There are some images that instantly make you think of Greece. The blue domes of Santorini are definitely at the top of that list!
And then there are some images that you would have no idea were actually taken in Greece! Think flamingos, brown bears, mountains covered in snow and desert landscapes. No, I’m not kidding! These are the unknown destinations of Greece that you can discover now.
We love Mykonos and Santorini just as much as the next person but there are some years where you might want to take a break from such popular destinations. There are many reasons why travellers are moving to less-visited places.
Firstly, the concept of over-tourism has been widely explored around the world in the last few years. And we have seen how small places becoming tourist favourites have put the economy and infrastructure of the location under stress.
Secondly, as people, we are always on the hunt for the destinations that offer the most value for our money, our time and our learning. Yes, I put learning in there as well because most people do want their holidays to have an educational aspect. At the very least, being able to talk to the locals of an area and learn a little bit about their way of living is important.
And thirdly, in light of a global pandemic, these quiet and unpopulated places make social distancing easy! As well as offering a wonderful way to support the locals.
With that in mind, here are some destinations in Greece that you can explore in 2021.
Unknown Greece – Island Destinations
☞ Related: Your Master Guide to All Greek Islands and How to Pick One
There is one reason you may heard of Ikaria already and that is because it is included in the coveted list of Blue Zones around the world, compiled by New York Times Best Seller Author, Dan Buettner. These are areas where people lead longer, healthier lives and have a much higher than normal percentage of healthy residents over 90.
The island is well known among Greeks who visit for the famous “panigiria” or feast days. Starting in May and until September, with most festivals taking place in the month of August, village squares come alive with hundreds of people who sing, dance, eat and drink until the early hours of the morning. The festivals are popular with young and old, locals and visitors and manage to combine Greek folk music, with jazz, blues and tango rhythms.
To visit Ikaria is to indulge in the small everyday joys of life. Good food, great wine, sunshine, siestas and human connection.
Astypalaia is the odd sibling in the Dodecanese complex of islands. While it is grouped with Rhodes, Kalymnos, Karpathos and the rest, it shares more in common with the neighbouring Cyclades islands, namely the architectural blue and white houses. One could say it has the best of both worlds!
In the offseason, you will find at least one weekly flight to the small airport of Astypalaia. Between June and September, daily flights operate from a variety of destinations in Greece, including Athens, Rhodes and Thessaloniki as well as international destinations like Istanbul and London.
Taking the ferry from Piraeus is also possible with daily departures during the summer season. The trip, however, does take upwards of 8 hours so grab a good book and your camera and prepare to experience the sounds and smells of the Aegean.
Reserve a cabin for a comfortable and relaxing journey and prepare to fall in love with the island of Astypalaia!
The island of Skiathos is part of the Sporades complex in the Northern part of the Aegean very close to mainland Greece and other stunning destinations in the Pagasetic Gulf. Skiathos technically only has one main town, which the locals refer to simply as “the village”.
A quick look at the main feature of Skiathos will bring up “green paradise”, “lush greenery” and “emerald green waters”. Can it really be so?
Yes! The effortless charm of Skiathos seduces visitors every year who enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the nature around them as well as the vibrant nightlife. Skiathos attracts tourists without even trying. The popularity of the Mamma Mia movies, set in the neighbouring Skopelos, has done a lot to attract people already while the postcard-worthy beaches like world-famous Lalaria and Koukounaries are reason enough for most.
You may have not heard of Skiathos but don’t make the mistake of booking late for your holiday.
Amorgos is a gem of the Cyclades that most people would prefer remains undiscovered and unspoiled. The vibe is less resort and nightclubs and more small boutique apartments and cute cafes where people gather around to discuss.
For beach lovers, Amorgos delivers on the name given to it in the movie by Luk Besson, “The Big Blue”. It also delivers on its promise for a quiet, peaceful and secluded holiday destination. The rock formations on the island protect its charming beaches from being overrun by people, so you are always guaranteed to find a private spot for yourself.
If you are a fan of walking, you will fit right in with the rest of the people on the island and surely wish to return again and again to experience the nostalgic beauty that Amorgos offers.
How can a country be blessed with so many islands, yet every one of them offers something unique? That is undoubtedly what you will think if you make Chios your destination of choice for 2021. Another of the largest Greek islands in the Northern Aegean, Chios has received a lot of attention over the product of mastic or mastiha.
The precious resin comes from the Pistacia lentiscus tree. Nothing strange there. Yet, while this tree can grow in many regions around Greece and the Mediterranean, it will only shed its tears aka “the resin” on the southern region of Chios. Spend a few days exploring the famous “Mastic Villages” to learn about its cultivation and production and don’t forget to pop into the museum as well.
The flat area known as Kampos used to house the mansions of the richest families of the island, some of which are still open to visitors. Behind the thick walls of the mansions, you will find one of the most precious exports of the island for years, citrus trees.
Chios is also an exceptional hiking destination and a great place to experience the festivities of a Greek Orthodox Easter.
To find Lemnos island, trace the Aegean all the way north and you will come across the 8th largest island of Greece.
This is a big island, where you should aim to spend at least a week and consider renting a vehicle in order to discover all its hidden beauties. What can you find?
Sand dunes that make you feel as though you are in the Sahara, beaches perfect for water sport enthusiasts, the charming chapel of dedicated to the Virgin Mary that has no roof, and a rich history whether you are thinking about mythology or its role during World War II.
You can’t leave Lemnos without tasting some of its world-renowned cheese, including Kalathaki Limnou (a white cheese that can be similar to feta) and Melichloro ( a hard dried cheese made from sheep and goat milk) that makes the perfect saganaki!
Lemnos could be your perfect destination for Greece in 2021!
Koufonisia is a complex of four islands located between Naxos and Amorgos that are host to some of the most stunning, emerald water beaches in the Aegean. The golden stretches of sand and clear blue of the sea could easily make you believe you were in the tropics.
The first thing to know about the islands is that they are tiny. The second thing to know is that out of the four, three are uninhabited. The main hub of the island and essentially the only village is located in Ano Koufonisi. Here you will find a slice of everyday life as it has existed before the onset of tourism. You can sample some of the freshest seafood in family-run tavernas and there is no need for a car because your feet or the bus can get you pretty much anywhere.
Most visitors arrive on Koufonisia on a day trip from Naxos and wish they had known about it earlier in order to spend at least a few days relaxing in the tranquil beach settings Koufonisia offers. Don’t make the same mistake.
Another destination for your Greek holiday in 2021 is the mythical and mysterious island of Kythira.
The mythical part is due to the goddess Aphrodite who is said to have been born and if you are looking for mystery how do pirate stories sound to you?
With more than 50 beaches, medieval castles, friendly locals and unique dishes, Kythira is a destination that you should aim to discover for yourself in 2021.
Unknown Greece – Mainland Destinations
Have you heard about the co-capital of Greece?
This harbour city located on the Thermaic Gulf is one of the most important cultural and historical centres of Greece. With more than fifteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like the Rotunda and the Church of Agios Dimitrios, three dozen museums and a vibrant coffee scene, Thessaloniki is the perfect spot for travellers that would like to delve deep into the layers of Greek history.
Don’t think it’s all about the museums and ancient sites though.
Thessaloniki knowns how to put on a party and you will be spoilt for choice whether you are looking for a bar by the waterfront or a traditional taverna where you can practice your Greek dancing.
Meteora is a complex of monasteries in northern mainland Greece, that seem to have mushroomed on the most rugged parts of massive rock formations. Impressive be it summer or winter, this a sight that will stay with you for a while.
To visit Meteora allow a few days to stay around the area and visit at least one of the six monasteries. Some of the most impressive are the Grand Meteoron, Varlaam and Rousanou.
A tour guide is indispensable and will offer essential insight into the historical, cultural and religious importance of the area both now and in previous years.
Meteora is also one of the eighteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece. Why not get started with this one?
You know what else is very close to Thessaloniki? The three-legged peninsula of Halkidiki. History enthusiasts may remember that this is the birthplace of ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle but most locals will tell you that Halkidiki is the ultimate summer vacation spot.
From five-star resorts right on the beach to small bed and breakfast options in traditional villages like Afitos, Halkidiki will charm visitors with its magnificent beaches and array of options.
This cosmopolitan spot is known for its golden sand beaches and beautiful nature. Say hi to all the locals when you get there!
Vergina may not be the main destination of your holiday. But it sure can be combined with any other spot in northern mainland Greece.
Vergina was once the heart of the Ancient Macedonian Kingdom. While you are probably more familiar with Alexander the Great, it is his father who is still buried here
Alexander the Great, Thessaloniki
Are you after a completely overlooked region of Greece that combines mountains, lakes, small seaside resorts and some of the most stunning landscapes in Greece? Then the Epirus region in northern Greece is a destination that will be ideal for you in 2021.
Epirus is also home to Vikos gorge, the deepest in the world. I am guessing you didn’t expect to be telling that to your friends when you return from holiday?
Don’t miss exploring the villages of Zagori, or Zagorohoria, and pop by the rockpools in Papingo, that were formed by nature and have freezing waters that are best suited to warm summer days.
This rugged peninsula in the southern part of the Peloponnese is commonly divided into the Outer and Deep Mani.
The culture and spirit of Mani are often compared to that of another proud and untamed region of Greece, Crete. Deep sorrows and joyful occasions are equally celebrated in Mani. One of the most common characterizations you will hear about its people, is tough.
You won’t have to look very far to discover the source of this toughness of spirit. The geographical location of Mani, especially Deep Mani, is all rock and water.
So, that is what visitors find in Mani. Rock, water, castles and great people.
The south eastern coast of the Peloponnese is home to the little island of Monemvasia, separated from the mainland centuries ago due to an earthquake and reconnected recently by a narrow bridge.
The town of Monemvasia is equal amounts magical and isolated, making it an ideal destination for romantic getaways. But it is not only couples that will be enchanted by the charming atmosphere of Monemvasia. Literature enthusiasts can explore the city that inspired the poetry of Giannis Ritsos and get lost in cobblestone streets where cars are not welcome or able to fit for that matter. Well preserved and still inhabited, the castle town of Monemvasia offers a glimpse into an era long gone but with all the amenities of the modern era.
Aimlesss wondering is the best way to explore the secrets of Monemvasia, so pack your walking shoes and your camera because you will need them both.
Τhis charming town in the northern part of mainland Greece is one of the most scenic spots in the country and a perfect all year destination. The lake front is the perfect spot for evening walks in the spring, summer and autumn but come winter the scenery transforms itself with a blanket of ice and snow that offers visitors another side of Greece that few get to explore.
The name of the city comes from its one thriving beaver population, which unfortunately went extinct in the 19th century, probably due to the internationally well-known fur industry. Kastoria is still the main hub for fur and mink garments.
Kastoria is also an important cultural and religious center and its Byzantine heritage can be compared to that of another important treasury of Byzantine history, Thessaloniki. You are guaranteed to come across at least some of the more than 70 churches in the area, so don’t miss visiting a few.
Another castle city of Greece with a rich history and a beautifully preserved historical center that is perfect for walking and explorations is Nafplion.
This is a city that was always meant for greatness. Its strategic location made it a desirable and advantageous space for conquerors to occupy, and there were many. Its importance was recognized in many ways, it was protected from pirate raids with high castle walls and safeguarded as a valuable trade route. Nafplio also served as the first capital of the newly established Greek state, between 1823 and 1834.
The city is named after Nafplios, the son of Poseidon in mythology and supposedly also the original founder. 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.
Prepare to be enchanted by its picturesque cafes and shops, the friendly and relaxing atmosphere and historical richness that doesn’t require you to search very far to witness.
A local favourite, Arahova is where any self-respecting Greek will find themselves in the winter.
Only a few hours from the capital, Arahova offers the perfect weekend escape for skiers and snowboarders or relaxing family holidays by the mountains.
On the slopes of Mount Parnassus, Arahova offers tradition and glamour at the same time. The quirky shops, Greek tavernas, and traditional stone and wood guesthouses will enchant winter visitors the way few other places can.
The panoramic view will let your eyes rest on the sprawling olive groves, the imposing mountain peaks or the slice of blue in the distance that is the Gulf of Corinth. With countless day trip options in the area, like Delphi, Itea, or Galaxidi, a weekend or week away in Arahova is the perfect choice.
Looking for another excellent destination for Greece 2021 that expertly combines mountain and sea? You have just found it. The village of Old Panteleimon is one of my favourite spots for dining and unwinding.
Located in Central Macedonia in the northern part of mainland Greece, this tiny village retains the charm and authenticity of previous times, with stone-built, and cobblestone streets everywhere you turn. The fact that no cars are no allowed, or can fit, through the narrow streets definitely helps. With the mythical Mount Olympus on one side and the crystal clear sandy stretches of coast on the other, you don’t have to pick one over the other.
Get lost in the village streets and make sure to pop into as many shops as you can. You will find locals that are passionate about their village, its history, and the preservation of its character. In recent years, many young people have returned to this small countryside village to establish beautiful eateries and hotels and even a quick walk will confirm the attention to detail when it comes to the streets and decorations.
Don’t leave without tasting some of the local produce like the spoon sweets, liqueurs and mountain honey.
By now you can’t be surprised when I say, that every single city in Greece has a rich historical past that seeps through its streets and neighborhoods and demands to be seen. Galaxidi may not appear so different from other port cities at first glance but you would be wrong to think so.
Recognized as a traditional settlement, Galaxidi was once a leading maritime power. In the 19th century, the expert craftsmanship of the Galaxidians produced the sturdiest ships in all the Mediterranean and fairly earned them the reputation of masters of the seas. Their naval forces eagerly joined the fight in 1821 when the Greek War of Independence broke out against the Ottomans that had seized Greece for over 400 years.
Unfortunately, Galaxidi suffered tremendous losses, its naval force was destroyed and it was twice burned to the ground before being semi-abandoned. The following years brought major changes in the world of shipping with steam engines replacing the sail. In addition, Galaxidi remained practically cut off from the rest of the country from the land until the national road opened in 1963.
This has in many ways created a time capsule of Greek history, architecture and tradition that demands to be seen and makes for an excellent alternative Greek destination for your 2021 plans.
Hope you enjoyed learning more about the unknown destinations in Greece. If you need more help with planning and picking the perfect destinations for Greece in 2021 or beyond, we can help you.