Mainland Greece beckons with its rich heritage and stunning landscapes. Explore our top picks for the best places to experience its timeless allure.
Recommended Reading: Our list of go-to hotels in Athens, Greece!
As one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, Greece draws some 30 million visitors every year, many of whom focus their vacations on Greek Islands like Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete.
But the mainland has plenty to offer, making it well worth extending your trip to include a little of both. Of course, some find themselves returning again with so many enticing spots to visit here.
What are the best cities to visit on the Greek mainland?
Besides the famous Greek islands, Greece has a ton of wonderful cities to visit on the mainland too. If you’re visiting the Greek mainland, be sure to check out these awesome vacation spots:
When planning your itinerary, these are the top places to put on your must-visit list in mainland Greece.
Nearly every traveler begins their journey to Greece by flying into the capital city of Athens.
It’s the perfect opportunity to spend some time here, experiencing what many regard to be the birthplace of western civilization.
This is one of the world’s oldest cities, home to many remarkable landmarks and monuments that are thousands of years old, like the Acropolis Hill and its crown-jewel, the Parthenon, which both date back to the 5th-century BC.
Follow in the footsteps of ancient greats like Plato and Socrates and explore fascinating museums, including the Acropolis Museum which displays many artifacts uncovered from the hill.
There are lively markets for browsing and buying while mingling with the locals, world-class art galleries, a wide range of gastronomic delights enjoyed everywhere from traditional tavernas to fine-dining restaurants, and renowned nightlife too.
Located on the Peloponnese Peninsula, linked to the mainland by a bridge, Olympia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place not to be missed for history, mythology, or sports enthusiasts.
It’s where the very first Olympic Games were held, honoring the god Zeus, the god of the sky, considered to be the father, protector and ruler of all gods and humans.
The archaeological ruins tell the story of the Games’ spirit, guts, and glory.
They include the remnants of the stadium that hosted the competitions and a 5th-century Temple of Zeus which once contained one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a massive, 43-foot-tall statue of Zeus made of gold and ivory.
Be sure to pop into the Olympia Archaeological Museum which will provide perspective of the site.
One of the top museums in Greece, it showcases the past from prehistoric times to the Roman eras, with many finds from archaeological sites and other excavations in the region.
At the Kotasanas Museum, you can learn just how advanced the ancient Greeks were.
It includes what’s considered to be the world’s first laptop, the Antikythera Mechanism, and a crane used to build the Parthenon in Athens.
Nestled along the slopes of Mount Parnassus, Delphi offers an ideal mix of striking natural beauty and ancient ruins.
Revered by ancient Greeks as the center of the Earth, it has historical and cultural importance, while the ancient sanctuary is sure to take your breath away.
The most important oracle in ancient Greece, it once welcomed mortals and kings who came to hear from the oracle of the god Apollo.
Today locals and foreign tourists alike come to see monuments like the hippodrome that once hosted events that were part of the Pythian Games, the Temple of Apollo, and Athenian Treasury.
Ascend the Sacred Way and you’ll see the Treasury of Athens building, built to house votive offerings and dedications to the sanctuary of Apollo.
Ever since the fall of tyranny, it’s been a symbol of Athenian Democracy.
Made from Parian marble, experts believe it was an offering given after the victory in the battle of Salamis in 480 BC.
A visit to the archaeological museum is a must for a better understanding of the archaeological site with artifacts that date all the way back to the 8th century BC when civilization began at ancient Delphi.
Its many treasures include statues of Artemis and Apollo, with many others from prehistoric time through the late Byzantine era.
While Meteora is a four-and-a-half-hour’s drive from Athens, it’s worth the trip.
Plan to spend the night in Kalambaka or Kastraki, the two villages it overlooks.
Set high atop rocky outcroppings, its name translates to “suspended in the air.” The sight is jaw-dropping with the cliffs soaring more than 1,200 feet into the nearly always bright blue skies.
To reach this sacred place, you’ll travel the same footpaths monks used for centuries, with the reward a spectacular view and the opportunity to experience living history.
Monks and nuns still inhabit the 14th-century monasteries built by early monks seeking religious persecution.
It’s one of the largest Eastern Orthodox monastery complexes in the world.
Mystras is located in the Peloponnese, nestled on the steep slopes of the Taygetus Mountains.
The ancient Byzantine town, a classic walled city, is now an archaeological site, surrounded by olive and orange trees with cobblestone streets that have been worn smooth over the centuries.
At its highest point, its crowned by a fortress where one can take in an impressive view of the site.
Linked to it through a descending series of arches and staircases, are seven medieval churches.
While strolling through one can duck into the ruins of the churches, monasteries, palaces, and simple houses, most of which date from the 13th– through 15th-centuries.
Just below is a new village with a square that offers a number of cafes, tavernas, and accommodation emphasizing wellness services.
A small seaside town in the eastern Peloponnese, romantic Nafplio was the very first capital of the new Modern Greek state between 1823 and 1834.
Especially popular among Athenians, many consider it to be the country’s most beautiful town, with everything anyone would want in a Greek getaway.
Just two hours from Athens, it hosts a magnificent Venetian fort that overlooks another fort in the heart of its harbor.
The Old Town is incredibly picturesque with its neoclassical mansions, and visitors can also enjoy sipping wine while watching families with kids play in the central square.
There are bustling markets to explore, upscale boutiques to shop, and plenty of cafes and tavernas serving delicious, authentic Greek cuisine.
Some of the must-dues here include climbing to the top of Palamidi Fortress, visiting the Nafplio Archaeological Museum which traces the development of Argolis from the times of hunter-gatherers to Mycenaean civilizations, and spending the day at the beach.
There are several gorgeous beaches for sunbathing and swimming, including Karathona, a Blue Flag beach.
Hidden behind the rock of Palamidi between two bays, it boasts soft sands and crystal-clera water for swimming.
Considered the “second city,” behind Athens, Thessonaliki is the second-largest city in the country.
A seafront metropolis and cultural hub on the northern reaches of the Thermaic Gulf, there are a number of beautiful beaches at its doorstep, from Afytos to Agia Triada, that provide an easy escape from the city.
It’s a perfect destination to combine a beach retreat with ancient history, home to sites like Roman ruins, a walled old town, and impeccably preserved ruins from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.
Hagi Sofia, one of the oldest churches here, has witnessed everything from the Iconoclastic wars to the Crusades, including remarkable mosaics and paintings.
Some of the country’s best wine is produced here too, making its way onto many restaurant menus like Clochard, known for its high-end gastronomy, here for over four decades.
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