Mainland Greece : 10-day itinerary to catch authenticity
Updated: Aug 17, 2021
Greece is one of the most important tourism destinations in Europe and, despite this, there are so many unspoiled places that will catch your curious soul immediately.
In fact, two keys of responsible tourism are:
Travelling in low season if possible
Discovering off the beaten path destinations
Prepare yourself for a real trip back to the past to discover the fascinating Ancient Greece civilisation. Keep your eyes open to admire unique natural landscapes and let you surprise by the delicious tastes of traditional Greek cuisine and the extreme kindness of its inhabitants.
Our journey starts in Athens, where the fascinating ancient history and mythology create a perfect fusion with a multicultural vibrant modernity.
Colourful narrow streets, cute wild cats observing tourists, the smell of Greek cuisine coming out of local taverns, pieces of history in every corner with an interesting story to tell, gentle Kalimera and Iasas (''good morning'' and ''hi'' in Greek) from locals, a vibrant night life and the majestic Acropolis overlooking the city from the above.
You just need to close your eyes and imagine life in Athens as we studied it in history books, it’s magic!
Make sure you spend at least two days in the city while getting lost in its quaint streets. Here some spots you can't miss :
The majestic Parthénon on the Acropole
Temple of Zeus
Exarchia nighboordhood known for its political and social riots with a very artistic soul
Gazi and its lively athmosphere
The white streets of Plaka
For an incredible sunset to enjoy the view over the city, go up on Philopappos Hill!
If you plan to visit various archeological sites, check out the Museum Pass (it's 30euros for people under 25 and it includes the main historical sites).
My personal suggestion for bars and restaurants in Athens:
Gypsy Junge for amazing cocktails
Not just Falafel for the best falafels in town!
Time to continue our trip and reach another incredible archeological site: Delphi.
Delphi hosted the famous oracle of the priestess Phytia in the majestic Temple of Apollo. The oracle was one of the most important in Greece, attracting pilgrims from all over the country. There're such a mystic athmosphere while visiting this well-preserved site literally surrounded by nature and the pleasing sound of cigals.
Delphi was also considered the center of the world according to Greek mhythology. In fact, Zeus let two eagles to fly in opposite directions and they met right here.
After a visit of the archeological park and the Delphi Museum, take your time to stroll in the modern city and enjoy the stunning view over the Ionian Sea. We found this pearl for a delicious lunch in a typical 19-century stone building with a panoramic terrace : To Patriko Mas.
Now let's get closer to the crystal-clear Greek beaches: direction Pelion Peninsula, the place where Gods were supposed to go on holidays. And yes, you’ll immediately understand why!
A paradise for trek lovers around the Pélion Mount, quaint villages, beach restaurants serving fresh fish from the day… We stayed at Camping Chorefto, a lively and modern beach camping with welcoming staff!
From Chorefto pier, we started in the morning an adventurous panoramic hike crossing various unspoiled beaches :
Paralia Angii Saranta
This hike is quite intense and wild, you can follow the precise steps here to avoid getting lost! Make sure you have with you enough water, snacks and a fully charged phone for the GPS.
Before going back to Chorefto, we gained back all the energies with a typical lunch right in front of the beach at Agios Ioannis. Some Greek tastes that you can’t miss? Pork/chicken souvlaki, Moussaka, Greek salad and Tatsiki!
We rarely go back to the same restaurants while traveling, but in Chorefto we made an exception: To Kima. This place is definitely an immersion into local genuine Greek cuisine!
Get ready for our next stop, a special one : Meteora.
Meteora means ‘Suspended in the air’ and it’s a unique place on Earth where spirituality meets nature. In this Central area of Greece, 6 Eastern Orthodox monasteries lie on the top of these majestic rock pillars. Some of them are still active sites of worship, which means that monks conduct their monastic life in this mystic piece of paradise.
The monasteries, that were built between the XIV and the XVI centuries, provided protection during the Turkish invasions over the years and they’re now recognised as part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
We visited Roussanau and Varlaam monasteries, the entrance is about 6euro and it helps keeping the buildings entertained over the years. The most incredible moment was definitely when we sat on a rock and just admired these incredible architectural masterpieces perfectly in harmony with the surrounding landscape.
Vikos Gorge is considered the world’s deepest relative to its width gorge.
An incredible natural paradise surrounded by the typical stone villages of Zagori region in Northern Greece.
Being hosted by En Chora Vezitsa Guesthouse was an amazing experience. A family-run guesthouse in traditional Zagori style proposing local gastronomy, a warm hospitality and an outdoor panoramic terrace with such a relaxing atmosphere. Can you believe that the sycamore tree in their courtyard is 600 years old?!
The kind of places that I love so much and that I keep in my heart while travelling.
From Vitsa, we started a walk in the forest to reach St Paraskevi Monastery, a peaceful oasis where to admire the spectacular canyon of Vikos. Then, we crossed the village following the so called Epirus Trail signs and we started a panoramic hike down to the Vikos Gorge.
On our way back, a little stop to see the Stone Forest, an incredible forest made of flat rocks, a true natural artwork. Along the road, we had some pretty special encounters : wild turtles and local shepherds moving their sheep back home with the pleasing sound of their neck bell.
Ioannina & Parga
After archaeology, history and nature, it's time to get closer to the seaside!
Our first stop is Ioannina, a fascinating city overlooking Pamvotis lake and characterised by a Byzantine fortress. Here, we simply strolled in the streets observing daily life. I can't avoid telling you a funny episode : we were having lunch in a restaurant and I had a mosquito bite that was hurting so much, a Greek grandma saw me and she asked the waiter to bring me a natural remedy (vinegar probably) to reduce the pain, and of course, we could only speak by using gestures because she didn't know English. So cute of her!
Parga, instead, is the perfect representation of the Grek Dolcevita.
This picturesque fishing village on the West coast of Greece wasn’t included in our initial itinerary, but we decided to follow the locals suggestion and spend a few days here.
Cute wild cats lying all over the streets, fishing boats on the pier, colourful houses overlooking the sea, elderly people chatting about daily life from the Medieval citadel and the pleasing smell of sea breeze.
Here, we got to know the fascinating history of the family-run olive oil factory Paragea, while experiencing a real journey through every step of the olive oil production. I love meeting these kind of realities with a strong attachment to local traditions: small producers focused on quality and passion, which are fundamental ingredients for a unique product.
An upper walk from the pier will bring you to the Medieval citadel and then to Paralia Valtos Beach, an unspoiled crystal clear beach that locals like for their summer holidays.
For a great happy hour on the pier : Geoker Bar
Peloponnesus : Nafplio & Corinth
Next direction: the famous Peloponnesus Peninsula, cradle of ancient civilisations and melting pot of cultures and traditions.
We started with Nafplio, the first capital of the modern Greek state which was ruled in the past by Frankish, Venetian, and Turkish conquerors. A vibrant city characterised by white streets and colourful flowers, the fascinating Palamidi Castle and the Venitian fortress of Bourtzi.
Greek Mezze are small savoury dishes to share in good company, definitely something you can't miss while visiting the country! In Nafplio, we found this traditional gem : I Gonia Tou Kalavari. And as a dessert, a greedy Italian ice cream in the authentic Antica Gelateria di Roma!
Greece is also very famous for its wine and we couldn't leave the country without experiencing a proper wine tasting! We chose to explore Ktima Palivou, a fascinating family-run estate along Nemea Wine Route where Betty gave us a warm welcoming.
As for Corinth, we visited:
the Ancient Corinth archeological site, which was one of the most powerful cities of the Classical world
Corinth Archaeological Museum
The fascinating Temple of Apollo in Doric style
The impressive Corinth Canal built from 19882 to 1893 in order to connect the Peloponnese to Inland Greece.
And for our last Greek dinners, a typical taverna, Marinos restaurant, and Ethrio with a beautiful terrace right on the sea.
Here we are, the end of this incredible journey, so intense and authentic. Travel in low season and slowly, explore, dare, try the specialities, connect with the locals, be curious, learn, discover passionate realities, keep your eyes and your heart open.
It's the key to catch authenticity.