Greece might be known for sun-bleached ruins and sparkling blue seas, but its traditional towns and villages are just as iconic. From whitewashed cubic houses that cascade over cliffs to colourful fishing villages and blue domed churches, exploring these small towns is a great way to discover a different side to this country.

Some destinations are famed around the world for their breathtaking beauty, while others are lesser known. However, all can offer an intriguing and authentic glimpse into Greek culture.

So, if you’re looking to go beyond Athens and the beach, we’re here to inspire you. Here are 12 of the most gorgeous small towns in Greece.

1. Oia, Santorini

Oia, Santorini

Santorini is one of the most spectacularly beautiful of all the Greek islands, and Oia is considered to be its most picturesque town. Located on the northern end of this volcanic island, Oia is built on a steep slope, and the whitewashed, blue-domed homes appear to tumble right down the cliffside. If it looks familiar, it may be because it’s one of the most common images on postcards of Greece.

Oia’s sunsets are the best on the island (and arguably in all of Greece), and the views of the volcanic islands will take your breath away. Such dizzying beauty can’t remain a secret, however, so you’ll have to contend with crowds if you visit at sunsets. For a quieter experience, it’s best to visit in the morning. The village is car-free, so you can stroll around the narrow streets admiring the architecture, visiting art galleries, and enjoying the excellent culinary scene.

2. Koroni

Koroni

Though it’s located on the mainland, sprawled elegantly across the southern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula, the coastal town of Koroni looks and feels more like an island. This is a town that boasts just as much history as natural beauty, and visitors can learn about its Byzantine and Venetian past simply by wandering around. The regal Venetian castle is particularly photogenic.

In the town itself, you can amble down winding alleys adorned with bougainvillaea, admire grand old mansions with flowered facades, and relax in the pretty, palm-fringed Agiou Dimitriou Square. At the harbour, fishing boats bob on the waves, and the lively tavernas and cafes are the perfect place to refuel. If you want to swim or sunbathe, the beaches of Zaga and Memi, with their crystalline cobalt waters and golden sand, are idyllic.

3. Parga

Parga

Northern Greece doesn’t get as much attention as the islands or the Peloponnese peninsula, but it has just as much going for it – especially if you want to escape hordes of international tourists. The coastal town of Parga is located in Epirus, in northwestern Greece, and while it gets busy in summer, it’s overwhelmingly Greek tourists who visit, which gives it a more laidback, local feel.

The colourful houses back onto a clear azure bay scattered with islets; and above, an ancient Venetian castle dominates the skyline. Some of Greece’s best beaches are within easy reach, but Parga’s own sandy coves are ideal for sunbathing or swimming. The seafront is lined with tavernas and buzzes at night, but thanks to the absence of cars, it stays feeling pretty peaceful. Surrounded by hills, olive groves, and orchards, it’s a great spot for hikers too.

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4. Nafplio

Nafplio

Athens might be Greece’s famous capital city, but it was the elegant harbour town of Nafplio that was actually modern Greece’s first capital. Located in the ancient Argolis region on the Peloponnese peninsula, today Nafplio is known for its elegant neoclassical mansions, grand Venetian architecture, and impressive Palamidi fortress, which towers over the town.

As the gateway to many of the region’s most interesting ancient sites, like Epidaurus and Ancient Corinth, Nafplio isn’t exactly under-the-radar, but that doesn’t detract from its charm. Lose yourself in these cobblestone streets, visit the fascinating archaeological museum, enjoy the sea breeze in laidback cafés, and trek up to the top of Palamidi Castle to admire superb views over the town.

5. Symi town, Symi

Symi town, Symi

The Dodecanese islands are the furthest away from the Greek mainland, and while the larger islands like Rhodes and Kos are always busy, the smaller islands are a different story. Symi in particular has never developed a major tourist industry, which is a key perk. As you approach the main town (also called Symi) from the water, there’s a good chance you’ll be left speechless by the vista.

Symi is split into two: the harbourside town, Gialos, and the hillside town, Chorio. Both are seriously picturesque, but Gialos, with its pastel-coloured houses and neoclassical style, is spellbinding. Stroll along the water to admire the harbour, dine in one of the many waterside cafes, then hike up the hill for a new perspective. The castle overlooking the town and the 18th century Greek Orthodox monastery are must-visits!

6. Monemvasia

Monemvasia

If you’d like to visit a Greek town with a truly cinematic setting, you’d be hard pushed to find anywhere more impressive than Monemvasia. Located on the Peloponnese coast, this coastal town is often referred to as ‘the Gibraltar of the East’ – and it’s not hard to see why. Surrounded by the deep teal waters of the Aegean Sea, Monemvasia perches dramatically above sheer cliffs, and rises all the way up to an iceberg-like slab of rock.

Linked to the mainland by a single causeway, Monemvasia was founded in the sixth century. The town’s cobbled streets, winding stairways, and unique architecture are testament to its Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman influences. Visitors can explore the medieval fortress and archaeological museum, admire muslim mosques and Byzantine churches, and trek along the rocky path to the fortress of Youlas, where you can enjoy unrivalled views.

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7. Fiskardo, Kefalonia

Fiskardo, Kefalonia

The Ionian island of Kefalonia is one of Greece’s most charming, and the harbour-front village of Fiskardo is almost impossibly picturesque. While much of the island’s historic Venetian architecture was destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1953, tiny Fiskardo managed to escape unscathed, and its pastel-shaded houses still show off elegant, Italian-style good looks.

The electric blue waters are fringed by pebble beaches and sun-kissed coves, and in summer the harbour is packed with sleek yachts and humble fishing boats alike. A fun way to get a feel for Fiskardo is to sip a strong Greek coffee in one of the harbourside cafés and simply watch as village life unfolds. If things get a bit busy, Emblisi Beach to the north of Fiskardo is delightfully untouched.

8. Agios Nikolaos, Crete

Agios Nikolaos, Crete

For something more bustling, there’s Agios Nikolaos, which is located on Crete’s sensuously curving Bay of Mirabello. Greece’s largest island isn’t short of charming coastal towns, but Agios Nikolaos somehow manages to feel both sleepy and vibrant, depending on your location. Backing onto the sea on three sides, this charismatic town enjoys an enviably photogenic location.

Agios Nikolaos’ most remarkable feature is the circular Voulismeni Lake, a deep body of water (bottomless, according to legend!) that’s connected to the harbour by a narrow inlet. The lake is surrounded by cafés, tavernas, and bars, and if you’re looking to tuck into some delicious Cretan cuisine, this is the place to do it. If you’re a history fan, the ninth century Byzantine chapel of Saint Nicolas can’t be missed.

9. Klima, Milos

Klima, Milos

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Klima, a tiny yet gorgeous fishing village on the island of Milos. Compared to other Cyclades islands like Santorini, Mykonos, and Paros, Milos is far more low-key. And, with only 20 permanent residents, Klima is one of the smallest settlements on the whole island. But this beautiful and traditional village is an absolute must for visitors.

Clinging to a beachfront cliff face below the town of Trypiti, Klima boasts the best example of Milos’ syrmata – traditional fishermen’s huts with brightly coloured doors. The homes are carved right into the rockface, buffeted by the turquoise sea. The ground floors are used to store boats, while the top floors are living quarters. Today, you can rent out a syrmata for your holiday for a unique yet authentic Milos experience.

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10. Mithymna, Lesbos

Mithymna, Lesbos

Greece might be best known for its archetypal white, cubic houses, but that’s only one example of traditional architecture. On the island of Lesbos you’ll find the town of Mithymna, also known as Molyvos, which is considered one of the prettiest and most unique towns in Greece. The brown stoned, terracotta-roofed houses are a glimpse into the Ottoman-influenced side of Greece, and it has a wonderful old-world charm.

The houses climb steeply up from the coast to the Byzantine Castle of Mithymna – and from here you get sweeping views of the glimmering Aegan (on a clear day, you might even glimpse Turkey). The cobbled streets are a joy to explore; be sure to visit the medieval market square, enjoy a coffee in a shady outdoor cafe, and pick up some souvenirs from artisan shops. In the evening, head down to the bustling marina for dinner and drinks.

11. Galaxidi

Galaxidi

Another town on the mainland that has a lovely island-like atmosphere is Galaxidi. Tucked away on the northern shores of the Gulf of Corinth, this scenic town is an intriguing blend of proud maritime heritage and laidback coastal charm. A former port and shipbuilding centre, Galaxidi retains much of the glory of its nautical past, and you can learn more in the excellent maritime history museum – which was Greece’s first.

The colourful streets are lined with neoclassical mansions that were once home to sea captains, and they lead to characterful squares packed with cosy cafés and traditional tavernas. The warm turquoise waters are perfect for swimming, while the impressive reef system attracts divers and snorkelers. Hikers and nature lovers can’t pass up the chance to visit nearby Parnassus National Park, which is the second largest national park in Greece.

12. Chora, Patmos

Chora, Patmos

The island of Patmos may be small, but it’s packed with important religious landmarks and authentic Greek charm. Its capital, Chora, is no exception. Nestled below an imposing 12th century hilltop monastery, these whitewashed houses are built in the typical Aegean style. So, if you’re looking to explore a ‘traditional’ Greek village, you’re in the right place. The three stone windmills perched on the ridgeline make Chora even more impressive.

The UNESCO-listed monastery is dedicated to Saint John the Theologian, but of equal religious importance is the Cave of the Apocalypse, where Saint John received his famous revelations. Chora itself boasts gorgeous snow-white chapels, quaint shops, grand mansions, and authentic tavernas, so it’s a pleasure to explore. The flower-filled courtyards will delight photographers, while the sandy coves and gin-clear waters of the nearby beaches are perfect for relaxing.

Final thoughts…

The Greek islands might get the most attention, but the mainland has just as much to offer. Whether you’re dreaming of visiting a traditional white washed cubic village or would rather see another side to Greece, the small towns here are extremely diverse.

While some towns, like Oia, are famous for their dramatic beauty, others have managed to creep under the radar. Many of the towns in this article are quiet and authentic, and all offer visitors a glimpse into Greece’s beauty, charisma, and oldest traditions.

Whether you’ve been to Greece multiple times before or are just dreaming about visiting, any of these towns would make a fabulous base.

Have you been to any of these Greek towns – or do you have your own suggestions to add to this list? We’d love to hear about your travel experiences in the comments below.