Though not every traveler stops in Athens, maybe they should. The Greek capital is dusty, crowded and–during much of the year–hot, but it’s a crazy, wonderful feeling to stride through the lanes that lead up to the Parthenon, to seek out a gyros in the afternoon after wandering through millenia worth of antiquities, and to meet the modern-day urban dwellers who now live where European civilization arguably began. Let your holidays to Greece begin in Athens!
Top attractions in Athens are the Acropolis (of course), the Roman forums, the National Archeological Museum, and the Byzantine Museum.
After sampling the capital, move on to the islands. Let the stresses of your day-to-day ebb away in the warm twilight of a Santorini sunset. Even if you’ve never registered where Santorini is, you’ve definitely caught sight of the striking white-and-blue painted buildings popular in the archipelago. The town of Oia has some of the best blue-and-white, domed architecture on Santorini. Santorini’s dramatic, curving bay is the result of a long-ago volcano, whose edges crumbled until the sea crept into the caldera. This created a natural harbor, which aided the residents of Santorini in fishing and in warfare. Some historians theorize that the massive blast of the volcano erupting, the resulting ash cloud and the missing side of the caldera, together gave rise to the myth of Atlantis. Whether it’s the fabled missing land or not, I don’t know, but I would love to spend a week or two exploring this beautiful island.
Other than the seascapes and dual-tone architecture, Santorini’s top attractions are its ancient ruins and its fresh produce made into yummy farm-to-table cuisine.
You could spend your whole vacation in just one of these Greek destinations, as we mentioned in our recent post on discovering Crete. The largest of the Greek isles, Crete has a big range of activities. A popular place for families traveling with kids and with honeymooners, Crete has options to suit just about every budget. It’s also one of the easier islands to get to, with flights from Athens and ferries both from the other Greek Islands and from the Greek and Italian mainlands.
On Crete, seek out the Venetian fortress and the Lychnostatis Museum, but save some time for the beach!
Interested in mainland towns other than Athens? Parga is a good bet for travelers interested in castles, beaches and being slightly farther away from other tourists. Though all of Greece makes it on the tourist map–how can somewhere that’s had civilization for thousands of years really have anywhere “off the beaten track?”–Parga doesn’t have modernized tourism to the same degree that you’ll find, for example, on Crete or Santorini.
Parga’s main attractions are the old fortress on the hill and Ali Pasha’s Castle. Getting to Parga is easiest by road along the coast coastal town or by ferry from Corfu.
Another place to see the blue-and-white architecture of the Greek isles sparkling in the sun, Mykonos also has a reputation for being fun after sunset. One of the most-often-cited islands in Greece to go to for nightlife, Mykonos balances being small enough to offer chilled-out days with being large enough–and popular enough–to support an awesome party scene. However, off the beaten track it’s not–cruise ships stop here, and in high season some websites report that the town sees 15,000 visitors in just a single day. If you enjoy that certain kind of fun energy found in a tourist hot spot, then Mykonos is the place for you.
Other than partying and people-watching, visitors in Mykonos usually enjoy the Agean Maritime Museum, the island’s 16th-century windmills, or the spectacular Byzantine church of Panagia Paraportiani.
I’m no oracle, but I predict you’ll love Delphi. It’s possible to do Delphi as a day trip from Athens, but if you’re into Greek mythology or ancient history in general, it’s worth sticking around for a few days to really understand the area. It’s located on Mount Parnassus, and so gets chillier in the winter months than the Greek islands or coastal regions do–you’ll even see snow and skiiers here!
In myth, Delphi was the navel of Gaia, Mother Earth. It was also the home of an oracle, and, later, a holy site dedicated to the sun god, Apollo. You can still visit the ruins of the Temple of Apollo and see more artifacts in the Delphi Archeological Museum.
What’s your favorite place in Greece?
Hi! I’m Beth. Thanks for visiting Everyday Travel Stories, a site that celebrates all of the glorious travel opportunities on our planet.