Skip Santorini: Greece's Under-the-Radar Destinations to Visit This Summer
My grandmother lives in Athens, so I’ve been visiting Greece off and on my whole life. When pressed for recommendations, I’ve generally steered people toward the islands, particularly the less-touristy ones, and recommended Athens itself only for those who are very into ancient Greek history. Those are usually the only two categories folks are interested in, but, just like there’s so much more to see in France than just Paris, there’s a deep bench of exquisitely beautiful travel destinations spread out over the mainland above Athens.
We’ve got gorgeous mountain towns with cliff-top monasteries and breezy fishing villages with their little bobbing boats. We’ve got sun-soaked olive groves that go on for miles and miles, and the kinds of museums that will enthrall rather than bore you. We’ve got ski resorts and Venetian castles and Turkish mosques and ancient amphitheatres still in use. So what are you waiting for? Put these seriously stunning spots should be on your summer to-do list, ASAP.
DelphiI am partial to Delphi because this is where my name originates. Kastalia is not really any more common a name in Greece than it is in the States, but it is the name of the Delphi spring that trickles down from the mountains above and out of stone spigots you can drink from. Delphi itself is stunning, a steeply vertical town clinging to the side of Mount Parnassus. It is also 10/10 choice for anyone traveling to Greece who isn’t a museum person, per se, but still wants, or perhaps feels obligated, to see something of the ancient history. The archaeological museum is unparalleled, and you can take in the statues and artifacts on the inside as well as the racetrack, amphitheatre, and temple ruins that sit on the outside, overlooking the silvery olive groves at the base of the mountain that stretch all the way to the horizon.
SounionThe cliff top Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion makes for one of the most picturesque backdrops you’ll ever find in your life. Dating back to the 5th century BC, the skeleton of Doric columns overlooking the Aegean is one of the most iconic images of Athens’ Golden Age. Sounion made a brief cameo in the Odyssey, but it figures more heavily into the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
The promontory on which the Temple of Poseidon sits is where, according to Greek mythology, King Aegeus stood waiting to see whether his son Theseus had slayed the monster known as the Minotaur -- or whether he had been killed. Theseus was victorious, but forgot to change the sails of his ship from black to white when he journeyed home. Seeing the black sails approach the cape -- which were supposed to signal that his son was dead -- the King threw himself from the cliffs into the sea, which was named the Aegean Sea in his honor.