oyster

9 of the Best Seafood Dishes that Greece Has to Offer Tourists

When people think of Greek cuisine, they may first think about cheese or grilled lamb, but the heart of cuisine in many parts of Greece is seafood. After all, much of the country is surrounded by water, so it makes sense that so many meals are based on what the sea provides. While traveling to the islands, you’ll have the chance to try all kinds of different types of seafood in a variety of preparations. However, even on the mainland, you can find incredible fish, mussels, squid, and so much else. Some of the must-try dishes include:

 

Fried calamari

Virtually every psarotaverna, or fish tavern, will serve fried calamari, especially during the summer months. This dish makes the perfect snack and is often served as an appetizer to share before a meal. Typically, the squid is dredged in flour spiced with various seasonings and then fried until it is crispy and golden. The seasonings are often enough, but a sometimes a spritz of lemon juice brings that extra freshness to the calamari, as do fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.

calamari

 

Shrimp saganaki

Cheese may come to mind when you hear the word “saganaki,” but the word actually refers to a frying pan with a thick bottom and two handles. The shrimp version, like the cheese, is prepared in this dish. Shrimp saganaki involves sautéeing fresh shrimp in Greek olive oil and then deglazing the pan with ouzo, an anise-flavored liquor that’s widely popular in Greece. The cooked shrimp are added to a spicy tomato sauce that’s topped with fresh herbs and a sprinkling of feta. Traditionally, the dish is served as an appetizer, although many people find it filling enough to constitute a whole meal.

 

Sardines

One of the most popular fish to eat in Greece, sardines (or sardeles) can be found in a variety of dishes. You’ll often encounter them on menus as a small dish that comes either grilled or fried, depending on the restaurant. Either way, sardines are delicious. Another tasty, but less common preparation involves baking the sardines with fresh lemon, oregano, and tomato sauce. As a general rule, smaller sardines are more flavorful than larger ones.

 

Mussels

In Northern Greece, mussels can be found in just about any fish restaurant because of their popularity. Typically, the mussels are prepared in a tomato sauce with feta cheese after they have been meticulously scrubbed. This variety is known as mussels saganaki because it is finished in the oven in that same pan. Greek chefs also commonly steam mussels with fennel, fresh tomato, and ouzo before finishing them off with cream. Many people enjoy sipping the salty broth from the bottom of the pan or soaking it up with some bread.

mussels-419052_1280

 

Lavraki

In Greek, the word “lavraki” refers to sea bass. In Greece, it’s popular to coat a whole fish with salt, pepper, and herbs, and then grill it over charcoal. Sometimes, restaurants will serve the fish with ladolemono, a sort of lemon vinaigrette dressing. Another version of lavraki involves wrapping the fish in parchment paper and baking it. Travelers on the island of Cephalonia will find the fish virtually everywhere, but it is also offered at other restaurants across the islands and mainland.

 

Cuttlefish

Similar to squid is the cuttlefish, which has shorter tentacles. Because of the ease of cooking cuttlefish, especially compared to squid, it has become very popular throughout Greece. Unlike squid, cuttlefish is virtually never fried, but instead stewed in a tomato sauce or sautéed with spinach. The sautéed version usually contains bay leaves, dill, tomato, and lemon juice for a nice tart kick.

 

Crab salad

A traditional dish served throughout Greece, crab salad makes good use of fresh crab meat by combining it with lemon juice, mayonnaise, onion, tomato, and white wine. Some aromatic herbs usually top off the mixture—in addition to a variety of other ingredients that depend on the chef’s particular taste. You’ll likely find that different islands, and even different restaurants on the same island, have their own secret ingredients that they think makes their crab salad the best in the country. While most chefs will not reveal their secrets, it can be fun to try to guess what the mystery flavors are.

 

Octopus

Considered a delicacy in Greece, octopus can prove difficult to catch, so it does not often appear on restaurant menus. However, Greek chefs can do wonderful things to this protein so that it simply melts in the mouth. On the islands, you’ll sometimes encounter an octopus hanging out to dry outside of a taverna. Once caught, restaurants usually dry the octopus for a period of time and then grill it on the barbecue, although some chefs also stew it with tomatoes and serve it over pasta.

octopus

 

Astakomakaronada

If you spend some time out on the water, you may spot lobsters crawling along the floor of the sea in the shallower depths. This familiar creature serves as the start of astakomakaronada, a classic Greek dish considered by many the best the Mediterranean has to offer. The lobster is served on top of pasta with a sauce that is usually made from garlic, tomato, onion, and wine, as well as a small pinch of star anise to give it a unique flavor. While the dish is not hard to find among psarotavernas, it’s typically one of the most expensive options, although it’s certainly worth trying at least once.

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delphi

7 of the Best Archaeological Sites in Greece for Tourists to Explore

People choose to visit Greece for a variety of reasons, from exploring its charming islands to indulging a taste for its unique cuisine. One of the other major reasons to come to Greece is its rich history. Both on the mainland and the islands, a wide variety of archaeological sites provide visitors with a unique look at the ancient and medieval worlds of Greece.

Visiting all of the major archaeological sites in Greece would take several trips. This means that it is important that tourists get a sense of what they can see and prioritize the things they want to see the most. Some of the best archaeological sites to visit include:

 

  1. Acropolis

The Acropolis in Athens remains the most iconic archaeological site in all of Greece. This site dates back to the 5th century BC and clearly demonstrates a golden age in Greek history.

acropolis

While exploring the Acropolis, visitors can see a number of important structures, including the Temple of Athena Nike, the Parthenon, the Propylea, and the Erechtheion. The Parthenon has a depiction of the birth of Athena (who, according to mythology, was born directly from the head of Zeus) as well as the battle between Athena and Poseidon over who would become the patron of the city.

 

  1. Lavrion Silver Mines

Another site that tourists may be interested in visiting is Lavrio, which served as a silver mine during the Classical era. The money generated by the mines helped expand the Athenian navy so that the city would have a means of resisting Persian forces.

In addition, the silver from these mines was used to make Athenian Tetradrachmon, which served as the primary form of currency in the Mediterranean for four centuries. People can visit a number of different mines that have become sites of archaeological inquiry, but the most famous one is located in Agios Konstantinos.

 

  1. Sanctuary of Asklepios

On the Peloponnese is a temple to the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios. In the Ancient world, the site of the sanctuary was a destination for pilgrims and the center of healing. The sanctuary is in a rural part of Epidaurus just west of Mount Kynortion.

epidaurus

The larger archaeological site expands beyond the temple to include hospitals and bath houses. For Ancient Greeks, the site served sort of like a spa resort. While the temple has been partially restored, the really impressive feature is the massive theater with incredible acoustics that allow individuals to hear a coin drop on the stage from any of its 14,000 seats.

 

  1. Spinalonga

One of the most unique archaeological sites that tourists can visit while in Greece is Spinalonga, an island in the Gulf of Elounda. Not far from Crete, Spinalonga has served various purposes over the centuries. At one time, the island was primarily used for military defense. At another time, it served as a leper colony.

Individuals may be familiar with the island from recent appearances in popular culture, including being featured in a television series and a film. Visitors can get to the island by boat from Agios Nikoloas, Elounda, or Plaka and then explore the various ruined buildings that have been uncovered by archaeologists.

 

  1. Temple of Apollo

Located on Delos, a small island close to Mykonos, the Temple of Apollo remains one of the most popular archaeological sites for tourists. The structures on Delos date back to about 2500 BC, and at one time up to 30,000 people lived on the island. Greek mythology holds that both Apollo and Artemis were born on the island and, to celebrate this, inhabitants created a massive temple dedicated to Apollo.

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The temple was built between the 11th and 10th centuries BC, at which time it became a popular destination for travelers from other ancient cities. The modern Delos only has a few dozen inhabitants, the majority of whom work at the archaeological site. However, several ferries carry tourists to the island each day.

 

  1. Mycenae

Southwest of Athens is Mycenae, the heart of Greece during the late Bronze age. The Mycenaean civilization rose to prominence around 1600 BC and flourished until 1100 BC. Not much of Mycenae remains because of its age. However, archaeologists have done an admiral job uncovering the city so that visitors can get a sense of what it would have been like to live there during its heyday.

Tourists should be sure that the see the Lion Gate, which was once part of the Mycenaean citadel. In addition, the site features a prehistoric cemetery with some graves still distinguishable.

 

  1. Temple of Apollo Epicurius

Perhaps the most isolated archaeological site on this list, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is located on the side of Kotylion, a mountain in the Peloponnese. The well-preserved temple sits more than 3,600 feet above sea level and once served as a major religious center for Greeks.

The archaic features of the temple’s architecture make it one the most remarkable sites for archaeologists and tourists alike. Visitors may notice both Doric and Ionic architectural elements on the structure, which dates back to the 5th century BC.

amalfi

7 Off-the-Beaten Track Greek Islands that Tourists Should Visit

Among travelers, Greece is known for its picturesque islands. Some of the islands in Greece, such as Santorini, have become extremely popular and crowded with tourists, however. Still, a large number of other islands in the country remain relatively untouched by people outside Greece. These islands feature some charming small towns and a relaxing, authentic travel experience. If you want to stay off the beaten tourist path while still enjoying Greece’s island culture, you may want to check out these islands:

 

  1. Anafi

amalfi

Located among the Cyclades Islands not far from Santorini, Anafi is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a quiet vacation. You’ll need to take a 12-hour ferry trip to reach the island, but when you arrive, you’re rewarded with a beautiful town clinging to a mountain peak that overlooks the sea. The central town features the whitewashed, cubic buildings that people imagine when they picture Greek islands, as well as sweeping views of the Aegean Sea. Because the island is relatively small, you can walk almost everywhere you want to go, including to a handful of idyllic beaches. The most acclaimed beach on Anafi is called Roukounas.

 

  1. Koufonisia

Another island in the Cyclades, Koufonisia consists of an upper and a lower island. Tourism in Koufonisia has grown slightly in recent years, but the island still maintains its characteristic charm. Here, you’ll find bright yellow sands and clear blue waters, as well as natural pools and sea caves. One of the main attractions of Koufonisia is its seafood cuisine featuring fresh catches from the sea. The main town here also is home to a delightful windmill. However, be sure to hike around the island and explore its gorgeous landscape.

 

  1. Sifnos

sifnos

A popular vacation destination among Greeks, Sifnos is still relatively overlooked by international tourists. Foodies should definitely try to make it to Sifnos as one of the most famous Greek chefs, the late Nicholas Tselementes, called it home. Rambagas remains its most popular restaurant and is known for combining tradition with modern, experimental cuisine. The island also features an extensive number of well-maintained hiking trails with options for people of all different abilities. Once on the island, you can purchase a map of the trails and plan your hike.

 

  1. Schinoussa

The native population of Schinoussa hovers around 250 people, making it one of the smallest island communities on this list. With this tiny population and relative lack of commercial development, the island maintains a relaxed vibe that many tourists adore. Not far from the port is the single settlement on the island. People who choose Schinoussa as a destination should love spending time at the beach, since there are few other options for entertainment. However, you’ll find more than a dozen different beaches to explore during your stay. You can also hire a boat tour around the island to scope out the locations you want to visit on foot.

 

  1. Kalymnos

Kalymnos

Known for its rugged limestone cliffs, Kalymnos has become a haven for rock climbers. However, even if you don’t want the scale the cliffs, you’ll appreciate the dramatic landscape they create. There are also a number of smaller rock faces for people who do not have climbing experience, but would like to give it a try. Kalymnos does prove a little difficult to access. The easiest way to get there involves flying to Kos, a nearby island, and taking a ferry across to Kalymnos. Each day, there are between six and 10 ferries scheduled between the two islands.

 

  1. Milos

The name of this island may sound familiar, as it was once home to Venus de Milo. The island of Milos also once served as a center for mining in the ancient world, and the industry still has a large presence there today. You’ll find a number of interesting caves that you can explore when you need a break from the island’s wonderful beaches. One of the must-see beaches is Sarakiniko, where the landscape features grey-white rocks that resemble the surface of the moon. Visitors interested in the occult can also visit hidden religious burial grounds. About half of Milos has been declared a nature reserve, although you can use boats and off-road vehicles to access these areas.

 

  1. Kythnos

Kythnos

While Kythnos has more than 400 churches, its population is only about 1,500 people. Only a single doctor lives on the island. Most of the island’s inhabitants know each other, and they are very welcoming of tourists, the majority of which are Greek. While virtually no expats live on the island, many people still have a decent command of English, so communicating is not usually a problem. Kythnos features natural hot springs and even a considerable amount of green vegetation, uncommon in the Greek islands. And of course, there are the lovely beaches. The island is also a great destination for people who appreciate Greek food, as the restaurants typically rely on fresh ingredients and cook dishes inspired by what is locally available.

mystras

7 Sites That Visitors Should Be Sure to See While in the Peloponnese

The various regions of Greece all have very unique cultures that visitors should explore. One of the areas with the most to offer is known as the Peloponnese—the massive peninsula at the southern tip of Greece’s mainland. The history of the Peloponnese traces back at least to the Bronze Age, meaning that is has a number of exciting attractions for people interested in Greece’s rich ancient history. The Peloponnese served as the center of ancient Sparta and still holds the modern remnants of the city.

Some of the top attractions on the Peloponnese include the following:

 

  1. Mystras 

Visitors who find themselves on the Peloponnese should take some time to explore the ancient Byzantine site of Mystras, which is reached by driving through the Taygetos Mountain Range and the breathtaking gorges of the Langhada Pass. After passing through Mystras’ impressive Fortress Gate, visitors should plan to spend at least a few hours exploring the various parts of the ancient city, including several abandoned churches that still boast incredible examples of Byzantine religious art. Individuals may want to consider bringing some snacks and drinks along with them to Mystras because the one restaurant that operates on site can be very pricey, although its traditional menu does have some tasty offerings.

mystra

 

 

  1. Caves of Dirou

One of the most exciting stops that tourists can make while on the Peloponnese remains the Caves of Dirou, which can be explored by boat and on foot. Here, visitors will find some of the best stalactite and stalagmite formations in all of Europe. The caves contain more than 6,000 square meters of tunnels and feature some important paths, such as the historic passageway of Alepotrypa. Archaeologists believe that the caves were used as far back as 4,000 BCE, when Neolithic peoples used them for shelter and as a place of worship.

 

  1. Mani Peninsula

Tourists who want to wander off the beaten path should check out the Mani Peninsula, a mountainous and remote region with crystal waters along a striking rocky coast. While exploring the peninsula, visitors may want to stop and explore several of the small towns, including the alluring Kardamyli; this town has some wonderful, clearly marked hiking trails and several great places to swim. In addition, Kardamyli features some comfortable bed-and-breakfast accommodations and several quaint restaurants that offer excellent examples of traditional Greek fare.

Peloponnese

 

  1. Acrocorinth

While driving into the Peloponnese, one of the first stops that many people make is Acrocorinth, the acropolis of ancient Corinth. This site features a gargantuan medieval fortress that sits hundreds of meters above the ancient city, which was one of the most historically important in the whole country. The walls of the fortress stretch nearly 2,000 meters around a number of interesting historical sites that tourists can explore. One of the most popular attractions is an ancient temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite. The heights of the fortress also provide sweeping views of the countryside.

 

  1. Archaia Olympia

Perhaps the most popular of all tourist destinations on the Peloponnese is Archaia Olympia, or Ancient Olympia, the site of the founding of the Olympic Games. Tourists can still see the original arena in which the games were held to get a better sense of what it would have felt like to attend the very first event. While earthquakes have destroyed much of the site, seeing the remains is still well worth the small entry fee. Some of the structures that remain in relatively good shape are the Philippeion, or gymnasium; the Nymphaion, or bath houses; and the Palaestra, or social quarters. The very first Olympic Games took place in 776 BCE and continued every four years until the Roman Emperor Theodosis outlawed them in 393 CE.

 

  1. Epidaurus Theater

One of the best examples of an ancient Greek amphitheater is in Epidaurus on the Peloponnese. Built in the third century CE, the theater is still in very good shape; it continues to hold theatrical performances on the weekends and can seat can seat up to 15,000 people in its 55 rows. What makes the Epidaurus theater so special is the engineering behinds its acoustics. From any seat in the house, people can hear perfectly unamplified sounds spoken on the stage. The limestone used for the seats helps filter out low-frequency sounds, including the murmur of the crowd, while amplifying the high-frequency sounds coming from the stage.

epidaurus

 

  1. Mycenae 

Even though Mycenae has not flourished for several millennia, tourists can still explore the city and see what life might have been like for people that once lived there. The foundations of the city, as well as the famous Lion Gate, have been impressively preserved. Visitors should be sure to see the royal tholos tombs and the secret cistern located at the site. The acropolis once served as the home of Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra. From this place, individuals can get a great view of the city’s layout and the mountains in the distance. The Archaeological Museum of Mycenae also contains some unique pieces that provide a lot of insight on ancient life in the city.