Greece really is all that and a bag of chips. If Greece was a man, I would marry him. That’s how in love I am. Few places make me feel so “at home”. Maybe it’s the warmth and openness of the people and the fact that despite having severe economic hardships the past few years, they are still unbelievably generous. Maybe it’s the absolute gorgeousness of the country with its over 6000 thousand islands dotting the Aegean and Ionian seas. Or maybe it’s the cheese. There are at least 12 types that I know of, by the way. I can’t pin it down to one thing, it’s the whole package. You hopefully can discover for yourself and let me know what you love about it. Here is a suggestion for a perfect 2 week itinerary for Greece. Per my usual, I will include lodging and food options that were especially awesome.
Location: Balkan Peninsula
Language: Greek. English is spoken well in most places.
Currency: Euro. Easy to find ATMs. Credit card taken in many places but on the smaller islands and at food kiosks it may be cash only.
Flying: You can find relatively inexpensive flights between Athens and the larger islands like Santorini, Mykonos, Zakynthos and Corfu. These flights are typically an hour or less in duration.
Driving in Greece is fairly easy. I didn’t find it too difficult even when some of the signs were in Greek! “It’s all Greek to me!” LOL
You can ferry (or car ferry) from Athens to many islands and then in between islands. There are fast and slow ferries. The frequency varies by the season and the costs vary by the time of day and which type of ferry.
Bus: I have no experience with the bus system other than on a few islands which I will explain in later sections.
I will provide two options. One for the person who doesn’t mind rushing and being on the go; the person who wants to hit the popular spots.
The other is for those who prefer a more relaxed pace and prefer less touristy areas. You can always come up with your own combination of the two!
This itinerary takes you to the most popular islands but in different seas so you can get a taste of everything. I personally think it is shameful to go to Greece and not see some spectacular mainland sights, so I included them as well!
If you arrive in the morning, spend the day exploring the Acropolis and Plaka neighborhood. You can also hike to Philopappos hill for sunset and great views. If you arrive in the evening, have dinner and get up early the next day to really see the most!
For this option, I would rent a car and then get rid of it before going to the islands, unless you really want to have it there. Depends on your budget and preference. Having the car means you must take the car ferries and can’t fly. This may increase your travel times but you can balance the savings from not flying against the expense of having a car. I’m not a mathematician and can’t work this out so quickly!
I think Athens deserves 2 days at least despite what many say. Athens is lovely and fascinating with centuries of history.
Consider staying in the Monastiraki or Psirri neighborhoods. They are walking distance to everything and very cool with a local feel. I stayed in this Airbnb. Use my code for $40 credit when you sign up!
It takes about 2.5 hours (183 km). Depending on how much you were able to see in Athens, you can choose to leave early, or in the evening. If you get there during the day you can spend the day exploring the most important archaeological site in Greece, one of most important in the world. Visit the Athenian Treasury, the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Venus, among other impressive structures.
The town of Arachova nearby is a charming ski town in the winter and in other seasons very cute with shops and restaurants with scenic views. Have lunch or dinner at in Arachova or in Delphi
I stayed a guest house called Pitho, run by a very sweet and helpful man who prepares a wonderful breakfast. He even makes his grandmother’s sour cherry jam. Yum! He will recommend a great restaurant down the street. I forget the name but it was wonderful!
If you had enough time in Delphi you can either sleep late, (ahhhh) then head to Meteora or hang out and shop in Arachova a bit. Eventually, take the 3-hour drive to Meteora (230km). Try to get there for sunset if you can. See the monasteries in this lighting is magic. Be prepared for lots of company with tripods. LOL. Go early and claim a spot.
Spend the day exploring the mystical and magnificent monasteries. Some involve lots of steps so be ready to exercise. Females must cover shoulders and legs (everybody has to really). They provide a skirt you can wear over your pants.
Have dinner in the base town of Kalambaka.
This will be kind of a long drive. Up to you to if you want to pound it out early and have some more time in Athens, or do it leisurely. The scenery along the way is stunning and you will want to take photos!
Santorini is a volcanic island full of whitewashed villages surrounding by deep blue seas. It’s world famous and rightly so with this scenery. It was created by a volcanic eruption, one of the largest volcanic events recorded on Earth, creating a four-mile-wide caldera. This caldera is where millions flock every year to get those perfect sunset views. This is THE iconic Greek Island. Just be prepared to share the beauty with thousands of your best human friends.
You can choose to say in either the Oia (pronounced ee-a)) area or the Thira area. These are the two main villages. Thira (Fira) is where the ferry lands. Oia is on the northernmost tip and is the most famous village with the sunset views you’ve probably seen a zillion pics of. It is EXPENSIVE!!!! If you want one of those Instagram worthy cave hotels with a pool and incredible views be prepared to dish out between $500-$1000 or more nightly during the summer. These places are cheaper in October but still pricey. You can stay ten minutes south of Oia with a view facing the opposite way (still pretty water views but not as iconic) for under $200. In Thira it is much more reasonable and there is more to do there as well. It is more centrally located so you can go to more places with less effort.
I stayed once in Thira at Volcano View Hotel and loved it but it is a splurge. I also stayed close to Oia at Agnadi Villas. They were very nice and you can easily walk into Oia. There was also a bus stop across the street. There are hostels available in Thira as well.
If you have a car, use it! It is a big island. You can rent a quad (ATV) for around 40-50 euro per day. Or you can use the bus system. It is fairly uncomplicated however it can fill up quickly in the high season when coming back from Oia and won’t stop at subsequent stops. Very annoying.
I’m just going to list a few key things to do in Santorini. You can easily cover all these activities in 3 days.
Visit iconic Oia. The town doesn’t have much to do, just cute cafes and shops and gorgeous views for dayzzzz. I was there the end of August and went very early to walk around and get photos without the masses in them. I went at 7 am and by 10 am it was packed. This is a good time to grab breakfast and then maybe hike down to the relatively uncrowded beach called Ammoudi Bay. This is a great spot to swim although not really a beach. Take the path down from Oia to the Ammoudi port then turn left and walk along the water’s edge for 5 minutes. There’s a small island that you can swim out to that has fab views.
If you want to see the famous Oia sunset, get your spot early. I suggest Kastro restaurant. You need a reservation. It is in a perfect location. Other spots that have great sunset views in Oia include the Venetian Castle or you can walk sort of to the “end” and there is a huge windmill with a little bar. I recommend sitting there OR get a spot on the wall behind the windmill for gorgeous windmill shots!
Yeah, OK Santorini. Your stupid sunsets are pretty damn sweet. Do you all understand how many people were packed like sardines in those cute little alleys, pushing and shoving to get a postcard sunset pic? Of course I wanted no part in that and managed to find my own little spots💛🌅. Do you have any secret sunset watching spots in touristy places you want to share with moi???
The further “in” you walk, the longer it will take you to walk out because of the bottleneck of people jammed into tiny alleys. I didn’t love this part. I actually became quite hostile. I recommend getting away from the hot spot early and facing the other direction from where the sun actually went down. The opposite direction usually gets the pink and purple colors. After the sunset is when the sky really becomes impressive if you ask me. This photo taken when you first enter Oia. Nobody is here!
You can hike from Fira to Oia. It is 10 km (6.2 miles) and takes 2-4 hours.
Red Beach is stunning to see with red cliffs surrounding it, but isn’t the best beach to sunbathe on. Better to gawk at, take photos and then visit nearby Akrotiri.
Perissa and Perivolas. These are essentially one long black sand beach that is sort of the party beach.
Some call this the Pompeii of Santorini. It was once covered from a volcanic eruption. Very cool place to see!
This place is a great way to chill, enjoy views and not be annoyed by tons of people. You can get here an hour before sunset and claim a table. Order a big ass cheese place and do a wine tasting. Be prepared for some generous pour.
I recommend the tables all the way to the north part of the deck, facing the northern tip of the caldera.
You can taste 12 wines for 25 euro or something like that. Whatever the price is….its 5 euro less for 6 wines. This is a no-brainer folks!
Here is a great guide to sunset in Santorini written by a photographer!
Stay near the town if you like walking to restaurants and shops. I stayed in a place called Kouros that has incredible views! You can take buses to get to the beach areas.
Paradise Beach Area
I have never stayed in this region but I know others that have found hostels right on the beach!
Mykonos is also a big island. They have a bus system if you don’t have your own car. If you stay near Mykonos town you can walk to most places unless you want to visit beaches.
Mykonos is oozing with charm. And bougainvillea. Make sure you allow time to wander through the tiny adorable streets and get lost. You won’t really get lost. It’s too small. You will find gorgeous streets and small squares everywhere. Make sure to see the famous windmills and Little Venice.
You can take a day trip to the island of Delos, the 2nd most important archaeological site after Delphi.
In Mykonos you mostly go to the beach, lie by the pool and gawk at the view or wander around the town taking photos of blue domed churches with bright pink bougainvillea everywhere. At night you can find a vibrant party scene. Not a bad way to spend time!
Corfu is the most popular island on the Ionian side. I added this to the itinerary in case you want to see many different sides of Greece. This island looks very different than the whitewashed volcanic Aegean Islands. Some say this is THE most beautiful island in Greece. Rumor has it that Homer was imaging Corfu when he wrote the Iliad.
I recommend staying in Corfu Town. It is central with an airport and a ferry port. You can arrange tours of the island from here. Make sure to try to local kumquat liquor! Maybe not at 9 am like I did!
Definitely, spend a day exploring the island, it’s views and beaches. Take a boat trip for beautiful views from the sea and explore little caves along the way. By the way, if you want to play a fun drinking game, have a sip every time I use the word “views” in this post!
Read More: Things to do in Corfu
(fly Corfu to Athens/Athens to destination)
As always, you can find great lodging of all types here:
FYI you can take a ferry from Corfu to Albania. It is only 30 minutes.
For this itinerary just see option 1 for all the places that are repeated. I won’t go into as much detail here.
Day 1 Arrive Athens
Day 2 Athens
Day 3 Delphi
Day 4 Meteora
Day 5 Meteora
Day 6 Drive to Athens
Day 7 Choose Santorini OR Mykonos. Santorini has more natural opportunities and archaeology, wineries, etc. Mykonos has more parties and a more vibrant capital town. Mykonos town is adorable and incredibly scenic. Santorini has unreal sunsets. Doing both is expensive and touristy AF
This photo was taken right before the sunset tourist rush. I was able to enjoy this lovely view relatively unbothered for a few lovely minutes before people became claiming their sunset spot.
(see option 1 itinerary)
You can easily ferry from Santorini to Milos. Milos is incredible. There is so much to do here! You can get around by taxi (expensive), your own car, rent a scooter or ATV. In high season these can be hard to get if you don’t reserve ahead of time. I was one of these people who didn’t plan ahead so I couldn’t get any wheels. The scooter rentals sometimes won’t rent to people without a special driver’s license.
Adamas This is where the ferry lands. It is cute and a good spot to book anything you want to do on the island. My hotel was 5 minutes from the ferry which was super convenient. It also is a central bus stop. It doesn’t have the best atmosphere but is cute.
Plaka This is more of a typical scenic whitewashed village.
Milos has my favorite beach in all of Europe. Sarakiniko. Amazing. I went at sunset and again in the morning. I wanted to see it in every kind of light.
The colorful fisherman village of Klima is fun to visit. I was surprised how many other tourists had not heard of it. It isn’t the easiest place to get to if you don’t have wheels. You have to kind of hike down to it from the catacombs/Roman Theatre. Interestingly, at the beginning of this path you will see the spot where they found the famous Venus de Milo, which is now in the Louvre.
Visit the main village of Plaka which is very traditional and charming. Make sure to see the amazing sunset from the church/castle. Many people stand on top of the church as you can see. First of all, I find this disrespectful. Second, the view is better from further up! Many people congregate on the castle but I think the best view is in a less crowded spot in between the two.
Take a day to see Kleftiko Beach. The unique rock formations are stunning. You must take a boat trip to see it. You can book these easily from the port town of Adamas. Swimming in this warm crystal clear water is heavenly. You can discover caves and ultra blue lagoons.
Since I haven’t posted about Milos ye (I’m WAY behind), I will direct you to a great post about spending 4 days there.
Take the ferry to Santorini then fly to Athens OR ferry from Milos to Athens
***If you have more time (4-5 more days), consider the island of Zakynthos.
Moussakka This is sort of like Greek lasagna. It is potatoes, layered with seasoned ground meat and tomatoes and bechamel sauce, sometimes with grated cheese on top. One of the best ones I had was oddly, at the airport!
Shrimp Saganaki This shrimp is usually served in the skillet full of yummy tomato sauce and feta, best scooped up with some bread.
Cheese Saganaki This is flambeed cheese and I can’t get enough of it. They typically use a hard cheese like Halloumi, Karalotyri or Graviera that can be heated and not fall to pieces. It just gets really nice and melty so eat it while it’s hot! With bread of course!
Grilled Chicken or Lamb The Greek way is to serve it with lemon with either lemony rice or potatoes (i’m all about that lemon)
Greek Salad (well…duh) but depending on where you are the type of cheese in here will change. It could be feta or halloumi or others depending on the island. The tomatoes literally will make you cry. They are so red and sweet. (Why can’t we have these America?)
I read that Greeks eat more cheese than the French. Bring your lactose intolerance pills!
Gyro I don’t care where else in the world you have had one of these. It will not be as good. Not even half as good. The way they take the pita off the grill before wrapping it and the perfect few french fries they stick inside all make it so freaking good. I don’t even like to eat meat but these are too good to not eat. The choices are usually chicken or pork.
Souvlaki This is similar to gyro except the meat is not shaved, it is more kebab like. Mostly the same otherwise.
You may be hearing murmurs of people concerned about going to Greece because of the refugee crisis. If you don’t know anything about it, here’s the deal. In case you have never seen the news since 2010, there has been a war in Syria for over 7 years now, creating the worst refugee crisis in the world since WW2. Most of the refugees are in Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey but many have braved the treacherous sea crossing from Turkey to the Greek Island of Lesbos. Due to geography, Greece has been saddled with the brunt of middle eastern refugees and at some point in early 2015, the EU put a crackdown on the borders for refugee movement out of Greece. Greece now, with their own economic problems, is forced to care for over 50,000 refugees. They aren’t all from Syria. Many are from Iraq and Afghanistan, due to conflicts going on for over a decade (dare I say from US interference).
These refugees are supposed to be resettled by the UN somewhere else in Europe but due to the inefficient system, this is a painfully slow process. Refugee camps that were supposed to be temporary are now becoming somewhat permanent homes for those poor people. Greece is doing the best they can under the circumstances. This is what I mean by saying that the people here are amazingly giving.
Read More: Volunteering with Refugees in Greece
The bottom line is, you should know this is happening but it likely won’t affect you. Some of the most obvious refugee camps (at the port of Piraeus for example), have been shut down. Some refugees may be seen begging in major squares in Athens. You are not going to be confronted with hordes of refugees moving around. If you see these people, talk to them! They are probably educated and would love to be treated like a human being. If you are interested in donating to help refugees specifically in Greece……
The best thing you can do is spend your tourism dollars in this wonderful country! I have been three times now and plan to go as much as possible over the rest of my life. I can’t get enough!
Have you been to Greece? Where is your favorite place?