Non-Touristy Experiences in Greece

Gramvoussa, Crete
Gramvoussa, Crete | ©Panegyrics of Granovetter/Flickr
Ethel Dilouambaka

Greece is undeniably a beautiful country. With a wide diversity of landscapes, it features some magnificent areas and islands worth visiting. Here is a selection of wondrous places that are off the beaten track or lesser known and definitely deserve a visit.

Pyrgi, Chios

The biggest of the 24 mastic villages, known for the production of mastiha, a resin used for centuries for the production of a wide array of products, Pyrgi is an underrated destination. The villages were built in the Middle Ages and have been carefully preserved, and its unique decorative elements are worth seeing. The black and white motifs of different shapes (called xysta) on the façades of houses and buildings make it a picturesque and highly Instagrammable destination. With its narrow streets, exquisite architecture and relaxed vibe, Pyrgi is truly a charming village that you should explore.

Pyrgi, Chios
Pyrgi, Chios

Gomati desert, Lemnos

Located in the northern part of the Aegean Sea, Lemnos (or Limnos) is a magical place. Few people know that this island is home to Europe’s only desert in an area called Gomati. The seven-hectare area features sand dunes that constantly change shape according to the direction of the wind. The desert is also home to beautiful flora consisting of white lilies and draught-friendly vegetation.

Fossilised Palm-Tree Forest, Lakonia

Near Agia Marina’s bay in Crete, visitors can stumble across the petrified forest of Agia Marina in the cape of Malia in the region of Lakonia. Unique in Greece, these petrified palm trees are the result of volcanic and seismic activity and geological disturbances. It is believed that the sea level rose and covered the trees, then calcified and petrified due to the calcium carbonate content in the seawater. When the sea level dropped, marine organisms remained stuck on the trunks and were also fossilised.

View of the petrified forest of Cape Maleas in Laconia, Greece
View of the petrified forest of Cape Maleas in Laconia, Greece

Acheron River in Parga, Epirus

In the beautiful region of Epirus, northwest Greece, lies the Acheron River, in an area of stunning beauty. Blessed with clear water, the river is located near the village of Gliki and, according to Greek mythology, it was one of the five rivers of Hades, the underworld. The river passes through picture-perfect gorges and rugged precipices, creating a magnificent landscape you will want to get lost in forever.

View of Acheron River
The Acheron river, Greece

Skiadi, Kimolos

Did you know that the small island of Kimolos, near Milos, is home to out-of-this world geological formations? Lacals call one of its most spectacular Skiadi and is in the shape of a stone mushroom. This unique formation is located in the middle of a valley and is a marvellous sight. It doesn’t hurt that the island is also beautiful.

Skiadi – a giant lump in the shape of a mushroom, a unique natural attraction of the island of Kimolos, Cyclades, Greece

Drakolimni, Epirus

Epirus is an underrated region, home to little-known gems. One of them is the Drakolimni (Dragon lakes), which are mountain lakes. Legend has it that two of these lakes were home to two dragons, who hated each other. While this may only be a legend, it doesn’t undermine the beauty of the area, with topaz waters surrounded by green meadows. The sight is even more spectacular in winter, when the snow hits the mountains. Look out for the Alpine newt, which flourishes in these ecosystems. Looking like a tiny dragon, these little creatures are dark brown and are covered with reddish spots on their abdomen.

Drakonlake from above
Alpine triton

Lihadonisia, Evia

The exotic cluster of the Lihadonisia is located in northwest Evian Gulf, across the coastal town Kamena Vourla, in central Greece. Created as a result of volcanic activity, the Lihadonisia form a forgotten paradise with blue waters and golden sandy beaches. Totally inhabited, today they are protected areas. A day trip to these little hidden gems is truly an experience you won’t easily forget.

Voidokilia, Messinia

Located in Messinia, Voidokilia beach is one of the most beautiful in Greece, and probably in the whole of Europe. Its most specific feature is the curve of the bay, which makes it look like an ox’s belly, hence its name. With white, fine sand, turquoise waters and a protected status, Voidokilia is a beach you should definitely put on your bucket list.

Voidokilia beach, Messinia

Diros Caves, Mani

Located in Pyrgos Diros, near Gytheio, the Diros caves, Alepotrypa, Katafigi and Glyfada are another hidden secret. While the central cave ends in a beautiful underground river, the caves are thought to be some of the earliest inhabited sites in Greece, as many artefacts were found there. The caves are known for their beauty and also for the fact that they remain largely unexplored.

Diros Cave
Diros Cave

Stone Forest, Epirus

Have you ever seen a stone forest? If you haven’t, then it is time to come to Greece and visit Epirus. You will find an impressive karstic field called the Stone Forest (Petrino Dasos). Located at an altitude of 1,500 metres, the forest is near the picturesque village of Monodendri.

The stone forest in Zagoria, Epirus, Western Greece, on a cloudy day in the spring
Natural rocks near Monodendri village known as Stone Forest. Zagoria, Epirus, Greece

Melissani, Kefalonia

The cave of Melissani is located near Karavomilos on the island of Kefalonia. Its unique characteristic is a beautiful lacustrine cave, which was created by a mechanical and chemical process of rock dissolution, when water enters through the rocks, eroding them and creating hollows. Discovered in 1951 by speleontologist Giannis Petrochilos, the lake has strong mythological importance. A place of worship to Pan and the nymph Melissani, the lake features a tiny islet, where the sanctuary of Pan was discovered. The lake can be reached through an underground tunnel by boat.

Melissani Cave, Kefalonia
Melissani Cave, Kefalonia

Prespa Lakes, Makedonia

The region of Florina in northern Greece is home to a magical world of natural beauty created by a series of glaciers and seismic phenomena. The area is home to two lakes, the Great and Small Prespa, lying at 850 meters above sea level. Blessed with a rich fauna and flora, the Prespa lakes region is also known to be a fantastic destination for birdwatching enthusiasts.

Agios Achillios, Prespa lakes
Lake Prespa

Polylimnio, Messinia

Thirty-five kilometers away from Kalamata, the beautiful region of Polylimnio is probably one of Greece’s best kept secret. The region is known for its complex of 15 lakes and waterfalls, where the discerning visitors will discover small gorges, lush vegetation and refreshing lakes. To reach this verdant biotope, a medium strenous hike is necessary but once you get there, your efforts will soon be rewarded by a unique view.

Small waterfall in Polilimnio, Greece

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