Mainland Greece is a collection of ancient treasures and pleasant surprises, just waiting to be uncovered. The sad thing is that people often bypass the mainland and go straight to the Greek islands. While an island itinerary is a great way to enjoy a Greek holiday in summer, the islands are only half of a whole. If you are to see the real authentic Greece, your trip should encompass just a little of the mainland! Before you choose which island is best for you, have a look at the mainland destinations in Greece that deserve your attention.
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This waterfront city in the North is one of the top places to see on the mainland in Greece. To wander the streets of Thessalonki is to take a step back in time. Amongst modern houses are the remains of Byzantium, preserved and cherished all throughout the heart of the city.
You can relive the past and visit some of the most important churches or merely admire them as you wander the streets. For anyone that visits you will quickly realise the waterfront is the place to be to grab a coffee and take in the view. But remember some of the most amazing traditional tavernas lie hidden in quiet alleys!
Thessaloniki is student city, which gives it a vibrant energy so there are plenty of quirky bars to sit at and enjoy a cocktail. If you’d prefer a more leisurely Greek holiday take a walk along the waterfront and catch one of the cities famous fiery orange sunsets.
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When you see pictures of Halkidiki you could be forgiven for thinking they were taken on one of the Greek islands many beautiful beaches. But you would be wrong. These golden shores and rich turquoise waters belong to mainland Greece.
The wonderful thing about the region of Halkidiki is that it is only an hours drive from Thessaloniki. The peninsula consists of three ‘legs’ Kassandra, Sithonia, and Athos. Together they resemble the trident of Greek god Poseidon in mythology. There is no shortage of places to go in Halkidiki, like the quaint village of Afytos or Diaporos island just off the peninsula.
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Epirus is one of the better kept secrets of mainland Greece. This region is renowned for its dense forests, mountainous terrain, fairy tale villages, crystal-clear lakes and rivers and low-key seaside resorts. Perhaps one of the reasons why this area is largely untouched by tourism is its rugged landscape, which leaves it comparatively inaccessible.
A major attraction of Epirus is that this is where you will find the sparsely populated villages that make up the community of Zagori better known as Zagorochoria.
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In the region of Epirus you will find one of the most exquisite National Parks on mainland Greece, Vikos-Aoos National Park. You may have heard of this special place before as it is home to the world’s deepest gorge. The park is every nature lovers dream as there are copious walking tracks to explore, many with exquisite views of the deep chasm and beyond. Soak in the vibrant beauty of the quiet moments in this untouched destination that enhances the illusion that you are alone in the world.
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Of course, we cannot miss one of the most important cities on mainland Greece, the capital! Everyone should visit Athens at least once as the city is the perfect introduction to Greece. The many museums in the city are there to enrich you with a wealth of knowledge. They help you piece together Greece’s long and complex past.
In Athens, there is an endless list of things to do. You might begin by climbing the slopes of the Acropolis, visiting the Ancient Agora or some of the other important archaeological sites that are scattered around, many within walking distance. Stop for a bite to eat, grab a coffee or sweet dessert, something the city does so well. The blend of good food, ancient history and eclectic modernism is a wonderful way to delve into Greece before seeing the islands.
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You have probably never heard of this destination in mainland Greece. Quietly unassuming, this lush green town in Central Greece is for those looking for unexpected wonders. Only a few hours drive from Athens, Livadeia is the perfect stop on a road trip north to Delphi and the famous Sanctuary of Apollo.
Because the river Herkyna runs directly through the town you are immediately immersed in nature. Make sure you wander the cobbled paths under the shade of the plane trees and admire the waterfalls and watermills. You also can’t visit Livadeia without trying the famous souvlaki!
This small quaint seaside settlement has a surprisingly deceptive history. The town of Galaxidi was once a leading maritime power and it played an instrumental part in the Greek War of Independence in the 1800s. Throughout its history, the settlement has also experienced horrific losses.
Despite this, the magic of Galaxidi lives on, perhaps made more special by everything it has endured. This is one of the most underrated spots in mainland Greece, so make sure you take time to see the neoclassical houses along the waterfront, explore the harbour and be refreshed by a cool sea breeze.
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While you may not be able to point out Kalamata on the map, the name might be familiar. This is because this city is renowned for its olives. Kalamata olives! But this isn’t the only reason you should take the time to explore Kalamata. Just a 3-hour drive from Athens the seaside town is very accessible if you are interested in exploring more of mainland Greece.
Rather than simply passing through on route to the Peloponnese, make it a priority to explore. Kalamata is nestled in the foothills of Mount Taygetos and is enveloped by the Gulf of Messinia in southern Greece. You get both the mountains, the sea and beautiful beaches along with authentic shops and cafes.
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As well as Kalamata, the Peloponnese offers some extraordinary seaside routes to some magical places. One of them is the Mani peninsula. This harsh land stands out due to its unique architecture and breathtaking combination of sea and rock, making it the perfect place to explore if you are taking a road trip of mainland Greece.
Mani is famous for the stone towers that cover the area. Each is a representation of its historic past. Many castle-like houses date back to the 15th century, the times of the Byzantine Empire. You can stay in one for yourself and experience this history come to life!
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Another castle city of mainland Greece is Nafplion. With a rich history and a beautifully preserved historical centre, Nafplion is perfect for walking and exploring on foot. What you might not know is that Nafplion was the first capital of the newly established Greek state, between 1823 and 1834.
Nafplios, was the son of the Greek god Poseidon in mythology and is who the city is named after. Translating to “seafarer” or “navigator”, it is a name that leaves no doubt as to the connection of the people to the sea and marine occupation. In Nafplion you will be enchanted by its picturesque cafes and shops, the friendly and relaxing atmosphere and historical richness.
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