Mainland Greece travel guide
2 MINUTE SUMMARY
When you see photos of Greece, they are usually of the island idylls. But for some reason, apart from Athens, mainland Greece often gets overlooked on the glam Grecian vacation spreads. And yet, this is where the real drama lies. Just look at Mount Olympus – known as the home of 12 Greek Gods, it is also home to over 12 peaks, canyons, gorges and all round hiking heaven. Or the Peloponnese Peninsula, which has a panoply of peninsularettes, each as beautiful as the next, poking out into the Aegean or some gorgeous unknown gulf. It’s as if this country, with all its classical drama, has kept the main players in the wings all the time. And yet that is where some of the best action is happening. From bears in the Pindos to lovers in Laconia. So don’t see mainland Greece as the prologue to island retreats. Here lies the main narrative of the drama, and it’s an epic that has to be experienced.
See our Mainland Greece travel guide for more details.
Mainland Greece is...
far from mainstream. Get off the beaten track in the national parks and ancient mountain paths. It’s the place to embrace the notion of odyssey.
Mainland Greece isn't...
all about history and ruins. Pedal your way around the Pelion, hike the many peaks of Olympus and do yoga on the Peloponnese.
Mainland Greece map & highlights
Make the most of your time
Travel writers come out in a cold sweat when it comes to describing mainland Greece vacations. There are only so many superlatives out there, and a limited amount of words for blue. We are going to take the laconic approach, from the Greek of course, defined as ‘describing something in few words’. The etymology of this word comes from Laconia, one of our mainland Greece highlights in fact, where the native Spartans were said to be men of few words. And who needs words when you look up at the Mount Olympus, the ancient theatre at Epidavros or out across the infinity pool that is the Aegean.
Delphi & Parnassus National Park
We love offering a natural and cultural combo on our vacations, and this region is one that tickles both the wild and wonderful. Rulers and pilgrims came to hear Apollo’s oracle at Delphi, the temple way up on the mountainous cliffs of Mount Parnassus. Now you can hear the eagles and vultures soar above the juniper trees, as you hike through the Pleisto valley or along the Plain of Itea.
As if the Peloponnese wasn’t pretty enough, it has two more picture perfect peninsulas protruding off it into the Med. With heritage heaving Sparta as its capital and Byzantine cities of Mystras and Monemvassia, swap culture for coast with turquoise fringed fishing towns such as Gytheio and Elia. And then in that Greek tragedy way, Agia Marina’s Petrified Forest and the sunken ancient city of Pavlopetri are epic.
Apart from its mythical stature, it is the highest mountain in Greece at 2,917m. That is the main peak of Mytikas, but it also has over 50 peaks on or around it, is the centre piece of the eponymous national park and an all round heavenly hiking hub. It’s not all peaks and summits though. Walking through Enipeas Gorge a must, as is packing your swimsuit, with waterfalls and river pools en route.
Wild, northern Greece is unknown to many, as is the fact that it is home to brown bears, lynx and wolves, in the black pine and beech forests of this mountainous region, all protected by the Northern Pindos National Park. Right up near the Albanian border, wildlife watching here isn’t just on land, with eagles and vultures up above, and mountain streams full of otters.
Oh yawn, another pretty peninsula. With a sea of its own, wrapping itself around the Pagasitic Gulf. Go hiking or canyoning in waterfall rich mountains still bedecked with oak, maple and chestnut trees. Bike or hike along ancient Pelion paths that criss cross their way through mountain villages. Horse ride along sandy beaches, or salute the sun on a yoga vacation. Or just salute everything. Pelion deserves it.
Greece aficionados adore it. Full of archaeological delights, such as the coastal town of Nafplion, the first modern capital, ancient theatre at Epidavros, 3,500-year-old ruins of Mycenae home of Agamemnon and Venetian fortress at Pylos. They nearly all have the backdrop of hillside olive groves in one direction or turquoise waters in the other. Or just keep the sea in view at all times by cycling along the Messinia coast.