Greece

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Greece’s main pull has to be its islands. Here you get clean sea and superb sandy beaches, ideal for swimming and sunbathing, plus water sports facilities for sailing, scuba diving and windsurfing. Greece also offers heaps of culture – Ancient Greek archaeological sites including the Acropolis in Athens, Corinth, Olympia, and Mycenae on the Peloponnese, and Knossos on Crete; medieval churches and monasteries such as the Meteora in Thessaly; and unspoiled Venetian-era port towns like Nafplio, Chania, and Corfu. Add to this a vibrant nightlife – the best known being on Mykonos – and your holiday is made.

Things to do in Greece

Acropolis

Unarguably Athens’ most iconic attraction, the rocky Acropolis hill is crowned by three ancient temples and receives about a million visitors annually. The biggest temple, the 5th-century BC Parthenon, is supported by 46 marble columns and was built in honor of the goddess Athena, after whom the city is named. The Acropolis is at its most beautiful after dark, when it dominates the city skyline, bathed in golden floodlighting.

Theorias, Acropolis Hill, odysseus.culture.gr
Tags: things to do | outdoors | history | arts and culture

Acropolis Museum

Opened in 2009, this high-tech glass, steel, and concrete building displays archaic and classical statues and other finds from the Acropolis. The highlight is the top floor, where a reconstruction of the 2,500-year-marble frieze that once ran around the top of the Parthenon has been put together combining the original bas-reliefs and white plaster copies of the controversial Elgin Marbles, the pieces that were removed by Lord Elgin in 1801 and are now on display in London’s British Museum.

Dionysiou Areopagitou 15, 011-30-210-900-0900, www.theacropolismuseum.gr
Tags: museum | things to do | history | arts and culture

Agrotourism

For an authentic taste of rural life, opt for accommodations on a working farm. Most offer rooms in carefully restored old stone cottages with traditional furnishings. Adjoining tavernas frequently serve Cretan specialties made from local organic produce.

, www.agrotravel.gr
Tags: things to do | outdoors

Ancient Agora

Lying below the Acropolis, in ancient times the Agora (marketplace) was the main focus of public life. Starting in the 6th century BC, this is where political, philosophical, and cultural discussions took place. Today a picturesque and verdant space, scattered with crumbling ruins, its main surviving buildings are the Stoa of Attalos (now housing the Agora Museum) and the proud Temple of Hephaestus.

Adrianou 24, 011-30-210-321-0185, odysseus.culture.gr
Tags: things to do | outdoors | history | arts and culture

Archaeological Sites

The islands’ most impressive archaeological site is Delos on Delos islet, opposite Mykonos. Regarded as sacred by the ancients, it has three temples dedicated to Apollo, plus the renowned Sanctuary of Dionysus, with huge marble phalluses mounted on columns.

Mykonos, www.mykonos.gr (Greek only)
Tags: things to do | archeology

Art Space

From April through October, this small gallery stages exhibitions focusing on contemporary Greek and foreign artists. Located in a late-19th-century winery – converted into a gallery in 1999 – the exhibitions are staged in two large cavernous kanaves (wine cellars) carved out of pumice rock.

Exo Gonia village (between Kamari and Pyrgos), Santorini, 011-30-22860-32774, www.artspace-santorini.com
Tags: museum | trendy | things to do | art

Athens & Epidaurus Festival

If you’re lucky enough to be in Athens between early June and late September, be sure to attend an open-air music, dance, or theater performance at the 2nd-century AD Odeon of Herodes Atticus, carved into the rocks below the Acropolis. Maria Callas sang here, Margot Fonteyn danced here.

Panepistimiou 39 (Festival Box Office), 011-30-210-327-2000, www.greekfestival.gr
Tags: smart splurge | things to do | expensive | romance

Boutari Wine Tasting

Greece’s largest wine producer, Boutari, gives tours of its Fantaxometoco vineyard and cellars in Kato Archanes, 5 miles from Heraklion. The purpose-built visitor’ centre offers an audio-visual presentation, wine tasting and a shop.

Heralkion, Kato Archanes, 011-30-28107-31617, www.boutari.gr (Greek only)
Tags: tour | things to do | wine

Byzantine Museum

In an underground space below the courtyard garden of a neoclassical villa, this museum traces the development of the Byzantine Empire and its later influences through an exhibition divided into two parts: Byzantium (4th century – 1453) and Post-Byzantium (1453-present). Exhibits include religious icons, sculptures, ceramics, ecclesiastical textiles, paintings, jewelry, frescoes, and mosaics.

Vassilissis Sofias 22, 011-30-213-213-9572, www.byzantinemuseum.gr
Tags: museum | things to do | history | arts and culture

Cavo Paradiso

Balmy summer evenings, waterside restaurants and open-air beach clubs make for a carefree nightlife. Abandon yourself to the hedonistic pleasures of after-dark Mykonos, with dinner and cocktails in town, followed by dancing til sunrise at Cavo Paradiso beach.

Mykonos, Greek Islands, 011-30-22890-27205, www.cavoparadiso.gr
Tags: trendy | things to do | dancing | open late | nightclub

Clubbing in Platanias

Platanias, which lies just six miles west of Hania, hosts about a dozen open-air seaside dance clubs that from early June to early September. One of the largest and most popular is Mylos.

Mylos, Platanias, www.mylos-chania.com
Tags: trendy | things to do | dancing | open late

Corfu's Old Town

The UNESCO-listed medieval old town of Corfu is a must see for its two Venetian fortresses, the 19th-century arcaded Liston and the green Spianada.

Corfu, Greek Islands,
Tags: architecture | things to do | history

Crete Golf Club

Four miles inland from the seaside resort of Hersonissos lies the ultramodern Crete Golf Club course, which is backed by stunning mountains. It stays open all year.

Hersonissos, 011-30-28970-26000, www.crete-golf.gr
Tags: golf | things to do | outdoors

Exploring Chora

Wandering through the maze of Chora’s bougainvillea-swathed alleyways is a classic Mykonos experience. From the port, make your way up and down the web of streets or walk around the harbor to the sea-facing bars and restaurants in Alefkandra.

Mykonos,
Tags: things to do | outdoors

Hania Old Town

On the north coast, the historic center of Crete's second largest town and former-capital (before Heraklion took its place in 1971), Hania is packed with centuries-old monuments that testify to the island’s years spent under Venice and the Ottoman Turks.

, 011-30-28102-31940
Tags: family | architecture | culture | things to do | history

Hiking

From May through October, intrepid trekkers tackle the dramatic Samaria Gorge, hiking 10 miles from the starting point at Xiloskalo (served by early-morning bus from Hania’s main bus station) down to the coast. Allow 5 to 8 hours, depending on how fit you are.

Forest Guardhouse, Xiloskalo, 011-30-28210-67179
Tags: sports and adventure | national park | things to do | outdoors

Knossos Palace

Crete’s most visited archaeological site is this 4,000-year-old palace, with its labyrinth of partially-frescoed rooms built around a vast central courtyard. Head to the nearby Heraklion Archaeological Museum (011-30-28102-26092) to see items like gold jewelry from the site.

3 miles south of Heraklion, 011-30-28102-31940
Tags: culture | things to do | history

Lalaria

Although Skiathos’ most famous strand is Koukounaries, escapists prefer the much-photographed Lalaria on the north coast. Backed by cliffs, the smooth white stone beach gives way to crystal-clear aquamarine water. Accessible by taxi boat from Skiathos Town.

Sporades, Skiathos, Greek Islands,
Tags: beach | things to do | outdoors

Malia

Crete’s top party resort, Malia, caters to 18- to 30-year-olds on package deals, with a neon-lit strip of late-night discos, English-style pubs, and fast food kiosks.

,
Tags: trendy | things to do | dancing | open late

Mount Lycabettus

For fantastic panorama views over the entire city and out to sea, follow a zigzag path to the summit of rocky pine-scented Lycabettus, Athens’ highest point at 909 feet. Crowned by a tiny whitewashed Orthodox church, and a pricey café-restaurant with outdoor seating on a stone terrace, the top can also be reached by funicular if you don’t feel like the hike.

Ploutarhou (funicular station),
Tags: family | things to do | outdoors | romance

Museum of Prehistoric Thira

Although the Akrotiri archaeological site is likely to remain closed through 2009, you can see finds from this ancient Minoan town, which was buried below lava in the 17th-century BC, at the Museum of Prehistoric Thira. Highlights include painted ceramics and frescoes depicting swallows, antelopes, monkeys, and women in Minoan dress.

Behind the main church, Santorini, 011-30-22860-23217
Tags: culture | museum | things to do | history | art

Mykonos Diving Center

Most of the Aegean is off-limits due to its underwater archeological treasures, but the waters around Mykonos are free for exploration. The Mykonos Diving Centre offers PADI certification courses and diving rental equipment

Paradise Beach, Mykonos, 011-30-22890-24808, www.dive.gr
Tags: diving | wildlife | smart splurge | things to do | water sports

National Archaeological Museum

To see some of the finest examples of Ancient Greek art, visit this world-class museum. The ground floor is primarily devoted to classical sculpture, with proud marble statues, and touching stelae (carved stone tombstones) depicting the deceased saying farewell to their loved ones. Upstairs, the Thera Rooms display three 16th-century BC frescoes from the island of Santorini – Boxing Boys, Antelopes, and Spring.

Patission 44, 011-30-210-821-7717, www.namuseum.gr
Tags: museum | things to do | history | arts and culture

Pallas beach

This lovely sandy beach sits in a sweeping cove of aquamarine water overlooked by a whitewashed village and a hilltop fortress. Visit in May or October to avoid the crowds.

Dodecanese, Rhodes, Lindos, Greek Islands,
Tags: beach | architecture | things to do | outdoors | views

Paradiso and Super Paradiso

Only glamorous Mykonos could give us these twin sand party beaches. The former is developed, with water sports facilities and a string of bars playing 24-hour music; the latter is prettier and popular with gay nudists.

Cyclades, Mykonos, Greek Islands,
Tags: beach | things to do | outdoors | bar | water sports

Rhodes Old Town

The fortified Old Town of Rhodes, also a UNESCO heritage site, is dominated by the 14th-century Palace of the Grand Masters and several Turkish-era mosques.

Rhodes, Greek Islands,
Tags: architecture | things to do | history | religious

Sailing

Hire a yacht and a skipper and chart your own route to explore the islands by sea. Kiriacoulis, Greece’s largest charter company, has bases on Paros, Skiathos, Rhodes, Kos, Corfu, and Lefkas.

Kiriacoulis, Greek Islands, 011-30-21098-86187, www.kiriacoulis.com
Tags: sports and adventure | things to do | outdoors | sailing

Santorini Dive Center

Santorini’s underwater caldera offers fascinating opportunities for diving enthusiasts. Santorini Dive Center has a base near Akrotiri, affording fast and easy access to the caldera and the volcano, plus the chance to explore nearby underwater caves, reefs, and wrecks. At their second base, in Perissa, they run a two-hour Discover Scuba program for beginners.

Caldera beach, Santorini, www.divecenter.gr
Tags: family | diving | things to do

Santorini Sailing Center

Greece is a haven for sailing. Santorini Sailing Center offers privately available sailboats, speedboats and catamarans, each with a skipper, by the hour or by the day. They can also arrange bespoke luxury private cruises around the caldera or to neighboring islands such as Anafi and Ios.

Vlychada marina, Santorini, 011-30-22860-23891, www.sailingsantorini.com
Tags: cruise | things to do | sailing

Scuba diving

Snorkeling is allowed everywhere, but scuba diving is prohibited in areas containing underwater antiquities. On the islands of Paros, Eurodivers offer PADI courses, plus scuba diving trips to approved reefs, caves, and wrecks.

Eurodivers, Paros; Greek Islands, 011-30-22840-92071, www.eurodivers.gr
Tags: sports and adventure | things to do

Scuba diving

From April through November, Diver’s Club at Caspis Beach Hotel in Agia Pelagia, near Heraklion, offers diving programs, including PADI, CMAS, and NITROX courses. Explore underwater treasures like the 98-foot El Greco Cave and the Messerschmidt plane wreck.

Caspis Beach Hotel, Agia Pelagia, 011-30-28108-11755, www.diversclub-crete.gr
Tags: sports and adventure | diving | things to do

The Archaeological Museum

Just a stones throw from the harbor, this little museum, built in 1902, houses archaeological finds including Hellenistic vases and artistic pithos portraying the fall of Troy.

Ayios Stefanos Rd., Mykonos, 011-30-22890-22325
Tags: museum | things to do | history

The Museum of Folklore

Housed in a 19th-century sea captain’s mansion near the quay, the old homestead showcases local crafts, furniture, embroidery, and photos.

Mykonos, 011-30-22890-25591
Tags: family | museum | things to do | history | art | crafts

The Nautical Museum of the Aegean

Catering to sailor’s sensibilities this maritime museum displays an extensive collection of ship models and nautical instruments.

Enoplon Dynameon 10, Mykonos, 011-30-22890-22700
Tags: family | things to do | history

Tria Pigadia (Three Wells)

Near Alefkandra are the three wells which supplied all of Mykonos with water until 1956. Legend has it that virgins who drink from the wells will find husbands. Observe, but don’t drink, the briny water.

Mykonos,
Tags: family | culture | historic | things to do

Vlychada beach

Santorini is known for the busy black-sand beaches of Kamari and Perissa. To escape the crowds, head for Vlychada (Vlihada) on the south coast. This long, gray-sand beach is backed by dramatic pumice stone cliffs that were sculpted into bizarre formations by the elements. It’s peaceful and unspoiled (and nudist-friendly toward the west end).

Vlychada, on Santorini’s southern tip, west of Perivolos, Santorini,
Tags: beach | family | things to do

Vouliagmeni Beach

Escape the city heat with a few hours swimming and sunbathing on a nearby beach. One of the nicest has to be the EOT beach in Vouliagmeni (located about 12 miles from Athens). A gently curving strip of golden sand giving onto a horseshoe-shaped bay, it’s lined with wooden sun beds and big white umbrellas, and equipped with showers, changing cabins, and several snack bars.

Apollonos, 011-30-210-896-0697
Tags: beach | family | things to do | outdoors | water sports

Windsurfing

One of the Mediterranean’s top windsurfing bases is Vassiliki on Lefkada. Here, Club Vassiliki takes advantage of the awesome weather conditions and their store of the latest and best equipment to offer guests a top-notch surf experience.

Club Vassiliki, Lefkada, Greek Islands, 011-30-26450-31588, www.clubvass.com
Tags: sports and adventure | things to do

Wine tasting

Santorini’s volcanic soils support rich vineyards. Santo Wines, between the port and Thira, commands views down onto the caldera, and offers guided cellar tours, plus wine tasting and bottles for sale.

Santorini, Pyrgos, Greek Islands, 011-30-22860 22596, www.santowines.gr
Tags: things to do | wine

Wine tasting

Santorini produces some of Greece’s best white wines. The winemaking museum at the Koutsouannopoulos Vineyard (open 10am-8pm) traces the history of wine production on the island from 1660 onwards, with waxwork figures and reconstructions of working machinery. Personal audio tours are available in ten languages. And yes, it’s possible to taste the wines!

Koutsouannopoulos Winery, On the road from the port to Kamari, Santorini, 011-30-22860-31322, www.volcanwines.gr
Tags: family | things to do | wine | winery

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