Greece is a travel junkie’s dream; with it’s golden, sandy beaches, rich ancient history, delicious cuisine, and rugged mountain scenery, there’s simply something for everyone. Whether you seek outdoor adventures, romantic escapes, beach parties or history lessons, the beauty of it all is that it doesn’t matter what your travel style is; Greece has what you’re looking for. Here’s our guide to Greece for every type of traveler.
The Nature Lover
For rich fauna and mountainous backroads perfect for hiking, the nature lover should endeavor to explore the small and rural island of Tilos. Located within the Dodecanese group of islands, Tilos’ lack of people and attractive landscapes full of wildflowers make for an outdoor enthusiasts dream. Take to shepherd’s paths through rolling meadows, trek along ravines and hike up into the hills behind the port of Livadia in search of the deserted ruins of Mikro Chorio, the island’s Medieval capital.
Another island famed for its wilderness and beloved by nature devotees is Ikaria – a beautiful and quiet island where travelers and locals alike come to escape the quick pace of modern western life. Not overly touristy, Ikaria boasts a rugged landscape encompassing waterfalls, rivers, and gorges. Bathe in thermal mineral springs at Therma, before heading out to the beaches of Nas, Seychelles or Prioni.
For an off-the-grid camping expedition, head to the southernmost island of Gavdos situated 24 miles off the coast of Crete. Here, you’ll find little accommodation – a few modest hotels and a handful of tavernas – but there is plenty of room to pitch a tent on the beach and spend a night beneath the stars. While away your time traipsing between villages along the coast and don’t miss checking out the deserted and pristine Tripiti beach; the southernmost point in Europe.
The Hopeless Romantics
There’s no doubt about it; if you consider yourselves a couple of upscale honeymooners, are planning a proposal or are just plain fools for a romantic sunset, you simply can’t go past Santorini. Doused in enchantment with a touch of buzzing nightlife, Santorini delivers on jaw-dropping views of far-stretching seas from the comfort of cliffside pools and lavish bars. But heed our warning, if you want to take Santorini for all that it’s worth, it won’t come cheap. For an unforgettable evening, charter a private luxury yacht or sailboat and cruise into the harbor for a candlelit dinner on the water. Fira and Oia may be busy, but there’s a reason they’re some of the world’s most famous sunset spots – book a table at an open-air restaurant with spectacular views of the Caldera or go early and bring along a picnic.
If you’re adverse to crowds and want to be a little kinder on your wallet, head to Folegandros, an island also situated in the Cycladic chain of islands. A quieter alternative to Santorini, Folegandros still holds buckets full of charm. It’s whitewashed, clifftop town, or Chora, is comparable to Santorini’s Fira and Oia, yet this romantic haven is yet to be discovered by mainstream tourism. Take romantic strolls into the Kastro, the innermost portion of the Chora, where you’ll be surrounded by the quintessential Cycladic architecture of whitewashed buildings and blue doors. While Santorini’s volcanic beaches are not typically favorable – with visitors preferring picture-perfect infinity pools – you’ll find delightful pebbled beaches on Folegandros where you can relax the day away with your loved one.
The Party Animal
If beach parties and day clubs are what you seek, look no further than Mykonos. It may be a well-versed destination in the travel arena, but one can’t look past the fact that Mykonos is home to one of the biggest party scenes in the world – oft dubbed the Ibiza of Greece. Here, laid-back vacation mode becomes interspersed with an eccentric and vivacious party atmosphere, with a great selection of open-air day parties and vibrant nightclubs to choose from. Cavo Paradiso, along with the handful of other famous clubs on Paradise Beach, attracts thousands of party-goers every summer who come to dance the night away to world-class EDM DJs. As well as electronic dance parties, you’ll be able to catch regular drag shows and head to gay-friendly festivities or make it exclusive and hit up sleek lounge bars.
Ios also has a stake in ranking as a top party island, but with a little more of a laid-back vibe. Within the main hub Chora, there is a strip of popular bars and clubs fit for a memorable night, along with the white sands of Mylopotas where you’ll find lively beach parties.
Back on mainland Greece, Athens has a diverse nightlife scene and caters to everything from sophisticated evenings to rowdy bouzoukia clubs. For vibrant bars and street music, head to the neighborhood of Exarchia, where young local Athenians come to stay out all night. For lovers of extravagant superclubs, shimmy your way into Lindsay Lohan’s famed establishment, Lohan Nightclub in the neighborhood of Gazi. For an epic experience of pumping live music, professional dancers, light displays, and smoke machines, turn to a bouzoukia – venues with large stages that can also be found in Gazi, or on Syngrou and Posidonos Avenues. For rooftop bars, check out City Zen’s open-air roof terrace for sprawling views of the city and Acropolis, or A for Athens for much of the same. Whatever you end up filling your nights (or days) with, don’t forget to also try Ouzo, Greece’s beloved anise-flavored aperitif. Yamas!
The History Buff
Often referred to as the Cradle of Western Civilization, Greece is a honeypot for lovers of history wishing for a glimpse into ancient times. One of the top destinations for history buffs is Athens, the country’s present-day capital and hub of Classical Greece. A trip to Athens can’t be complete without an exploration of the Acropolis and its ancient citadel; marvel at the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the grand entrance gate of the Propylaea, and the Theatre of Dionysus. Other historical attractions in Athens are Hadrian’s Library, the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Roman Forum – all of which can be covered in one day or examined in depth over a few.
Just a stone’s throw from Athens in the Saronic gulf lies the island of Aegina – a popular destination for day-trippers from Athens and a cornucopia of historical importance. Along with an archeological museum and permanent displays of neolithic pottery, Aegina is home to the Doric Temple of Aphaia, a beautiful structure resembling the Acropolis on a smaller scale. Located on a hill overlooking the sparkling sea, the temple is one of the most well-preserved on any of the Greek islands.
Delos is another destination popular for day trips, situated just two miles from Mykonos. Due to its lack of natural resources, this tiny island hasn’t been inhabited for centuries, which only adds to its mysterious character. According to Greek mythology, Delos was the birthplace of the gods Apollo and Artemis. Now, the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site where a deluge of important archeological ruins can be found. Check out the Altar of Dionysus, the Lion Terrace, Cleopatra’s House, the three temples dedicated to Apollo, and the on-site museum which features some of the finest collections of Ancient Greek sculpture.
The island of Rhodes and its ancient ruins and Medieval streets are also highly worth visiting. Popular in the Dodecanese group of islands, Rhodes is located between mainland Greece and Cyprus and is a treasure trove of historical influences and narrow cobbled alleyways. Make your way into one of the best-preserved medieval towns in all of Europe – the UNESCO listed Rhodes Old Town to check out the incredible medieval Street of Knights, before taking a walk around the fortified town’s walls.
The Beach Bum
Close to Corfu in the Ionian Sea, the small island group of Paxi is home to some of the most stunning beaches in Greece. With turquoise lagoons and quiet coves, Paxi’s beaches are ideal for those who enjoy secluded sandy shores all to themselves. Some of Paxi’s beaches can only be accessed by boat; such as Kipiadi, Agios Nikolaos, and the beautiful Mesovrika, while the other emerald coves of Levrehio or Harami are easier to get to and therefore slightly more popular among tourists.
On Milos, the beauty of this undisturbed island is sure to take your breath away. With a staggering total of 80 beaches to explore, there’s more than enough to keep you beach-hopping for days. Thanks to the island’s distinct natural beauty of stark white rocks and striking blue waters, Milos’ beaches are a cut above the rest. The island’s most famous beach, Sarakiniko, is an inlet of smooth, chalky-white volcanic rock, causing the landscape to look more lunar than earthly. Other must-see beaches on Milos are Papafragus beach, Pollonia, and Alogomandra beach and caves.
Thinking about traveling to Greece? Check out these islands to visit other than Santorini, or our budget guide to Greece.
Header image by Emilie Boone on Instagram.