Picturesque white-washed villages complete with blue shutters, delicious rustic cuisine, endless sunshine and an enviable local lifestyle; Greece is a destination that holds appeal for every traveller. Thrillseeker, beach bum or anything in between; this country is everyone’s destination.
With a foot firmly planted in the past, as you tour Greece, you’ll observe some of the world’s greatest ancient monuments. Known as the cradle of Western civilisation, Greece was instrumental in the development of the Europe we know today. Modern-day Greece was a late bloomer, this is reflected in its relaxed present with nods to a simpler past that can be found in every crevice of the country.
Greece’s vibrant culture, developed over four millennia, oozes uncontrollably through its fresh, uncomplicated food, its traditions and its people’s zest for life. Stepping into the very ring where the first Olympians competed, beholding the magnitude of ancient Greek cities and admiring the Greek calendar that bursts with cultural pursuits; this is what Greece travel is all about.
Stepping off the history-laden mainland, you’ll have a choice of 168 inhabited Greek islands spread throughout the Aegean and Ionian Seas and split into eight island groups. Crete, the largest of them all, with an undeniable culture of its own, draws in many travellers, similarly Corfu, Kefalonia and Zakynthos are popular holiday spots. The dreamers will head to the Cyclades, with Santorini known for its spectacular sunsets and white-washed towns and Mykonos for its incredible beaches.
No matter where you find yourself in Greece, the warmth of the socially-spirited locals is undeniable. Greece is beholden to delivering a charm, passion and cultural draw that hedonists will adore. This guide to Greece breaks down everything you need to know about this sun-bleached country and will have you booking a trip in no time;
- When Is the Best Time to Visit Greece?
- The 10 Best Places to Visit in Greece
- Step Foot in the Mighty Acropolis & Beyond in Athens
- Climb the Rock-Hewn Steps to the Monasteries of Meteora
- The Islands, Purely for the Food
- Take a Trip to the Centre of the Earth, Delphi
- Hike Through the Longest Gorge in Europe, Samaria Gorge
- Greek Island Hopping the Ionian Islands
- Marvel at One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Olympia
- Island Hopping in the Cyclades
- Visit Greece’s Colourful Second City, Thessaloniki
- Catch a Clifftop Sunset in Santorini
- How to Get Around on Your Greece Vacation
- Where to Stay in Greece
- Places to Eat & Drink in Greece
- Cost of Your Greece Tour
- Festivals & Special Events in Greece
- Regions Tours in Greece
- Customise Your Own Greece Itinerary!
When Is the Best Time to Visit Greece?
Greece’s high season aligns with the European summer, mid-July to the end of August. These months see a huge influx of travellers to Greece’s shores and bring with it raised prices and booked-out restaurants and accommodation. However, the weather and atmosphere are best during these months, so there’s still a reason to visit if you don’t mind crowds.
On the flip side, autumn and winter deliver cooler temperatures, sunny days and considerably fewer crowds. It is worth mentioning that ferry and flight schedules are reduced during these months and often, hotels and restaurants close for the winter in the very touristic places.
The best time to visit Greece is during the shoulder seasons, May to June or September to October. The temperatures will still be high during this time, but you’ll have the luxury of fewer crowds and more opportunities to mingle with the locals.
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The 10 Best Places to Visit in Greece
A country that offers so much from coastal gems to crumbling ancient cities and everything in between, the best places to go in Greece is a never-ending list. But you’re not here to read a book, so here are the ten best places to visit in Greece chosen by Designer Journeys!
Step Foot in the Mighty Acropolis & Beyond in Athens
The birthplace of Western civilisation, Greece’s lands are punctuated by historical ruins almost everywhere you turn. Your ancient Greece fix cannot start anywhere else but Athens and the Acropolis.
Looming over the capital city, crowned by the Parthenon, the Acropolis is one of the most significant historical sites in Greece. When looking for places to visit in Athens, this is where you should start. Being one of the key sites, the Acropolis is easy to visit on a hop-on-hop-off Athens tour. If you’d like to see a little more beyond the capital, this 7-day Greece itinerary includes several day trips from Athens.
One thing is for sure. Once you step inside the very ring where the first modern Olympics were held, you’ll be captivated by Greek history.
Climb the Rock-Hewn Steps to the Monasteries of Meteora
Let your jaw drop as you climb the steps to these breathtaking Byzantine monasteries that sit atop soaring rock pillars.
Dating back to the 14th century, the Meteora Monasteries were once home to monks fleeing persecution who lived in solitude atop these rock monoliths. Back then, the monks used rope ladders to climb to the top before the rock-hewn steps were added. Exploring these monasteries on an ancient Greece tour from Athens to Meteora, you can try and imagine life back then.
The Islands, Purely for the Food
Of course, the pristine beaches and crystal clear waters are a pull, but nothing quite compares to the true delights of this country that can be found on the islands. The Mediterranean diet is known for its farm-fresh produce, aromatic fresh herbs, delicious cheese, the day’s catch of seafood and of course, lashings of olive oil.
Whether you’re in Crete strolling through olive groves, on a Santorini boat tour sipping local wine or cooking with a Greek family in Paros, a Greece food tour is the best way to indulge.
Take a Trip to the Centre of the Earth, Delphi
Considered the centre of the world by the ancient Greeks, when you visit the ancient city of Delphi, it is easy to see why this presumption was made. Set at the foot of Mount Parnassos with a magnificent view of the Gulf of Corinth, Delphi is a spiritually significant historical sanctuary that allows your imagination to soar.
You can acquaint yourself with ancient Greece on this Athens to Delphi tour which stops by numerous historical sights on the mainland.
Hike Through the Longest Gorge in Europe, Samaria Gorge
When in Crete, you’ll need somewhere to work off all of that Greek island overindulgence. Luckily, Crete is home to 400 gorges, including the longest one in Europe and hiking them is a great way to explore the island.
Regarded as a sacred spot to many locals, the Samaria Gorge hike is a challenging six-hour hike complete with jaw-dropping views, pretty villages and plenty of wildlife. Challenge yourself and take on this well-trodden trail on this Greece walking holiday.
Greek Island Hopping the Ionian Islands
Made up of six archipelagos – Corfu, Zakynthos, Lefkada, Kefalonia, Paxi and Ithaki – the Ionian islands sit off the west coast of Greece in the Ionian Sea. The most well-known island, Corfu, is home to a beautiful old town complete with Baroque, Renaissance and classical architecture. Outside of the town, the island charms with lush countryside, dramatic coastlines and green mountains.
If you’re looking to cover multiple Greece holiday destinations, then a tour like this Athens tour to Corfu and Santorini is perfect for you.
Marvel at One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Olympia
Whilst the Parthenon may be impressive for being the place where the first modern Olympics were held, Olympia goes one step further as the original site of the Olympic Games which took place here from 776 BC onwards.
Dedicated to the Greek god, Zeus, Olympia sits in the picturesque valley of the Alpheios River and is one of the most celebrated sanctuaries of ancient Greece. Cover the highlights of the mainland on this Greece holiday package.
Island Hopping in the Cyclades
It’s impossible not to mention this stunning collection of islands in a Greece travel guide. Made up of 220 islands, the most famous being Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos, Paros and Milos, the Cyclades are world-famous for their stunning sandy beaches, white-washed architecture and traditional, relaxed lifestyle.
From the elite escapes of Mykonos to the dramatic coastlines of Milos and the ancient ruins of Delos, Greek island hopping in the Cyclades is an experience not to be missed.
Visit Greece’s Colourful Second City, Thessaloniki
Standing at the tip of the gulf by the same name, Thessaloniki is one of the liveliest cities in Greece thanks to its universities, cultural arts scene and ethnically diverse mix of communities. The city’s old quarter charms every visitor with its winding streets, white-washed houses and Byzantine churches.
A classical Greece tour will take you to this city, and you’ll spend your time touring art galleries and museums, enjoying the nightlife and some of the best food in Greece, largely influenced by its neighbours.
Catch a Clifftop Sunset in Santorini
The ultimate Greece honeymoon spot, islands don’t get more romantic than Santorini. Known for its dramatic volcanic scenery, unparalleled sunset views and beautiful beaches, Santorini tours which see you finishing the day overlooking the magnificent caldera cliffs at sunset, are incomparable to any other.
One of the best islands to visit in Greece, Santorini boat tours run regularly from surrounding islands in the Cyclades if you’re keen to visit but are short on time. Multiple-day Greek island tours will cover a multitude of places to visit in Santorini.
How to Get Around on Your Greece Vacation
Being so well-travelled, Greece is incredibly easy to travel around. However, because of the nature of the country, built over several island groups, some routes require planning.
Public Transport in Greece – Trains, Buses & Ferries
In the bigger cities like Athens, public transport such as the subway or extensive tram system will be your go-to. Public transport is one of the cheapest ways to get around the cities. On the islands, such as Santorini, buses will also zip you to the key destinations for as little as two euros. On the smaller islands, if you feel comfortable enough, you can rent a scooter or ATV to get around.
If you plan to visit multiple places in Greece, then you’ll be dealing with lots of ferry rides. Costing as little as 12 euros for travel between islands situated close to each other, ferries are the main mode of transport between the Greek islands.
Tip: Book your ferry two months in advance and save up to a quarter of the price of your ticket!
Of course, if you’re looking to visit multiple islands, then there is the option of flying. However, this will be significantly more expensive. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take the slow overnight inter-islander ferries. You’ll save on paying for a night of accommodation and wake up in your new destination for half the price of a normal ticket.
Tip: Stick to buses, trams and ferries over trains in Greece. The train system can be slow, unreliable and often dirty when compared to the standard of train travel in other parts of Europe.
Self-Drive Greece Tours & Private Greece Tours
Not feeling public transport but still want to cover lots of Greece holiday destinations? No problem!
Hiring a rental car is a very popular option on the Greek islands. It enables you to stop whenever you like and explore the island at your own pace, without having to rely on timetables or having to travel with other people. Even on the mainland, using a rental car to get around is a great option like on this two-week Greece road trip!
If you’d like to completely relax then a private tour of Greece with a local guide is the perfect option. Our Local Designers can design a trip that suits your travel style, budget and interests and allows you to explore Greece at your own pace with a knowledgeable guide on hand. This Greece itinerary is perfect for those that want to explore the country in this way.
Where to Stay in Greece
No matter the budget you are travelling on, you’ll find accommodation to suit in Greece. Bear in mind that accommodation prices will rise and fall depending on the time of the year. In the high season, in July, August and around Easter time, you will need to pre-book your accommodation, and it will be more expensive during these times.
In terms of style of accommodation, you’ll find everything from backpacker hostels and family-run guesthouses to villas, apartments and five-star hotels. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could spend a few nights in a monastery or a convent.
In Greece, hotels are rated based on official categories. L is for luxury, then the scale goes from A down to E, with E being the lowest. Bear in mind, the rating corresponds to the facilities provided, not the actual quality of the hotel. All of the hotels that fall into the categories A to E have to keep to set price limits.
Places to Eat & Drink in Greece
Now, the part of this guide to Greece you’ve been waiting for!
For us foodies, sampling the local cuisine is a highlight of any trip. In Greece, the food becomes a centre-point of your entire itinerary! Whether it’s sampling local wine in the vineyards of Crete, sinking your teeth into a Greek gyros pitta or eating fresh seafood as the waves lap up next to your restaurant, Greek food is an experience that is worth savouring.
Here’s a regional guide to the wonderful food you’re likely to encounter in Greece!
Fresh & Delicious Cuisine in The Peloponnese
Greece’s southernmost mainland region, the Peloponnese peninsula is known for its rich, fertile lands. Producing fresh vegetables, lush fruit, olives (and olive oil, of course), honey and cheese. Here, the mountains are scattered with roaming game and farm animals whilst the verdant coastline produces straight-from-the-ocean shellfish and crustaceans daily.
The favourites of this region include crab and lobster pan-fried in herbs, sea salt, lemon juice and of course, lashings of olive oil. A typical lamb casserole, complete with beans and potatoes, known as ‘arni me votana’ is another popular dish. For dessert, you can get stuck into ‘kaimaki’, a thick, sweet cream often served with pastries and sprinkled with walnuts and a dollop of honey.
Things Get Tasty in the Capital
Due to the mixed nature of its population, Athens’ cuisine is a melting pot of regional cuisines bought in by those who have moved to the city from further afield. In Athens, you’ll want to try the uncomplicated but delicious ‘mprizoles’, a beefsteak cooked simply in olive oil and lemon juice. For dessert, take a stroll and enjoy some of the many sweet pastries filled with nuts and honey being sold streetside.
Spice it up in the North of Greece
Home to the country’s hottest dishes thanks to its influence from Asian settlers following the Asia Minor war in 1922, the north of Greece is known for its penchant for chilly! A few favourites include ‘soutzoukakia’, meat patties spiced with cumin, pepper and coriander, and ‘gemista’, oven-baked vegetables filled with pine nuts, rice and herbs.
Snacks, Pies & Wine on the Islands
Crete, the biggest island in Greece, is home to stunning valleys and winding coastal roads. Exploring Crete is a must, but you’ll find yourself needing some snacks for your road trip. Luckily, numerous fresh marinated olive and honey-coated almond stalls line the roads here.
The perfect antidote to the belly rumbles after a day of exploring islands like Milos are Greek pies! Made with filo pastry and filled with spinach, onion and feta, ‘spanakopita’ are one of the greatest snacks you can find on the islands.
Of course, Greek island tours are simply incomplete without a wine tasting in a local vineyard, sipping on a cold glass of white whilst watching the sunset or sampling seafood aboard a catamaran whilst you sip a crisp rosé. You’ll find these experiences in abundance on the Greek islands.
Local Specialities in Central and Western Greece
A mainland tour of Greece journeying from one ancient city to the next and encountering numerous historical sites means you can work up quite an appetite. In this region, spicy, cheese pies will leave you with a full belly and a contented smile on your face. Other specialities include ‘spetzofai’, a spicy sausage sliced up and accompanied by herbs and fresh vegetables.
Cost of Your Greece Tour
Before we dive in, it’s important to note that the following variables can all play a part in the cost of your trip to Greece;
- How long you go for
- When you go
- Your accommodation
- How many places you go to in Greece
- The number of activities and tours you do
- Your expenditure on food and drink
When factoring all these variables in, what started as a simple task to make sure your Greece trip is in the budget can now become a little overwhelming. At Designer Journeys, our Local Designers in Greece take all of the stress away for you.
By specifying your budget, desired trip duration, activity preferences and how you like to travel, our Local Designers will create your perfect itinerary. Taking care of everything for you, whether you like the idea of a self-drive Greece trip with guided activities or you’d prefer a Greece tour by private car, our Local Designers can make it happen.
By choosing to have your trip tailor-made, you can relax in the knowledge that every detail has been taken care of. As an example of what a custom trip may cost, this 11-day Greek island tour costs US$9,950 per traveller and includes;
- Ten nights of 4 and 5-star accommodation
- Ten guided activities and tours
- Ten breakfasts, six lunches and four dinners
- Airport transfers
- Domestic flights
- Ground transportation in the form of a private driver
- Entrance fees
- English-speaking local guides
Changing a few parts of your trip can dramatically reduce the cost to make it more budget-friendly or more luxurious depending on what you are looking for.
At Designer Journeys, we know everyone has different priorities, preferences and interests when it comes to planning a trip. Start by browsing our range of fully-customisable Greece tours and click ‘customise’ to connect with one of our Local Designers to tailor the trip for you! If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can ‘design your own trip’ from scratch!
Festivals & Special Events in Greece
With locals as socially-spirited as Greeks, it is no surprise that the Greek calendar is full of festivals, events and celebrations. In Greece, you are rewarded with two birthdays – the day of your actual birth and the official day of the saint that you were named after. If that wasn’t enough, most towns and villages also host their own celebrations for a variety of reasons including home-grown produce, religious saints or special days in history.
Attending a Greek holiday festival is something you will never forget, here are the most popular celebrations;
As a population, a majority of whom are Orthodox Catholic, Greek culture is centred around celebrations, and one of the biggest is Easter. Bringing towns and villages together, Easter celebrations usually begin with a ceremony followed by feasting, drinking, singing and dancing until the small hours.
Each island and region of Greece has its own way of celebrating Easter; in Corfu, it is traditional to throw and smash pots from balconies, and in Kalymnos, explosions and fireworks add to the excitement. Of course, not all traditions are this crazy; in Folegandros, the humbling washing of houses is part of the celebration.
If you choose to spend Easter in Greece, wherever you are, you’ll be pulled into the heart of the celebrations and taken to the roots of local culture as you join families for great feasts, singing and dancing.
With a line-up of local and international musical, drama and dance acts, the Hellenic Festival is Greece’s most significant summer festival. Each year, the festival is hosted in a prime historic venue, one of the most popular being the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens where the incredible floodlit Acropolis forms the backdrop.
Two hours west of Athens, at the UNESCO-protected Theatre of Epidaurus, the perfect acoustics and wonderful setting play host to a number of acts. The Hellenic Festival runs from June through to August with various acts taking the stage at a number of venues throughout these months.
With its longstanding important relationship with the sea, it’s no surprise that many of the festivals in Greece revolve around the sea and its produce. Navy Week comes to Crete each year in late June and celebrates the island’s maritime history and traditions with a week of sailing, swimming, music and dancing.
Not limited to Crete, during Navy Week, you’ll find historical re-enactments, parties and more in fishing villages and ports all over the country.
Regions Tours in Greece
If you’ve got a region in mind for your tour, then as well as using this Greece travel guide, you can check out these fully-customisable Greece tours and tailor any one of them to your liking with the help of one of our Local Designers;
Fancy a Greek Island Tour?
- 12-Day Classical Greece & Islands Tour
- 21-Day Greek Island Sailing Tour
- 14-Day Cyclades Islands Tour
Sticking to the Mainland?
- 14-Day Greece Road Trip
- 3-Day Ancient Sites of Greece
- 15-Day Ancient and Classical Greece with Mykonos and Santorini
City Break with an Athens Guide?
Customise Your Own Greece Itinerary!
Whatever you’re looking for, with Designer Journeys, your ideal trip can be made a reality. Taking your travel style, interests and budget into account, our Local Designers in Greece are ready and waiting to design your dream trip, tailored to your liking!