Always regarded as a destination for beach and history lovers, Greece still holds some hidden treasures, kept away from a massive invasion of tourists: the North. Since the capital, Athens, and the islands make the must-do’s of first-timers, the rest of the country makes the perfect escape for those who desire a less turbulent stay in Greece.
Northern Greece is the country’s multicultural center: for centuries, multiple civilizations have been based here and the historical and cultural heritage, from the Roman Empire to the Byzantines, Turks and Macedonians can still be witnessed today. Moreover, Thessaloniki’s chaotic beauty, Mount Olympus’ gorgeous canyon and hundreds of wonderful beaches along the coast complete the countless reasons to experience an undiscovered Greek gem.
Either you decide to visit it for the turquoise sea water or the highlands deep inside the mainland, there are some unbelievable places you cannot – definitely! – miss.
#1 – Thessaloniki
The city will probably be your gateway to this region since the main international airport serving Northern Greece is Thessaloniki Makedonia Airport. Besides Aegean Airlines, Greek flag-carrier, several european low-cost airlines serve the city with multiple daily flights from the main european hubs.
Thessaloniki is a melting pot where the heritage of ancient civilizations meets the chaotic beauty of a contemporaneous metropolis. With a superb waterfront that takes visitors from the central Aristotelous Square to the city’s hit, the White Tower. Taking a walk through large avenues into the bustling heart of the city, Thessaloniki blazes with monuments dating back to the Roman Empire – Arch of Galerius and Rotunda.
#2 – Chalkidiki, but in particular Sithonia
Chalkidiki is a peninsula and a regional unit located southeast of Thessaloniki. There are three peninsulas within it: Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos. Athos, or Mount Athos, is an autonomous area, where women are not allowed to enter, due to its jurisdiction.
Although the entire region is highly demanded for the remarkable beaches, Sithonia is the exact place you should look for. Why? Here is where nature welcomes travellers, while it combines beautiful beaches with an outstanding national park. Relaxing is mandatory and the views within the peninsula are absolutely breath-taking.
During summer months, some beaches in Sithonia, mainly the ones with easier access, may become overcrowded. Anyway, Orange Beach and Mega Portokali Beach are usually undeniable stopovers.
#3 – Pieria, where the warm beach meets the freezing mountain
The title might sound poetic, nonetheless, Pieria combines the mythical Mount Olympus and stunning beaches stretching along the coast for miles – what else could we ask for in Greece?
We leave Mt. Olympus for the next topic due to the vast spectrum of places to visit in Pieria. Litochoro is a lovely town sitting in the foothill of the iconic “house of gods”, Mt. Olympus. The town breathes diversity and passion, so wandering around its narrow streets, visiting orthodox churches and loosing yourself in the weekly market will be an adventure you won’t forget.
In addition, the area hosts several heritage sites, such as the ruins of Dion and the Platamonas castle. Pieria will not, certainly, let you down.
#4 – Mount Olympus
According to the striking Greek mythology, the mountain guarded the house of the Greek gods. Recorded as the highest mountain in Greece, reaching the 2918 metres at the Mytikas peak, it is a popular destination for travellers who love hiking.
There are countless trails to hike the Olympus and organized excursions are available from Litochoro. The area has been recognized as a World’s Biosphere Reserve, therefore being a respected Greek National Park, where within a broad array of landmarks, monasteries and waterfalls are the most requested once the majestic entrance canyon is behind.
#5 – Larissa
Many would not consider Larissa as a mandatory visit in Northern Greece. In fact, neither do we. Nevertheless, the city constantly lives in a vibrant pace and some ancient Greek ruins can be found spread within a short range from each other in the city center.
The perfect excuse to stop by in Larissa is its geographic location, which allows travellers to stretch and rest while in journey from the North to the South or to places as Meteora and Ioannina.
#6 – Meteora, “a different planet”
As we arrived in Meteora, we instantly felt this place did not belong to Earth. This is one of the most iconic landmarks in Greece and many people visit it everyday. A rock formation with monasteries built on top of high cliffs makes this one of the most scenic places we have been to in the past couple of years.
Loneliness was the focus of the monks who used to live here, but today, due to the growing touristic interest the original spirit of Meteora has been dissipated, although it still conveys a unique and unspeakable feeling.
Finding countries’ greatest treasures requires both determination and willingness to walk, hike and drive, three key conditions to be sure that Northern Greece will definitely conquer whoever travels there.
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