Where Should We Go in Greece?

Where should we go in Greece?  I am asked this question literally hundreds of times in a year… and will always respond with three initial questions of my own:

• Have you been to Greece before?
• How long do you have to travel?
• Who is travelling?

People think of Greece as a small country, but it it’s huge in many ways.  You could spend years exploring its fascinating towns and over 200 inhabited islands.  If you’ve got just 7 – 10 days to travel, you’ll need to limit yourself to Athens plus two or a maximum of three other places.  If you’ve never been to Greece, think about visiting Athens, Santorini and perhaps Mykonos... but Naxos, Crete or Folegandros are other good options. (Crete & Naxos are best for families, while Folegandros is more couples-oriented).

For the first time traveler to Greece, you must spend a couple of days in Athens – no question.  There’s plenty to do for two or three full days, without ever leaving the central tourist area of the city.  And there are also many day-trips from Athens: to Delphi, the Peloponnese, Cape Sounion, Corinth, etc.  You could easily spend 5 or 6 nights in Athens but most people on a first trip stay just 2 or 3 nights – then move on to the islands.

‘Island Hopping’ is very popular in Greece and we can make it work seamlessly for you.  Your total travel time as well as complicated ferry routes will dictate how many islands you can actually visit in a short amount of time.  We suggest flying to your first island to save time (typically an inexpensive 45 minute flight vs. 5 full hours of boredom on a ferry) then ferry from there to other island stops.  We also strongly suggest spending at least 3 nights on each island – so as to actually see and enjoy the villages and beaches – instead of spending all your time on a boat, or waiting for one.

Many people think of the Cyclades Islands (Santorini, Mykonos) when they think of Greece, but Greece has many groups of islands, with one impossible to reach from another, in many cases.  The following islands are all fairly close to each other (2 hours by ferry or less) and each is known for something different:

 

Best scenery: Santorini
Best nightlife: Mykonos
Best food and largest island/most variety: Crete
Best traditional village life: Naxos & Crete
Best kiteboarding and windsurfing: Paros
Best beaches: Milos
Best couples getaway: Folegandros

For those contemplating a second visit, I’d suggest considering some of these islands:

Corfu/Kafalonia/Zakinthos in the Ionian Islands are all beautiful and filled with history but completely isolated from the other Greek Islands, requiring a trip all their own.  To reach any of them you need to fly from Athens or drive across the Greek mainland then take a ferry.

Rhodes/Kos/Patmos are all in the Dodecanese Islands and are a delightful chain.  I especially recommend Rhodes to families.  Its history of the Knights, Castles and Old Town is magical and there are excellent beaches as well.

Crete is one very large island that requires at least a week’s time to explore!  Great for both families and couples.  The charming town of Chania is a must, with its Venetian and Turkish influences.

What about the Greek mainland?  We thought you’d never ask!  One of the best things to do in Greece is to rent a car and explore the mainland.  Start with the area of southern Greece called the Peloponnese.  From Athens, In a couple of hours you can be at the seaside in Nafplio, sitting in the village square, surrounded by Greek families on holiday… with not another foreign tourist in sight!  One of our most favorite experiences ever! 

While you can’t see everything on a single trip to Greece, you can certainly experience immense variety, enjoying fabulous people, food, wine, and sunshine.

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