With over 3,000 islands in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, Greece is a country that offers potential for tourism like few others. Bathed in sunshine most of the year, the country’s ancient history has for centuries lured visitors fascinated by Zeus, Achilles, Athena and Hercules. The capital, Athens, is the centre of this culture, dominated by the most-visited monument in Greece, the Parthenon. But a visit to a crowded city may not be to everyone’s tastes, and so here are some top tips for more out-of-the-way spots in Greece.
1. Folk music on Paxos
Located off the southern tip of the better-known and much larger Greek island of Corfu, Paxos is distinguished by its unspoilt beaches tucked away inside fjord-shaped coves. Its capital, Gaios, has one of the most exquisite natural harbours in all of Greece, and offers a variety of accommodation options including self-catering for the independent traveller. A series of events are held on Paxos throughout the year, including world-leading classical solo recitals, and in July, the ‘Water and Oil’ festival dedicated to local folk music.
2. Experience the spectacular Mani Peninsula
Ancient stone settlements stand atop hills in the wildly remote southernmost part of mainland Greece. A drive-by-hire car along the winding coast road from Kalamata could be the best way to enter Mani as it provides views across the sparkling Ionian Sea in the peninsula. The region’s capital is Areopoli but for a true taste of history, travellers can spend a night in one of the ancient war towers that region is famous for.
3. Get rural in Telendos
One of the Dodecanese island chain that includes Rhodes, Telendos is off the beaten track for most tourists. This mountainous, lushly verdant island has a tropical feel, and is only reachable by boat from its neighbouring island, Kalymos. Hikers are recommended to follow walking paths through the dense pine forest in the south of the island, passing Byzantine ruins along the way. Platha and Poka are two great sun-drenched beaches, and scuba divers can explore the wreck of an ancient city between Kalymos and Telendos which was submerged by an earthquake in 554 AD.
4. Revelations in Patmos
Known to nature lovers for its intricate coastline, cliffs and volcanic soil, Patmos near the Turkish coast is said to be where St John wrote the Book of Revelation predicting the apocalypse. The Monastery of the Apocalypse is a must-see site in this famous Greek island destination. Patmos can be reached by ferry from Piraeus, and its small main settlement, Groikos, has a range of accommodation options, as well as bars and restaurants to refresh you after a walk over the rocks.
5. Country life in Pelion
Three or four hours from Athens by car, Pelion is a mountainous region of mainland Greece that feels largely unspoilt by mass tourism. Said to be the ideal place to sample the delights of simple country life, Mount Pelion has its own slice of Greek mythology as the supposed home of the mythical centaur. Some of the finest, hidden away beaches in the country appear where the pine clad slopes drop down to the glittering Aegean Sea below.
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