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Planning on visiting Greece but tired of doing the usual touristy sites and attractions? Good news! We’ve got you covered. Here are some of the most unusual and less-touristy things to see and do in this beautiful country.
Once a dark street in the Psyrri district in Athens, Pittaki Street is known for its unique light arrangement which gives the street an eerie and magical aspect. Created thanks to a non-profit association called Imagine The City and a group of volunteers, including creative lighting studio Beforelight, the lights illuminate this one sad-looking alley bordered by empty stores. The second highlight of Pittaki Street is that at the end of the street, you will feel like you’ve entered a fairytale haven at Little Kook, a charming café which has invaded the street with its colorful and theme-inspired decoration. Grab a side outside, although you should also take a peek inside and revel in a delicious homemade cake.
In the island of Chios, known for its beautiful beaches, quaint villages and its cultivation of mastic, an odorant teardrop-shaped resin from trees growing in a specific region of the island. But one particular village worth seeing is Pyrgi. A medieval village known for its famous black and white geometrical design decorated the facades of all its buildings, Pyrgi is definitely an Instagram-worthy destination. Known as xysta, the geometrical pattern is reminiscent of the sgraffito style. Furthermore, the village has maintained its medieval character, with narrow streets, with vaults and arches. Make sure your camera has enough battery because you are bound to take a lot of photos there.
You’ve probably heard of the Oracle of Delphi, in central Greece, but few have heard about the oracle of the Dead, the necromanteion, an ancient temple consecrated to Hades, the god of the Underworld, Hades, and his wife, goddess Persephone. These temples where necromancy was practiced to receive prophecies, were built in locations thought to be entrances to the Underworld. One such place is the necromanteion of Ephyra, located in Epirus, on the banks of the river Acheron. Discovered by archaeologist Sotirios Dakaris in the 1960s, the necromanteion of Ephyra includes a few underground chambers and though the authenticity of the site has been disputed, a visit to the necromanteion is still an interesting experience.
If you are into anything abandoned and deserted, you should visit the train cemetery on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. The “graveyard”, located in the suburb Nea Ionia, counts over a thousand rusty trains and lends itself perfectly to a photoshoot. In use since 1980s, the cemetery serves as the repository of the decommissioned train of the Hellenic Railways Organisation and is accessible via buses 51, 54 and 54A from the train station (stop after the highway E90).
The underrated island of Lemnos (or Limnos) in the Northeastern Aegean Sea is home to splendid nature, beautiful beaches and charming little villages. In mythology, Lemnos is known to be the place where god Hephaestus’ forge was located, after he was hurled off Olympus by Zeus. Home to Miocene volcanos now dormant, the island features spectacular volcanic rock formations made of petrified lava which froze, forming bizarre shapes. These rocks, that locals call Falakro (bald), or Fragokefala, are located in the northern part of the island, near Poliochni, by the beach near Propouli.
Located near Nea Chalkidona, a little town in northern Greece near Thessaloniki, a field containing half-buried tombstones lies forgotten. These Celtic-styled tombstones are the testimony of the presence of Bogomils, members of a Christian cult in Greece, persecuted by the Christians as well as the Ottomans when they settled in the region. The small community disappeared in the 15th-century and the graveyard is all there is left from their time in Greece.
Amateur and professional photographers, curious minds and lovers of all things desolate, this one is for you. Gavros is an entire abandoned village located on the road connecting Kastoria to the Prespa lakes. The reason why locals deserted it and relocate nearby is not really known, but this is a chance to discover the local architectural style of the region.
In Messinia, Peloponnese, in the small town of Agrilia, or Agrili, known for its beautiful sunsets, is also home to a fairytale castle. Yes, you read it right. Though a little tacky, the castle was built by Harry Fournarakis, a Greek-American doctor who came back to his parents’ homeland after making a fortune as a surgeon across the Atlantic. The concrete and plaster building features all the characteristics of a medieval castle, including a drawbridge. Blended fairytales and Greek mythology, the castle is home to huge statues in its courtyard, including one of goddess Athena, god Poseidon and one of a sitting horse. Though the castle now lies abandoned, visitors can still freely enjoy the outside of the building. Fournarakis (or Fournier) is also responsible for the construction of a replica of the Eiffel Tower in the nearby town of Filiatra.
If you haven’t decided to visit Lemnos yet, this might convince you. Besides the stunning but unusual volcanic rock formations you can visit in the north of the island, Lemnos is also home to a small desert in its lush interior. Constantly changing shape due to the winds, the sand dunes of Pachies Ammoudies are home to unique wildlife, including white rabbits and white lilies. Fair warning, avoid visiting the area during the middle of the day and make sure to get the appropriate car to reach it since the dunes are only accessible via a dirt road.
While everyone is familiar with the volcanic island of Santorini and its beautiful caldera, few know about the volcanic island of Nisyros. Located in the Dodecanese group, between Kos and Tilos, Nisyros is a tranquil island home to a dormant volcano where the huge Stefanos crater is open to the public. Located at the heart of the island, this impressive crater is the largest of the craters on the island and you can even see steam erupting from it. While the bottom of the crater is fenced off, you can still feel a burning sensation while walking inside the crater if you are wearing flip flops or thin-sole shoes. An impressive and thrilling experience, the crater is definitely a must-see when visiting the island.