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10 Best Cities to Visit in Mainland Greece

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Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Greece is more than sunkissed islands and the ten highlights of mainland Greece immediately demonstrate the variety of experiences and settings you can admire during your Greece trip.

From historical Athens to quaint Nafplio, an exploration of mainland Greece will have you marveling at incredible architecture, dining at authentic tavernas, and taking in breathtaking views as scenes of ancient civilization blend with modern-day lifestyle.

This article plants the seed on what and how to discover the mostly mountainous mainland of Greece. Experience the Peloponnese peninsula, the Isthmus of Corinth, and the sacred precinct of Delphi as you travel its highlights.

Overview
  1. 1. Athens
  2. 2. Delphi
  3. 3. Meteora
  4. 4. Nafplio
  5. 5. Olympia
  6. 6. Epidaurus
  7. 7. Mystras
  8. 8. Mycenae
  9. 9. Monemvasia
  10. 10. Zagorohoria
  11. Ready to Explore the Highlights of Mainland Greece?

1. Athens

Athens at sunset

Athens at sunset

Discover one of the world’s oldest cities as you roam the ancient neighborhoods of Athens and grasp the city’s fascinating history at every turn. Enjoy local tavernas, take part in rich Greek traditions, and visit famous sites, such as the architectural marvel that is the Acropolis. Athens is a bustling European city that invites all to explore at a leisurely pace and it’s easy to get around by foot or car. Serving as the gateway to the numerous breathtaking islands, Athens is usually the first stop on a Greek itinerary and definitely worth spending time appreciating.

Highlights: The Acropolis and Parthenon | Plaka | Syntagma Square | Areopagus Rock | Byzantine and Christian Museum

2. Delphi

Temple of Athena, Delphi

Temple of Athena, Delphi

This sacred highlight of mainland Greece stands out as a must-see on any Greek itinerary, boasting ruins and temples that intrigue visitors. A sanctuary dedicated to the Greek god Apollo, it was the Oracle of Delphi who gained the most fame, predicting future events and consulted often by great leaders, such as Alexander the Great and the renowned dramatist, Sophocles. A day trip from Athens, a visit to Delphi will, in some way, transport you back in time.

Highlights: Temple of Apollo | Delphi Museum | Mount Parnassus | Great Views of Gulf of Corinth | Athena Pronea Sanctuary

3. Meteora

Mountain scenery with meteora rocks and monastery

Monastary in Meteora, Greece

A natural mega rock formation located in central Greece, where six orthodox monasteries teeter on the edge of boulders, Meteora is a superb sight to see. The Pineios River flows below and pathways on the majestic mountains allow hikers to traverse this wonderland, passing ruins and witnessing nature intertwine with spirituality in this unique part of the world. Marvel at the sheer cliffs of Meteora, discover caves, and spend some time in silence as you take it all in.

Highlights: Monasteries of Meteora | Stone Bridges near Trikala | Cave of Theopetra | Magical Hikes from Kastraki | Pinios River Trails

4. Nafplio

Bourtzi fortress with mountains at sunset in Nafplio, Greece

Castle of Bourtzi in Nafplio, Greece

The first capital city of modern Greece, Nafplio is a quaint beach town located on the coast in the Peloponnese. Its main town square buzzes with restaurants and bars, and narrow alleyways offer a walk through history as you discover shops and treasures that tell the tale of this beautiful city. Over the years it became an important seaport, with the Castle of Bourtzi standing guard at the entrance of the harbor, a medieval fortress that really is a highlight of the region.

Highlights: Castle of Bourtzi | Climb the Palamidi Castle | Archeological Museum | Karathona Beach | Sail the Nafplio Coastline

5. Olympia

Ruins of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia in Greece

Ruins of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia

Olympia stands as one of the most important archeological sites in Greece and is the site of the ancient Olympic games, said to have been created as a festival in honor of the god Zeus. Serene surroundings make way for ruins that date back to the Bronze Age and, of course, a highlight of any visit is the ancient Olympic stadium. Visit the Olympia Museum to see artifacts that have been uncovered in the area.

Highlights: Ruins of the Temple of Zeus | Ancient Olympic Stadium | Museum of Olympia | Doric Temple of Hera

6. Epidaurus

The ancient theater of Epidaurus in Peloponnese, Greece

Epidaurus Amphitheater

Cited to be the birthplace of Asklepios, the Greek god of healing, in the ancient world, Epidaurus was said to be the most important center for healing ailments of all kinds and was visited by many who came from far and wide. One of the best-preserved ancient Greek structures has to be the Epidaurus Amphitheater. This limestone masterpiece has the most incredible acoustics and if you stand in the center, sound will be carried up to the very back row.

Highlights: Epidaurus Amphitheater | Asklepieion (Sanctuary of Asclepius) | The Abaton | The Tholos (Circular Building)

7. Mystras

The Palaces of Despots in Mystras, Greece

The Palaces of Despots in Mystras, Greece

Mystras is a fortified city, a breathtaking settlement set within castle walls, located close to the famed city of Sparta. In Byzantine times, it once served as the capital of the Despotate Morea and was noted to be the second most famous city after Constantinople. Surrounded by small rivers and lakes, and a spectacle of cypress and pine trees, medieval Mystras is simply stunning as it lies fixed in place upon Taygetos Mountain, above a modern-day village.

Highlights: Palace of Despots | Archaeological Museum | Monastery of Panagia Perivleptos | Caves of Keadas

8. Mycenae

Lions Gate at Mycenae in Greece

Lions Gate at Mycenae

Located in northeast Peloponnese is one of ancient Greece’s most historical sites, Mycenae. According to Greek legends, Perseus instructed Cyclops to build walls out of blocks that no human could lift, creating a fortified citadel upon the fertile plains of Argolis. The main entrance is guarded by the Lions Gate and visitors are encouraged to spend time discovering excavated Grave Circle A, one of the key archaeological sites in Mycenae.

Highlights: Ruins of the Cult Center | Palace of Mycenae | Grave Circle A | Lions Gate | Marvel at the Citadel Walls

9. Monemvasia

The main square of Monemvasia with the bell tower of Church of Christ ElkomenosThe main square of Monemvasia with the bell tower of Church of Christ Elkomenos

Church of Christ Elkomenos in Monemvasia, Greece

Accessed by boat only, connected to the mainland by a small strip of land and visible only from the sea, Monemvasia is a fascinating castle-like town standing peacefully on an island off the east coast of the Peloponnese. Views from the top across the vast sea are breathtaking and a feeling of romance abounds around every corner. Walk cobbled streets and relish the feeling of being transported back in time in one of Greece’s most captivating locations.

Highlights: Elegant Mansions | Byzantine Church of Agia Sofia | Church of Christ Elkomenos | Walk the Medieval Castle Walls

10. Zagorohoria

The Gorge of Vikos in Greece

The Gorge of Vikos in Zagorohoria, Greece

Comprising 46 villages taken straight out of a fairytale, its name translated to mean “area behind the mountain”, Zagorohoria is simply one of the most scenic and breathtaking places to visit in mainland Greece. It can be found in the mountains of Epirus and fascinates with fantastical monasteries, stone houses, and bridges, with the village of Papigo one of the most beautiful and popular. Rivers and gorges complete this dreamy scenery, with monuments and museums rounding off this one-stop spectacular destination.

Highlights: The Bridge of Klidonia | The Gorge of Vikos | The Village of Papigo | Lake of Drakolimni | Monastery of Agia Paraskevi

Ready to Explore the Highlights of Mainland Greece?

Old town of Nafplion with small port and Bourtzi Castle on the Mediterranean sea viewed from Palamidi Castle

Nafplion, Greece

Hidden gems in the shape of beach towns, mountainous medieval monasteries, fortified cities, and ancient Grecian finds, mainland Greece is absolutely worth spending time exploring. Combine history with relaxing as you take a step back in time on mainland Greece, before hitting one of the country’s many idyllic beaches. Find out more about with our Greece Travel Guide or, if you are ready to book your Greek adventure, fill out a Trip Request or call our team at 1-888-265-9707 to speak with a Zicasso travel specialist.

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