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Greece: Must-See Places

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While you probably have some Greek top hits on your must-visit list, we wanted to show you a different side of the cradle of Western civilization. From hopping around the lesser-known islands to hitting some hidden gems on the mainland, here’s what you should see, do, and eat in this fabulous country.

Antiparos, Greece. Photo by Dimitris Kiriakakis from Unsplash.

1. Island Hopping

Skip the more popular (and crowded) Mykonos and Santorini and instead visit some of the lesser-known islands like Andros and Amorgos . Start your visit to Andros, the mountainous, northernmost island of the Cyclades island group, in Chora, Andros , a lovely little town and the capital of the island. Here you can visit the Goulandris Museum of Modern Art before popping over to Batsi, a picturesque seaside village on the other side of the island (about an hour’s drive away). On Amorgos, visit Tholaria for all the photo-worthy spots before heading to the turquoise waters and caves of Mouros Beach (perfect for swimming and snorkeling). If you work up an appetite, head to Apospero Restaurant for fresh, organic seafood and meat dishes that feature ingredients from the local market. Still craving more island exploration? Don’t miss the wild natural landscape of Folegandros and the culturally-rich island of Icaria .

Peloponnese, Greece. Photo by George Girnas from Unsplash.

2. Exploring the Mainland

While the Greek islands are amazing—and extensive—the mainland is also not to be missed. To start off your mainland exploration, hop over to Thessaloniki , a Greek port city on the Aegean Sea that’s rich in Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman history. From there, take a three-hour drive to Meteora , a rock formation hosting a complex of six Eastern Orthodox monasteries built on immense natural pillars and boulders; a truly impressive sight. Another two-hour drive to the west will bring you to Ioannina , the capital of Zagori , an off-the-radar region that's home to 46 villages and filled with ancient tradition and natural beauty (don’t miss the Vikos Gorge ). Want to continue your road trip through the mainland? Then from Ioannina make your destination Peloponnese Region , a Byzantine military-civilian province, and enjoy the unrivaled scenery along the way.

Crete, Greece. Photo by JR Harris from Unsplash.

3. Crete

According to locals, the best, typical Greek food you can find is in Northern Greece and Crete. The largest and most populous of the Greek islands, Crete has it all: beautiful beaches, breathtaking natural landscapes, and incredible historical sites. Start your exploration of the island off in Chania , one of the island’s biggest cities known for its 14th-century Venetian harbor. Don’t miss the nearby Seitan Limania for a relaxing beach day on the Aegean Sea. From Chania, head east to Knossos (stopping in the old, historic town of Rethimno on the way) where you’ll be able to explore the Knossos Palace , a historical and archaeological gem often referred to as Europe’s oldest city. Keep heading east to arrive at the fishing village of Sissi before continuing on to Mirambello Bay where you can take in the beautiful scenery and stop in at To Pareaki for lunch. From this bay you can also visit the beautiful and historically rich Spinalonga (Pro tip: Small boats leave Elounda every 30 minutes). If you have time to visit the other side of the island, don’t miss the cut-off, tiny fishing village of Loutro and the breathtaking Samaria's Gorge National Park (Canyon) .

Athens, Greece. Photo by Constantinos Kollias from Unsplash.

4. Athens

There’s a reason Athens is such a top tourist attraction; the Greek capital was at the heart of the powerful Ancient Greek empire. Start out your visit to the Acropolis of Athens , an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above Athens that contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historical significance, including the Parthenon. While here, don’t miss the Acropolis Museum to learn more about the findings of the archaeological site, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. If you’re in Athens between May and October, make sure you see a show at the ancient theater of Epidaurus during the Epidaurus Festival. When it comes to exploring the neighborhoods of Athens, don’t miss Plaka for sightseeing and shopping (stop into 2 Mazi Restaurant for classical Greek cuisine) and Psyri for the best nightlife (check out Crust for late-night pizza).

Faistos, Greece. Photo by Milada Vigerova from Unsplash.

5. Wine Route of Dionysus

While there are tons of wine tasting options throughout Greece, we suggest the Wine Route of Dionysus which will take you through Eastern Macedonia and Thrace in the northeastern part of the country. Start off your experience in the Serres region, where you can check out Melidou Estate Vineyard —known for its Red Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon—while also stopping to explore Kerkini Lake National Park and Alistrati Cave . Continue your trip by traveling south to the Kavala region, where you can visit Ktima Biblia Chora Winery and their Greek varieties such as Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko, and Vidiano, before heading to the city of Kavala and exploring the old town. Next, head northeast through the Drama region, where you can stop into OENOPS WINES before continuing east into the Xanthi region, where most of the wine-making activity is located in Abdera. If you want—and have the time—to continue on the Wine Route of Dionysus, you’ll then head to the region of Rodopi and conclude in Evros.

Mount Olympus. Photo by Aliks_Ray, licensed under CC1.0.

6. Mount Olympus

Last but not least, why not work a hike into your trip—and what hike could be more iconic (and Greek) than one of Mount Olympus ? The highest mountain in Greece rings in at 2,917 meters or 9,570 feet, and typically takes two days to climb. You’ll want to start your journey in the town of Litochoro , from which you can access the Prionia trailhead . From the trailhead to the Spilios Agapitos Refuge, you’ll meet other hikers from around the world, as this is the busiest trail on the mountain. While not a very technical mountain to hike, the final section of the climb from Skala to Mytikas Peak can be tricky. If you prefer an easier route, you can set your sights on reaching Skolio Peak instead.