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who excavated this citadel because he believed Homer’s stories. He was convinced he’d discovered the remains of King Agamemnon and named his historical findings after the famous king. More recent studies revealed that the masks were from 1500-1550 BC, nearly three centuries before Agamemnon supposedly lived. However, the name remained and the findings can now be viewed in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
Tomb of the House of Atreus
One of the largest and best preserved of the famous vaulted beehive tombs found in Mycenae. Since the time of the traveller and geographer Pausanias, the inhabitants of the area knew that this monument was the "treasure" of King Atreus, and today it is still known as the Treasury of Atreus, or Tomb of Agamemnon. It was looted before Pausanias got to it and for centuries before that, shepherds used it as a refuge.
The Archaeological Museum of Mycenae
The exhibition is divided into four distinct sections. You’ll learn about the history, life and activities of the Mycenaeans, their burial customs and their use of space.
Hidden gems of Mycenae
The religious centre of the Mycenaeans
Situated on the southwest point of the citadel, this building complex was created for religious purposes. Aside from the existence of architectural elements supporting this, artefacts used in religious ceremonies have also been found here.
Palace on high
It stands at the highest point of the citadel, built on man-made terraces.
Grave Circle B
Located on the west side of the citadel of Mycenae, this burial complex is one of the most important monuments in the area and in Ancient Greece, giving us insight into Mycenaean funeral architecture and burial customs. It hosts a total of 26 graves and dates back to about 1650-1550 BC. Among these, six of the shaft graves belonged to the ruling family and rich ornaments were unearthed, including a death mask made of electrum.