My Emotional Journey to Mars Hill / Areopagus in Athens, Greece

by Carrie McLaren with 9 comments

Travel is meant to inspire us, stir emotions and create incredible memories. There were so many of those moments during our 10-day Mediterranean cruise onboard the new Carnival Vista.

For me personally, there was one moment that topped them all — climbing Areopagus (also known as Mars Hill) in Athens, Greece.

Areopagus - Climbing Mars Hill

What is Areopagus?

Areopagus is a hill located on the northwest side of the Acropolis, just a few hundred yards from the main entrance. The hill offers magnificent views of Athens and the Acropolis too. We even spotted the Carnival Vista from atop the hill.

Areopagus - mars Hill - stairs

For those interested in climbing the hill, there are numerous ways up — a steep path, a metal staircase adjacent to the hill, or do as we did – climb the manmade steps up the hill. (It is a workout, but SO worth it.)

And much more significant than the views, Aeropagus is where the Apostle Paul said,

“Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” — Acts 17:24.

Areopagus - Mars Hill in Athens Greece

My Personal Connection to Areopagus / Mars Hill

Areopagus’ Roman name is ‘Mars Hill’ – which is also the namesake for my beloved alma mater Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, North Carolina. From the time I was ten years old, I’ve heard about Mars Hill, the school, and known of the significance of the ‘real’ Mars Hill in Athens.

When I arrived at school, the university became my home. The place where I met friends that have become family, the place where I created myself and became an adult.

Areopagus - Mars Hill - Historical Marker

I have always dreamed of visiting the ‘real’ Mars Hill in Athens, but never thought I would have that chance. And I certainly never imagined that I would get there via cruise ship! (Thank you, Carnival Cruise Line.)

Friends and family like to poke fun at me because I can practically cry on cue. And there’s no shame in my game here — the tears were flowing as I sat atop that hill overlooking Athens. Thank goodness for big sunglasses and a husband that knew I needed to cry and let me soak up the moment.

Areopagus - Mars Hill - Touch

It was emotionally overwhelming — I had reached the place I thought I’d never see. I cried because I wished my Mars Hill family could have been there to experience it with me. I cried because I knew I’d more than likely never experience that moment again. I cried because my journey had come full circle.

While it may be just a ‘rock’ to most visitors, this place and its namesake are an important piece of who I am.

Areopagus Mars Hill - Cropped

As we made our way back to the Carnival Vista that afternoon, my heart was full of emotions. My heart was overflowing with joy, excitement and a lot of happy tears. I was mentally exhausted. I did it. I saw ‘my’ Mars Hill and it was everything I hope it would be — and more.

I’m so incredibly thankful to Carnival Cruise Line for the opportunity to truly check off a massive bucket list opportunity. You never know what types of adventures and excursions will be significant to travelers.

Areopagus View from the Acropolis - Athens Greece

We all have our own ‘moment’ that remains with us from traveling. For me, I’m certain there won’t be a bigger (or more emotional) moment than visiting Areopagus in Athens, Greece.

What Travel Experiences Have Inspired You?


** My husband and I sailed on the Carnival Vista Mediterranean sailing as guests of Carnival Cruise Line. Our trip to Athens, Greece was part of a complimentary excursion. Thoughts and opinions here are my own. ** 


  • Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate

    I still can’t believe y’all got away for so long WITHOUT kids! YAY!

    • Carrie McLaren

      Ha! You and me both! It was SO much fun — we are already trying to figure out how we can make it an annual thing 🙂

  • Judy

    If you want to really travel and see the world, forget the cruises. Mars Hill is a special Place. But you couldn’t have experienced much of Athens on a cruise. Next time call Cosmos Tours

  • Leslie Fain

    That is so exciting! We used to live in Germany and traveled to many other countries from there, but I never got to visit Greece or the UK. Good to know Carnival is an option to the Meditterranean!

    • Carrie McLaren

      Thanks for reading, Leslie. I hope you can make it to Greece and the UK one day – they are magical places for sure!

  • martin

    Carrie, I am writing this in Athens right now (8-20-2018. I found your blog Googling to try and find the actual Altar Paul saw. My sister told me she saw it, but Google results seems to indicate it does not actually exist today. What say you?

    • Carrie McLaren

      Hi Martin – Thanks for your note! I’m not sure whether the altar still exists today or not – I only saw the hill during our visit.

      Enjoy your time in Athens!

  • Damaris Hall

    What a beautiful experience. I hope to go to Mars
    Hill one day, and hope that my experience is as beautiful as yours. the bible says that a woman named Damaris listened to Paul preach the gospel on Mars Hill, and her name was mentioned only once in the bible. Thanks for sharing your lovely story.

  • Robert Setzer

    You quoted Paul’s words, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” — Acts 17:24. Great words and moment in scripture, but then you moved on so quickly from them. These are his preamble to proclaiming Jesus Christ and His resurrection. There were three groups of responses to Paul’s message. What is yours?

    Leave a Comment

    Your email is never shared.
    Required fields are marked *