Greece - ECTAA's Preferred Destination 2023
Greece, the utltimate slow travel lifestyle
Rest, eat ans travel
In Greece you can see its light “warming” landscapes, people, and souls, even on the coldest days. Sunny days, characterized by the brightness and transparency of the landscapes, offer you unique moments.
The mainland of Greece includes significant differences between the coast and the mountainous part. The Greek islands are known for their clear skies, frigid winters, and drab summers.
Nothern Greece - Macedonia
1. Agios Achillios lake island and Prespes national Park - Culture and Nature
The region of Florina there is a magical world of incomparable natural beauty created by retreating glaciers and a series of seismic phenomena. Two important lakes surrounded by mountains, Great and Small Prespa, provide a stunning sight, reflecting the wooded slopes of the surrounding mountains in their waters. They lie 850 m. above sea-level and have a depth of 50 m. Their shores at many places are steep and rocky. In other places they are calm and have rich vegetation.
One of the most important wetlands in Europe, the Prespa lakes are considered to be a paradise for migratory birds; hundreds of bird species, many of them endangered, nest and breed here, among them the Dalmatian pelican, the cormorant and the heron.
Agios Achillios located in small Prespa and part of Prespes National Park (PNP), a wetland of international importance, is a Slow Travel destination that offers a variety of activities such as birdwatching, sailing, cycling, canoeing and hiking. During the winter months, the lake is frozen and the best you can do is have a warm drink and a talk at the extraordinary cafe-restaurant of Agios Achillios, at the lakeside.
This historical island has 23 permanent inhabitants and is only reachable on foot via a 650m long floating bridge! The 11 traditional houses made with natural materials such as wood, clay, stone and reeds stand across the island among water buffaloes, ‘’Nanas’’, the Greek Steppe cows, mallard ducks, purple herons, great white and dalmatian pelicans, in specific, the largest breeding colony in the world! The locals are employed in tourism, farming or agriculture. Agios Achilios is the second inhabited lake island in Greece, after Ioannina`s lake island.
In a walking circular track of about 2 hours, you may reach the highest point of the island, approximately 850 meters above sea level, and admire the mythical beauty of Agios Achillios island and Prespes lakes! Upload Prepsa trails app and start your journey.
Agios Achillios has a wealth of Βyzantine churches scattered across the island. The ruins of the three-aisled basilica of Saint Achillios is the most important archaeological site on the island and dates from the 10th century A.D. Archaeological researches have discovered fragments of ancient inscriptions, dated back the 2nd and the first half of 3rd century A.D, and revealed the existence of the ancient city ‘’Lyki’’. As the local fishermen say, when the lake water is clear, the narrow streets of the ancient city can be seen underwater.
Locals coexist in the island with several diverse species. In specific, in the Prespa National Park have been recorded over 2,000 species of flora, 271 bird species, 60 mammal species, 23 fish species, 22 reptile species and 11 amphibian species!
From Psarades, the little village right in the middle of Megali (Big) Prespa, you can set out in a small boat for a different kind of voyage. The natural beauty, along with its remote location, attracted monks during the Ottoman occupation, who built their hermitages along the shores of the bigger lake. Today these small monastic structures, as well as the rock frescoes from the 14th to 16th century, are attractions that will give you an insight into another era. The boat is moored at a modest jetty at the base of the rock.
The largest of the Prespa villages, Agios Germanos where you can enjoy the local cuisine.
2. Mastrorochoria cluster of villages - Nature at its finest
Epirus is considered as an ideal place for all kinds of alternative tourism. This is a place of lofty peaks, steadfast mountains and thickly-forested gorges in the mountain ranges of Grammos, Smolikas and Tymfi, and a crossing point for the Aoos, Sarantaporos and Voidomatis Rivers. The geological formation in the Grammos mountain range shapes an alpine environment, ideal for mountain lovers. In the scenic beautiful Grammos mountain range are living many animals including brown European bears, wolves, deers, and wild goats, eagles, and predatory birds. The natural springs of river Aliakmonas, the crystal clear streams, the lush forests, the rivers, and the dragon lakes of Grammos mountain range offer one of the most beautiful mountain hiking trails in the world!
‘’Mastorochoria’’ literary means ‘’The craftsmen Villages’’ and are in total thirteen villages in the area of Ioannina, in the Epirus region. The mountain and rocky Mastorochoria are situated in rural, rough landscapes where agricultural activities couldn`t be an occupational option for its residents.This explains why their interest and dedication to the artistic and construction activities, as the rocky environment was an inspirational source for the artistic stone craftsmen. The Ethnological Museum of Stonemasons in Pyrsogianni offers an opportunity to admire their work.
One such fine example is the village of Gannadio, which opens up to spectacular views of the slopes of Grammos (2520m) and Smolikas (2637m). At Bourazani you can take a tour around the Environmental Education Park and the Natural History Museum, where you can admire the stunning wildlife of the Epirote countryside (mainly deer, roe deer and wild boar). Of the numerous monasteries, the Monastery of Panagia Stomiou stands out, where the Venerable Elder Paisios lived for four years. It is located on one of the most impressive sites anywhere in the country, in the ravine of Aoos and Molivdoskepasti. In Ano Kleidonia there are also churches dating back to the late Byzantine era that still survive today. Between Tymfi and Smolikas lies the famous Lakka Aoos Valley, with its exquisite mountain scenery and authentic traditional villages. Visit Palaioseli, one of the first of the Vlach villages in the region, Pades, and Distrato, the largest of these villages, which is just 12 km from Vasilitsa Ski Centre.
Go rafting or kayaking down the Aoos and Voidomatis Rivers. Here you can try mountain biking, hang-gliding, mountaineering and climbing, horse riding and archery, canyoning in the Aoos Gorge, and skiing at the Vasilitsa Ski Centre.Grammos rich ecosystem is offered for hiking enthusiasts. From Gramoutsa village is possible to reach one of the largest alpine lakes of Greece namely Gistova.
Admire the Arch stone bridge of Konitsa a the unique landmark of the town is said to be the largest single arch bridge of the Balkans. Towering over the Aoos river this 20 meter high and 35 m in length single arch bridge was constructed in 1870.
3. Karpathos - the mountainous island that offers some of the hiking trails in Greece
Karpathos the second -largest of the Dodecanese island is an island of wild, untouched beauty in the Dodecanese, sculpted by winds, customs and centuries-old traditions. Karpathos was the island of the Titans, according to Greek Mythology.
On the northern part of the island, the gorgeous Mount. Kali Limni and the Lastos plateau invite you to enjoy hiking surrounded by rocky cliffs, small gorges, springs and running waters. The Mount. Kali Limni is the highest mountain on the island with an altitude of 1215 meters and the tallest mountain in the Dodecanese island complex!
Karpathos has a well-signed network of hiking trails and 100 climbing trails, most of them located in Kyra Panagia, Apella and Adea areas. With a 160 km coastline and countless caves, Karpathos is the ultimate destination for water sports.
Kite surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and SUP are some of the water activities you can enjoy in the Karpathian Sea that surrounds Karpathos.
Karpathos is located about 47 kilometres southwest of Rhodes and the Saria volcanic islet is located on the northern edge of Karpathos, separated by a 100-meter narrow passage of water. During the summer months small boats connect Pigadia to Saria islet, departing from Diafani port, οn the northwest coast of the island. In the 15th century in Saria lived the Saracen pirates, nowadays the only inhabitants of the islet are the Mediterranean monk seals who find shelter in the peaceful sea waters along the Saria islet. Karpathos and Saria are parts of the NATURA 2000 network and important ecosystems for the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus Monachus) and a great number of endemic and migratory bird species.
Olympos is a village built in the north part of the island, on the gap of Mt. Profitis Ilias. It has carried the name ‘Olympos’ since ancient times. Its geographical isolation from the other villages has played a great part in preserving its unique cultural identity and traditions to this day. An archaic dialect is spoken here and the music, the customs and the architecture all add to the singularity of its character. Women wear their traditional hand-woven costumes in their everyday activities, let alone during special occasions such as the traditional weddings, Easter celebrations, and the customary practice that takes place on a newborn child’s 7th day of life, to welcome and wish him/her well. In older times the baby’s christening would also take place on that day.
4. Patmos - Religious legacy meets beauty of Nature
Patmos Island is globally known for its religious legacy, as it is the place where John the Evangelist (aka John the Theologian) wrote the Book of Revelation. Over the recent years, it has also become a destination preferred by nature lovers and other holidaymakers who seek to experience this location’s spiritual atmosphere in a setting of beautiful land & seascapes. In 1981, Greece declared Patmos a “Sacred Island'', and in 1999 UNESCO included The Historic Centre (Chora) with the Monastery of Saint-John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse in its World Heritage Site List. Patmos is also part of the COESIMA network, as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites in Europe.
The Cave of the Apocalypse, this sacred, candlelit grotto is believed to be the spot where St John the Divine received his visions from Christ and transcribed the Book of Revelation, the last chapter of the Christian Bible. Exiled on Patmos in 95 AD, he preached to and baptised the island’s inhabitants. Eventually, Patmos came to be considered sacred and the cave became the focal point of a significant religious pilgrimage.
High on the hill above Hora, the Monastery of St John the Theologian is an important centre of worship. This monastery, with its significant religious history and imposing architecture, rises grandly over the Aegean and dominates life on Patmos. The monastic community here has existed for over 900 years and the relics, rare documents, icons and other Orthodox treasures in the monastery are invaluable. It was established in 1088 by the Byzantine monk St Christodoulos the Blessed. Each Easter, on the night of the Resurrection, the Holy Light makes its way from Jerusalem to Patmos. Likewise, on Holy Thursday, the church service of Niptiros (which occurs only in Patmos and in Jerusalem) is an event that never fails to inspire.
Just strolling along the maze of alleyways of Chora, through vaulted archways and past dazzlingly white and mostly immaculately maintained houses, makes you feel like you could be in the 16th or 17th century – which is when many of them were built. Patmos (2½hrs by boat from Kos) is where restaurants with trendy cuisine and rooftop bars serving cocktails sit effortlessly alongside traditional tavernas and coffee houses. But where Hora (known to Greeks as the queen of Horas) really leaves an impression is during those magical times when everything around you goes still and a rare and mystical silence presides. Before you leave, visit the three iconic windmills near the monastery. They’ve been beautifully preserved, complete with wooden sail frames and mill mechanisms. Utterly Instagrammable.
During your stay on Patmos Island, don’t miss out on a day trip to the nearby Lilliputian Arkoi Islets. They are a group of small islands with stretches of shrubland and a few trees on them, located east of Patmos and north of Leipsoi islets. You’ll find Arkoi hamlet on the largest island of the Arkoi group. Old stone-built houses, some whitewashed and some newly built, stand among the picturesque little tavernas. Explore the lovely beaches shaded by lentisks and tamarisks such as Limnari, Kapsaliasmenos, Tiganakia, Patelia and Ampelaki. There is also another great beach with a lentisk and tamarisk vegetation on Marathi Islet. Make sure you hop on one of the tourist boats that will take you for a refreshing swim in the crossing between two rocky islets Mikro Aspronisi and Makri Aspronisi. The beauty of the imposing white schist rocks and of the shallow crystal-clear waters will take your breath away.
North Aegean Islands
5. Ikaria - the secret of longevity
Ikaria is s located in the Aegean Sea, 10 nautical miles southwest of Samos. Besides the island’s sandy beaches, running waters, mountains and green hillsides its name, Ikaria, is intertwined with Greek mythology and Ikarus. The thermal springs on the island are renowned for their chemical composition. The unparalleled local lifestyle, along with the one of a kind work-rest schedule, the famous festivals and traditional dances, the local customs, are just some of the reasons why you should explore this impressive destination. Enjoy its beautiful gorges. Swim in the crystal clear waters. Savour fresh fish and sip fragrant wine, while you let yourselves become an Ikarian, as they are connoisseurs of the secrets for longevity!
Live Laugh Love? You might be picturing a 00s wall hanging, but it seems it might also be the secret to long life. Well, the Ikarians think so at least. The tiny Aegean island of Ikaria is one of only five ‘Blue Zones’ in the world – an area where people live the longest, owing to their unique lifestyle, diet, routine and environment.
The Icarians or Icariotes live their lives at a slow pace, with gratitude and in deep connection with nature and others. Social connections are of high importance on the island of Icarus and travellers will never feel like strangers here but as part of an Icarian family with countless brothers and sisters worldwide. The ingredients for a long and healthy life are based on purity and the ”less is more” mentality. The Icarian cuisine is basic in locally grown products and wild food foraging is not an exception but a norm for Icarians.
On the mountainous, mysterious Ikaria, there are no cases of dementia and one in three residents live to over 90 years. And it seems it’s not just something in the dazzling blue water and natural springs, but something deeper. So, what’s the secret? Ikaria is home to a close-knit community, where family values, socialising and local traditions sit alongside mid-afternoon naps, home-grown produce and daily red wine as keys to longevity.
The island environment is definitely to thank. There’s no need for a hotel gym, Ikaria’s dramatic mountainous landscape means its inhabitants are constantly getting exercise as they ramble up and down rocky slopes. And you can be sure you’ll avoid artificial additives during a stay – peek into an Ikariot’s kitchen and you’ll find home grown vegetables, baskets of wild, fragrant herbs, pure just-pressed olive oil, fruits plucked from a nearby fruit tree and fresh fish just caught that morning. All soon to be washed down with a glass of delicious red wine.
Make sure you time your trip for the island’s religious festivals – Panigiria, where the community comes alive with laughing, dancing, singing and scrumptious food. Famed for their hospitality, Ikariots welcome travellers with open arms. Expect to leave any household with armfuls of herbs, honey and home-grown veg.
A great place to combine and counteract the buzz of Athens, Ikaria can be reached by ferry or plane from the capital city or from Samos Island. Visitors are drawn to the happy, laid-back island to slow down, recharge and re-set, whilst tucking into delicious Mediterranean food and learning life lessons from the friendly locals.
The locals grow gardens, spend time outdoors, enjoy hiking, and dance at the ”panigiria” of Icaria, which are a source of attraction for lots of people coming from all over the world to be part of this big Icarian family and connect.”Panigiria” are traditional feasts honouring the Saints of the Greek Orthodox church, where local drinks and food are offered accompanied by live traditional music and ecstatic dances.Every village takes advantage of some saint’s day to hold a fair involving music, dancing, tons of food and tanker-loads of wine and raki. They often last all day and all night but even the oldest don’t flag. If you’re at all interested in local traditions and people, you’ve got to experience one or more.
Greece can cater for all tastes within each and every season
During springtime Greece is in full bloom, colourful and ready to welcome the Easter Holidays; on the mainland or on the islands, there are surprises aplenty! This is the time to drink in the views that nature has to offer. Explore trails, lakes, rivers, and gorges in the countryside, learn more about the local flora and fauna and go birdwatching or butterfly watching.
In summer, Greece is at its best! The warm temperatures and the sweet sea breeze make day time beach hunting a pleasurable experience as much as your night time intriguing strolls. Go island hopping or sailing and discover lesser known beaches and coves. If you are a night owl, nightlife in Greece will give you what you need. Savour the local Greek mezedes (tidbits) or opt for haute cuisine, try traditional drinks and enjoy time with friends and family.
For many people Greece’s charming season is autumn. The milder temperatures and cooler nights, compared to summer, are just perfect for visiting the archaeological sites and enjoy the best city-breaks in the country. Build your strength and stamina and try mountaineering on mountains where ancient Gods once lived and roamed!
Let us inspire you; learn more from our site https://www.visitgreece.gr/
Download Visit Greece app for android https://www.visitgreece.gr/before-travelling-to-greece/visit-greece-app/ and pick your next Greek holiday destination.