8 of the most underrated destinations in Greece
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Greece is famous for its picture-perfect beaches and romantic island escapes. And it’s one of TPG’s top destinations to visit right now. In fact, Greece won this year’s TPG editor’s choice award as the top travel destination of the year, thanks to its sensible health measures, new influx of hotels/resorts/flight routes and its support of the cruise industry.
While 2021 has been the ideal year to see some of Greece’s more popular tourist destinations with fewer crowds and 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.
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 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 and 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.
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 center 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. And outdoor enthusiasts should head straight to Vikos Aoos National Park in northwest Greece.
The park is named after its most precipitous gorges: Vikos Gorge and Aoos Gorge. Besides these two epic natural wonders, travelers 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, but 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 travelers, 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 favorite 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 that want to minimise travel time on their holiday or that get seasick on long ferry rides.
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 option. There are plenty of options if you want to get off the tourist track or try something a little different. Travelling somewhere more underrated means you’ll be able to experience some traditional Greek culture, wine and cuisine, find those deserted beaches or see some of the country’s lesser-visited monuments and attractions.
(Featured image of Simos Beach on Elafonisos island by verve23/Getty)
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