Stunning Places to Discover in Greece Off the Beaten Path: A Local's Guide | The Invisible Tourist

There is so much of Greece you can’t know even if you’re Greek. It’s already a secret place wherever you go, even if it’s somewhere huge like Athens or Corinth. The place enchanted me” ~ Joanna Lumley.

Ever wondered what the secret is to having the most enjoyable trip possible? Welcome to my “Be Invisible” series – your ultimate guide for how to avoid looking like a tourist on your next adventure and guaranteed to boost your entire travel experience.

Bursting with helpful tips and tricks, I’ve asked locals from particular destinations around the world to share their insider knowledge on the best ways travellers can become “invisible” when visiting their home and enjoy it like a local. If you’re ready to challenge travel stereotypes, overcome language barriers and embrace what I like to call invisible tourism, you’ve come to the right place!

This local’s guide to things to do in Greece off the beaten path was written by Melissa Douglas from High Heels & a Backpack. As I have visited Greece myself and some cities can become very crowded, I am very excited to share her top places to visit in Greece off the beaten track and how experience this gorgeous country like a local.

If you’re planning a trip to Greece and want to blend in amongst Greeks, these lesser-known destinations from a local’s perspective will help you have a more enjoyable experience and know what to expect before you go. Read on for more! 


Greece off the beaten path sounds like something of an oxymoron. It’s is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations and more than 33 million tourists visited Greece in 2018 alone!

Most people hear ‘Greece’ and they automatically think of the popular islands of Santorini, Mykonos, or Zakynthos. While these places are every bit as beautiful as travel media will have you believe, they are definitely not the only parts of Greece that are worth visiting! 

Greece boasts more than 6,000 islands, each more idyllic than the last. It is certainly not difficult to find your own slice of seclusion and tranquility during your trip to Greece.

 This guide to off the beaten track Greece will cover:

  • Northern Greece off the beaten path
    • Metsovo
    • Ioannina
    • Thessaloniki
    • Kastoria
  • Central Greece off the beaten path
    • Karpenisi
    • Volos
  • Off the beaten path Greek Islands
    • Spetses, the Argolic Gulf
    • Tinos, the Cyclades
    • Folegandros, the Cyclades

 

Stunning Places to Discover in Greece Off the Beaten Path: A Local's Guide | The Invisible Tourist
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Places to discover in Greece off the beaten path 

When visiting the Greek capital, this Athens itinerary will help you avoid crowds as much as possible. Outside of that, there are off the beaten path travel destinations in Greece to suit every taste and travel style – from lazy island vacations, to hiking adventures though the wilderness. 

Northern Greece off the beaten path 

Northern Greece is arguably the country’s least explored region. You can opt to use the city of Thessaloniki as a base to explore the areas of Epirus, Central Macedonia, and Halkidki, 

Metsovo 

Metsovo is a lovely little stone village nestled high in the Pindus Mountains. The culture here is quite different to the rest of Greece. This is because Metsovo is actually a Vlach settlement. 

Over the last few years, Metsovo has emerged as a romantic winter getaway destination for Greeks from Thessaloniki and Ioannina. However, this charming village has escaped the radars of most international tourists.  

 Things to do in Metsovo off the beaten path

  • Hike to the eerie abandoned monasteries of Zoodochos Pigi and Agios Nikolaos
  • Trek part of the scenic Ursa hiking trail around Metsovo, the Grand Forest, and Politsoara meadows
  • Sample Metsovo specialty delicacies such as the village’s namesake smoked metsovone cheese or smoked country sausages.
  • Organise a wine tasting at Katogi vineyard – the highest vineyards in Greece!  

Ioannina 

Ioannina is the capital of the Epirus region of north-western Greece. The city has a hip, youthful vibe on account of the large student population that resides here. 

There are many interesting cultural and historical attractions in Ioannina. And again, the city sees very few tourists. 

The crumbling remnants of Ottoman mosques, houses and hammams point to Ioannina’s history as an important Turkish city. Lake Pamvotida sits in the heart of Ioannina and is a lovely place for a bike ride or an afternoon stroll. 

 Things to do in Ioannina off the beaten path

  • Sail out to the mysterious unnamed island in the middle of Pamvotida Lake
  • Visit the Ali Pasha house and learn the history of the notorious Ottoman ruler
  • Explore the sun bleached Ottoman ruins of the Fethye mosque and the Aslan Pasha mosque
  • Marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites inside the 1.5 million year old Perama cave
  • Sink your teeth into sumptuous Epirus pastries such as galatopita (milk pie) and karidopita (walnut pie) 

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki is Greece’s second-largest city, and the capital of the country’s Central Macedonia region. Despite its size, Thessaloniki possesses something of a small-town ambiance making it a perfect offbeat Greece destination.

Locals here are some of the friendliest in the country and Thessaloniki is a highlight of any Greece travel itinerary

 Things to do in Thessaloniki off the beaten path

  • Get a bird’s eye view of the city from the top of the White Tower
  • Spend a day at the beaches of upscale Peraia and Nea Iraklia
  • Get lost in the narrow streets of the old neighbourhood of Ano Poli
  • Indulge in Greek coffee culture and sip freddo espresso on the seafront promenade 

Kastoria 

Kastoria is the epitome of Greece off the beaten path. Very few international tourists have even heard of Kastoria. However, the city is a popular Fall and Winter getaway destination for Greek Nationals. 

The word Kastoria means “place of beavers” in Greek. This name points to the city’s past as an important furrier town. In the Byzantine and Ottoman eras, traders hunted and sold beavers for their fur – something which unfortunately led to the beavers in this region being wiped out. 

Many districts in Kastoria feel almost frozen in time and are filled with Byzantine churches and exquisite Byzantine mansions. Spas and luxury hotels that line the lake offer travellers the ultimate relaxation experience in a stunning setting. 

 Things to do in Kastoria off the beaten path

  • Rent a bike and cycle around Orestiada Lake
  • Learn about the rise and fall of Kastoria’s fur trade at the Byzantine museum
  • Visit the ghost town of Gavros – a place that was mysteriously and abruptly abandoned
  • Admire the vibrant frescos and ornate decor of Kastoria’s 60 churches
  • Wander the districts of Doltso and Apozari and appreciate their grand mansions 

Central Greece Off the Beaten Path 

Central Greece is characterised by its pristine nature, quaint traditional villages, and impressive monasteries. Most people only stop in Central Greece out of necessity while on a wider cross-country road trip. This is a shame, as this area has so much to offer. 

Karpenisi 

The breathtaking town of Karpenisi is perched on the slopes of Mount Timfristos in Evritania, Central Greece. Many young Athenian couples drive up here in the winter months to stay in cozy log cabins and ski at the nearby resort of Velouchi. This area is known as the “Switzerland of Greece” on account of its incredible natural beauty. 

 Things to in Karpenisi off the beaten path

  • Sip warm honey wine (oinomelo) in the tavernas of Gavros
  • Search for hidden shrines and waterfalls in the scenic Pantavrechi valley
  • Make a pilgrimage to the dramatic clifftop Proussos Monastery
  • Try the famous Evritania galaktoboureko in Palio Mikro Chorio
  • Brush up your ski skills at Velouchi ski resort

Volos  

Volos is the eastern Greek port town where most people will transit on their way to the islands of the Sporades (Skopelos, Skiathos, etc).

Volos may not have the same concentration of cultural and archaeological sites as Thessaloniki or Ioannina, but it is a lovely place to simply hang out for a day or two. Sample the local delicacies at the many mezedopoleio places that overlook the Pagasetic Gulf and take a day trip out to the village of Portaria.

 Things to do in Volos off the beaten path

  • Browse artefacts from the Neolithic and Byzantine periods at the Athanasakeion Archaeological Museum
  • Enjoy tsipouro and fresh seafood at the chic restaurants by Volos port
  • Venture out to Dimini Archaeological Site
  • Fall in love with the village of Portaria

Off the beaten path Greek Islands 

You don’t have to go to the back of beyond to find an off the beaten path island getaway in Greece. The island archipelagos of the Cyclades, the Saronic islands, and the Argolic isles are all just one or two hours journey away from Athens. However. these places see a tiny fraction of the tourists in nearby Santorini. 

Spetses, the Argolic Gulf 

Spetses is an upscale island in the Argolic Gulf. The island has a population of just 4,000, and the town that surrounds the port area is the only one on the island. 

There are no cars on Spetses; a popular way for visitors and locals to get around is by ATV or bicycle. When you leave Spetses town limits, the entirety of the rest of the island is basically one big national park. Consequently, Spetses is a perfect getaway for those that love the great outdoors. 

Things to do in Spetses off the beaten path

  • Rent an ATV and zip around the island’s off road trails
  • Swim in the crystal clear waters of Bekiris cave
  • Shop for quintessentially Greek souvenirs and agro products at the boutique stores in Spetses town
  • Enjoy Spetses town’s rich and diverse nightlife scene
  • Follow one of the countless hiking trails around Spetses island and trek to hidden beaches and secluded woodland monasteries

Tinos, the Cyclades 

Tinos is one of the smallest islands in the northern part of the Cyclades. The island’s tiny size is not indicative of what it has to offer. There are more than 40 adorable villages scattered through the hills of Tinos, an ideal off the beaten path Cyclades spot.

Things to do in Tinos off the beaten path

  • Swim in cerulean waters on the beaches of Livada and Paralia Agia Thalassa
  • Visit the Virgin Mary Evangelistria – a popular monastery which pilgrims journey to on their knees from Tinos town
  • Fall in love with the charming little village of Pyrgos
  • Eat sumptuous local foods at one of the homely tavernas overlooking Giannaki Bay
  • Get a history lesson at the Sanctuary of Poseidon & Amphitrite – a 3rd century AD site dedicated to the God of the Sea. 

Folegandros, the Cyclades 

This rocky island is one of the most wild and rugged Greek islands. If you seek outdoor adventure and exploration, rather than indulgence and commercial beaches, the beautiful Folegandros beaches will suit you down to a tee. 

Just 700 people call Folegandros home. This unpretentious, unassuming island is just across the water from Santorini and Mykonos but the Greeks have mostly kept the secrets of Folegandros to themselves. Perhaps this is a reason why it’s one of the best Cyclades islands to visit.

 Things to do in Folegandros Off the Beaten Path

  • Hike or free-camp on one of the many hiking trails that twist and turn around the island
  • Journey back in time at the traditional village of Ano Meria – the island’s second-largest settlement
  • Tuck into Folegandros specialty dishes such as taramasalata fish sauce, and matsata – pasta prepared with red sauce and either goat, chicken, or rabbit
  • Check out the mud and stone houses in Ano Meria that were once used as defences against pirates
  • Sink your toes into the sands of Agkali, Agios Georgios, and Karavostasis beach 

 

Greece off the beaten path is more feasible than you may imagine. These are just a small handful of the islands, villages, and secret destinations just waiting to be discovered. 

Melissa is a British travel writer based in Athens, Greece pushing the boundaries of solo female travel through her blog, High Heels & a Backpack. Follow her latest adventures on Instagram and Twitter!

Are you ready to plan your off the beaten track Greece trip?

I hope you found these 9 practically unexplored Greece destinations fascinating! Which of these will you add to your list of places to visit in Greece someday? Let me know in the comments below!

Are you thinking of spending more time in Europe? While you’re here be sure to check out all my articles on Europe to get your planning off to a good start, or check out more hidden gems I’ve covered around the world.

If you found this helpful or enjoyed being inspired, please share this article on Facebook or Pinterest or follow me on TikTok and Instagram for more Europe travel inspiration!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist


 

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Stunning Places to Discover in Greece Off the Beaten Path: A Local's Guide | The Invisible Tourist



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4 Comments

  1. Thank you dear invisible tourist, if only the rest of the world follows your lead in explaning things without the sugar coating. .

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