Greece’s secret season

Greece is a world famous summer destination with a Greek island holiday being on many people’s bucket list. It’s true a Greek island summer is something that needs to be experienced but it is also a great destination to visit in out of the busy summer months like October or even April in Greece’s Secret Season.

In recent times the tourism industry in Greece has been looking to promote lesser known destinations to extend the season beyond the famous summer months of May – August as visitors can still enjoy the beautiful and balmy weather in October Greece’s Secret Season with fewer crowds and experience most destinations in at more budget-friendly prices.

4 Places to visit in Greece’s secret season.

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Monemvasia, Peloponnese

The Gibraltar of the Peloponnese, as it is called, was fortified during the Middle Ages to protect the inhabitants from raids by the Avars, Slavs and pirates.

Monemvasia is not simply just another destination. Apart from the awe you’ll feel walking up the amazing stone-paved alleys of the medieval, Byzantine and Venetian fortress-state, you will also have the unique opportunity of living in the wonderful old stone mansions that have been converted into pensions. Dining, taking strolls and doing your shopping amongst Venetian houses, with views over the Myrtoon Sea.

Strolling through the narrow lanes in the fortress surrounded by beautiful Byzantine buildings is a unique experience. Walls bearing the scars of countless sieges, structures left behind by the Venetians, cobbled paths and imposing mansions from medieval, Byzantine and Venetian times — all make for hours of fascinating exploring.

Traditional village of Papigo at Zagorohoria, Epiros, Pindos mountains in Greece

Zagorohoria, Epirus

The villages, as far as we know, seem to have been founded around 912. But the area really developed during the Ottoman occupation, because of the privileges awarded to its inhabitants by the conquerors.

A chain of 46 traditional villages in the mountains north of Ioannina, whose natural boundaries are Mts Mitsikelli and Gamila and the Aoos river. Thick pine and fir forests, crystalline streams and stunning scenery — this district never fails to awe the visitor with its majestic virgin natural beauty, impregnable to modern encroachments. The human element, in complete harmony with the environment, is expressed through superb arched stone bridges, imposing mansions built in the austere local style, and lovely old churches. The villages, as far as we know, seem to have been founded around 912.

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Mani, Peloponnese

The idiosyncracies of Mani’s past history and the severity of its bizarre customs forced almost every family to have its own defensive tower to live in, its own chapel and cemetery.

Mani is the name of the middle prong of the southern Peloponnese, extending to the slopes of Mt Taygetos and forming a notional triangle from Kalamata to Cape Tainaron and Gytheion. There are 250 villages and hamlets in Mani, 800 towers and six castles. The predominant impression is of a landscape extraordinarily grim, stony, waterless and barren, consisting of stark jagged mountains plunging precipitously to the sea and countless stone tower dwellings and Byzantine churches.

Maniots have always been fired by a strong sense of independence and profound patriarchal family ties. If any member of a family were to suffer an insult, it resulted in a feud, a “vendetta” – frequently bloody – involving the entire family of the offended (and offending) party. The idiosyncracies of Mani’s past history and the severity of its bizarre customs forced almost every family to have its own defensive tower to live in, its own chapel and cemetery. Poverty and the consequences of such rifts among the great and powerful families forced  many to emigrate to other parts of Greece and abroad — some to Corsica, whose descendants constituted Napoleon’s bodyguard – and quite a few became pirates.

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Meteora, Thessaly

Meteora is a unique geological phenomenon with historic monasteries  perched on these rocks.

Meteora, these unusually sculpted rocks, crafted by nature for man to wonder at, seem to be suspended between the solid earth and the ethereal translucence of the heavens, as the Greek word implies. They are unquestionably among the most imposing and majestic sights in this country. Most probably, the rocks — which rise 100 to 150 m straight out of their flat surroundings — once formed part of the bed of a vast river that flowed from the Hassies mountains, flooding the plain of Thessaly.

Gradually over the millennia, its stones, sand and mud were compressed into a single cone-shaped mass and when the water in the lake finally drained into the Aegean, leaving the mound exposed, the erosive force of the wind, rain and earthquakes carved and molded it into the shapes we see today.

Hermits shunning the material world started seeking refuge here around the 12th c. The first monasteries were founded some two centuries later, when the monks constructed inaccessible eagles’ nests in the crannies of these rocks, out of reach of violence and looting. The oldest monastery was the Panagia Doupiani, whose abbots thereafter bore the title of First among the Ascetics; one of them, Kyr Neilos, founded another four monastic communities on rocks in the vicinity in 1367. Between 1356 and 1372, Athanasios the Stylite founded the Great Meteora with nine brothers, according to an extremely strict set of rules. In 1388, his disciple Ioasaph, son of the king of Serbia, expanded the monastery. The 16th c. saw the construction of most of the other monasteries and the renovation of the older ones. At that time, it is said that over twenty were inhabited, but disputes over ownership of their various estates eventually brought about their decline. Today only six monasteries are in operation.

Thanks to Hip Greece for the blog post & pictures.