Greece has a great variety of places where one can relax and get away from it all for an ideal vacation. Given that millions of tourists visit the country every summer, it is not usually evident where the quiet places are, and where one will be inundated with noise and traffic.
Most of the idyllic places featured in posters and brochures of Greece are almost guaranteed to be packed with visitors. Ideally, planning a trip to Greece would include some of the most picturesque places without sacrificing the need for some quiet and relaxation and luckily, in Greece it is possible to enjoy both.
In general, every seaside resort gets very busy every summer. If solitude is what you desire, head for the interior of the mainland and enjoy the picturesque mountain villages of Greece. The interiors of the Peloponnese, Epirus, Macedonia, and Sterea Ellada are sprinkled with hundreds of quiet villages perched on spectacular landscapes. Most go quiet in the summer, with only Greeks returning from the cities for their own quiet vacation back in their parents' homes. But most of these mountainous places are not devoid of infrastructure. They have adequate rooms and tavernas since most are popular winter retreats for Greeks.
Likewise, with hundreds of islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas, there are plenty of quiet places where one doesn't have to put up with the noise and visual pollution that usually accompanies "package tourism" and "popularity". Even better, it is possible to find quiet spots even in the busiest of islands with a little effort. Our favorite trick is to sail to an island with no preconceived ideas about where we'll stay. Then with our car (you can rent one, or a moped, in most islands) we spend a few hours just driving around to some of the other towns. This way we get a sense of the landscape and the distances from what we want to do in each island. Rarely have we failed to find a place that would offer us peace and quiet while it's also within driving distance from the beaches, museums, and archaeological sites we want to visit.
As a general rule of thumb, even the quietest of places get ten times as busy during the month of August when the entire country of Greece shuts down and everyone is on vacation. Earlier in the summer, and especially early in May even the busiest of destinations enjoy relative peace and quiet.
As with the majority of reports in this site, the articles and recommendations are based on first-hand experience. This means that the author with (and rarely without) his family has spent some time vacationing in or around each place. No doubt, there are other places worth mentioning, but this list should be a good start in your search for a quiet vacation, even though I get the feeling many of the readers will contact me with many more I didn't include here.
Papingo is a small village perched high up in Pindos mountain range, in Epirus, in an area called Central Zagorohoria.
Despite the considerable investment in infrastructure, the stone-built village does not see the hordes of visitors that more popular destinations see. It is strategically located near spectacular hiking destinations so you won't be bored if you enjoy a walk or two in wooded areas. From Papingo you can easily undertake the challenging hike through Timfi Mt. all the way to "Drakolimini" (dragon lake) - a two-day challenging hike. Papingo is also very close to Vikos gorge, a popular day-long hiking gorge on the banks of Vikos river.
Surprisingly, if you enjoy swimming, there is a very picturesque set of river pools within walking distance called "Kolymvithres" or "Ovires" where you can enjoy swimming in successive river water pools. Conversely, the waters of Vikos river are a bit too cold for swimming. For even more quiet holidays, you may choose to stay at the nearby village of "Mikro Papingo" for even more spectacular views close to real solitude. If a hike on Mt. Timfi is your main goal, Mikro Papingo is the best place to set base camp so you can start your hike early in the morning.
The little islands to the south and west of Naxos in the middle of the Aegean sea are by no means unknown. They are visited by a few hundred day-trippers from Naxos and Paros who sail with small boats to enjoy the solitude and the beautiful beaches (especially in Koufonisi), but once the boats return to base, the islands bask in relative solitude. If the old black & white movie sceneries with pristine, tiny villages by the sea is what you have in mind, Iraklia might be close. With few rooms to rent, one general store, a few coffee shops, and a surprisingly modern-looking crepe shop, you will be assured peace and quiet pretty much all day long.
Crete's out of the way little towns are not a "best kept secret" any more. Just about every corner of the islands receives it's fair share of visitors every summer, and it would be hard to find a really quiet place, although many come close. Xerokampos is still far enough out of the major tourist areas to enjoy some solitude. The tiny village is mainly a retreat for the few Greeks who happen to have a vacation home in Xerokampos, and accommodations and restaurants are scant. But it does have one main advantage. If you have a car available you will be within driving distance of busier, but no less beautiful destinations of eastern Crete, like Vai, Chrisi Island, Erimoupoli, and busier towns like Makrygiallos, Ierapetra, and Sitia.
While most travel guides feature the beautiful beach of western Crete that goes by the same name, few bother to mention the little island at the foot of Lakonia called Elafonissos. It's proximity to Sparta, Gythio, and Neapolis in Peloponnisos ensures that it's not exactly a bastion of solitude. A short, ten-minute ferry ride from Pounta makes it easy for day-trippers to enjoy it's beautiful swimming waters in Simos, Sarakiniko, and Panagia beaches. The only town has plenty of accommodations and restaurants, and it has a genuine quiet feeling without making one feeling completely isolated like the previous mentioned destinations.
Patmos island's bigger towns of Skala and Patmos offer plenty of relaxing atmosphere despite being packed by tourists whenever cruise ships visit (in the summer one or two per day), but if you look to get away from even moderate crowds, Petra village offers a very relaxing alternative. Just like with other quiet destinations, accommodations are sparse but with a tiny moped you can always get to the bigger towns of the island if you miss the crowds.