Mainland Greece For Culture Vultures
Tourists flock to the Greek islands in the thousands for the holidays and, of course, a couple of weeks spent sunning yourself surrounded by the Ionian sea doesn’t sound too bad. But there’s so much to explore on the Greek mainland! Take a whirlwind tour around some of the lesser-known parts of this beautiful country. With its stunning landscape, famous cuisine and rich history, Greece has something for everyone.
The Corinthian Gulf
This deep inlet of the Ionian Sea is home to wonders both ancient and modern. At the deepest point of the gulf is a great place to start your adventure. Originally called “Thermae” in ancient times, the city is named after Thermia Artemis, who was the goddess of therapeutic waters. Now called Loutraki, this town’s famous water travels from its source in Mount Geraneia through layers and layers of rock, picking up healing elements and minerals along its way. There is little medicine more wonderful than spending an afternoon relaxing in the thermal spa here.
Of course, there isn’t just the spa to see. For night owls, it’s all too possible to spend a few days in Loutraki at the Hotel Casino. For those who like to catch the morning sun, there’s a picturesque harbour to stroll around; or you can while away your afternoons on the beautiful, sandy beaches.
However, if you’re looking for truly ancient history, then head to the neighbouring village of Perachora. On the peninsula jutting out to sea, you’ll find the Temple of Heraion, the sanctuary of the Goddess Hera. Although the site is, of course, now ruins, the remarkable state of preservation really enables you to feel how it could have been in ancient times—it’s truly unmissable.
Meteora is another stunning mainland destination; it is home to numerous monasteries dotted around the Pindos mountains. Meteora is in the very centre of Greece, away from the seaside towns. It is famed for its unique and awe-inspiring rock formations, from which people sought shelter during the Byzantine era. Now the town of Kalampaka is one of the most ancient cities of Thessaly, nestled in the foothills of these incredible rocks.
In a time period of great change, monks took to the rocky sandstone columns to build monasteries. These monasteries have since become a UNESCO world heritage site and, despite their almost inaccessible location, they are visited by thousands of tourists every year. However, don’t let the tourists put you off; it really is an incredible feat of human endurance to behold.
Mesolongi is a town that is less frequented by foreign tourists, but Greek visitors often spend their holidays here relaxing around the large sea lake or soaking in the sights of The Garden of Heroes.
The lake is a picturesque place that seems almost too perfect to have occurred naturally. Keen birdwatchers can get lost in the migratory birds to be seen here, whilst those interested in human activity can marvel at the specially-designed lagoon boats that are built to catch the famous Mesolongi sea bream.
The Garden of Heroes in Mesolongi is situated inside the walled entrance to the town. Whilst some may consider visiting a monument to the dead a slightly macabre way to holiday, this garden is so picturesque that it seems anything but. The principal part of the garden celebrates those who fought in the Greek war for independence, which made Mesolongi the place it is today. Alongside the monuments to these brave individuals is one piece that particularly stands out commemorating Lord Byron, who sadly passed here in 1824. Byron asked to have his heart remain in Mesolongi, but his body sent back to England; and after spending some time here, it’s not hard to imagine what made him make that choice.