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Top 10 Places To Visit in Mainland Greece

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Greece may be renowned for its gorgeous islands, but there’s a lot more to this sunny Mediterranean country than just that, and this article is here to introduce you to some of the best places to visit in mainland Greece, a thorough list curated by a well-traveled local.

Top 10 Places To Visit in Mainland Greece

1. Athens

Any list of the best places to visit in mainland Greece should start with the Greek capital itself. One of the oldest cities in the world, Athens is known for its monuments, most of which date back to ancient times. Crowned by the imposing Parthenon and the other impressive buildings that adorn its Acropolis, Athens is a lot more than its ancient past, though.

From its picturesque Old Town – also known as Plaka – to the more residential neighborhoods of Koukaki and Kolonaki to the glistening beachfront that awaits only a short drive away, Athens is a city of many faces, ideal to satisfy the needs and desires of any type of traveler.

This image shows a whitewashed alley in Plaka, lined with whitewashed houses. This scenic neighbourhood is right under the sacred rock of the Acropolis.
The island vibes of the Anafiotika neighborhood in Plaka

When you visit Athens, you’ll have the chance to sample mouthwatering dishes in open-air restaurants that range from no-frill eateries frequented by locals of all ages to fine-dining options with inspired menus created by famous chefs. But entertainment in Athens doesn’t end at its dining scene. The city also boasts a vibrant nightlife scene with bars and clubs where you can party and dance among locals and visitors alike until the early morning hours.

For history buffs, Athens is a true paradise with several layers of history showing up at every turn. Of course, sun-drenched ruins and legend-evoking ancient columns take center stage in Athens. Apart from the Acropolis, there are many other historic sites to wander through, learning more about the city’s past as you go. As for museums and art galleries, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

To make the most of your time in a diverse city the size of Athens, our travel advisors will add only the experiences that fit your travel style to your Athens itinerary. From then on, our expert Athens team will ensure you have the most unforgettable moments in the city they call home.

This is a panoramic view of the Acropolis in Athens with several visitors.
A visit to the Acropolis is mandatory during your trip to Athens

2. Thessaloniki

Apart from its capital city, Greece also has its very own co-capital. This is no other than the steeped-in-history Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece and the country’s indisputable food capital.

Few cities in Greece have been as fiercely loved as Thessaloniki. A coastline that spreads for over five kilometers, a romantic promenade doused in golden light during sunset, several layers of rich history, and a diverse local cuisine forged by the influence of countless cultures this trading port city has seen throughout the centuries make Thessaloniki a special destination to visit in Northern Greece.

The ultimate symbol of Thessaloniki, the White Tower tirelessly looks out to the sea for centuries on end. For panoramic views of this large city but also a glimpse into its past, it’s worth taking the uphill walk to Ano Poli – the Upper Town.

This image shows the White Tower in the foreground and the sun setting behind a mountain in the background.
The White Tower doused in golden sunlight

With its maze of cobbled streets and a fascinating blend of Greek and Ottoman architecture, Ano Poli evokes times that belong to the past, captivating the imagination of every passerby and offering splendid views for as far as the eye can see. On a clear day, you can even catch sight of the mighty Mount Olympus in the distance.

Beyond sightseeing, Thessaloniki is the perfect city to indulge in unparalleled culinary delights, a true gastronomic destination that can please even the most demanding of tastebuds. Thessaloniki’s cuisine is as diverse as the city’s architecture, its very soul if you will.

With a superb blend of fresh ingredients the blessed Greek soil renders and century-old recipes originating in Turkey or even farther east, local dishes in Thessaloniki are scrumptious, often spicy, but always mouthwatering. From the sweetness of the typical bougatsa to the iconic simplicity of the bagel-like koulouri to the wide array of spiced meze dishes you can try at the city’s traditional restaurants, Thessaloniki promises to leave a lasting taste in your mouth that will linger in your memory long after you’re back home.

This is a close-up of a bougatsa pie.
You can’t leave Thessaloniki without trying the emblematic bougatsa pie

3. Delphi

The Sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi was regarded as the Center of The World by Ancient Greeks and for good reason. In Delphi, the mightiest Oracle resided, and people from all corners of the then-known world flocked to Delphi to consult the mythical creature before making grand decisions that would affect the lives and fates of entire cities and populations.

Situated in an area of unfathomable natural beauty, the archaeological site of Delphi is second only to that of the Acropolis of Athens in terms of historical significance. Ancient relics are scattered across a large area and that’s why it’s wise to visit on a guided tour. Rest assured that you’ll pick the best from a wide array, always with the help of our expert travel advisors.

This image shows the Temple of Athena Pronaia in Delphi, one of the best places to visit in mainland Greece.
Impressive ruins and natural beauty in Delphi, a popular destination for history lovers

Yet, Delphi isn’t just about its history and ancient ruins. Nowadays, next to this archaeological site of rare beauty and utter historical significance lies a laid-back town tucked away in the mountains, one of the most tranquil places to visit in mainland Greece as part of a multi-day Greek itinerary. But don’t think that Delphi lacks modern-day excitements. A short drive away, Arachova awaits to seduce you with its lively nightlife and excellent dining scene.

This image shows the sun setting over Arachova and its red-tiled roofs.
Sunset in Arachova is pure magic

4. Ancient Olympia

Speaking of remarkable archaeological sites, Ancient Olympia should be yet another mandatory stop on any quest to discover the most impressive places to visit in mainland Greece.

The birthplace of the Olympic Games, Ancient Olympia has no shortage of extraordinary monuments to marvel at, such as the Stadium and the Temples of Hera and Zeus. Apart from its grandiose structures though, Ancient Olympia is mostly known for instilling the Olympic Spirit and the values it represents in the world, as the Ancient Olympics were the embodiment of peace, unity, and mutual respect.

This image shows the Stadium in Ancient Olympia, one of the top places to visit in mainland Greece.
The Stadium in Ancient Olympia

Nowadays, Ancient Olympia breathes history at every turn. But its magic doesn’t end there. Set in an area of incredible natural charm, Ancient Olympia appeals not only to history buffs but also to nature lovers. Moreover, its prime location in the Western Peloponnese renders it the ideal base from where to explore the natural and cultural riches of this lesser-known part of Southern Greece.

When planning a trip to Greece with JayWay, our expert travel advisors will make sure to craft the perfect Peloponnese itinerary for you, adding stops that will make your journey all the more memorable, like Ancient Olympia, and choosing the best boutique accommodations and top-quality activities and services.

This image shows two sets of columns amidst trees.
Ancient relics set in a beautiful natural landscape

5. Nafplio

When Greece became an independent state after almost 400 years under Ottoman occupation, the seaside town of Nafplio in the Peloponnese became the country’s capital. The several gorgeous neoclassical mansions that are scattered across Nafplio stand as a testament to the city’s glorious past as the first capital of Greece. During your strolls through the quaint Old Town, you’ll catch glimpses of the first pharmacy or high school in Greece, among several other notable buildings.

Apart from its vast history and stunning architecture though, Nafplio is also a place that will amaze you with its beautiful Aegean Sea views and nostalgic promenades. It’s a small yet exciting town built under the shadow of two mighty uphill fortresses, Palamidi and Akronafplia, with one more in the middle of the sea, the photogenic Bourtzi, guarding Nafplio for centuries on end.

This is a panoramic view of the city of Nafplio, the surrounding countryside, the sea, and Bourtzi, as seen from Palamidi.
The view of Nafplio and Bourtzi from Palamidi Castle

Nafplio is also a culinary heaven where traditional restaurants and inspired cooking classes take you on a gastronomic journey through the evolution of Greek cuisine with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.

Speaking of local products, near Napflio, you can wander around ancient vineyards at one of the country’s most celebrated wine regions, Nemea. Famous for its red Agiorgitiko variety, Nemea promises an outstanding wine experience with insightful tours through family-owned wineries and superb wine tastings.

Although Nafplio is a delight in its own right, it’s also the ideal base from where to embark on a perfect trip to explore the countless charms of the Peloponnese. Near Nafplio, two of the most significant ancient sites await. The UNESCO-listed Mycenae Citadel with its famed Lion Gate was one of the most legendary city-states in Ancient Greece, a great place where tales and myths of Homer’s Ancient Greek mythology heroes come to life as you wander through the ancient ruins.

This is a photo of the Lion Gate in Mycenae.
Entering the ancient city of Mycenae via the Lion Gate

Ancient Epidaurus is an equally impressive UNESCO site. Known to the entire ancient world, Ancient Epidaurus was a sanctuary of Asklepios, the god of medicine. In this vast archaeological site, you’ll see several remnants that date back to antiquity. Renowned for its excellent acoustics, the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus stands out among the structures that dot the historical site, though.

From wandering around its picturesque alleys to tasting delicious local food to learning history, Nafplio has something for everyone and our expert travel advisors will help you choose the best Nafplio activities and experiences to add to your Peloponnese itinerary.

This image shows a quaint alley in Nafplio, lined with neoclassical mansions.
Nafplio is breathtakingly picturesque

6. Kalamata

We’re not ready to leave the Peloponnese just yet. Steeped in history, graced with breathtaking landscapes, and blessed with top-quality local products, it’s no overstatement to say that this land of wonders is Greece in miniature. Therefore, it’s no surprise that some of the best places to visit on the Greek mainland are in the Peloponnese.

If you’re curious to see what a real Greek city feels like, Kalamata might just be the perfect place. This sun-drenched coastal city in Southern Greece is built along the shores of the Messinian Gulf and embraced by the imposing Taygetus Mountain. Although Kalamata has a rich history, it’s mostly known for its vibrant vibes, a modern city where you can have an amazing time, no matter what season you’re visiting.

From enjoying long seaside walks to taking a stroll through a park with vintage trains to mingling with locals in the Old Town’s back streets over a glass of house wine and the most delectable meze dishes, Kalamata will seduce you with its slow pace of life and authentic ambiance.

This is a close-up of a white and blue vintage train in a park in Kalamata, one of the lesser-known places to visit in mainland Greece.
At the Municipal Railway Park

While in Kalamata, if there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss, though, is delving into the world of exquisite extra virgin olive oil and sampling Kalamata Olives to your heart’s content. The city of Kalamata and the extended region of Messinia that engulfs it are blessed with the ideal climate to encourage the production of exquisite extra virgin olive oil, the best gift you can bring back home with you from your trip to Southern Greece.

Similar to Nafplio, Kalamata can also serve as the perfect base from where to see more of the Peloponnese. Near Kalamata, the coastal towns of Koroni and Methoni are famous for their mesmerizingly beautiful castles, while Pylos is a laid-back seaside town where you can taste fresh fish and seafood at the local taverns. For nature lovers, the Polilimnio Waterfalls are a short drive from Kalamata while Ancient Messini, a lesser-known archaeological site by Greek standards, awaits to fascinate ancient history lovers of all ages.

This is an aerial view of Kalamata with Taygetus Mountain in the background.
Kalamata boasts both sea and mountain views

7. Mani

We’ve already established that the Peloponnese is one of the most authentic parts of Greece. One of the region’s best-hidden treasures is Mani, an area of rare natural beauty, spectacular architecture, and unique legends reflected in traditions and cultural events that live on to this day.

The Mani Peninsula is Greece’s Deep South, a remote area that could only be reached by sea until recently. The inviting turquoise waters of Mani’s sandy beaches or rocky coves come into sharp contrast with its dramatic bare mountains. Yet, the magic of Mani lies in this diversity and the alternating landscapes that can be nothing short of fascinating.

Mani is home to several small towns where time seems to have stood still. From Areopoli, a picturesque gem of a town, known for igniting the sparkle of the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman occupation, to Kardamyli, a dreamy seaside town renowned since the times of Homer for its natural charms and loved by intellectuals from all across the globe, Mani has no shortage of wonderful places to use as a base.

This image shows a peaceful square lined with stone buildings with sky blue shutters in Areopoli.
In Areopoli, time seems to have stopped

Yet, the charming seaside villages of Mani, like Limeni or Gerolimenas, can’t be overlooked either. These are the ideal places to take in the old-world charm of Mani and savor delicious seafood dishes at traditional restaurants on the edge of the sea.

But the wonders of Mani don’t stop there. While in Mani, don’t miss the chance to get into the depths of the awe-inspiring Diros Caves, the most impressive cave system in Greece where you’ll have the chance to admire century-old stalagmites and stalactites as you’re paddled through the calm waters of an underground lake.

Then, Cape Tainaro awaits for what must be one of the most rewarding experiences you could ever have in Greece. Standing proudly on the southernmost tip of mainland Greece, Cape Tainaro offers an unforgettable hiking opportunity with extraordinary vistas of the deep blue sea.

No place in Mani is ordinary. This is a land of divine beauty and mystical locations that you’d never know existed. Yet, here at JayWay, this is what we do best. Unveiling the secret gems in all the destinations we’re offering.

This image shows a woman with her back turned to the camera looking at the lighthouse of Cape Tainaro in the background. She's wearing a jacket with the JayWay Travel logo.
Let JayWay take you to the edge of Europe

8. Monemvasia

One of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in Europe, the castle town of Monemvasia is a fairytale come true. Due to its strategic location, the Castle of Monemvasia has been an important commercial and trading post throughout its history. During the Middle Ages, it flourished, and this is evident in Monemvasia’s gorgeous medieval architecture, best admired in the town’s vehicle-free historic center.

The Castle of Monemvasia connects to the Peloponnese Peninsula via a short causeway. Built on a rock in the sea, Monemvasia is one of the best-preserved medieval settlements in Europe. Once you step inside the main castle gate, you’ll feel as though you’ve traveled back in time. The cobbled narrow streets and lack of vehicles or annoying city sounds transport you to times gone by. As you walk along the quaint streets, past beautiful squares and Byzantine churches with many tales to tell, you feel as if you’re starring in a period drama.

This is a view of the stone buildings of Monemvasia with the sea in the background.
Stepping inside the fairytale that is Monemvasia

The castle town of Monemvasia has two parts: the Lower and the Upper Town. In the Lower Town, you’ll find traditional restaurants serving local dishes and several accommodation options that offer you the opportunity to sleep within the walls of an actual fortified town that never ceased to be inhabited throughout the centuries.

The Upper Town is no longer inhabited but it offers an unparalleled hiking opportunity through natural trails dotted with ruins that date back to several periods in Greek history. Not to mention the jaw-dropping views you’ll enjoy at every turn.

Speaking of hiking, for the more adventurous, a circular trail allows you to walk the entire perimeter of the promontory, past a scenic lighthouse and memorable panoramas as you go. For a photo-worthy seascape, head to Portello, the former gate to the castle for those who approached it from the sea, and get ready to snap thousands of photos with the waves crashing onto dramatic black rock formations.

This is a panoramic view of the rock in the middle of the sea where Monemvasia is built.
The medieval town of Monemvasia endlessly looking out to the sea

9. Meteora

Speaking of rock formations brings us to our next suggestion on this list of the best places to visit in mainland Greece. Meteora in northwestern Greece is known for its complex of otherworldly rock formations where one of the country’s most significant monastery complexes – second only to Mount Athos – is built. To be more precise, the monasteries of Meteora are constructed atop tall pillar-like rocks, creating a unique spectacle that resembles a stone forest of sorts.

Meteora was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 for its natural landscape, extraordinary architecture, and cultural significance. Initially, twenty-four monasteries were built at the top of these stone columns. Nowadays, only six of them still function.

This is a photo of one of the monasteries built atop tall rocks in Meteora.
The dreamy landscape of Meteora, one of the best mainland destinations to visit in Greece

All six monasteries are open to the public for visits and we strongly recommend you visit at least a couple of them during your trip to Greece. Not only because they’re unique in terms of architecture and cultural wealth, but also because the views of the surrounding area from up there cannot be put into words. They’ll leave you speechless, and so will watching the sunset in Meteora, an experience you won’t easily forget.

Meteora is also the perfect destination for adrenaline seekers as you can go rock climbing, mountain biking, or river rafting there. For more mundane pleasures, the small town of Kalabaka offers the best accommodation and dining options under the shadow of the Meteora rocks.

This image shows the town of Kalabaka with the Meteora rocks soaring above it in the background.
Kalabaka is utterly photogenic

10. Ioannina

This list of the best places to visit in mainland Greece could never be complete without a mention of Ioannina, one of the prettiest and most romantic destinations in Greece. The largest city in the stunning region of Epirus, Ioannina is the ideal city break any time of the year, even in the winter months. Dominated by the enchanting Pamvotida Lake, the city abounds not only in beauty but also in history. As a university city, Ioannina is also known for its lively atmosphere.

One of the best things to do in Ioannina is to take long lakeside strolls, enjoying the most pleasant views as you go. In the middle of the lake, a small island without a name awaits to lure you in its magic. A short ferry ride from the heart of Ioannina brings you to this tiny gem, a tranquil lake island where you can sit back and relax among locals and fellow travelers.

An aerial view of the Ioannina lake island at dusk.
It’s worth visiting the lake island with no name

Back in the city of Ioannina, take your time exploring the Old Town, this nostalgic gem where old-world architecture is adorned with colorful street art and trendy cafés co-exist in perfect harmony with the occasional traditional kafeneio.

No trip to Ioannina is complete without a visit to the marvelous castle that crowns the city. One of the most impressive examples of Greek defensive architecture, the Castle of Ioannina is split into two Citadels, houses several museums, and boasts splendid views of the lake and the rest of the city.

Around Ioannina, the blessed land of Epirus patiently awaits to be discovered by anyone wishing to delve into the entrancing charm of authentic Greece. Deep gorges, like the world-renowned Vikos Gorge, beautiful beaches, and scenic mountain villages are easily accessible from Ioannina, rendering the city one of the best places to base yourselves if you want to get to know a relatively unknown yet fascinating part of Greece.

This image shows a mosque and a traditional Epirus building, both within the grounds of the Castle of Ioannina.
In the Castle of Ioannina, you’ll admire the city’s diverse architecture

We do hope you enjoyed reading about the best places to visit in mainland Greece and that we inspired you to add some of these remarkable destinations to your next Greece itinerary – alongside the Greek Islands of your choice perhaps. For your journey to be as seamless and memorable as possible, reach out to JayWay and leave it to our travel experts to craft the perfect Greece itinerary for you.

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