Today (August 13, 2018): Top 10 best things to see & do in Greece.
Known for its plethora of archeological sites, whitewashed villages, fabulous beaches, mouth-watering cuisine and welcoming atmosphere, it is no wonder that Greece – the birthplace of democracy – ranks among the world’s premier-league travel destinations. The sun-kissed Mediterranean country is made up of a mountainous mainland and 6,000 idyllic islands and islets dotting the blue Aegean and Ionian Seas – though only 227 of them are inhabited. If you haven’t yet been to Greece, here are 10 reasons why I think everyone should visit Greece at least once in their life! With so many things to do in Greece, you’ll never be left wanting.
There is more information below the slideshow. Think I missed one? Share your favorite spot in Greece in the comments section, or take my poll below.
There are more than 6,000 islands scattered in the sea surrounding the Greek mainland, so one might rightly wonder why Skopelos made it into my top 10 list, a not very well-known island in the Northern Sporades? Because a trip to this idyllic location is about enjoying a world which moves at a different pace, as the island has preserved much of its laid-back traditional island ambience, contrary to a lot of the other Greek islands. Skopelos is the greenest island in Greece with more than two third of its territory covered with virgin pine forest. The supremacy of the eye-catching green landscape is only interrupted by aquamarine crystalline waters on golden coasts and the whitewashed villages built in traditional Pelion architecture. The island enjoyed international acclaim when Hollywood producers chose it to shoot the famous movie “Mamma Mia”, establishing the island as a holiday destination for tourists from all over the world. The exact location where the movie was filmed is the rock where Agios Ioannis church is situated.
A must-visit when in Greece, the Acropolis is the greatest and finest sanctuary of ancient Athens, dedicated primarily to its patron, the goddess Athena. Dating back to the 5th century BC, the Acropolis dominates the center of the modern city from its position on a rocky crag. The most celebrated myths of ancient Athens, its greatest religious festivals, earliest cults and several decisive events in the city’s history are all connected to this sacred precinct. The Acropolis’ monuments are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization and form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world: the iconic Parthenon, which was built by Ictinus; the Erechtheon which is famous for its six massive female statues or Caryatids; the Propylaea which forms the monumental entrance to the Acropolis; and the small temple Athena Nike. Don’t forget to visit the Acropolis Museum down the hill, which is devoted to the Parthenon and consistently ranks among the best museums in the world.
Unlike the rest of Greece, the lovely island of Corfu in the Adriatic Sea never fell under the Ottoman oppression. Due to the successive dominations of the Venetians, the French and the British over the centuries, the island has primarily become part of the Western rather the Levantine world. Their culture wielded strong influence in the city: it was here that the first Greek University (the Ionian Academy), the first Philharmonic Orchestra and the First School of Fine Arts were founded. Today, the island invites travelers from all over the world to explore its lush scenery, bountiful produce and pristine beaches. Corfu’s top attraction is the beautifully preserved Old Town, a UNESCO world heritage site, where palaces, fortresses, austere public buildings of the Venetian rule uniquely blend with lines of drying washing in tiny alleyways and small secluded squares. Strolling through the complex of narrow cobbled streets with stairways and vaulted passages, the so-called “kantounia”, will throw you back in time.
- Suggested hotels: Angsana Corfu
Balanced on massive detached stone pinnacles 400 m (1300 ft) above the ground, Metéora is a breathtaking site of impressive monasteries, representing one of Christianity’s holiest places as well as a landscape of breathtaking natural beauty. In this region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks, monks settled on these ‘columns of the sky’ from the 11th century onwards, trying to flee the invading Turkish army. Twenty-four of these monasteries were built, despite incredible difficulties, at the time of the great revival of the eremetic ideal in the 15th century. Today, only six of them remain and can be visited. Thousands of tourists flock to this place every year, attracted by the daunting size of the rock formations where timelessness and beauty prevail, to feel the aura of the contemplative seclusion of monastic life, and to marvel at the outstanding architecture of the monasteries.
Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest one in the Mediterranean Sea. Here, you can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations, explore glorious beaches & fertile valleys, and become part of the island’s rich gastronomic culture. Due to its geographical position between Africa, Europe, and Asia and due to its mild climate, the island has been a center of culture as early as Neolithic times. The island is also the birthplace of the first advanced society on European soil, the Minoans, who ruled some 4000 years ago, and you’ll find evocative vestiges all over, including the famous Palace of Knossos. But if there is one thing you need to do when visiting Crete, it is a hike through the mighty Samaria Gorge, the longest gorge in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe. The 16 km (10 mi) downhill trek descends 1,230 meters (4,035 ft) from the island’s rocky crests to the turquoise waters of the Libyan Sea. It’s best tackled with an early start as this is a hike that takes at least half a day and is best done in the shade. The scenery and views en route are phenomenal and well worth the efforts.
- Suggested hotels: Amirandes Grecotel Exclusive Resort and Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Elounda
Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese islands – near Turkey – and deservedly among the most visited of all Greek islands. With its bright green hills, lush valleys and almost uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is an ideal holiday spot not only for those who want to relax but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday. The main reason why you should put Rhodes on your bucketlist are the island’s two star attraction, the ravishing hillside village of Líndhos with its ancient acropolis, and especially the magnificent medieval Old Town that lies at the heart of its capital, Rhodes Town. A UNESCO World Heritage since 1988, the Old Town is a legacy of the crusaders of the Order of St John, who arrived here after they had lost their last stronghold in Palestine in 1291. They transformed the island capital into a fortified city able to withstand sieges until 1522, after which it came under Turkish and Italian rule. With the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Great Hospital and the Street of the Knights, the Upper Town is one of the most beautiful urban ensembles of the Gothic period. In the Lower Town, Gothic architecture coexists with mosques, public baths and other buildings dating from the Ottoman period.
- Suggested hotels: Lindos Blu
Greece has the eleventh longest coastline in the world – almost 16.000km (10,000 miles)! Half of the aforementioned length includes the thousands of Greek islands scattered through the sea, with the rest extending along the mainland. The Greek shores are world-famous for their crystal clean and clear waters, as well as for their unique diversity, with a choice of sheltered bays and coves, golden stretches of sand with dunes, pebble beaches, coastal caves with steep rocks and dark sand typical of volcanic soil. With all those beaches on offer, selecting the best beach in Greece is no easy task, but my personal favorite is Navagio beach, an isolated yet strikingly beautiful sandy cove on the Greek island of Zakynthos. It is often referred to as the Shipwreck Beach because it is home to the wreck of a ship called Panagiotis that is believed to have been a smugglers ship.The area is defined by its sheer limestone cliffs, white sand beaches, and clear blue water, which attract thousands of tourists yearly. The strip of beach is accessed only by boat, but you can see it from above if you stand on the high side of the cliffs that overlook it.
- Suggested hotels: Porto Zante
- Other accolades: Navagio beach in Zakynthos features in my top 10 list of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Although mainland Greece is unexplored to a certain degree, it harbors one of the world’s most exclusive hotels: Amanzoe. A breathtakingly modern take of the Acropolis that would have made the Greek Gods proud, the hotel is situated on a hilltop close to the quaint town of Porto Heli, boasting panoramic views of the Peloponnese countryside, the glittering tranquil sea, centuries old olive groves, and the awe-inspiring mountains. The property is located within easy reach of a wealth of archaeological sites and the cosmopolitan island of Spetses. Designed by quintessential Aman architect, the legendary Ed Tuttle, this exclusive haven of unsurpassed beauty has quickly become the Mediterranean playground of those in the know. Classically inspired yet sleekly contemporary, Amanzoe’s Pavilions and Villas open to expansive private terraces, creating a seamless extension of the airy interiors and an unrivalled sense of space and seclusion. A stone’s throw away, the Amanzoe beach club comes with two lap pools and two children’s pools and provides fun and games in total privacy by the water.
- Hotel website: Amanzoe
- Other accolades: Amanzoe also features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Greece, Europe’s most astonishing beach retreats and my favorite Aman resorts in the world.
- Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking Amanzoe via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, early check-in, late check-out, daily breakfast, and one lunch for 2).
- Review: read my review of Amanzoe here.
According to mythology, Greece’s most famous cosmopolitan island was formed from the petrified bodies of giants killed by Hercules and took its name from Apollo’s grandson, Mykonos. With its traditional whitewashed houses, iconic windmills, and cobblestoned mazy alleyways, the postcard-worthy island villages and especially the capital Chora (better known as Mykonos Town) devotedly preserve their authentic Cycladic character. Mykonos is mainly known for its party lifestyle next to none, its LGBT welcoming ambience, and its many beautiful but crowded beaches, among the most sought after in the Mediterranean Sea. The indescribable magic of this island has also attracted the rich and famous since the 70s, when the first luxurious yachts started crowding the almost primitive at the time marina. Since then, this fine Aegean gem has maintained intact its upscale status, glamour and fame through time, with hip new hotels, beach bars and restaurants mushrooming year after year. Try to visit Mykonos out of season, otherwise you’ll have to share the island’s beauty with cashed-up A-listers and partygoers.
- Suggested hotels: Kivotos Mykonos, Bill & Coo Mykonos, Belvedere Hotel, and Myconian Ambassador Relais & Chateaux Hotel
Arguably Greece’s most spectacular island, Santorini came into existence as a result of intensive volcanic eruptions causing the collapse of a mega volcano’s central part, hereby creating a large crater (caldera). The island inspires every visitor because of its magnificent landscapes with blue domed chapels and whitewashed houses perched on black volcanic cliffs, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful shimmering Aegean waters. Santorini is the most sought after place for a romantic getaway in Greece, and enjoys a growing reputation as a wedding destination for couples from all over the world. Unfortunately, thanks to its unique beauty, Santorini endures hordes of visitors during summer, when roads are blocked, restaurants are full and prices soar. While spring is a lovely time to visit, particularly for the wild flowers, the sea has yet to warm up enough for all but the bravest. This is why I suggest to visit the island in October, when there are no crowds, the water is warm, the weather mild … and there’s wine to be tasted.
- Other accolades: Santorini features in my top 10 lists of the most scenic island in the world and the world’s best sunset spots.
- Suggested hotels: Canaves Oia Suites, Grace Santorini, Mystique, Perivolas, and Katikies.