Close your eyes and try to think of Greece. What was the first thing that came into your mind? Was it the white and blue houses on a hill in Santorini? The temple of the Parthenon standing proud on the Acropolis hill of Athens? For many people, Greece is connected to specific popular destinations: Santorini, Mykonos, Zakynthos, Crete, Corfu, and Athens. But what about the rest of the country? Here are seven Greek destinations that people who don’t live in Greece rarely know. Stay till the end to discover an unpopulated island that could be described as “heaven on Earth”.
Some of the most iconic Greek islands are the Cycladic islands, which are known for their dry, golden terrain, white-blue houses, and great Bronze-era civilization. Samothrace island, however, looks nothing like those islands – but it does have a rich history.
Located in the northern Aegean Sea, Samothrace has dense vegetation, a lot of natural springs, and many picturesque villages. The island used to be an important religious center in Hellenic and pre-Hellenic times.
If you have watched the video on the Eleusinian Mysteries, then you might remember a short reference to the so-called “Kabeirian Mysteries”. An ancient Greek cult with members from different parts of Greece would meet in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods that is located there and perform ceremonies to a group of chthonic gods called Kabeiri.
Today, many people visit Samothrace for its beautiful nature and numerous archaeological sites. It also has some popular camping sites. Some of the places you should visit are: the Paleopoli (where many ancient temples are located), the island’s waterfalls (including the waterfall «Fonias”, which means “Murderer” in Greek), and the mountain “Feggari”, which means “moon” in Greek.
#6 Halkidiki Peninsula
If you are not from Greece or from a neighboring country, chances are that you have never heard about (C)Halkidiki. Located in the northern Greek region of Macedonia, this peninsula can be easily located on the map; all you have to do is search for “Poseidon’s trident”.
The first two “prongs” of the “trident” are known for their beautiful beaches (which often have a natural shade), well-known restaurants, and bars. Northern Greeks are often quoted saying: «Σαν την Χαλκιδική δεν έχει», which can be translated as “No place like Halkidiki”. You might also remember from another video from Helinika that Aristotle was born there.
The third “prong” of the “trident” is known as “Mount Athos”, and it is an autonomous polity where 20 Greek Orthodox monasteries are located. Some date back to 800 AD. It is important to note that the monasteries cannot be visited by women.
Some places that you should definitely visit are: the Trani Ammouda beach, Possidi beach, and visit some archaeological sites, such as the Sanctuary of Ammon Zeus.
Epirus is a region located in the northwestern part of Greece and it is one of the few places with an alpine climate in the country. It is rugged and mountainous, with a rich vegetation consisting mostly of coniferous species. Epirus has also a big variety of animal species: bears, wolves, foxes, deer, even lynxes.
All these make Epirus a very unique place in Greece. You should definitely visit the Vikos National Park, Pindos National Park, Cave of Perama, and the Dragon Lake (Drakolimne). The central city of Epirus and lake Pamvotida are also two places worth visiting. When you visit the historic city of Ioannina, you can try the traditional frog legs served in the local restaurants.
If you visit during the summer, you should definitely go to the city of Preveza, which is situated in the seaside. You can find some of the most beautiful green-blue waters in this region.
#4 Monemvasia Fortress
Although most people around the world are aware of Greece’s ancient history, fewer know its Medieval past. The Island Fortress of Monemvasia in South Peloponnese is a reminder of Greece’s Byzantine history.
Monemvasia means “one-way”. The fortress was built in 583 AD, during the reign of the emperor Mauricius, on a rocky island which is connected to the mainland with a narrow road. Monemvasia is one of the most romantic Greek destinations and it should be on every architect’s checklist. Visit the Byzantine churches, the old castle, the folklore museums, and the house of Yannis Ritsos, one of the most well-known Greek poets.
#3 Mount Pelion
If you have watched Helinika’s video narrating the Argonautica, then you might remember Pelion; a mountain at the southeastern part of Thessaly that forms a peninsula resembling a hook. Jason, the leader of the Argonauts, spent his childhood and teenage years there, along with his teacher, Centaur Chiron. This mythical mountain was believed to be the home of the wise half-horse, half-man creatures.
Today, Pelion is often described as “paradise on Earth”, combining mountain and sea in one place. If you visit Pelion during the winter, it is worth visiting the northern part of the mountain; the picturesque villages of Milies and Zagora, but also the ski center of Chania.
During the summer, south Pelion is known for its beautiful coastline – the wild and crystal clear beaches facing the Aegean sea and the calm and family friendly beaches facing the gulf of Pagasitikos. Papa Nero and Potistika are some of the most popular summer destinations for people who love deep and wild waters, contrary to the swallow and calm waters of most Greek coastlines. Fun fact: most of the scenes in “Mama Mia 1” were filmed in South Pelion and some neighboring islands.
Pelion is also a popular hiking area for locals. The “kalderimia”, the traditional cobblestone pathways, connect small villages to each other through beautiful natural landscapes – forests, rivers, and waterfalls.
#2 Elafonisos Island
Elafonisos is one of Greece’s hidden gems and, to be honest, revealing it comes with a feeling of guilt. Situated between the Peloponnese and the island of Kythira, the beautiful island has a history that dates back to ancient times.
Its name derives from the Greek word for “deer” (Ελάφι), since it was inhabited by deer in the past.Today, it is a protected biotope of the program Natura 2000, since it is the home of countless rare Mediterranean plants and animals, including red tulips goulimyi, green sea turtles, microbats, and European blind snakes. Some of the paradise-like beaches are Simos, Panagia, and Lefki.
#1 Chrysi Island
Chrysi means “golden” in Greek. Also known as Gaidouronisi, Chrysi island could only be placed on the first position. It is an uninhabited Greek island in the South Cretan Sea, very close to the town of Ierapetra.
The island is known for its Minoan ruins from 1800 BC, its Roman cemetery, its old lighthouse and salt pan, a 13th century chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and its crystal-clear waters. The island has swallow and safe waters and it attracts anyone who loves snorkeling and diving.
The beautiful island is so small but, at the same time, it has such a long history and such beautiful scenery that could be described as the ultimate Greek destination. You can reach it by boat from Ierapetra and other places in Crete, such as Makrigialos, and Myrtos.