If there was ever a 365-day destination that defined bucket-list travel, it’d be Greece. From ancient ruins and stunning beaches to lively nightlife and melt-in-your-mouth cuisine, Greece is the perfect setting to feed your wanderlust. Our comprehensive Greece travel guide highlights the best times to visit each city and island, plus where to have the most unparalleled, unique experiences.
We've put together the ultimate itinerary for the best trip ever, covering the country's top locations. Read on for an overview and a detailed day-by-day of what to do while you're there.
The Essential Greece Itinerary, For First-Timers
Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, and Thessaloniki
Athens for the history buff
As the birthplace of the modern Olympics, classical art, democracy, and Western civilization at large, Athens is justly regarded as one of the most important cultural centers in the world. Boasting archaeological sites and ancient ruins, world-class museums and stunning beaches, and thriving dining and nightlife scenes that only get bigger and better as the weather cools, Athens offers something for everyone.
Santorini And Mykonos For The Sundowner
There’s no place that can light up your Insta feed quite like a Greek island; the houses of Santorini, with their whitewashed walls and ultramarine roofs, are some of the most iconic (and beautiful) buildings in the world. If you’re looking to party, the neighboring island of Mykonos is paradise, offering DJ-studded events rivaling those of Ibiza.
Crete For The Outdoor Adventurer
As Greece’s largest and most populous island, there’s something for every taste and temperament in Crete. Depending on what area you explore, you’ll uncover archaeological sites and museums, peaceful harbors, scenic nature trails, and everything in between. Spring is a particularly pleasant season to visit, as winter weather is replaced by warm breezes and blossoming gardens.
Thessaloniki For The Culture Seeker
As Greece’s second biggest city after Athens, Thessaloniki is a hub for culture, creativity, and cuisine. Rich in history, travelers will find buildings and structures dating from the Roman and Byzantine times. Plus, its unique location makes it a base for exploring northern and central Greece. Home to many historic museums, discovery is at every turn.
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Couples trip to Greece
The Essential Greece Tour: Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, and Thessaloniki
This itinerary features ten days of culture, history, and cuisine — all curated from our experts. From start to finish: explore magical sunsets in Santorini, lively nightlife in Mykonos, ancient ruins of Athens and Crete, and magical tastes in Thessaloniki.
Below is an example of what our experts and hand-selected private guides might put together for you with a combination of the must-sees and the behind-the-scenes glimpses of Grecian life. Here is our 10 day Greece itinerary.
Athens (3 Nights)
Athens Sample Day 1:
Begin your Essential greek experience the best way we know how: exploring the worldwide known ancient Acropolis. As the finest sanctuary of the ancient world; it remains the city’s most famous landmark. The Parthenon, formerly a temple to the goddess Athena, is the most recognizable of the many monuments, but be sure to leave time to check out the Propylaia, a colossal gateway, and the Erechtheion, a temple featuring the famous “Porch of the Karyatides.”
While you’re there, explore Anafiotika, the Hidden Neighborhood Under the Acropolis. Located on the northeastern side of the Acropolis hill, Anafiotika is one of Athens’ smallest and most picturesque neighborhoods. Houses date back to the reign of King Otto and are constructed according to Cycladic architecture, similar to what you’ll see on Greek Islands like Mykonos and Santorini, but in the heart of the city.
In the early evening, visit the ancient Agora. Two of its most prominent buildings are the remarkably well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus and the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, an expansive covered portico.
Finish with a nightcap at The Gin Joint! For more on Athens, see our full city guide.
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Athens Sample Day 2:
Start your day with a day trip to Syntagma Square. Constructed in 1843, the Syntagma Square is young compared to the ancient sites of Athens, but its stature is no less compelling. It’s the most important square in the city, having witnessed multiple political events, and is the site of the Parliament building. Stay to watch the changing of the guard, which occurs once an hour.
If time permits, stroll through Plaka on your way to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Once the largest temple in all of Greece, the Temple of Olympian Zeus has been reduced to sixteen of its original 104 columns, though its grandeur still remains.
In the evening, stroll down Pittaki Street, Athens' Magical Lantern-Lit Alley. Before transforming into the creative hub it is today, Pittaki Street was a dark alley mostly comprised of warehouses big and small. The revamp started in 2012 with a on-profit called Imagine the City who partnered with creatives to ‘light’ up this forgotten street. Today, you’ll find all sorts of lanterns—from chandeliers to Chinese paper lanterns.
Athens Sample Day 3:
Kick off your last full day in Athens with a visit to the Byzantine and Christian Museum. As one of Greece’s national museums, the Byzantine and Christian Museums covers quite a lot of ground. Housing over 25,000 artifacts that date between the 3rd and 20th centuries AD, one could easily spend an entire week here and still just scratch the surface. There’s a heavy focus on religious artifacts, hence the name, and is a treasure trove of knowledge. Another option is to head up to Delphi and visit one of the most famous sites in Greece - home to Apollo's sanctuary.
If you’re looking for unique souvenirs before island hopping, make a pit stop at the Centre of Hellenic Tradition. Tucked away in Monastiraki, the Centre of Hellenic Tradition is the ultimate spot to shop for Greek handicrafts. You’ll find a little bit of everything, including embroidery, ceramics, weavings, wood carvings, prints, and old paintings. Before you leave, stop by the upstairs art gallery and be sure to check out the view of the Parthenon.
Party the night away at Dybbok and dance the night away to some of the world’s top Djs.
For more, see our full guide to Athens.
--> TRANSPORTATION TO SANTORINI: Flying from Athens to Santorini National Airport takes less than an hour. Buses travel from the airport to Fira, the island’s capital, where you can then travel to another town within Santorini if necessary.
SANTORINI (2 Nights)
Santorini Sample Day 4:
Settle into Santorini with a trip to the beach. Red Beach is arguably the most famous – and the most beautiful – beach on Santorini. Framed by massive formations of red and black volcanic rock. Get there early to take in the different colors of the cliffs as you wander down the path to the shore. If you have enough time, it’s also a good spot for snorkeling.
Just steps from the beach, you’ll find the ruins at Akrotiri. The Bronze Age settlement, which was buried in ash after a volcanic eruption in 1627 B.C., contains dozens of well-preserved frescoes and has been suggested as a possible source of inspiration for Plato’s Atlantis.
Come sunset, see Santorini from every angle with a private yacht sailing tour. Sunset Oia sails depart from the port of Ammoudi in the picturesque village of Oia. Choose among three sailing options: premium semi-private, private and shared. Your Journy travel designer can help you book the best option. Just request your trip here.
Santorini Sample Day 5:
Kick start your day with a morning hike from Fira to Oia. The scenic 10.5km (6.5 miles) journey takes you through the charming villages of Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, and Oia - making it a perfect spot to experience the caldera views. During the summer, temperatures can warm up quickly, so getting an early start and packing plenty of water are musts.
Depending on when you finish your hike, you might want to add a winery visit to your day itinerary. Canava Roussos has always celebrated the unique characteristics of Thiran grapes. Their Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mandilaria, and Mavrathiro faithfully adhere to classic winemaking traditions, but they also incorporate modern techniques that bring out each wine’s particular bouquet. Visit their old stone canava for a tour and a tasting.
In the evening, explore the Lively Beachside Town of Kamari. The black sand at Kamari beach is leftover from the volcanic eruption from thousands of years ago – and it’s now the setting for one of the trendiest party spots on the island. Lined with restaurants, shops, bars, and cafes, the beachfront is especially lovely on a moonlit night.
For more, see our full guide to Santorini & Mykonos.
--> TRANSPORTATION TO MYKONOS: The ferry from Santorini to Mykonos takes 2.5 hours, with multiple departures daily.
Mykonos (1 Night)
Mykonos Sample Day 6:
Stretch your sea legs with a bike ride through the countryside. You’ll pass through the farms, villages, and splendid beaches of rural Mykonos that aren’t accessible with a car. Tours start and end at Vioma Organic Farm, where you can taste wine and other local delicacies.
In the evening, explore ‘Little Venice’ by foot. Effortlessly romantic, Little Venice is a seaside quarter on the western side of Mykonos town full of traditional houses built right on the water’s edge. Before it became a hub of chic bars, restaurants and art galleries, it was a residential district in the sea with houses of rich merchants and captains that began to be built from the middle of the 18th century.
Time your visit with sunset for an incredible view.
Stop for dinner at Sea Satin. It’s situated on a waterfront peninsula in Little Venice, directly under the famous Mykonos windmills. Indulge in the catch of the day, complete with homemade dipping oils. Greek music and candle lighting add to the ambiance at this charming spot, which gives way to a bumpin' dinner party vibe.
Party until the wee hours of the morning at the legendary open air club, Cavo Paradiso. The club's location on top of a hill overlooking a cliff adds to the dramatic backdrop for the most epic of parties.
For more, see our full guide on Santorini & Mykonos.
--> TRANSPORTATION TO THESSALONIKI: While there is a ferry connecting the two, your best bet is to book a direct, 1 hour flight.
THESSALONIKI (2 Nights)
Thessaloniki Sample Day 7:
For a picture-perfect beach day, look no further than Peraias Beach. The fine sand beach stretches 7km long and offers views of the city. Grab a sun bed for a relaxed morning and come lunch, choose from one of the many nearby restaurants and beach bars.
Then stroll along the old waterfront. This coastal promenade isn’t only a scenic way to tour the city, it’s rooted in fascinating history. Begin your walk from the warehouses at the port and continue on to Nikis Avenue. Once you reach the White Tower, the scene will become more modern.
Indulge on a seafood dinner at Molyvos. Upscale and innovative, Molyvos is one of Thessaloniki’s premier seafood restaurants. Named after the village of Molyvos, the space does a good job of bringing the town’s geographical beauty and architecture to an indoor setting. Stepping inside the doors of its neo-classical building, you’ll feel transported to a 1900s Greece.
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Couples trip to Greece
Thessaloniki Sample Day 8:
Make the most of your last day in Thessaloniki by Hiking Mount Hortiatis. It’s about an hour drive from downtown Thessaloniki and an easy half-day excursion to add to your trip. The mountain rises southeast of Thessaloniki, and offers spectacular views. Along the way, you’ll pass through the quaint village of Hortiatis where you can stop for a drink.
In the afternoon, chase more adventure at Potamos Beach, Epanomi. Definitely geared toward adventurers, this beach seems to have it all, including a sunken ship wreck where you can see all sorts of marine life. Beyond that, Potamos Beach is one of the premier spots for water sports.
End the night at Tabya for cocktails with a view.
--> TRANSPORTATION TO CRETE: A nonstop flight from Thessaloniki to Crete takes 1 hour.
CRETE (2 Nights)
Crete Sample Day 9:
Start your day with a visit to The Palace of Knossos. Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and has been called Europe's oldest city. The first settlement dates to about 7000 BC., and the first palace to 1900 BC - this capital city of Minoan Crete was thought to be abandoned around 1100 BC. Sung of by Homer in his Odyssey: “Among their cities is the great city of Knossos, where Minos reigned when nine years old, he that held converse with great Zeus.”
In the afternoon, take a relaxing jaunt to the pink sand and beautiful azure waters at Elafonissi. The place is full of dunes with sand lilies and junipers, with endangered turtles and several rare animals that nest there. Near the “breaking” point of the peninsula, the water does not exceed 1m, creating a small lagoon, which you can easily cross in order to reach the “island."
Feeling social? Bar hop around the Old Harbour. After midnight, the scene moves to Platanias, a 15-minute cab ride west of the city, where up to a dozen open-air clubs on the beach stay open all night.
Crete Sample Day 10:
Get an early start for your hike to Samaria Gorge. Prior to becoming a world biosphere reserve, the gorge was inhabited for many centuries. You'll be able to see remnants of Byzantine churches and Venetian castles along the way. Keep an eye out as well for the rare kri-kri, a Cretan goat species endemic to the area.
Cool off with a swim in the iconic Balos Lagoon. The area is famous for its turquoise waters, the wild natural beauty and the beautiful exotic scenery. While known for its pure white sand, in many places it actually takes on a lovely pinkish hue, from millions of crushed shells. The sea is very shallow and warm.
For your last night, opt for dinner at The Alchemist at Koutouloufari in Hersonissos, a beautiful traditional village. This small family-run restaurant with a casual yet buzzy vibe serves delicious cocktails & authentic Greek food.
Whether it is your first time or you are a seasoned visitor, see our full guide on Crete.
This article is part of our series on Greece as a 365 day destination. To view all our pieces, visit greece.gojourny.com.