Greece is one of the top travel destinations in Europe, thanks to its rich culture and history, delicious cuisine, and more than 6,000 islands scattered throughout the Aegean and Ionian Seas. In how many other countries can you spend a day strolling around the capital of ancient civilization before jumping on a train headed for monasteries suspended in the air, and then take a hydrofoil to a car-free island fringed with azure waters?
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at twenty of the best places to visit in Greece. Whether you’re traveling for history, culture, beautiful beaches, or outdoor activities, there’s somewhere to fall in love with. Let’s go!
Best Places to Go in Greece
The Greek capital is often the first stop on many travelers’ itineraries. Said to be the cradle of civilization, you can still see sites that hark back to ancient times, the most obvious being the Acropolis which stands on a hill overlooking the city. Incredibly, it dates back to 2,500BC! However, that’s just a small part of it. Athens is packed with Byzantine churches as well as Ottoman and Neoclassical architecture.
The city is about way more than history though. The nightlife is on par with many other European capitals – whether that’s nightclubs open until the early hours of the morning, or sitting down to authentic food in the Plaka neighborhood to the sound of traditional music over a few bottles of wine!
The Cycladic paradise of Santorini is up there among the most popular Greek islands. The site of one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions ever witnessed by mankind, the caldera was submerged with water from the Aegean Sea. Since then, homes have been made there, and there are four villages on the island.
It’s a popular stop-off for cruise ships, but if you can spend longer than a day or two, you absolutely should. Witness the sunset from Oia, stroll around the whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches of Thira or get away from the crowds on the island’s hiking trails.
Check out my posts:
How to spend 1 day in Santorini, How to spend 2 days in Santorini, How to spend 4 days in Santorini.
Santorini on a budget, Islands near Santorini, How many days in Santorini.
One of Greece’s most impressive UNESCO World Heritage sites, Meteora is a collection of 24 monasteries perched atop cliffs. Six are open to the public and are connected by footpaths and staircases, rather than the ropes and baskets monks used to rely on!
The gateway to Meteora is the town of Kalampaka whose picturesque Old Town lies in the shadow of the area’s imposing rock formations. Spend some time in the town to admire the remains of ancient temples and a 10th-century church.
As well as exploring the plethora of religious buildings here, Meteora is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. The ancient landscape lends itself perfectly to hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing.
4. Mani Peninsula
Mani is the central peninsula in the south of the Peloponnese. It is made up of both Messinian (Outer) Mani and Laconian (Inner) Mani. It’s a far cry from the crowded islands of the Aegean and the cosmopolitan Athens.
This wild land is crisscrossed with hiking trails that end at secret beaches and semi-abandoned hilltop towns – one such town is Vathia which boasts traditional architecture of the area in its tower houses.
One of the region’s most spectacular natural features is the Diros Caves. By the light of a fisherman’s torch, you’ll be astounded by the myriad of stalactites reflecting against the clear waters as your local guide slowly paddles you through the caves.
Located at the foot of Mount Parnassus, Delphi was thought by the ancient Greeks to be the center of the ancient world. Nowadays, you can see the remains of the Temple of Apollo and the Stoa of the Athenians, as well as a stadium, theatre, and hippodrome.
When visiting the area, you’re likely to learn more about the all-seeing Oracle – a woman named Pythia who was the link between ancient Greece and the gods.
Delphi is just two hours from Athens, and it makes for a great day trip from the capital.
6. Zagorochoria – Vikos Gorge
Zagorochoria is a region in the Epirus Mountains of northwest Greece. There are 46 hilltop villages in the region, popular among those who want to taste authentic Greek food and see the slow pace of life in these parts.
The area also holds the Vikos-Aoos National Park, one of the most beautiful national parks in Greece, which was established in 1973. As well as Mount Tymfi and the Drakolimni Lakes, you’ll find the Vikos Gorge here. The Voidomatis River runs through the center of the second deepest gorge in the world (after the Grand Canyon, of course).
The area is popular among hikers, but make sure to seek out guided tours and hikes. It’s very easy to get lost in the imposing gorge!
The beautifully-preserved medieval village of Monemvasia is connected to the mainland village of Gefyra by a causeway. Carved into a rock out at sea to be invisible from the mainland, the village is one of the most impressive defensive structures in Europe.
It has been continuously inhabited since the Middle Ages, and around 20 people still call it home today. Much of the town now consists of boutique hotels and guest houses, and it’s a popular honeymoon destination.
As well as the castle, the Kastro District houses Byzantine churches, mansions, and, of course, spectacular views of the Myrtoan Sea.
The largest island in Greece, Crete is one of the last stops before North Africa. Its most important landmark is the Minoan Palace of Knossos. It was constructed in roughly 1,900BC, but there has been a settlement in Knossos for roughly 9,000 years. This makes it the oldest city in Europe. The palace maze is where the half-bull half-human Minotaur lived, according to Greek mythology.
However, Crete isn’t just for mythology and history fans – it has stunning natural sites across the island. For those looking to chill and relax, head for Balos Beach where you can swim in the warm and clear waters of its lagoon.
The island is a hiker’s paradise too, with more than 50 canyons. Samaria Gorge, which is 18km long, is the longest in Europe.
Rhodes is the largest island in the Dodecanese and also the most historically important. When it comes to history and culture, Rhodes Town is where you should head.
It’s UNESCO listed, and the historic center is packed with churches, Gothic and Renaissance towers, and even the palace of the Grand Master of the Order – homes of the Templar Knights of St. John. You can see where one of the seven wonders of the ancient world once stood too – The Rhodes Colossus used to guard the entrance to Rhodes Town’s harbor.
The Acropolis of Lindos and St Paul’s Bay is a must-visit for honeymooners and couples while hiking through the Valley of the Butterflies will put a smile on the face of nature lovers. Those in search of nightlife will enjoy Faliraki, Pefkos, and even the historic Rhodes Town.
You may be surprised to know that Athens wasn’t the first capital of the Greek state. It was actually the much smaller town of Nafplio back when the country gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Stroll through the Old Town starting at Syntagma Square. The Vouleftiko here was the first Greek parliament building. Explore, stop off at tavernas and cafes and then head up to the Palamidi Fortress. It overlooks the city and the surrounding bays, and it’s a wonderful place from where to watch the sunset.
History isn’t just consigned to the town in Nafplio. The Bourtzi Castle is a fort that was built by the Venetians on an island out in the bay. Tyrins, Mycenae, and Epidavros are nearby villages that are perfectly preserved too.
11. Pelion Villages
There are 21 villages in the Pelion region. These picturesque traditional settlements are found perching on mountainsides and overlooking the sea.
The best known is arguably Makrynitsa which is known as the Balcony of Pelion. It’s 600 meters above sea level and gives spectacular views of the city of Volos and the surrounding mountains and bays from its charming squares.
Pouri is another village with panoramic views of the coastline. It’s built across three levels and is a brilliant base for trekking. Be sure to check out the ruins of a 13th-century Byzantine monastery just outside the village too.
Other well-known villages in Pelion include Argalasti, Vyzitsa, Pinakates, and Tsagarada. All of the villages here have distinct character and beautiful surroundings, so there really are no bad choices!
The largest of the Sporades Islands, Skopelos, may be familiar if you’ve seen Mamma Mia. Some of the scenes were filmed on Kastani Beach on the southwest coast! Despite one of the most successful movies of the 21st century being filmed here, it’s not overwrought with tourists.
There are two main villages here, Skopelos Town and Glossa, which are connected by one road across the islands. They’re the perfect place to soak up traditional Greek culture and get some delicious local fare at a taverna. The villages also provide panoramas of the Aegean Sea from their hilltop locations.
The main attraction on Skopelos though is its beaches. As well as the aforementioned Kastani, check out Panormos, Stafylos, and Agnontas Beaches.
The second-largest of the Ionian Islands, Corfu is one of those places that has a little something for everyone. Its Old Town boasts three forts and dates back to the 8th century. It has been influenced by several cultures – these include Venetian, British and French.
Away from the old town, you’ll find historic sites such as the Vlacherna Monastery and the village of Perithia which stands at the foot of Mount Pantokrator.
The bright blue waters off beaches like Sidari, Glyfada, and Peroulades show why it was once supposedly the stomping ground of sea god Poseidon!
Corfu is also a popular package holiday destination, and every summer, revelers descend on party towns like Kavos to make the most of sunny beaches by day and cheap drinks by night.
Check out: The best places to stay in Corfu.
Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades islands, and while it may not be as popular as nearby Santorini and Mykonos, it should not be overlooked! There are more than 100km of sandy beaches here, leading some to christen it the “Hawaii of Greece”.
Mikri Vigla is a popular spot for several water sports, including surfing and kitesurfing, while Agios Prokopios is a beautiful stretch of sand ideal for long walks and snorkeling. Naxos is also home to the Cyclades’ highest peak – Mount Zeus, the reward for reaching the summit is the view out across the island. Stop in a mountain village on the way back for some kitron liqueur and local cheese.
Naxos does not have an international airport. If you’re coming from outside of Greece, you’ll have to fly into Athens and take a connecting flight or take a ferry from Athens, Santorini, or Mykonos.
Check here: The best things to do in Naxos island, Greece.
Closer to the Turkish mainland than Greek, Chios is one of the most distinctive islands in the Aegean Sea. The architecture here is more fortress-like than the whitewashed houses of the Cyclades, a little clue into the history of the island.
The island is famous for producing mastic, a gum resin used for cooking and medicine in medieval times. There are around 24 villages on the island where the mastic tree is cultivated.
The most famous is probably Pyrgi which is also known as the Painted Village. Its homes are decorated with grey and white geometric patterns known as xysta.
The most popular tourist destination in northern Greece, Halkidiki has many seaside resorts, superb beaches, and picturesque landscapes. One large peninsula is divided into three smaller ones called Kassandra, Sithonia, and Athos.
The latter is home to Mount Athos, a mountain that descends directly into the sea and is said to be sacred to Zeus. The mountain’s monastery is a center for Eastern Orthodox monasticism, with only male residents and visitors permitted.
Thankfully, women are not restricted from visiting anywhere else on the peninsulas of Halkidiki. You can cycle across the area’s rugged hills and through pine forests, relax at thermal spas in Kassandra and enjoy delicious fresh octopus at most of the area’s seafood restaurants!
Thanks to its location in the Saronic Gulf, Hydra is one of the closest islands to Athens. The car-free isle belongs to the Saronic Greek island group and is ideal for a day trip, especially if you’re interested in art. It’s long been a jet-setter’s destination, with Leonard Cohen, Sophia Loren, and David Shrigley visiting the island.
Stop off and people watch at the harbor over a coffee before wandering around the island to admire the preserved stone architecture. Away from the main town, you can sample fresh food at traditional restaurants in villages such as Vlichos and Kaminia.
As with all Greek islands, there are beaches on offer too – although many of them are easier to reach by boat than on foot.
Check out: Things to do in Hydra.
Another of the quieter Cyclades islands, charming Milos is blessed with some truly otherworldly landscapes. Like Santorini, the island is built around a caldera, and there are a series of picturesque whitewashed villages here.
Head to Sarakiniko Beach to feel as though you’re on the moon. The white rocks have been shaped over thousands of years by volcanic eruptions and erosion, and they drop straight into the turquoise waters of the Aegean.
If you’d prefer a standard stretch of sand where you can swim and snorkel, there are around 70 more beaches on Milos if Sarakiniko Beach doesn’t take your fancy!
Check out: A guide to Milos island.
Even quieter than Milos, Syros is the administrative capital of the Cyclades Islands. It’s not the biggest or the busiest island, but that’s what makes it so charming. And it’s not short of landmarks either. From the moment you arrive by sea, you’ll be stunned by the dramatic town of Ermoupoli which dates back to the Greek War of Independence which took place in the 1820s.
The other main town has an even longer history – Ano Syros was built by the Venetians back in Medieval times.
Unlike many of the other Cyclades Islands, Syros is not a seasonal destination. It’s open year-round!
Check out: A guide to Syros island.
The tiny island of Symi is said to be one of the most beautiful islands in Greece even though it sits just miles from the Turkish mainland. While it’s tempting to spend your entire vacation lazing around the harbor drinking coffees, eating ice cream, and soaking up the sun in Symi’s colorful harbor, there is more on the island.
You’ll find small and secret beaches dotted around the island, as well as perfect blue coves for swimming. There are a couple of villages connected to the harbor by the main road that runs from Symi Harbour to Panormitis.