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Top 15 Epic Destinations for Backpacking in Greece

As we embark on this fascinating journey, let us introduce you to the mesmerizing country that Greece is. This Greece travel guide is your ultimate companion as you traverse through the rich tapestry of ancient civilization, azure seas, sandy beaches, and flavorful cuisine that the country has to offer. From the vibrant city life of Athens to the calm and serene beaches of Zakynthos, every corner of Greece has a tale to tell. And the best way to experience this myriad of histories and cultures? Backpacking in Greece. We assure you, there's no better way to savor the country's true essence.

Athens - The Cradle of Western Civilization

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Athens, the capital of Greece, forms the heart of ancient mythology and is a treasure trove of rich history. One cannot help but marvel at the ancient architecture and ruins that narrate tales of yesteryears. The Acropolis, standing tall amidst the cityscape, is a sight to behold, especially at sunset. Besides, the Parthenon, a former temple on the Athenian Acropolis, stands as a symbol of ancient Greek civilization. For art enthusiasts, the Acropolis Museum, a veritable reservoir of archaeological artifacts, provides a glimpse into the rich Greek culture.

Athens is not all about historical marvels. It provides a captivating mix of modern vibrancy and old-world charm. Take a stroll through the Plaka neighborhood with its charming streets, brimming with vibrant eateries, and quaint shops. Try out traditional Greek cuisines, savor the tantalizing taste of souvlaki or indulge in the sweet symphony of baklava. Athens is indeed a food lover's paradise.

Chios - The Mastic Island

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Chios, the fifth-largest Greek island, unfolds a unique charm. Known as the Mastic Island, it is the world’s sole producer of mastic, a tree resin with numerous uses. The island is adorned with medieval mastic villages, which stand as a testament to the rich history of Chios. The medieval village of Mesta, with its labyrinthine alleys, is an architectural marvel. Its well-preserved fortress-like structures make it one of the best-preserved medieval villages in the world.

Chios is also home to the only shipowners' mansions in the Aegean, reflecting the maritime prosperity of the island. Nea Moni, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its magnificent mosaics, offer a journey into the Byzantine era.

The beaches of Chios, such as Mavra Volia, with its black pebbles and crystal-clear water, provide a perfect haven for relaxation. Gastronomy in Chios deserves a special mention with its distinctive flavors and traditional recipes, providing a feast for the taste buds.

Corfu - The Emerald Island of the Ionian Sea

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Corfu, with its verdant landscapes and azure waters, is often referred to as the Emerald Island of the Ionian Sea. It is an amalgamation of cultural influences from Venetians, French, and British eras.

One of the major attractions of Corfu is the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's a delightful maze of narrow cobblestone alleys, known as 'kantounia', and charming Venetian buildings. At the heart of the

ianáda, a lively square brimming with cafes and shops. The Old and New Fortresses, standing as sentinels of the city's history, offer breathtaking panoramic views.

Beyond the urban charm, Corfu is blessed with stunning natural beauty. From the mountainous landscapes of Pantokrator to the exotic beaches like Paleokastritsa and Sidari, Corfu provides an idyllic escape for nature lovers. Avid hikers will love the Corfu Trail, a 220km long trek that traverses the length of the island, revealing its scenic and cultural tapestry.

Delphi - The Navel of the World

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Nestled amidst the mountains, Delphi was considered the center of the world by ancient Greeks. It was here that the renowned oracle of Apollo spoke, guiding the ancients through intricate prophecies. The Sanctuary of Apollo, the Stoa of the Athenians, and the ancient theatre are significant landmarks that whisper tales of the past. The Temple of Apollo, although in ruins, emanates an ethereal charm, transporting you back to mystical times.

The Delphi Archaeological Museum showcases a fascinating collection of artifacts unearthed in Delphi, including the famous bronze statue of the Charioteer of Delphi. Just a short drive from the main site, the mountain village of Arachova offers a delightful retreat with its cobbled lanes and traditional tavernas.

Halkidiki - The Three-Fingered Paradise

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Halkidiki, the stunning three-pronged peninsula, offers some of Greece's best beaches. Its three 'fingers' - Kassandra, Sithonia, and Athos, each have their unique allure.

Kassandra is known for its buzzing nightlife and family-friendly beaches like Kallithea and Hanioti. Sithonia, on the other hand, is quieter and more natural, boasting hidden coves and unspoiled beaches such as Kavourotrypes and Karidi. The third peninsula, Athos, is home to the monastic community of Mount Athos, an autonomous polity within the Greek Republic, offering a deeply spiritual experience.

Halkidiki is not just about beaches; it has a rich history too. The ancient city of Stagira, the birthplace of Aristotle, and the Petralona Cave, with its prehistoric artifacts, offer insights into the region's past.

Knossos - The Labyrinth of King Minos

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Knossos, an ancient city in Crete, was the epicenter of the Minoan civilization and mythology. Here stood the palace of King Minos, where the legendary Minotaur was said to have roamed a labyrinth. Today, the Palace of Knossos, though partially restored, offers a fascinating exploration into Minoan life.

The palace complex, with its royal quarters, storerooms, and detailed frescoes, is a marvel of ancient architecture. For a deeper understanding of Minoan culture, visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, housing the most comprehensive collection of artifacts from Minoan Crete.

Meteora - The Rocks in the Sky

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Meteora, meaning 'suspended in the air,' is an awe-inspiring geological phenomenon. Here, immense monolithic pillars rise from the plains of Thessaly, crowned with ancient monasteries that seem to defy gravity.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Meteora is the second most important complex of Orthodox monasteries in Greece, after Mount Athos. Exploring these monasteries offers a peek into the ascetic life of the monks and stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. Hiking trails in the region lead you through this otherworldly landscape, making Meteora a must-visit spot while backpacking in Greece.

Mycenae - The City Rich in Gold

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Mycenae, the city 'rich in gold,' was the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon. Today, it's an archaeological site where you can explore the remnants of this ancient civilization.

The Lion's Gate, the royal tombs, the Grave Circle, and the Palace Complex are key highlights. The Treasury of Atreus, a tholos tomb also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon, is a remarkable example of Mycenaean architecture. The on-site museum exhibits a collection of artifacts excavated from the area, providing insights into Mycenaean culture and history.

Nafplio - The First Capital of Greece

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Nafplio, with its elegant Venetian houses, neoclassical mansions, and cobbled streets, is often touted as one of Greece's prettiest towns. Its three fortresses - Palamidi, Bourtzi, and the ancient walls of Acronafplia, offer panoramic vistas of the town and the surrounding Argolic Gulf.

Nafplio's charm lies in its relaxed pace. You can wander around the old town, enjoy the local cuisine at cozy tavernas, or relax at one of its nearby beaches like Arvanitia and Karathonas. The town also serves as a perfect base for exploring the archaeological sites of the Argolis region, such as Mycenae and Epidaurus.

Olympia - The Birthplace of the Olympic Games

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Olympia, nestled in a valley in the Peloponnese, was the site of the ancient Olympic Games. It was here that the Olympic Torch is lit before it begins its journey to the host city.

The archaeological site of Olympia includes the Temple of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the Temple of Hera, where the Olympic flame is ignited. The ancient stadium, which once echoed the cheers of spectators, stirs a sense of awe. The Archaeological Museum of Olympia houses artifacts from the site, including the impressive statue of Hermes of Praxiteles.

Rhodes - The Island of the Knights

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Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, is known for its beach resorts, ancient ruins, and remnants of its occupation by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades.

The medieval Old Town of Rhodes, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. The Street of the Knights, the Palace of the Grand Master, and the medieval walls create a vivid picture of the past. Beyond the town, the island offers beautiful beaches like Tsambika, Lindos, and Prasonisi, perfect for relaxation and water sports.

Santorini - The Precious Gem of the Aegean

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Santorini, with its blue-domed churches, white-washed houses, and stunning sunsets, is a dream destination for many travelers. Fira and Oia, perched on the rim of a submerged volcano, offer mesmerizing views of the caldera and the Aegean Sea.

Santorini is not just about picturesque landscapes. The archaeological site of Akrotiri, often referred to as the 'Minoan Pompeii,' offers insights into a civilization buried under a volcanic eruption. The island's unique volcanic soil also gives rise to distinctive wines, which can be sampled at various wineries across the island.

Skiathos - The Green and Blue Paradise

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Skiathos, the most cosmopolitan island of the Northern Sporades, is known for its lush green landscapes and crystal-clear blue waters. It boasts more than 60 sandy beaches, including the world-renowned Koukounaries, considered one of the finest beaches in Greece.

The lively town of Skiathos, with its white houses and narrow alleys, is filled with restaurants, bars, and shops. The island also offers many monasteries and churches, including the Monastery of the Annunciation, known for its beautiful frescoes.

Skyros - The Island of the Centaurs

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Skyros, the southernmost of the Sporades, is a fascinating island known for its varied landscapes. The north of the island is characterized by lush forests and verdant hills, while the south features rocky landscapes and secluded beaches.

The Skyros Town, a traditional settlement, offers narrow alleys, stone houses, and Byzantine castles. Skyros is also famous for its unique customs and traditions, especially the Carnival of Skyros, which features the 'goat dance.' The Skyrian horses, a rare breed of small horses that roam the island, add to its unique charm.

Zakynthos - The Flower of the East

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Zakynthos, often called Zante, is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. Known as the 'Flower of the East,' Zakynthos is famous for its vibrant flowers and diverse vegetation.

The island is renowned for its stunning beaches, especially the Shipwreck Beach, one of the most photographed spots in Greece. The Blue Caves, with their mesmerizing azure waters, are another major attraction. Zakynthos also offers a national marine park, home to endangered loggerhead sea turtles.

Budget Travel Tips for Greece

Budget backpacking in Greece can be an enriching experience. Here are a few tips:

  1. Travel Off-Peak: The best time for budget travelers is the shoulder seasons of spring (April-June) and fall (September-October). The weather is pleasant, prices are lower, and the places are less crowded.
  2. Accommodation: Consider budget accommodations like hostels, budget hotels, or guesthouses. If you're traveling in a group, apartments or villas can offer value for money.
  3. Food: Try local eateries or tavernas for authentic and affordable Greek cuisine. Buying fresh produce from local markets and cooking can also save costs.
  4. Transport: Public transport in Greece is reliable and affordable. For island hopping, ferries are a cost-effective option if booked in advance.
  5. Sightseeing: Many museums and archaeological sites offer reduced prices for students, seniors, and during off-peak seasons. Some sites also have specific days or hours with free entry.

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Conclusion

Greece is a country that effortlessly marries the past with the present, offering a rich tapestry of experiences. Whether you're wandering through the ruins of ancient cities, soaking up the sun on pristine beaches, or savoring the local cuisine, Greece leaves an indelible imprint on your heart. So pack your bags and set off on a memorable journey of backpacking in Greece.

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