9 overlooked destinations in Greece you need to visit at least once
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Greece is famous for its picture-perfect beaches and romantic island escapes. One of TPG’s favourite destinations to visit, Greece won last year’s TPG editor’s choice award as the top travel destination of the year in 2021, thanks to its sensible health measures, new influx of hotels/resorts/flight routes and unwavering support of the cruise industry.
And while 2021 was an ideal time to see some of Greece’s more popular tourist destinations with fewer crowds at more affordable prices, as post-pandemic travel picks up, it’s time once again to consider some of Greece’s underrated destinations.
When it comes to Greece, we encourage travellers to think outside the box. The country has hundreds of islands, but also an expansive mainland rife with natural wonders such as mountains and marine parks, as well as vineyards and historic monuments. For alternatives to popular spots like Santorini, Mykonos and Athens, consider one of these more underrated destinations in Greece.
Getting to Greece from the U.K. takes around four hours and it’s possible to fly nonstop. Arrive via airlines like British Airways and Aegean, as well as low-cost carriers like Wizzair, EasyJet, Sky Express and Ryanair. Airlines like EasyJet and Wizzair fly nonstop to Crete, and British Airways and Easyjet fly nonstop to Santorini and Mykonos from hubs across the U.K..
British Airways redemptions start at 9,250 Avios off-peak/10,750 Avios peak in Euro Traveller and 17,750 Avios off-peak/20,750 Avios peak one-way, regardless if you’re flying to the Greek mainland or the Greek islands. While some of the best ways to maximise Aegean Miles from Aegean Airlines include using them for long-haul business class redemptions on Star Alliance partner airlines, you can use them for travel between the U.K. and Greece. Fly from London to Athens one-way starting at 11,960 miles in economy and 22,425 in business. You can also use Aegean miles to upgrade an economy flex fare to business starting at 11,960 miles each way.
Keep in mind that getting to some of the more underrated destinations in Greece may require one or more of the following transportation options: changing planes, taking ferries or renting a car.
You may have never even heard of Kastellorizo, an island also known as Megisti, until now. Located closer to Turkey than to Greece, the island’s beauty will captivate you. Ease yourself in and start with its beautiful harbour, where the sun shines down on neoclassical, colourful buildings scattered along the seaside.
Just like many Aegean and Mediterranean islands, Kastellorizo has a Blue Grotto sea cave to explore by boat. Another must-see is Knights Castle, which offers views of neighbouring Turkey from its perch on a reddish hill.
2. Alonissos Marine Park
The largest protected marine area in Europe, Alonissos Marine Park is one of the best destinations in Greece to view marine life, most notably Mediterranean monk seals. It’s also a prime spot to scuba dive, snorkel or even visit historic monasteries and churches.
The park is made up of several islands (some uninhabited) covered in pine and strawberry trees, orchids, wildflowers and herbs like wild sage and oregano. Underwater, there are numerous types of seagrass that over 300 different marine species call home. Visitors may also spot dolphins, sperm whales and loggerhead turtles in the Alonissos waters.
The hills of Mount Olympus hold far more than just tales of Greek mythology. They’re also home to the town of Rapsani and its accompanying vineyards. Rapsani is a red wine created from a blend of three different grapes: the Xinomavro, Krassato and Stavroto grapes. Visiting this sloping wine region is truly an off-the-beaten-path experience.
In order to access the vineyards which weave up the hills, you’ll need to get off-road and drive along dirt trails. Pair a visit to the most famous winery in the area, Tsantali, with a trip to the nearby Mt. Olympus National Park.
Nafplion is one of the most beautiful and romantic towns in the Peloponnese region of Greece for an alternative seaside holiday. An easy drive from Athens, Nafplion features a picturesque old town and harbour that are perfect for strolling.
The Arvanitia Beach is pebbly but has clear turquoise water perfect for a refreshing swim. Make sure to visit the Bourtzi Castle, a 15th-century Medieval fortress that sits on a tiny islet just off the coast of the charming town.
5. The Athens Riviera
If you don’t have enough time to head to the Greek islands, a visit to the Athens Riviera, a stunning stretch of coastline, gives you an easy dose of sand and sun. Just 30 minutes away from the Greek capital, the coastal area is accessible by car or even tram from Athens, so no ferry hassle is needed.
The area has many beautiful beaches, plus fancy nightclubs, quaint harbours, hidden sea caves and tranquil fishing coves. One of the most popular areas to visit with a few sandy beach options is Voula, which also has towering rocks that overlook Lake Vouliagmeni.
Spend the night at the new(ish) Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel, a fancy hideaway just 30 minutes from Athens city centre on the tip of the Riviera.
6. Vikos Aoos National Park
Greece has an immense amount of natural beauty beyond just its most famous islands. If you’re an outdoorsy type, we’d recommend heading straight to Vikos Aoos National Park in northwest Greece.
The park is named after its precipitous gorges: Vikos Gorge and Aoos Gorge. Besides these two epic natural wonders, travellers can enjoy outdoor activities among the many rivers, canyons, lakes, mountains and woodlands within the park. Expect to see a number of different bird species, plus animals like otters, foxes, wolves and deer — and watch out for brown bears!
Part of Greece but in the Macedonia region, Kastoria is often compared to the Amalfi coast, only without the tourists. The Hellenic town sits along a peninsula that juts out into Lake Orestiada. The lake — deemed a national monument in Greece — is backed by rocky, wooded mountains.
Besides enjoying the lake, visitors can explore the Byzantine churches and Ottoman architecture in Kastoria. One of the most important attractions is the Panagia Mavriotissa Monastery, which sits on the shores of the lake and dates back to the 11th century.
An island often frequented by Greek travellers, Elafonisos sits off the coast of the Peloponnese region near Athens. Although it’s tiny, Elafonisos still has abundant white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Besides the island’s glorious beaches (Simos Beach is a favourite for its unique shape), it also has ancient ruins to explore.
Divers can appreciate the island’s underwater ruins, too. Pavlopetri is one of the oldest complete sunken towns that has been found underwater. The best part? Elafonisos is only a 10-minute ferry ride from Pounta, a port in the Peloponnese region, perfect for travellers who want to minimise travel time on their holiday or who get seasick on long ferry rides.
9. Lefkas (Lefkada)
This Greek island in the Ionian Sea is one of the few islands in Greece you can actually drive to — it’s connected to mainland Greece by a causeway. Even though it’s technically not a freestanding island, it’s just as breathtaking as its island neighbours, home to white-sand beaches and charming Greek villages. One of the island’s most iconic beaches is Porto Katsiki, backed by an enormous, awe inspiring cliff.
Windsurfers should head to its southern beach Vassiliki, while kitesurfers will prefer the beaches in the north of this breezy island. If you need a sand and sun break, check out the fishing cove Sivota, visit the coastal village of Vlichos or soak in the natural beauty of Karia, a tiny hamlet located in fertile valley further inland.
Even if you want to spend a romantic holiday in Santorini, a family weekend in Athens or a getaway partying in Mykonos, remember that Greece is a large country with hundreds of islands, 10 national parks and many other options. There are plenty of destinations for those that want to get off the tourist track or try something a little different.
Travelling somewhere more underrated means you’ll be able to experience more traditional Greek culture, sample local wine and cuisine, find those stunning deserted beaches or visit some of the country’s lesser-visited monuments and attractions.
(Featured image of Simos Beach on Elafonisos island by verve23/Getty Images)
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