island Paros

8 Wonderful Destinations off the Beaten Track in Greece

When people think about exploring Greece, they usually plot out itineraries that include popular destinations such as Athens, Mykonos, Thessaloniki, and major archaeological sites such as Delphi. However, there is much more to Greece than these commonly visited sites. People who wander off the beaten track will get a much better sense of what Greek life looks like and discover some of the real charm of the country. For this reason, tourists should consider including some of the lesser-known destinations in Greece in their itineraries. Some of these excellent options include:

 

1. Evia

A common weekend destination for Athenians, Evia remains relatively unexplored by foreigners. Evia is the second-largest island in Greece and easily accessed by two bridges that connect it to the mainland. While on Evia, individuals should check out Edipsos, which has healing thermal baths. In addition to this attraction, visitors will find some charming beaches with a much milder climate than many of the other islands. In addition, Evia offers great local cuisine and various landmarks for visitors to explore.

 

evia

 

2. Ioannina

The capital of Epirus, Ioannina is located right on Lake Pamvotida, and visitors will catch a wonderful glimpse of the water throughout the town. What makes Ioannina truly unique among Greek cities is its blend of Jewish, Islamic, and Christian influences in its architecture and design. Some of the top attractions include the Veli Pasha Mosque and the House Matei Hussein. In addition, travelers will come across a number of gorgeous Byzantine churches as they explore the town.

 

3. Kavala

Located in Macedonia, Kavala has a unique amphitheater-like shape. Situated at the base of Mount Simvolo, the town boasts several great attractions, such as Suleyman the Magnificent’s aqueduct, the church of Virgin Mary’s Assumption, and the Mohamed Ali Pasha Square. The oldest part of Kavala is known as Panagia. People have consistently lived in Panagia since the 7th century BCE. As a result, the whole area has a very unique culture influenced by the many different peoples who have called it home. Moreover, Kavala offers tourists some very relaxing and quiet beaches.

 

4. Kastellorizo

An island that located is near the southern coast of Turkey, Kastellorizo also goes by the name of Megisti. Visitors will initially notice the beautiful harbor dotted with colorful mansions lining the coast and climbing up the hills. Despite the crowded appearance of the port, the island has some great wildlife and dense flora to be explored on hikes. While there, individuals should not miss the Old Mosque, which the Turks built when they occupied the island. As with many of the Greek islands, Kastellorizo also has breathtaking beaches.

 

5. Lemnos

Most tourists stick to islands in the southern part of Greece, but Lemnos is located in the Northern Aegean, which makes it much more quiet than other options. At the same time, Lemnos has very exciting attractions, including the Castle of Myrina, which is located on a hilltop above the main town. Lemnos remains a great place to learn how to kite surf due to the lessons offered at Keros Beach. Tourists should also check out Varos Village, a town that was once quite dilapidated, but which has since been rejuvenated as a luxury resort spot with breathtaking views of the surrounding water.

 

6. Paxi

Because Paxi is located so close to Italy, the island provides visitors with a unique amalgamation of Italian and Greek cultures. Paxi is the smallest island in the archipelago that includes Corfu. On Paxi, visitors will find gentle hills, pristine beaches, and underwater caves. The island has several cute villages nestled among olive groves with many hiking trails. While there, individuals should sample the local black wine made from local vineyards and explore Orkos Beach, which is one of the most beautiful among all the Ionian islands. Paxi also hosts several music festivals throughout the summer.

 

Paxi

Image by Dom Crossley | Flickr

 

7. Folegandros

A small island situated on the southern side of the Cyclades, Folegandros is a rocky isle with a main village called Chora that has been consistently recognized for its beauty. Many people think that Chora is more charming than even Santorini. While on Folegandros, tourists will need to charter boats to take them to various caves, coves, and beaches since they usually cannot be accessed by land. However, this makes for a very unique experience. For a bit of luxury, individuals can check out Anemi Hotel, which has large suites and a wonderful infinity pool overlooking the water with a nearby pebbly beach.

 

8. Methoni

Mythology buffs may recognize Methoni as one of the seven cities that Agamemnon offered to Achilles. The city is on the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese. The top attraction is Kastro, a fortress and castle that dates back to the 15th century and offers a perfect example of Venetian architecture. Visitors will also find a number of great tavernas serving traditional food and a beautiful beach located very close to Kastro. This beach offers an ideal place to cool off during the hotter summer months.

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athens

6 of the Best Adventures Off the Beaten Path in Athens

Athens has a lot to offer tourists, from incredible archaeological sites like the Acropolis to world-class dining. In Athens, it’s easy to get caught up in the most famous attractions and miss out on the more interesting spots off the beaten path. Taking the time to explore some of these local, lesser-known attractions can give you a better sense of Greek culture and show you what it’s like to live as a modern Athenian. Some of the best options for getting off the normal tourist track include:

 

  1. Visiting a bouzoukia

Located throughout Athens, bouzoukias are a bit like Greek music halls where people come to drink and dance until late in the evening. During performances, musicians ply the bouzouki, an instrument that gives these buildings their name. The instrument is accompanied by people singing traditional Greek ballads and music. Here, the most popular drink is oinomelo, a sweet wine. You may want to check out some of the bouzoukias in Plaka or Anafiotika, which are smaller and tend to attract mostly locals. Alternatively, try one of the larger clubs, such as Gazi Live or Posidonio. These larger clubs are also popular among locals, but visitors may also encounter some other tourists who want to check out the scene.

 

  1. Exploring a laeki agora

Many neighborhoods in Athens host a laeki agora, similar to a local farmers’ market, at least once a week. During these times, local authorities close the streets to car traffic so vendors can set up their stalls. At the markets, you can find everything from locally grown oranges to handmade jams and cheeses. Often, the events also function as flea markets with people selling their household items and clothes. The laeki are important events for locals and can give visitors a deeper look at everyday life in Athens. Since the days and times change, it’s wise to check in with your hotel’s concierge or your hosts about the best options.

 

laeki agora

 

  1. Enjoying Coffee in Koukaki or Pagrati

While people may not immediately associate Greece with coffee, Athens has a strong coffee culture fostered by the many cozy, eclectic cafés scattered throughout the city. Often, these cafés are located on small side streets and alleys, so they can be a bit difficult to find. Two Athenian neighborhoods with some of the best cafés are Koukaki and Pagrati. Both of these neighborhoods have themed coffee shops interspersed among great bars and tavernas. Exploring these shops and connecting with some of the locals is an excellent way to experience authentic Athens.

 

  1. Climbing up Mount Lycabettus

The tallest point in Athens, Mount Lycabettus sits 277 meters above sea level, covered in a thick forest. The mountain rises just opposite the Acropolis, so hikers will get a great view of the archaeological site, as well as the rest of the city in the background. The hike is not too strenuous, since the route follows a steady, circular path rather than straight up the side of the peak. At the top of the mountain is a quaint church and a massive flagpole with the Greek flag. The best time to climb Lycabettus is sunrise or sunset because of the way the sun illuminates the horizon. However, the views are excellent at any time of day. Just be sure to bring sun protection if you make the hike in the middle of the day.

 

  1. Attending an open-air cinema

People visiting Athens between April and October should definitely try to catch an outdoor movie. Very popular in Athens, open-air cinemas have become a big part of local culture and are intimately tied to food: many people choose where to go less by the movie playing and more by the food available. That’s because the options go way beyond soda, popcorn, candy, and the typical snacks people associate with movie theaters. One open-air cinema, for example, specializes in sushi, and another in souvlaki. There’s even one that offers a range of different baked pies. Some open-air cinemas also offer great views, such as Cine-Thisio, which provides a great view of the lit-up Acropolis behind and to the side of the projection screen.

 

cyprus

 

  1. Walking along the Athenian Riviera

Visitors are often surprised by the many parks and green spaces in Athens and its suburbs. For example, within a 30-minute drive from the city center are beautiful beaches that line the Mediterranean Sea. This “Athenian Riviera” is home to several beach clubs, as well as excellent tavernas and beautiful walking routes. One of the best ways to take in the sights is by walking the path that extends along Flisvos Marina to Alimos, running parallel to Poseidonos Avenue. Along the route, you’ll catch glimpses of charming neighborhoods, neoclassical mansions, and small beaches. The trail ends at a small church in Alimos, but other paths lead to Voula and Vouliagmeni.

hydra

5 Exciting Reasons to Visit the Greek Island of Hydra

While the larger, more popular Greek islands like Santorini have a lot to offer tourist, people sometimes want a more relaxed experience. One of the most unique stops that people can make while island hopping in Greece is Hydra, a fairly large carless island that is located not far from Athens. The island offers great nightlife and a number of opportunities to spot celebrities who regularly vacation there. Furthermore, the island only allows buildings that are representative of traditional architecture. That feature, combined with the fact that water taxis and donkeys are the primary modes of transportation, make Hydra a unique destination.

Hydra as a municipality consists of two primary islands, Hydra itself and Dokos, although several smaller and uninhabited islets are also located nearby. The main town, known as Hydra port, is tiny, but has some great shops and restaurants. The island as a whole is largely known for its arts scene, and part of the Greek School of Fine Arts is based on the island. Individuals can easily reach the island by boat or hydrofoil from the mainland or other island destinations. Once they arrive there, a number of exciting options exist, including the following:

 

1. Breathtaking Churches

While Hydra is a relatively small island, it has hundreds of churches and six monasteries. While is can be hard to choose which one to see during a short visit, the Monastery of the Assumption of Virgin Mary should definitely be on the list. The structure, which is the main cathedral on the island, is situated in the center of the harbor just underneath a large clock tower. According to legend, a nun built the cathedral after arriving at the island in 1643. The structure was built in a Byzantine style and has frescoes that date back to the 18th century. Inside, visitors will find a vast array of Orthodox decorations.

greek church

 

2. Gorgeous Beaches

Like the other islands throughout Greece, Hydra has its fair share of picturesque beaches with crystal waters. One of the most popular ones is Vlychos Beach, which can be reached by water taxi or on foot from the main town. The beach remains rather quiet and undisturbed. Slightly closer to the main town is Kaminia Beach, which is located in a small fishing village that has some great restaurant choices. Another beach near the main town is Spilia, which has a number of rocks and is ideal for diving. One of the more remote choices is Agios Nikolaos, a beach sheltered within a charming cove. For a great panoramic view of mainland Greece, visitors should head to Plakes Vlychos. Since the beach is located in front of the Four Seasons, individuals can arrive there via a boat hired by the hotel to serve as a taxi.

 

3. Intriguing Museums

A number of different museums are located on Hydra. Perhaps the most well-known one is the Historical Archives Museum, which dates back to 1918. The museum displays various artifacts and documents related to the island and is a perfect way to obtain a sense of its traditions and culture. The museum also has an extensive library. Another option is the Ecclesiastical Museum, which is located in the former cell of a monk. One of the newer museums, it has displayed various holy vessels, manuscripts, and jewelry related to the church since 1999. Many of the mansions on the island have also been converted to museums, including one dedicated to Greek War of Independence leader Lazaros Koundouriotis. The home features various art and furniture that once belonged to his family.

 

4. Animal-Based Exploration

As stated above, donkeys have become one of the primary forms of transportation on the island, especially when people need to carry large items with them. Guests can hire someone to transport them via mule, and more than 1,000 of the animals live on the island. For a different experience, individuals can book a horseback adventure that lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an entire day. Available itineraries include coastal walks and longer hikes up into the steeper terrain of the mountain.

hydra donkeys

 

5. Engaging Hikes

Due to the lack of cars, many people choose to get around the island by simply walking. As a result, a number of different walking routes exist. One of the most beautiful routes exists between the main town and Kamini, a small fishing village. This route is located off the beaten path and away from tourist shops, meaning that individuals can obtain a genuine feel for the island as they pass by churches, mansions, and even old ruins. Along the path is Sunset Restaurant, a great place to have dinner and watch the sun go down over the water, with mainland Greece in the background. More adventurous travelers may enjoy climbing the bastions. Hydra used cannons to protect itself during the 18th century, and the bastions still exist on both sides of the harbor. While climbing up to them, individuals will discover great views of the Aegean Sea while having an opportunity to experience some unique Greek history.

greek church

7 of the Most Inspiring Churches in Greece Worthy of a Visit

Churches are an integral part of the Greek landscape, with structures ranging from simple chapels to magnificent displays of architecture and art. A number of renowned architects and builders, not to mention painters, have contributed to the rich collection of churches, cathedrals, and more that exist throughout the country.

The oldest churches date back to the 4th century AD. However, many key structures from the ancient world, such as the Parthenon, functioned as Christian gathering points during certain periods in history.

Travelers in Greece will find churches everywhere. Many of them are worth a visit, especially for people who like the particular style of Greek Orthodox art and design. Some of the must-see churches and cathedrals in Greece include:

 

  1. Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani

Located on the island of Paros in the Cyclades, the Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani dates back to the middle of the 4th century. This makes it one of the earliest Byzantine churches in existence.

The name of the structure means “Church of 100 Doors,” although legend has it that only 99 doors are actually visible when people tour the building. The hidden 100th door will appear only when Constantinople is returned to the Greeks, according to local myth.

The building is incredibly ornate. It contains breathtaking stone details and many gold decorations.

 

  1. Church of Agia Anna

In some ways, the Church of Agia Anna is the opposite of Panagia Ekatontapiliani. A small chapel, the church represents a very traditional and simple style with basic white walls and minimal decoration.

Church of "Agia Anna"

Image by Tilemahos Efthimiadis | Flickr

The structure sits on the top of a rock right by the water on Agia Anna Beach on Amorgos. Not far from the church is the Monastery of Hozoviotissa, which is also worth a visit.

The monastery was built directly into the face of a cliff hundreds of meters above the sea in the 11th century AD. A miraculous icon of the Virgin was found at the site, which prompted the construction.

 

  1. Church of the Seven Martyrs

Sifnos has been called the island of 336 churches, although this is actually an urban legend. However, the island does boast an overwhelming number of small chapels and monasteries. The one that attracts the most visitors remains the Church of Seven Martyrs, which is on top of an islet close to the village of Kastro.

The church perfectly represents Cycladic style. Its white and blue dome reflects the clear waters nearby. People may actually recognize the church as they approach. It has become one of the most photographed locations in the Greek islands.

 

  1. Church of Agios Isidoros

Another church that has attracted a lot of photographic attention is the Church of Agios Isidoros on Chios. It is not far from Sykiada on the northern part of the island. This church is in the midst of a bay. A long pier stretches out from the rocky beach to reach the structure.

An early Christian temple once occupied the tiny island and was later replaced by this small chapel. While it looks fairly humble from the outside, Agios Isidoros has some incredible design elements located within. These include mosaic floors and a crypt with holy relics.

 

  1. Church of Agios Ioannis

This church gained fame because it was featured in the movie Mamma Mia. However, it attracted people to the island of Skopelos even before that. The structure is located on the top of a cliff close to a village named Glossa.

Church of Agios Ioannis Prodromos

Image by Ava Babili | Flickr

Visitors need to trek up 106 steps to reach the church. They are rewarded with 360-degree views of the island and the surrounding waters. The cliff itself stretches out into the water. This means the panorama is unlike any other on the island.

 

  1. Church of Megalochari

One of the most important places of worship in all of Greece is the Church of Megalochari on the island of Tinos. Located on a hill above Chora, the church was built to celebrate and house an icon of the Virgin Mary.

Greeks strongly believe this icon can grant miracles. Many people travel long distances to visit the church and ask for assistance. Visitors may see some of the most devout pilgrims enter the church on their knees as a sign of deference to the Virgin.

 

  1. Church of Agios Dionysios

A relatively new church compared to others on this list, the Church of Agios Dionysios was built in the 1890s. Today, the church is recognized as one of the most important in the Greek Orthodox tradition because it houses a great deal of orthodox art.

Because the church was constructed on Zakynthos, it was dedicated to the island’s patron saint, Agios Dionysios. The structure has a unique, calming effect on visitors. Peace and serenity seem to enshrine the building. Visitors are able to put worries out of their minds and enjoy the beautiful architecture.