Greece is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Visitors flock to the country to experience its world-famous beaches, sunny summers, raucous nightlife, beautiful natural attractions, and ancient historical sites. Home to one of the most famous ancient civilizations, Greece has a cultural history dating back many centuries. The country’s geography makes it a desirable destination with both beautiful mountains inland and a stunning stretch of beaches and beautiful islands along the coast.
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Arachova is a town in the mountains of Viotia in Southern Greece. The village sits in a picturesque location at the base of Mount Parnassos and is a popular winter getaway that is a favorite among skiers. Mount Parnassos also has the biggest downhill ski resort in the country. Arachova is a dreamy mountain ski town with fully modern facilities for tourists. You may even sight a celebrity or two, so keep your eyes open. The town also has a vibrant nightlife, which attracts young Athenians and tourists alike to its bars and clubs. During the summer, a range of hiking trails and mountain tours provide beautiful views of the beautiful scenery near Arachova.
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The city of Athens has long played an influential role in the world. The city has a significant and interesting history, as it is Europe’s historic capital as well as the capital of modern Greece. The city has been occupied by many conquerors throughout the centuries, and many of these erected stunning monuments. Today the city is a bustling, modern metropolis, but charming historical features lie just below the surface. The historic city center has been turned into a large pedestrian zone that provides access to many of the main archeological parks, including the temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, the ancient Theatre of Dionysis, and many other sites. Walking among the sites it is easy to imagine yourself walking through the streets of ancient Greece.
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Chania is one of the most popular destinations in Crete. The old buildings clustered near the Old Venetian Harbour, a string of quality waterfront restaurants and narrow streets lined with shops, make the city a desirable destination for tourists. There are several museums, providing a good introduction to the history and culture of Crete and Chania itself, such as the Naval Museum (also called the Maritime Museum) and the Archeological Museum. Around Chania there are a plethora of interesting sites, such as the Samaria Gorge, the Venizelos Graves, the district of Tabakaria, and a score of interesting small villages perfect for immersing yourself in Cretan culture.
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Delphi, the famous historic sanctuary regarded by ancient Grecians as the center of the world, sits at the base of Mount Parnassos. According to ancient Greek mythology, Zeus sent out two eagles to find the navel of the world and they met at this point. Today, the archeological site contains the remains of two sanctuaries dedicated to Athena and Apollo, respectively, as well as a museum and several other buildings, many of which were intended for sports. Visitors should plan to be at Delphi for at least 4 hours. There is a lot to see and visitors should definitely pace themselves. The site is easily accessed by the modern city of Delphi or Arachova, which is much less touristy.
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Epidaurus was a significant city in ancient Greece. It was famous as a healing center and was believed to be a sanctuary for Apollo, Hygeia, and Asclepius, who were revered as gods of healing in Greek mythology. Today the site offers visitors the chance to explore a wide range of archeological remains and have a look at life in ancient Greece. The area once had hundreds of spas and a number of the remaining structures can be visited today, including a large one in the asclepeion, which was the main sanctuary area. Another of the most significant sites at Epidaurus is a well-preserved theater that was built in the 4th century and could hold around 15,000 spectators.
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Ermioni is a beautiful coastal town often overlooked by guidebooks and bloggers. It has a number of amenities for tourists, including banks, ATMs, hospitals, a tourist office, car rental offices, public transportation, and restaurants. However, it is still an authentic Greek town, and accommodations include the typical small hotels and apartments for rent as well as private traditional Greek homes, all of which provide a warm and authentic Greek experience. The town is the perfect base for visiting surrounding sites such as Kilada, Thermisia, Porto Heli, Kosta, and Kranida. There are caves to explore, rock climbing destinations, beaches, and popular dive sites all easily accessible from Ermioni.
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Gythio is a seaside town situated on the south side of the Peloponnese. The town is the capital of Mani, which is an area known for having a stark, mountainous terrain. Visitors come to the town for sightseeing opportunities in the area as well as easy access to several very enjoyable beaches, the most famous of which is Mavrovouni. However, Selinitsa and Ageranos are both quite nice as well and somewhat less busy. If you hire a car, you can easily reach several interesting sites from Gythio, such as the town of Areopolois, the village of Gerolimenas, and the Caves of Diros.
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Halkidiki is a region in northern Greece known for having three peninsulas jutting out into the Aegean Sea. Each peninsula features Mediterranean forests, sandy beaches, and hidden coves. The most developed of the peninsulas is the westernmost one, Kassandra. Here you will find the largest hotel complexes. However, for a more traditional experience of Halkidiki, try one of the many traditional guesthouses on the seafront. Popular activities include mountain biking, hiking, watersports, open-air theatre, and visiting one of the many art festivals hosted throughout the peninsulas during the summer. Notable archeological sites include the birthplace of philosopher Aristotle as well as Stageira and Olynthus, which tourists visit to see well-preserved examples of mosaic floors.
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Heraklion is Crete’s largest city and the capital of the island. 25th of August Street in the city center has been transformed into a pedestrian area, where visitors can explore the history and culture of this fascinating city, free of traffic and road noise. Visitors can see some of the longest city walls in Europe as well as the city’s massive fortress near the harbor of Koules. Other attractions along the street include St. Titus’ Cathedral, the Loggia, and St. Mark’s Basilica. Lion Square at the opposite end of the walking street from the Old Harbor is the heart of the city’s social life, with locals and tourists alike flocking here to meet friends for both business and social occasions.
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Kalavryta is a historic town in the mountainous east-central section of the Achaea region, sitting picturesquely on the River Vouraikos. The town is the southern terminal of the Diakopto-Kalavryta rack railway, and the rail trip to Kalavryta passes through tunnels, near waterfalls, and along the edges of cliffs. It is one of the most beautiful cog railway trips in the world. The town is also one of the most popular winter destinations in Greece as it is built on side of Mount Helmos. Winter sports enthusiasts flock here in the winter months to ski and ride the slopes. The city has a tragic history, being the site of a terrible massacre in 1943, which is memorialized by a large white cross.
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Located on Crete’s less-touristy eastern side, Lassithi is a beautiful and authentic way to experience Crete away from the masses. The best beach in the area is Vai, but all of the area’s beaches have crystal-clear water and a laidback atmosphere. The Plateau of Lassithi is home to several traditional villages, which follow century-old customs and ways of living. A trip to Lassithi can be virtually anything you want it to be. Whether you desire to experience cosmopolitan cities and towns or to venture far off the beaten track into more remote areas, Lassithi has it all. Driving around the countryside will bring views of deep gorges, old monasteries, and secluded beaches.
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Mesolongi is a small town on a large sea lake in western Greece. The town’s main industry is fishing and trading fish roe. Although the scenery is beautiful and the beaches are stunning, the town doesn’t receive many foreign tourists, although quite a few Greek families visit each year. Historically, the most significant event in Mesolongi was the Exodus, when besieged residents failed in their attempt to exit the town during the Greek Revolution and were slaughtered by the Ottomans. Today, a beautiful park stands in the city center in memory of this event. Visiting Mesolongi gives visitors the opportunity to visit other nearby towns such as Patra, Nafpaktos, Astakos, and many others.
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Meteora is the country’s second largest and most significant complex of monasteries from the Eastern Orthodox faith. This gem of Greece is located near Kastraki and Kalampaka in the northwestern region of Thessaly in Central Greece. The area has a large number of rock pinnacles and 24 monasteries scattered among the rocks. These monasteries have existed in Meteora since the 14th century, and even today several remain active. The monasteries of St. Nicholas Anapafsas, Meteoron, Holy Trinity, Varlaam, St. Steven, and Rousanou are all still in use today. Each day these remaining monasteries see numerous visitors, who come to observe the monks, see the beautiful scenery and architecture, pray and meditate.
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Monemvasia is a castle town on a small island just off of the coast of the Peloponnese that played a significant role during medieval times. The island is connected to the mainland by a 200-meter causeway, and the town itself was carved into the side of a sea rock, so as to be invisible from the mainland, providing protection from attackers. It is also the former site of a fortress. Several medieval features are still visible, including the original town walls and a number of Byzantine churches. Many old mansions are still present but have been turned into accommodations for tourists. The top of the castle offers stunning views of the sea, which are a must-see.
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Mycenae is an archeological site near the town of Mikines and was the birthplace of many famous historical Greek figures. The area was settled around 700 BC and rose over the years to become one of the largest architectural complexes in the entire ancient world up until its decline around 1100 BC. Therefore, the archaeological site features a particularly large number of ancient ruins and a range of artifacts that span several centuries and provide evidence of the great society that once existed at the site. Some of the most noteworthy features are the famous Tomb of Agamemnon, which also goes by the name Treasury of Atreus, the Cyclopean masonry, palace complexes, massive arches, beautiful fountains, and more.
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Mystras is a Byzantine castle and archaeological site near Sparti in Laconia. The site was an important town in the Byzantine time period and was surrounded by castle walls, making it a castle town. The town is famous around the world for its impressive Byzantine churches, which make up some of the most interesting architectural sites in the town. There is an imposing building known as the Palace of Despots, which overlooks the town from atop the castle hill. Below the castle town, a new village has been built, which offers options for accommodations and other amenities for tourists. For those who like the outdoors, the area has a number of trekking paths that lead to interesting and beautiful spots.
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Nafpaktos is one of the country’s oldest towns, with a long history dating back more than 3,500 years. The town is centered around a small but picturesque Venetian port. The port is flanked by a long clean beach that has a laidback atmosphere that is perfect for relaxing. Looming over the town is a large Venetian castle, which offers beautiful views of the Peloponnese and the sea. The Castle of Nafpaktos is fairly well preserved, as are several other remnants of ancient times in the town. There is a variety of annual cultural events as well as a number of amenities for tourists even though Nafpaktos remains a bit off the path of the typical tourist.
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Olympia is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the country. Home to the first ancient Olympic Games, which consisted of members representing each Greek city-state in several athletic competitions. The Ancient Stadium in Olympia provides visitors with the opportunity to imagine what it might have been like to observe or even participate in the original games. Near the stadium, the ancient Greeks constructed a sanctuary to Zeus. Other interesting sites include the palaestra and the workshop of Phedias and the Archaeological Museum. The nearby village offers a range of amenities for tourists as well as plenty of relaxing green spaces to unwind after a day exploring the ancient sites.
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Parga is a popular summer vacation town tucked away in a quiet bay on the Ionian Sea. The town is notable for its postcard-perfect colorful houses and buildings, which are built into the hillside, meaning almost every building has beautiful views of the sea. Especially good views can be found at the ruins of the Venetian castle set on top of the hill. The area is mostly visited by tourists who come for the area’s fabulous beaches. Valtos Beach is the most picturesque in the area, and other popular beaches are Lichnos, Sarakiniko, and Town Beach. The beaches can be reached by boat from the port in Parga. Several delicious restaurants surround the port and a beautiful white church also stands nearby.
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Pelion is a mountainous peninsula known for its traditional Greek villages and beautiful, exotic beaches. The most traditional of the villages include Milies, Portaria, Makrinitsa, and Tsagarada. These villages are perfect for strolling and feature traditional architecture and paved pathways. The peninsula’s eastern side is notable for beautiful beaches with picturesque blue water. The most popular summer destinations are Platanias, Agios Ioannis, Horefto, and Milina. During the winter months, the area attracts winter sports enthusiasts, who come in particular for the ski center in Chania village. Among the many tourist attractions in the area are a number of beautiful churches, such as the Church of Taxiarches in the town of Milies.
21. Porto Heli
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Porto Heli is a small town on the eastern side of the Peloponnese. The seaside town is built around a large port that frequently hosts yachts and fishing boats in the summer time. The town is popular as a vacation destination among the well-to-do and a large number of Athenians have holiday homes here. The area is a popular destination for family travelers as it is a safe and relaxed destination. There are a few formal beaches in Porto Heli as well as a large number of small, isolated coves which offer an enjoyable and secluded way to enjoy the seafront.
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Rethymno is a region on Crete’s western side that is somewhat off the beaten path but still has much to offer tourists. The northern side of the region has some fairly popular beaches, such as Adelianos, Bali, Kampos, Platanias, and Panormos, which are the most cosmopolitan areas. However, most of the rest of the area is quiet, laidback, and relaxed. Family travelers will find the areas of Agia Galinia and Plakias to be best suited for a secluded family getaway. Rethymnon Town has stunning examples of medieval architecture and a delightful Venetian port. Some of the most popular sites in the area are the Odeon Cave, where Zeus was said to have been brought up, and the monasteries of Preveli and Arkadi as well as many beautiful gorges and other natural features in the inland.
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Sparti is a small town that stands on the site of the famous ancient city-state of Sparta on the southeastern side of the Peloponnese. Sparta was famous for its strong and sometimes violent military. The modern town of Sparti is located just adjacent to the ancient town and was the first Greek town to be built as a planned city, meaning it has a well-planned city center and other architectural spaces. There is very little in the way of amenities for tourists visiting Sparti, as most stop on their way to other places in the area, such as Elafonissos, Gythio and Monemvasia.
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Thessaloniki is the country’s second largest city. It has a central location and a large, busy airport, which means that Thessaloniki is the transportation hub for the northern part of Greece. The city has a rich history, including many interesting sites from Byzantine and Roman times, and visitors come here for interesting historical sites, quality shopping, and nightlife. The town’s Beach Promenade is a popular gathering place, as is Aristotle Square in the city center. Visitors and locals frequent both sites all day long and many interesting attractions, shops, and restaurants can be reached on foot from either.
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Zagoria is a complex of 46 mountain villages in northwestern Greece, in an area is known for its striking natural beauty. Many foreign visitors forego visiting Zagoria in favor of the beaches and other more popular destinations. However, the area has some of the most beautiful natural features in the country. Adventure travelers will love the abundant opportunities for hiking, climbing, and trekking. Other activities include horseback riding, rafting, and other outdoor sports. In winter time, there are several popular ski areas, which attract quite a few locals and some tourists. One of the most popular destinations is Vikos Gorge, which is second only to the Grand Canyon as the deepest gorge in the world.
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