By Giorgos Psomiadis.
While every year a number of famous islands top the international lists for places to visit in Greece, there is a different side to the country that is waiting to be discovered.
From remote islands to mountain villages and rivers far from crowded beaches, Greece is a lot more than Mykonos and Santorini.
The Greek Herald takes a look at the not-so-obvious part of Greece that you have to discover, and offers you suggestions to live Greek summer in a unique way.
If, for most people, summer in Greece brings first to mind the beautiful islands, the crystal sea and the endless sunny beaches, then it’s time to see the bigger picture. At this time of the year, mountain destinations in Greece are ideal to discover small magical villages, to swim in rivers and to hike amongst the blossoming nature.
Zagori and the small villages in the northwest part of Greece are a must. You can wander in the forests, dive in the rivers, and eat delicious food under the shadow of trees in the village square.
There are 46 stoned villages in Zagori, and their heart lies in those main squares, which are lit up either by traditional local festivities, or by the simple pleasures of a quiet life from the permanent residents.
Instead of the overcrowded famous islands, you can choose to walk through the trails and across some of the 100 stone bridges, breathe in the forests and explore the magic of a destination which might look ideal for winter, but in summer, is transformed into a green paradise.
The home of the gods is a unique place, but in summer it gets even more special. Located in northern Greece, the highest mountain in the country (2918 meters), Olympus offers a distant destination with low temperatures and peace.
The trails to the mountain start from Litoxoro, Dion or Petra, and there are many spots you can aim for in your trip. If you are in good physical condition you should go to Myticas, the highest spot of the mountain and also see Stefani (Zeus’ throne).
However, you don’t have to go that high. If you are not a fan of trailing, you should visit the beautiful villages of Olympus, Kalyvia, Pythio or Kokkinoplos. Whatever you choose be sure that the combination of colorful trails and nature is going to give you a different journey to remember in the heart of summer. August is the best time to attempt your trip.
Located in the most western part of the Cyclades islands, Irakleia is such a small island that you can walk it all in three days. It has crystal blue seas, peaceful beaches and secret locations, as well as trails for hiking. There are only approximately 150 permanent residents, and the beaches are free, without many people and easily accessible.
The story of a German seaplane wreck between Ios and Hrakleia island is one to follow, as the wreck is lying in the depths of nine meters adding another history dimension to the place. Ideal for relaxing far from the crowd, the small island of Irakleia is an unexpected diamond in the Aegean Sea.
Gavdos is the most southern place of Greece and Europe in general. It has less than 100 permanent residents and in summer is a favourite spot for mainly campers. The island’s port is Karave while Kastri is the most recognised from the four traditional “villages.” Xenaki, Vatsiana and Ampelos are the other three. Gavdos has golden beaches and there is a Venice type of castle, Roman ruins in the Ai-Giannis hill and the “throne” of Trypiti. Overall, a destination worth exploring even if it’s not in the most famous summer destinations list.
To the west of Rhodes island, there is a small island called Halki, an ideal destination to relax in the Greek summer. There is a lot of history to it, as it is said the place has been inhabited since the pre-historic times. The island was rapidly developed in the second half of the 19th century with the sponges trade playing a significant role. The windmills of Halki are restored and they are a unique symbol for the island while there are many little churches you can find to visit. Pontamos, is the only sand beach of the island. You can visit Halki either from Rhodes island or straight from Piraeus by ship.