11 Top places to visit in Greece
Experience miles of aquamarine coastline, sun-bleached ruins, strong feta and stronger ouzo. The Greek landscape thrills, and the people are passionate about politics, cof ee, art and gossiping.
Don’t let headline-grabbing financial woes put you off going to Greece. The alluring combination of history and hedonism, which has made Greece one of the most popular destinations on the planet, continues to beckon, and now is as good a time as ever to turn up for some fun in the sun.
Within easy reach of magnificent archaeological sites are breathtaking beaches and relaxed
tavernas serving everything from ouzo to octopus. Wanderers can island-hop to their heart’s
content, while party types can enjoy pulsating nightlife in Greece’s vibrant modern cities and on
islands such as Mykonos, Ios and Santorini. Add welcoming locals with an enticing culture to the
mix and it’s easy to see why most visitors head home vowing to come back. Travellers to Greece
inevitably end up with a favourite site they long to return to – so get out there and find yours.
Top places to visit in Greece
The Acropolis, Athens
There’s a reason the Acropolis remains the quintessential landmark of Western civilisation – it is
spectacular. Whether experienced during an early morning stroll up its flanks or from a dinnertime terrace with the Parthenon all lit up and glorious, the Acropolis embodies a harmony, power and beauty that speak to all generations. Look beyond the Parthenon and you’ll find more intimate spots such as the exquisite, tiny Temple of Athena Nike, while the Acropolis Museum cleverly showcases the ethereal grace of the Acropolis’ surviving treasures.
You’re not likely to forget the first moment the magnificent Meteora comes into view – soaring
pillars of rock that jut heavenward, and a handful of monasteries at the summit (some dating from the 14th century). The rope ladders that once enabled the monks to reach the top have long been replaced by steps carved into the rock. Today, these spectacular stone towers beckon adventurous rock climbers from around the world.
Arrive early to catch the magic of the sun’s rays pouring over the Sanctuary of Athena Pronea at
Delphi, the centre of the ancient Greek world. Only three columns remain of the magnificent sanctuary, but that’s enough to let your imagination soar. Nearby, the Sacred Way meanders past the Temple of Apollo where the Delphic Oracle uttered prophecies that sent armies to battle and made lovers swoon.
Life in Athens is a magnificent mash-up of the ancient and the modern. Beneath the majestic
facades of venerable landmarks, the city teems with life and creativity. And Athenians love to get out and enjoy it all. Galleries and clubs hold the exhibitions, performances and installations of the city’s booming arts scene. Trendy restaurants and humble tavernas rustle up fine, fine fare. Ubiquitous cafes fill with stylin’ locals, and moods run from punk rock to haute couture. Discos and bars abound and swing deep into the night.
There’s more to Santorini than sunsets, but this remarkable island, shaped by the fire of prehistoric eruptions, has made the celebratory sunset its own. On summer evenings the clifftop towns of Fira and Oia are packed with visitors awed by the vast blood-red canvas of the cliff face as the sun struts its stuff. You can catch the sunset without the crowds from almost anywhere along the cliff edge. And if you miss sundown, you can always face east at first light for some fairly stunning sunrises too…
Rhodes’ Old Town
Getting lost in Rhodes’ Old Town is a must. Away from the crowds, meander down twisting, cobbled alleyways with archways above and squares opening up ahead. In these hidden corners the imagination takes off with flights of medieval fancy. Explore the ancient Knights’ Quarter, the old Jewish neighbourhood or the Turkish Quarter. Hear traditional live music in tiny tavernas or dine on fresh seafood at atmospheric outdoor restaurants. Wander along the top of the city walls, with the sea on one side and a bird’s-eye view into this living museum.
The gaping gorge of Samaria, starting at Omalos and running down through an ancient riverbed to the Libyan Sea, is the most-trod canyon in Crete – and with good reason. The magnificent gorge is home to varied wildlife, soaring birds of prey and a dazzling array of wildflowers in spring. It’s a full day’s walk (about six hours down), and you’ll have to start early, but it certainly builds character. To get more solitude, try lesserknown gorges such as Imbros Gorge, which runs roughly parallel to Samaria.
Stylish Thessaloniki remains northern Greece’s liveliest town, thanks to its universities, cultural
scene, arts and nightlife. There’s little hassle and getting about by foot is easy. Take the city in at dusk from the viewing station up by the Byzantine walls in the old quarter, known as Ano Poli (Upper Town). It’s a neighbourhood full of colourful, winding little streets marked by white-plastered houses, lazy cats and Byzantine churches.
Everyone approaches Hydra by sea. There is no airport, there are no cars. As you sail in, you find, simply, a stunningly preserved stone village with white-gold houses filling a natural cove and hugging the edges of surrounding mountains. Then you join the ballet of port life. Sailboats, caïques and mega-yachts fill Hydra’s quays and a people-watching potpourri fills the ubiquitous harbourside cafes. Here, a mere hour and a half from Athens, you’ll find a great cappuccino, rich naval and architectural history, and the raw seacoast beckoning you for a swim.
Rub shoulders with the ghosts of the Minoans, a Bronze Age people that attained an astonishingly high level of civilisation and ruled large parts of the Aegean from their capital in Knossos some 4000 years ago.
Until the site’s excavation in the early 20th century, an extraordinary wealth of frescoes, sculptures, jewellery, seals and other remnants lay buried under the Cretan soil. Despite a controversial partial reconstruction, Knossos remains one of the most important archaeological sites in the Mediterranean and is Crete’s most visited tourist attraction.
Crete’s Preveli Beach comprises one of Greece’s most instantly recognisable stretches of sand.
Bisected by a freshwater river and flanked by cliffs concealing sea caves, Preveli is lapped by the
Libyan Sea, with clear pools of water along its palm-lined riverbank that are perfect for cool dips. The beach lies under the sacred gaze of a magnificent monastery perched high above. Once the centre of anti-Ottoman resistance and later a shelter for Allied soldiers, this tranquil building offers magnificent views