Best Places to Visit in Northern Greece

While Greece is known for its picturesque islands and stunning beaches, especially in the Southern part, it is much more than that! Northern Greece has extremely versatile landscapes, sightseeing monuments, cities with rich history and tradition, and pristine nature of unparalleled beauty. Whether on the mountains or across the northern coastline, it is a great destination for any season.

Here’s a list of things to see in Northern Greece:

1. Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki - Northern Greece
The white tower of Thessaloniki

Considered as Greece’s second capital, or better yet, the capital of Northern Greece, Thessaloniki is a stunning destination for a city escape. Its seaside promenade and view over the bay make for the perfect urban yet cosmopolitan holiday location. There are lots of sights to see, easily accessible and close to one another, many tastes to experience, lots of multicultural history to explore.

  • Enjoy the splendor of the White Tower

The city’s landmark is the famous White Tower, a 15th-century tower built as a prison and a fortress during the Ottoman occupation. Nowadays, it is home to the Museum of the city of Thessaloniki, and one of the most visited spots by locals and visitors alike.

Don’t miss the opportunity to marvel at its not-so-white walls, go to the observation tower for panoramic views of the coastal city and amazing photos.

  • Stroll around the old and the new Waterfront
Umbrellas

East of the White Tower, you can find the old waterfront, also known as “Palia Paralia.” Stroll around the promenade and enjoy the view of historic buildings, all the way from Nikis Avenue and White Tower to the Harbor. 

If you take the left direction from the White Tower, you will find the New Waterfront, a modern promenade and a popular hub for young people, couples, locals, and visitors. There, you can also find the iconic artwork with the Umbrellas, a gigantic sculpture by Giorgos Zongolopoulos, where people love to take amazing photos.

Octagon Palace

What else to do in Thessaloniki:

  • Marvel at the beauty of The Triumphant Arch of Galerius also known as Kamara
  • Visit historical and impressive Rotonda
  • Visit Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum
  • Go to the Octagon Palace and its exhibition
  • Learn about Modern Art in Greece at MOMus
  • Enjoy a lovely cocktail or traditional ouzo
  • Visit the MIET Cultural center

2. Kastoria

Kastoria City in Greece

Another magical place to visit in northern Greece the situated in Macedonia, Kastoria. In between Grammos and Vitsi mountains, on a narrow peninsula, the wonderful city of Kastoria is built, as an amphitheater overlooking lake Orestiada.

The lake and its coastal territory are a natural habitat to around 200 different species, some of which are considered endangered or under protection. Around the lake, you can also find the Dragon’s Cave, known for 7 underground lakes full of stalactites, to explore and admire the natural raw beauty.

  • Go on a tour around lake Orestiada
Kastoria Greece
Kastoria lakefront

Find the wooden promenade and walk along the serene lake waters. This tour of the lake will give off a sense of tranquility and comfort, as its waters tend to be so calm and ambient. Stroll around the lake to enjoy the flora and fauna or simply head to Agios Athanasios viewpoint, to get some stunning views of the city, the lake, and the surrounding mountainous landscape. According to the season, you can even board a tourist boat that tours around the lake and the peninsula, giving you unique views.

  • Learn about the city’s Byzantine History
Kastoria Guide Greece

Inside the city, get to know the rich Byzantine history of Kastoria, by having the opportunity to visit more than 60 churches of that period. Churches like these can go as back as the 9th century, and they typically have the Basilica style. To name a few, visit the Monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa by the lake, or the church of Doltso and Agios Panteleimonas. To learn more about the rich history, visit the Byzantine art Museum situated at Dexameni Square!

What else to do in Kastoria:

  • Stroll around the picturesque Doltso neighborhood
  • Explore Dispilio site in lake Orestiada with its Middle Neolithic findings
  •  Visit the Folk-Art Museum in Neratzi Aivazi mansion

Check out my guide to Kastoria, Greece.

3. Zagorochoria

The magnificent region of Zagorochoria in north-western Greece is a haven for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers. It offers countless opportunities to explore mountains, rivers, gorges, and traditional stone-built villages. It is a fairytale-like destination, a great escape, and a lifetime experience.

  • Explore the picturesque villages

Near deep gorges and amidst imposing mountains, the most picturesque villages with traditional dwellings and stone-built arched bridges, are surely worth a visit. Explore the paved streets and alleys in Papingo and Mikro Papingo, where you’ll find heartwarming hosts, amazing food, and tranquility. Meet up at Aristi’s square for the evening, or enjoy a sunset at Vikos village, where you can get a full view of the Vikos mountain range behind you, and a breathtaking sunset in front of you.

  • Hike to Tymfi’s Dragon Lake
Drakolimni of Tymfi
Drakolimni of Tymfi

Starting from Mikro Papingo, you will find the marked O3 Epirus trail, which will take you up the mountain of Tymfi, past the Astrakas refuge, to the mesmerizing and legendary Dragon lake, just beneath the Ploskos peak of the mountain.

The trail to the refuge takes approximately 3 .5 hours, and Drakolimni is another 1.5 hours away. It can be done within a day, but it is quite strenuous, so there is always the option of staying overnight at the refuge of Astrakas with very affordable accommodation. The route to and from may last up to 10 hours.

Once you get to your destination at 2.050 meters in altitude, you will find the breathtaking lake, nestled among peaks, on the edge of deep cliffs of unbearable heights. Behind it, you had to cross fields greener than a fairytale with wild goats and wild horses. The landscape is out of this planet, and the experience is once-in-a-lifetime.

What else to do in Zagorochoria:

  • Hike Vikos Gorge
  • Go rafting at Voidomatis River
  • Swim at Voidomatis Springs
  • Follow the trail to Astrakas and Gkamila peaks

4. Prespes

Prespes Lake - Best lakes in Greece
Prespes Lakes

Two of the most famous lakes in Greece, Mikri Prespa (Small) and Megali Prespa (Large) are at the borders of Greece with Albania. It is a lovely destination for nature lovers, with lush but untamed vegetation and a rich variety of species such as goats, cattle, fishes, and many birds.

You can visit the island of Agios Achillios which is inside Mikri Prespa. On Megali Prespa, explore the village of Psarades, which as the name suggests, is inhabited by fishermen mostly. There, the locals can take you on a boat trip to visit the rock frescoes and several abandoned dwellings for hermits. 

5. Parga

Parga

The coastal town of Parga is a delight. The atmosphere of the location is so distinct, with castles, rocks inside the sea, rivers, and beaches of infinite beauty. While in Parga, don’t miss exploring the alleys with the imposing view over the sea and the rock, and pay a visit to the Venetian Castle, originally built during the 11th century. You can also go village hopping around, visit * and the wonderful castle there.

If, however, you are into outdoor activities, grab the opportunity to visit the Acheron River, a magnificent river, known as the river of transportation of souls according to ancient Greek mythology. There, you will find the springs, with lovely, cold freshwater to dive in and enjoy the lush nature and raw beauty of the landscape. You can also find rafting, hiking, fox flying, and other activities at the river banks.

Sarakiniko Beach, Parga - Best beaches in Mainland Greece
Sarakiniko Beach, Parga

As regards its beaches, Parga is known for its crystal clear Ionian waters. Head to Valtos and Lichnos for watersports, or go to Sarakiniko and Piso Krioneri for lovely views and stunning waters.

What else to do in Parga:

• Swim at Agios Sostis beach

• Stroll around Old town

• Take an unforgettable boat trip to Paxos and Antipaxos

• Visit the Watermill Museum in Anthousa

6. Metsovo

Metsovo - Beautiful Towns in Greece
Metsovo

Another jewel of Epirus in Northern Greece, Metsovo is a town full of folklore and tradition. Mountainous and imposing, it is built amidst the Pindus Mountain range, nestled there with stone-built dwellings.

While in Metsovo, explore local history by visiting the Tsanaka Museum of Folklore, as well as the Averoff-Tositsa Museum of Folk Art and Katogi Averoff Winery. The traditional food is delicious, and the specialty is the cheese called “metsovone.”

If you want to get active, you can go on a tour to Aoos lake and enjoy the scenery, or go skiing at Anilio Ski Resort. There are a lot of hiking opportunities, especially in Valia Calda, the National Park of Pindos.

7. Ioannina

The lively city of Ioannina (known as Giannena), is yet another of the best places to visit in Northern Greece. Built on the banks of the beautiful Lake Pamvotida, the city is wonderful and cozy during winter and vibrant and buzzing during summer.

  • Get to know the city sights

The first thing to do is explore the castle town of Ioannina, which the oldest Byzantine fortress in Greece. Learn all about the history of the city in the various museums situated inside the castle town, which is also inhabited. Visit the Silversmithing Museum, as well as the Municipal Ethnographic Museum and the Aslan Passa Mosque.

Ioannina Castle - Best Castles in Greece
Ioannina Castle
  • Explore the lake of Pamvotida

Walk around the beautiful lake on the lovely promenade under the thick plane trees. There is also the option of going on a boat tour around the lake and to the island situated at its center. There, you will find lots of sights from ancient temples to wall paintings of religious figures.

8. Xanthi

Built on the foot of Rhodopi mountain range in Thrace, of Northern Greece, the city of Xanthi is a lively destination, full of history, art, tradition, and nature.

In vibrant Xanthi, you have many artistic options to get to know the vibe of the city. Stroll around the Old Town of Xanthi and you will get immersed in its distinct character. Then, you can begin your museum tour with the Folk and History Museum of Xanthi and the Public Paint Gallery, as well as the modern art museum “The House of Shadow”.

For closer contact with Tracian nature, go to Nestos River, and the Nestos Straits, where you can enjoy freshwater swimming and outdoor activities.

9. Olympos-Pieria

Canyon Enipeas

In central Macedonia, you can find one of the best places to visit in Northern Greece. Pieria is the wider region that encompasses Olympos Mountain, the highest in Greece at 2,918 meters of altitude. It carries stories of mythical times, considered as the home of the twelve Ancient Greek Gods.

Exploring this legendary mountain by hiking and mountaineering is a must. There are countless outdoor activities, from sightseeing at the Archaeological Site of Dion with its Dionysus Mosaic, to passing the Canyon of Enipeas, seeing waterfalls, or touching the peak. Routes are endless, diverse fauna and flora are everywhere, and you can find accommodation at refuges to pursue the last ascend.

Hiking in Olympus Mountain Greece
Olympus Mountain

Litochoro, also known as the city of the Gods, is a traditional village about 100km away from Thessaloniki, where you can marvel at Macedonian architecture and enjoy local delicacies and wineries. You can also visit the Maritime Museum of Litochoro to learn about the rich history.

10. Kerkini Lake

Lake Kerkini Greece
Lake Kerkini Greece

You can find Kerkini lake in Serres of northern Greece, with an imposing size of 4,609 ha. Surrounded by the mountains of Belles and Mavrovouni, these wetlands are just 40 km away from the town of Serres and about 100 km away from Thessaloniki.

It is ideal for bird watching, with approximately 300 bird species migrating or nesting here. Rich in biodiversity of flora and fauna, with one of the biggest populations of buffalos in Greece, the lake is protected and preserved. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy boat rides, canoeing, horseback riding, and hiking along the lake which is 15 km long.

Tip: The best seasons to visit for bird watching are autumn and spring, as the birds migrate during those periods.

11. Halkidiki

Fokea Halkidiki
Fokea Halkidiki

The stunning peninsula south of Thessaloniki is characterized by the three protruding “fingers” which overlook the Aegean Sea. Each “finger” has its characteristics and distinct beauty, but all of them have lush vegetation and pine forests that meet the pristine clear blue waters. It is considered the Greek Caribbean, thanks to turquoise waters and sandy beaches of shallow depths, like Kavourotripes and Trani Ammouda.

Kavourotrypes Beach, Halkidiki - Best Beaches in Mainland Greece
Kavourotrypes Beach, Halkidiki

For a vibrant nightlife and endless partying, head to Kassandra, but if you are into quiet and tranquility, head for Sithonia. For nature lovers, skinny dippers, and campers, it is best to head to Athos, whose beauty has remained untouched and raw. The latter is also the place where the monastery of Mount Athos is situated, strictly open only to men visitors.

12. Edessa

Just 2 hours outside Thessaloniki, in Northern Greece, you will find Edessa, known for the stunning waterfalls, a result of an earthquake back in the 14th century.

Edessa Waterfalls are a heavenly spot, accessible by stairs. Karanos Waterfall is the biggest in Greece and up to 70 meters high. There are also the twin Lamda waterfalls nearby. The Park around them is beautiful, with lush vegetation and benches to enjoy the view. Don’t miss the tour of the cave behind the waterfall, which costs only 1 Euro. In the vicinity, you can find the Open-air Museum of Water and Water-Power with an Aquarium inside a windmill.

edessa waterfalls in Greece
Edessa Waterfalls

To experience a bit of Edessa, visit the Varosi Neighborhood of Edessa to get a glimpse into folklore and tradition, and learn more with the house exhibition. You can also find the wonderful stone-built arched Byzantine Bridge to take amazing photos. Alternatively, visit a cherry, olive, or wine farm for an agrotourism experience of a lifetime.

13. Kavala

Kavala is a coastal city in northern Greece built around the Bay of Kavala. The city offers a marina, and its center is full of life in countless locales and many parks.

To get immersed in it, visit the imposing castle of Kavala in Old Town, with the best views over the whole city. Take photos there or simply marvel at what lies in front of you. While returning, wander through the neighborhoods in Old Town and find traditional dwellings, and a mesmerizing atmosphere.

If you’re interested in the history of Kavala, visit the equestrian statue of Mehmet Ali opposite his old house which is now a museum. If you want more panoramic views of the city, walk to the Old Lighthouse and enjoy the urbanscape from afar.

14. Tzoumerka

Syrrako Village Epirus
Syrrako Village Epirus

Similar to the picturesque Zagorochoria, Tzourmeka is a region in Northern Greece which entails 47 villages, also called Tzourmekochoria. The pristine nature and untouched landscape and villages make this location out of a fairytale.

The mountainous terrain is ideal for hiking and mountaineering, perfect for explorers and nature lovers. You can take countless trails in various gorges, ravines, riverbanks, and mountains. Arachthos River is known for its beauty and rafting activities.

Anemotrypa Cave

Learn more of the history of these Vlach villages, visit the infamous historic border that was Plaka Bridge, or head to the silversmithing village of Syrrako, which is a sight to behold, built amphitheatrically on Mount Lakmos. Nearby, by the river Chroussias, you can find its twin village Kalarites, with breathtaking views. If you want to explore Anemotrypa Cave with its many stalactites, head to Pramanta village.

15. Meteora

In the region of Thessaly, you will find Meteora, the last of the best places to visit in Northern Greece in this list. This otherworldly destination is an actual wonder of nature, with huge steep rocks looking as if they are “flying mid-sky”, as their name suggests.

Upon those steep rocks, Monasteries have been built in a way that takes your breath away. Apart from marveling at the landscape and capturing extraordinary shots, you can visit each monastery and explore more of its history.

From the St Nikolaos Anapafsas Monastery with its famous paintings by Theophanis Strelitzas Bathas to Varlaam Monastery, Holy Trinity Monastery, and the monastery of Roussanou, Meteora is a place worth visiting. The view from the top of these monasteries cannot be put into words.

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