Crystal clear waters and hidden coves, blue-domed churches and whitewashed homes, windmills and ancient archeological finds. This is the Greece we’ve all heard about and long for…images we’ve gathered in our minds from movies, magazines, and jet-setter friends who make us green with envy.
Greece is all these things and more, from the mainland to the islands. It’s brimming with old-world beauty, friendly locals, and the best food imaginable. Even for the most well-heeled travelers, it is a destination worthy of their bucket lists.
Let’s start with what most will consider must-see sites on their first visit – Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. These are the Greek names that are most familiar on our tongues, and despite their well-earned reputations as tourist hotspots, they are truly spectacular and worthy of exploration.
Athens is the point of entry for most travelers, as its Eleftherios Venizelos Airport connects many of the major cities in Europe and the U.S. Admittedly, you’ll arrive rumpled and bleary-eyed after a long overnight journey, but as views of the Acropolis come into your line of sight along the way into the city center, your excitement will build and curiosity will take over. Athens is both old and new at once and straddles this dichotomy beautifully. Walking through the ancient narrow lanes of the Plaka with the smell of fresh bread and sunbaked stone in your nostrils, you’ll also be accompanied by the busy sounds of construction as the city continues to grow and thrive all around you.
You’ll want to hit the well-known sites such as the Acropolis and its stellar museum, the ancient Agora, Temple of Zeus, Syntagma Square, and the Panathenaic Stadium, as well as make time for some leisurely shopping and dining in the Plaka. But be sure to slow down long enough to enjoy the city’s rich local culture. Wander the quieter streets of the Anafiotika neighborhood, adjacent to the Plaka but worlds away by experience. Visit the Psiri district for some truly amazing local food. Spend an evening combing through a local “laiki” farmer’s market, or an entire day hiking through Parnitha National Park and exploring the ruins of the former Tatoi Royal Palace.
In direct contrast to ancient Athens, the island of Mykonos is the modern party hotspot of the sunny Cycladic islands. Accessible by a short flight or ferry ride, this island almost throbs with activity and youth. Numerous chic hotels hug the many coves around the coastline, and guests can enjoy soaking up the sun while sipping cocktails at the swanky beach clubs. Scorpios, the most well-known nightlife venue, is found just south of Mykonos town on a jutting peninsula. Here, the music pulses long into the night as tourists and locals alike dance their hearts out under the lanterns swaying in the palm trees. But don’t be fooled – Mykonos offers more than just beaches and partying. The old port town is crammed with charming shops full of handmade goods, and its cobbled lanes offer some of the most photographed scenes in the Mediterranean. The island of Delos, just offshore, offers a unique archeological experience that takes just half a day, so you can invest in some education AND relaxation all in one day!
By now you are beginning to understand why so many travelers have Greece on their bucket list, but peaceful Santorini provides the icing on the cake. This island is one of the most recognizable in the Mediterranean, known for its cliff-side hotels overlooking the stunning caldera, all framed by whitewashed homes and blue-domed chapels.
It’s a peaceful and dreamy island, perfect for couples looking for an escape from reality. While beaches are scarce here, the views are not. Santorini’s entire western coastline forms what is left of an ancient volcanic crater, and its sheer cliffs plunge down into clear cerulean waters dotted with sailboats, catamarans, and cruise ships. Dozens of hotels line the cliff edge, offering bespoke accommodations. Many are true to the island’s history of cave-dwelling and are actually built into the historic caves once occupied by locals. Private pools, sun-drenched terraces, and warm attentive service are the norm here. Santorini is the perfect last stop on your travel through Greece – a serene place to wind down, relax, and recharge before being dragged back to reality.
Greece offers far too much depth of experience to be summed up in a handful of destinations, and certainly more than a few words and images can capture. I’ve done what I can to give you a taste of this lovely corner of the world – it’s up to you to visit and experience it for yourself. I promise you this – it will be well worth the investment of time and money, and it will certainly exceed any expectations you may have set forth!
Rather go off the beaten path? Read more here!
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