These breathtaking locations are putting Greece back on the map
Greece has always been known for its rugged beauty and ancient wonders, fantastic food and superb beaches, but it has only been in recent years that the European country has truly started to recover from the government-debt crisis that began a decade ago.
Now, tourists have been heading in droves to the stunning hills of Santorini – indisputably the Instagram destination of 2018 – and we are finally seeing once-booming tourist spots come alive again. Yes, it’s clear that Greece has well and truly found its muse once more.
But behind the Instagram filters, the reality of getting that perfect shot of white stone buildings framed by sapphire seas can, quite frankly, be a pain in the Ares. With its popularity among bloggers and cruise ships alike, you may find yourself spending more of the day queuing for your sunset shot than actually exploring this country’s unmatched culture and history.
Instead of following the crowd, why not venture further afield to capture these alternatives but no less enchanting scenes? Volopa brings the best alternatives from Greece’s paradise islands and central hills.
Described as the cradle of modern European civilisation, Crete is Greece’s largest island and is well-known for its wide variety of terrains. Here, you’ll find beautiful beaches, rugged mountains and rolling countryside interspersed with trendy cities. Highlights of this rich myth-steeped island include Mali’s Minoan ruins dating back to 1900BC, exploring the gorgeous fortresses of coastal Rethymno, enjoying a fresh al fresco lunch in the Old Venetian harbour in Chania town and, of course, hiking Mount Ida, the legendary birthplace of Zeus, king of the gods.
The Ionian island of Zakynthos is famed for the stunning Shipwreck Beach – a popular spot for lounging the day away as well as those crucial sunset snaps. Don’t miss the nearby Blue Caves; underground waterways that are naturally cut into the coast and create a remarkable blue glow thanks to the way light reflects from the rocks. While you can choose between a guided boat tour or hire your own for a spot of adventure, we would always recommend renting your boat early enough that you can enjoy a spot of cave swimming in these perfectly still waters before other tourists have the same idea.
Located in the central mainland near the picturesque Pindos Mountains, the UNESCO-listed region of Meteora is a must-visit for any tourist. A series of enormous, natural rock formations, this awe-inspiring landscape is the home of one of the world’s largest complexes of monasteries – some of which are still in use. As well as being one of the world’s most uniquely beautiful landscapes, this area is also significant for archaeology buffs thanks to its importance to post-Ice Age man. Pack your hiking boots and make nearby Kalambaka your base of operations to get the most out of this atmospheric location.
One of the most beautiful Greek islands – and arguably the most famous – Mykonos boasts golden beaches, turquoise waters and the quaint white buildings that every social media influencers seems to be on the hunt for. The Aegean destination is well known for its nightlife, but there are also plenty of activities fit for the whole family, such as horse riding, windsurfing and jet-skiing. The pretty white-painted village of Panagia Paraportiani is also one of the most photographed places on earth.
In contrast to its famous sister-island, Nisyros offers a more offbeat visit, best known for being the home of an active volcano! But don’t let that put you off. Nisyros is one of the most authentic islands for tourists looking for a more cultural and artistic escape, and perfect for scenic hikes, visits to thermal springs and, yes, picture-perfect white-housed villages. Don’t forget to visit the volcano’s hydrothermal craters and discover ancient island defences, and check your calendar to catch one of the island’s lively festivals – such as the two-day festival in honour of the Virgin Mary starting 15th August.
Homer’s Odysseus is one of the most enduring heroes from Greek myth, and has inspired thousands of adaptations and tales of adventure over the centuries. Luckily, it won’t take you a 10-year odyssey to reach Odysseus’ home, Cephalonia. Visit the Archaelogical Museum of Argostoli to find out the truth from the legend, experience the Drogarati Caves or find a private beach cove to wile the day away.
This mainland city was once thought to be the centre of the world by the ancient Greeks, and is now one of the most incredible archaeological highlights of the country’s impressive roster. Positioned high on Mount Parnassus, Delphi offers incredible views as well as grand ruins and temples, including the Omphalos (a marble structure marking the ‘belly button’ of the world), the once-grand Athenian Treasury, and what remains of the hippodrome where the Pythian Games were held every four years. It’s most famed ruin is the Temple of Apollo, where the famous Oracles of Delphi practised their sooth-saying.