Not all of us have the luxury of taking a month off work to travel to sun-soaked destinations such as Greece, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from planning a relaxing minimoon in the country that never sleeps; after all, just existing in 2020 grants you the right to deserve a break!
Due to the small number of days, you’ll have to spend on your desired destination in Greece, you need to be smart with your decisions. Minimoons usually spread across a span of a long weekend, however, if you organize your trip right, you can make it feel like much more.
There are two options: you can either choose a Greek destination that you can fly to directly from your country, or you can fly to Athens and take off to a nearby countryside haven. Greeks are lucky to live in a country with unique natural beauty, so even if time is limited, there are endless locations for weekend excursions and small doses of liveliness and renewal.
Where to go
There are 15 international airports in Greece offering direct flights from abroad to Athens, Thessaloniki, Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Kos, Santorini, Zakynthos, Mykonos, Cephalonia, Mytilene, Zakynthos, Aktion, Skiathos, Kavala, Karpathos, Chios, Kalamata, and Araxos.
If, however, none of those destination sound appealing to you, you’ll be glad to know that within a couple of hours from Athens you can arrive at gorgeous regions of Greece that can host your minimoon with great success.
Diakofto is a small town of the Greek countryside, known mainly for two reasons: the beaches and the trademark railway. A complete excursion to Kalavrita cannot but begin with the route with the legendary ‘Odontoto’, one of the most spectacular railway lines in the Balkans. The name of the train came from the way it climbs the steep slopes of the route, hooking the rails with its 'teeth'- 'Odontotos' in Greek translates to ‘having teeth’.
The route starts from Diakofto and continues to Kalavrita, passing through the gorge of Vouraikos, covering a total distance of 22 km. Passing through forests, caves, tunnels, and waterfalls, you’ll get enthralled by the raw beauty of the landscape. You will pass the villages of Niamata, Triklia, Kato Zachlorou, and Kerpini and finally reach Kalavrita, your ultimate destination!
Kalavrita is one of the most picturesque towns of the mountainous region of Achaia and a favorite destination for locals and visitors alike, especially during the colder month. Under the shadow of the Aroania mountain and at an altitude of 756 meters, Kalavrita is a city that keeps alive the traditional element of Greece, despite the tourist boom of recent years.
Fun fact: Kalavrita is the hometown of one of the most popular –and in my opinion, the best- kind of feta cheese, giving Kalavrita a worldwide name for its mouth-watering Greek flavors in regard to its local products and dishes.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Kalavrita is a true oasis of nature lovers and extreme sports fanatics, as only 14 km uphill will lead you to one of the most pristine ski centers of Greece, the ski center of Kalavrita.
Aegina island - credits: leoks/Shutterstock.com
Probably the most convenient getaway from Athens, you can reach Aegina from the port of Piraeus within 40 minutes, riding one of the Flying Dolphins that leave the port once every hour!
Another destination with a deep mythological past, the founding of Aegina was the result of another love story of Zeus. When the incurably scandalous god fell in love with Asopos' daughter, during the well-known seduction tactic he applied, he abducted her and took her to the island of Oinoni. With the birth of their son, Aeacus, the island was renamed Aegina and Aeacus became its king.
Aegina, the proud island, was also the homeland of Achilles and Aeandus, two protagonists of the Trojan War, and was the first capital of modern Greece before Nafplio.
Today, you see narrow cobbled streets with beautiful 19th-century neoclassical mansions, churches with white and blue domes, traditional fish markets and taverns reminiscent of past; all in all, Aegina manages to retain a refined, nostalgic charm you’re bound to fall in love with.
An integral part of the beauty of Aegina is the archeological site of Kolona, as it is called, the only pillar left from the temple of Apollo, an acropolis and a religious center of antiquity. What it is most known for in modern times, however, is one of its local products, the famed pistachio, which you can buy from several shops in its city center; don’t even think about leaving Aegina before purchasing at least a bag!
The small, but lusciously vegetated island of Agistri lies in the heart of the Saronic Gulf and is only 55 minutes from Piraeus by boat and 5 nautical miles from Aegina. It is ideal for a short getaway as it is a destination that doesn’t necessarily require a car; everywhere you need to go is within a short distance and can be easily covered by either the local bus or a taxi.
The best thing you can do in Agkistri though is to rent a bike and follow the coastal route from Skala, which is the port, to Megalochori, the capital. You will be amazed by the beautiful beach of Halikiada and the green landscape that is full of trees that reach the sea.
When you get hungry, choose one of the beach taverns and enjoy fresh fish and homemade dishes of excellent quality and taste. Don’t wrack your brain too much about the tavern you should choose; all options are nothing short of excellent!
Chalkida is perhaps the first place to think when looking for a day trip from Athens. It is about 70 km from the Greek capital and is ideal for leisurely walks, both on the beach, and on the hill where the ancient fortress is located. The natural phenomenon of the tide in the strait of Euripus, in fact, is what draws most people to the old bridge for water observation.
However, the city is rich in other attractions, such as the prominent Red House on the north side of the beach, which dates back to 1884, the House of Statues, and the Archaeological Museum.
Nafplio - credits: Heracles Kritikos/Shutterstock.com
For many –myself included- the most charming city in the Peloponnese, the medieval city of Nafplio is one of the most popular destinations a short distance from Athens, ideal for weekend getaways or even day trips.
The picturesque city of Nafplio with its trademark architectural character and two Venetian castles to delimit and protect it, strongly exudes the vibe of the first capital of modern Greece.
Take a walk in the old town of Nafplio between restored mansions and beautiful guesthouses and hotels and drink your coffee in Syntagma Square. For those of you craving to learn more about the history and culture of the region, the Archaeological Museum of Nafplio, the Old Mosque and the famous Komboloi Museum –or Worry Bead Museum, in Engish- are there waiting for you to discover them.
Continue taking pictures of the city from above, climbing the 999 steps that lead to Palamidi castle, one of the most important examples of Venetian architecture that is perfectly preserved on the hill of Palamidi. Legend has it that the stairs are 999, but the truth is that they are a little less than that. If you are not convinced yet to make the decision to walk to the fortress, we inform you that it is possible to access by car.
Of course, the tour of Arvanitia could not be missing from the trip to Nafplio. Starting from the beach and overlooking the Bourtzi water fortress, a wonderful walk begins on the pedestrian street of Arvanitia that surrounds the rock of Akronafplia. The idyllic walk in a landscape with flowers, prickly pears, and the sea at your feet leads to Akronafplia!
Whether it’s a cooking class, a walking tour, or a cycling tour with a picnic, there is a world of things to do in Nafplio that will make your trip memorable! And if you still feel overwhelmed, then let our short traveler's guide to Nafplion do all the work!
Lake Stymfalia in mythology was inhabited by Stormfalides Hens, wild man-eating birds that threatened humans, animals, and crops. The brave Hercules in one of his 12 feats was called to destroy them and, with the help of Athena, he succeeded. Today, free from the dangerous mythical creatures, Lake Stymfalia seems to be the ultimate natural paradise, the oasis of the prefecture of Corinth.
Between the mountains of Ziria and Oligyrtos, the lake is located at an altitude of 600 meters and is surrounded by many picturesque villages. Based on the villages of Stymfalia, Kaisari, Kefalari, Kalianous, Kastania, or Asprokampos, the escape to the lake will fill you with peace, while deep breaths in the fresh air will offer you the rejuvenation you were looking for.
If you’re a nature lover, you will find the Stymfalia Environmental Museum nearby; dedicated to nature and humankind, it examines the inextricable links between the two and the healthy use of nature to serve human needs. Indulge in exploring the lake and its surroundings, take a trip into a world of myths and legends, absorb to the fullest the beauties of the wetland, and create beautiful memories that will follow you for a lifetime!
Arachova - credits: Vagelis Pikoulas/Shutterstock.com
The ultimate winter destination for all ages and all tastes is undoubtedly Arachova. Its ease in access, as well as and the masterful combination of cosmopolitan with traditional elements, have raised the shares of Arachova, which now comes first in the choices of those looking for a short getaway from the big city.
The main street of Arachova excludes a magical ambiance that invited people from all over the world all year round despite having been characterized as the ‘wintertime Mykonos’ by its locals.
But behind the dazzling fancy face of the modern city lies a cozy village with stone houses and uphill streets that meet on the slopes of the mountain. Above the city rises the peak of Mount Parnassos that gives the landscape a postcard-esque look. Within walking distance is the Archeological site of Delphi with the most important oracle of the ancient Greek world, so even those of you who are interested in the rich Greek heritage will be satisfied with a short getaway to Arachova.
It is true that in Arachova you will meet two different kinds of travelers: the ones who come to have fun in the bars of the village, to visit the ski center of Parnassos and to spend carefree moments with their friends, and the ones looking for moments of calm and relaxation in the taverns of the village, away from the bustling city - and reality.
Tips and tricks for a comfortable stay
Check the weather of your host destination before you start packing; yes Greece has mild weather, we are in the age of climate change though, and there is no such thing as ‘too prepared’ when it comes to short getaways.
Make a list of things you will need. It is very important before you pack to make a list of the things that you will need depending on the destination and the type of small escape that you will make so that you have a picture of the number of things you are going to take with you and not take a larger suitcase for no reason.
Wrap your electronic devices in a towel to protect them during your trip. Items such as the camera case and the hairdryer should be kept in your home so that they do not take up space in your suitcase.
Choose your favorite book that will accompany you and relax you in the morning, evening, or during transportation. It is vital to keep yourself occupied while getting to your desired destination!
Book everything ahead! Tickets, flights, transportation, everything! That way, you not only limit the amount of time you’ll spend waiting in line, but you’ll also completely eliminate the element of stress from your minimoon.
Use your internet wisely on your mobile phone. Search for the most beautiful bars, restaurants, beaches, and attractions in the area you visit. Before you leave, make sure you download the apps that will make life easier for you.
Minimoons are the traveling trend everyone can get behind! They are short, sweet, and do exactly what they’re made to do: give you the opportunity to relax, rest and recharge your batteries. I hope that within the less-talked-about destinations I just describe, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. Take my advice, do your additional research and book your tickets for a few days in the paradise called Greece!