Sometimes overlooked because of the hype of the Greek Islands, Mainland Greece has some treasures of its own. From thriving cultural cities like Athens and Thessaloniki to famed archaeological sites like Delphi and the Roman Agora, from the cliff dwelling monasteries of Meteora to a shoreline with waters just as glittering as any island coastline - Mainland Greece has it all and more.
Divided into regions, the mainland consists of Central Greece, Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, and Thrace. Each has its own landscape from bustling port cities to towering mountain ranges, rocky beaches, and sweeping farmland. The culture is ancient and abundant, and the food is just as rich, always fresh. A land of the ancients, Mainland Greece is a modern civilization built atop the hospitality of old world charm.
As far as cities go, Athens and Thessaloniki are the largest followed by the port city of Volos at the foot of Mount Pelion. Athens, of course, is famous for its acropolis which holds the Parthenon and other ancient structures dedicated to the Greek gods. Modeled during a time of chariots, the cobbled streets at the Center of Athens are all navigable by foot and lined with shops and eateries. Thessaloniki is the second largest hub, further north, with many ancient sites and monuments of its own, and Volos is the most modern of the three, situated as a midpoint between the other two, a fishing port city of Thessaly.
Delphi is one of the most famous archaeological sites of the mainland. Proclaimed to be the center of the world by the ancient Greeks, Delphi and its ruins exist on the sloping mountainside of Mount Parnassus. With breathtaking views just over the cliffs, one cannot help but marvel at the sweeping valley dotted with olive trees all the way down to the sea. The beauty of it all truly brings one to a place where they understand why Delphi was marked as the center of the earth. Home to the legendary Oracle of Delphi and sanctuary to the god Apollo, the worn stone and marble of the site was once a hub of civilization and cultural activity.
Some of the most important cultural sites of the mainland are the monasteries of Meteora. They sit at the tops of gigantic natural sandstone pillars of rock, jutting of the landscape like meteors from the sky. While only 6 of the original 24 monasteries still remain, each have areas open to the public to be explored and admired by visitors. The Meteora monasteries have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, offering spectacular views in addition to the rich history, geological wonder, and culture that exists in the monasteries today.
Other notable sites include the port town of Nafplio, and the ancient sites of Mycenae and Corinthâall on the Peloponnese, as well as Cape Sounion, the Mount Pelion peninsula, and Mount Olympusâthe country's highest and most famous mountain.
When it comes to being well rounded in everything, Athens hits the nail on the head. It is a city of layers, the new build upon the old in a blending of changing cultures. Ancient sites like the Acropolis and Agora shine through as prime examples of the past, while the bustling Plaka sits at Athen's center in a hub of present day culture. From tavernas and eateries overflowing with customers to shops filled with tapestries, knick knacks, jewelry, and more, Athens is a center of activity. The streets are often filled with performers and musicians, and the commotion continues into the night with restaurants and bars open into the late hours. Much of Greece is like thisâbustling and busy, except for afternoon siesta hours when many places close until the evening.
The mainland of Greece is a playground for sight-seeing galore. Nearly every town has an archaeological site to be proud of, evidence of the culture's rich history. In addition to the sites, many of the artifacts found are on display in surrounding museums. The Delphi Archaeological Museum is one of the top museums, with artifacts uncovered from the region of ancient Delphi. Athens, too, is home to some of the nation's best museumsâthe National Archaeological Museum holding the largest collection with items like the famed golden funeral Mask of Agamemnon.
Beyond history, Mainland Greece is a world of living culture. The language is vibrant, the food is fresh, and the scenery is ever-changing and beautiful. Any of Greece's mountain ranges are perfect backdrops for hiking, backpacking, camping, and wildlife in the summer, as well as popular skiing destinations during the winter months. Arachova, near Delphi, is an especially quaint town that attracts skiers wishing to tackle Mount Parnassus. Other charming towns lie in the foothills of Mount Pelion, mythological home to the centaurs, and some of the most beautiful beaches to be found on the mainland sit just on the other side of the mountain. Agios Ioannes, in particular is a little piece of heaven untouched, with calm glittering waters, inviting bungalows, and seafood restaurants. This, perhaps, is one of the locals' best kept secrets.
Food and Dining
It is very hard to go wrong when it comes to food in Greece. If you are interested in traditional Greek fare, taverna-style eateries are dotted all over the mainland. Places like these serve up Greek-Mediterranean fare full of herb-rubbed meats, fresh vegetables, tzatziki, fresh baked breads, and olive oil. Many of Greek's natives also brew their own beers, wines, and spirits. Nearly everything is made from scratch. Even the Greek fast food gyros are made with meat right off the spit. Of course, if you happen to tire of the traditional cuisine, cities like Athens have just about anything from burgers to pizza. Being a country of the Mediterranean, seafood is also almost always on the menu.
Athens International Airport is the largest airport of the mainland and is served by most major airlines. Thessaloniki International Airport is another large terminal for those looking to begin their journey in the northern regions of Greece.
As far as public transportation goes, Athens is a central hub. Here visitors have access to the metro from the airport, as well as KTEL bus services to nearly every popular attraction on the mainland. Rental cars and taxis are also available.
The port of Piraeus offer passenger boats and ferries to nearly any of the islands as well as other locations on the mainland.
Looking for a party in Athens
Traveling alone to Athens