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.

delphi

5 of the Top Reasons to Spend Time Exploring Delphi

Located only a couple of hours from Athens, Delphi has emerged as one of the most popular day trips for tourists based in the Greek capital. Most people associate the city with the historic oracle and come to see the wonderful archaeological attractions, but Delphi has grown into one of the largest cities in Greece. For that reason, it has a lot to offer tourists who choose to stay there for longer than a day. From excellent food and world-class shopping to exciting historical and cultural attractions, Delphi has something for everyone. Some of the must-do activities for visitors include:

 

  1. Visiting the archeological site of Delphi

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Delphi archaeological site attracts about 500,000 tourists each year. The site includes the sanctuary of Pythia, a high priestess of Apollo who provided consultations to the Ancient Greeks. The majority of major decisions in the ancient world were not made until after a pilgrimage to see the oracle. Visitors can see what it was like to go through the entire process, from making a sacrifice at the Tholos of Athena Pronaia to bathing at the Castallian Fountain before entering the sacred site. The Sacred Way takes visitors to the main attraction by way of the Temple of Apollo. The Archaeological Museum associated with the site provides some great background on excavation efforts and includes a number of incredible pieces, including the Large Sphynx of Naxos and a bronze statue of a charioteer dating back to 470 BC.

 

delphi

 

  1. Exploring the art scene in Delphi Village

Delphi Village largely serves to welcome tourists as they first arrive to the area. While the two main roads have a handful of cafés, tavernas, and small hotels, they also feature two gems for art lovers. The first must-see attraction is the Angelos and Eva Sikelianos Museum, which occupies the former home of the famous Greek poet. Angelos and Eva organized the Delphic Festival in 1927 and then again in 1930. Eva made the costumes for the dance and theater performances using a loom that is still in the home. The couple also helped found the village’s other major attraction for art lovers: the European Cultural Center. In addition to hosting events, the center features sculptures and paintings from Alekos Fasianos, Yiannis Tsarouchis, and Giannis Gaitis, among other Greek artists.

 

  1. Hiking around the surrounding mountains

Hikers have discovered a number of paths around Mt. Parnassos that were once used by pilgrims coming to see the oracle. Today, visitors can choose from a variety of trails of varying difficulties that provide sweeping views of the landscape, as well as nearby villages and monuments. Trekking Hellas Parnassos is a local business that provides tours of the hills for visitors who do not want to explore on their own. One of the most popular sites is Corycian Cave, situated above the sanctuary of Delphi. The cave has served as the site of pagan rituals since Neolithic times and is associated with the god Pan and the nymphs. Greek mythology explains that the cave was named for Corycia, a nymph who was a partner to Apollo. Hikers can also complete longer treks on Mt. Parnassos to explore other caves, springs, and mountain shelters.

amphitheatre

 

  1. Venturing out to the nearby village of Arachova

Nicknamed the “Mykonos of the Mountains,” Arachova has a number of celebrated restaurants, boutique shops, and trendy cafes among its picturesque stone buildings. One of the most famous ski resorts in Greece is located in the town. Because the area is known for its wealthy visitors, it has attracted a number of global brands to its main street. However, even people who don’t care to shop will still find much to do. Arachova produces some unique local foods, including Formaela cheese, Amfissa olives, and a delicious spirit known as tsipouro. Several restaurants serve unexpected proteins like wild boar, goat, rooster, and other locally sourced meats. Once guests have their fill of food, they can burn off some calories by exploring the church of St. George, which has a massive clock tower that overlooks the whole village.

 

  1. Heading to the coastal town of Galaxidi

Another small town close to Delphi that’s worth a visit is Galaxidi, which is located on the Gulf of Corinth. Here, tourists will find charming cobblestone pathways winding around town and a number of small specialty shops that sell locally produced herbs and spices. The town is also known for its various olive-inspired products. Galaxidi has two different ports, Agora and Chirolaka, so there is an opportunity for guests to venture out on the water if they desire. In addition, Galaxidi has two museums: one that examines the maritime history of Greece and another focused on local folklore and its impact on Greek culture. People who enjoy exploring churches and monasteries will also find a number of them scattered throughout the town.