Different Destinations – The Gates of Hell
Whether politics, religion, or sex, the ancient Greeks kept their options open. It makes sense then that they identified several places in Greece and further afield as gateways to Hades, the underworld.
Those so-called gates of hell were popular destinations, whether as places of pilgrimage and worship, for their natural beauty, or because they were something funfair haunted house attractions. Sometimes they were all three at once.
Although the cults and their priests are long gone, you still can visit these locations. In some places, the ruins are relatively well-preserved, while in others the attraction has always been the beauty of mother nature. The locations described below all are wonders worth visiting, even if it is just to see the look on the faces of family and friends when you tell them that your holiday included a stop at the Gates of Hell.
Entrances to the Underworld
1. Cape Matapan, Greece
Also known as Cape Tainaron, Greece’s second southernmost tip has been associated with Hades, the lord of the underworld, since ancient times. A person of average fitness should reach the site after a 20-minute hike from the parking area.
The views of the ocean and lighthouse are probably more impressive than the cave, which is said to be the point at which Herakles emerged with Cerberus. Other attractions to take in while there include the ruins of several temples that were built by the Spartans, one of the most impressive being a temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea, which was used as a church during the Byzantine period.
2. Neda Waterfalls and Gorge, Greece
One of the gems of Greece’s Peloponnese, the Neda Waterfalls and Gorge in Kyparissia’s Elis region is a spot you will want to spend a few days exploring. It is best to do the trip with a guide and a group of people, because canyoning is not something you should do alone. It also will help if you have had some experience with such terrain before.
The walk, which takes several hours to complete, takes you into the river itself. You will make your way along it for several kilometres as it winds its way though cave and gorge, until you reach a sight you will not forget: a spectacular 50m-high waterfall that plunges into a pool in which you can swim. Afterwards, you can relax and enjoy some online betting on your mobile device. While you are in the region, you should consider exploring the Nemouta waterfalls and Olympia as well.
3. Acheron River Necromanteion, Greece
Greece’s Thesprotia region is where you will find another of the most beautiful gates of Hades. Although the ruins that were initially thought to be the site of the necromanteion or oracle of the dead are now thought to be a military fortification, the Acheron river itself was believed to flow through the realm of the dead.
The site of the ruins is near the point at which the Acheron meets the Cocytus and Pyriphlegethon rivers. The names mean ‘joyless’, ‘lament’, and ‘burning coals’, but as gloomy as they sound, the area is beautiful.
4. Alepotrypa Cave, Greece
Located in the Mani region of the Peloponnese, Alepotrypa may have been one of the original locations to inspire the myth of a physical entrance to the underworld. The name means ‘fox hole’, but rather than being a tiny den in the rock, it is a wonderland of stalactites and stalagmites. What’s more, it also is one of the Europe’s biggest Neolithic burial sites.
The cave also was home to a settlement of hundreds of people, before an earthquake caused a section to collapse; an event that appears to have put an end to people living in the cave, which is large enough to contain a lake.
5. Hierapolis Ploutonion, Turkey
One of the most bizarre gates of hell, and one that certainly deserves the reputation, is located in what was the Greek city of Hierapolis in what is now Turkey. Discovered by archaeologists as recently as 2013, the Ploutonion or Pluto’s Gate, was something of a horror attraction for pilgrims and ancient tourists.
The site is connected to a hot spring, the calcium-rich waters of which are still believed to have healing properties. However, what seems to have been an even bigger attraction was the Gate of Hades. Significant amounts of carbon dioxide released from a crevice in the grotto. In ancient times, animals would be thrown in to die almost immediately from the lack of oxygen.
Other sites worth driving to that are believed to be gateways to Hades can be found in Israel and in Italy. The Judean Hills near Jerusalem are where you will find the Twin Caves, where archaeologists found evidence of pagan underworld rituals. The ritual objects found indicated that the location may have been were Hades was believed to have kidnapped Persephone.
An alternative location for the same mythical event is a cleft in the rock near Enna, Sicily. Lake Avernus near Naples was also an alleged entry point to the underworld.