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You don’t have to travel all around the world to see breathtaking sunsets, stroll around ancient sites, taste amazing wine, and enjoy a hike in the mountains.
You just have to visit Greece.
Here are the 13 best things you can add to your Greece bucket list.
It’s not possible to do all of these things in just one trip, so chose your favorites carefully!
Challenge yourself by hiking the Samaria Gorge in Crete
If you are planning a visit to Crete, you can’t miss hiking the longest gorge on the island. It has been a part of the National Park of Greece since 1962 and still is one of the top attractions for tourists.
Samaria Gorge is 16 kilometers long and it’s quite challenging to walk through it. The terrain is rocky at many points, and usually, it’s quite hot during the summer when most people are visiting Crete. But the mountain views and the steep walls of the gorge are well worth the effort, as they show how mighty and impressive nature can be.
At the end of the gorge, you will be awarded some rest at the charming Agia Roumeli village. As the village is at the shores of the Libyan Sea, the majority of hikers go for a refreshing swim. There are several cafes and ice cream shops to enjoy and regain some calories lost on the hike. And finally, in Agia Roumeli you can buy a ticket to a boat leading to a less remote village from which you may return to your vehicle.
You can buy a tour to visit the Samaria Gorge if you don’t plan to rent a car in Crete. However, if you will have a vehicle, then it’s totally possible to go to the beginning of the gorge in your car, hike the gorge until the sea, take a boat from Agia Roumeli, and then use public transportation to return to the starting point of the gorge. Check out here how to go on the Samaria Gorge hike with a rental car.
Walk around in Corfu
Corfu is known for being one of the best beach destinations in Europe, but here’s a little secret: it’s also one of the dreamiest islands to put your hiking shoes on. Aside from all the beach goodness, the island is also home to lush mountains that you can spend days hiking paired with gorgeous views of the Ionian, quaint little villages, and mythological spots to entertain you every step of the way.
The entire island is ideal for hiking, but if you want the real deal, the best trail to get started with is the Lakones Path, which is a 4-hour hike near Pelokastrista (one of Corfu’s most beautiful villages). Another must if you’re feeling up for a challenge is the Donkey Track, which rewards you with views of some of the best highlights of the area.
The easiest way to get to Corfu is by plane. There is an airport right on the island that provides direct flights to most major airports in Europe. As for where to stay in Corfu for hikers, Lakones Village is the ideal spot as most of the best hiking trails on the island start right from its outskirts and the forested setting of the village provides some seriously incredible views of the island.
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Visit the uninhabited Chrissi island near Crete
While Chrissi island is not a destination that offers countless activities, it is definitely a place worth visiting during your Eastern Crete holiday or even if you have a longer Crete vacation.
Even though the island is very small in size (only 7km long and 2km wide) and uninhabited, it is the perfect place to go if you are a sea lover and are looking for Caribbean-like water and sandy beaches. The island itself is very arid and it only hosts an Orthodox church, a bar, and a tavern, and the main reason why people come here is for its natural beauty, sunbathing, and crystal clear blue waters.
It is also worth knowing that the ecosystem of Chrissi island is protected, and a small tax is charged when you arrive on the island.
Getting to the island is easy by boat from the Southern city of Ierapetra, and during summer and peak season there are plenty of organized tours to choose from. You can book online in advance and get an organized tour from Agios Nikolaos or Ierapetra, or you can make your way to Ierapetra on your own and buy the ticket directly from the boat operator.
A few things to have in mind for your trip:
- Don’t stop on the side where the boat will leave you, make your way to the other side for the best beach and water.
- There is no shop on the island, thus bring your own supplies for the day (especially water, but also food).
- A sunbed and umbrella will cost around 20 EUR for the whole day.
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Explore the monasteries of Meteora
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest Eastern Orthodox monastery complexes on earth, Meteora is more than worthy of a place on your Greece wish list.
Meteora comprises two dozen monasteries, each one precariously perched atop a tall column of rock. This landscape was etched over millennia from weathered stone and sand. Monks occupied the site from as early as the 11th century, dwelling in caverns and caves spread across the landscape. The first monasteries were built in the 14th century and at that time were only accessible using ladders.
There are 24 monasteries at Meteora in total. Only six remain active today, including the Monastery of Great Meteoron, the largest of the bunch. Visitors are welcome to climb the stone stairs to visit the monasteries and tour the frescoed chapels and manicured gardens. One of the best things to do in Meteora is to simply travel along the road that connects the monasteries, stopping off at various look-out points for different views. Hiking trails can also be found in the area.
Meteora is located in the central part of mainland Greece close to the town of Kalabaka, around 3 hours south-west of Thessaloniki or 4 hours north of Athens. While it’s preferable to spend at least one night near the monasteries, it’s also possible to visit Meteora on a guided day trip from either of Greece’s two largest cities. Note that each monastery opens on a different day of the week and there are no days when all six are accessible. So if you want to visit them all, it’s necessary to spend a couple of nights in Kalabaka. As these are functioning Orthodox monasteries, appropriate dress is required.
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Discover the former capital of Greece Nafplio and Palamidi Fortress
When visiting Greece it can be all too easy to focus on Athens and the beautiful islands. But there is actually a lot to see on the Greek mainland as well. If you base yourself in Athens you should absolutely consider a trip to Nafplio. This Peloponnese town was the capital of Greece until 1834 and played an important role in the Greek War of Independence.
The most important and impressive site in Nafplio is the Palamidi Fortress which you can either hike up to or head to by car. According to legend, there are 999 steps leading up to the fortress, but that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Nonetheless, on a warm day, it can be quite strenuous to get up there. Even if you drive up by car you should wear a comfortable pair of shoes as there is a lot of walking in the area.
The Palamidi Fortress was built by the Venetians when they controlled the area but was later taken over by the Ottomans. For Greeks, the prison cell of Kolokotronis is perhaps the most important thing to see at Palamidi Fortress. The Greek general was imprisoned for treason inside this tiny cell but was later pardoned. The vast area surrounding the fortress is a fantastic place to explore the history of Greece but also for absolutely stunning views of Nafplio and the Peloponnese.
A visit to the Palamidi Fortress is an excellent way to find out more about the history of modern Greece. As it can easily be done on a day trip from Athens you really shouldn’t skip it. It’s about a two-hour drive from Athens so you can either rent a car or take the bus.
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Take a trip to Delos island – UNESCO World Heritage site
One thing that should be on your bucket list for Greece if you love history is the historical island of Delos. Easily visitable with a short boat trip from Mykonos, you can buy your tickets in the morning and return when you wish from the Delos hourly.
Delos is classed as one of the most historical, mythological, and archaeological sites in Greece. Which makes it amazing to visit in person to experience yourself. This Mediterranean island is most known to be the birthplace of the twin gods Artemis and Apollo, so walking around the ancient theatre, houses and other ruins is well worth your time. There are also two interesting museums you can explore on the island; the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and the Archaeological Museum of Delos. These are part of your day trip ticket so at no extra cost.
Since 1990, the island of Delos is part of the UNESCO World Heritage sites due to it being an archaeological site with a rich history. Spend at least half a day here to explore the top 12 landmarks and highlights.
Travel tips: wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes as these island landmarks are pretty spread out. Also, bring your own water and snacks for the day as there is no restaurant to buy refreshments.
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Take an Instagram photo with Shipwreck Beach, Zakynthos
Imagine crystal blue waters, a stunning white beach, tall limestone cliffs, and … a shipwreck?
This may sound like a somewhat strange combination at first, but it is THIS combination that makes this place so unique. Attracting many travelers from all over the world with its beauty each year, Shipwreck Beach certainly is a place that one should not miss when visiting Greece.
This one-of-a-kind beach is located at the Northwest side of the Greek Island of Zakynthos and can only be reached by boat. These boats depart daily from the island’s capital, which is funnily enough also called Zakynthos or from Agios Nikolaos, a town nearby Navagio Beach.
Although the beach itself is worth a visit, it is the panoramic view over Shipwreck Beach that one gets from standing at the cliff tops that is truly mesmerizing. Rent a car from Zakynthos capital and drive to the viewing platform to experience this magical view for yourself. It is only a short drive from Zakynthos capital, as it will only take you about 45 minutes to get there.
However, make sure to wake up early in the morning to avoid the big crowds so that you can fully enjoy this spectacular view.
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Watch one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world in Oia, Santorini
The small island town of Oia, Santorini is known for having some of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. Known for its iconic whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches, Oia is also considered one of the most romantic destinations in the world. Being in one of the most romantic places while viewing one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets is a must-have item on any Greece bucket list.
Oia is located at the northern end of Santorini along the ridge of a caldera, making it a very vertical city. Visitors can expect to climb lots of stairs to get between locations. The vertical layout of the city, and its virtually unobstructed view of the ocean, however, make it a perfect viewing platform for viewing the sunset and watching the colors change in the sky as day fades to night.
Santorini is a popular summer destination, with scuba diving, wine tasting, and hiking being popular activities. One of the other most popular things to do in Oia, Santorini, is to take a catamaran out on the ocean. Insider tip: book your catamaran just before sunset, and enjoy the beautiful colors of the sky reflected on the sea around you as the sun settles down over the horizon.
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Hop beaches in Milos
The Cycladic Island of Milos is one of the best islands to visit in Greece. It is not as famous or crowded as its bigger sisters – Santorini and Mykonos, but it’s big enough with plenty of incredible beaches with mind-blowing natural beauty and interesting landscapes.
The best way to explore Milos is hiring a car, or even better, an ATV for an ultimate adventure and beach hop around the island. Some of the must-see beaches include Serakiniko beach, known as the Moonscapes of Milos. Serakiniko is famous for its moon-like landscape – white volcanic rock formation contrasting with pristine clean turquoise water. As Serakiniko is the most visited beach on the island, the best time to visit is early in the morning. Next on the list is Tsigrado beach with red rocks and accessible only via a ladder. Getting down to Tsigrado beach is an adventure in its own right! Situated on the southern part of the island, Paleochori beach has a unique red and pink rock and very calm water, perfect for taking a relaxing dip. Beaches on this part of the island are way less busy, so if you’re looking for some quiet time, look no further.
The best places to stay in Milos are Adamas, great for nightlife, and Pollonia, an excellent village for families. You can get to Milos by ferry or plane from Athens.
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Check out the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi
Located high up in the mountains, the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi is one of the best-known ancient sites in Greece. The sanctuary was the home of the Pythia, Apollo’s prophesying priestess, otherwise known as the Oracle of Delphi. People from across the ancient world came to Delphi to ask the priestess questions and to hear the wisdom of the god through her. Now, the site is quiet, but it’s still fascinating to explore and learn more about the people of that time.
While most of the buildings are now in ruins, it’s still possible to recognize some of the monuments. The remains of the Temple of Athena Pronaia greet visitors to the site and is one of the most recognizable pictures of Delphi. Walking up the Sacred Way towards the Temple of Apollo (only a few columns survive), you’ll pass a number of treasure houses that look like mini temples – some in very good condition. At the top of the mountain, you’ll find a large stadium with views down the mountain and across the ancient site. The museum is also worth visiting. It’s filled with many of the treasures of Delphi including some remarkable ancient statues and the detailing from the ruins.
You can visit Delphi on a day tour from Athens or Thessaloniki, although keep in mind that it is a long day. Otherwise, go independently and stay in the nearby town of Arachova and head to the ruins early. That way you can explore the site when it’s still quiet and peaceful before more visitors arrive.
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Explore the network of hiking trails on Sifnos
While you certainly can’t go wrong with any of the amazing islands in the Cyclades chain, wonderful Sifnos stands out for its terrific network of hiking trails. The scenery is obviously outstanding, with an exceptional mix of rolling hills, historic sites, and coastal walks. But what really sets Sifnos apart from other islands is the impressive organization of its trails. Each of the 19 well-marked and well-maintained trails is numbered and/or letter, making them easy to find, follow and enjoy.
Among the best walks is the strenuous climb to the ancient ruins of Agios Andreas, a Mycenaean citadel dating all the way back to the 8th century BC, the expansive views of Vathos and Fykiada Bays from the vivid name “trail #4” and the easy stroll around the pleasant harbor of Kamares. The most memorable day for most, however, is following any of the several trails that run through serene valleys down to the classic whitewashed old town of Kastro. Here visitors find themselves captivated by the stunning spectacle of the Church of the Seven Martyrs perched dramatically at the end of a narrow, rocky promontory.
Travelers are spoiled for choice journeying through the Greek islands but any avid hikers definitely need to add the fantastic trails of Sifnos to their Greece bucket list. With a slow pace of life and fewer tourists than busier neighbours such as Milos and Santorini, Sifnos is a great place to unwind and simply revel in the beauty of nature.
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Stroll picture-perfect old town streets of Chania
A must-have on any Crete itinerary, Chania is a beautiful city located on the northwestern part of the largest Greek island. Its history dates all the way back to the Bronze Age, making it an ideal place to find historical landmarks, museums, and picture-perfect old town streets.
Some of Chania’s best historical spots include the Venetian harbor, shipyards and lighthouse, the Minoan Excavations, and Firkas Fortress. If you love museums, don’t miss the Archeological Museum, Folklore Museum, and Maritime Museum. You can stroll through the Old Chania Market and visit the Etz Hayyim Synagogue (one of the only remains of Crete’s Jewish heritage).
Last but not least, the most fun thing to do in Chania is roaming freely through its gorgeous old town. From colorful houses to cute shops to flowerpots scattered around every other corner, this area is full of irresistible charm.
This city is also home to plenty of fantastic Greek restaurants and is a wonderful base for exploring the entire Chania region by car or guided day tours.
You can get to Chania directly by flight, but if you can only arrive in Heraklion (the capital of Crete), a 3-hour bus ride will take you to this loveable city.
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Do island hopping in the Cyclades
One of the best things to do in Greece and a dream for many people is island hopping on the Greek islands and especially in the Cyclades, the most famous island group in the country. There are more than 220 inhabited and uninhabited islands in the Cyclades but the most popular ones include Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Milos, and Ios.
One can start their journey from Athens and take the ferry or plane to some of the islands and then continue to the others. Alternatively, Mykonos and Santorini both have international airports so it is possible to start your journey from there skipping Athens altogether.
There are many things to do on The Cyclades islands if you are interested in history a visit to the sacred island of Delos, and the island of Santorini with the archaeological site of Akrotiri and Ancient Thera is a must. The islands of Mykonos and Ios are both famous for their nightlife with the difference that Mykonos is very expensive. For beach lovers, Milos, Naxos, and Mykonos islands have some of the best beaches and for foodies, you should add Sifnos and Syros to your island-hopping itinerary. Finally, for hikers Andros and Amorgos islands are the perfect fit.
The best time for island hopping in Greece is between May and September when everything is open and the weather is great. You should avoid visiting in August, the peak of the high season, and if you do prebook your tickets and hotels.
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