Traveling to Greece? You may not even hear the word "Attica" and yet it's likely you'll be spending a substantial portion of your trip there. This peninsula contains the capital city of Athens and the Athens International Airport at Spata, among many other key sites for visitors to Greece. It's also home to most of the major ports used by travelers arriving in Greece by ship, including Piraeus, Raphia, and the "secret" port of Lavrion.
The name itself will sound familiar to American travelers as there are several "Atticas" in the United States, including one that was the site of a notorious prison riot, so the association may not be that positive. But there is plenty to be positive about the area where some of the most ancient cultures of Greece was established and Attica could lay a claim to being the "Peninsula of Democracy" since Athens itself is located there. In Greek lettering, it is Αττική.
The Attic peninsula runs roughly north-south, with Athens in the north pinning it to the rest of the Greek mainland. Excellent roads connect Athens with the airport and the picturesque coastal road which runs in a loop around the peninsula provides access to beaches, towns, and villages.
Towns and Villages in Attica
Attica has literally hundreds of cities, towns, and villages. Only a few are likely to make it onto your list of must-see spots. One is unmissable:
- Athens - The Capital of Greece and the queen of the Attic Peninsula
- Markopoulo - A busy town near the Athens International Airport, the heart of the Attica Wine Road region.
Sightseeing in Attica
Many visitors will take that coastal road to visit one of Attica's major attractions, the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. It's an easy drive with magnificent views. You may be sharing the route with a few of the many tour buses which include a visit to Cape Sounion on their itineraries, but other than that, it's a beautiful way to view the Saronic Gulf below.
The classic moment to visit Sounion is at sunset, which is magnificent, but if that is just not possible or you want to avoid a drive back to Athens or elsewhere in the dark, it is still well worth a visit.
Attica is also home to the ruins of one of Greece's most lovely temples, that of Artemis at Brauron, (Βραυρών on Greek road signs) just outside the town of Markopoulo. This site, also written Vravrona, was used as a school for children, who participated in the rites of Artemis. The site also has a Trojan connection - one tale of the daughter of Agamemnon, Iphigenia, has her escaping her father's plan to sacrifice her for fair winds and instead, being whisked away by Artemis herself to be her priestess here.
A collapsed small cave is pointed out as the "Tomb of Iphigenia", where she was supposedly interred after serving the goddess Artemis for the rest of her life. In any case, the ruins of the temple are evocative and the area itself is lush and moist. It's open every day except Mondays. In summer, there are extended hours.
The ancient site of Eleusis, renowned in the ancient world for its celebration of the mysteries of Demeter and Kore/Persephone, is also located in Attica to the west of Athens. Eleusis is unfortunately in the middle of an industrialized area now, which may oddly resonate with the ancient myth of Persephone who became the bride of the Lord of the Underworld, Hades. But echoes of the natural beauty of the site remain for visitors willing to edit out some of the background factories.