Discover the Enchanting Gems: Unveiling the Best Places to Travel in Greece!
Greece, a country brimming with rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and vibrant culture, offers countless remarkable destinations for travelers. From historic sites like Athens and Delphi to stunning islands like Santorini and Crete, there is something for everyone in this Mediterranean paradise. Whether you're planning your first visit or looking to explore new hidden gems, this article will guide you through the best places to visit in Greece. So pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in the land of gods and legends.
Gautier Houba/Travel Leisure
As the capital of Greece and its largest city, Athens is a must-visit destination that warrants at least a day or two of exploration. While popular attractions like the Acropolis and Parthenon should not be missed, it's also worth venturing into more modern neighborhoods like Exarchia, which has a distinctive bohemian atmosphere.
Out of the hundreds of Greek islands to choose from, one that is gaining increasing attention is the charming and picturesque island of Milos. With direct flights from Athens, it offers the perfect escape for those seeking rest and relaxation. Explore the secluded beaches nestled between rugged cliffs, savor the local octopus in the island's cafes, and enjoy tranquil evenings sipping local wine while watching the sun dip into the azure waters.
For a livelier atmosphere, Mykonos is the place to be. Accessible via direct flights from Athens, this island is renowned for its vibrant and energetic ambiance, particularly during the summer. While beachside parties that last long into the night are a highlight, Mykonos is also home to stunning beaches and historical sites such as Kato Mili, a row of four impressive windmills built by the Venetians in the 16th century.
History enthusiasts will find Delphi to be a captivating destination. Situated on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, these ancient ruins were once a revered religious center that drew people from far and wide, including kings who sought the wisdom of the Oracle. The Temple of Apollo, along with other ancient structures such as Athena Priene, a theater, and an ancient stadium, provide a fascinating glimpse into the past. Delphi is easily accessible as a day trip from Athens and is considered one of the best places to visit in Greece. Consider taking a highly-rated trip for a comprehensive experience.
Discover the stunning shades of blue in the Halkidiki region of northern Greece. Known for its breathtaking beaches with soft, inviting sand, this area is a paradise for beach lovers. Lounge all day and admire the mesmerizing waters that you never knew existed.
For even more historical wonders, a visit to Epidaurus is a must. Located at the northeastern end of the Peloponnese, this site is beloved by archaeology enthusiasts for its ancient theater, which was built in the fourth century B.C. to honor Asclepius, the god of medicine. In the summer, visitors can even catch live performances in this magnificent setting.
Escape to the tranquil seaside community of Gythio when you need a break from it all. With its colorful homes and golden-sand beaches, Gythio is a hidden gem that offers a serene retreat. Keep an eye out for the sea turtles that visit the area to lay their eggs.
Meteora, located in central Greece, is a place of unparalleled beauty that is steadily rising in popularity. The sea of 9th-century monasteries perched atop massive rock monoliths is a sight to behold. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these sandstone spires, formed over 60 million years ago, reach an impressive height of 400 meters. Take a journey back in time as you explore the monasteries, which were once hidden retreats for monks who scaled the walls with ropes and ladders. For more information on Meteora, refer to our post on things to do in Meteora Greece.
Where to Stay in Meteora
Choose to stay at the Divani Meteora Hotel, nestled at the base of the towering Meteora Rocks in the town of Kalabaka. With its swimming pool, spa, and fantastic views, it offers a comfortable and convenient base for your exploration of the area. Alternatively, join a highly-rated two-day tour from Athens to visit the Meteora Monasteries and the Delphi Archaeological Site if you're short on time but still want to experience the magic of Meteora. Further details can be found in our recommended trip.
Sifnos, a small island accessible by ferry from Athens, is known for its laid-back and relaxing atmosphere. Despite its small size, it boasts numerous beautiful beaches, allowing visitors to find their own tranquil patch of sandy shoreline, even during the peak summer season.
Mix a dose of island time with a quick geology lesson on Kefalonia. Situated west of the mainland, this island is home to the impressive Drogarati Cave. Marvel at the stunning stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling and stalagmites jutting out from the sea floor.
Corfu, although not a hidden gem, is one of the best Greek islands to visit, especially if you're traveling during the off-peak or shoulder seasons. Known as Greece's greenest island, it offers a wealth of historical sites spread throughout its picturesque landscape. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Corfu Town serves as the epicenter of its rich history.
Escape to Thessaloniki, a vibrant urban haven located in northern Greece. This port city boasts a wealth of historic sites, including the White Tower of Thessaloniki and the Arch of Galerius. Immerse yourself in its world-class restaurants and contemporary art museums for a truly inspiring experience.
Experience a different kind of sea view in Messolonghi, a town on Greece's western coast. Nestled on a serene sea lake, it has a rich historical significance, particularly regarding the Greek Revolution. Despite this, it remains relatively under the radar for international tourists, making it an off-the-beaten-path gem.
Make a historic stop at Olympia for a lesson in sports history. Situated on the western side of the Peloponnese, this site hosted the very first Olympic Games. Visit the ancient stadium and the temples of Zeus and Hera, all in one trip.
Santorini is undoubtedly one of the most iconic places to visit in Greece. Known as the diamond of the Aegean, this island attracts thousands of visitors every year who come to marvel at its unique beauty. From its volcanic beaches and whitewashed houses to its awe-inspiring sunsets, Santorini is a true gem. Take a dip in the turquoise waters, wander through the picturesque villages, and indulge in the delicious cuisine. Don't miss the unforgettable experience of a catamaran sail with lunch and an open bar. More information and recommendations can be found in our guide on things to do in Santorini.
Santorini is touristy but is still rated as one of the very best places to visit in Greece
One of our favorite hidden gems in Greece is Epirus, a region located in northwestern Greece, bordered by Albania and the Ionian Sea. Perfect for nature lovers, Epirus offers stunning landscapes, mountain villages, and beautiful beaches. We recommend spending at least a week here to fully appreciate its attractions. For more details on places to visit in Epirus, refer to our comprehensive guide.
The capital city of Epirus, Ioannina, is a pleasant surprise for travelers. Bursting with Byzantine history, beautiful monasteries, museums, and a lively nightlife, Ioannina offers a wealth of experiences. Don't miss the seven monasteries on the Island of the Lake, particularly the Monastery of Philanthropists, which dates back to 1204 and holds great significance alongside Meteora and Mount Athos. Ioannina is a must-visit destination during your Greek vacation. Further information can be found in our recommended guide on things to do in Ioannina.
Where to Stay in Ioannina
We recommend the Hotel du Lac, conveniently located within walking distance (20 minutes) of Old Town. It offers a pleasant stay for guests. Another popular option is The Lake Hotel, which features a beautiful pool overlooking Lake Pamvotida. Visit TripAdvisor or Booking.com for rates and availability.
Parga, a town known for its stunning beaches and charming Old Town, rivals the best of the Greek Islands without the overwhelming crowds. Fall in love with its colorful buildings along the beach and don't miss a visit to Parga Castle for breathtaking views. While located on the mainland, Parga exudes the atmosphere of a Greek island, making it a worthwhile addition to your itinerary. Nearby Valtos Beach, Sivota, Preveza, and Plataria offer more beautiful beach options. Indulge in the local gastronomy, as this part of Greece is renowned for its seafood.
Zagori, located just outside of Ioannina, is the adventure capital of Epirus. With its scenic hiking trails, historic monasteries, and famous stone bridges, this region offers a wealth of outdoor activities. Don't miss the breathtaking Vikos Gorge, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's deepest gorge. Make the charming mountain village of Metsovo your base for exploring Zagori and the surrounding area.
Zakynthos, also known as Zante in Greek, is a Greek Island that stands out among the many beautiful islands in Greece due to its stunning beach. Navagio Beach, also known as Shipwreck Beach, is a breathtaking sight with its white sandy shores and chalky white sea cliffs that rise majestically from the deep azure waters. It is renowned as one of the most famous beaches in the Greek Islands, surrounded by towering white cliffs and turquoise waters.
Shipwreck Beach is only accessible by boat tour, which ensures its pristine and untouched beauty. Private boat tours can be booked to visit the smuggler's cove directly. Additionally, Zakynthos is a top destination for scuba diving in Greece, offering incredible opportunities to explore its crystal-clear waters.
Where to Stay in Zakynthos
For those planning to visit Zakynthos, the town of Zante on the island's East Coast is an excellent choice for accommodation. It offers a vibrant nightlife scene and convenient transportation options, making it an ideal base for exploring the island.
Zakynthos, located in the Ionian Sea, belongs to the group of seven Ionian islands. While it is known for its lively nightlife, the island offers much more, including ancient historical sites, pristine beaches, and delectable traditional Greek cuisine. If you want to discover the hidden gems of Zakynthos, check out this article on Things to do in Zante Greece.
How to Get to Zakynthos – Ferries operate between Zakynthos Island and Peloponnese, providing convenient access. In addition, there are regular flights connecting to Zakynthos.
Island hopping in Greece is an incredible experience, and Crete is a must-visit destination on any Greek vacation. As the largest island among the Greek Islands, Crete boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. It is also known for its traditional villages and iconic whitewashed houses that characterize the southern part of Greece.
Crete offers diverse natural landscapes, including towering peaks, deep gorges, and pristine sandy beaches, making it a dream destination for adventure enthusiasts. Don't miss the opportunity to hike through the enchanting Samaria Gorge, a natural wonder of Greece. Elafonisi Beach, often regarded as the best beach in Greece, is another must-see attraction. Find more unique things to do in Crete in this article: 23 Unique Things to Do in Crete.
How to Get to Crete – We had a pleasant ferry ride from Santorini to Crete. If you're coming from Athens, there are ferries available that take approximately 7 hours. However, we recommend taking a short flight to Crete, as there are frequent flights to Heraklion.
One of the top attractions on the island of Crete is Knossos. It is highly recommended to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site in person and witness its historical significance. The archaeological site showcases the palace of King Minos and offers a captivating glimpse into ancient Greek civilization.
To fully explore Knossos and the surrounding areas, we recommend renting a car. It allows for a more immersive experience, giving you the freedom to delve into the daily lives of Greek residents and discover hidden gems. If you are interested in car rental options, you can compare prices here.
Knossos, dating back 2000 years to the Minoan civilization, is one of Greece's best-preserved ancient sites. It is widely regarded as one of the country's top museums, offering visitors an extraordinary historical journey.
- This private tour is an excellent way to explore the highlights of Knossos and the charming city of Heraklion. The guided tour includes a visit to Knossos, a tour of the main city of Crete, exploration of the old Heraklion, and a chance to savor delicious traditional Greek cuisine.
How to Get to Crete from Athens – While the ferry ride from Athens to Crete takes around 5 hours, it can be an enjoyable way to travel if you incorporate island hopping into your Greece itinerary. However, there are also daily flights available from Athens to Crete.
Pelion is a stunning region located on the Pelion Peninsula of mainland Greece. Nestled between Athens and Thessaloniki, Pelion is known for its picturesque villages, including Tsagarada, Makrinitsa, and Milies. Explore the hidden paradise of Greece in Pelion by reading this article: Pelion Greece – Visiting the Unknown Paradise of Greece.
If you wish to trace the footsteps of the movie Mama Mia, Pelion is the perfect destination. Many scenes from the film were shot in the enchanting coastal village of Damouchari. Additionally, Volos, a coastal city in Pelion, has its own allure as it was featured in the movie "Jason and the Argonauts," which is rooted in ancient Greek mythology.
Where to Stay in Pelion
For a memorable stay in Pelion, we recommend the luxurious 12 Months Luxury Resort in Tsagarada. If you don't have a car, fret not, as there are local shuttles available to explore Pelion. This resort offers a tranquil retreat with panoramic views of the hills and bay.
How to Get to Pelion: The main hub for accessing Pelion is Volos, which is approximately a five-hour scenic drive north of Athens. If you plan to visit Thessaloniki, another major Greek city, Pelion is en route and easily accessible.
Skiathos is blessed with some of the most exquisite beaches in all of Greece. Renowned for its stunning coastline and vibrant nightlife, Skiathos has become an increasingly popular destination for travelers in recent years.
With its crystal-clear waters and pristine white sandy beaches, combined with an array of lively nightspots, Skiathos is undeniably captivating.
Despite the influx of tourism, Skiathos has managed to preserve its natural beauty. With over 60 splendid beaches and hiking trails traversing dense pine forests, Skiathos is a paradise for nature lovers.
If you have the chance, embark on a sailing trip in Skiathos, which includes snorkeling gear, delectable food, and refreshing drinks. You might even be lucky enough to spot dolphins!
Skopelos is an enchanting island adorned with traditional whitewashed houses boasting blue doors and terracotta roofs. Scenic monasteries cling to its coast, and stunning beaches dot its shoreline. Our visit to this beautiful Greek island transformed our perception of it.
Located near Skiathos, Skopelos is another destination associated with the movie Mamma Mia, offering incredible scenery. The island is home to 360 monasteries and churches, as well as azure waters perfect for diving and snorkeling. Its beaches feature striking white limestone cliffs.
Where to Stay in Skopelos – We had a delightful experience at the Skopelos Holidays Hotel & Spa, a 5-star hotel located in the main town of Skopelos. It offered breathtaking views of the hills and bay, providing a serene and comfortable retreat.
How to Get to Skopelos – Ferries depart from Thessaloniki and Volos on mainland Greece to Skopelos. There are also frequent ferries from Skiathos. Consider combining a trip to Skiathos, Pelion, and Skopelos for an unforgettable Greek adventure.
While Greek islands are often associated with Greece's best beaches, Costa Navarino in the southwest corner of the Peloponnese region on mainland Greece rivals them all. Nestled on the crystal-clear waters of the Ionian Sea in Messinia, this hidden gem remains relatively undiscovered by tourists.
Messinia is a delightful destination in its own right, with its luxury resorts, olive groves, and picturesque villages. It is one of our favorite places to visit in Greece. While many people are familiar with the ancient ruins of Athens, the city of Messene in the Peloponnese region is equally awe-inspiring, yet attracts fewer tourists. For more information on Costa Navarino, check out this comprehensive guide: The Ultimate Guide to Costa Navarino, Greece.
Where to Stay in Costa Navarino
For a remarkable stay in Costa Navarino, we recommend The Westin Costa Navarino Resort. This luxurious resort offers exceptional amenities and services, ensuring a memorable vacation.
How to Get to Costa Navarino – Costa Navarino is approximately a 3-hour drive from Athens. We elected to rent a car from Athens, which provided us with the freedom to explore the historical sites at our own pace.
This drone shot of Voidokilia Beach captures its captivating beauty. Situated not far from Costa Navarino, Voidokilia Beach is one of the most stunning beaches we have ever encountered. Shaped like the Greek letter Omega, this beach has a legendary history, appearing in Homer's Odyssey and associated with King Nestor, ancient king of Pylos. Interested in learning more about Costa Navarino and Voidokilia Beach? Feel free to explore this comprehensive guide: The Ultimate Guide to Costa Navarino, Greece.
While the Acropolis, Temple of Apollo, and Temple of Poseidon are well-known ancient ruins, few have heard of the ancient city of Messene.
This exceptionally preserved ancient Greek city offers a unique experience for visitors, as it is less crowded compared to other ancient destinations in Greece. Messene features an awe-inspiring ancient stadium that can be explored without the crowds. It endured numerous sieges by both the Macedonians and Spartans, forming a significant part of Greek history.
We found Messene to be one of our favorite destinations in Greece. We savored the opportunity to explore the Hellenistic agora, theater, and stadium with nobody else around. If you're visiting Costa Navarino, don't miss the chance to add the Ancient City of Messene to your Greek travel list.
Where to Stay in Messene – Although we stayed at the Westin Costa Navarino and took a day trip to Messene, there are plenty of accommodation options nearby. You can browse them all on TripAdvisor: browse them all here on TripAdvisor.
As the capital city of Messinia, Kalamata is a charming port city that holds great appeal for theater and arts enthusiasts. The Castle of Isabeau is a prominent attraction that offers panoramic views of the entire city. Kalamata hosts the International Dance Festival annually.
This monumental amphitheater showcases a captivating blend of Venetian and Turkish architectural influences, a testament to the city's storied past. Visitors can also immerse themselves in the local culture by exploring the varied museums found throughout the city. Take your time and savor the rich cultural experiences that Kalamata has to offer.
Mount Olympus National Park
We had the incredible opportunity to hike Mount Olympus, and the experience was even more awe-inspiring than we had imagined. Located in Thessaly, Mount Olympus stands tall at 2,917 meters (9,570 feet) and offers unparalleled natural beauty. Navigating through waterfalls and dense forests, this mythical mountain feels like a world apart from civilization.
Even if you can only climb a portion of the Mountain of the Gods, we highly recommend it. Begin your journey at the nearby town of Litochoro, specifically at the Prionia trailhead. It offers a wonderful day trip in Greece. For aficionados of ancient Greek mythology, witnessing Mount Olympus with your own eyes is an absolute must.
How to Get to Mount Olympus – As you might expect, we believe the best way to explore Greece is by car, which is why we highly recommend renting one. However, public buses from Thessaloniki and Athens are available to reach Mount Olympus.
How to Get to Messene – A journey by bus from Athens takes approximately 3 1/2 hours. Buses also operate from Kalamata, and day tours to Messene are organized by Costa Navarino.
Known as the Knights' Island, Rhodes is a captivating Greek island situated on the Aegean Sea. It is steeped in history and natural beauty, boasting a rich legacy that dates back to prehistoric times. A visit to Rhodes promises an ideal blend of historical exploration and breathtaking scenery. The medieval town of Rhodes and its ancient ruins make it one of the best islands in Greece for history enthusiasts.
Rhodes offers iconic attractions such as the Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes Old Town, the Palace of the Grand Master, and the picturesque Lindos Beach, also known as Limanaki Agios Pavlos. This island played a significant role in the Trojan War of 1184 BC, involving the Dorians. Withstanding centuries of earthquakes and wars, it remains one of the most captivating destinations in Greece. For further information on Greek islands, check out this article: 21 Best Greek Islands to Visit In 2023.
How to Get to Rhodes – The airport on Rhodes is one of Greece's busiest, with regular flights connecting the island to various destinations. Additionally, there are frequent ferries available from Athens' Piraeus port to Rhodes.
The Athens Riviera is an excellent alternative for those visiting Athens who are unable to embark on island hopping journeys. Located just a short drive from the city, the Athens Riviera offers a delightful stretch of coastline for a rejuvenating getaway. You can opt for a taxi or car rental to get from Athens to the Riviera. We stayed at the Vincci Ever Eden Hotel, which offered discounted transfers from Athens International Airport.
Where Should You Go in Greece for the First Time?
When planning your first trip to Greece, we recommend starting in Athens. Spend three days exploring the ancient ruins, including the iconic Acropolis, and visit the National Archaeological Museum. You can also experience the vibrant nightlife that Athens has to offer. Once you have familiarized yourself with Athens, consider visiting the picturesque islands of Santorini, Mykonos, or Crete to get a taste of the Greek Islands.
More Top Greece Destinations
There are numerous incredible places to discover in Greece, making it difficult to create a list of just 15. Here are a few additional spots to consider adding to your itinerary:
Located near the country of Turkey, Lesvos (or Lesbos) is a captivating island in the North Aegean that shouldn't be missed. With a variety of attractions and activities, you can easily spend five days exploring Lesvos. This island, being the third largest in Greece, offers a more secluded experience away from the crowds. From the pottery-filled mountain village of Agiasos to the scenic coastal town of Petra and the neoclassical capital of Mytilene, Lesvos offers a diverse range of destinations to explore. Adventure-seekers can also enjoy activities such as sailing and scuba diving with professional companies like Lesvos Scuba Oceanic Center and Alternative Sailing.
Mykonos is an island that definitely deserves a spot on your Greece itinerary. Known for its iconic whitewashed blue-roofed homes, this Cyclades island offers a mix of exciting nightlife and relaxed charm. Whether you're looking to enjoy the vibrant parties or explore the charming narrow streets, alleyways, and interesting museums, Mykonos has something for everyone. Don't miss the opportunity to witness stunning sunsets and indulge in wine-tasting tours. Even if you're not a partier, you'll find plenty to enjoy on this enchanting island.
Located in the Cyclades, Paros is another stunning destination in Greece. With its breathtaking landscapes, fertile valleys, and rolling hills, Paros offers a quieter and more affordable alternative to the bustling crowds of Mykonos. Explore monasteries, medieval ruins, picturesque villages, and enjoy the azure blue waters. Consider visiting Paros to experience a similar atmosphere to Mykonos from 20 years ago. This charming island offers a wide range of activities to keep you entertained.
How to Get Around Greece
Knowing about the beautiful destinations in Greece is just the first step. Getting around the country requires some planning. Greece is divided into six main island groups, in addition to mainland Greece. Flying to Athens is a convenient option, as you can easily connect to various destinations within Greece. Alternatively, island hopping by ferry offers a more comfortable and affordable experience. From Athens, there are eight different ports where you can take a ferry directly to islands such as Santorini, Mykonos, Paros, and Heraklion in Crete. You can find ferry times, routes, and prices on our website.
In a country as rich in history and beauty as Greece, choosing just one destination for your first visit can be a daunting task. From the iconic ruins of Athens to the idyllic beaches of Santorini and the rugged charm of Crete, the choices seem endless. But fear not, fellow travelers, for we have carefully curated a list of the best places to visit in Greece. Whether you're seeking cultural immersion, breathtaking landscapes, or simply a relaxing beach vacation, Greece has it all. So pack your bags, embark on this Mediterranean adventure, and let the beauty of Greece unfold before your eyes.
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