zakintos

7 of the Most Exciting Places to Visit in Greece

Tourists who visit Greece can participate in a variety of activities that range from lounging on the beach in Santorini to eating at an award-winning restaurant in Athens. In addition, they may want to consider adding more unique destinations to their itineraries so that they can develop a better feel for the culture of the country and the everyday lives of its citizens. These destinations located off the beaten path can also offer individuals an interesting glimpse into Greece’s rich history by showing them a side that relatively few people have an opportunity to see. Read on to learn more about some of the unique destinations in Greece.

 

1. Necromanteion in Ephyra

Necromanteion

Image by JAL71 | Flickr

Many tourists in Greece choose to visit the Oracle of Delphi in the central part of the country. However, not many of them make it to Ephyra to see the necromanteion, the oracle of the dead. The site features an ancient temple that is consecrated to Hades, the god of the Underworld, and his wife, Persephone. In the temple, ancient Greeks would practice necromancy to receive prophecies. Similar temples were built at other locations that were thought to have a strong connection to the Underworld. Archaeologist Sotirios Dakaris found the necromanteion along the banks of the river Acheron in the 1960s. Visitors can explore the site and visit a few underground chambers.

 

2. Fairytale Castle in Agrilia

Harry Fournarakis served as a surgeon in the United States and made a small fortune that he brought back to Agrilia, a small town in Messinia, Peloponnese. He used his money to build a fairytale castle that combines features of a medieval castle from fairytales and Greek mythology. The concrete-and-plaster castle features a drawbridge and massive statues of both Athena and Poseidon, as well as a sitting horse. Although nobody lives in the castle, visitors can wander around the outside of it. Visitors may also want to check out the nearby town of Filiatra, where Fournarakis built a replica of the Eiffel Tower.

 

3. Meteora in Kalabaka

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Image by TAK | Flickr

Located in the Pindus mountains, Meteora consists of massive sandstone pillars carved out by both wind and water. Some of these pillars stretch hundreds of meters into the air. Hermit monks first began populating the area in the 11th century, and a monastery complex was constructed in the 1400s. While individuals once had to climb various ladders tied together to reach the top, visitors can now take steps that have been carved into the rock that lead up to a bridge. While Meteora once had 20 monasteries, only six of them remain standing today.

 

4. Milos in the Cyclades

While the volcanic island of Milos is famed for being the site of the discovery of the Venus de Milo, very few people actually visit it. However, some think that it will get a lot more foot traffic in the coming years. The island has dozens of beaches that are each quite different. For example, the Paleochori cliffs present travelers with a breathtaking palette of colors, yet Sarakiniko resembles the moon with its pure whiteness. The geothermal energy in some places on the island is so hot that tavernas cook stews overnight in clay pots that they bury in the sand. Milos also has a number of thermal springs purported to have healing powers. In addition, visitors can explore an ancient network of Christian catacombs.

 

5. Nisyros in the Dodecanese

Nisyros

Another volcanic island, Nisyros is a must-see for people interested in geology. The small island, which sits between Kos and Tilos, houses a dormant volcano where visitors are welcome to explore the massive Stefanos crater. While the center of the crater, which sits near the center of the island, is fenced off, visitors can often see steam forming on the surface. In addition, individuals will likely feel a burning sensation if they wear shoes with thin soles.

 

6. Monemvasia in Pelopennese

A medieval fortress town, Monemvasia rests in the sea atop a dramatic cliff that rises hundreds of feet out of the water and stretches for more than a half mile. In 375 AD, an earthquake separated the cliff from the mainland. Eventually, the upper town, which housed the original fortress, became deserted, although visitors are still welcome to explore it. While there, individuals should not miss the 12th century Byzantine church Agia Sophia. People still live in the lower town, where there are no cars on the cobbled streets. Guests will find a number of restaurants and cafes to enjoy, as well as a few hotels. The area is home to Christos Elkomenos, the largest medieval church in the southern part of Greece.

 

7. Gavros in Macedonia

The town has become a favorite among professional and amateur photographers, as well as curious tourists. Located on the road that connects the Prespa lakes to Kastoria, Gavros is an abandoned village. Historians have not been able to figure out why the residents left the town, which is a testament to the unique architectural style that was once popular in this region. An exploration of the town provides a unique glimpse into country life in Greece.

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9 of the Most Mouthwatering Street Food Options in Athens

Athens has undergone a culinary revolution in the past couple of years. This revolution has created an expanding interest in street food, similar to the recent growth of food trucks in many cities across the United States. In Athens, the culinary shift relates to both the recent Greek economic crisis, which created demand for cheaper foods, as well as the explosion of European migration in recent years. This migration has caused regional cuisine from across Greece to appear in Athens, as well as dishes that fuse Greek tradition with the flavors of different cultures across Europe and the Middle East. Currently, visitors will find a wide range of different street vendors with unique food offerings. Some of the options that visitors may want to try in Athens include:

 

  1. Chef and the Dog

This takeaway restaurant perfectly demonstrates the internationalization of Athenian street food. Chef and the Dog serves gourmet hot dogs, which were only introduced to Greece recently. Visitors will find a wide range of different types of hot dogs inspired by Mexican, Korean, German, and Japanese flavors, among many others. The stand even offers a lobster-inspired hot dog.

 

  1. Kostas

One of the most traditional Greek foods is souvlaki, and Kostas has sold an excellent version of the grilled meat since before 1950. The standard souvlaki order is a piece of pita bread stuffed with chunks of grilled pork, parsley, onion, tomato, and yoghurt. Tourists will find a number of different stands selling souvlaki around Athens, but Kostas remains a favorite among locals. The stand usually sells out by 3 p.m. and has very long lines. Other stands also have tasty souvlaki, though it’s usually a good idea to avoid buying souvlaki from stands in tourist areas, as these tend to charge higher prices for lower quality.

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  1. Oven Sesame

Koulouri, a baked ring of dough with sesame seed on top, originated in Thessaloniki, but has long been a popular street food in Athens. Oven Sesame is pushing this simple food’s popularity even further by experimenting with different types of filling. Depending on the time, it may serve koulouri stuffed with meats, cheese, salads, or ice cream. Many other koulouri stands have followed suit and begun offering creative takes on the original.

 

  1. Food Str

Located along the busy bar strip of Kolokotroni Street, Food Str serves many of the classic street vendor foods, from hot dogs to burgers. However, Food Str tries to put a healthy twist on these offerings. One of the most unique dishes, which leverages traditional Greek flavors, is the bakalyaro fish burger, a lightly breaded piece of fish with mayo and beetroot salad that comes on a black roll.

 

  1. Falafellas

While falafel often gets lumped into the category of Greek food in the United States, the fried balls of mashed beans were not actually popular in Athens until relatively recently. Falafellas is a hole-in-the-wall spot that caused a lot of excitement among Athens residents when it opened its doors. Now, this shop is a well-loved destination for people in need of a quick, hot meal. One of the best parts about a visit to Falafellas is the fact that a band playing traditional Greek music is almost always stationed nearby to keep crowds entertained as they wait. Diners can choose from small or giant falafel, which come with eggplant, tomato sauce, cucumber, yoghurt sauce, and other toppings.

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  1. Ktistakis

Another classic Greek street food is the loukouma—a fried dough fritter soaked in honey and coated with cinnamon and sesame. Many Greek families still head out together on a Sunday evening to grab some loukoumades. A great spot for this delicacy is Ktistakis, which produces very small loukoumades that taste like they have been saturated with honey. For people who prefer their pastries a bit drier, Krinos is another good option.

 

  1. Mirch

This tiny restaurant has some seats, but its food is mostly intended for takeaway. Mirch brings the flavors of India to Athens with Indian souvlaki. The most popular item on the menu includes a piece of naan bread stuffed with chicken tikka, vegetables, and a special sauce. Visitors will also find an incredible variety of international beers at Mirch to help wash down this spicy alternative to traditional Greek food.

 

  1. Ariston

In operation since 1906, Ariston specializes in traditional Greek pies and sells dozens of different varieties from several regions of the country. The most classic dish at Ariston is kourou, a cheese pie that makes the perfect midday snack. The pies here feature a buttery, flaky crust that most people find utterly addictive. Visitors who want pies that are more of a play on the classics can check out Pie Works, which creates a range of modern and fun dishes, including breakfast pies.

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  1. Kioftes

The name of this restaurant is derived from the word keftes, which can best be translated as “meatball.” Keftes are largely considered the Greek equivalent to falafel and have maintained a central place among street food options in Greece for a long time. Kioftes uses a recipe that is derived from the owner’s grandmother’s and dates to the early 1900s.

 

sparta

8 of the Attractions Tourists Should Not Miss While in Sparta

One of the most historically important cities in Greece, Sparta is perhaps best known as the rival to ancient Athens. The city has become known for its extremely fierce soldiers, which have been depicted in popular culture in films like 300. Many travelers in Greece choose to skip Sparta because it is a bit far from other major attractions in the country, yet people who take the time to explore the city will find a number of exciting ruins and other attractions to keep them busy. Tourists with a strong interest in history should make it a point to visit Sparta, were individuals can learn about ancient Greece without the crowds of cities like Athens.

Some of the most exciting attractions in Sparta include the following:

 

  1. Lakonia Archaeological Site

Mystras Archaeological site

Image by Taver | Flickr

Because Sparta is second only to Athens in terms of historical significance, visitors will find a wide range of exciting ruins at this archaeological site. When individuals get tired of wandering through the different parts of the site, they can cool off in the on-site archaeological museum. This museum walks people through much of Sparta’s rich history while giving them a glimpse into what life would have been like through some interesting artifacts.

 

  1. Olive and Greek Olive Oil Museum

One of the more unique museums in Greece, the Olive and Greek Olive Oil Museum celebrates this important crop. Here, travelers can learn an incredible amount about how olives are grown and how olive oil is produced. In addition, visitors will get a more complete sense of how olive oil has been used historically to see why it is such an important part of Greek culture.

 

  1. Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia

This sanctuary actually serves as a museum to the Greek goddess Artemis, who held a great deal of significance for ancient Spartans. At this site, Spartan boys were put to an endurance test involving lashing to become men. People who enjoy mythology can learn a lot about the legends that surround Artemis while also seeing some of the ritualistic practices that surrounded her as a holy figure. The museum features some of the clay masks that people actually used during these rituals, in addition to a number of other exhibits about Artemis.

 

  1. Menelaion

While not in Sparta proper, the Menelaion is only a few miles from the city and worth a visit. This shrine honors King Menelaus and was built in the 5th century BC. Mythology buffs will remember that King Menelaus was the husband of Helen of Troy. Not much exists at the site beyond the ancient shrine, so individuals may want to do a bit of research before going so that they have more context, but seeing such an ancient structure is worth the trip.

 

  1. King Leonidas Statue

King Leonidas

Image courtesy Vassilis | Flickr

No trip to Sparta is complete without a visit to the statue of King Leonidas. As fans of the film 300 will know, King Leonidas was one of the most important kings of ancient Sparta. The towering statue remains one of the last bastions of Sparta’s ancient legacy in the city. Visitors will find the statue close to the soccer stadium. Just north of the Leonidas statue is the hill of the acropolis, which features the ruins of a theater constructed in the 2nd century BC. This theater was once of the largest in the country, but most of the stones have been scavenged for other projects. The acropolis also features the ruins of the Byzantine church of Christ the Savior.

 

  1. Diros Caves

One of the best day trips that visitors can take while spending time in Sparta is a visit to the Diros Caves. The caves consist of a network of about five kilometers of underground tunnels and caverns, many of which are directly connected to a massive subterranean lake. Visitors can explore the lake and the caves on a guided boat tour that lasts less than an hour. However, individuals should know that the tour is offered only in Greek, so it can be worthwhile to hire an interpreter to get the most from the experience.

 

  1. John Coumantarios Art Gallery

A small gallery space, the John Coumantarios Art Gallery is still worth a visit. One of the biggest attractions at the gallery is a rotating exhibit of work on loan from the National Art Gallery in Athens, which provides visitors the opportunity to see some really interesting and unique work. The permanent collection consists of about 40 different paintings from different European artists working between the 16th and 20th centuries.

 

  1. Mystras

Another important archaeological site in Sparta is Mystras. Here, visitors will find Byzantine ruins. The area is great for hiking and exploring the different sites, including a Byzantine church and a fortress. Mystras has emerged as one of the primary attractions in the region because of the sheer beauty of the remaining structures.

mykonos

9 Things That Tourists Should Do While on the Island of Mykonos

Greece offers visitors with a number of exciting opportunities to explore its islands. One of the most popular island destinations is Mykonos, which is known for its gorgeous beaches and rich nightlife. The island is one of the best places to shop in Greece with a number of popular international brands represented. However, Mykonos has much more to offer visitors. Following are some of the top things to do in Mykonos.

 

1. Visit the Monastery of Panagia Tourliani

Monastery of Panagia Tourliani

Image by Christina | Flickr

Fans of unique architecture should be sure to visit this monastery, which is located close to Ano Mera. The monastery has a colorful dome that provides a striking contrast to the whitewashed walls, as well as intricately carved wooden altar screens and a breathtaking marble fountain. Since the monastery is only open to the public by appointment, visitors should call ahead to ensure that they are allowed to explore the interior. Ano Mera itself is worth a visit due to its fresh produce market and wonderful restaurants.

 

2. Hang with the Pelicans

In 1958, a fisherman found a wounded pelican that was later nursed back to health and named Petros from the Greek word for stone, the predominant architectural element on Mykonos. For three decades, the pelican served as a symbol of the island until it was killed by a car in 1985. The mummified Petros now resides in Thessaloniki. Three more pelicans have made the island their home, one of which is named after the original bird inhabitant. Tourists frequently seek out the pelicans for photo opportunities.

 

3. Learn at the Aegean Maritime Museum

Located in Tria Pigadia, the Aegean Maritime Museum provides visitors with the opportunity to learn more about maritime history and tradition throughout Greece. For 35 years, the museum has adopted various replicas of rowing and sailing ships used in the Aegean Sea from the Classical era until today. In addition, tourists will find an array of maps, sculptures, and ancient coins that speak to maritime life in the country.

 

4. Visit Lena’s House

Lena's house

Image by Guido Jansen | Flickr

Lena’s House, another attraction in Tria Pigadia, provides visitors with an authentic look at a middle-class family home from the 19th century. The house features a large collection of European and local furniture from the same time period and other decorative elements. While there, individuals can learn about what it meant to live on Mykonos a couple of hundred years ago while checking out some beautiful household art objects, such as embroidery.

 

5. Spend Time in Little Venice

One of the most recognizable neighborhoods on Mykonos, Little Venice offers a lot of charm. The area, which was founded in the 18th century by sea captains and wealthy merchants, reminds some tourists of a small Italian town. The homes, which hang out over the sea, feature beautifully colored windows. Many visitors choose to enjoy cocktails in the neighborhood while watching the sun set over the water.

 

6. Wander around Gyzi Castle

Close to Mykonos Town lies the ruins of Gyzi Castle, a structure with a lot of history that provides visitors with a glimpse into the island’s past. The castle was first built in the 13th century as a fortress to protect Ano Mera. However, locals abandoned it once the Ottoman Empire rose to power and then pirates used it as home base for centuries. Several parts of the castle remain for visitors to explore. Visitors can also view the ruins of the ancient Mykonos city, including a cemetery, market, and wall fortifications. In addition, the hilltop on which the castle was built provides a great view of the northern parts of the island.

 

7. Watch a Movie at Cine Manto

In the center of Mykonos Town is Cine Manto, an open-air theater surrounded by palm trees, cacti, and pines. After a long day, visitors can unwind by watching a movie under the stars and enjoying food from the nearby café. The cinema shows foreign films with Greek subtitles. Offering films for both children and adults, the theater is open from early June to the end of September.

 

8. See the Panagia Paraportiani

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Mykonos features more than 360 different churches, the most iconic of which is Panagia Paraportiani. Located in Chora, the picturesque church features whitewashed walls and a large central door that opens up to a sweeping view of the Mediterranean Sea. The space is ideal for undertaking personal reflection on spirituality before taking some inspiring photos of the structure and the blue waters beyond it.

 

9. Photograph the Windmills

The windmills on Mykonos have become one of the most recognizable symbols on the island. Visitors will find the windmills between Little Venice and Niochori. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Mykonos had more than 20 windmills that were used to produce wheat. However, only seven of them have been well maintained. Still, they are an impressive sight and provide an interesting glimpse into the agriculture history of the island.