Most beautiful Greek villages

CNN  — 

Greece may be home to some of the most idyllic and secluded islands around, but the Mediterranean country also holds plenty of charming villages.

From Pyrgi to Oia, here are some of the most beautiful to see when you travel there:

Stemnitsa, Arcadia

Along with Dimitsana and Andritsaina, Stemnitsa is one of three villages in mountainous Arcadia that once exemplified the Peloponnesian pastoral idyll.

Proud, independent villagers would tend their livestock here and live self-reliant lives.

What makes Stemnitsa stand out, though, is the Silver and Gold Smithery School.

Not only does it bring a bustling student community during term time, it also generates an abundance of handcrafted jewelry in workshops scattered along its narrow lanes.

Agios Georgios Nilias, Pelion

Mount Pelion in Thessaly is home to some of the most picturesque villages in Greece, none of them more so than Agios Georgios Nilias.

Set at an elevation of 700 meters, it’s a place where old schist-stone houses with four-pitched roofs rise next to 19th-century neoclassical mansions.

The latter belonged to merchants who emigrated to Alexandria in Egypt and made their fortunes in cotton and textiles, before returning to their villages to build impressive summer residences.

Today, the remaining inhabitants often congregate in the village square, the center of life in every Pelion village, under the shade of three plane trees.

Visitors come here to enjoy the balmy evenings and dine on dishes that make use of obscure aromatic herbs foraged in the forest.

Arnea, Chalkidiki

Arnea is known for its pretty traditional villages.

Arnea is perhaps one of the most typical of all traditional villages in Greek Macedonia.

Built at an altitude of 1,800 feet on thickly forested Mount Holomondas, it’s filled with two and three-storied wood-and-stone houses with low doors to keep the heat in during bitterly cold winters, as well as unique “hayat” protrusions.

These are not open balconies as you might find in southern Greece, but closed overhanging rooms that increase the interior footprint of the upper floors.

Brought in by the Ottomans and enthusiastically adopted in the colder regions of Greece, they led to a distinctive architecture typified by Arnea.

Ano Syros, Cyclades

Positioned on a hilltop overlooking the island’s capital Ermoupoli, the village of Ano Syros is a classical Cycladic medieval settlement.

Its population is overwhelmingly Catholic Greeks who are descendants of Venetian settlers who arrived here in the late Middle Ages.

Although the streets here are full of the familiar Cycladic whitewashed houses and narrow cobbled alleys, its monastery belongs to the Capuchin friars.

The priests are clean-shaven, the churches feature no icons, only statues of St. Francis or St. Benedict, while the handouts on the pews are Greek translations of papal speeches.

In the spirit of good neighborliness, residents celebrate Easter according to the Orthodox calendar, by special dispensation from the Vatican.

Pyrgi, Chios

Known as the “painted village,” Pyrgi belongs to the “mastichochoria” – 24 medieval villages in Southern Chios where the aromatic resin of the mastic tree is cultivated.

The homes in Chios are decorated with grey-and-white geometric sgraffito decorations called “xysta.”

Pyrgi is the best place to appreciate them: There’s barely a wall that’s not been covered with some abstract designs.

The contrast between these monochromatic patterns and the colorful potted plants and creeping bougainvilleas is both a walker’s delight and a photographer’s dream.

Oia, Santorini

Oia is one of the most recognized places in Santorini.

Yes, Oia is expensive, overhyped and overcrowded, but for good reason.

This picturesque coastal village is undoubtedly the most celebrated spot in Santorini – if not Greece.

Images of almost every alley corner here have been shared so many times, they’ve shaped most people’s idea of what a Greek island should look like.

Oia’s enduring popularity means it attracts huge groups of tourists lured by the charm of its whitewashed houses with blue doors, the precipitous views over the volcanic caldera and the sheer vertical drop along the central walkway.

To avoid the crowds, it’s best to come early in the morning, before the tour buses arrive, or late in the evening after the sunset-watchers have disappeared.

Litochoro, Pieria

Litochoro is a favorite with hikers due to its position at the entrance to Mount Olympus.

The location of a village can sometimes prove more important than its character, and this is certainly the case when it comes to Litochoro, with its celebrated views of Mount Olympus.

With its chalet-like buildings, wide streets and streams, it has the well-ordered, tidy vibe of a Swiss village. And yet, the smell in its main square is of souvlaki.

Litochoro is also one of the departure points for the 9,577-feet-high peak of Mount Olympus, or the “abode of the gods.”

Lindos, Rhodes

Lindos is renowned for its ancient clifftop acropolis.

During the climbing season, the two-day trek to its 9,577-foot-high peak is mostly dry and sunny.

Huddled under the ruins of an ancient acropolis, Lindos is a Greek village that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

With its car-free streets, sandy beaches and clear waters, and pathways so steep that beasts of burden are still used to negotiate them, it’s easily one of the most idyllic places in Greece.

But word has leaked out and the summer crowds can be a turn off.

The only solution is to stay the night and head out outside the early afternoon tourist rush hour, when it’s usually possible to roam the village calmly, climb the ruins unhurriedly, and swim in the coves unencumbered.

Chora, Folegandros

Picking out the most beautiful capital in the Cyclades – every single one of them called “Chora” on each island – is a difficult task.

This choice will inevitably depend on individual taste and past personal experience.

Putting all of that side, the Chora of Folegandros claims the most photographed lane in the Aegean.