Greece is one of those countries that always seems so close and yet so far.
Situated in the southern corner of Europe, despite being a major holiday destination for millions in my home continent, it’s always been a place I’ve largely overlooked when it comes to travel.
Probably because I’ve been put off by the thought of those other millions of people there!
Yes, if you’re like me and love getting off the beaten track and away from the crowds, then the thought of travelling in Greece might not appeal at first.
But recently I’ve been learning how wrong I might just be!
With oodles of islands to choose from, and most tourists only visiting a handful of the main ones, there’s actually a whole heap of Greece that’s delightfully free of crowds and package tourists!
With some incredible landscapes, amazing hiking, beautiful beaches and history galore, it’s not like these places don’t have much to offer either!
So if you’re wanting to get off the beaten track in Greece too, check out these top 7 local secrets I’ve happily discovered and want to share with you…. just don’t tell too many others about them!
- How to Explore Athens Like a Local
- 33 Top Tips for Backpacking Europe Cheaply
- Bagging Cheap Train Tickets in Europe : 19 Top Hacks!
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
#1 Head to Different Islands
Mention the ‘Greek Islands’ and everyone automatically thinks of Santorini, Mykonos or Ios.
I’m not saying these islands aren’t ridiculously beautiful, but don’t you get bored of hearing everyone rave about Santorini or tired of seeing the same Mykonos sunset photo on every single Instagram account!
Well I know I do … and I don’t think I’m alone!
That’s because, whenever you mention the thrill of getting off the beaten track to discover the real, authentic Greece, people love it!
From the stories to the people, the food to the lifestyle, there’s no doubt that the ‘non-touristy’ experience is definitely the better way to go when it comes to visiting this fabulous part of Europe.
And one of the key ways to do that is to head to a different island.
I mean it’s not like Greece is short on them!
Yup forgot the popular ones I’ve mentioned above (or the big ones such as Crete and Rhodes that are also well-known) and instead set about researching some of the less-visited beauties instead.
Here’s a few ideas to get you thinking…
- Nisyros – An amazing volcanic island in the far-flung Dodecanese
- Serifos – Located in the Western Cyclades and known for its chilled vibes, this is a place only Greeks in the know frequent
- Chios – Despite being the fifth-largest Greek island, Chios’ location in the northern Aegean, very close to Turkey, keeps it off most tourists’ radars
- Schinoussa – Tiny and remote, this isle boasts some of the most secluded beaches and wild landscapes
- Tinos – Just 20 minutes from Mykonos but a world away, Tinos is known for its famous church and plethora of windmills
- Lipsi – Definitely one of my personal favourites, Lipsi has some of the best Greek produce going, from thyme honey and cheese to traditionally-made fabrics
- Koufonisia – Actually a trio of islands, these remote idyllic spots, boasting white sand beaches, are located in the Cyclades
- Ikaria – The 7 hour ferry road puts most off heading to this island, but put in the effort and you won’t be disappointed
- Monemvasia – Known for its Medieval Castle Town, which affords amazing views and a feeling of having stepped back in time, this island is a world away
#2 Stick to the Mainland
One thing I quickly discovered when looking to get off the beaten track in Greece was that this country is not all about the islands
Yes they’re incredibly stunning, but there’s also a whole mainland to discover here too.
Although you can include Athens in this, the capital is a huge tourist hit, so you should go further north if you want to see a more “local” Greek city.
Located on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea, the awesome destination of Thessaloniki is a perfect place to do this.
With a small population of just 300,000, it’s highly unlikely that many people you know will have travelled to this part of Greece.
Enjoy time away from the crowds therefore by visiting the ancient squares, towers and fortresses of this old city.
You can easily wander the streets for a few days, losing yourself in the history of it all and discovering a world few tourists learn about.
And don’t miss the chance to visit the amazing monasteries’ complex of Meteora while you’re in Thessaloniki either.
Check out this top-rated full day bus trip, which includes an English-speaking escort and panoramic views of this fascinating historical site, if you’re planning on a visit.
Between Thessaloniki and Athens, Pelion is another wonderful mainland destination you can explore without the crowds.
Known for its traditional villages and mountain forest scenery, the nearby coast also means it offers visitors an impressive diversity.
Parga on the west of the Greek mainland is another lovely spot that’s very easy to travel to.
Situated on the coast it boasts both a beautiful castle and a lovely port area.
And finally, the lakeside spot of Ioannina, also in the west of the country is another wonderful mainland spot where you can get off the beaten track in Greece.
Rich in historical and cultural sites, this place is not only known for its castle, but also its traditional silver workshops and goldsmiths.
#3 Don’t Cram Too Much In
I understand that limiting yourself to only one Greek destination might be a difficult task for you to do.
It takes a lot of strength, I know!
Yet allowing yourself a decent amount of time to see just ONE place is another local secret to getting off the same path that every tourist to Greece follows.
Visiting just one place allows you to take your time and get to know the place better, finding the best spots to explore, buy food and discover hidden trails.
So, if you have the opportunity to stay AT LEAST 1 month on the island of your choice, then you should!
With this time, you’ll also begin to embrace the lifestyle and culture specific to that island, especially through developing connections with the locals and getting to know the secret spots.
And staying in a local rental apartment in Greece is the perfect way to do this.
If you don’t have this long, then of course just spend as much time in one spot as you can; this will still allow you to explore more of the remote areas and get away from the crowds, than if you’re hopping between islands every few days.
#4 Travel During a Different Season
I wholeheartedly understand the obsession with having a Greek Summer – and of course the romance attached to it!
After all, it is during the months of July to September that the temperatures here peak and you can blissfully while away days lounging around on a beach or at a local cafe eating Gyro’s and sipping on a Freddo Cappuccino!
However, this is not the only thing Greece has to offer.
And if you’re looking to get away from the majority of tourists, why not try something a bit different and allow yourself the chance to experience an alternative side to Greece?
So instead of heading to Greece during the high season, why not consider one of the shoulder seasons instead?
The olive picking season comes straight after the summertime when the majority of tourists have left and is a great cultural event to experience that certainly brings you into contact with local Greek traditions.
Travelling Greece in the autumn months also provides you with a perfect time to reflect and relax, as the heat begins to cool and the crowds dissipate.
The spring shoulder season, during the months of March through May, is also a wonderful time to travel off the beaten track in Greece, with hiking opportunities at their best then thanks to the lower temperatures and the abundance of greener scenery and wildflowers.
#5 Eat Local
Another local secret to getting off the beaten track in Greece and enjoying it, is to not be really particular or fussy about the food that you eat.
Not that you’d have to be, because most Greek food is absolutely delicious!
I just mean, don’t be afraid to get outside your comfort zone and try something new.
Eating in a small local cafe or from a market is a great way to have an authentic experience in this county and to get off the main tourist trail.
Much of the food in Greece is locally produced, sourced or made, especially in more remote areas, and people will often have grown, raised and cooked it themselves.
The flavours this brings to the plate are incredible and soaking them up, as well as searching out real, local food experiences (such as Agrotourism ventures) is a great way to travel this country.
And remember, the Greeks are passionate about eating and getting great feedback on their food is a key way to ingratiate yourself!
#6 Ask a Local
Last year on the island of Kythira I was helping some village boys pack-up furniture from the town’s dance festival the night before.
Standing in the centre of the town, one of the boys saw me marvelling at the bell tower not far from where we were.
I then began to ask him questions about the history of that particular town and he was more than happy to share some stories with a keen listener.
This was a great lesson for me in putting yourself out there when you travel, plucking up the courage to engage with people and getting out of your comfort zone.
So remember, if you really want to get off the beaten track in Greece, it’s best to ask a local to tell you some village or family stories.
Don’t worry about getting them talking, most of them will be harder to shut-up!
But in all seriousness, asking for local advice, whether that be the best place to eat, swim, hike or visit, is a great way to get off the beaten track in this country.
After all, it’s the locals of each area that will know it best and usually, yes, they are only too happy to share their top tips with interested people who want to learn more about their beautiful region.
#7 Get Active
Okay Greece has some beautiful beaches and lounging out on at least a few of them is a key way to enjoy this country.
As is sitting in a restaurant for hours, eating, drinking and chatting.
But Greece also has a lot of wonderful nature to explore and getting active in the national parks, mountains, forests, coastline and villages of this country is a key way to have a more unique experience.
A top region to head for active adventures is the Zagora region on mainland Greece.
3 hours from Thessaloniki, this area offers some incredible hiking and rafting opportunities. Pelion, which we spoke about before is near here too.
Another mainland spot ideal for those of you looking to enjoy the great outdoors is the Vikos-Aoös National Park, which is near Ioannina that I also mentioned earlier.
The spectacular gorge here is super for hiking and the whole area is UNESCO-listed.
Back on the islands, Karpathos is a wonderful spot for hikers with over 200km of marked trails as well as mountain biking and scuba diving opportunities.
And lastly, the island of Kythira, which lies at the bottom of the Peloponnese peninsula, is a delight for active travellers in Greece looking for something quiet and different.
With some amazing caves to discover, as well as gorges, valleys, waterfalls and walks to explore, this small paradise is firmly off the package tourist trail and all the more amazing for it.
5 Packing Essentials You Shouldn’t Head to Greece Without
#1 Greece Lonely Planet – The useful island info and great accommodation recommendations make purchasing the Greece Lonely Planet Guidebook a good investment.
#2 Swimsuit – With those perfect coloured waters, taking an ocean dip is essential. I always love Rip Curl’s great bikini designs.
#3 Natural Sunscreen – Steer clear of all those nasty chemicals with this top natural sunscreen product – a must for the Greek summer.
#4 Summer Hat – Whether you’re a fan of a cap or a big floppy hat like me, taking a stylish summer hat to Greece will be key. I LOVE this Hello Sunshine one.
#5 Sarong – If you’ve read any of my packing lists, you’ll know a good sarong is always in my travel bag and a trip to Greece is no exception. Check out One World Sarongs if you’re looking for some inspiration.
LIKE IT? PIN IT!
So there you have it, my 7 local secrets when it comes to getting off the beaten track in Greece.
Best of luck to those brave enough to try something different and always remember not to fret – getting away from the crowds is always worth that little extra bit of research and determination!