To the tourist, Greece may be best known for the antiquities of Athens, postcard-worthy scenes from Santorini, and the wild parties of Mykonos, but there’s so much more to the country than its immediate associations. Conde Nast amassed where Greeks are traveling and where they suggest you go too.
1. Cape Sounion
Sounion is a coastal area located on the southern tip of the Attica peninsula, an approximately 45-mile drive from Athens. It’s easy to get to via KTEL bus connections that leave from the city center, and the sea there is exceptional. If you’re taking the coastal road from Athens, don’t forget to stop at KAPE and Legrena beaches along the way. Sounion is full of interesting historical landmarks such as the Temple of Poseidon, but few know the ancient industrial sites and mineral washeries of the classical age that can be seen if you’re willing to trek further inland toward Agios Konstantinos—this is where silver was extracted to make Athenian drachma. Lavreotiki, the next location on the road, is definitely worth a visit, as is Thoricus, with one of the oldest surviving theaters. If you feel like walking, you could try the coastal paths that start from Pounta Zeza Bay toward the temple.
Hydra is defined by distinctive beauty, grace, and simplicity. Arriving at its marble-quayed harbor, you’ll be mesmerized by the mansions—most of which once belonged to ship owners. No wonder the island has hosted emblematic figures such as Henry Miller and Leonard Cohen. Horses, donkeys and mules are the main means of transportation as the use of motor vehicles is banned, except for a few miniature garbage trucks. This gives the island a one-of-a-kind tranquility. Beneath this lack of vehicle noises, you can walk the cobblestone streets or enjoy a fresh seafood dinner at one of its restaurants.
Worth visiting are the mountainous areas of northwestern Greece, called Epirus. Hiking through the forest [where you can see] some unique, very old, stony and protected bridges; canoeing and kayaking, rafting and swimming in the Voidomatis river during summer, and the great hospitality and food that one can experience in most of the boutique hotels, hostels and restaurants all year round.
Located in southeastern Greece, Nisyros is close to the island of Kos. It sits on the eastern end of the Aegean volcanic arch, and is still active. With the shape of a typical caldera volcano, it is one of the most unique places in Greece. Nikia, a village some 1,300 feet above sea level, has great views of the water and of the volcano’s crater, which you can walk inside. The volcano is still hydrothermally active, so there are hot springs around the island. There is an old community spa/bath building outside Mandraki, which hasn’t changed since the 1960s. There is also the outdoor church of Panagia Spiliani (“Mary of the Cave”), with a cave where the temperature rises to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are a lot of trekking routes around the island that involve the five volcano craters. Beaches on the island are dark, with volcanic rocks similar to Santorini. The most famous beach is Pachia Ammos (meaning thick sand), and it takes 10-15 minutes walking over hills to reach. Is one of the most famous places for free camping in Greece, as camping outdoors in non-designated places is outlawed in the rest of the country.
Nafplio is an easy-to-get to destination just two hours from Athens and has a lot to offer whether you’re interested in historical sites, shopping, or just relaxing. The first ever modern-day capital of Greece, featuring Bourtzi (a castle in the middle of the harbour) and Palamidi (a fortress), Nafplio is history-packed. With such rich history, beautiful sunset scenery, and that salty smell of the sea, you can’t help but fall in love with it. Nafplio is perfect for year round getaways, even day trips, and it’s also close to the majestic ancient theater of Epidaurus and the historical site of Mycenae.
Lefkada is one of the seven islands of the Ionian Sea, along with Corfu, Paxi, Kefallonia, Ithaca, Zakynthos, and Kythira, and it’s one of the very few in Greece that you don’t need a boat to reach. It’s a five-hour trip from Athens, so arm yourself with patience, but if your vacation is about great beaches, this is where to go. The first place to visit should be the village of Agios Nikitas, where a pedestrian road with taverns and hotels on each side leads to a small, colorful beach. From there, you can swim or snorkel to the cape and reach the first “major beach” of the island, Mylos, which has beautiful flat sand and turquoise waters. You should also visit Egremni beach—lots of people consider it one of the two best beaches in Greece, along with Elafonisi in southern Crete. The steep cliffs (which is what egremni means in Greek) come down to meet thick sand and light blue sea compose the most impressive scenery.
Pylos is a hidden treasure in mainland Greece. Sandy beaches and the fourth-longest coastline in Greece, rivers, waterfalls, vineyards, and olive groves. Pylos is one of the first places in continental Greece where birds visit in spring migration, and the EU has designated many areas around it as protected. The Gialova lagoon hosts 271 of the 442 bird species in Greece and is next to Voidokilia, a breathtaking bay that is also an archaeological site with centuries-old ruins. This area is good for road trips: the western end of the Greek National Road 82 begins in downtown Pylos, running east to west, and linking Pylos with Kalamata and Sparta. Stop for traditional recipes such as hilopites (chicken with noodles) and diples (a crunchy dessert), in any of the old-time tavernas along the way.
Of all the Greek islands, Crete is one of the most distinctive, not only because it’s the largest one, but also because it has its own unmistakable culture. Its landscape is remarkable, there are a number of gorges such as the roughly 10-mile Samaria Gorge, in southwest Crete, where local operators provide tours. Also, there are villages…like Spili, one of the most beautiful spots situated south of Rethymno. In Spili, see if you can find the Venetian fountain with 19 lion heads: Its drinking water comes from the nearby Psiloritis mountain. Crete is also very popular in summer because of its gorgeous beaches. One of the most well-known is Balos, an amazing beach in Chania with crystal-clear water. Another one is the exotic beach of Elafonisi in Chania as well as the long, sandy beach of Falassarna. Crete also stands out because of its history: labyrinthine Minoan palaces in Knossos and a lot of museums are just a taste of its cultural treasures