Twenty Places to Visit in Greece
Nestled cozily in the Aegean Sea, Santorini is a beautiful Greek island, located approximately 120 miles (200 km) southeast of the country’s mainland. With its picturesque landscapes and unique attractions, the island’s main industry is tourism, which reaches its peak during summer. One of the most interesting facts about Santorini and the archipelago that it is part of is that it represents the remains of a once compact, single volcanic island. After a huge eruption, the current volcanic caldera and a huge central lagoon were formed.
Also known as Thira, Santorini attracts tourists with its famous dramatic views, breathtaking sunsets (especially from the town of Oia), and even the still active volcano in the town of Thira. The beaches are also amazing, ranging from bright white to red and even black (the Kamari pebble beach). But if there is only one beach that you can see during your trip to Santorini, you should probably go to the amazing Perissa Beach and just indulge in all that natural beauty.
Gulf of Corinth
One of the many natural beauties of Greece is the Gulf of Corinth, which separates the mainland from the Peloponnese Island. Numerous shipping routes pass through this long body of water (81 mi or 130 km), and there are even some very exciting ferry routes that tourists can enjoy from Aigio to Agios Nikolaos. During such a trip, breathtaking views are bound to fill up your camera’s memory card. There are two quite spectacular sights linked to this gulf. One is the beautifully straight and narrow Corinth Canal with soaring high walls on each side, and the other is the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge, called the Rio-Antirrio Bridge.
The fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and the largest island of Greece is called Crete. It is also the place where the earliest European civilization was born, namely the Minoan civilization. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece. Every type of traveler can find something to meet his or her taste, because Crete boasts both high-luxury hotels and destinations, and much more affordable camping facilities.
Once here, you must visit the fascinating Minoan archeological sites, Europe’s largest natural palm forest on the Vai beach, the Venetian castle at Rethymno, the port and old city of Chania, the spectacular gorge of Samaria, and at least a few of the island’s many beautiful beaches. The rich culture of the island and the warm hospitality of its many inhabitants will make you feel wonderful during your entire stay. Busy metropolitan cities, rugged mountain landscapes, calm hillside villages and warm turquoise waters await you – start packing your bag!
Built entirely out of white marble, the Panathenaic Stadium is a breathtaking sight even without an important event taking place inside it. Actually, it may look even more majestic when it is empty, prim and silent. When you see it, you won’t be surprised to learn that it is the world’s only major stadium that is made entirely out of white marble. Being reconstructed over the remains of an ancient Greek stadium, it is also one of the world’s oldest ones. So make sure that when you reach Athens you also take some time to visit the Panathenaic Stadium and take in all its majesty.
Acropolis of Athens
Perched on a rocky elevation above the historic city of Athens, the Acropolis holds some of the most important architectural wonders of the ancient Greece. Buildings of immense cultural and historical importance await you here. The most significant of all is the famous Parthenon, the historic temple of Athena (the patron of the city that still bears its name), whose construction began as far back as 447 BC. This makes it almost two and a half millennia old!
The truth is no visit to Athens is complete without a “pilgrimage” to the Acropolis. Once here, you should also visit the Temple of Athena Nike, the Erectheion (dedicated to Athena and Poseidon-Erechtheus), the Propylea (the ancient gateway to the Acropolis), the Theater of Dionysus, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (still used today for plays and musical events), and the New Acropolis Museum.
About 12.5 miles (20 km) long, the Vikos Gorge is absolutely breathtaking. The Guinness Book of Records has listed this special geographic formation as the world’s deepest gorge, reaching depths of over 1,600 feet (490 m). You can find it in the Vikos-Aoos National Park, on the southern side of the Pindus Mountains. It is a national monument that every nature enthusiast should visit while in Greece.
Here you can find rare flowers and other plants, over 110 bird species, numerous butterfly species, 19 different amphibian and serpent species, as well as 7 species of fish in the Voidomatis and Aoos rivers. Speaking of rivers, the best time of year to visit Vikos is when the waters are shallow – during the summer months, as well as the beginning of fall. This way you can explore more of the gorge, cross passages with ease, and take in all the beauty with less effort.
One of the most popular (and populated) islands in Greece is Rhodes. Dubbed “The Island of the Knights”, this is the largest of the Dodecanese islands, and it is located very close to the Turkish coastline. It used to hold one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, namely the Colossus of Rhodes, which makes it a worldwide famous destination. The island is actually the most popular tourist destination in Europe.
A remarkable mix of archaeological sites, medieval buildings and sunny beaches makes Rhodes a place that you can easily fall in love with. If you prefer silent and tranquil vacations, the southern part of the island is the place to go, where the pace of life is generally slower. There are, however, plenty of lively and busy resorts as well; you’ll just need to head north to find them.
Also known as the “Neighborhood of the Gods”, Plaka is a fascinating historical neighborhood in Athens. Its proximity to the Acropolis gave it its exclusive moniker and made it a very special attraction for tourists. Flaunting neoclassical architecture, numerous archaeological sites, various museums, and exciting labyrinthine streets, Plaka is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
An interesting fact about this place is that its main street – Adrianou Street – is not only the oldest one in the neighborhood, but it is also the only one that has kept the exact same layout since antiquity. You are bound to fall in love with this picturesque little place: lovely cafes and restaurants, interesting shops and a very bohemian air will turn any ordinary afternoon in a very special experience.
As if the beauty and ancient mystery of Greece is not enough for the curious tourists, this remarkable country also has some stunning underground sceneries to boast. About 16 miles (26 km) from the town of Areopoli, a fascinating system of caves – known as the Diros Caves – awaits its visitors. An underground river passes through it, which allows people to visit the place by boat.
The intricate network of galleries with naturally carved walls and stunning stalactites and stalagmites will make you feel like you’ve entered a totally different world. Actually, the humans that lived in the Paleolithic and Neolithic times have used these caves as places of worship, believing that they represented the entrance to the eerie underworld.
Included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Meteora is one of the most important religious destinations of the Eastern Orthodox world. It is a very large and imposing complex of monasteries (24 in all) built on top of high sandstone pillars. Their size and importance are second only to the famous Mount Athos.
“Meteora” literally means “middle of the sky”, which is a very appropriate name for these edifices erected on tall natural rock formations. The pillars themselves are a rare sight, and you can take home more than just some spectacular photos and wonderful memories. You can also buy icons and other religious items for relatively low prices. And maybe even a wise piece of advice from a monk if you are lucky!
Large enough for 5,000 spectators, the ancient theater at Delphi is a truly impressive site, with lovely views of the temple of Apollo and the olive tree valley below. It was first built sometime in the 4th century BC, but has undergone many reconstructions over time.
Still keeping its original basic structures (a round stage, an orchestra or chorus, and the stone seats), the theater is used today for various cultural events, mostly in summer. This is definitely one of the best places to see an ancient play, and preferably a Greek one.
Sissi’s Achilleion Palace
This majestic palace was built by a powerful woman with a strong passion for beauty and a powerful attraction towards the Greek world. She was the Empress of Austria, called Elizabeth of Bavaria. She is better known as Sissi, the beautiful empress with incredibly long, curly hair.
In 1890, one year after the tragic death of her only son, Sissi had the Achilleion Palace built in her favorite vacation destination: Corfu Island, Greece. As its name suggests, the luxurious construction was inspired by the famous mythical hero Achilles. From its royal rooms, the empress could enjoy splendid views of the island and of the city with the same name.
The Samaria Gorge represents the center of Crete’s only national park. It is also one of the most important tourist attractions of the island, as well as a World’s Biosphere Reserve. Approximately 10 miles (16 km) long, the gorge is one of a number of similar geographic formations in the White Mountains. It was created by the flowing waters of a small river between the White Mountains and Mt. Volakias.
By visiting this wonderful place you will have the privilege of seeing many different species of birds and flowers, and maybe even the rare Cretan goat, or kri-kri, which lives almost exclusively in the park. The most popular attraction here, though, is the very narrow section of the gorge which is known as the Gates. Here the walls soar up to 980 feet (approx. 300 m) and have only 13 feet (4 m) of space between them.
If naturally beautiful and totally stunning is what you are looking for, then the amazing Melissani Cave is definitely a good place to visit. You can find it on the island of Kefalonia, surrounded by forests and flaunting a beautiful lake of a mesmerizing sky-blue color.
The water is crystal clear, giving the illusion that boats actually float in midair above the rocky bottom of the lake. The cave was formed in time by a unique chemical and mechanical process that involves the gradual dissolution of rocks, which often results in spectacular hollows. Said to be the cave of Nymphs from the Greek mythology, Melissani is a must-see place indeed.
For those of you who love lakes but don’t really like to go through underground canals to see them, Lake Plastira is an excellent alternative. It is an artificially formed reservoir that gets its water from the Tavropos River. The man-made landscape is breathtaking and it attracts numerous tourists every year.
The idea of an artificial lake in the area came from a Greek general named Nikolaos Plastiras (who later became Prime Minister), hence the name of the reservoir. Set at a very high altitude – one of the highest in Europe – the lake is a popular destination among nature enthusiasts who come here for mountain-biking, canoeing, rafting, horse-riding, or even honeymooning.
When you hear of a place that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you instantly know it’s something very special. Located in Macedonia, Northern Greece, Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula populated and visited by men only. No woman is allowed to set foot on this beautiful peninsula dedicated to prayer, meditation and spirituality.
The Holy Mountain, as the Greeks commonly refer to it today, is actually part of an autonomous state under Greek sovereignty. Visitors need special permits to enter the area, but only 110 people are allowed to visit it per day, 100 of which need to be Orthodox. If you don’t mind the bureaucracy, visiting Mount Athos and its 20 monasteries is actually a very interesting experience. And you can also buy some souvenirs for the ladies that will be waiting for you outside this holy place.
Acropolis of Lindos
Even though the most famous acropolis in Greece is the Acropolis of Athens, there are numerous other such citadels or fortified heights in the country, and some of them are quite remarkable. A very good example is the Acropolis of Lindos, which boasts amazing views of the surrounding coastline and harbors.
Beautiful and confusing at the same time, this natural citadel holds precious archaeological finds that belong to different civilizations. It was originally built by Dorians (ancient Greeks) and then reconstructed and refortified by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Knights of St. John, and the Ottomans. This makes archeological excavations and interpretations tricky, but also very rewarding.
The unique mix of culture and history, the beautiful beaches, and the small town itself – with its traditional whitewashed buildings and winding paths – will enchant you for sure.
No visit to Greece is complete without a stop at the iconic Mount Olympus. Once believed to be the home of gods, it is now a precious World’s Biosphere Reserve with awe-inspiring panoramas and remarkable biodiversity. It is the highest mountain in Greece, soaring to 9,570 feet (2,917 m) altitude at the Mytikas peak, whose name means “nose”.
Mount Olympus was declared National Park in 1938 and it still attracts thousands of visitors every year. Even though it is a tall mountain, it is fairly accessible, making it very popular among hiking enthusiasts. Even the least experienced of explorers will have a good time here, as there are numerous well-maintained paths and roads to discover across the massif. So don’t get intimidated by its legendary fame and don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers…or just take a few memorable photos instead.
Situated to the northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, Kerameikos was once the potters’ quarter of the Greek capital city. And yes, the word “ceramics” is etymologically linked to the name of this lovely place. The settlement was established by the banks of the Eridanos River simply because the water brought abundant deposits of clay mud that the potters could use for their creations.
The quarter is famous for its 30 centuries old cemetery: archaeological excavations have shown that people used to bury their folk in this area as far back ago as the 3rd millennium BC. Visitors can see complex monuments and grave mounds as well as many remarkable artifacts (jewelry, funerary urns, toys, large marble sculptures, and more) in the Kerameikos Museum.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Also situated near the famous Acropolis of Athens, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus is an impressive stone theater. Its name comes from an Athenian magnate called Herodes Atticus, who had it built in memory of his wife. With a capacity of 5,000 people, the theater remained intact from 161 (when it was built) to 267 AD, when the Heruli turned it into wreckage.
Now beautifully restored, the Odeon holds various modern events, including the famous Athens Festival which begins in May and lasts until October. For a sense of authenticity and historical importance the three story tall original wall of the stage has not been renovated, but left as a beautiful ruin and vestige of the past. Watching a classical theater performance here is a memorable experience for any theater enthusiast.