If you’re looking for places to visit in Greece, you’ll never be short of choice thanks to the plentiful attractions to keep everyone from history buffs to beach lovers happy. But what about fans of mythological beasts? Well, you’re in luck too.
One of the most well-known mythical creatures is the phoenix, often referred to as the Firebird. It comes from Greek mythology, a rich and diverse collection of stories and teachings on everything from Greek gods and heroes to the nature of the world. The golden-feathered phoenix was so bright it was said to shine with pure sunlight, and its blue-, green- and purple-feathered tail was so dazzling it would transfix its admirers. The bird, perhaps most famously, was said to be reborn by arising from the ashes of its predecessors, giving rise to the phrase ‘phoenix from the flames’.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll know of Fawkes, the highly intelligent phoenix and companion of Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Unfortunately – and we hate to crush your dreams here – Harry Potter is not in fact real, so Fawkes’ role in helping boy wizard Potter is sadly not irrefutable proof of the existence of the phoenix.
However, if the phoenix is a real bird, you’ll have to hunt hard to find it - legend says that only one phoenix, a male (we’re not sure what that says about gender equality in ancient Greece) exists at a time.
In ancient Greece, the phoenix was most closely linked with the 1500-300 BC civilisation of Phoenicia (note the similar name), a civilisation famous for its production of purple dye from conch shells. The hue of this dye was believed to be the colour of the bird’s tail feathers. So, your best chance of spotting a real-life phoenix is to head to the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, where Phoenicia once sprawled.
Have there been any Phoenix sightings, you ask… of course, but sadly the recorded sightings all date back to ancient times.
In 34 AD, a number of phoenix sightings were reported in Egypt, but Tacitus, the famous Roman historian, even then acknowledged that the supposed sightings were “questionable enough indeed, but not too absurd not to be noticed.” He also noted that several of the sightings were “full of doubt and legendary exaggeration”, but he nonetheless believed the phoenix occasionally appeared in Egypt.
In more recent times, there have been no noteworthy phoenix sightings. But that doesn’t stop you learning a whole lot more about one of the most well-known creatures in Greek mythology in the country of its origin - and you never know, you might just be the one lucky enough to run into the real thing. In any case, as a symbol of rebirth, reconstruction and perpetual renewal, the phoenix is a symbol that will never die.
If you’re going on the trail of the phoenix and want to learn more about Greek mythology, a trip to the ancient city of Athens will unlock many of the myths that have shaped the language, philosophy, psychology and even the medicine of the modern day.
There is no shortage of hotels in Athens to provide the perfect base for your mythological stay. Many of the hotels are within easy reach of the city’s ancient monuments and attractions like the Acropolis, the Roman Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Some even enjoy views of these breathtaking sights.
Travelling to the land of the phoenix is easy with cheap flights to Athens available direct from Stansted, Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester and Edinburgh Airports. Car hire in Athens can also add an extra level of convenience to your trip. Athens itself is a great city to drive around, with its stunning architecture, winding roads and many places of interest. However, if you want to travel further afield and see a little more of this historic land, car hire also gives you that option.