The five best places to visit in Greece

For history buffs, food fans and beach lovers

From its mountains to its coast, its mainland to its many, many islands, Greece is an unrivalled holiday location. There’s something for everyone, from foodies, wine connoisseurs and art enthusiasts to history fans and thrill seekers. And that’s before anyone even mentions the beaches.

  1. Athens
  2. Rhodes
  3. Crete
  4. Corfu
  5. Santorini

Although it’s really hard to choose, we’ve picked out five of our favourite places to visit in Greece. We’ve got you covered with sunny seaside spots, truly epic hikes and sites that give a fascinating insight into the ancient world. Book those flights now…

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Athens

As the cradle of civilisation and the birthplace of democracy, Athens is definitely one of the top places to visit in Greece for antiquities and history. You might have to narrow your focus to avoid antiquity-fatigue, but put the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum and the Parthenon top of your list. For the most iconic view of the Acropolis itself, head to Areopagus Hill just across the street. You should probably add the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Ancient Agora of Athens to your historical itinerary, too. If your enthusiasm for Ancient Greece wanes, sample some of the hip, modern neighbourhoods, like bustling Monastiraki for shopping and flea markets, Plaka for colourful and charming streets with a tumbledown vibe, or Psyrri for live music, meze and cool bars. Varvakios central food market is also an immersive experience. For something totally different in the evenings, take a seat at the popular Cine Paris open-air cinema or book onto the Observatory night sky tour. While here, sample bakery delights like tiropita, bougatsa and spanakopita (filled filo pastry delicacies), and make sure you try souvlaki as well.

Must-do: Head up a hill for a city view

Must-eat: Filo pastry pies, moussaka, kolokythokeftedes (courgette balls)

2. Rhodes

Like many Greek islands, Rhodes is steeped in history and speckled with interesting sights. First, wander around Rhodes Old Town, dipping into bakeries for sustenance and generally soaking up the atmosphere of Europe’s largest medieval city. Head to the port and spot the windmills strung along the harbour wall, as well as the site of the ancient wonder The Colossus of Rhodes. The narrow and cobbled Street of the Knights is particularly atmospheric, leading you right up to the Palace of the Grand Master, a mosaic of 19th-century Italian and Byzantine architecture. On the other side of town, the Acropolis is a must-see historical spot. For something further afield, witness clouds of butterflies in the Valley of the Butterflies from June to August or hike up to the Monastery of Tsambika – a bit of an undertaking, but worth it for the view. When you return, Tsambika beach below is one of the most beautiful on the island, with shallow, calm waters. Right at the southern tip of the isle, Prasonisi beach is a spectacular sandy spit leading to a beautifully wild peninsula.

Must-do: Explore the Prasonisi peninsula or try watersports

Must-eat: Meze, vine leaves, goat dishes, courgette flowers

3. Crete

Crete is another top place to visit in Greece for history buffs and beach lovers alike. The capital, Heraklion, boasts a cornucopia of ancient sites, from Venetian walls and museums to a picture-perfect harbour and easy access to the Palace of Knossos (Europe’s largest Bronze Age site). Further down the coast, between the chocolate-box towns of Elounda and Agios Nikolaos, ancient Naxos is another much-visited site where you can hike through fascinating ruins. Take a day to explore Kalydon, an almost-island accessible via a causeway from Elounda, enjoying the truly unspoilt beaches and trails. Hiking enthusiasts should also head to Samaria Gorge for a challenging but rewarding walk that offers up rugged terrain, lush forest and unique rock formations. If that’s not enough adventure, try Psychro Cave, a thrilling subterranean landscape with enthralling myths and geology. For something more laid-back, visit Chania’s gorgeous Venetian harbour at sunset, or peruse the authentic food market. You’ll find narrow streets and friendly eateries in the colourful old town of Rethymno, while Sissi has fabulous sunsets and bougainvillea-lined alleyways, not to mention mouthwatering seafood.

Must-do: Swim as often as possible

Must-eat: Cretan pies and filo pastry bakes are the island’s speciality

4. Corfu

Corfu is an island of rugged trails and beautiful beaches. Its lush interior and sun-soaked coastline attract both keen walkers and beach buffs, and there are plenty of historical sights too. Corfu Town is UNESCO-listed and boasts Venetian architecture and a pretty port. It’s also a haven of great seafood restaurants. On the west coast, Paleokastritsa Monastery offers heart-stealing views, an interesting drive and beautiful architecture. It’s also close to a hiking trail to the sleepy hillside town of Lakones or, for something more relaxing, several delightful beaches like Limni, Glyko and Rovinia. More fabulous places to swim, snorkel and simply enjoy the coast include Agios Georgios, Porto Timoni, with its causeway and fascinatingly beautiful headland, and Agios Gordios. For the most dramatic coastline, head to the north and Cape Drastis, the Kapases islets (or Mermaid’s Rock) and the nearly endless sandy expanse of Gialiskari. Sidari is a pretty town in the north, with authentic restaurants, sparkling beaches and the Kanali tou Erota (Channel of Love), which is gaining fame as a proposal spot.

Must-do: Hire a car and explore hidden parts of the coast

Must-eat: Saganaki (fried cheese), gyros, sofrito

5. Santorini

It’s no secret that Santorini is the island of love. But there’s more to the isle than cute couples’ moments against a peachy-pink backdrop – although the sunsets are undoubtedly a highlight. Oia is bustling, popular with tourists of all ages for its picture-perfect sunset scenes and the classic white houses and blue-domed roofs that have become so iconic. When you’ve had your fill of pretty cobbled streets and artisanal shops, head into the countryside, perhaps on a vineyard tour, to visit the wine museum, or to stride along the rugged hill path to ancient Thera. On the west coast of the isle, traverse the Karavolades Stairs, winding down the hillside to Santorini Old Harbour, where you can rent a boat, enjoy the peace and sample fresh seafood. Just off the coast road, stop for a photo at the Three Bells of Fira church, with its Cycladic-blue dome and panorama. Those searching for stunning beaches in the south should try Paralia Vlichada, with its impressive honey-coloured cliffs, or Red Beach – named for the rich hue of the rocks.

Must-do: Catch a sunset in Oia

Must-eat: Fava bean hummus, domatokeftedes (tomato fritters), white aubergines

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