Often cited as the birthplace of European civilization, Greece offers a heady mix of ancient archaeological sites, chic design hotels, rustic tavernas, family-orientated seaside resorts and hedonistic dance clubs. Ancient Greece reached its zenith in the fifth century BC when Athens became the cultural and artistic centre of the Mediterranean, producing magnificent works of architecture, sculpture, drama and literature.There is no denying that the historical and cultural heritage of Greece continues to resonate throughout the modern Western world - in its literature, art, philosophy and politics. In fact, many travellers come here specifically to explore Greece's ancient wonders, from Athens' Parthenon and Delphi's Temple of Apollo, to the ruins of the Minóan city of Knossós on Crete. Scattered throughout the calm blue waters of the Aegean and the Ionian are Greece's 1,400 islands - each with its own special story. The serenity of islands like Kefalonia and Amorgos contrasts with the hedonistic party islands such as Mykonos and Páros. Those interested in architecture should visit the medieval fortified towns of Rhodes and Corfu (both UNESCO World Heritage sites), and the whitewashed cubic houses of Thira and Oia on Santorini, typical of the Cyclades.