I went to Greece with very little expectations. I knew the country was beautiful, and a popular tourist destination, but I didn’t think much else. The country exceeded my expectations in every way, and is now one of my favorite destinations I’ve ever experiences. Greece has a huge variety of landscapes, incredible history, breathtaking islands, and unbelievable food.
I went to Greece because I wanted to do a solo trip to Europe. AF]fter finding Erin Outdoor’s trip to Greece, I picked Greece as a destination. During my 2 weeks in Greece, I was solo for about 10 days and with Erin for about 5. I spent about a week on the mainland, and a week touring the islands. I loved both parts of Greece for different reasons.
Athens and the Mainland
I started and ended the trip in Athens, mostly because the best flights were roundtrip from Athens. The city seemed busy but manageable, and I really liked it. I stayed in an Airbnb in Kerameikos, an artsy neighborhood full of cool graffiti and cute restaurants. I could walk to the metro and the Acropolis without being in the main tourist section of the city.
The main square near the Acropolis is Monastiraki Square, and the surrounding streets are filled with restaurants, shops, and street vendors. You can see the Acropolis towering above the city from most of the streets, and the ancient Agora is nearby as well. From the square, you can also walk to the village of Plaka, which is a beautiful neighborhood with cobbled streets and traditional buildings.
When in Athens, you must visit the Acropolis and walk around the Parthenon. The Acropolis Museum is also a must, and gives a great history of the temple as well as an impressive collection of archaeological treasures. The architecture of the building is also excellent. In the evening, climb Mars hill for a great view of the Acropolis.
I highly recommend taking a day or two to visit Meteora, an incredible rock formation in central Greece that is home to the largest complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. The monasteries are built on the tips of the rocks, and are still active today. Meteora is located near the towns of Kalambaka and Kastraki. The easiest way to get there is by train. There is one train each day that leaves Athens and goes to Kalambaka, and the ride takes about 4 hours.
Once you arrive in Kalambaka, there are lots of guest houses to stay in either Kalambaka or Kastraki. Both towns seem to be equally great. You will need to either rent a car/scooter, or book a tour to see the monasteries and rocks. I booked a 2-day tour through Visit Meteora, though I think I could have easily rented a scooter and seen most of the monasteries myself. There are lots of rental places in the towns, and the roads were good. There seemed to be one main road that went up into the rocks and to the monasteries. That being said, Visit Meteora did an excellent job, particularly with the half day hiking tour. Be sure to watch the sunset from the rocks!
You can easily take a day trip from Athens to a nearby island. I chose to visit the island of Hydra, but there are several options. You can easily take morning ferry from the Athens port, and return in the afternoon. I chose Hydra because there are no cars allowed on the island, so everyone uses donkeys to get around. I loved walking around the harbor and through the narrow streets. You can easily walk to a beach from port too.
I almost didn’t visit Delphi, but I’m so glad I did. Delphi has a ton of history, but in short, Delphi was considered the center of the world by the ancient Greeks, and was home to the famous Oracle of Delphi. Now, you can see the ruins of the city and the Temple of Apollo where the oracles came from.
Honestly, I almost didn’t go because the photos didn’t look that impressive. In reality, photos just can’t do this place justice. The ruins are amazing, and everything was built on the slope of Mount Parnassus, making for incredible views. I decided to rent a car and drive myself to Delphi. The 2 hour drive from Athens was easy, and I was able to go later in the afternoon after most of the tour buses had left. Delphi has 2 parts: the museum, and the archaeological site. Do both for a full experience of Delphi.
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion
This temple is an easy day trip from Athens, and offers sweeping views of the coast. The temple itself is located at the southernmost tip of the Attic peninsula. You can visit the temple, and then spend the rest of the day at one of the many surrounding beaches. I drove here as well, and only had issues getting into traffic at rush hour on the way back to Athens.
I went to the island of Naxos for 3 nights with Erin Outdoors. I loved this island because it feels less touristy and more authentically Greek. The main town is filled with beautiful winding streets lined with whitewashed buildings, and the harbor is lively with restaurants and shops.
We mostly hiked during our time in Naxos. My favorite hike was to the top of Mt. Zeus, the highest mountain in the Cyclades. In ancient times, the local Greeks believed that the cave on the northwest side of the mountain was the birthplace of Zeus.
We also hiked to the Portara, or Great Door. The marble doorway was once the doorway to a temple to be dedicated to Apollo. Today the Portara is a popular spot for sunset.
Next, I went to Santorini for 2 nights again with the Erin Outdoors group. Santorini is iconic for Greece, and for good reason. The island is a result of volcanic eruptions, making for some incredible geology. The inner coast is the edge of a giant caldera, which created sheer cliffs dropping into a lagoon. The island’s famous white buildings are built on the cliffs of the caldera, making for a dramatic landscape.
There are 2 main towns on either side of the island: Fira and Oia. Both are beautiful, but very busy and full of tourists. On our first day, we hiked about 6 miles from Fira to Oia, and watched the sunset from a church just outside of Oia.
On the second day, we visited the archeological site of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age that was destroyed in a volcanic eruption sometime in the 16th century BC. The ruins are remarkably preserved, and indicate that the society was very advanced. I highly recommend a visit.
After Akrotiri, we went sea kayaking with Santorini Sea Kayaks. Kayaking is a great way to experience the island from a different perspective and get in the water without the crowds.
I visited the island of Milos alone, and absolutely loved this little island. It’s a short 2 hour ferry from Santorini, and is definitely worth visiting. The island is famous for its beaches, particularly a beach called Sarakiniko. Wind and erosion shaped the white volcanic rock at Sarakiniko into amazing formations, and the beach is truly spectacular.
The island itself is rather rugged, and about half the island is only accessible by ATV. I recommend renting either a car or ATV while on the island. There is a bus service, but I didn’t see any buses while I was there. I rented a car from Tourlakis, which you can walk to from the port. The car was fine for 2 days, but I would have probably preferred an ATV, especially if I was there longer.
Here were my favorite things on the island:
This beach is AMAZING. The formations are unreal, the water is clear, and you can even do some cliff jumping. The road is well paved and easy to find. Come early or stay for sunset to beat the crowds.
This beach has 2 tunnel-like structures, and you can swim in both. Sarakiniko is better though.
Definitely visit the old town of Plaka! There are loads of cute little shops and restaurants within the white-washed walls. Plaka is only accessible to pedestrians, but there is a large, free parking lot at the foot entrance to the village. Be sure to watch the sunset from the Venetian Castle on top of the hill beside Plaka! It’s the only castle on the only hill in the area, so you really can’t miss it. I just walked up a side street in the direction of the castle and found the top easily.
Kleftiko is an impressive rock formation on the western side of the island that is only accessible by boat. You can swim in the crystal-clear blue water around towering white rocks and through caves. Technically I think you can hike to it if you had an ATV, but boat is the easiest way. There are many sailing trips around the island, and I chose a half-day boat trip to Kleftiko with Zephyros. It was excellent, and Kleftiko is definitely worth seeing.
You’ll find this excellent beach on the south side of the island. To access the water, you have to climb down a series of ladders wedged into a crack in the rock. The climb is definitely worth it though, and you’re rewarded by a lovely beach surrounded on all sides by towering cliffs.
Greece is an absolutely amazing country with a huge variety of places to explore. Enjoy!
Copyright Abby Venture