If there’s any country you can return to again and again, it’s got to be Greece. Greece is full of amazing islands, but it’s also got an impressive mainland with gorgeous monasteries, ancient ruins, and a ton of culture.
And the food! I could never stop eating Greek food and be happy.
I asked a lot of my fellow travel bloggers where to go in Greece and I was wowed by the number of responses we got. To make it simpler for you to plan, we grouped these Greece vacation destinations into island groups and the mainland, so that you won’t be overwhelmed. We recommend that you pick one island group to explore rather than try to hit multiple island groups or to spend your time split between mainland Greece and one island group.
Because trust us – you’ll be returning to Greece time and again. It’s impossible to resist!
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Where to Stay in Greece
If you’re visiting Greece any time soon, you’ll probably spend some time in Athens before moving to discover other amazing places in the country. In that case, it’s a good idea to check this accommodation guide to Athens to find the best places to stay in Greece’s capital. Check this article as well, if you’d like to book a room with unforgettable Acropolis views. Remember that booking early is always the best way to get better prices and nicer rooms! We recommend checking out Booking.com as early as possible since this is a popular time to visit. These are some of the places we suggest you check.
Budget: If you’re looking for a budget hotel in lively Monastiraki, book a stay at Fivos Hotel. Located right by Monastiraki Station, the hotel has free wifi and ensuite bathrooms. Check out prices and availability at Fivos Hotel here.
Mid-range: If you want more traditional accommodation, stay at the Kimons Athens Hotel in Plaka. The rooms are cozy and there’s a roof terrace that guests can enjoy. Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Kimons Athens Hotel here.
Luxury: To enjoy a bit of luxury in Monastiraki, check into the four-star Emporikon Athens Hotel on Agia Irini Square. The rooms are sophisticated and swanky, with a traditional take on comfort. Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Emporikon Athens Hotel here.
Where to Go in Greece: Ionian Islands
Contributed by Vanessa of Wanderlust Crew
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian islands on the western coast of Greece, steeped in rich history dating back thousands of years. It has been inhabited and ruled by Greeks, Romans, Venetians, French, British, and later occupied by Axis Powers during WWII.
Shortly after the war, Kefalonia suffered a devastating earthquake that leveled most of the island and raised it two feet. You can see evidence of this from watermarks around the shoreline. For such a small island, Kefalonia has a vast offering of natural and historical sites and activities.
One of my favorite things about Kefalonia is the cost. It’s one of the cheapest Greek islands to get to, at only a few pounds for a flight from London! Our family of six got there for 50 pounds total on Ryan Air!
Airbnb on the island is super cheap as well (we paid USD 35/day for ours), and beachside resorts are affordable.
Visiting Kefalonia feels like stepping back in time. During shoulder season, the weather is great, but the island feels almost deserted, which isn’t a bad thing. You’ll share the beach with locals and the roads with goats.
The most well-known destination in Kefalonia is Mellisani Cave. You’ve probably seen pictures of it before, without knowing where it is, but it is just as impressive in person as it is online, joining a day tour like this one will let you see the best of the place!
Finally, don’t miss Assos. This beautiful tiny town built on the narrowest part of a peninsula is the best spot to go on the island for a relaxing day in a crystal clear, calm bay, with food and drink right on the beach. You can take a hike up to Assos Castle up on the hill or spend the day in the water or snacking on greek yogurt and ice cream on the beach. Walk up the walkway opposite the castle for incredible views.
Contributed by Joanna of Lose the Map
Lefkada has the advantage of being the only island in Greece that can be accessed by car (together with Evvia). Just a short distance from the mainland, this beautiful member of the Eptanisa (Seven Islands) is connected by a bridge to the northwest coast of Greece and has some of the best beaches – deep, crystal clear, and all shades of blue – in the entire country.
Though most tourists head to beautiful Porto Katsiki and Kathisma beaches, you can avoid the beach bars and noise of those busy strips by visiting one of the many Lefkada beaches accessible only by boat. For example, a short boat ride from Agios Nikitas will get you to beautiful, unspoiled Milos Beach, with clear, turquoise waters and no beach bar in sight.
If you want dinner and drinks with an incredible view, head up to the traditional village of Exanthia, where you will find a Greek taverna named Rachi. Famous for its incredible cliffside view of the summer sunset, Rachi has a great reputation for both its food and service, which means you may need to hang out at the connected Fly Me Sun & Stars Bar while waiting for a table. Grab a cocktail, enjoy the view, and watch paragliders take off and glide into the sunset.
Or, better yet, travelers with an adventurous side can sign up to paraglide themselves! Fly over Kathisma Beach and get a view of the Ionian that few will ever see without a drone. Lefkada overall is a great spot for active travelers, as the coastal town of Vasiliki in the south is rated as one of the top windsurfing spots in all of Europe.
When it comes to lodging, many visitors to Lefkada flock to the luxury hotel Ionian Blue, which provides a wonderful five-star experience. However, the island also has plenty of family-run bed and breakfasts and rental villas, so travelers can pick the option which works best for them
Contributed by Abbie of Speck on the Globe
Kythira could be the ideal place for a Greek Island vacation. The myth is that the island is the birthplace of Aphrodite and when you see its beautiful beaches, dramatic coastline, and historical villages, you’ll quickly see why.
Located just south of the Peloponnese Peninsula, the island was a stopping point for merchants sailing to Crete so it is steeped in Mediterranean history. It is less tourist-driven than the famous Cyclades. The population of Kythira is only a few thousand, so it is the perfect place to blend in and have a quiet week on the Aegean Sea.
Staying at Xenonas Fos ke Choros offers an opportunity to live a little more like a local and learn about oil production during the olive picking season. Kythira is known for its hiking trails and also for its family-run olive oil productions, so there is plenty to do on the island for adventure travelers, foodies, beach bums, or history buffs. Visiting a smaller island like Kythira will give you a better glimpse into true Greek Island life.
Contributed by Dean of Life out the Hive
Corfu is one of the largest and most stunning islands that Greece has to offer. The island has been influenced by many cultures over the years, this is due to its strategic position in the Ionian Sea. Venetian style architecture dominates most of Corfu’s buildings with a Greek influence firmly embedded in its culture and traditions.
The south of Corfu is laden with sandy beaches and a bustling atmosphere, whereas my more favored region in the North East is a quiet paradise with beautiful pathways and a stunning coastline to explore. There are always boat trips available over to nearby Albania and Corfu’s two neighboring islands, Paxos and Antipaxos.
If it’s the culture you’re looking for, then head to Corfu Town and experience the historical sights of the Old and New fortresses built to defend the town against the many invaders that longed for Corfu’s strategic location. Archillion is on top of most lists of attractions and somewhere that is well worth a visit. This beautiful Greek building is located just outside Corfu Town and has an interesting history behind its construction.
>> Read Next: Your Picture-Perfect 2 Days in Corfu Itinerary <<
If it’s the adventure you’re after, then the North East of the island provides excellent opportunities to explore by speedboat. A great idea is to pull your boat into one of the many Tavernas hidden amongst Corfu’s charming coves.
The White House Restaurant is located on a section of the famous Durrell’s residence and serves up some great locally sourced food, with a welcoming jetty it’s certainly worth a visit.
Seafood is a specialty and islands such as Corfu offer some of the freshest fish around. No matter how you want to spend your time, you won’t escape the beauty and authentic atmosphere that Corfu has to offer.
Where to Go in Greece: Cyclades Islands
Contributed by Steph of The Mediterranean Traveler
Did you know that some of the best secret destinations in Greece are hidden in plain sight and easy to reach? So many tourists touch down and head straight for the more famous Cycladic islands such as Santorini and Mykonos, that most of the islands closer to Athens are left alone for local tourists and slow travel connoisseurs to enjoy. One of these island delights is Andros, just 2 hours on the ferry from the port of Rafina (the second port of Athens).
There are no big-name sites on Andros, though that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. Instead, the main attraction is the island’s beautiful landscape, which has quite a different feel from the other islands in the Cyclades chain. It’s not as barren, although still austerely beautiful in its way. Even the sea here feels dark and quiet. It has a low-key charm that will linger long in your mind after you visit.
In recent years it’s become popular on the hiking scene for its delightful end-to-end trails amongst lush vegetation, stone bridges, watermills, and burbling brooks.
There are even some waterfalls to discover – but don’t worry, you won’t have to fight tour groups to get there. You’ll get a real slice of local life on Andros, and it attracts slightly alternative, healthy types as well as weekend visitors from the capital.
In Andros Chora, you’ll find handsome neo-classical buildings, an extremely picturesque bridge, and a world-class art museum. And head to the seaside resort of Batsi for typical pretty whitewashed streets and blue-chaired tavernas.
But my favorite thing about Andros is that it has fantastic beaches of dark golden sand and crystal clear water, and the occasional spectacular rock formation such as The Old Lady’s Jump.
As there’s no mass tourism development on Andros, many of these beaches are practically deserted outside July/August and weekends. Just check the wind forecast before packing up your bathing suits!
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Contributed by Teresa of Brogan Abroad
Known as the ‘Lady of the Cyclades’ and ‘Nymph of the Aegean Sea’, Syros is a true hidden gem amongst the Cyclades and an incredibly photogenic island. Ermoupoli, its biggest city is the administrative capital of this group of islands, however, not many people seem to have heard of it.
Overshadowed by its most famous neighbors Mykonos and Santorini, Syros has managed to retain that true Greek island way of life and has not been spoilt by tourism – and just for that, it’s worth a visit.
But there is more to Syros. Ermoupoli’s grandiose past as an important trading center can still be seen in its streets, particularly in the Neoclassical mansions of the district of Vaporia.
The Town Hall was designed by the same architect that built some of the best civic buildings in Athens, and the roads around the main square are laid with marble. It may no longer be so important, but its splendor has stuck around.
But my favorite area in Syros has to be the fortress-like Ano Syros, the original settlement on the island, located at the top of the hill. Getting lost in its alleyways feels like going back in time to a world where yiayias sit outside their front doors watching the world go by. A world that forces you to slow down, take in your surroundings and live the moment.
Contributed by Paula of Expert Abroad
Milos was a big deal in ancient times, home of the Venus de Milo and the chief source of sulfur in the world. The island’s mining industry helped it to escape the tourist boom that hit Greece in the 1970s and only in recent years it started to see a steady stream of visitors. As a result, Milos has escaped over-tourism and new developments being undertaken are more sympathetic to the environment.
However, I doubt Milos will stay under the radar for much longer. With 70 beaches and dozens of restaurants to explore it’s got everything, you could need for some Greek Island relaxation. In May we spent a week here and were concerned that this might be too long, our fears were unfounded, a week was barely long enough!
The island is easily reached from Athens or Santorini with daily services via fast ferry taking 2-3 hours. You arrive in the port town of Adamantas a bustling place filled with boat operators and car hire shops but not a lot of charm.
There is also a small airport if you prefer to fly.
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We chose to stay 10 km away in Pollonia, a gorgeous village of around 300 residents. The second largest town on the island there is a great range of accommodation here from very basic holiday rentals to 5-star boutique hotels.
You will also find enough restaurants to eat at a different one every day.
Getting around the island without a car is very challenging. The public bus service is limited and we saw few taxis. We rented a small Fiat Panda for €25 a day and it was perfect for exploring the narrow streets.
Milos is the perfect spot for outdoor lovers with swimming, sailing, hiking good ways to exhaust yourself before an afternoon napping on the beach. Set aside some time to visit the hilltop Plaka and watch the sunset from the Kastro, we thought it was every bit as beautiful as the ones we saw in Santorini.
I also recommend hopping the ferry from Pollonia to neighboring island Kimonos only 30 minutes away to explore the main town and sip some nice cold beers on the harbor.
Finally be sure to add the cute fishing villages of Mantrakia and Klima and the beaches of Papafrangas, Firopotamos, and Firiplaka to your must-see list… See? I told you that you will need a week!
Contributed by Sandy of Tray Tables Away
I’m married to a Greek and we have visited the incredible country of his heritage many times. Over the years we have explored numerous islands and to be honest, it is hard to find a bad one! There is one however that ticks all our boxes and has managed to capture a large chunk of our hearts and that is Paros in the Cyclades Islands.
Only 3 hours by ferry from Athens, Paros is the first stop for most ferries to the Cyclades and is a perfect size – large enough for us to still discover new things after several visits but small enough to be able to get around easily.
We like to stay in the lively village of Naoussa in the north which is often described as Mykonos 10 years ago. There is a lot to do on Paros including wineries, medieval hillside villages, windsurfing, fine dining, shopping, boat tours around the neighboring Small Cyclades islands, and day trips to Antiparos (where Tom Hanks lives in summer) or even Mykonos, Naxos, and beyond!
We love it so much we took 34 friends to Paros for special birthday celebrations a few years ago that we had at wonderful Siparos restaurant, and we are currently planning our next visit with family and friends for next year!
Contributed by Liliane of My Toronto My World
Santorini has to be one of the most well-known destinations in Greece but it’s well-known for a reason! While I’m sure everyone has seen the pictures of the stunning white buildings and beautiful blue-domed buildings, Santorini is full of surprises.
I’d recommend staying in a hotel/resort outside of Oia or Thira because the island’s super easy to get around on and this way depending on the type of traveler you are, you won’t be disturbed. We stayed about 20 minutes outside of Oia and the difference in noise/light pollution was huge!
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I’d also recommend splitting 1 day between Oia and Thira for shopping and sightseeing and then spending the rest of the time around the island for some lesser-known sights! One of the more challenging things to do is to take half a day and do the 10 km hike between Oia and Thira. It will exhaust you but it’s a great way to see both town and parts of the island you may not have seen otherwise!
A fantastic way to spend another day is to rent an ATV and drive yourself across the entire island to the south portion where you’ll find a restaurant named Psaraki. It’ll be some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever have! While you’re in the southern part of the island, do check out the ruins of Akrotiri and the Akrotiri lighthouse where you will catch a spectacular sunset.
Contributed by Sherrie of Travel by a Sherrie Affair
The Akrotiri Archeological site is on the south side of the island of Santorini. If you are a history buff you shouldn’t miss out. There was an actual civilization that existed here however back around the year 1627 BC the volcano Thera erupted and destroyed the entire area. However, since excavations began in 1870 by the French Archaeological School of Athens, there have been no bodies uncovered. This leads to the theory that there was some kind of notification, so the residents could evacuate in time.
When entering the covered area you will be amazed at what has been uncovered. Rooms and buildings are visible. In these rooms, you will also see pottery, tools, a sewage system, staircases, and frescos.
Excavations continue today as they keep finding items. There are elevated metal structure pathways for you to walk around the entire area to view each section. When objects are uncovered carefully from the volcanic ash and stone they are brought to the Museum of Prehistoric Thera for further review.
The Aegean prehistoric settlement is open April 1st– Oct 31st however in winter they are closed on Mondays. If you are wanting to experience something different while on Santorini or you need to get out of the sun for a little bit, this makes a great addition to your itinerary!
Contributed by Claudia of My Adventures Across The World
Mykonos is one of the ultimate places to visit in Greece. A favorite of young travelers during the summer months thanks to the beautiful beaches such as Paradise Beach, and the great bar and club scene, the island has a lot to offer to older, more sophisticated travelers who also may wish to visit offseason.
Among the things to do in Mykonos, there’s getting to know its history and culture. One of the best ways to do so is by walking the length of Mykonos Town to get the magnificent views of the white buildings with the blue doors, typical of the Cycladic islands.
Here there are many shops, small restaurants, and bars, and it is a perfect place for a stroll. Another unmissable sight is that of the windmills. A mere 30 minutes boat ride from Mykonos there is Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is a great place to visit on a day trip.
>> Read Next: How to Visit Delos on a Day Trip from Mykonos <<
Lovers of water sports will be pleased to know that the island is fantastic for that. With almost persistent wind, it is the perfect place to practice windsurfing or kite surfing.
Mykonos’ food scene is fabulous. There are many restaurants for all budgets, however, the best place for seafood is Hippie Fish, on Agios Beach: it serves the best calamari on the island. Those looking for meat should head to Uno Con Carne.
Finally, Mykonos has a lot to offer in terms of accommodation. Semeli Hotel is a fantastic place – though not the most budget-friendly one. There also are several luxury villas for rent – they are expensive, but if traveling in a group and sharing expenses, they may be a great option!
Contributed by Josie of Josie Wanders
My favorite Greek destination is the island of Naxos. It is the largest of the islands in the Cyclades group, which also includes Mykonos and Santorini. As such, it’s a good inclusion in an itinerary including those other popular islands.
Naxos has a population of around 6500, most of whom live in the main city of Chora, sometimes just known as Naxos City. This is where the ferry will drop you off. It is a typical little Greek seaside town, with whitewashed walls, blue trim, and bougainvillea cascading over everything.
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The waterfront is lined with traditional restaurants and bars. It’s a sleepy, restful strip during the day, perfect for a long, relaxing lunch. In the evenings it becomes a little more raucous as the locals’ generosity in sharing their homemade raki takes over.
Behind the restaurant strip, there is a maze of narrow lanes, cute little stores, and traditional houses. More than once we were slightly lost in the labyrinth built in and around the walls of the old Naxos castle. Don’t go looking for the castle to visit though, it no longer exists as its entity. You will find a decent archeological museum though to learn about some of the histories of the island and see some of the significant finds.
Naxos is the perfect island to rent a car and go exploring. In a day it is easy to cover many of the other little towns. Sample some of the produce as you travel, there are many local places selling things just as they would have at times in the past. Also, visit some of the better beaches on the island in your travels, and historic ruins and other monuments.
I enjoyed the atmosphere on Naxos. It was relaxed, and it felt how I would imagine a Greek Island to feel a hundred years ago. It did not feel like it was just there for the tourists, but like this was just people getting on with their lives. I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit.
Contributed by Janiel of Culture Trekking
The water on Delos is so clear it almost looked like you could touch the bottom and not get your hand wet. Delos is an island of Greek heroes and the great temple of Apollo. This is where the mightiest athletes trained, where bodies long since buried had been exhumed to make the island sacred. Childbirth was not allowed on the island because it would have contaminated this holy realm of Apollo.
With such history, you would expect to find mighty stone pillars, imposing walkways, perfectly chiseled bodies from training….. but as with all things…. Father Time took its toll on this ancient city.
The famous stone lions of Delos are slowly melting in the sun and elements, giant pillars have toppled over, but the feeling of being small amongst this ruined city remains. There is a certain calmness as you walk through pathways, read the protected tablets of ancient Greek script that surrounds the area, and see how nature is reclaiming the land with wildflowers, weeds, and a gentle ocean breeze.
After perusing the Island of Delos, imagining what it would be like to live in that period, how they dressed, what they ate, what exercises they did to train. I came upon the Island’s museum, it is very unassuming but full of drawings, treasures, and some artifacts that I even studied in my Art history book.
If you love Greek history, culture, natural elements among ancient ruins, and the isolation from the rat race of life then the Island of Delos is the place for you.
Where to Go in Greece: Dodecanese Islands
Contributed by Chris of travelingmitch
I’ve visited many a Greek island, but few have the charm of Kastellorizo, thanks in large part to the fact that it’s relatively undiscovered.
It’s located in the southeastern Mediterranean and, believe it or not, it’s only about 2 kilometers off the coast of Turkey. Here’s a pro tip if you are indeed visiting Kastellorizo – it’ll be well worth your time to take the ferry across to Kaş, one of Turkey’s prettiest little towns. If you’ve got the visa to do it, spending a little time there is worth it.
Back to Kastellorizo though. What makes this little island special is that, as far as the Dodecanese is concerned, Kastellorizo is isolated and hasn’t been overwhelmed by tourists. The whole island is less than 5 square miles, but that doesn’t mean it has a shortage of beautiful vantage points. On the contrary, the panoramic points on the island offer unparalleled views.
Arguably the best view is attained by ascending the steps on the eastern side of the town you’ll enter on the pier. That will lead you to the suburb of Horafia and the Church of St. George.
Honestly, my advice is to just walk around and get lost. Walk up steps and find your vantage points because you’ll rarely be disappointed. As you enter the bay of the main part of the town you’ll swoon at the houses, pictured above, and it only gets better from there!
Contributed by Sara of The Life in a Suitcase
Take me back to Rhodes Island! We happened to be there just for one day while visiting Turkey and we were blown away by how beautiful and peaceful this island was. It’s the island where you can enjoy the sun on the beach of crystal blue Aegean Sea, stroll around the Old City which is named as City of Knights, shop in the flea markets, enjoy the Greek food in the restaurants or just take the city tour to visit all the checkpoints.
Rhodes is the biggest island of the Dodecanese islands of Greece. We managed to explore only the central parts of the island in one day and didn’t have time to visit the Lindos where you can find generic white houses, another wonderful beach, and an acropolis on the hill built by knights and the temple of Athena Lindia. You need around 3-4 hours of driving to get to Lindos from Old City, that’s why we decided to save it for our next time.
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Every corner of this island is full of antique and medieval history. It’s impossible to get bored on this island and we would go back to stay there longer, especially to spend more time on the beach. If you would like to know what we did there in one day check out our blog post.
Contributed by Corinne of Reflections Enroute
Chios is one of the prettiest islands in the Dodecanese Island group. To get there, you can fly in or take from any number of ferries from within Greece as well as from Turkey. We took the ferry from Cesme, Turkey just for a day trip. We had simple goals, to visit the World Heritage Site monastery, go swimming, and have a nice Greek lunch. This is all very achievable on a day trip.
Arriving by ferry, you can visit the stunning city of Chios. There are plenty of sights to see right there. You can visit the castle, some Turkish baths, the market, and eat at some fabulous restaurants. There are beaches very close to the ferry and are all beautiful.
However, one of the gems of the island, the Nea Moni Monastery, takes a little bit of effort. Once docked you will need to find transportation there, and if you only have the day you will need to rent a motorbike or car. There are a few easy options right when you disembark.
The monastery is well worth the effort. With a rich Byzantine history, the interior has gorgeous artifacts and frescoes. I suggest you go here first, then stop along the way at one of the many beaches for a swim and lunch before catching your ferry back. Don’t miss Chios!
Contributed by Elena of Passion for Hospitality
The stunning island of Patmos belongs to the Dodecanese island group and is known to be the place where Saint John wrote his Book of Revelation. The island is an important religious center for all religions, not just Christians. The Cave of the Apocalypse is the second holy place in the world after Jerusalem.
Another important landmark on Patmos is the Monastery of Saint John Theologian which crowns the hill of Chora — a UNESCO World Heritage site that houses an impressive library of more than 3,000 printed books, 900 manuscripts, and 13,000 documents which date back to 1073. Access to the library is only granted to Byzantine and biblical scholars with special permission which must be obtained in advance.
The island’s main town — Chora is dotted with beautiful Byzantine residences which were once built to protect the island from constant pirate raids. Walking along the alleyways you will come across pretty whitewashed buildings, historic mansions, and captain’s residences. To get a glimpse of the island’s historical past, visit the Simantiri mansion which operates as a folklore museum It is one of the oldest mansions of Patmos dating back to 1625.
The historical windmills of Patmos add up to the island’s charm, all three have been restored to their former glory thanks to the restoration project financed by a Swiss banker and yachtsman, Mr. Charles Pictet. In 2010 the Windmills project was awarded by Europa Nostra (a pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage).
Those seeking to enjoy relaxation in gorgeous natural surroundings will find plenty of opportunities to do so on one of the numerous pristine beaches. Patmos offers plenty of choices from organized beaches to almost completely remote. One of the top beaches of Patmos is Psili Ammos, to get here you can either hike or take a boat that departs from Skala.
Foodies will also enjoy the plethora of local taverns and slightly more sophisticated dining choices — Patmos has it all!
Where to Go in Greece: Saronic Islands
Contributed by Kathryn of Becoming You
The port town of Hydra (also known as Idhra) is certainly one of my favorite spots throughout the Greek isles… and I was recently fortunate enough to sail to 7 of them over a week!
Arriving by water just before sunset at the bustling port of Hydra, we found ourselves in a flotilla of yachts all waiting to get a safe berth in the tiny harbor of Hydra. Already jam-packed with boats we spent almost an hour bobbing on the water while all the yachts in front of us “rafted” themselves to each other. Fortunately, this waiting time allowed us plenty of opportunities to soak in the views of this pretty town!
Elegant white mansions and orange tiled roofs, typical of the town, gently spill down the hillsides towards the beautiful marble quayside that is the center of the traffic-free town. Yes, you read that right. Hydra is completely traffic-free and relies solely on good old fashion foot power… or a couple of resident donkeys to transport goods around the town!
This pretty quayside is central to life in Hydra – a pulsating rhythm of donkeys, tourists, locals, kids, boat-taxi hawkers, shoppers and old men of the sea spend their days parading up and down, lapping up the warm sunshine that the Greek islands offer so generously!
After finally stepping ashore as the golden hour hit the hills of Hydra, we joined the stray cats and scuttled up one of the many narrow stairways to try to reach a vantage point where we could soak in the sunset views and appreciate what makes this town so romantic.. remember this was the town legendary crooner, Leonard Cohen fell in love with his Marianne!
One of Hydra’s must-see spots is the island’s cathedral, the old Monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin which sits almost on the quayside of the town, where you can catch a glimpse of orthodox priests going about their business in the elaborately decorated church (no pics allowed!).
>> Get ready for Greece! Read this Essential Greece Packing List: What to Wear & Pack for Greece <<
Is hunger getting the better of you? Best you head to Christina’s in the Kamini Valley if you’re looking for the best food in Hydra. Build up an appetite for a stroll along with one of two winding paths to Kamini – the pine-scented path above the sea or the inland path through eucalyptus.
Either way, you’ll arrive ready to sample all the delicious food – most of which they grow in the family garden! Enjoy warm salads of eggplants and yellow peppers or melting slabs of halloumi, but don’t miss out on the fried calamari that is super crisp and fresh from the sea! Taverna Christina is open for lunch and dinner.
Contributed by Sophie of The Wanderful Me
Located just off the coast of mainland Greece, Aegina Island is a breathtaking Saronic Island filled with coastal views, lush hills, captivating ancient ruins, cute cafes, and relaxing beaches! No doubt, this little island has everything… and with it only being a 1-hour ferry ride away from Athens, it’s one of the best places to visit in Greece.
Even though Aegina Island boasts incredible sites and attractions, like the historic ruins of the Temple of Aphaea, the magical monastery of Agios Nektarios, a marina filled with colorful boats and local stands selling homemade pistachio butter (grown right on the island!), and unbelievable sunset views, this island is virtually unknown to travelers.
When I last visited, my girlfriends and I rented a car and as we visited the magnificent temple of Aphaea, we were the only ones there! It was like we had the entire island to ourselves — which makes this island one of the best Greece destinations.
If you’re thinking of visiting Aegina Island, make sure to rent a car! There are many rental places dotted along the marina and not too expensive either. A car is no doubt the best way to get around the island, allowing you to see everything it has to offer.
For example, the Temple of Aphaea and the Agios Nektarios monastery require a car to get there! And if you’re still not convinced that this island is worth visiting, check out these photos to inspire you!
Where to Go in Greece: Crete
Contributed by Chrysoula of Travel Passionate
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands, and one of the most magical. From ancient ruins, stunning beaches, imposing mountains, lush valleys, to amazing food and unmatched hospitality, Crete has it all.
There is so much to see and do on this diverse island, that you could practically never run out of new things to see and do. If you love history or architecture, visit the Palace of Knossos for a trip back in time over almost 4,000 years to the age of the ancient Minoans. Next, stop at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum for ancient treasures from all over Crete.
You can also hike to Psychro Cave, the legendary mythological birthplace of Zeus, or through Samaria Gorge National Park, Europe’s longest gorge. Take a driving tour to soak in the vastly different landscapes of the island from the snow-dusted mountains to the breathtaking beaches.
Elafonisi Beach is known for its gorgeous pink-sand beaches and shallow, sparkling turquoise-blue waters. Catch a sunset from the harbor in the picture-perfect town of Chania or get lost on the winding, Venetian, and Turkish-inspired streets of Rethymnon. Explore the tragic past of eerie, deserted Spinalonga, also known as the Leper Island.
Where to Go in Greece: Mainland Greece
Contributed by Inma of A World To Travel
Just back from the second-largest city in Greece and its surroundings, the stunning Halkidiki coast; we can say loud and clear, that Thessaloniki has stolen our hearts. Some time ago I had written an article about the cities that I would move to in a heartbeat and mentioned Athens as one of them. Well, I think an edit is due.
From its Ano Poli (old town) and the walled city remains to the Rotunda, White Tower, Galerius Arch, and other impressive monuments, this city can be proud of its heritage as it has nothing to envy many other – more famous – ones.
What truly captivated us, however, was how alive the city is. Take for instance any given weekday afternoon in Aristotelous square or the seaside walk – that stretches for around 5km – and you will witness what I am saying. Locals love being outside and sitting in terraces at sunset and the city hosts an incredible number of events and festivals year-round to keep everyone entertained.
If you accept any tips, make sure to spend at least 2 days in Thessaloniki, do not forget to book a table at Thria for a very special dinner, and think of Astoria Hotel as your base for your Thessaloniki explorations. Its location is unbeatable!
Contributed by Helena of Just For One Summer
The Messinia region in southern Peloponnese is an ideal holiday destination for anyone looking for more than just a pretty beach. Don’t get me wrong, the beaches of Messinia are stunning but there is so much more! The coast of Messinia is dotted by impressive medieval castles and charming towns while the hilly inland brims over with olive orchards, hidden gorges, and waterfalls.
Messinia is easily accessible from both Athens and abroad. There is an international airport in Kalamata, the region’s capital, and a new highway connecting Messinia with Athens. Regular buses run between Athens, Kalamata, and some of the larger towns of the area but you’ll need a car to explore the countryside of Messinia to its fullest.
There are plenty of beautiful, long, sandy beaches lining the coast of Messinia but one that stands out is Voidokilia Beach. The combination of its characteristic round shape, fine sand, crystal clear sea, and picturesque ruins of the Old Navarino Castle makes Voidokilia one of the most stunning beaches in Greece.
When in the area, don’t forget to visit the surrounding wetlands for their rich wildlife and the small seaside resort of Gialiva for awesome al fresco dining.
For a change of scenery head inland to explore one of Messinia’s many waterfalls. Neda and Polilimnio are among the most popular but there are many others scattered across the countryside waiting to be discovered. For history lovers, Messinia has plenty to offer, too. The archaeological sites of Nestor’s Palace or Ancient Messini are worth exploring but the real beauty lies at the castles and fortresses along the coast. Koroni, Pylos, and Methoni are among the most impressive but there are others in Kalamata and Kyparissia.
If you can visit only one of them make it Methoni. This 13th-century Venetian fortress is one of the largest in the Mediterranean featuring the striking Bourtzi tower, a small fortified islet on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. To finish up your trip to Methoni visit the Kotronaki Cafe on the opposite side of the bay to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the castle with a glass of cold beer in your hand.
Zagoria & the Vikos Gorge
Contributed by Jeanne of Learning to Breathe Abroad
Nestled in the majestic Pindos mountain range of Northern Greece lies the magical Zagorohoria region, one of the most beautiful and untouched places left on earth. Known for its picturesque villages, aquamarine rivers, and spectacular views, Zagorohoria is a must for hikers and nature lovers alike.
46 traditional stone villages, each with its distinctive architecture and unique character, are connected by ancient stone paths and exquisite arched stone bridges. Paying for the construction of a bridge was a sign of wealth and afforded one great prestige in the community. As such, each bridge has been duly named after its patron. Accommodation in the villages ranges from elegant traditional Zagorian style to more basic places, while the restaurants serve delicious traditional food and the locals are all wonderfully friendly.
The most popular village is Monodendri, Kipoi is down in the valley so close to some of the stone bridges while navigating the twisty turns up to Papingo villages should rather be left to the adventurous. Vradeto has an excellent restaurant and the walk to the viewpoint from here will afford you the best view of the Vikos Gorge.
Running through the center of Zagorohoria is the magnificent Vikos Gorge which is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for being the world’s deepest canyon in proportion to its width. There are several viewpoints, all easily reached by foot and offering spectacular views of one of nature’s greatest creations. There is also the possibility of hiking the full length of the Vikos Gorge for those with extra energy.
Contributed by Dave of Dave’s Travel Pages
Athens often gets overlooked by visitors to Greece in their rush out to visit the islands and hit the beaches. Those that do spend time in the Greek capital though, can immerse themselves in the glories of the past, as well as soak up the contemporary hip vibe.
By far the most popular place to see in Athens for first-time visitors is the Acropolis. This huge landmark dominates the historic center of the city and was a symbol of the city’s power. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to the incredible temples such as the Parthenon that are built on its summit.
In addition to the famous Acropolis, other significant archaeological sites within the center of Athens include the Ancient Agora, Kerameikos, and the Temple of the Olympian Zeus.
Athens is not a city to rest on its laurels though and is an Urban Adventurer’s paradise. A cool coffee culture, incredible street art scene, and regenerating neighborhoods all contribute toward Athens attracting city lovers who want to stay longer than the traditional 2 or 3-day break.
Whether indulging in tasty traditional Greek food and hidden tavernas, enjoying rooftop drinks with views over the Acropolis, or simply spending time in a coffee shop watching the world go by, Athens has something for everyone.
If you would like more info about planning a trip to Athens, check out Dave’s handy Athens Itinerary here.
Contributed by Maggie of Pink Caddy Travelogue
Delphi is one of the most beautiful and historically significant sites in Greece, and is a must-visit if you’re headed to the land of feta cheese and olives! The ancient city of Delphi is perched high on the side of Mount Parnassus, with amazing views overlooking the valley and coastal plain to the south.
At one point, Delphi was considered by the Greeks to be the center of the world; almost every city-state had its treasury here, and it was here that the famous Oracle of Delphi would spout her prophecies for kings and generals and other important leaders of the ancient world.
Nowadays, visitors can make their way up the Sacred Way, past the once-grand treasuries, the Temple of Apollo, and what scholars even believe may have been the Oracle’s seat.
There’s also the stadium and theater of Delphi, as well as the often-photographed Tholos of Delphi. The archaeological site is large and can take several hours to fully explore. There’s also an onsite museum, filled with artifacts several thousand years old, including the famous statue of Heniokhos, the Charioteer of Delphi.
The modern-day village of Delphi caters to tourists and is mostly filled with hotels, restaurants, and gift shops. For a more authentically Greek place to stay for your Delphi excursion, check out nearby Arachova.
Contributed by Lindsay of Carpe Diem Our Way
Meteora is one of the top sights to visit for good reason. It is home to one of the largest Greek Orthodox monasteries and their locations on the top of sheer-coiffed boulders make them something to marvel at. Meteora has been occupied by monks since the 12th century and at its peak in the 16th century, there were 24 monasteries at Meteora.
Unfortunately, there are only 6 left, but these 6 are in amazing working condition and you can visit them on a day tour or independently. It costs 3 Euros to visit inside each of the monasteries and these fees help contribute to the upkeep of the buildings.
The monasteries operate independently from the state and have a special status due to their religious and cultural significance.
To best see Meteora if you do not have your car is to take a tour which will come with a vehicle and guide, making it easy to get from place to place and providing valuable information that you would not have without insider knowledge.
Visit Meteora offers several affordable tours from half-day tours to sunset hiking tours!
Kalampaka is the town that sits in the shadows of the Meteora rocks and it is likely where you will be spending time when you are not exploring the monasteries or hiking in the region. While many visitors come in for just the day, it is worth spending a night and exploring this underrated quaint town.
Grab a latte from one of the many coffee shops in town or try Restaurant Meteora for traditional Greek cuisine.
Contributed by Francesca of The Working Mom’s Travels
I like to tell my American friends that Halkidiki is the best place in Greece they’ve ever heard of. As an American, I certainly had never heard of this region of Greece until I had an opportunity to travel there. But I don’t say this simply because I had never heard of Halkidiki. It’s because I met so many locals while there who were shocked to meet a real American traveling in Halkidiki.
Halkidiki is a peninsula in Northern Greece that consists of three smaller peninsulas or “legs” as they’re known. The three legs are Kassandra, Sithonia, and Athos, and each has its personality if you will. Each also dips into the Aegean Sea and boasts stunning beaches, dense pine forests, and craggy mountains.
Kassandra is known for its nightlife and party atmosphere, especially in the town of Pefkohori. If it’s a calmer holiday you’re looking for, stay at Nefeli Villas and Suites in Nea Skioni. Nefeli features all suites and villas, ranging from bungalows for two people to the King Villa that has its swimming pool.
Sithonia is more laid-back and rugged than Kassandra and appeals to nature lovers. A must-see in Sithonia is Karidi Beach in Vourvourou for its calm, see-through blue water. Karidi is in a protected cove surrounded by boulders perfect for climbing or lying in the Aegean sun.
>> Read Next: Delphi or Meteora: Which Historic Greek Site is Right for You? <<
Athos, the last leg of Halkidiki, is said to be the most pristine, though few visitors can validate that claim. You see, women are not allowed on Athos. This “law” dates back to the time of Byzantine Emperor Basil I, who ruled that the entire peninsula would be the exclusive domain of monks and hermits (all men).
Today, women (and men who did not get prior consent to visit) can only get so far as the town of Ouranoupolis, which is believed to be the “gateway to heaven”. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know you can have one heavenly meal in Ouranoupolis at The Golden Hook. The insanely fresh seafood and the sunset views at this waterfront restaurant provide for a spiritual experience.
Contributed by Maria & Katerina of It’s All Trip to Me
Greece is mostly famous for its islands and for good reason. The Greek Islands are breathtakingly beautiful and beyond words picturesque. Yet it is on the mainland that we have found one of our favorite spots in the country. Monemvasia Castle in Southern Peloponnese is one of the most enchanting medieval castles in Europe and got us under its spell right from the very instant we passed its main gate.
Monemvasia Castle is a unique example of a perfectly preserved medieval settlement. No vehicles are allowed within its walls and this is one of the reasons why this place is so charming. Wandering around the Castle’s narrow cobblestone alleys marveling at one Byzantine mansion after another is enough to fall in love with Monemvasia.
Moreover, following the signs to Portello, the gate used in the past for those entering the Castle from the sea, is also something not to be missed. Stepping out of Portello and the Castle’s walls, the sight of huge waves crashing on the black rocks surrounding the fortress town is mesmerizing.
The most important thing to keep in mind when planning a trip to Monemvasia is to book a room within the walls of the Castle. Low prices in the modern part of Monemvasia may be tempting but nothing beats the feeling of spending the night inside a medieval castle that never ceased to be inhabited throughout its long and fascinating history.
We stayed at Byzantino Boutique Hotel which offers charmingly old-fashioned rooms scattered in various locations in Monemvasia Castle and we loved it. When the night falls within the walls of Monemvasia Castle it feels as though Time has stopped and turned this place into a fairy-tale land.
Before concluding this little introduction of ours to the wonder that is Monemvasia Castle, allow us to let you in on our little secret. The Castle’s main square is the perfect location to enjoy one of the most gorgeous sunrises you could ever dream of. We are no morning types ourselves but, for this sunrise, we would wake up at the crack of dawn a thousand times over.
Contributed by Cara of Crawford Creations
The tallest mountain in Greece and the home of the Greek Gods, Mount Olympus is a must-see for anyone who loves history, Greek mythology, amazing hikes, and epic views.
Designated as the first national park in Greece in 1938, Mount Olympus is not only the home of the Gods and the tallest mountain in Greece, but it’s also one of the tallest mountains in all of Europe. Its peak, Mytikas, rises to a height of 2918 meters (9573 ft).
If you have the strength I would highly recommend hiking to the summit of Mount Olympus, Mytikas. Hiking on Mt. Olympus is best done from May to October when conditions are good. The hike to the summit can be completed with relative ease in 2 days. To start your ascent on Mt. Olympus head to the town of Litochoro, a short train ride from Thessaloniki, and stay at one of the many hotels and guesthouses located in town near the start of the trail.
Two main routes lead up to the summit, Prionia, and Gortsia. We chose to make a loop and hike up through Prionia to Mytikas Peak, and then back down through Gortsia over two days.
You can do the hike in one day by taking a taxi to the Prionia parking lot, but you’ll miss out on a lot of incredible gorges and waterfalls by skipping the beginning part of the hike.
Two popular refuges (guesthouses) are located along the trail where you can spend the night, Refuge A and Refuge C. Refuge A is located along the Prionia route and Refuge C along the Gortsia route.
Both refuges offer beds, blankets, toilets, a common area with a fire to warm up, and giant plates of spaghetti bolognese (among other food options) available for purchase. If you don’t want to pay for a bed you can also camp in the park anywhere above the tree line.
Greece Travel Tips & Resources
Here are a few things to know before coming to Greece. First, you can read our article on planning a trip to Greece to make sure you’ve thought about each of the travel planning steps on our eleven-point checklist.
Second, if you’re planning to explore the islands further as part of your trip here, we have recommendations in our Greek Island Hopping Guide. If you’re interested in the most romantic spots in Greece, we’ve narrowed the list down to our favorite Greek honeymoon spots.
5 Things to Bring with You to Greece
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, you’ll want to pack all the normal essentials, but here are a few things we strongly recommend bringing that may not have crossed your mind. For more packing tips, check out our complete Greece packing list.
– A physical guidebook, on paper or Kindle. We love Lonely Planet Greece for this region and strongly recommend it to supplement blogs. Blogs are great, but a combination of a blog and a guidebook is key to having the best access to information easily at your fingertips.
– A water bottle with a filter. While generally, the tap water in most of Greece is drinkable, we generally recommend using a water bottle with a purifying filter to reduce your plastic consumption and ensure you won’t drink any funny-tasting water on your stomach that could make your trip unpleasant! There are places in Greece, especially on the island, where the water tastes like minerals.
We recommend the GRAYL water bottle – it filters water perfectly in an instant so that you can even drink from lakes, bad taps, etc.
– Motion sickness pills. Santorini roads are winding, especially around the coast. If you have a weak stomach as we do, save yourself and bring some non-drowsy motion sickness pills.
– Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, TP & other Balkan transit needs. Bathrooms in the Balkans tend to be… how can we say it?… not so well-stocked. Save yourself the disappointment and bring a mini-rescue pack of wet wipes & hand sanitizer.
– Travel safety items. We think Greece is safe to travel to, but at the same time, it never hurts to be prepared! Some people like to carry money belts, but neither Allison nor I use these. Instead, we both carry the same PacSafe anti-theft backpack.
It has locking zippers, slash-proof construction with metal mesh hidden in the fabric, and tons of other smart security features — all while being cute and stylish enough to be our everyday bag. We recommend it highly for both male and female travelers, as it’s neutral enough to be unisex. We also strongly recommend travel insurance! Our recommendation is at the bottom of the post.
We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Finally, make sure you always travel to Greece or anywhere in Europe with a valid travel insurance policy. Greece is a very safe place to travel, but accidents and theft can easily ruin your trip if you don’t have travel insurance coverage to recover the losses. Recently my aunt fell on a train in France and needed surgery, but luckily her travel insurance covered the costs in full. Thank goodness!
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Pin this Top Greece Vacation Destinations for Your Next Adventures!
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.
Hi and thank you for the informative article about the islands of my country… I wanted to add 2 more that you should definitely search on the internet. First is “Koyfonisia” and the other is “Ikaria”. Santorini (that is mentioned already)due to its wild beauty you ‘ll either love it or totally hate it! So I’ll sow you smth (for the readers of your article) to help them love it. https://chooseyafy.com/fly-away/
Oooh I always love visiting new Greek islands! Thanks for the tips!
Great list and awesome tips. Thanks for sharing. We love to travel and for sure we will use your tips. Nice work!
Thank you! Enjoy!
Absolutely stunning! Thank you on a detailed impressive guide!