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Forget a trip to the Aegean or Ionian islands this summer - opt for the sleepier mainland coastal towns in Greece, being sure not to miss both Parga and Syvota.

Everyone flocks to Greece for the picturesque islands in the Ionian and Aegean Seas, ignoring mainland coastal spots. This is an all too foolish oversight. For so many of these seaside towns give all the same benefits of the island life, but without all the crowds. They’re often easier to get to as well.

And our favourite region to explore is the North Western part of Greece – also known as the Epirus Riviera. Here lie a whole host of small and large villages where holidaymakers are increasingly visiting instead of taking the often more expensive island hopping alternative.

And, if you travel along the Epirus coastline, you can easily take advantage of all the natural wonders – most importantly the clear blue waters of the Ionian archipelago. You can even get yourself onto a handful of personalised boat tours to explore all the islands which lay directly off the coast (little uninhabited ones on which you can spend the day snorkelling, swimming and tanning). Check out our guide for the two best towns – Syvota and Parga.

Syvota

Four small islands lie just off the coast of Syvota, creating countless hidden coves where you can find your own personal spot for a day of relaxing. To get there, you can hire a little tourist boat for the day (they are super cheap) or get a driver for the day. This way you’ll get the island life experience with far less stress and time travelling.

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Be sure to venture over the famous sandbar connecting the mainland to the small island. Photo from Greek National Tourism Office

Of course, some spots are overrun with tourists in peak season (the Blue Lagoon for example) but you can easily avoid these. Instead, opt for the smaller beaches which people overlook. There are so many – just go for a little drive around the islands and find the best that day – yes, this is as glorious as it sounds.

But those who don’t want to take to the water can get around to some other hidden beaches too. Bella Vraka can be reached by crossing over a narrow strip of golden sand from the mainland (right by the Neilson resorts). Trek through the little forest to get to swim spots no one else has found that day. Or just sit on the main beach where you can do some fun water sports, get food and even use the loo.

The town itself is where you’ll find yourself at night. Walk along the main promenade lined with inflatable dinghies left by the sailors moored off the coast to find a dinner spot. Blue Coast Restaurant and Filakas are two of our favourite dining spots – each with fresh seafood, all the halloumi and saganaki you could dream of and plenty of good cheap house wine. But this can be said for most dining spots in Greece – you’ll struggle to find bad food here.

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Make your way along the Epirus coastline

Parga

This fishing village exists like one enormous amphitheatre, looking out towards the sea and surrounding islands – the most visited being the small forested Panagia which you can even swim to from Krioneri beach. This must be visited. Either by a short swim, kayak or boat ride.

Some of our other favourite beaches include Piso-Krioneri which located within the town’s settlement, the cosmopolitan golden beach of Valtos, the wooded Lychnos Beach with stunning sea caves, the little bay of Agios Giannakis and also Sarakiniko Beach with its fine sand and an olive orchard. Sarakiniko is probably our favourite.

Heading back into the colourful town, be sure to just wander around as much as possible. Take in the small and winding cobbled stone streets with beautiful arches and the flower-filled neighbourhoods where quaint little houses and brightly painted mansions lie. End it all with sunset drinks across the bay, perching at just about any bar you find – they’ll all serve good beer and cocktails.

From Parga, you can also take in countless other sites nearby. Pay a visit to the Acheron River Springs, the archeological site of Nekromanteio (Oracle of the Dead), the historic area of Souli as well as to the famous islands of Paxi-Antipaxi which are reachable with the small boats departing from the town’s port.

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