Mainland Greece outside of Athens, can offer unique experiences, but is sadly overlooked by many tourists. You can find everything from ancient ruins, mountaintop monasteries and gorgeous landscapes to modern, cosmopolitan Greece.
Several of the sights are located near Athens. Northwest of the capital is Delphi, where the remains of the temple of Apollo is located. Travellers from all over the ancient world came to see the oracle at Delphi, called Pythia. The travellers asked questions, and she would answer with a prophecy, often ambiguous.
Cape Sounion lies on the top of a cliff southeast of Athens. Here the Greeks built a temple dedicated to Poseidon, the sea god. It is easy to see why, as the cliff plunges into the Aegean sea on three sides, and sailors who approached Athens were able to see the temple from many miles away.
If you travel west from Athens, you’ll reach ancient Corinth, on the narrow isthmus that separates the southern peninsula of the Peloponnese from the rest of Greece. This strategic position has made Corinth a strategically important city for millennia. Today the man made Corinth canal is the shortcut from the Aegean sea to the to the Gulf of Corinth, but in earlier times Corinth made much of its fortune by hauling the goods across land.
On the Peloponnese proper there are well-preserved ruins after many large settlements. Not far from Corinth is one of the oldest, the palace complex Mycenae. named after the Mycenae civilization. This was the last large civilization of the bronze age, around 1600-1200 BC, several hundred years before the Greek city states.
On the north east coast of the Peloponnese is Epidaurus, dedicated to the god of healing, Asklepios. Epidaurus is best known for its ancient Greek theatre, which is still used during the summer.
In equal distance from Epidaurus and Mycenae lies the still vibrant Nafplion. With marble pavements, Venetian architecture and surrounded by no less than three fortresses, this is one of the most picturesque towns in Greece,
Ancient Olympia was located in the western part, and was a center for religion and athletics. This was where the ancient olympic games were held between 776 BC and 393 AD.But it was also dedicated to the worship of Zeus, as suggested by the naming after Mount Olympos, home of the gods.
A highlight of central Greece is the Meteora, a series of 24 monasteries built during the Byzantine period, and almost impossibly perched on sandstone mountain tops. Monks still live in 6 of these monasteries, but they are open for visitors, and are one of the most spectacular sights in Greece.
Thessaloniki is the place to go if you want to see Greece at its most urban. Greece’s second largest city has a higher density of designer shops and cafés than anywhere else in the country, and a matching young population. At the same time, it is also an important center for the orthodox church, The internationl airport means there are direct flights to this northern Greek city from all over Europe.
Not far south from Thessaloniki is Chalkidiki, known for its many beach resorts. In sharp contrast, Chalkidiki’s easternmost peninsula, Mount Athos, is something as rare as an autonomous republic ruled by the 1700 monks that live in 20 monasteries. Only 10 non-orthodox men are allowed to visit the peninsula each day, but it’s possible to see the monasteries from boat trips around the coast.
As you can see, mainland Greece offers a bit of everything. If you are going to Greece, you should seriously consider visiting such sites as Meteora, Delphi, Corinth, Nafplion and Thessaloniki, just to get a different perspective of this varied country.