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Hidden Gems & Secret Spots in Greece

Ever popular as a European destination, some of the more known locations in the country include the islands of Santorini and Mykonos. Scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll soon discover that Greece also has plenty of hidden gems. Here’s your ultimate guide to the best of secret spots in Greece.

Greece can be found in Southern Europe and is famed for its capital city of Athens, rich and ancient history (including some pretty amazing architecture), and its wonderful weather.

Hidden Gems & Secret Spots in Greece

Monastery of Panagia Spiliani

By Sophie of solosophie.com

One of the more unique hidden gems that I was lucky enough to visit during my time island hopping in Greece a few years ago was the monastery of Pangagia Spiliani, which is a hidden gem of Greece that is to be found on the island of Samos.

Samos itself is a beautiful tropical island which is especially known for its Simian wines, as well as being the Greek island where the famous ancient mathematician Pythagoras was born.

A little more off the beaten path than the likes of the islands of Santorini or Mykonos, other highlights of Samos include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Heraion of Samos and the  fishing village of Kokkari.

The Monastery of Panagia Spiliani (Virgin of the Cave) is accessible after climbing up over 250 steps and is set over 100 metres above sea level. It’s thought that there has been a place of worship where the ecclesiastical building now is since ancient times.

Once inside the cave, visitors will discover a small church which contains an icon of the Virgin Mary that is considered to be miraculous. One of the particular legends that is associated with the cave is that the icon was stolen, and while being loaded into a boat to be taken away from Samos, the icon was broken into pieces.

According to the myth, the pieces made their way back to the cave, where they can be seen today. Samos is in of itself a beautiful destination that is worthy of any Greece bucket list. Those wishing to discover even more of the island may well consider booking a Boat Tour with BBQ Lunch to Samiopoula like this one.

Monastery of Panagia Spiliani

Cave of the Apocalypse, Patmos

By Zoe of Together In Transit 

For a hidden and less popular gem among the average tourists, make your way to the pretty and idyllic Greek island of Patmos. The island of Patmos has 4 villages in total, with all being viewable from the monastery at the top of the island. This viewpoint is a gorgeous place to stop for a bite to eat and a relaxing cold drink in the Greek sunshine. But the island is known mostly for its biblical history. 

Patmos is highly believed to be the location where John the Baptise wrote the last book of the bible, Book of Revelations. Here you can respectfully enter the Cave of the Apocalypse, where John spent most of his time on the island.

You can experience this with a small entrance fee, where you can see how gorgeous this religious location is now decorated. While been greeted by the colourful mosaic entrance, you will see how special this place was and still is.

Once inside, you follow the steps into the cave area where John would have written the book. Here you are truly inside the rock cave, lit beautifully with candles and some light from the small handmade window area. 

There are more biblical locations on the island too, so rent a car to explore all points of interest. Else, enjoy a full day tour and benefit by learning the history of Patmos from a local. This is possible with a small group and mini bus, with most tours offered in English, German, Spanish and of course Greek.

Patmos Cave of the Apocalypse

Driving a boat in Diaporos island

By Yulia of Miss Tourist

Diaporos island lies off the coast of Vourvourou and it is the largest island in the entire archipelago on the Sithonia peninsula. Besides it being incredibly scenic, what makes Diaporos Island so special is the adventure it takes to get there!

The only way to reach Diaporos island is to rent a boat or kayak – there are no ferries. Since the paddle takes around 2 hours, it is much more advisable to rent a boat. No special license is needed, and a day of boat hire costs just €60 plus about €20-30 for gas. Renting a boat to head to Diaporos Island is one of the best things to do in Sithonia but make sure to pick a day where the water is calm for the most enjoyable trip!

Boat hire also gives you the chance to spend your day beach hopping and exploring the many coves and bays which boast warm, calm turquoise waters and bright white sand. Myrsini beach and the Blue Lagoon are must visits during your trip.

The colours are even more enhanced by the green pine trees that guard this magical landscape. Until the 1980’s, Diaporos Island had no inhabitants. Since then, a small number of private holiday homes have been constructed as well as a small number of hotels. This means if you plan on spending a night or two here, you will most likely have a large proportion of the island to yourself in the evenings of the low season!

Sancturary of the Great Gods, Samothraki

By Anda of Travel for a while

Set on a remote Greek island, the Sanctuary of the Great Gods in Samothrace is as off-the-beaten-path as they get. A small island in the Northern Aegean Sea, Samothrace is only accessible by a daily ferry from the mainland. It’s a tall, rugged island with many hidden attractions, chief among them being the Sanctuary.

To reach the ruins of the Sanctuary, you need to head north from Kamariotissa, heading to Therma. There’s a small church in Palaiopoli where you can park and walk the path to the entrance. The cult was centered on worshiping the Great Mother of the Gods.

Important leaders of the ancient world were initiated into the mysteries of the cult on Samothrace. Lysander from Sparta, Herodotus, and Phillip II of Macedonia, all came to the Sanctuary on Samothrace to participate in the rituals here.

The complex predates the Hellenic period (about 7th century BC) and remained in use until the Roman period. One of the most famous finds from the Hellenic period was also found during the excavations at the temple complex.

Nike (Victory) of Samothrace, the statue of a woman with wings is now at the Louvre Museum. The statue was the inspiration for the hood ornament of the Rolls Royce.

The Sanctuary of the Great Gods is open every day from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM. Right at the entrance, there is also a small archaeological museum. You can get an idea about the way the buildings of the Sanctuary used to look like. There is also a replica of the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Sancturary of the Great Gods

Monemvasia

By Maria & Katerina of It’s All Trip To Me

The castle town of Monemvasia in Greece is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Built on a rock in the middle of the sea, Monemvasia Castle is one of the most enchanting places to visit in the unspoilt region of Laconia in the Peloponnese.

It’s no overstatement to say that Monemvasia Castle is a medieval dream come true. Walking within the walls of this gorgeous fortified town feels like taking a journey back in time. With its stunning mansions, cobblestone alleys and relaxed ambience, Monemvasia Castle seems to have sprung out of the pages of a fairy tale.

No vehicles are allowed inside the castle town, and this only adds to Monemvasia’s overall charm. The best way to appreciate the uniqueness of Monemvasia is to book a room within the castle walls. Nothing can beat the feeling of staying in the heart of a medieval settlement that has remained untouched by time throughout the centuries.

Founded in 583AD, the fortified town of Monemvasia has never stopped being inhabited ever since. Due to Monemvasia’s strategic location, it played an important role as one of the main trade centres in Greece.

Monemvasia Castle can easily claim the title of the most magical place to visit in mainland Greece that has managed to retain its authentic character. Although it may attract crowds of day-trippers during peak season, the castle town of Monemvasia is an otherwise laid-back destination, especially in the evening when it’s even more beautiful with its dim lighting and movie like setting. 

Monemvasia

Nea Moni Monastery, Chios Island

By Shara Johnson of SKJ Travel

The typical monastery open to tourists is either in continuous use since it was built, reconstructed/renovated, or abandoned and in ruins. A unique aspect of the Nea Moni monastery complex on Chios Island is the combination of preserved and abandoned sections. Perched on a hilltop with ocean views, accessed by a winding road with hairpin curves, Nea Moni is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Nea Moni originated in the Byzantine Era, with the first stones laid in the 11th century. As Chios is an island in the Aegean (as opposed to the more popular Mediterranean islands), a stone’s throw across the water from Turkey, the Byzantine influence on this island is very pronounced.

The monastery’s features that are valued in the UNESCO designation include its “cross-in-square” layout with octagonal dome, and particularly the interior marble works and mosaics, characteristic of “the second golden age of Byzantine art.”

A more gruesome section of the monastery includes the skulls of victims of the 1822 Turkish massacre of the Greek inhabitants of Chios Island. As many as 3,500 people sought asylum in the monastery and most did not survive.

According to a plaque in the monastery’s museum, 117,000 people lived on Chios Island before the massacre and destruction; afterward 1,800 survived and remained. This was the beginning of the monastery’s decline.

It was furthered by a destructive earthquake in 1881. Various items once used within the monastery such as crosses, candleholders, and painted doors, now lie haphazard and neglected in a series of small rooms leading to the increasingly ruined parts of the monastery.

Nea Moni is not heavily visited and remains a peaceful and contemplative destination. The complex is not large, but the spectrum of preservation and ruin makes every corner worthy of investigation. The hours are limited, especially in winter, so it’s advisable before heading there to confirm the open hours of that day.

Nea Moni Monastery

Church of the Seven Martyrs, Sifnos

By Dean and Laynni at Routinely Nomadic

One of the more unusual offbeat places in Greece is the Church of the Seven Martyrs in Sifnos. Many Greek islands share similar highlights and features. From jumbles of whitewashed houses to ancient ruins to fabulous oceanfront seafood restaurants, there are certain things you can count on finding on every popular island.

Every now and then, though, you come across something truly unique and the Church of the Seven Martyrs on the magnificent natural island of Sifnos is definitely one of those things.

Located on a picturesque rocky promontory adjacent to the tiny village of Kastro, this classic Cycladic white church with its photogenic blue dome stands in stark contrast to the expanse of ocean behind.

Sifnos has been inhabited for over 4,000 years and for much of that time Kastro was the capital and main settlement. The Church of the Seven Martyrs, meanwhile, served as the most important of the mind-boggling 360 churches scattered throughout the island.

While tiny, its spectacular location makes for great photos from either the cliffs above or the rocks below. Swimming around the church is technically possible but discouraged due to the danger of powerful waves pushing you into the sharp surrounding rocks.

Joining a kayak tour, however, is a terrific way to enjoy a different perspective of this iconic Greek landmark. There are many excellent places to base yourself around Sifnos but historic Kastro is the best choice for those looking to combine historic architecture with outstanding views.

Plus, Sifnos is known as one of the best hiking islands in the Cyclades, so one of the best ways to spend a day there is strolling through the beautiful rolling hills to reach the incredible Church of the Seven Martyrs viewpoint.

Church of the Seven Martyrs, Sifnos

Matala, Crete

By Or from My Path in the World 

Of all the secret places in Greece, Matala is one of the most beautiful. As the largest Greek island, Crete is packed with hidden gems, from traditional villages to non touristy beaches to beautiful gorges to much more.

For a perfect combo of a tranquil coastal town and quirky attractions, Matala is a wonderful place to visit on the southern coast of Crete. After all, this town is easily one of the best hidden gems of Crete.

Apart from its dreamy beach with golden sands and crystal clear water, cute cafes and shops, and great seafood restaurants, it is known as the island’s ‘hippie town,’ which is why it’s such a unique spot.

One of the most prominent points of interest in Matala is the man-made caves, located right at the edge of its beach. Dating back to the prehistoric Neolithic Age, they were inhabited in the 60′ and 70′ by hippies.

It has also been thought that they were used as tombs during Roman times. For a small fee, one can get inside the caves to explore this historical spot while also enjoying a photogenic viewpoint over the beach.

Continuing with the same theme, the town also hosts the annual hippie Matala Beach Festival that includes concerts, beach parties, an open-air fair, and street paintings, which give the town an iconic look. Visiting Matala after the festival has ended, one can enjoy the town’s serene side, as well its colourfulness.

It is possible to get to Matala by public transport, but hiring a car would be much easier. Bus timetables are not very convenient, and the local car rental companies are tourist-friendly and usually include full insurance coverage in their price. (check here for car rental comparison prices)

Matala, Crete

Chora in Folegandros

From Francesca of Little Lost Travel

Folegandros is a small Greek Island in the Aegean Sea. It makes up part of the Cyclades, a group of islands that has the likes of Santorini and Mykonos within its ranks. Despite the popularity of the area, Folegandros is still a little off the beaten path.

However, the lesser-known quality of the island is all part of its charm, easily making it one of the top hidden gems in Greece. After all, the only way to get there is by ferry, which is about four hours from Piraeus and one hour from Santorini. 

Folegandros has a few settlements dotted here and there. The main one is Chora (pronounced ‘Hora’), a sprawling collection of squat white Cycladic style houses perched almost perilously on the edge of a cliff.

Chora has a completely pedestrian centre with lively tavernas on every corner. Wandering around its cobblestone streets uninterrupted by the sound of cars makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a world frozen in time.   

Chora dates back to the medieval period and its oldest district Kastro is built like a fortress to protect its inhabitants from marauders and pirates. The whitewashed buildings fit tightly together to form a wall of defence that faces out towards the sea and a warren of little houses within with painted blue doors and cascading vibrant flowers. 

There’s plenty to do and see around Chora. You can simply soak up the peaceful atmosphere by wandering through the narrow maze of streets on foot. Stop for a bite to eat in the cool of the shaded square.

If you want to sample some of the local wines, head to Wine Bar Merkouri just a short walk from the centre. There, you have sweeping views of the island to complement a delicious selection of wine and snacks. 

Another highlight is taking the winding path up the hill towards the Church of Panagia for sunset. The track begins in Chora and finishes with an aerial view of the settlement bathed in a golden light as the sun sets. 

Chora in Folegandros

Church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani

From Paulina of Paulina on the Road

Greece hidden gems can be found throughout the country, if only you know where to look. The church of Panagia Ekatontapiliani, also known as the church of hundred doors, is situated in the capital of Paros, i.e., Parikia.

It is one of the most important landmarks of Parikia and the best-preserved Christian church in the country. According to what people of Paros believe, the church was built by Saint Helen in the middle of the fourth century.

She was also known as Constantine the Great. The citizens think that she made this church in the vow to her mother. Before the church, there was a chapel at the exact location.

In the sixth century, the church was renovated by Byzantine emperor Justinian who added a dome. Through the centuries, the church went through more reformations, and today, it is a mix of all the elements of creators.

The church is known to be unique because it has an unexplained belief. They say that katapoliani has 100 doors, among which 99 are visible, and the 100th one will open when Constantinople becomes Greek again.

The church is open for visitors all day, and it is a tip for them also to visit the museum by the church. Other things of interest in Panagia Ekatontapiliani include a shop where tourists can find small replicas of the church.

The monastery is located in the village of and the tourists can reach there by a 5-minute walk from the local bus station and two minutes walk from a parking lot. It’s one of the best things to do in Paros!

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