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Top 10 Alternative Destinations
in Greece

Best alternative destinations in Greece

14 January 2020

If you have already visited Greece more than once, chances are that you have been in most of the top Greek destinations like Santorini, Meteora and Delphi. On the other hand, if you wish to travel off-the-beaten-path and far away from the crowds, Greece has many alternative destinations that can satisfy your interests and wishes for a wonderful and mindful vacation! So, if you are looking for an immersive travel experience, away from the crowds and into indigenous cultural communities, here are our picks for the top 10 alternative destinations to visit in Greece.

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The seaside village of Oitylo in Mani - Credit: Greek TravelTellers

1. Mani

The Peloponnese region has so many beautiful destinations to offer! However, most of the travelers and tourists visit its northern part, where Nafplion, Ancient Olympia, Corinth and Mycenae are. A few hours to the south, one can find the majestic Mani Peninsula, the people of which claim to be the direct descendants of the great Ancient Spartans. Mani offers a unique landscape, with many castle-towns on top of hills and always with spectacular views of the sea. You can take a road-trip to explore the castle-towns, get to know the local communities and their products, try the local cuisine (one of the best cuisines in Greece) and delve deeper into the culture of one of the most untouched places in the country. Get to know the people still living there and listen to exciting stories of cursors, pirates and lost treasures. Visit Areopolis and stroll in its stone alleys or head to Diros Caves where nature is sculpted with unparalleled art and patience. Vlychada's cave is considered one of the world's top with its age estimated at 2 to 3 million years! Impressive stalactites and stalagmites and sparkling crystals adorn every corner of it, which you can explore by boat. Mani is a wonderful destination in Greece, not to be missed!

Best season to visit: Spring, Summer, Autumn
Best for: Any type of traveler, hiking, road trip, photography enthusiasts

Castle-town of Vathia in Mani

2. Kythera

If you are looking for a peaceful island, with beautiful beaches, nice landscapes, easy-going people and amazing cuisine, then Kythera is your answer! The lonely Ionian island is located at the bottom of Peloponnese, in a very near distance from the mainland. Life there is simple and the economy is based mainly on local products and agriculture. This little paradise offers the perfect summer day: morning coffee by the sea, relaxation at a beautiful beach with crystal clear waters, a home-cooked meal in a local tavern for lunch, an afternoon nap in a serene environment, more swimming and evening walks under the Castle of Kythera Town enjoying inspired cocktails. Can anyone ask for more?

Best season to visit: Summer
Best for: Any type of traveler, curious travelers, family travel

Avlemonas village in Kythera

3. Ioannina

Ioannina is the city of legends: the capital of the Epirus region develops around the magnificent Lake Pamvotida. The lake, with its crystal clear waters and small islet in the middle, is a natural monument that defines the character and culture of the city. Ioannina has always been multicultural, with many communities working and living together. Its imposing castle is the oldest Byzantine fortress in Greece and the former home to the mysterious figure of Ali Pasha, the once Ottoman ruler of Ioannina. His famous love for Kyra-Frosini still reverberates in the traditional alleys and life of the town. The famous expression in Greek “live like a Pasha in Ioannina” means that one is enjoying the very best life has to offer. So, if you wish to live like a Pasha, you definitely have to visit this aristocratic city of Epirus and try its famous desserts, like baklava! Ioannina is also famous for its jewelry art, with its countless jewelry shops offering elegant designs of jewels made of silver or gold.

Best season to visit: All
Best for: Any type of traveler, curious travelers, solo travelers

Hint! Ioannina is a breath away from Dodoni's ancient site and theater, home to the second most important Oracle, after Delphi. If you are a theater lover, check out the curated trip "Theater Treasures of Greece: An Inspiring Journey Through Time".

Lake Pamvotida in Ioannina

4. Metsovo

Located just an hour away from Ioannina, Metsovo is a traditional village on the mount of Pindus. Offering many natural surrounding beauties, this alternative destination in Greece can be combined excellently with your trip to Ioannina. Half-hidden in the fog or under a blanket of snow during winter, Metsovo practically looks like a painting with its cobblestone streets, traditional fountains and stone houses. But its true value comes from its authentic character which still remains unchanged and does not adapt to the touristic ‘must’. A typical example is the clothing choices of some of its older residents, who wear their traditional costumes and speak the local dialect of Vlach! You should definitely try the famous “Cheese of Metsovo” and explore many other local foods. The village offers a lot of culture too, having a Folk Art Museum and the Averoff Museum of Neohellenic Art. Although it is mostly regarded as a winter destination by Greeks, Metsovo is a wonderful destination for the other seasons as well.

Best season to visit: Winter
Best for: Romantic travel, winter retreats, hiking

Metsovo in winter

5. Ithaca

The mythical homeland of Odysseus (Ulysses) and his faithful wife’s, Penelope; Ithaca is one of the most balanced islands you can find in the Greek seas, thriving in harmony. Although just 2km northeast from the cosmopolitan island of Kefalonia, Ithaca is a peaceful, easy-going land, making it an ideal off-the-beaten-bath destination in Greece. The island offers a unique combination of both mountains and long coastline, with the colors of blue and green dancing together eternally. You can just relax at a quiet beach, enjoy the authentic hospitality of the locals, or head to the mountains and explore the hiking or bike trails. You can also visit the Archaeological Collection of Stavros in Pilikata, where there are findings that, according to the researchers, touch on the mythical reality of Odysseus! The mythical Greek hero spent 20 years of epic adventures until he finally found his way back home. Hope it doesn’t take you that long to travel to Ithaca. And as you set sails for the mythical island, let the verse of Cavafy’s homonymous poem echo in your head: “Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you’re destined for.”

Best season to visit: Summer
Best for: Any type of traveler, summer vacations, family travel

The tiny village of Frikes in Ithaca

6. Samothrace

The ultimate alternative destination in Greece, even for the Greeks(!), is Samothrace, the island of Aeolus. Located near Troy, legend has it that god Poseidon sat on the top of Mount Saos, Samothrace’s’ mountain and the highest mountain in the Aegean, to watch the Trojan War. The island is most famous for its waterfall and the stone basins, the so-called “vathres”, that are formed at the base of each waterfall. Surrounded by rich forests, these waters are ideal for swimming and many people are camping around them and live a few days or weeks of total relaxation. Samothrace is also famous for its archaeological treasures and rich history. The first indications of occupation on the island date back to the Neolithic Era! In antiquity, it was one of the most sacred lands of Greece and home to the Kavirian Mysteries - sacred religious rites, compared to the Eleusinian Mysteries. The island's imposing massif and rich, untouched nature offer a great opportunity for exploration and adventure: crossing the gorges, mountain biking, parachuting and hiking are just some of the alternative things to do in this off-the-beaten-path destination in Greece.

Best season to visit: Summer
Best for: Alternative travel, hiking, adventure seekers, backpackers

One of the ‘Vathres’ in Samothrace

7. Xanthi

Xanthi, the noble lady of Thrace, is a city in northern Greece, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. The city is most famous for its beautiful Old Town, a real treasure of architecture, which the city’s authorities and the people managed to preserve as it was at the time of its establishment. Wander around its cobblestone streets and the successful blend of traditional houses with sandstone and old red-brick mansions. Discover the Municipal Market, designated as a preserved monument, the impressive tobacco complex and the Saturday multi-cultural market. Twice a year, Xanthi becomes the center of attention in northern Greece! In February, the famous Greek carnival of Xanthi takes place here, with the whole town dressing up and filling the streets with elaborate costumes, while singing and dancing. In August, the famous Old Town Festivities take place, offering a variety of events which include concerts by popular artists and local music bands, traditional and contemporary dance and theater performances, folklore nights, painting exhibitions about customs and traditions of the Thrace region, which highlight the importance of the Old Town in local life.

Best season to visit: Autumn, Winter, Spring
Best for: Any type of traveler, curious travelers, city-breaks

The Old Town of Xanthi

8. Chios

Chios is one of the largest islands of the Aegean Sea, known as the land that produces the ‘magical’ mastic! A famous natural product around the world, mastic grows only in Chios, where it has been raised since antiquity. Today it is used in medicine, dentistry and cosmetics. Visit the central market of Chios and buy delicious mastic-based sweets, brandies and jams! This ‘flavored’ island of Greece offers a rich history as well. The land that claims the title of Homer’s birthplace, is also home to many eminent Greek writers and politicians. Explore the day-to-day lives of the locals in the medieval settlements or the little towns by the sea. The island offers a good variety of beaches, satisfying almost any interest. It is a famous Easter destination for Greeks for its religious festivities. On the night of the Holy Saturday, a rocket war breaks out between two churches, turning the village of Vrontados into a virtual battlefield! The preparations for this bloodless conflict lasts for months and the dark of the Saturday night sky fuses with the red of the cross-fire, with thousands of locals and visitors marveling this unique-in-the-world spectacle! The next morning finds the villagers in peace once again, until the next Easter… Chios is a place that truly deserves to be visited, even if it is for a few days only.

Best season to visit: Summer, Easter
Best for: Any type of traveler, summer vacations, family travel

Mesta medieval mastic village of Chios

9. Andros

A Cycladic island could not be absent from this list. Although a neighbor of the cosmopolitan Mykonos and Santorini, Andros is definitely a more alternative, off-the-beaten-path destination to visit in Greece. In contrast to the barren lands of the other Cycladic islands, Andros offers a rich and beautiful nature, thanks to the abundant water that flows from its springs, rivers and streams. Mountains, hills and small valleys, verdant ravines, stone-built arched bridges, caves, romantic and windless creeks, stone monasteries with rare and miraculous images... Andros has a lot to offer! The architecture of the main town’s houses blends a medieval, neoclassical and island style. Besides the endless swimming and walks, one can spend a lot of time in culture, by visiting the world acclaimed Museum of Modern Art, the Archaeological Museum and the Cyclades Olive Museum.

Best season to visit: Summer
Best for: Any type of traveler, summer vacations, family travel

‘Tis Grias to Pidima’ beach in Andros

10. Athens

Yes, you read that correctly. Athens, although one of the most famous and top destinations, it is also included in our top alternative destinations in Greece. The reason? Simply because most travelers see Athens as a quick, midway stop before they get their next flight or ferry to the Greek islands. During those few hours in the city, almost all travelers try to make their way to the Acropolis and the Parthenon, to take a picture of themselves standing next to the famous sight. But Athens has so much more to offer! History, culture, heritage, art, philosophy… there are simply so many things to do in Athens. Join a themed walking tour with a local guide that will tell you all the interesting stories from the myth and history, or join local experiences to get a taste of the local culture. Give Athens time and it will reward you!

Best season to visit: All
Best for: Any type of traveler, city break, solo travelers

Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens

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