Best things to do in Greece
Find out more about those top places in Greece
With its enchanting windmills, ancient Greek temples and dazzling whitewashed cottages, Mykonos is undoubtedly one of the most charming islands of the Cyclades. The island is little more than 80 square kilometers with most attractions nestled in the arid hills and sun-washed coves near to the island’s de facto capital, the maze-like town of Hora. The white sand beaches that spread out either side of Hora are some of Europe’s most spectacular and are surrounded by traditional Greek tavernas dishing out rustic Mediterranean classics. Beyond the beaches and main town, Mykonos’ hidden gem is the enchanting ancient ruin of Delos where the Temple of Isis offers commanding views of the Cycladic island chain.
Immortalized as the mythical birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, the island of Delos was one of ancient Greece’s most sacred locations. While today no one lives on the UNESCO World Heritage listed island, during its heyday in the 1st millennia BC it was a vibrant city with a plethora of Doric colonnaded temples, stepped theaters, rich mosaic houses and the awe-inspiring Terrace of Lions. Guided tours of the island are recommended as they help you to imagine the ancient city in all its past splendor.
On the northern shore of Mykonos lies one of Greece’s most charming golden sand beaches. For those looking to relax, Ftelia is a must visit in Mykonos while a number of excellent taverns are available for some respite from the midday sun. However, Ftelia offers more than just sunbathing: history enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the ruins of a nearby Neolithic settlement and adrenaline junkies can try out windsurfing.
Located in a typically Cycladic whitewashed building, the Archaeological Museum of Mykonos showcases a small but well curated selection of urns, funerary art and figurines from prehistory to the golden age of Hellenic culture.
When on the sacred island of Delos make sure to head off the beaten track to visit the remote ancient synagogue, thought to be one of the world’s oldest. Located far from the center of ancient Delos, the synagogue, with origins dating from the 1st century BC, is one of the island’s hidden gems. While there is little left today but ruins, guided tours of the site reveal the unique Jewish heritage of Delos.
Far from the crowded beaches near Mykonos Town, the speedboat sea safari takes visitors to the island’s rugged and remote southeastern corner where you can spot dolphins, swim amongst reefs peppered with ancient Greek artifacts and snorkel with some of the Cyclades’ most impressive sea life. What is more, from the vantage point of the speedboat visitors can get an awe-inspiring vista of Mykonos’ breathtaking coastline.
The blue domed churches and whitewashed houses clustered around a spectacular sea-filled caldera could be nowhere else but the Cyladic island of Santorini. However, Santorini’s main towns – Fira and Oia – have in recent years struggled to cope with a deluge of honeymooners, cruise boats, social media influencers and luxury hotel chains. Despite this, the island still retains a clutch of hidden gems beyond the tourist crowds. The villages of Imerovigli and Pyros have as much charm as their more famous neighbors across the caldera and receive far fewer visitors, which has allowed them to keep a hold of their rustic Greek charm. What is more, the island is famed for its wineries, which litter the island’s volcanic hillsides, and black-sand beaches, which are surprisingly unspoiled.
Unearthed in 1967 after spending millennia buried under thick layers of volcanic ash, the ancient Minoan city of Akrotiri is one of Greece’s most important archaeological sites. Today, the ruins are once again covered but this time by a hi-tech protective structure that allows visitors pass through the ancient city on boardwalks where you can see ancient pottery, three story town houses and complex drainage systems. For the best experience, tour guides are available to offer unique insights into the daily lives of the 200 families that once called Akrotiri home.
Perfect for a romantic sunset cruise boat tour, the Santorini Caldera is one of Europe’s most spectacular geological formations. Offering breathtaking views of the islands of Santorini, Therasia and Aspronisi, cruising the Caldera is an unforgettable experience that also lets you get up close to plunging cliffs and remote black sand beaches, both of which were formed as a result of various volcanic eruptions over the last 100 000 years.
With whitewashed houses nestling amongst volcanic crags and cobbled lanes winding up solidified lava flows, it would be hard to find a more picturesque location in the entire Cyclades that Oia. Unsurprisingly, the cliff top town receives more than its fair share of visitors so is best explored with a local tour guide to get the most authentic experience.
Known across the world for their plate smashing raucous atmosphere, Greek weddings are one of the country’s most celebrated traditions. To get a taste of this riotous experience, the Greek Wedding Show in Fira allows audience members to participate in an interactive 1940s wedding. Lasting for 90 minutes, audience members join in with traditional Greek dances and try the gastronomic specialties of the Cyclades.
Sail across the Santorini Caldera by day in a catamaran and enjoy swimming in the tranquil waters and thrilling snorkeling tours in its plethora of bio-diverse volcanic rock coves. What is more, the catamaran tour will take you to the world-famous White and Red Beach alongside Indian Rock and the historic Venetian Lighthouse.
Owing to Santorini’s fertile volcanic soil and rich seas, there are few better places in Greece to sample the local cuisine. A food tour of the island’s taverns and wineries lets visitors sample the best Santorini has to offer with a meze style dinner showcasing Cycladic specialties and a wine tasting highlighting indigenous grape varieties.
Set amongst the towering crags of Mount Parnassós, it is easy to understand why the ancient Greeks considered Delphi as the sacred center of their universe. For centuries the city was the location of the Oracle of Delphi, where high priestesses would communicate the will of the gods to kings from as far afield as Egypt. Given this, the Greek city gained tremendous wealth and today the ruins of Temple of Apollo, the Athenian Treasury, the Castilian Spring and the vast cliff-top amphitheater can be explored. While the Greek ruins are breathtaking, they are rivaled by Delphi’s spectacular setting with the ruins making an ideal starting point for hikes up the olive grove-clad slopes of Mount Parnassós.
From the 8th century BC until the turn of millennium Delphi was one of the ancient world’s richest cities. Many of the treasures bestowed upon the city during that period are displayed at the onsite Archaeological Museum, which also helps showcase how the city would have looked during its luxurious heyday. Highlights of the museum include the Sphinx of the Naxians, the marble Twins of Argos and the towering Column of Dancers, all of which can be interpreted with the help of a tour guide.
After taking in the riches in the Archaeological Museum, make your way to the iconic cliff top Temple of Apollo. At the peak of Delphi’s power the temple was where the Oracle delivered her judgements and predictions to kings from as far a field as Egypt. As a result, it is unsurprising that the site is remarkably grand with a plethora of Doric columns, marble statuary and a vast amphitheater overlooking the pine-clad valleys that slice through the Mount Parnassós massif.
Erected by the Athenians around the turn of the 4th century BC, their Treasury is one of Delphi’s star attractions. Designed to house the city’s devotions to the sanctuary of Apollo, the entire two-story building is suitably grand with Doric columns, Parian marble and detailed bas-reliefs making it a fitting tribute to the son of Zeus.
Located a short stroll beyond the main Delphi complex, the Temple of Athena Pronaia is dedicated to the Goddess Athena, the half-brother of Apollo, who was charged with protecting Delphi in Greek mythology. Laid out on a terrace overlooking the Alpine valleys of Mount Parnassós, the Temple of Athena Pronaia is one of Greece’s most iconic locations with a breathtaking circular colonnaded temple alongside the ruins of various treasuries and marble statues.
Athens is a city of juxtapositions: awe-inspiring ancient monuments stand side-by-side with the worst of post-war architecture; graceful opera houses are just a stone throw from anarchist squats and grungy dive bars; and Ottoman-era mosques have become symbols of Greek nationhood. While the ever-impressive 5th century BC Acropolis may be the most visible legacy of Ancient Greece, Athens is peppered with other relics of antiquity from the Agora, which was the marketplace of the ancient city, to the towering Corinthian columns of the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Despite its fascinating history, Athens is very much a city rooted in the present. Beyond the ruins, the hidden gem neighbourhoods of Pláka, Monastiráki and Psyrri are hotbeds of local creativity, political discussion and buzzing nightlife.
Towering over downtown Athens is the Acropolis, one of the world’s most evocative remnants of antiquity. Capping the rocky plateau is the iconic colonnaded Parthenon, which was built around 400 BC and has undergone decades of restoration work after centuries of neglect and damage inflicted by Ottoman Turks, Venetians and Germans. Beyond the Parthenon, the Acropolis also plays host to a series of smaller marble clad temples and monuments that are equally enchanting.
After exploring the Acropolis, a visit to the futuristic Acropolis Museum is a must. The museum showcases artifacts found during archaeological digs in and around the ancient ruins, including the Parthenon’s original 160 meter long frieze that once dominated the Athenian skyline. The museum is made all the more remarkable by the glass floors that allow you to gaze down into an ancient Athenian neighborhood that was discovered during construction.
Jutting out of the vibrant and modern neighborhoods of Syntagma and Plaka, the colonnaded Temple of Olympian Zeus is the most impressive ancient attraction in Athens beyond the Acropolis. Despite being begun in the 6th century BC, the temple was not completed until the 2nd century AD and once finished the structure had over 100 Corinthian columns and two gargantuan statues of Zeus and Hadrian. Only a handful of gigantic columns remain upright but audio guide tours allow visitors to imagine the vast scale of the original complex.
First developed as a public site in the 6th century BC, the Agora quickly developed into the beating commercial heart of ancient Athens. Spread over a vast area west of Monastiraki, the ruins encompass the standout Temple of Hephaistos, an excellent museum and even an ornate 10th century Byzantine Church. To make the most of the Agora guides are highly recommended, as they will help you walk in the footsteps of the ancient Greeks who once lived and worked in the area, including Socrates and Plato.
With its narrow cobbled lanes that climb precipitously towards the Acropolis and colorful traditional window shutters, Plaka is undoubtedly Athens’ most immediately charming neighborhood. Although lacking in major attractions beyond the Roman Forum, the district is packed with traditional Greek tavernas where visitors can sample some of the city’s best spanakopita, dolmades, moussaka and more.
In the heyday of ancient Athens, the Erechtheion was the city’s busiest temple. Built on the steep hillside of the Acropolis, the temple was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon and is spread over multiple levels that are bedecked in an amazing array of ancient statuary. Sadly, besides the much smaller Temple of Rome and Augustus, the Erechtheion was the last building erected on the Acropolis in the ancient period.
With a clutch of blockbuster ancient attractions ranging from the Agora to Hadrian’s Library and the rebuilt Stoa of Attalos, Monastiraki is one of Athens’ most popular neighborhoods. While the area’s history is thrillingly palpable, the district is also one of the city’s most vibrant areas with a flea market selling everything from antiques to artisanal olive soap and souvenirs. The surrounding streets are jammed with converted Ottoman mosques, traditional tavernas and lively bars, especially in the sub-district of Psyrri.
In the 6th century BC the Athenian ruler Peisistratos inaugurated the annual Festival of the Dionysia by opening the world’s very first theater beneath the Acropolis. While the original theater was made of wood, it was reconstructed in marble in the 3rd century BC with much of the elegant tiered seating remaining intact until now.
Standing on the precipitous Cape Sounion high above the sparkling Aegean Sea, the Temple of Poseidon is one of Greece’s most iconic sites. Just a one-hour drive from downtown Athens, this remote spot makes an ideal tour from the nearby metropolis where visitors can marvel at the gleaming white 4th century BC columns, visit the nearby Temple of Athena and sample delicious Greek cuisine at beachside tavernas.
In the center of modern Corinth are the ruins of what was once one of the wealthiest cities in the ancient world. Most of what can be seen today dates from the Roman era with visitors free to explore the enigmatic ruins of the Agora and the theater. The exception to the Roman rule is the startlingly large Temple of Apollo, which dates from the 6th century BC.
Situated in the heart of Greece far from the tourist hot spots of the Cycladic islands or the Athenian Peninsula, the precipitous monasteries of Meteora are Greece’s true hidden gem. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988, Meteora is home to twenty-four monasteries perched atop granite pillars that rise from the surrounding countryside like Corinthian columns. First settled by monks in the 11th century, the monasteries of Meteora reached an artistic climax in the 15th century when they perfected the art of post-Byzantine frescoes. Today, the monasteries look torn from the pages of a fantasy novel. The best known attraction is the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron, which became the richest and most influential of the monastic retreats thanks to the patronage of the Serbian emperor. Beyond the monasteries themselves, Meteora is a center for adventure sports in Greece with the sheer granite rocks providing perfect conditions for rock climbing.
Built atop the highest pinnacle of rock in the valley, the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron was founded in the 14th century and quickly became the richest religious institution in Meteora thanks to the patronage of the Serbian emperor. While atop the narrow rocky stack make sure to pay a visit to the katholikon, the primary church of the monastery, which is bedecked in vibrant frescoes detailing the persecution of Christ subservient to the Romans and has a rare polygonal dome.
The Monastery of the Holy Trinity may have rose to international fame thanks to its starring role in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only but the rich history of this Orthodox religious institution goes back to the early 15th century. Rising 400 metres above a remote part of the Meteora valley, the Holy Trinity is the most isolated of the region’s monasteries. As a result, it receives fewer visitors than other easier to access monasteries making it a hidden gem best explored with the help of a local guide.
Besides hiking the many trails that surround the Meteora monasteries, there is no better way to get a unique insight into the region’s jaw-dropping landscapes and wildlife than through the Natural History Museum. What is more, the museum offers the rare chance to take a tour with local truffle hunting dogs to find the rare ‘black diamonds’ of Meteora that are prized by chefs across the globe.
Combining the best of Meteora’s breathtaking rock formations and its fascinating history, cliff-scrambling tours give adventurous visitors the opportunity to hike, rock climb and scramble their way up some of the region’s most precipitous rock pinnacles. Beyond simply being an adrenaline pumping experience, the isolated rock climbing routes take you past usually inaccessible monasteries, such as the ruined Monastery of the Twelve Apostles.
Given Meteora’s unique landscape it is no surprise that adrenaline junkies from across the world come to climb the region’s sheer rock faces. On rock climbing tours guides will help climbers of all abilities make the most of their time in Meteora through specialist training and safety conscious instruction. What is more, climbing the rocks at Meteora allows you to experience the jaw-dropping scenery in a way not possible at ground level.