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The Treasures of Mainland Greece

10th October 2023

Everyone dreams of one day visiting the Acropolis of Athens and the gorgeous Greek islands. But there are so many treasures to enjoy away from these tourist favourites. Head inland from the Greek capital and you’ll find natural beauty in abundance and an array of destinations that’ll enchant and linger long in the memory, from one-of-a-kind towns to UNESCO World Heritage sites steeped in legend.



The evocative ruins of this ancient UNESCO-feted site are tucked in the pine-forested foothills of Mount Parnassus - a sacred landmark in Greek mythology, mentioned in Homer's epic poem, The Odyssey. Delphi’s centrepiece was the Sanctuary of Apollo, which once lured devotees from across the ancient world to hear prophecies from an oracle. Roam the open-air relics then discover more about Delphi's rise and fall in the excellent modern archaeological museum, which showcases statues and gold-and-silver-laden exhibits excavated here. A charming base for visiting Delphi is Arachova, a quaint nearby mountain town with an alpine-esque vibe, stone chalets and rustic tavernas. In winter, it transforms into a bustling ski resort.



Greece’s second city is an absorbing melting pot, a vibrant port nestled at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, with a culture and cuisine shaped by its wave of different rulers (Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman) and influential Jewish and Balkan communities. Declared a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Thessaloniki is a treat for foodies, with restaurants pairing a multitude of flavoursome dishes with tipples produced in the wineries edging the city. Post-meal, enjoy a walk along the spruced-up waterfront promenade, whose striking sights include the Ottoman-era White Tower and a giant installation of steel umbrellas. Thessaloniki's historic core is also worth a wander, home to 15 UNESCO heritage-listed monuments, among them Byzantine baths, churches and city walls.



The landscapes of Meteora may remind you of the scenery from the movie, Avatar, with lushly-cloaked pinnacles soaring into the (occasionally misty) skies of northern Greece. Clinging to cliff edges are a series of Christian Orthodox monasteries that have sheltered monks and nuns since medieval times. Today some sites welcome pilgrims and tourists, including the Holy Trinity Monastery, which doubled as a villain’s lair in For Your Eyes Only, James Bond’s 1981 Greek escapade. Admire the magnificent frescos and Byzantine art in the monasteries’ incense-scented chapels and take in the stirring panoramas over the Meteora valley from the lofty terraces.



Amid the sprawling olive groves, citrus fields and vineyards of western Greece’s Peloponnese region are a slew of arresting archaeological sites, among them Olympia - where the very first Olympic Games was held way back in 776BC. You can stretch your legs on the dusty track of the original Olympic stadium and admire a series of other sun-baked relics, including the weathered columns of the Temple of Zeus, the god in whose honour the games were staged. Even older - and also sure to stir the imagination - is Mycenae, a Peloponnese Bronze Age citadel that was the realm of King Agamemnon, who led his army in the Trojan war depicted in The Odyssey and Homer’s other epic poem, the Iliad.



The first capital of modern Greece - the national parliament met here from 1821 to 1834 following the Greek War of Independence - Nafplio is a pretty, chilled-out Peloponnese seaport town perched by the island-speckled Argolic Gulf. Named after Nafplios, son of the sea god Poseidon, it has a delightfully walkable, maze-like old quarter adorned with picturesque architecture built by its former Venetian and Ottoman occupiers. Bars, cafes and restaurants spill out onto shaded pavements and sun-dappled squares and there’s a selection of browse-worthy gift stores, galleries and workshops (with artisans crafting wares like traditional leather sandals). For gorgeous views of Nafplio and beyond, hike up the craggy, fortification-strewn hills overlooking the town. And if you’re in the mood for some beach time, on Nafplio’s doorstep are serene coves, seaside villages and resorts, where you can laze on loungers, sip cocktails and swim in crystal-clear waters.


Talk to a Travel Associates advisor about planning your next one of a kind holiday.»