Greece lures tourists and travelers from all around the world for its rich fascinating history and the beautiful Greek islands. While the archaeological sites, well-preserved ancient sites, and historic museums are of great interest to the inquisitive, the beautiful coastal towns, beaches, charming medieval villages attract the tourists looking for a laid-back Greece holiday.
Most of the historical sites are in ruins still there is so much to learn about ancient history and culture of a country that is often called the ‘cradle of Western civilization’. And then there are the Greek islands which offer breathtaking scenic vistas and some of the best luxurious resorts.
How to Reach Greece
The 4 main international airports in Greece are in Athens, Crete, Rhodes, and Thessaloniki. Most of the Greek islands have an airport but not all may be well connected with international cities. Athens and Thessaloniki airports are busiest serving direct flights to the major European cities and connecting flights from other cities around the world. There might also be a few seasonal direct flights to the Greek islands.
Most of the major cities and important Greece landmarks are connected by buses and trains. But if you are short of time then the best option would be to rent a car or hire a cab and explore several neighboring places in one trip. For instance, we booked a tour and explored the Argolis region consisting of Corinth Canal, Ancient Corinth, Mycenae, Epidaurus and Nafplion on a day trip which wouldn’t have been possible if we had taken different buses to each of the places.
To get to the Greek islands you can either take a ferry or a flight. Ferries are a cheaper option, time-consuming with chances of further delay depending on the weather. Again there are two kinds of ferry fast and slow with different journey time and prices.
There are ferries connecting cities in Italy and Turkey to Greece if you are looking for an alternative option to flying from these countries.
Historical Places in Greece
Greece is the country with one of the oldest civilizations which endows it with a fascinating history, numerous archaeological sites and museums, monuments, and architectural marvels.
One of the most popular historical sites in Greece is Olympia. The first Olympic Games were held in Olympia in 700 B.C. to honor the king of the gods, Zeus.
There are many important sites and museums to explore in Olympia. The Archaeological Museum of Olympia is a major attraction, it houses the famous Hermes of Praxiteles statue.
The Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Antiquity exhibits numerous sculptures and paintings providing information on the history of the games at Olympia in the 8th century BC.
The Archaeological Site is home to the sanctuary of Zeus and several important buildings, and monuments. It was once home to a 13m tall statue of Zeus which is believed to have been destroyed in a fire.
The Greek capital Athens is a historic city packed to the brim with historical sites and monuments. The Acropolis is the top archeological site in Athens which one cannot miss when in Athens. The Acropolis is an ancient citadel that sits on a hill in Athens overlooking the sprawling city. Acropolis consists of numerous historical monuments consisting of Erechtheon, the Propylaea and a small temple of Athena Nike and the most magnificent of all the Parthenon.
‘Propylaea of Athens’ is the monumental entrance to the Acropolis complex. The gate features Doric columns and ionic columns. When getting into the complex through the ‘Propylaea of Athens’ on the right one can see a small temple dedicated to the Greek goddess, Athena Nike. The temple built in tetrastyle features numerous sculptures of goddess Nike.
Once you are inside the Acropolis complex the first imposing structure that you will see is the Parthenon. Parthenon is a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena and was completed in 438 BC. The colossal structure features 46 outer columns and 23 inner columns. Parthenon is said to be destroyed by fire and earthquakes several times and has even been looted for its sculptures.
Erechtheion is another beautiful temple part of the complex dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon. The most interesting feature of Erechtheion is the ‘Porch of the Maidens’ with six draped female figures (caryatids).
Also not to miss in Acropolis is the Theatre of Dionysus and Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Dionysus and Odeon is an ancient theater dedicated to Dionysus. It was a popular venue for plays and enactments and could seat up to 17,000 people. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is also an ancient amphitheater from Roman times but smaller in size with a seating capacity of around 6,000 people. The amphitheater is used even today for festivals and musical concerts.
The Acropolis Museum – Do not miss a visit to the Acropolis museum which exhibits a wonderful collection of over 4,000 artifacts and sculptures found in the archaeological site of the Acropolis. The museum also has a section where visitors can look at the excavations of the archaeological site through glass walls.
Corinth is one of the top day trips from Athens. Ancient Corinth is once the center of commercial activities in ancient Greece for its strategic position connecting Peloponnese with the rest of Greece. The city of Ancient Corinth is in ruins due to frequent earthquakes but still, there is plenty to explore.
The 6th-century B.C Apollo Temple peripteral temple with Doric columns is one of the iconic structures in the ancient Corinth. The marketplace with a well-paved path and numerous shops and the fountain of Peirene which was the major source of water for the city are some of the other important structures here.
An archeological museum located on the same site walks through the important archaeological findings of ancient Corinth. The collection consists of colorful mosaics, busts of Roman rulers, Greek pottery and other vital artifacts from the ancient city of the bygone era.
Also not to miss when visiting Ancient Corinth is the Acrocorinth which is a fortress built on the hill overlooking the ancient city of Corinth. The fortress consists of huge gates, ramparts, and remains of chapels, mosques and a temple of Aphrodite.
Tip: Corinth Canal is one of the spectacular manmade canals not to miss on the way to Ancient Corinth from Athens. The 6.4 km waterway cuts through the Isthmus of Corinth and connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the mainland of Greece.
Mycenae is an archaeological site built upon a hill, though mostly in ruins Mycenae was a thriving prosperous city during the 14th and 13th century BCE. The archaeological findings comprised of gold, bronze, ivory sculptures, precious stones, and silver.
The archaeological site consists of remains of a palace, the grave circles, and the colossal Tholos tombs. The famous landmark of Mycenae is the Lion Gate which is the entrance to the citadel and features massive stone reliefs of two lions with missing heads. The top of the citadel offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding area.
There is a museum next to the Mycenae citadel exhibits an interesting collection of unearthed objects from the archaeological site of Mycenae.
Nafplion is a beautiful coastal town and the former capital of the Kingdom of Greece between 1823 and 1834. Nafplion only 2 hours away from Athens is another popular day trip from the Greece capital city. The famous historical landmarks of the town of Nafplio are Akronafplia, the Palamidi Castle and the charming old town.
While there is nothing much remains of the Akronafplia fortress it still worth a visit for the spectacular views over Nafplion and the picture-perfect view of Bourtzi castle and the Nafplio Harbor.
The Palamidi fortress built by the Venetian conquerors can be reached by 1000 steps. The fort summit offers wonderful views of the surrounding area and the Argolic Gulf.
The Syntagma Square is surrounded by important historical buildings. The most popular amongst them is the Archaeological Museum which is housed in an 18th-century Venetian building. The collection consists of artifacts from the Neolithic period to Roman periods collected from the region of southern Argolis.
Also not to miss on your visit to Nafplion is the Old Town. The narrow cobblestone alleys of the Nafplion Old Town are lined with well preserved neoclassical buildings and mansions adorned with Bougainvillea trees.
Epidauros is a coastal town and a small city in ancient Greece. The most prominent attraction of the ancient Epidauros is the theater of Epidavros built in the 4th century BCE. The theater of Epidavros is well known for its exceptional acoustics. The theatre has a seating capacity of 12000 spectators and regardless of seating, one can hear the slightest murmur clearly. The theatre is well-preserved and is used during the summer to host plays, drama performances, and concerts.
Also worth a visit here is a small archaeological museum. The collection consists of reconstructions of temples with its columns and inscriptions and the archaeological findings from the ancient site of Epidaurus. Most of the original findings can be found displayed at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most famous historic sites in Greece. Delphi was once considered the center of the world and was the seat of Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi. The archaeological site is built on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. The site consists of numerous other ancient monuments, treasuries, temples, a theater, a stadium, and other historical sites.
The most popular structure in Delphi and probably the most photographed is the temple of Athena consisting of the Tholos. Tholos is a circular building consisting of 20 Doric columns on the outer circle and 10 Corinthian columns in the interior. The Temple of Apollo is the other important structure, a peripteral Doric building that dates from the 4th century BC.
Further up from the Temple of Apollo is the ancient theatre of Delphi which is amongst the well-preserved theatres in Greece. The theatre sits on a hill overlooking the entire site and the valley. It was once the venue for the performances and games held during the ancient times. The theatre unlike the one in Epidavrous is small and can accommodate about 5000 people. There is also a large stadium which was famous for its chariot races and could seat up to 6500 spectators.
There is also a Delphi Museum Archaeological Museum, displaying an impressive collection of finds from the archaeological site of Delphi.
Athens to Delphi is 180 km with about 3 hours drive and can be explored on a day trip from Athens.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora is a group of rock formation upon which monastery complexes are built. There are a total of 24 monasteries at Meteora in the 16th-century out of which only 6 are functioning today and others are mostly in ruins. The monasteries were built to serve monks and nuns following the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The monasteries are one of the top tourist attractions in Greece and are accessible by staircases and pathways cut into the rock formations. Check here for monastery time and open days.
The Monastery of Great Meteoron is the largest of the monasteries erected in the 14th century. The monastery complex consists of a museum and a church. The Monastery of Varlaam is the second largest monastery and has a church dedicated to All Saints and a museum. The Monastery of Rousanou/St. Barbara and the Monastery of St. Stephen both are inhabited by nuns while others are inhabited by monks. Other monasteries are the 16th-century Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas and the 15th-century Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
There are buses and trains running between Athens and the village of Kalambaka about 5 minutes drive from the monasteries of Meteora and takes close to 5 hours.
The Greek Islands
Greek Islands are also a popular tourist destination, they draw tourists for stunning beaches and breathtaking scenic vistas. The islands are perfect for every tourist if you are looking for a honeymoon destination or even if you are on a Greek family vacation!
The Greek island of Santorini is one of the most beautiful and popular tourist attractions in Greece. Santorini is a charming town known for its whitewashed buildings and blue-domed churches overlooking the caldera. Santorini also lures tourists and travelers for its gorgeous sandy beaches, breathtaking views especially the sunsets over the Aegean Sea and luxury resorts perfect for a romantic holiday.
The two major villages in Santorini are Fira and Oia. While Oia is perfect for a laid-back holiday, Fira commercialized with plenty of nightclubs and restaurants most of which are open till late at night. Apart from the stunning views Santorini also has an ancient archaeological site of Akrotiri town, a Bronze Age settlement. The excavations have led to the discovery of some remarkable frescoes, potteries and other artworks.
One of the best ways to explore the places in Santorini is to hike from Oia to Fira with the path overlooking the caldera. The hiking path winds through some of the small and quaint villages with few shops and restaurants for you to take a break or if you are looking to buy something to eat and drink. An alternative option which we did as we were accompanied by a year old was a half-day catamaran tour. The tour had several stops which lets you explore the major points of interest in Santorini like beaches, hot spring with lunch or dinner served on board.
Crete is Greece’s largest island and has some of the popular fine-sand beaches, White Mountains, caves and the Heraklion Archaeological Museum displaying artifacts of Minoan civilization and Bronze Age settlement. There is plenty of things to do in Crete spread over the 4 different regions – Lasithi, Chania, Rethymno, and Heraklion.
Chania has a charming old town, some pretty beaches, and the gorgeous Samaria Gorge to explore. Samaria Gorge is a 17 km long gorge laden with scenic landscapes and views. Balos Beach, Elafonisi Beach and Stefanou Beach are the most popular beaches in Crete and a must-visit when in Chania. The most important attraction in Heraklion is the archaeological site of Knossos, considered as Europe’s oldest city.
Heraklion is also home to some of the best wineries of Cretes. Explore the wineries and go on wine tasting tours.
Rethymno is a beautiful coastal town with the best nightlife and home to some of the stunning beaches including Plakias Beach, Prevali Beach and the Bali beach.
The Psychro Cave in Lasithi region known for spectacular rock formations and of great mythological importance as the site of the birth of Zeus.
Mykonos is another popular Greek island which attract tourists from all over the world. One of the iconic landmarks in Mykonos ate the windmills or Kato Milli. The 5 large windmills are located right next to the sea overlooking the town of Mykonos.
The old town of the island with the narrow cobblestone alleys winding through the whitewashed buildings with blue doors and windows are perfect for a stroll and even to enjoy some breathtaking vistas. There are numerous little shops and restaurants tucked away in the alleys.
One of the major draws for the tourists to the island of Mykonos is the nightlife, abundance of nightclubs and bars. The Paradise Beach and Super Paradise beach are a must for the partygoers for the bars and the live music events and performances. Mykonos is also a haven for watersport activities like surfing, waterskiing, paddleboarding, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Best Time to Visit Greece
The best time to visit Greece is from April until mid-June and the months of September and October which is the low season with less crowd. July and August are the peak months when you will find a lot of tourists. These are also the hot months. , and it’s very crowded especially in popular destinations like Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, etc. Planes, boats, and hotels are pre-booked, and everything is more expensive during this time.
The winter months from November to March are colder with a high probability of rain and occasional snow. Most of the restaurants and shops are closed during these months. If you are visiting during the winter months it would be best to explore mainland Greece.