I was born and raised in Greece (back in the 80’s…) and even at my age I still haven’t explored my beautiful country to its full depth. Greece is considered one of the most diverse countries in the world as there are so differences on the landscape from tropical beaches, relaxing islands and snowy mountains with bears, deers and winter resorts. Trust me: there are lots of things to do in Greece, if you have the time and money.
BEST THING TO DO IN GREECE: Sunset Cruise in Santorini island
There are literally thousands of tours, attractions, museums, places, cute villages and activities you can do in Greece, as it’s one of the most diverse places on earth with so much history and culture to explore.
It obviously really depends on your situation and from where in Greece you are starting your trip and how many days you may have on my extremely photogenic country but I am trying my best in this article to compile a list of what to do in Greece.
Best Things to Do in Santorini
Best Santorini Boat Tours
Best Things to Do in Mykonos
Best Things to Do in Crete
In my opinion the absolute best things you can do in Greece are:
- Visit the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum in Athens
- Visit Santorini island and spend at least 3 nights there;it’s the most famous greek island
- Go on a Sunset Cruise in Santorini
- Visit the prehistoric rocks of Meteora with the 1000 years old monasteries
- Visit the sacred arcaeological site of Delphi
- Try the famous greek street food “souvlaki” along with the other famous greek plates such as mousaka, tzatziki, kleftiko, giouvetsi, pastitsio, dolmadakia and obviously seafood meze like grilled octopus, calamari and shrimps.
- Watch a greek play in the ancient theatre of Epidavros or the Roman theatre Herodion; Athens-Epidaurus Festival is the best cultural event in the country every year with famous actors and performers from all over the world
- Hike the famous Samaria Gorge in Crete
- Go skiing in the famous Ski Centre of Parnassos close to Athens or Kaimaktsalan in North Greece
- Go on a greek island tour in the Saronic gulf from Athens to get a glimpse of the cosmopolitan islands of Hydra, Spetses, Aegina and Poros.
- Visit the picturesque neighboorhood of Plaka in Athens
- Go to the famous Navagio beach (Shipwreck beach) in Zakynthos island
- Explore the Melissani cave in Kefalonia island
- Visit the breathtaking Corinth canal
- Visit the beautiful town of Nafplio, the fist capital of Greece
- Visit the Archaeological Museum of Athens, Byzantine Museum and Cycladic Art Museum in Athens
- Visit the stunning Archaeological Museum of Heraklion in Crete island with some of the most important artifacts in Europe
- Go on a Winery Tour in Santorini for a unique wine-tasting experience with awesome views
- Visit the religious peninsula of Mount Athos in Halkidiki area (you can visit it only if you are a man…women are not allowed)
- Visit the famous tropical Balos beach and Elafonissi beach in Crete
- Watch a movie under the stars in a summer cinema; these are all over Greece but the best are in Athens where more than 60 summer cinemas still operate to this day
- Visit a greek bakery and try the greek cheese-pie tyropita, speenach-pie spanakopita or anythign else you may fancy; the best bakeries are in Athens but there are some great ones in Crete and all the islands too
- Visit the Tomb of the Kings and King Philip (the father of Alexander the Great) in Vergina
- Explore the Ancient Agora and Hefaestus Temple in Athens
But the list of amazing things to do and attractions to see in Greece is literally endless and I have only picked up the basics on this list to be honest. Feel free to jump in any of the specific locations to explore the things you can do to each island or place in more details.
VERY IMPORTANT TO KNOW:
- Best Website To Book Any Tour in Greece: GetYourGuide
- You don’t have to pre-book every tour online but if you are visiting during the summer months of June-September then things get sold out and it’s a good idea to have everything booked well in advance.
- There are direct flights to greek islands but only from major European cities, otherwise the best way to reach a greek island is to take a second flight from Athens or a ferry from Athens
- You should definitley spend a couple of nights in Athens if you have the time to and if this is your first time in Greece as it’s a very culturally rich city (not the prettiest European city though but there are some cute neighbourhoods)
- If you only have time for one island then make it Santorini as it’s the most famous one and there is no way you will be dissapointed by it.
- Mykonos is not on this list because even though it’s a magnificent island with stunning beaches it has recently become a rich kids playground and not a destination you will have fun. It’s also unreasonably expensive. You will be better off visitin Santorini or another greek island.
So, let’s dive in and see the best things to do in Greece:
1. Visit the Parthenon and Acropolis Museum
Even if you are not much into history and archaeology, it would be a great mistake if you visit Greece but not the Acropolis and the Parthenon Temple; especially if this is your first time in Greece. Make no mistake: this is considered one of the marvels of the western civilization, one of the greatest monuments in Europe (if not the greatest…) and the epitome of classical greek architecture and beauty.
If you are wondering which one to visit, Acropolis or Parthenon then please note that they are basically the same location. “Acropolis” is literally the name of the natural rocky hill that the temple of “Parthenon” sits on. A visit to the nearby Acropolis Museum is a must too, as this is considered the best Museum in Greece.
I highly recommend you book a guided tour to the Acropolis and the Museum that includes your tickets to other Athens top attractions.
2. Visit Santorini Island
Judging by the title of my blog you would have probably understood that I love Santorini island (and I have actually permanently lived on the island for some time). I will make it clear to you one more time: if you have time for only one island at your Greece trip then make it Santorini and you won’t regret it.
Santorini is the island you have seen all over instagram, all over the travel brochures and all over any picture that talks about Greece or the greek islands. Santorini is the real thing! Oia and Fira with their unique architectures that is admired all over the world along with their unparalleled views of the volcano will take your breath away.
I am warning you though: Santorini and Mykonos are expensive places as the demand is high.
Also, I do not recommend making a daytrip from Athens to Santlrini. It is not possible and it will cost you too much. You will only be able to spend a couple of hours on the island. The bes thing you can tdo is to book a 3 nights at least on the island as this is how much time you need in Santorini, in my opinion.
3. Go on a Sunset Boat Tour in Santorini
A Santorini Boat Tour will take you around the island, it will stop at the famous volcano of Santorini, it will stop at the island of Thirassia and will even allow you to swim in the thermal springs around the volcano rocks. The best boat tours in Santorini are using a catamaran boat type and they even offer a meal or a bbq with seafood or other greek delicacies on board. Obviously the highlight of the trip will be the final stop to see the famous sunsetThis is honestly a unique experience and the great thing is that it doesn’t exist only on Santorini. Most of the greek islands have local boat tours that will take you around the island and will allow you to swim in some very unique and deserted beaches only accessible by boat. honestly, whenever you see aboat tour on a greek island, please make yourself a favour and hop on immediately!
4. Visit Meteora
Meteora is by far one of the most incredible geological formations on our planet and it would be a great miss if you don’t manage to visit them while in Greece. These are some of the most dramatic rocks you will ever see in your life and the puzzling thing is that…they have monasteries on top of them! how did they actually built them 1000 years ago? The engineering and the effort still amazes me, to this day. Meteora are only a 4 hour drive from Athens or Thessaloniki. I do not recommend taking the train in Greece as trains can be dangerous and are not reliable in Greece. You will be better off by taking a guided tour by bus like the one below:
5. Visit the sacred place of Delphi
Delphi is a place 3 hours drive north-west of Athens that used to be a holly area for ancient Greeks. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with monumental significance for ancient Greece.Most of the ruins in the area come from arounf the 600-700 BC and they comprise of an impressive Apollo Temple, a theatre, a modern museum, a gymnasium, altars, a stadium , a hippodrome and many more sections. After Parthenon in Athens, this is the most important archaeologica site in Greece and apart from the ruins you will be stunned by the natural beauty of the location.
6. Eat “Souvlaki”: the world famous greek street food
Souvlaki is Greece’s national food. I have probably eaten a 5 figure number of souvlakis in my life and I cannot easilly describe to you how yummy it is. It’s basically a greek pitta wrap with succulent pieces of pork swewer meat, with fresh tomato, parsley, onions and (if you want) fries in it. There is a million variations of it all over Greece but you will find some of the best in Athens and in Thessaloniki. Some of the best souvlaki kiosks in Athens are: Kostas, Lefteris o Politis, Oi Gynaikes (The Girls), Achilleas, Tomas and Kalyvas.
I am not a heavy drinker but I know for sure that the best thing you can accompany a souvlaki is a cold greek beer. This is one of the best combinations under the greek summer sun. The other yummy combination you shoud try once in your lifetime is fries with feta chees. You can thank me later… ☺️
7. Watch a greek play in an ancient theatre
There are a few things that can make a Greek feel proud and the birth of modern theater as we know is definitely one of them. Greece is the birthplace of theater as we know it today and Epidavros Theater was teh epicenter of its birth. All known greek tragedies were firstly shown there where rich athenians and people from all over Greece were exposed to some of the most impressive spoken art ever produced by humankind. today, Athens Herodion Theatre and Epidavrus Theater are homes to one of the most important cultural events in Europe: The Athens-Epidaurus Festival where you can actually book any event that is happening from june to September every year in both locations. Language is also no barrier anymore because even though all tragedies are presented in modern greek there are big displayes with English translation for you to follow along. Epidaurus is a very beautiful place with lovely beaches and the theater itself is nested in a forest. If you are not really interested in watching an actual play, I highly recommend you book a guided tour from Athens that will include a visit to Mycenae, Epidaurus Theater and Nafplio in a day.
8. Hike the famous Samaria Gorge in Crete
If you are visiting Crete and you won’t be hiking the fmaous Samaria gorge you will be doing a massive mistake. This is one of the most important natural parks in Greece with unparalleled beauty and very rare animals and plants in it. It is actually the longest gorge in Europe! This is also a World Biosphere Reserve and a trully beautiful place overall with wild goats, incredible rock formations and 1000 years old trees forest. Hiking is not that easy but it’s not very difficult either. I would call it intermediate. I actually hiked the gorge when I was 25 with a couple of friends and it took me around 5 hours from the top to the finish (the beautiful isolated beach of Agia Roumeli). You don’t have to do it that fast and you don’t have to do it alone as there are a lot of very good guided tours that will take you from Chania to the top of the gorge and then pick you up with a boat from the beach once you finish, such as this one:
9. Go skiing at the Ski Centre of Parnassos
Who would have though that Greece is also ideal for witner holidays with hundreds of mountain villages and some small but very decent ski resorts and centers like Parnassos near Athens and Kaimaktsalan in northern Greece. Parnassos is close to the famous traditional greek village of Arachova and only a 3 hours drive from Athens. In fact, Parnassos ski resort is very close to Delphi ancient ruins so you can combine these 2 together in a great 2 day trip. Obviously, both ski centers are very small compared to the Western Europe ski centers of Audtria, Poland or Germany but they can be quite fun. The fact that you can even see the sea level from some points is incredible.
10. Go on a greek island tour in the Saronic gulf from Athens
You can actually do a great greek island tour from Athens on a boat. These usually take you around the Saronic gulf (the sea surrounding Athens) and will include a stop in Aegina, Poros, Hydra and Spetses island. These are small and super cute islands with lots of history and culture that are not to be missed. if you feel like it, you can even stay on any of these islands for a night but I do not recommend spending more time on any of these. in general these islands are great for a daytrip from Athens or a weekend stay, which is very typical for the Athenians nowadays. I remember as a kid growing up in Athens, schools used to organize daily excursions to these islands for daytrips from Athens. You can book a greek island tour from Athens on GetYourGuide:
11. Visit the picturesque neighboorhood of Plaka in Athens
Every European capital has its own cute corners and neighbourhoods. For Paris this is Monmartre, for London this is Notting Hill, for Athens it’s… Plaka. Plaka is the cutest and most photogenic neighbourhood in Athens with lots of cute alleys, beautiful 19th century houses, hundreds of greek tavernas and souvenir shops just meters away from the famous Parthenon Temple. One of the cutests corners of Plaka is the neighbourhood called “Anafiotika” as it literally feels like being on an island with white washed houses and narrow streets. No cars are allowed in Plaka and it is great to wander around.
12. Go to the famous Navagio beach (Shipwreck beach) on Zakynthos island
Undoubtedly, Navagio beach is a very unique site. “Navagio” literally means “shipwreck” in greek, and the boat that sits on the sand was abandoned by its crew back in 1980 due to bad weather. There is quite a story though behind it, as recent court documents provided more info on what actually happened. The ship was actually smuggling illegal cigarettes from Africa to Europe and it was called “Panagiotis”. The story of the ship and how its shipwreck came to be is like it’s coming out of a Holywood movie that includes millions of illegal cigarettes, a corrupt captain that imprisoned two Italians that betrayed him because he was asking for more money and some really bad weather. Today, you can visit Navagio beach through a guided boat tour that will allow you to swim on the beach and also see the bottom of the ocean through glass:
13. Explore the Melissani cave in Kefalonia island
Kefalonia island is one of the most famous greek islands in the Ioanian islands complex close to Corfu island. One of the top attractions of this super green island is the Melissani cave which is a beautiful cave that entrenches the incredible sea water in the middle of a pine forest. Melissani cave has recently become viral on Instagram because of its stunning beauty that combines the incredible sunrays that reflect on the turquoise waters along with the dramatic cliffs and the pine trees all around. You can book a tour that will take you to the cave safely:
14. Visit the beautiful town of Nafplio
Nafplion used to be Greece’s first capital town before Athens and it is now a historic and beautiful city 2 hours from Athens. There are a lot of beautiful beaches in the area but the highlight of the city is its cattle called “Palamidi” which used to be a prison till the early 20th century. Another highlight is the famous Mycenae Tombs which are on the way to Nafplio just a few kilometres outside of the city. These are tombs of kings of the same significance as the Pharaohs in Egypt and are actually inspired by those tombs.
15. Visit the great Museums of Athens
You probably already know that Athens is an archaeology’s and mythology’s fan playground so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is a ton of very rich Museums in the city. It’s not only about Acropolis Museum and the Parthenon temple because the National Archaeological Museum of Athens has a massive collection of some of the best findigns from all over Greece. And there is a lot of them… Apart from that there is also a stunning collection in the Byzantine Museum of Athens and the unique Cycladic Art Museum with artefacts dating back to 10000 BC found in the greek islands.
16. Visit the stunning Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
If you happen to land anywhere on Crete then this is one of the best things to do while on this big greek island. Crete is known for its Minoan civiliazation that dates back to the Bronze Age and the findings that are on exhibit in the Heraklion Museum are some of gthe most impressive in Greece. There is a ton of findings from the famous minoan palace of Knossos but by far one of the most intriguing exhibits is the famous Phaistos Disc which to this date nobody actually knows what is saying as the writing hasn’t been decrypted yet. However, Heraklion in my opinion is not the best place to stay in Crete and I always recommend the Chania area to everyone visiting the island for the first time.
17. Go on a Winery Tour in Santorini
If you are a wine lover and looking for a very unique wine tasting experience then you should definitely go on a wine tasting experience on the island of Santorini. Greek wine has been in production for thousands of year on the island and Santorini Wineries are some of the best wineries in Greece at the moment with even more popping up every year. If you only have time for one winery then I highly recommend you visit Santo Winery at Pyrgos village for some of the most stunning volcano views of the island. There is more than 16 wineries on the island and you won’t have time to visit them all so i definitely recommned hopping on a wine tour that will allow you to drink as much wine as possible and also take to more than 1 winery in a single day. Here is one of the best wine tours in Santorini:
18. DO NOT Visit the religious peninsula of Mount Athos in Halkidiki
Many guides have this as one of the top destinations and things to do in Greece but I strongly disagree because entrance is only allowed to males. We live in the 21st Century AD and there is still a place of significant history, culture and beauty that women are not allowed to see or visit. Horrendous! As a father of 2 daughters, I find this appalling and that is why I do not recommend anyone visiting this area. Just stay away no matter what you read on guides. The fact that a modern European Country (and a member of EU) such as Greece still allow this is also horrible. If women are not allowed to enter, then men shouldn’t have anything to see either. End of story.
19. Visit the famous tropical Balos beach and Elafonissi beach in Crete
Crete island has hundreds of sandy beaches all over its coastline but Elafonissi and Balos definitely come on top. They are both incredible sea lagoons with shallow waters with white golden sand that are naturally protected. They are both National Sea Parks protected by the Europen Union with very strict rules. They are both very hard to reach but this doesn’t stop millions of people visiting them every summer. Eventhough these are the top ones in the area, Chania Beaches are some of the best in Crete and in Greece, and that is my recommendation whenever people ask me where to stay in Crete.
20. Watch a movie under the stars in an Open Air Cinema
Literally one of the best memories I have growing up in Greece as a kid was the summer cinema that my sister was taking me in the summer. When I became an adult there hasn’t been a summer that I haven’t watched a movie in a summer cinema and it’s easily one of the most nostalgic things that I do every summer. The origins of the summer cinemas in Greece go back to the 30’s when people actually were putting up screens in the village center for all people to watch. Some of the cutest open air cinemas are in Athens but there are definitely some really good ones on the greek islands too. In Athens my recommendation is to visit Cine Paris, Cine Thiseion, Cine Aegli and Cine Deksameni in the center of Athens but in Santorini Open Air Cinema Kamari is a local favourite too.
21. Visit a greek bakery and try the greek pies
Greece is a foodie’s paradise, honestly but apart from the obvious greek food you can try in any greek restaurant the single best thing you have to do is to just head off to any greek bakery. Greek bakeries are insititutions of freshly baked pasties, greek pieas and yummy bread. the great thing is that there is a bakery literally in every corner with a million options to chose from but the top seller is usually the famous “koulouri” (greek pretzel with sesame seeds), the famous greek pie called “tyropita” and the queen of them all “spanakopita” (spinach and feta cheese pie with fyllo crust). It goes without saying that all bakeries can make a coffee for you and my suggestion is to try the greek iced coffee “frappe” but most importantly the iced cold freddo coffee which is sold literally anywhere nowdays.
22. Visit the Tomb of the Kings and King Philip (the father of Alexander the Great) in Vergina
Hands down, the single most important archaeological discovery of the last 200 years in Greece is the Tomb of Kings in Imathia, Macedonia. This is the equivalent of the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt and it is easilly in the top 10 archaeological discoveries in the world, ever made. This is not only the tomb of Alexander the Great but also the tomb of his son Alexander A’. The sheer amount of gold and incredible artefacts that were found in this tomb is unimaginable and Archaeology Professor Manolis Andronikos described the moment he was holidng the sarcofagus of the King Philip’s bones as the most surreal experience in his life.
23. Explore the Ancient Agora and Hefaestus Temple in Athens
One of the most well preserved temples in Greece is actually located close to the Parthenon Temple and it is dedicated to the ancient greek god of fire and iron Heafaestus near the Ancient Agora. Agora was literally the birthplace of democracy and where the rich and free Athenians (obviously not the slaves…) were discussing and voting on the future of their city and their society. This site is only a few minutes walk from acropolis and Plaka neighbourhood so it is great if you can combine everything in one day while in Athens. You can actually book your entry ticket to 6 archaeological sites which is actually a great deal:
Greece is one of the most diverse countries on earth and it is definitely worth your visit more than once. I know a lot of people who came back to Greece after spending a few days of holidays in Greece because there is simply so much things to do and see with your family, with your kids or even solo. Yes, archaeological sites are obviously on the top of things to do in Greece but trying amazing greek food, drinking incredible greek wine and visiting cute villages in the islands are also some of the best things to do in Greece.