Best of Greece
For First-Timers & Experienced Grecophiles
If you're a first-time visitor to Greece, there are mostly likely three main places on your short-list of where to go for your trip to the homeland of Plato, Homer, Yanni and Prince Phillip. And while we certainly agree that Athens, Santorini and Mykonos are not-to-be-missed, these are certainly not the only places you should be looking to find an idyllic Grecian getaway. If you're a more experienced traveler to Greece, you can still benefit from some of the info below, as well as on our previous blog post here.
Finding the best destinations for you really comes down to your personal preferences, as Greece and its islands can provide it all. The list below attempts to highlight some of the special features of each place. There's really more than enough here for multiple trips to Greece, but your experienced custom travel planner at CTCAdventures can give you recommendations about how to make the most of your trip, without the itinerary becoming overwhelming.
It goes without saying that you must reserve some time for ancient Athens with a visit to the Acropolis and its museum, and we recommend a private guide so you can get the most out of even a little time. Then, you might explore the picturesque Plaka neighborhood, the old town streets of Monastiraki, and the ruins of the ancient Greek Agora.
Extra days: Take a half-day trip to see the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. Athens does have beaches, but you could also venture farther out to the unique cave lake of Vouliagmeni. From Athens, many people also visit the site of ancient Delphi or have a guided day tour through the ancient sites of the Peloponnese, like Mycenae. Another popular day-trip is a ferry ride to Hydra (see next).
You can visit Hydra with an easy day-trip from Athens. This charming island is also listed as an architectural reserve, so you can witness a preserved scenic picture of traditional houses and restaurants, with no cars allowed to spoil the turn-of-the-century effect. Wander narrow paths leading from the harbor, check out the handmade lace shops and listen to the call of the drovers urging their donkeys to haul goods and shopping loads across the island and up the mountain for local Hydriots.
If someone says "Greek vacation", most people's minds will produce an image of Santorini's whitewashed Cycladic architecture. It's true there are a wealth of actvities on this island to keep visitors entertained for days – gaze at the sunsets, go shopping at high-end boutiques, enjoy caldera cruises or hiking the volcanic landscape, visit excellent vineyards and wineries, and of course see the amazing beaches. Stay in cliffside towns such as Fira, Imerovigli or Oia to experience the pace of life on this island, but remember, it gets especially busy throughout the summer months.
Milos is not as well-known as Santorini, but it shares similar take-your-breath-away, lunar-landscape beaches and romantic sunsets. It is often listed as having some of the most spectacular beaches in Greece. This island has enough unique scenery, beaches and history (this is where the Venus de Milo was discovered) to round out any Cycladic islands itinerary. Milos is easily reachable from Santorini and makes for a good 2-island combination.
The Dodecanese islands are not as popular with foreign tourists as the Cycladic bunch, but if you can visit just one, let it be Rhodes. In Rhodes Town, you can feel like history is giving you a warm hug, and when you stroll its charming squares or step into one of the many quaint tavernas, a friendly greeting awaits you. Beyond the medieval streets and impressive walled fortifications of the main town, you should see the magnificent ancient ruins of the Acropolis of Lindos, and you can easily spend the remainder of your time checking out the island's many gorgeous beaches, like St. Paul's Bay and Anthony Quinn Bay. Keep in mind that Rhodes is quite distant from Athens so is best reached by a flight. A good combination is Athens, Rhodes and Crete.
Getting to Crete, Greece's largest island, will require about 9 to 10 hours on a ferry coming from Athens, or much better -- you can take a 50-minute flight. You can also combine Crete with other islands, but keep in mind: with its size and wealth of culture and history, we recommend giving a good chunk of your available time over to this island. The main historical attraction is the ancient city Knossos, where you can see the remains of the Minoan civilization's capital. Other beautiful highlights are Chania, Elounda, Spinalonga, Aghios Nikolaos and Malia. Crete is also said to have some of the finest food in the country. We recommend staying near Chania (on the eastern end of the island) for a few days then driving several hours past Heraklion to stay on the western side of the island in Elounda or Agios Nikolaos for several days. There is a lot to see and do from both areas.
Head to the Ionian Coast for more stunning panoramas, enchanting villages, culture and exciting nightlife. Located just across the sea from Italy, the island of Corfu has Italian influences that you can see in its architecture and cuisine, just for a start. Visit the old town of Kérkyra and try the special local dish called sofrito. This is a great island for families, and as you go inland you can discover a different island with less development and a more authentic traditional Greek lifestyle. Visit the abandoned Venetian-era village of Paleá Períthia, tucked away on the northern slope of Mt Pandokrátor, see the monastery of Panagía Arkoudíla near Kávos resort, and also discover the villages of Kassiopi and Paleokastritsa.
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