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Greece beckons with its wide open skies and endless miles of aquamarine coastline; and then it draws you in with its ancient sights, slow-paced island life and vibrant cities.

As the birthplace of drama, democracy, Western science and medicine, Greece offers a welcome balance of traditional and contemporary life. Ancient sights often take the limelight and while it is easy to find traditional villages with brilliant white buildings and roaming donkeys, Athens’ firm grip on style and sophistication rivals that of any European capital. The Greek modern art scene is fresh and vibrant, fashionable clubs and cafes buzz with life and society is increasingly multicultural. There are few cultures that embrace the past so passionately while simultaneously welcoming the future with open arms.

Soaring high at Meteora
You are not likely to forget the first moment the magnificent Meteora come into view - soaring pillars of rock that jut heavenward, and a handful of monasteries at the top (some dating from the 14th Century). Once, these monasteries were used successfully as refuge by hermit monks seeking a retreat from expanding Turkish occupation. The rope ladders that once enabled the monks to reach the top have long been replaced by steps carved into the rock. Today, these spectacular stone towers beckon rock climbers from around the world.

Surreal Santorini
Even the most jaded traveller succumbs to the spectacle of this surreal landscape, a relic of what was probably the biggest eruption in recorded history. The caldera and its vast curtain of multicoloured cliffs is truly awesome. Santorini is famous for its spectacular sunsets, hugely popular from the village of Oia on the northern tip of the island because there is an uninterrupted view of the sun as it finally sinks below the horizon.

Rhodes' medieval old town
Getting lost in the Old Town is a must. Only then will you find yourself removed from the throngs of tourists and meandering down twisting, turning, cobbled alleyways with archways above and squares opening up ahead of you. The beauty of the Old Town lies in these hidden corners, where your imagination will take off with flights of medieval fancy.

Experiencing the Acropolis
The Acropolis is the most important ancient site in the Western world. Crowned by the Parthenon, it stands sentinel over Athens, visible from almost everywhere within the city. Its monuments of Pentelic marble gleam white in the midday sun and gradually take on a honey hue as the sun sinks, while at night they stand brilliantly illuminated above the city. A glimpse of this magnificent sight cannot fail to lift your spirits.

Climbing to Angelokastro
The ruined fortress of Angelokastro, on Corfu's west coast, rises above everything, especially the crowds. It is one of those reassuring places where land and water meet sensationally; a great knuckle of rock soaring above the glittering Ionian Sea, a green pelt of olive trees and cypresses at its back.

Its name derives from the 11th-Century Byzantine rulers of Corfu. Its fortifications repulsed Ottoman attack three times. You climb steeply to the lonely ruins - ancient Kerkyra beneath your feet - to what must have been a refuge and lookout long before the Byzantines.

© Lonely Planet. All rights reserved. The article ‘Lonely Planet's top five Greek vistas’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.

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