It’s no secret that Greece is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Europe and millions of tourists visit this beautiful Mediterranean country every year. Surely, you’ve heard of the iconic Parthenon and the ancient Acropolis or daydreamed about staying in a chic luxury villa in Zakynthos while enjoying the view of the sun setting over the charming Mediterranean landscape as you’re enjoying a glass of fine wine… However, what many people forget is that Greece has over 6,000 islands scattered across three different seas and more than 200 of them are uninhabited. Fortunately, there are also a lot of small, yet charming coastal towns that still haven’t been spoiled by the increasing waves of mass tourism. Here are the best-hidden gems in Greece that will show you a new, different side of this lovely Mediterranean country.
Clustered in the far northwest, the Diapontia islands are one of the most remote groups of islands in the country. They’re located near the “heel of Italy” and are actually closer to Albania than they are to the Greek Mainland. The remoteness of these islands is probably the main reason why they don’t get more visitors and an extra reason to visit if you ask me. Whether you’re island hopping or want to stay longer, the Diapontia Islands will surely sweep you off your feet with their charming untouched villages, pristine nature, sandy beaches, hidden caves, and luring azure waters. Want to visit some of the Diapontia Islands? The best way to reach them is by boat from Sidari, a small town on the northern tip of Corfu.
Once upon a time, Corfu was one of the best-hidden gems in Greece. Today, times have changed but there are still a few places around where you can escape from the tourist hordes. One of those places is the Nymfes Waterfalls. Hidden in the outskirts of a lovely, remote village, there’s only one way to reach the falls; by walking down a narrow, rural dirt road.
Once you reach the waterfalls, you’ll witness an enchanting scenery of rapid water streams that form a 10-meter-tall steep ravine. It’s a divine place that looks like it came out of a fairy tale. And it kind of did! According to Greek mythology, a group of nymphs was living in the woods and they used to bathe in the waterfalls. True or not, one thing is certain; this is one of the most beautiful and pristine places on an island that gets thousands of visitors every day.
Paxi and Antipaxi
Stretching over an area of 30 square miles, Paxi is the smallest group of islands in the Ionian Sea. The legend has it that Poseidon (the God of Sea) created these islands by striking Corfu with his trident so that he and his wife could get some peace and quiet. Today, the islands still remain relatively unfrequented, mainly because they’re so miniature, you can barely see them on the map. However, once you get there, you’ll realize why a God would want to have these divine islands for himself. The spectacular dramatic cliffs overlooking the Ionian Sea, the beautiful white-sand beaches, and the endless stretch of groves of ancient olive trees are sights that you can find in only a handful of other islands in Greece. But most of those islands will be under a constant tourist siege throughout the year…
When talking about Greece, many people imagine beautiful sandy beaches and divine surrounding nature. Perhaps that’s a reason why only a handful of tourists decide to visit the Epirus region. Epirus remains one of the least frequented parts of Greece mainly because of its relative inaccessibility. The region is covered in dense deciduous woodland, gorgeous mountain lakes, remote clifftop monasteries, and it has arguably the most diverse wildlife in the country. Epirus doesn’t get a lot of advertisement as a tourist destination and it’s not hard to see why; Greeks probably want to keep Epirus for themselves.
Hidden in the foothills of Pindos Mountain, Zagori is an enchanting rural area that consists of a cluster of 46 traditional Greek villages. Zagori might not have beautiful sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife but it has endless stretches of vivid green forests, countless rivers and mountain streams, and charming rural life where the old ways of doing things are still present. Zagori is arguably one of the best camping destinations in Greece and an excellent getaway place where you’ll find only a handful of other tourists.
It’s a bit unorthodox to put the largest lake in the country on a list of the best hidden gems in Greece, but most tourists still aren’t aware this beautiful lake exists. Trichonida Lake is comfortably situated between the two mountains of Arakynthos and Panaitoliko in an area that’s rich in vegetation and is home to more than 140 different species of birds. If you want to get off-the-beaten-track and experience the finest of Greece’s nature, this is a place you’ll definitely want to consider visiting.
In Greek mythology, Pelion Mountain was the summer resort of Greek Gods and home to the House of Centaurs. The mountain overlooks the western Magnesia region and Mt. Olympus towering over the valleys of Thessaly. With its lush vegetation, an abundance of cascading rivers and streams, olive groves-filled glassy bays, and stunning views of the Aegean Sea, Mount Pelion has everything you might ask from an exquisite summer retreat. And if you like hiking, that’s just another good reason to visit.
This list of hidden gems in Greece couldn’t be complete without Alonissos; one of the most remote and least developed islands in the Sporades. Alonissos also happens to be home to a very old village that has the same name. The village of Alonissos is famous for producing some of the most delicious wine in Greece. On the island, you’ll also find unspoiled stretches of greenery and some of the most beautiful pebbled beaches in Greece. There’s no airport near the island, and throughout most of the year, there aren’t even daily ferries and hydrofoils connecting the island to the mainland. Hence, it’s no wonder that this divine, small island still remains off-the-beaten-track.
Davelis Cave is one of the most mysterious places in Greece that has oftentimes been linked to paranormal activities. The cave consists of a network of tunnels carved under the Pendeli Mountain. It has been named after the bandit, Davelis, who used this cave as his secret hideout. Locals reported suspicions of paranormal activities throughout the years, making this cave one of the most haunted places in Europe. This culminated with government agencies closing the cave for visitors in the 1980s due to investigations that were never revealed to the public. Today, the cave is again open for visitors and it’s definitely worth visiting. If not for its mysterious past, then certainly for its mesmerizing beauty and sheer remoteness.
This mesmerizing green lake came to existence when a large cavern collapsed after an earthquake around 2,000 years ago. The lake features an interesting natural phenomenon and I always wonder how this place hasn’t become a tourist attraction yet. Vouliagmeni has warm seawater that flows into the lake from underground channels that go through a network of flooded caves. The temperature of the water in the lake never goes below 18°C, even in the winters, making it one of the best “natural spa centers” in Greece.
Zakynthos has become one of the hottest summer vacation spots in Europe in the last few decades. A lot of people visit it because of its sandy beaches and more couple even decide to have their weddings in Zakynthos but still, only a few people make it to Melissani Cave; one of the most gorgeous caves, not only in Greece, but in the whole world. Located on the island of Kefalonia, just north of Zakynthos, Melissani Cave, or Cave of the Nymphs, as locals like to call it, will make you feel like you stepped into another dimension.
Inside the cave, you’ll find an underground lake with a depth of 39 meters. Also, the top of the cave is open, giving viewers the illusion of boats floating in the air! Another unusual sight inside the cave are the stalactites and archaeological remains, some of which are, according to estimates, between 15,000 and 20,000 years old. All this makes Melissani Cave one of the best hidden gems in Greece and one of the most fascinating places in the country.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track town, where you can learn a lot about Greek culture while having a peaceful vacation, Nafplion fits that description perfectly. Nafplion is a medieval town located in the southern part of the mainland and arguably the most underrated city in Greece in terms of the number of visitors. The city has some gorgeous beach resorts but it’s also home to one of the most beautiful Oldtowns in Greece. The architecture you’ll come across here is a very unique mix of Venetian, Greek, and Ottoman influences and this alone is worth visiting if you ask me…
We can’t talk about hidden gems in Greece without at least mentioning Monemvasia; a small, peaceful island off the east coast of the Peloponnese. The island is hidden behind a rocky mountain and has only one small causeway that’s connecting it to the mainland. This small causeway is the reason for the name of this charming. In Greek, Monemvasia means “a single entrance”. This name was more significant during medieval times when Monemvasia was arguably the hardest-to-conquer fort in all of Greece. The glory days of the island are long gone but the beautiful nature and stunning beaches that surround the island make Monemvasia one of Greece’s best-kept secrets.
If you ask locals “What’s the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean that most tourists still don’t know about”, most of them will answer “Kythera” without thinking too much. At least the ones that are aware of its existence. Kythera is located between the mainland and Crete- the largest island in Greece. Because of its strategic location, in the past, it was a crossroad for merchants and conquerors from different parts of the world. Today, the city isn’t as popular as it once was but it still has the same beautiful nature, it still has the gorgeous sandy beaches, and you can also expect to see some unique architecture; a result of the coexistence of several different cultures on Kythera throughout the years.
Located only an hour away from Athens, Kea is the secret, weekend-getaway spot of many Athenians. Kea is the closest to the mainland out of all the Cyclades islands but for some reason, it’s also one of the least frequented ones. Kea’s beaches seem a bit wild, and perhaps that’s the reason why not a lot of tourists decide to visit. However, the real gem of the island is the capital Ioulis; a picturesque town at the top of the hill with the most amazing views of the Cyclades and the Aegean.
Hop on an hour-long speed ferry ride from Santorini and you’ll discover Folegandros; a charming island with magical sunsets and dramatic caves the overlook beautiful sandy beaches and whitewashed buildings, just like Santorini, only without the crowds and ridiculous prices. Tourism in Folegandros still didn’t kick in but I don’t this island will remain hidden for much longer, having in mind everything it has to offer.
Keros is an uninhabited island with beautiful beaches, characteristic for all of the Cyclades Islands. However, what makes Keros special are the archaeological sites which indicate that the island was home to a pre-Cycladic civilization more than 5000 years ago. This is the main reason why there are restrictions on the number of daily visitors by the local authorities. Camping is forbidden on the island and if you want to visit legally, you have to take a guided tour. However, visiting this mysterious island that was home to an ancient civilization we don’t know a lot about, is surely one of the most unique experiences one can have in Greece.
Fun fact; When you look at Keros from afar, the island looks like a naked woman lying down under the moon.
Amorgos is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful islands in the Cyclades. The easternmost island of the Cyclades features a lot of remnants of ancient civilizations, including the remains of ancient watchtowers, ancient tombs, inscriptions that date back to more than 3,000 years ago, and 1,000-years-old monastery that’s still standing the test of time. Combine this with the beautiful remote villages that will make you feel like you’re traveling back in time and the idyllic, empty beaches that feel too good to be true and you get the recipe for the perfect vacation. Tourism hasn’t kicked in on the island but it seems like locals aren’t very interested in that either; the current island facilities just don’t allow mass tourism. The only way to reach Amorgos is by boat and there are only three facilities which provide accommodation for tourists.
Loutro is one of the last places in Crete that remain unspoiled by the waves of mass tourism. It’s a peaceful fishing village that doesn’t have any resorts, busy beaches, and traffic. The main reason for this is that there are no roads that lead to Loutro. Hence, even if you’re on Crete, you can’t reach this village, unless you take a boat or reach on foot. This is the place where most Cretans head to, to get some peace when the high-season on Crete kicks in. If you like the sound of a small village surrounded by beautiful nature and rugged countryside with no noise, night clubs, and any other kind of entertainment, definitely consider visiting Loutro.
Even though Kastelorizo has been getting more tourists in recent years, I believe the island still has a deserving spot on this list of hidden gems in Greece. It’s the most remote Greek island and it’s actually closer to the Anatolian Coast than it is to Greece. It’s a peaceful, hilly island with steep coastlines and some of the most pristine beaches in the southeast Aegean. Kastelorizo has no drinking water and only a handful of tourist facilities but it’s definitely worth visiting because of its remoteness that adds a special charm to the island.
Fun fact; Kastelorizo was the only place in Europe where the solar eclipse of March 2005 was completely visible!
Tilos is a part of the Dodecanese group and one of the most beautiful, sustainable, and liberal cities in Greece. The island also happens to be the first city in Europe that runs solely on wind and solar power. Being the sustainable island that it is, there aren’t many tourist facilities on Tilos, and hence, not too many people end up visiting the island. All this makes Tilos island even more appealing for enthusiasts that want to get off-the-beaten-track!
Kalymnos offers the ultimate off-the-beaten-track experience for hikers, divers, and rock climbing enthusiasts. The island is mountainous and has a rough, rectangular shape and the coastline is filled with sheltered coves. At Kalymnos, you’ll also find thermal baths, the relic of an ancient volcano, and some of the most beautiful views of the Bodrum Peninsula. Another thing Kalymnos is famous for is sponge diving. In fact, this is the main occupation on the island that’s today one of the last places in Greece where sponges are still fished individually, by hand.
When talking about hidden gems in Greece, I simply have to mention Patmos; the northernmost island of the Dodecanese. Except for a handful of religious tourists very few people are aware that this small island in the North Aegean exists. Patmos is famous as the island where John the disciple got the vision to write the Book of Revelation. However, as I mentioned, other than religious people, very few know this information, and hence this beautiful, pristine remains blissfully unfrequented.
Located in the North Aegean, Ikaria is a remote island famous for strong wine and the longevity of its people. Most of the island is covered in shrubbery, giving the surrounding landscape a lavish virescent color. Some of the island’s highlights include divine, remote beaches, the traditional village celebrations known as Panagiria, charming wineries hidden in the mountains, and archaeological sites. The first settlements on the island date back to 6000 B.C. making Ikaria one of the world’s oldest settlements. As you can see, Ikaria is the perfect place to have an off-the-beaten-track vacation while getting a feel of the authentic, old-world Greece at the same time…
Back in the late 2000s, some of the Sporades Islands like Skiathos and Skopelos suddenly turned into tourist attractions after being featured in the award-winning movie, ‘Mamma Mia!’. However, even with this unexpected wave of mass tourism, most of the islands in the region are still under-the-radar. My personal favorite is Skyros, an island that consists of one cobbled-street-filled town hidden in the hillside below an old Byzantine monastery. The rest of it is dominated by resort-free beaches, high mountains, pine forests, and a special breed of Skyrian wild ponies.
Samothrace has always been an insignificant and unfrequented part of Greece. It’s located in one of the most remote parts of the Aegean and its land is too mountainous to cultivate. In fact, Samothrace is home to the highest mountaintop in the Aegean, Mount Saos (1,611 meters) but the mountains of the island have a lot of other surprises in store for the few curious souls that make it here. The island is also home to the Sanctuary of the Great Gods that feature a 2.5 meters-tall statue of Nike, dating back to 2,000 years ago, secret waterfalls, and two Venetian Towers towering over the endless stretch of verdant plains and flat-topped hills.
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Did you ever visit some of these hidden gems in Greece? Do you think there are some places I didn’t mention in this list? Which one is your favorite? Where would you go first if you visit Greece tomorrow? Let me know in the comments!
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