Thermopylae

A journey to the heart of history
Leonidas statue Thermopylae
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The site of one of the most memorable battles in history and a timeless symbol of heroism, Thermopylae is also the gateway to many adventures in beautiful Central Greece

Gazing out at the now serene valley of Thermopylae, the landscape of Central Greece spreads before you towards the sea. The Spercheios River and the centuries have widened this once narrow pass but, in your mind’s eye, you see Leonidas in full armour, ready to attack in 480 BC. Images of the great battle of Thermopylae flash through your mind as you begin hurtling through the history of Ancient Greece. 

You see the site as it was, a truly narrow pass, with hordes of Persians on the one side and a handful of Greeks on the other. You can almost hear the clash of steel and the screams of the wounded. Indeed, Thermopylae has become a byword for heroism and glory, and of dying for the idea of freedom. 

But standing on the threshold of Central Greece, it is also the gateway to many of the outdoor adventures that have put this beautiful part of mainland Greece firmly back on the map.

What to do in Thermopylae

Recall the battle cries of Thermopylae

In antiquity, the pass at Thermopylae, between Mt Kallidromos and the Maliakos Gulf, was the only practical route for large armies to reach southern Greece and thus the site of many a skirmish. The most famous battle occurred in 480 BC, when 300 Spartans under King Leonidas, along with 700 Thespians, delayed the vast army of Xerxes in a legendary last stand, following the betrayal by Ephialtes, who showed the Persians how to outflank the Greek forces.

Pay homage to Leonidas at Kolonos Hill

A monument depicting Leonidas in full armour is found opposite the historic hill of Kolonos, at the central gate of the ancient pass where the final stage of the battle was fought. Mounds of 5th-century bronze and iron spearheads were found at the foot of the hill. In the past, the Athens-Lamia national road ran by here but the new national road requires that you use the exit at Themopyles or Kamena Vourla in order to visit the monument.

A monument to the leader of heroes

A monument depicting Leonidas in full armour is found opposite the historic hill of Kolonos, at the central gate of the ancient pass where the final stage of the battle was fought. Mounds of 5th-century bronze and iron spearheads were found at the foot of the hill. In the past, the Athens-Lamia national road ran by here but the new national road requires that you use the exit at Themopyles or Kamena Vourla in order to visit the monument.

Relax in the hot springs of Thermopylae

According to mythology, Thermopylae’s hot springs were created by Hephestus at Athena’s request, as a gift for Hercules. The modern spa was built in 1935 and the village of Thermopyles (the name means Hot Gates) has developed into an important spa resort in Central Greece.

Pop into Kamena Vourla for a delicious pit stop

For those making long journeys up or down the National Highway, Kamena Vourla is a good place to stop for a coffee under the shade of trees next to the sea. For vacationers, it’s a holiday resort offering hot springs, hotels, restaurants and shops. The spa, built at the foot of Mt Knimi, is surrounded by beaches.

Follow in the footsteps of your own heroes 

Thermopylae

Honour be to those who choose
to devote their lives to guarding Thermopylae; steadfast in their duty;
just and measured in word and deed,
but also merciful and kind;
generous in times of wealth, and in times of hardship,
come what may, giving of their best;
always truthful themselves,
yet without rancour for the deceitful.
And even greater honour be to those
who foresee (and many do)
that Ephialtes will inevitably emerge
and the Barbarians will in the end break through.

The famous Greek poet Constantine Cavafy wrote these words in honour of the heroes of Thermopylae (translation Rania Vasileiadou, July 2017).

Hidden gems of Thermopylae, Greece

Loutra Mylos, Koniaviti and Pigi Afroditis

Six cisterns fed by hot springs offer visitors revitalisation and invigoration around Thermopylae.

Agios Konstandinos, the gateway to the Sporades

This coastal town near Kamena Vourla is the point of departure for ferries to Skiathos, Alonissos, Skopelos and other islands in the northern Aegean. You can have a dip at a nearby beach if you have time.

The Monastery of Metamorfosi Sotiros

Around 4km above the spa town of Kamena Vourla, you’ll find the Monastery of Metamorfosi Sotiros (Transfiguration of the Saviour). Feel the aura of this holy place from the monastery’s balcony and take in the amazing sea view.

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