- Greece has managed to slow down the infection rate of COVID-19, and is ready to welcome tourists from June 15.
- The country is offering cheaper flights to visitors by cutting transportation taxes this summer, so it could become more popular than ever as international travel becomes safe again.
- I’m Greek, and if you’re trying to avoid tourists, the country’s more under-the-radar, less crowded destinations might be a better option than Mykonos or Santorini.
- From exotic villages like Sivota to charming little islands like Symi, here are 8 non-touristy places to add to your Greek bucket list.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Greece is one of the European countries that has managed to slow down its COVID-19 infection rate and contain the virus early on.
As Insider’s Sophie-Claire Hoeller reported, the country went into lockdown early, and it credits this move for having a relatively low number of coronavirus cases and related deaths. According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, Greece has seen 3,049 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 182 related deaths.
Now, the country is set to welcome all tourists from June 15, when international flights to Athens and Thessaloniki are expected to resume – and it’s offering cheaper flights to visitors by cutting transportation taxes this summer, which means it could become more popular than ever as travel becomes safe again.
If you’re trying to avoid other tourists – especially as social distancing rules still apply – then swapping overcrowded hotspots for lesser-known gems might be the best way to go.
Greek islands like Kythira or Folegandros, and cities like Kavala, remain off the radar of most tourists, yet still serve as gorgeous summer destinations.
Mostly frequented by locals or an elite of seasoned travellers, they offer beautiful beaches with crystalline waters, verdant peaks, and precious archaeological sites, in a delightful blend of nature, history, and culture.
Here are eight non-touristy places to add to your Greek bucket list.
A short ferry ride from Athens, Agistri combines lush vegetation with crystal clear waters.
The islands of the Argo-Saronic Gulf are a much less busy alternative to the popular Cyclades, the island group including the Instagrammable ― yet overcrowded ― Mykonos and Santorini. Just as dreamy, they boast marvellous beaches and amazing scenery.
Agistri has to be the most serene, combining lush vegetation with crystal-clear waters. Only a 60-minute ferry ride from Athens’ main port, this tiny heaven (just 14 square kilometers in size) is still largely undiscovered by tourists.
The island’s gem is Aponisos, a little islet connected to Agistri through a small bridge. Surrounded by pine trees, the emerald, pool-like waters of Aponisos’ sequestered shingle beach are ideal for snorkelling.
Bonus: Also worth a visit, the sophisticated island of Aegina lies a short, 15-minute ferry ride from Agistri.
Floating proudly between the islands of Milos and Santorini, Folegandros is the “offbeat romantic” of the Cyclades.
If it’s the vast blue of the Aegean Sea or the striking white of a Cycladic house you’re after, then Folegandros should be high on your travel list.
This bohemian island is bound to captivate you with its idyllic beaches and mesmerising chora, its town, half of which is built within a castle suspended over the edge of a 200-metre cliff. Cobbled alleys and whitewashed courtyards will surely lure you in.
Try the flavorful matsata, a local variety of homemade pasta, before venturing a climb to the top of the rock, where the imposing church of Panagia lies, unveiling some magnificent views of the town.
To get to Folegandros, choose between an 11-hour (or four-hour high-speed) ferry trip from Athens, and a short boat ride from Milos or Santorini, both accessible by ferry or plane.
Kavala’s Old Town is defined by Ottoman buildings, relics of Byzantine churches, and colourful houses of varied architecture.
Although the Greek islands typically top travellers’ bucket lists, mainland Greece can be just as splendid.
Accessible by plane or car (a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Thessaloniki or six hours from Athens), Macedonia’s Kavala city proves just that. Ottoman buildings, relics of Byzantine churches, and colourful houses of varied architecture unveil years of history in Kavala’s Old Town.
Among the must-sees are Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali’s iconic 19th-century Imaret (former religious, educational, and philanthropic centre now housing a luxurious hotel), Kavala’s Tobacco Museum, and the Archaeological Site of Philippi; this UNESCO-protected ancient theatre still hosts shows during the summer.
Kavala’s wonderful, sandy beaches are perfect for relaxation, while its delectable cuisine will keep you coming back for more.
Bonus: The nearby, green island of Thassos displays unique wildlife and astounding beaches.
Close to the bustling island of Rhodes and just 10 minutes away from Datça town in Turkey, Symi is known for its rich history and elegant architecture.
Located an hour away from Rhodes by boat, Symi is the Dodecanese islands’ precious little jewel. Having been inhabited since the prehistoric period, the island is steeped in tradition and history.
Here you’ll find some of the oldest and most astonishing neoclassical mansions of Greece, built amphitheatrically around the port. Their elegant architecture and balmy colours echo Symi’s opulent past – in mid-19th to early-20th century, the island served as the world’s largest sponge trade centre.
Hop on a boat to reach Symi’s most stunning, tranquil beaches, before tasting the delicious “symiako garidaki,” the island’s famous shrimp, at a tavern by the sea.
For an almost-transcendental experience, visit the 15th-century Monastery of Taxiarchis Mihail Panormitis; his icon is said to be miraculous.
Often referred to as the island of Aphrodite, goddess of love, Kythira stands out for its remarkable landscape.
Lying opposite the south-eastern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula, somewhere between Greece’s mainland and the island of Crete, Kythira fuses the allure of the wilderness typically found in the Peloponnese, with the effortless beauty of a Greek island.
Only it’s not your typical Greek island. Rocky beaches, pine forests, waterfalls, caves, intricate hiking trails, and impressive archaeological sites (including a prominent Venetian fortress) all amount to Kythira’s diverse landscape.
In the chora, you’ll find little boutiques and relaxed bars, while during the summer, Kythira’s quaint villages host traditional Greek fiestas (panigiria), calling for endless drinking and dancing.
Bonus: Accessible by ferry from Athens or Laconia, or by plane, Kythira is also close to Monemvasia; this historic Peloponnesian town is entirely built on a rock within a medieval fortress.
Home to the picturesque Parga and the exotic Sivota, the Epirus Riviera is often favoured by A-list celebrities.
For a more cosmopolitan option, but one that’s still authentically stylish, make sure to give the dazzling Epirus Riviera a go.
A little over four and a half hours by car from Athens (or four hours from Thessaloniki), Epirus’s Parga is the picturesque little town with the superb views to the Ionian, the refined restaurants, and the cobbled neighbourhoods full of flowers; ideal for long, carefree walks.
Just across, the islet of Panagia and its ever-illuminated fortress complete the romantic setting.
Around 30 minutes from Parga lies Sivota, a seaside village with tropical, pink-sand beaches and secret coves, often favoured by A-list celebrities and sailing aficionados. The almost transparent, turquoise waters of Pissina beach (fittingly meaning pool) in the opposite isle of Agios Nikolaos guarantee an unforgettable dive.
The fantastic beaches around Pelion give way to the mountain’s scenic villages.
Who knew a mountain could be such an appealing summer destination? Located in the region of Thessaly, about four hours from Athens by car (or two and a half hours from Thessaloniki), Pelion was “the gods’ summer residence” according to Greek mythology.
It’s no wonder, since it strikes the perfect balance between a verdant highland area and a seaside paradise. Sandy or pebbled, the fantastic beaches around Pelion give way to the mountain’s scenic villages ― no doubt, Pelion’s highlight.
Some are sumptuous, like Portaria and Makrinitsa, with traditional stone houses and lavish hotels, while others are beautifully swallowed by nature, like Tsagkarada, which is semi-hidden underneath the shadow of an enormous sycamore tree.
Bonus: Try the intense distilled spirit of tsipouro at the local tsipouradika in the town of Volos, at the foothills of Pelion.
The island where Saint John the Apostle wrote the “Book of Revelation,” Patmos attracts intellectuals and artists.
Seven hours from Athens by ferry, somewhere between the islands of Ikaria and Leros, you’ll find Patmos, the most spiritual of the Dodecanese islands.
It’s in Patmos’ Cave of the Apocalypse where Saint John (one of Jesus Christ’s 12 Apostles) received the visions that led him to write the holy “Book of Revelation” around 95 AD. The cave has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, together with the majestic 11th-century Monastery of Saint John the Theologian that brims with priceless religious artifacts.
An important hub of hagiography and architecture during the Renaissance, Patmos is now creatives’ favourite sanctuary; its unpretentious chora and quiet little harbours are frequented by intellectuals and artists from around the world, who enjoy the island’s rare mix of peacefulness and cosmopolitan finesse.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.