Sometimes countries simply don’t live up to the picture on the postcard. Sometimes places become overdone and tired. But “sometimes” doesn’t affect Greece.
Greece continues to preserve and showcase its incredible history as the birthplace of modern civilization. Furthermore, its charming islands remain as captivating as ever.
You’ve seen the pictures, the bougainvilleas awash with white, standing alongside domed churches spliced by narrow streets. It’s all placed precariously above azure seas. A place where the view of the town is as good as the one stemming from it.
Map of Places to Visit in Greece
The romanticism is rich. But the history of Greece takes it a step further. From Athens and Olympia to Meteora and Delphi, there’s no escaping it. And nor would you want to.
With the wealth of amazing places to visit in Greece, Europe’s top travel destinations lives up to its reputation. However, as you’ll see, there are still plenty of stunning destinations to discover.
As the largest island in the Cyclades, there’s much to discover on Naxos. Its interiors boast mountainous scenery dotted by lovely villages. As the altitude lowers, larger townships harbor rich history and pave the way to a gorgeous coastline and head-turning beaches.
The hikers among us will have an itch to stretch their legs and can do so with a trek to the summit of Mount Zas. As you savor the panoramic views at the peak, you’ll also be standing on the birthplace of Zeus.
In Naxos Town, you can explore a 13th century Venetian castle that protected the island from pirates. There are several other towns to explore, including the traditional Apeiranthos village and Filoti.
Whatever you decide, you must capture the sunset at ancient Portara, whose stone gateway from 500BC is like a portal into the gorgeous sunset.
In the Macedonian region of northern Greece, Thessaloniki is a hub of culture. Spread throughout the nation’s second-largest city are exciting festivals and a nightlife that thrills into the early hours.
The old and the new collide gracefully here in Thessaloniki. The modern districts have evolved around the sightly old town. Byzantine walls, the renowned White Tower and revitalizing Turkish baths showcase the city’s ancient past. In the case of the White Tower, it reaches over 30 meters tall along the waterfront.
On the other hand, there is a strong sense of community that spreads through the local (and colorful) food markets. Thessaloniki is celebrated as a foodie hub and one of the best spots in Greece for local cuisine. This is boosted by regional history with flavors stemming from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman eras.
The good vibes make their way into the afternoon tavernas and eventually Thessaloniki’s breadth of nightclubs and live venues.
Over two dozen beaches line the coast of Zakynthos, in the Ionian Islands. Navagio Beach, aka Shipwreck Cove, is one of the most photographed in Greece. And for good reason. Its marble white cliffs rise out of the ivory sands, providing a warm hug as you soak in the views of the turquoise sea.
This is just a taste of the wider island. Zakynthos’ craggy coastline is in contrast to many Greek islands. Most beaches are found in secluded alcoves, creating a unique experience for all travelers exacerbated by the lingering Caretta caretta turtles.
Further inland are hilltop villages where you can find traditional monasteries. As the sun goes down, head towards Laganas, where you’ll find out why Zakynthos is garnering rep as a nightlife hub.
As the birthplace of the Olympic Games, Olympia harbors worldwide significance. The town is shrouded in history and mythology, becoming the stuff of legends once the games resumed after 1,500 years.
In the Peloponnese, the original games began in Olympia and became its connection to Zeus. For a millennium, it brought the Greeks together and is now entirely enshrined as a World Heritage Site.
Once Greece fell under the rule of Roman Emperor Theodosius I, the Olympics ended. These grounds lay dormant for centuries until they were re-discovered in the 1700s. Today, you can explore Olympia and be taken back on a remarkable journey that connects the original games with the modern era.
Highlights include the Temple of Hera, which inspired the Olympic flame, the Temple of Zeus and, of course, the ancient stadium.
Rich in ambiance, delectable cuisine and indigo harbors, Milos is a sensory nirvana. Set in the volcanic Cyclades Islands, Milos boasts an authentic charm thanks to its timeless aura.
Life here is laid back. Azure bays feature as many local fishing boats as they do opulent seafarers. This leads to colorful villages that provide warm welcomes and, naturally, some amazing restaurants.
On Milos, your mornings can begin by walking the quiet streets towards the sea. Here you’ll find colorful fishing villages that have been transformed into waterfront accommodations.
Later, complete your wake up with a dip in Sarakiniko beach that’s surrounded by glistening white volcanic rock and crystalline sea. If you’re up for it, jump off the cliffs or explore nearby caves.
Your afternoons can be spent sailing around Milos, which feels as if you’re floating on a cloud. Or you can explore the island’s ancient catacombs or discover the ruins of the island’s marble theater.
12. Vikos Gorge
Just outside of Monodendri, Vikos Gorge is an unspoiled gem. Its remote location and thus absence of human influence has led to one of Europe’s most biodiverse landscapes. It’s home to the exceedingly rare Epirus, along with over 100 bird species, butterflies and an abundance of fish.
This all combines to create a rich living environment that elevates what is already the world’s deepest gorge. The deep division of the earth is almost biblical. Despite all of this, it remains a criminally underrated destination.
Viewpoints of the gorge are set throughout and your photos are made even more majestic by the surrounding peaks. When the water runs low, you can head down into the gorge to explore a place few have been before you. It’s here you can get up close to the electric blue water and nature that runs orange and burgundy in the autumn.
Halkidiki is a trident-like peninsula near the city of Thessaloniki, sporting excellent beaches. The three separate peninsulas can be roughly summarized as follows: Kassandra has the nightlife, Sithonia has the beaches and Athos has the monks.
Being closest to Thessaloniki, Kassandra is more built-up, while the more quiet Sithonia has campgrounds, hidden coves and clear waters. Both are popular with Greek and Eastern European tourists.
In Sithonia, you’ll find an array of bright white beaches where days can wash away under the warm Greek sun. The boats that linger offshore tempt you to sign up for a boat day, so you stick around a little longer.
At night, you can explore the vibrant headland of Kassandra. Here you’ll find a collection of great waterfront restaurants with fresh seafood and northern cuisine, plus some fun nightlife. But don’t go too hard, the third section is Athos.
This traditional region is home to the Mount Athos monastic community, one of the three most important in Greece. It’s accessible by boat and open to male pilgrims only.
In the Cyclades Islands, Mykonos looks out to the vibrant Aegean Sea. It’s long been a stronghold of younger backpackers seeking that mix of eye-catching landscapes and plenty of after-hour shenanigans.
But there’s a reason for all of this. Regardless of your age, there’s still an abundance of reasons to visit. Mykonos Town is, after all, one of the most beautiful towns on the Greek islands with it’s white washed buildings and maze-like streets.
The famous golden sands of Mykonos are ever-welcoming. The crystal clear azure seas wash over you. From the water, you can gaze back on the townships laden with traditional Greek architecture and the horde of white that shines even brighter under the open sky.
Taking in the local cuisine, the tavernas, and waterfront bars are what attract most travelers to Mykonos. But the nearby island of Delos provides a contrast. Here you’ll find an archaeological site preserving the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo.
Romance and Nafplio go hand in hand. Honeymooners flock to Santorini, that we understand. But for couples seeking unfettered beauty, Nafplio must be added to the menu.
In the Peloponnese, Nafplio was Greece’s first capital. Understandably, there’s architecture, layers of history, ample culture and now, a laid back atmosphere.
Atop the hills stand medieval castles. These are encased in stunning bougainvilleas that mix in with Byzantine churches, Turkish mosques and fountains and “newer” neoclassical structures. These flow out towards the glimmering water and you can explore them down a narrow maze of cobbled streets.
Along with being great for romantic walks, it’s easy to get around Nafplio on a bike. Traditional tavernas line the streets and with a touch of wine from the nearby Nemea region, it’s the perfect end to your day.
The history in Greece never stops, and Delphi is just another example. But this town, close to the Gulf of Corinth, is different than most.
Located about two and half hours from Athens, Delphi was once revered by the ancient Greeks as the center of the earth. An important oracle, pilgrims and even kings would come from all over the country and trek up the slopes of the awe-inspiring Mount Parnassus.
It was here they would sit and listen to the Oracle of Delphi and the priestess of Apollo. These words remained etched in the timeline of Greece and today, you can discover the amazing remains of this place.
The centerpiece of the Temple of Apollo remains standing thousands of years later. Surrounded by mountains and deep valleys, it’s an incredibly moving sight. Add on the nearby stadium and a theater, the Athenian Treasury, and Delphi encapsulates the beauty of ancient Greece.
In the Ionian Sea, Corfu is a brilliant blend of Venetian influence and Mediterranean sun. The island is flush with green scenery; the beaches are lined with swaying pines and historic sites lay throughout.
Through Corfu’s Old Town, you’ll find the influence of Venetian cuisine and the 19th century French rule, which led to the creation of the lively Liston. This is a pedestrian street laden with amazing restaurants along with the largest town square in the country.
Afterwards, head over the water via a bridge to Vlacherna Monastery. On its own isle, the monastery is a small whitewashed structure built in the 1600s. This unique site is rivaled by Palaio Frourio, a historic Venetian fortress.
Days spent on your feet exploring and working off the pasta are rewarded by relaxing beach days. Rovinia and Acharavi are the two top options. The former with wondrous landscapes, azure seas, and pebble beaches. While Archaravi’s calm, shallow waters are the perfect place to lie back and simply float.
Enveloped in peaceful nature and the deep blue waters of the Saronic Gulf, Epidaurus is picturesque from the get go. The town is somewhat remote, especially in ancient times, when Epidaurus blossomed as a hub for progressive medicine.
Epidaurus’ amazingly well-preserved theater dates back to 330 BC and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of medicine. At its height, captivating performances would take place and be watched by the patients at the town’s healing center. Tradition rolls on today, with the ancient theater hosting plays through the summer.
When you aren’t taking in the history and splendor, discover the Palaia Epidavros aka the Old Town. The streets guide you down the waterfront, where yachts float on the sea and local tavernas are rife with activity.
The islands off the coast of the mainland receive much adoration. But Meteora offers plenty of reasons to halt your ventures across the Aegean.
This northern town is one of the most unique places to visit in Greece. Here you’ll find the captivating Pindus Mountains where the soaring rock faces create an otherworldly landscape. At its heart is the UNESCO World Heritage Meteora Monasteries.
They were built between the 14th and 16th centuries and the monasteries are set on the precipice of these rock faces. Such are the surroundings, it’s no wonder why settlers felt such a call from God.
Back in the Ottoman era, monks, seeking freedom from religious persecution, would climb ladders and ropes to the monasteries. However, all you’ll have to do is follow a carved path towards the heavens. Great Meteora is the largest and along with its history, offers unforgettable vistas.
Encapsulating all that is good about the Greek Islands, Rhodes is the perfect alternative to Santorini (if you can’t visit both). With its own acropolis, whitewashed homes and domed churches, 300 days of sunshine and mouthwatering cuisine, Rhodes ticks all the proverbial boxes.
All travelers are locked in an elaborate dance with the weather gods throughout their trips. But when in Rhodes, you can all but bank on having a sunny day. Known as the Island of the Sun, you can bathe by the sea and set your watch to the vibrant sunsets.
When you aren’t working on your tan, explore Rhodes’ Old Town. One of the oldest still-inhabited towns in Europe, the streets tell the tales of Italian and Turkish rule. Cobbled streets lead to mosques, chapels and public baths as old as time.
The food here is sumptuous and is matched by the island’s renowned wine. Both combine to top off the day, getting you more excited to explore in the ‘morrow.
One of Greece’s best islands, Crete, is surrounded by heavenly beaches. The golden (and sometimes pink) sands are lapped by turquoise seas and awash you with an immense sense of calm. There are, in fact, some 300 beaches to choose from, including the beloved Elafonissi, Balos and Preveli.
Beyond the beaches are classically gorgeous villages, small towns and dainty cities. The old town of Chania brings you back to the Venetian heyday. In addition, Agios Nikolaos provides a genuine glimpse into the life of locals.
Steeped in history, Crete still bears archaeological traces of the many civilizations that inhabited it down through the centuries. It’s also a spacious island of pleasing contrasts where landscapes range from rugged mountains and rolling countryside dotted with olive trees.
Beyond the objective beauty of Crete, is the handy knowledge that it’s the largest of the Greek’s islands and you can still find your own slice of paradise. That is if you avoid Balos Lagoon at peak hours.
Venture further inland to discover Lassithi, where villages stand alongside prominent archaeological sites and are surrounded by the windmill-laden plateau.
Inhabited for more than 3,000 years, Athens is widely known as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy. The city presents a confusing blend of historical and modern features. Much has changed since classical times but for us travelers, it’s a chance to see the city as it was.
History abounds throughout Athens and it’s everywhere you look. It took over 700 years to complete the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It’s the largest in Greece and, just like the Parthenon, enough of the enormous columns remain to provide an incredible picture.
Afterwards, follow the footsteps of Socrates and see the Agora. This was the center of Athen’s civic life, where democracy first took flight. But perhaps the city’s best symbol of its past is the Acropolis and its insightful museum.
With its past discovered, it’s time to return to the 21st century. Athens has a burgeoning coffee scene and a youth movement that has shifted the city’s culture for the better. This can be seen in its many cafes, its lively neighborhoods, its fresh galleries and events from outdoor cinemas to the Monastiraki Flea Market.
Travelers arriving from the water will enjoy the marvelous slow-burn of getting ever-closer to the beauty of Santorini. Vast cliffs roll out of the azure sea and are topped by a delectable spread of whitewashed buildings.
It’s an incredible sight and one that spurs you to explore the alleys that snake through the island’s towns like a thrilling maze. The fact that they all stand on the remains of a volcanic eruption makes the visual even more memorable. But there are many parts to Santorini. There are enchanting beaches, towns straddling the cliffside, captivating ruins and even countryside burned by lava flow.
The good news is, such is the size of Santorini, much can be done in a day. Fira, the island’s main town, is a veritable Greek fantasy. Traditional whitewashed buildings topped with accents of bougainvillea house amazing views, food and nightlife.
For history, you can’t pass up a visit to the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, ancient Thira and, later, Akrotiri. The latter shares similarities to Pompeii.
Plan Your Trip
- 5 Best Day Tours in Greece
- 4 Days in Greece: Classical Greece Tour from Athens
- 10 Days in Greece: Athens, Mykonos and Santorini
- How to Spend One Week in Greece: DIY Itinerary
- How to Spend 1 Week Island Hopping in Greece