Our accommodations in Tsagarada were hosted by The Lost Unicorn Hotel. All opinions expressed are our own and are based on our personal experiences.
When thinking of Greece, most people think of the sunny islands crowded with sunbathers or of Athens with its incredible history and millions of inhabitants. While we love these places, there’s another part of Greece that is equally beautiful and often overlooked.
Northern Greece has unexpected charm, natural beauty, incredible food, a fascinating history, and many great things to do. Here are just a few reasons we think you should put this unpretentious side of Greece on your bucket list.
1. You’ll See A Different Side Of Greece
You might be surprised to learn that a part of Greece experiences all four seasons. Northern Greece is filled with variety. The landscape includes wonders like the canyons of Vikos Gorge, fantastic rock formations, and the unique monasteries at Meteora. There are mountain ranges, including the mighty Mount Olympus, the tallest mountain in Greece. You can walk through forests, and then lie on a beach. Beautiful Sporades islands like Skiathos, Skopelos, and Skyros are just a short ferry ride away. Best of all, you can spend your time exploring without the crowds found in many of the more touristy areas, allowing you to see a different and authentic side of Greece at your own pace.
2. Everything Delicious Grows There
The fertile land and favorable conditions of Northern Greece make it possible to grow just about anything there. As you wander through the many charming villages, you’ll be surprised by the variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs growing side by side. On our visit, we saw chestnuts, pomegranates, oranges, apples, figs, walnuts, pears, kiwis, cherries, olives, lemons, quinces, and persimmons growing in home gardens as well as in planned agricultural areas. For a real treat, visit the many markets in Thessaloniki.
3. There Are Some Fabulous Hiking Opportunities
Northern Greece is blessed with diverse terrain, making it a hiker’s paradise. Visitors can trek like their Ice Age ancestors on the Voidomatis Valley Trail. For something easy, short, and sweet, head to the Centaur’s Path Trail in Thessaly. You can explore the vast Pindos National Park or visit a nearby island like Skiathos with its more than two dozen well-marked paths, many with spectacular views of the sea. You can go for a quick morning stroll or take a picnic and make a day of it with unforgettable scenery worth discovering.
4. You Can Enjoy Glorious Food
The food in Greece is incredible, and Northern Greece has some of its own delicious specialties. Influences from neighboring Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, and Turkey add a satisfying complexity to dishes such as soutzoukakia, or spicy oblong meat rolls, and kouneli stifado, a rabbit stew made with red wine. To try spetzofai, a rustic dish of country sausages and peppers in a rich tomato sauce that’s popular in the Pelion region, stop at a charming local spot such as Ki Opou To Pei in Neochori. Or learn to make it yourself at a Greek cooking experience at Kritsa Gastronomy Hotel.
5. The Beaches Are Beautiful
Northern Greece has no shortage of gorgeous beaches. Summer is the perfect time to relax in the sun while watching the clear blue waters. Fakistra, Papa Nero, and Mylopotamos are just a few of our Aegean Sea favorites.
Movie buffs will be interested to know that many of the beach scenes in Mamma Mia! were filmed on Skopelos, which was called Kalokairi in the movie. The dances in the olive groves at the fictional Villa Donna were filmed in the Mouresi area.
For a special treat, have a seafood lunch at the beautiful Aggelika Fish Taverna, where you can enjoy spectacular views of Mylopotamos Beach while dining on fresh seafood. We loved the snapper -- and shared a little with the feline friends who joined us for lunch on the airy patio.
6. The Accommodations Are Enchanting
When staying in a captivating location, you want to have accommodations to match. The tiny town of Tsagarada provides some wonderful options to keep you in that dreamlike state.
We stayed at The Lost Unicorn Hotel, a 19th-century manor home-turned-whimsical inn that makes you feel as though you’ve stepped into an enchanted garden. The rooms are cozy and filled with delightful furnishings, and the library begs for you to relax with a book and something to drink from the bar. The restaurant, complete with crystal chandeliers and velvet chairs, offers fresh local ingredients and casual elegance. You’ll want to stroll the gardens, and you can even take the resident pooch for a walk.
Another delightful spot is the nearby Amanita Guesthouse, where chef/proprietor Filaretos Psimmenos cooks up wonderful farm-to-table dishes made with local ingredients fresh from the property’s large organic garden. Take a walk, go mushroom hunting, and enjoy the culinary curiosity of the hotelier.
7. There Are Festivals All Year Long
Everyone in Greece enjoys a good party, and the people of Northern Greece are no exception. There are festivals for just about everything, and they take place throughout the year. Thessaloniki, in particular, offers a variety of celebrations highlighting dance, mystery, art, music, film, food, books, and more.
The villages of the Pelion region also have much to celebrate. Pelion festivals include celebrations of sausages, international dance, flowers, pears, apples, chestnuts, cherries, religious feasts, and more.
8. You Can Go Skiing
Yes, you read that correctly! Northern Greece gets snow -- so much so that you can ski, snowboard, or slide on a tube at several resorts. Of course, sometimes it’s just fun to sit inside the comfort of a lodge with a hot buttered rum. Either way, you can experience a winter wonderland in Northern Greece.
Enjoy the snow scene at the Elatochori Ski Resort in the Piera Mountains, which offers breathtaking views. Pertouli Ski Center has stunning vistas and easy slopes suitable for beginners and families, who can also enjoy night skiing or hot chocolate at one of the chalets. Kaimaktsalan Ski Resort, often called the Mykonos of winter, has a luxury chalet with a hotel, restaurant, cafe, bar, and more. And the unique Agriolefkes Pelion Ski Center offers stunning views of the Aegean Sea and the Sporades.
9. You Can Try Tsipouro
Greeks appreciate great wine and spirits, and Northern Greece produces many wonderful wines. You can visit vineyards and wineries and taste various red and white varieties. There are even wine routes you can explore.
But the real pride and joy of the area is a unique spirit called tsipouro, which is produced from the solid remains of grapes after they have been pressed for wine production. The spirit is usually 40 to 45 percent alcohol. Some of the restaurants in small villages like Tsagarada have a tradition where you get a free dish for each shot of tsipouro you buy. We didn’t indulge in that tradition, but friends who live there told us that it can make for quite a lively meal, and they’re glad they don’t have to drive anywhere to get home!
10. You’ll Be Amazed At The Incredible Natural Beauty
Northern Greece offers the opportunity to enjoy natural beauty in every season. Walk along the beach and through forested trails, gardens, vineyards, and beautiful hills for unforgettable views.
The Pelion region has a unique network of cobblestone paths that connect the small villages with the main route and provide access for travelers and trade. Known as kalderimi, these cobblestone paths, many of which are hundreds of years old, were created to accommodate the donkeys and mules so important to life in Northern Greece. Beautiful scenery lines these heritage paths, and they are the perfect way to explore the area. Some of the better-known routes include paths in Tsagarada, Fakistra, Mouresi, Agios Ioannis, Kissos, and Mylopotamos. We enjoyed walking on some of them, including one in Tsagarada where we saw an incredible plane tree, surely one of the largest and oldest on record.
Greece has many beautiful areas, many of which have become popular with visitors from all over the world. For something different, less crowded, and enjoyable in any season, explore the many wonders of Northern Greece. You’ll experience scenery, food and drink, hospitality, history, culture, and many other delights in an unforgettable way.