The Greek islands tend to steal the spotlight but there’s much to be said when it comes to mainland Greece travel with peaceful coves home to idyllic beaches along the coast, fascinating archaeological sites, and exciting cities with rich ancient history, all far from the crowds of Santorini and Mykonos. The mainland is wonderfully diverse, home to some of the country’s most remarkable places from Athens to Meteora. Apart from certain destinations like the capital city and its world-famous Parthenon, most of this region is not well known. Visitors are often surprised to learn that it not only has lots of mountains but ski resorts too. An incredibly enticing mix of memories to make is waiting. Get ready to discover and fall head over heels with a country you never really knew existed by exploring beyond the islands, experiencing everything from top Greek mainland attractions to off-the-beaten-path mainland destinations.
Exploring Greece Beyond the Islands
Exploring Greece Beyond the Islands
Just about everyone is familiar with Athens, an iconic destination and a must-visit for any Greece itinerary, a natural place to start with most travelers arriving into Athens International Airport. Athens offers an intriguing blend of old and new with classical architecture and contemporary culture. It’s the cradle of Western civilization, with some of the world’s most well-known wonders, including the 5th-century Parthenon and other remarkable monuments on Acropolis hill that can be seen from practically every vantage point in the city.
Follow in the footsteps of ancient Greeks like Plato and Socrates as you stroll through the ancient Agora, and then explore a thriving arts and crafts scene, with pottery workshops, antique markets, and impressive murals. You might head to the Parliament building on Syntagma Square to watch the Changing of the Guards before ending with a sunset and an Acropolis view from one of the many rooftop bars and eateries.
Nestled at the base of Mount Parnassus just over 100 miles north-west of Athens, Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, widely regarded as the most important oracle in ancient Greece. Once revered as the center of the Earth, it was permanently shuttered in the late 4th century AD, but many of its structures are still visible today.
You’ll see the Treasure of Athens, the Theater of Delphi which offers a spectacular view of the landscape below, the Sanctuary of Apollo, and the Sanctuary of Athena, among many other monuments. The Delphi Archaeological Museum is located adjacent to the archaeological site and boasts a vast collection of artifacts that cover over a thousand years from the Mycenaean era that began in 1600 BC to Greco-Roman times. The Charioteer of Delphi is a highlight as one of the world’s most well-preserved classical bronze casts and one of the most well-known ancient Greek statues.
Nafplio is one f the most photogenic towns on the Greek mainland. It’s tucked into a bay along the north-east coast of the Peloponnese peninsula, less than a two-hour drive from Athens. It offers an excellent array of museums and historical sites along with an impressive food and nightlife scene. Beautiful Karathona Beach, a seductive stretch with soft white and clear turquoise water hidden behind the rock of Palamidi is unforgettable.
Visit the Nafplio Archaeological Museum with artifacts tracing the development of Argolis to the Mycenean era. The highlight is the 15th-century BC bronze armor in the Dendra Panoply that was discovered in a chambered tomb with the rare, almost complete set of armor, made from bronze bands. Just wandering through Nafplio to marvel at its buildings constructed in a variety of architectural styles, including Ottoman, Byzantine, and Venetian. Top it off by climbing Palamidi Fortress for a panoramic view of the gulf.
Meteora is one of the most popular Greek mainland attractions and one of the world’s largest Eastern Orthodox monastery complexes. It sits high atop rocky spires about four hours north-west of Athens with its name translating to “suspended in the air.”
The UNESCO-listed clifftop monasteries create a fantastical scene, rising over 1,200 feet and overlooking the villages of Kastraki and Kalambaka in the north-central part of the Greek mainland. The historic Eastern Orthodox monastic complex dates back to the 14th century and was built by monks who were seeking freedom from religious persecution and spiritual isolation. There were once two dozen monasteries here but just six remain active, inhabited by monks and nuns, which are what visitors come to see. Hiking is the way most people explore it with trails weaving up to each of the monasteries from the villages below, but it’s possible to make the ascent by car.
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