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15 Hidden Gems and Unique Places to Visit in Greece

Beyond the ancient wonders of Athens.

Beyond Mykonos and its chic beach hotels.

Beyond the tried-and-true in the guidebooks, there are endless unique places to visit in Greece.

With more than 6,000 islands and islets, there are plenty of quiet, romantic Greek islands with pinch-me-I’m-dreaming beaches to escape to.

Add to that the remarkable historical sites. With thousands of years of history, Greece is also home to mythical places rich in ancient legends, fantastic archeological sites with beautifully preserved ruins and spiritual havens that soothe the soul.

And for nature lovers, there are lush landscapes, rugged mountains and serene lakes.

So if you’re planning to visit Greece – and you’re keen to discover its unique, alternative and secret side – read on!

Unique Places to Visit in Greece
There are plenty of hidden gems and non-touristy places in Greece!

Unique places to visit in Greece

Unique Greek islands

1) Ikaria

Ikaria is a beautiful remote Greek island located off the Turkish coast, about a two-hour ferry ride from Mykonos.

We think it’s one of the most unique places to visit in Greece.

On the remote Greek island of Ikaria, the people live long and healthy lives.
On the remote island of Ikaria, the people live long and healthy lives

Ikaria is unusual for a very interesting reason – it’s one of the world’s five Blue Zones. These are places where people live longer and healthier than anywhere else, like Okinawa in Japan and Sardinia in Italy. 

An astounding one in three people in Ikaria lives to be over 90.

And they live healthy lives in their old age too – no dementia, no depression, less cancer and less heart disease.

So what’s Ikaria’s secret?

Well, the Ikarians eat an incredibly healthy diet – fresh fish, locally grown wild greens, lots of other veggies and Ikarian olive oil.

You can enjoy a healthy stress-free holiday in Ikaria

They also lead a healthy lifestyle in other aspects.

They walk. They make love a lot (well into their old age). They’re not stressed about time. And they make their own organic red wine and cultivate their own olive groves. 

If you visit Ikaria, you’ll want to hang out on Faros Beach (Paralia Faros). This sand-and-pebble beach has boasts clear water – with several nearby tavernas for quaffing some of that superb local wine.

It’s one of the best beaches in Ikaria and is free to visit. It’s very relaxed and spacious, with trees for shade and warm beach showers. 

2) Delos

Centuries ago, Delos was once a fabulous Greek island city.
Centuries ago, Delos was once a fabulous island city

You’ll find the uninhabited tiny island of Delos just a short ferry ride from Mykonos.

This mesmerizing UNESCO World Heritage Site (less than two square miles in size) is covered in archeological ruins dating from 300 BC.

Delos was once the most prosperous commercial center in the ancient world. During that time, the wealthy built grand villas – with the most beautiful mosaic tile floors.

These mosaics of Delos are over 2,000 years old.

In the House of Dionysos, you’ll see a great example – the panther head. It’s a well-preserved testament to the ancient Greeks’ artistic skills.

The mosaic-tiled floor in one 2nd century BC house on Delos shows Dionysus riding a panther.
The mosaic-tiled floor in one 2nd century BC house on Delos shows Dionysos riding a panther

You can even see remains of the residents’ toilet rooms in these once-opulent villas – canals under the whole city took waste water out to sea.

Take a Delos tour from Mykonos

To visit Delos, take an excursion boat from the nearby island of Mykonos. Boats leave from Mykonos Harbor daily for guided tours of Delos Island.

See this well-rated guided tour of the archaeological sites of Delos. You’ll get to see many of the well-kept monuments and sacred sites – including the historic Delos mosaics.

For a more comprehensive guided tour of Delos, this full-day Delos and Rhenia Islands cruise comes complete with a BBQ meal. It includes swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters off Rhenia island – one of the hidden gems of Greece.

The Delos Archaeological Museum on the island houses beautiful ancient marble sculptures
The Delos Archaeological Museum on the island houses beautiful ancient marble sculptures

3) Santorini

Talk about cool places in Greece!

Santorini is the volcanic island whose middle was blown out by a massive volcanic eruption in 1,600 BC.

Santorini really is a place like no other
Santorini really is a place like no other

Any good unique Greece travel guide will tell you that walking along the edge of the caldera (volcanic crater), from the capital of Fira to the white sugar-cube village of Oia, is one of the most pleasurable ways to take in the heart-stopping views.

Enjoy a Santorini sailboat cruise

Sailing offers a different viewpoint from which to enjoy Santorini’s unique scenery.

We booked a luxury Santorini cruise for the day, joining four other couples aboard a swish catamaran.

A day sailing trip is a great way to see a different side of Santorini.
A day sailing trip is a great way to see a different side of Santorini

From Oia, we cruised past the island’s craggy brown and white rocks to swim at a red sand beach.

For lunch, the crew barbecued huge shrimp and mussels. They were served with Greek salad featuring Santorini’s sweet juicy cherry tomatoes.

Unlimited goblets of wine and other delectable local Greek dishes further sweetened the experience.

What’s for lunch? (Credit: Sunset Oia)

We ended the day by jumping off the boat to swim at underwater hot springs, gushing up by the uninhabited lava islet of Nea Kameni. A unique experience, for sure!

The water was actually only luke-warm, but it was fun to slather on the red-brown sulphuric mud (said to be good for the skin).

Swimming on a sailing trip around Santorini
Swimming on a sailing trip around Santorini (Credit: Sunset Oia)

Tip: To round out your unique Santorini experience, stay in a cave hotel like Ikies Traditional Houses.

4) Milos

The rugged volcanic island of Milos is one of Greece’s hidden gems, with its colorful and unusual landscapes.

Fishing boats at anchor on Milos Island, Greece
Milos is one of Greece’s hidden gems

Being relatively undeveloped and unspoiled (for now!), it’s quite a unique Greek island and one of the less touristy places in Greece.

You may know Milos as the island where the famous “Venus de Milo” statue was discovered. (She’s now displayed in the Louvre.)

What you may not know is that this volcanic island has natural hot springs, ancient mines, spectacular rock formations and cute harbor towns with fishing boats bobbing offshore.

And thanks to the locals, it has several really good, authentic restaurants too.

Milos Island beach
Weird and wonderful rock formations on Milos

Don’t miss a Milos guided tour to Kleftiko

If you find yourself on the island of Milos, a tour is a great way to get fully acquainted with Kleftiko Bay. With hidden sea caves once used by pirates and white volcanic rock cliffs, Kleftiko is one of the most unique places in Greece.

We recommend this 5-star-rated guided Milos day tour to Kleftiko.

You’ll explore the stunning volcanic coast of western Milos by sailboat, with lots of stops for swimming and snorkeling in the turquoise waters. A dinghy is used for you to discover the pirate cave hideouts.

5) Skyros

When seeking out unique non-touristy Greek islands, also take a look at Skyros.

A best-kept secret, Skyros is a quiet Greek island in the Sporades archipelago in the Aegean Sea (together with Skiathos, #8 below, and Skopelos).

When seeking out non-touristy Greek islands, take a look at Skyros.
Don’t tell too many people about Skyros!

Skyros is the perfect escape if you love beautiful beaches and snorkeling in crystal-clear waters. There are also many charming cafés in the island’s sole town (Skyros town) – and a remarkable sea cave chapel on the coast.

The famous English poet Rupert Brooke is buried in an olive grove on a hill on the island.

And finally, you’ll also want to see the unique and rare breed of Skyrian horses. Almost extinct, they look like regular horses, but shorter (just a little over three feet high).

Go and meet them at the Skyros Island Horse Trust, dedicated to saving the breed – one of the more unique things to do in Greece…

Skyrian horses on the quiet Greek island of Skyros
Skyrian horses on Skyros (Credit: Skyros Island Horse Trust)

Unique hidden gems in Greece

6) Kythira

Sea cave in Kythira
An underwater sea cave in Kythira

Is this possibly the perfect Greek island?

Its varied landscapes – ribboned by gorges, waterfalls and valleys – make Kythira (or Kythera) one of the most beautiful islands in Greece.

One of several waterfalls in Kythira
One of several waterfalls in Kythira

It’s just a shame that it’s so far off the beaten track.

Few international tourists take the 7-hour ferry ride from Athens to reach the island, which lies off the southern tip of the Peloponnese Peninsula. So Kythira doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s definitely one of the most under-rated places in Greece.

But if you make the effort to get there, Kythira has much to offer.

You can visit castles and hike up to fortresses left behind by the Venetians.

A Venetian-style balcony in Kythera
A Venetian-style balcony in Kythera

There are also wonderful swimming spots – from pebble beaches on the coast to idyllic freshwater ponds, deep in the forests, refreshed by waterfalls.

The island is home to several charming traditional villages, each with their own unique character. The small village of Mylopotamos is set around a duck pond and is proud of its many well-preserved water mills.

For a memorable non-touristy trip, there’s no doubt about it! Kythira Island is one of the best places to visit in Greece.

7) Kefalonia

Then again…

Maybe Kefalonia is the most beautiful Greek island.

Found among the Ionian Islands, it’s best known as the place where the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was filmed – a nice bit of Greek trivia.

The village of Asos on Kefalonia (possibly the most beautiful island in Greece)
The village of Asos on Kefalonia (possibly the most beautiful island in Greece?)

If you seek picturesque waterfront villages, look no further than Asos on the northeast coast. The 16th century Asos Castle perches on a rocky hill above the town.

Just down the road, Myrtos Beach beckons – the beach dazzles with its marble and limestone pebbles.

Mother and son playing on Fiskardo Beach, Kefalonia
Beaches and lake lagoons on Kefalonia Island

Like hiking?

Step out into the pine and fir forests of Mount Ainos National Park for picture-perfect views over the Ionian Sea and the Peloponnese.

Or, if beaches are your preferred reward, hike to pristine hidden beaches like Kimilia Beach in the northern part of the island.

Enjoy this “best of Kefalonia” tour

This full-day tour of Kefalonia showcases the best of the island, beginning at Argostoli’s main port.

You’ll see incredible lakes, venture into stunning caves, taste superb local wines, explore quaint fishing villages and relax at the most beautiful beaches in Kefalonia.

Unique romantic places in Greece

8) Skiathos

Skiathos is one of the most romantic places in Greece.
One of the most romantic Greek islands? Skiathos!

Skiathos Island may be a little difficult to get to, but we think it’s rather beautiful – and one of the best Greek islands for couples.

Remember the movie Mama Mia? It was filmed on this hilly pine-covered island (and nearby Skopelos).

There are lots of places to swim in Skiathos
There are lots of places to swim in Skiathos

It’s not untouched by tourism, though.

With more than 60 beaches and fine hotels, it’s definitely on the tourist radar – being especially well-known for its vibrant nightlife.

Skiathos beach
Come on in, the water’s just fine!

Outside the more touristy areas, however, you’ll find some incredible natural beauty. Pine forests, threaded with scenic hiking trails, cover most of the island.

Then there are the secluded beaches that are only accessible by boat – hidden places in Greece you might not know about. 

Tip: We think the best months to visit Skiathos are May, June and September. July and August are much busier – but they’re great if you want to enjoy Skiathos nightlife at its liveliest.

Skiathos Bench
Bench with a perfect view of Skiathos

9) Folegandros

Folegandros is a small Greek island that’s only eight miles long.

It’s close to Santorini (#3 above) – but soooo much quieter – scoring high on the romance scale.

Looking out from the Anemi Hotel on Folegandros
Looking out from the Anemi Hotel on Folegandros (Credit: Anemi Hotel)

The beaches are oh-so-pretty and practically deserted. Footpaths wind around the island, so it’s a pleasure to walk. And one of Folegandros’ three small towns, Chora, is completely car-free.

So if you’re looking for romantic non-touristy places in Greece – add Folegandros island to your list!

Must do: Climb the stone zig-zag path up to the Church of Panagia (a 15-minute walk). It commands a unique (and glorious!) location at the top of a rocky hill above Chora.

The Church of Panagia on Folegandros offers fabulous views of the island and the sea.
The Church of Panagia on Folegandros offers fabulous views of the island and the sea

And when it comes to Folegandros hotels, check out the Anemi Hotel – it offers a Greek getaway that’s truly honeymoon-worthy.

10) Monemvasia

Monemvasia town, built atop a steep rock islet, is located on an island close to mainland Greece.

Monemvasia, one of the most unique places to visit in Greece, is built on a rock island.
Monemvasia is built on a rock island

If we were 17th century Venetians, we’d have to cross a drawbridge (or wade through the sea) to enter this medieval fortress town.

Today, and quite conveniently, a modern causeway links the historic walled town with the Greek Peloponnese mainland.

Yet Monemvasia itself still evokes the past with its car-free cobblestone paths – just wide enough for a donkey pulling a wagon – and gold-tinged houses that date back to the Byzantine, Venetian and Ottoman empires.

Olive-wood souvenirs for sale in Greece
Olive-wood and other souvenirs for sale in Monemvasia

We visited Monemvasia on a Greek cruise. It’s also possible, however to visit the town on a road trip from Athens.

We admired the Byzantine gold-ground art in the town’s historic churches. We sampled the famous sweet Malmsey wine that originated here (and relaxed over iced cappuccinos).

We popped our heads into some of the small old mansions converted into luxury hotels and love nests, and we swam in the cool waters at a pebble beach just outside the town’s walls.

Iced cappuccino and cookies in Monemvasia
Iced cappuccino and orange biscuits in Monemvasia

Then we dreamed of ways we could return for a longer stay in future.

Monemvasia is probably the most romantic Greek island to hide away on a honeymoon or to escape the world!

11) Rethymnon

One of the most beautiful cities in Greece is Rethymnon
One of the most beautiful cities in Greece is Rethymnon

On the larger island of Crete, you’ll find Rethymnon (or Rethymno). It’s the third largest city on the island and one of the most beautiful cities in Greece.

Rethymnon is bordered by a long sandy beach on one side and a rocky coastline on the other – described poetically as “on the boundary between calmness and fierceness” by local writer Pantelis Prevelakis

Rethymnon’s Old Town is particularly spectacular.

This centuries-old Venetian-Ottoman quarter is a maze of narrow flagstone streets – with graceful wood-balconied houses, charming little shops, and ornate Venetian monuments.

Rethymnon, Crete
Shop to your heart’s content!

What’s lovely to see is that this Old Town is full of local life.

Women embroider while sitting on doorsteps, students drink coffee and play tavli (backgammon) in cafés and children kick balls in the alleys.

Avli, a 16th century Venetian villa, has gorgeous suites for a romantic stay in the heart of the Old Town.

Discover hidden cafés and other delights by the harbor in Rethymnon
Discover hidden cafés and other delights by the harbor in Rethymnon

Other unique places in Greece

12) Mount Athos

Mount Athos, in northeastern mainland Greece, is one of the more secret places in Greece.

This mountain sits atop a peninsula, climbing up from the sea with steep cliffs, its top often shrouded in clouds.

Mount Athos is an ancient monastic community in northern Greece

It’s a profoundly spiritual place, once home to some 40 monasteries. Today, 20 remain – a ‘Holy Mountain’ for those seeking a spiritual retreat.

It’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s also an autonomous Greek state, similar to the Vatican.

We didn’t actually set foot on Mount Athos, but cruised slowly by (boats have to keep a distance of over 1,500 feet away).

To visit, you first need to secure permission through your consulate. Then you have to submit testimonials of your good character and reasons for your visit. Even then, you can only visit Mount Athos for three days.

Women (and female animals) are banned from Mount Athos.
Women (and female animals) are banned from Mount Athos

What further makes Mount Athos one of the most unique places to visit in Greece, is that no women are ever permitted entry. In fact – get this – while the self-sustaining monasteries have farms, female animals are even prohibited too!

In fact – get this – while the self-sustaining monasteries have farms, even female animals are prohibited!

So if you’re aiming to have the most unique Greece holiday, a visit to Mount Athos definitely takes the prize – though, be warned, access is selective…

13) Ancient ruins of Philippi

Philippi, found on Greece’s mainland, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This ancient city was all about gold, wine, murder and mayhem – with Alexander the Great and St. Paul playing starring roles.

Intrigued? Then read our post on the ancient Philippi ruins.

14) Meteora

A complex of monasteries perch precipitously on soaring rock formations in Meteora
A complex of monasteries perch precipitously on soaring rock formations in Meteora

The rock formations of Meteora in northern Greece are home to several remarkable Byzantine monasteries and nunneries.

Meteora means “suspended in air” – and if you’ve ever seen photos of these Meteora monasteries, you’ll understand why Meteora is one of the most interesting places in Greece. The monasteries are perched atop towering sandstone rock pillars over 1,200 feet high.

They were first built in the 11th century, and for centuries the only way to get to them was to be lifted up in a net basket (or to climb up a retractable ladder). They’re home to monks and nuns who still live there today.

The Great Meteoron Monastery is the oldest and largest of the monasteries. It houses priceless Byzantine-era manuscripts and an ossuary with the skulls of monks who lived there.

Frescoes inside one of the Meteora monasteries
Frescoes inside a Meteora monastery

Fascinating? Yes!

Visiting Meteora is one of the most unique experiences in Greece.

The only thing is that we visited Meteora in the peak tourist season in Greece (high summer). It may be a must-visit place, but jostling with hundreds upon hundreds of tourists detracted somewhat from our experience.

One of the most unique places to visit in Greece is historic Meteora, with its monasteries built atop rock pillars.
Historic Meteora monastery atop a rocky cliff

Tip: To avoid the crowds, we suggest timing your visit to Meteora during the off-season – maybe late October, November or March?

15) Mycenae

The archaeological site of Mycenae
The archaeological site of Mycenae

Up in the northeast of Greece lies the ancient city of Mycenae. This archeological site was once the center of the highly developed Mycenaean civilization.

If you dig ancient Greek history, Mycenae is calling out to you!

Homer wrote about this intriguing place in the Iliad around 850 B.C. – and its rediscovery proved Homer’s epic poems were rooted in reality.

Furthermore, the legendary King Agamemnon was buried here with all his gold treasures. He was the leader of the Greek army during the Trojan War. (His brother’s wife Helen was the lovely lady taken to Troy by Paris, igniting the Trojan War.)

A gold funeral mask found at Mycenae
A gold funeral mask found at Mycenae

But there’s no gold to be seen anymore.

Unfortunately, the treasure had already been looted when Heinrich Schliemann first excavated the site in 1874. 

All that remains today inside Agamemnon’s huge, rounded limestone tomb (which would have looked like a grassy mound centuries ago) is black soot clinging to the walls, remnants of the cooking fires lit by medieval occupants when they lived here.

The gold funeral Mask of Agamemnon on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens
Copy of the gold funeral Mask of Agamemnon (the original is on display in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens)

Last words on off-the-beaten-path Greece and unique Greek places

So there you have it – our guide to the most unique and special places in Greece.

We trust we’ve given you a good idea of where to go in Greece.

Yes, some places like Santorini (and maybe Skiathos) are definitely on the tourist path.

But when searching for Greece off the beaten path, there’s a “hidden Greece” that beckons with less-trodden wonders. Ikaria whispers longevity secrets. Monemvasia hides in medieval shadows. And Skyros summons with secluded beaches.

Each is a one-of-a-kind gem, a unique chapter in Greece’s endless storybook.

Do you have a favorite unique place in Greece? Let us know! You can comment below.

Experience more of Greece!

Rhodes: Check out the 10 best boutique hotels on Rhodes.

Santorini: Looking for a hotel that wows with discreet luxury? You’ll love Vedema Resort.

Crete: Chilling out at St. Nicolas Bay Resort was just the prescription we needed for R&R after exploring Greece’s ruins.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


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Photo credits: 4 to 6, 30 to 32, 34, 37, 41, 43 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

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