According to the WTM London’s Industry Report, Northern Greece is in second place of the most underrated destinations. The truth is that when you hear about Greece, you think of islands, sun, summer, and seas. That’s half true. The other half is located in a lesser-known but equally beautiful destination.
A simple quest in Google is enough to convince you that Northern Greece hides great beauties and magical places worth visiting. The most famous destinations in Northern Greece are Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, Halkidiki (the seaside parts). There are, however, places that don’t see many visitors and are not displayed as much as the destinations that I mentioned earlier. So, let’s take a look at 10 lesser-known destinations in Northern Greece!
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Lesser-known Destinations in Northern Greece
The mountainous village of Halkidiki Region, at an altitude of 600 meters, with less than 3,000 permanent residents, is out of another era. Old mansion houses, stone buildings and cobbled streets compose the image of Arnea, a picturesque village that in the winter season is ideal for hot chocolate by the fireplace, and watching the snow outside the window.
Arnea, like most villages of the mountainous Halkidiki, has the unique characteristic of being located half an hour away from the sea and about an hour from the second largest city of the country, Thessaloniki. If you ever find yourself in Arnea, wander the streets and alleys of the village, visit the church of Agios Stefanos with its transparent floor and taste the famous local products (honey and wine).
Another mountainous village, this time in a more northern part of the country, Nymfaio is located at an altitude of 1350 meters, about an hour away from Florina and two hours from Thessaloniki.
A mountainous oasis with cobbled streets and stone houses from another era, forest paths and mountain hiking trails make up a magical picture in the heart of a dense beech forest. It is worth visiting the Environmental Centre of “ARCTUROS“, a non-governmental, non-profit environmental organization with an environmental information center for the brown bear.
Despite the fact that the village was on the list of the most beautiful villages in Europe of UNESCO and is a favorite winter destination for Greeks, it remains unexplored by foreign tourists.
Kastoria is located in one of the northernmost parts of the country, just 30 km from the Greek-Albanian border. With a population of no more than 20,000, Kastoria is built on a small peninsula of Lake Orestiada, at an altitude of more than 700 meters.
Apart from the beautiful lake, the city is known for two other things: for its incredible cold in winter (temperatures as low as -20C) and for the activity of its inhabitants for more than five hundred years in the art of fur trade. If you find yourself in Kastoria, make sure to take a tour of the lake, wander around the picturesque neighborhoods of the town and visit the model aquarium, the largest freshwater aquarium in the Balkans.
Saint Achilios – Small Prespa
Saint Achilios is a tiny island in the center of Lake “Small Prespa” which is connected to the mainland by a unique floating bridge of almost one kilometer. The settlement is located at an altitude of 850 meters and its permanent residents do not exceed 30!
If you find yourself in the area (about an hour from Kastoria) visit the islet to admire the incredible beauty of the natural landscape, the ruins of the 10th-century church of Agios Achilios and the incredible view from the hill of the island. Both Albania and North Macedonia are just a stone’s throw away, with the area being a crossroads of three countries!
Litochoro is built on the outskirts of Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, at an altitude of almost 300 meters and is an hour away from Thessaloniki. Its unique location (just a few kilometers from the sea) makes it an ideal destination for all seasons!
Houses with traditional architecture and picturesque squares are surrounded by lush vegetation and create great harmony. The small town serves most tourists as a base for hiking, mountaineering, and mountain climbing, but that doesn’t mean that for us… less sporty people there are no solutions! Excellent Greek taverns and shops with awesome flavors and local products are everywhere in Litochoro and I highly recommend you try them if you find yourself in town!
Pozar Thermal Baths – Loutraki
A destination that is less known even to Greeks themselves (especially in central and southern Greece) is the Loutraki Baths or as it is more commonly known, Pozar Baths (“Loutra Pozar” in Greek). At the foot of Mount Kaimaktsalan, and less than two hours from Thessaloniki, the thermal springs of the Baths are “hidden” in a magical location in the heart of the forest.
Natural “pools” with warm water and small waterfalls with cold water for the more courageous, individual or group pools, jacuzzi, hammam with thermal waters and a large outdoor heated pool make up an oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation that you should not miss if you find yourself in the area!
If we had to choose a village to define the “mountain settlement” it would definitely be Metsovo. Built amphitheatrically on the mountains of the Pindos Mountain Range, Metsovo has kept its traditional character unchanged through the years. The picturesque streets of the settlement lead to the heart of Metsovo, the central square, a square out of a fairy tale.
The village is ideal for hiking in nature, mountain climbing, and offers good food. For the latter, the columnist guarantees that you will taste the best “kontosouvli” (pork pieces on a spit, similar to the famous Greek souvlaki) in Northern Greece, for which the village is famous, as well as for its meat in general.
Metsovo, although lower down on the map than the previous destinations, is part of Northern Greece.
Zagorochoria is a cluster of 46 traditional picturesque villages and settlements, “hidden” in forests of pine and fir trees in the “heart” of Epirus. At the foot of the Pindos Mountain Range and between the mountains of Tymfi and Mitsikeli, these 46 villages are scattered and connected to nature, creating an ideal destination for lovers of the environment.
The Vikos Gorge, one of the largest in the world, the impressive Drakolimni of Tymfi, at an altitude of 2,000 metres, and the Voidomatis River are just some of the places worth visiting if you find yourself in Zagorochoria. On a roadtrip in Zagorochoria, Monodendri, Papigo (the photo is from this village) and Aristi are the three villages I would recommend you to definitely stop at.
Palaios Agios Athanasios
Located at the foot of Mount Kaimaktsalan, the settlement of Palaios Agios Athanasios at an altitude of 1200 meters, is a unique winter destination in Northern Greece, especially for winter sports enthusiasts. Two hours away from Thessaloniki, the settlement serves as a tourist base for the ski resort of Kaimaktsalan.
The picturesque alleys of the village are ideal for nature walks, when the weather permits, as during the winter season the village receives a large amount of snow. For those who are not fans of skiing and winter sports, a hot chocolate in the village square or at the ski resort chalet and tasting local products (honey, local cheeses, and pasta) will give your day… a different taste!
Last but not least a destination that, apart from the wider area of Thessaloniki, very few people know of its existence. And yet these waterfalls with the emerald waters in the photo are located in Northern Greece, just 100 km from Thessaloniki. We are talking about the Skra waterfalls and the “blue lake” of Northern Greece.
Just outside the village of the same name, in an oasis of greenery, the waterfalls emerge and spill their water into the blue lake. Stone steps and natural paths lead to a clearing in the heart of the forest, with scattered wooden benches ideal for picnics. Once you leave the clearing behind and cross the wooden bridge, you are confronted with an awe-inspiring image, as if it were straight out of a fairy tale. The blue lake with its emerald waters is waiting for you to take a refreshing dip! WARNING: the water is cold, don’t step on it and dive in carefree. Be smarter than the columnist.
These were ten of the lesser-known destinations in Northern Greece. If you ever find yourself in Northern Greece, make sure you’ll visit some of these 10 wonderful destinations! I will be waiting for your feedback with a comment below this article!