This itinerary covers five incredible Greek Islands, the amazing capital Athens and the extraordinary monasteries of Meteora, including where to stay, how to get around, what to see and do and even where to eat.
This itinerary for 3 weeks in Greece covers it all!
Whether you’ve been before or it’s your first time it can be hard to process all the information out there. Be sure to check out our complete Planning Guide as well as our FREE 13-page downloadable itinerary.
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When to visit Greece
The best time to visit Greece is during April, May, and June, or September and October.
The weather is mild, and most places have few crowds. High season is late June to early September, and prices will reflect that, as will the crowds, the number of cruise ships, and accommodation availability.
Summer is still great, especially for beach time and in some of the lesser known spots. The water is warm, there are blue skies every day, and a fun holiday atmosphere.
Easter is an especially wonderful time to visit Greece as it becomes very festive with parades, parties, and on many islands, bonfires, fireworks, and other activities and traditions.
Best beach and swimming weather: June to September
Best sightseeing weather: March to June and September/October
Further reading: When to visit Greece (including public holidays and festivals)
Itinerary One – May through October
This itinerary covers the classic destinations of Athens and Santorini and the beautiful lesser-known islands of Paros and Milos as well as Crete. It also includes an overnight trip to the extraordinary monasteries of Meteora and a day trip to the Saronic Islands as well.
This allows visitors to see the most iconic sites Greece has to offer as well as a few hidden gems too. You will see the famous sugar-cube architecture and blue church domes, ancient archaeological UNESCO sites, stunning beaches, caves, waterfalls, wineries, and charming villages as well as excellent shopping and dining locations too.
The itinerary goes like this:
Day 1 – 3: Athens
Day 5-9: back to athens and fly to Crete
Day 9-12: ferry to Santorini
Day 12-16: ferry to Paros
Day 16-19: ferry to Milos
Day 19- 21: fly or ferry to the Athenian Riviera (with day trips)
Itinerary Two – October through May
This itinerary covers the classic destinations of Athens and Santorini but more of the Mainland, which is fantastic year-round. With many islands closing their tourist activities ( and many restaurants and hotels0 mid-October it’s when you move away from very beach-focused islands like Paros, Naxos, and Mykonos and focus on year-round destinations and those best suited to the off-season.
It also includes an overnight trip to the extraordinary monasteries of Meteora and a day trip to the Saronic Islands as well.
The itinerary goes like this:
Day 1 – 3: Athens
Day 4 & 5: Meteora – private tour or train trip
Day 8-11: drive to Nafplio
Day 12-13: drive to Momenvasia
Day 16: drive to Corinth
Days 21 – ferry to Athens
Destinations to visit during 3 weeks in Greece
There are several ways to get to Athens which cover air, sea, rail, driving and even on foot!
Apart from the many things you can do in Athens including great shopping, incredible food, and all the ancient sites there is also great nightlife with a plethora of bars, tavernas, and clubs to choose from. There are a lot of new hotels and restaurants many with incredible rooftop views, especially of the Acropolis.
The Acropolis Museum is world-class and needs to be enjoyed either before or after you visit the Acropolis.
Where to stay in Athens
For couples: Zillers Hotel has only 10 rooms and amazing Acropolis views from some rooms and the lovely rooftop bar and restaurant, and its right on Mitropolous dining street or The Foundry Suites in Psiri are uber-cool and was once an industrial foundry.
For families and groups: We recently wrote about the best family and group accommodation in Athens.
Solo: I love to stay at Ergon House when I’m on my own. It’s across from Zillers and part of the famous Ergon House food emporiums. They have even let me use my room until my 6 pm International flight at no extra charge!
Further Reading: Where to stay in Athens ( including a synopsis of the best neighbourhoods)
Top Things to do in Athens
- Visit the famous Acropolis of course!
- shop in Ermou Pedestrian Street
- Visit Syntagma Square and see Parliament House and the Changing of the Greek Presidential Guard – the Evzones
- wander through Plaka and the many cafes, shops and galleries
- stop by the Monastiraki flea market and the Athens Central Food Market, especially o a food tour
- have dinner on a rooftop restaurant with Acropolis views
The word “Meteora,” means “hovering in the air” which, whilst a literal description of the famous monasteries, also shows just how otherworldly they are.
The complex is made up of twenty-four Eastern Orthodox monasteries that were built on giant sandstone rock pillars between the 14th and 16th centuries. Six of them are still in use today and can be visited by the public, whilst others are popular for sightseeing externally by hikers and photographers.
This UNESCO world heritage site is truly one of the most remarkable and visually beautiful places you will visit anywhere in the world. Even if you only have 1 night to spare on your trip to Greece you will not regret the effort to visit Meteora for a moment!
How to get to Meteora
There are two ways to get to Meteora: either by signing up for one of the numerous guided Meteora tours from Athens or Thessaloniki or by using your own means of transport and staying a night or two in the city of Kalambaka or the village of Kastraki and visiting the monasteries at your own pace.
It takes about 4 hours to drive from Athens or you can catch a train and bus which takes about 5.
Where to stay in Meteora
Doupiani Hotel, Kastraki – great for all types of travellers and one of the closest hotels to the Monasteries as well as having incredible views of them. In fact, it is feasible to walk to two of the monasteries from the hotel with not too much effort.
bonus tip – Where to eat in Meteora
Doupiani Hotel does a fantastic breakfast spread so there’s another reason to stay there. For lunch head to Taverna Efrosin while dinner at Meteoron Panorama is a much for extraordinary views and food. Book a table outside!
Things to do in Meteora
It’s all about the Monasteries! Read our complete guide to Meteora, including how to visit each Monastery and what they each represent. It also includes a number of other things to do in the area including visiting waterfalls and medieval stone bridges. This is why more than one day is never a bad idea!
According to Mythology Zeus, the father of both Gods and Men, released two eagles, one from the east and one from the west, and the place where they met in the middle he proclaimed the center of the world and named Delphi. For many centuries Greeks and others visited Delphi to worship and make sacrifices and offerings and most importantly to have their future read by the Oracle.
Preservation efforts have included the restoration of some of the site and the reburial of several lesser buildings. Today the site is a major tourist attraction and considered one of the most important in Greece along with The Acropolis and the sacred island of Delos.
Boasting several well-preserved ruins that point to its ancient past, Delphi was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1987.
How to get to Delphi
Delphi is one of the most popular day trips to do from Athens. You can do a private tour with a guide or join a group tour on a bus.
You can also drive to Delphi yourself and stay a day or two to explore the site as well as the surrounding area. There is actually quite a bit to do and see in the area and in Winter the neighboring town of Archova is the most popular ski resort in Greece.
If you would rather use public transport it is possible to catch a bus from several locations including Athens, Parga, and Preveza. For more information check out the KTel website.
Where to stay in Delphi
There are are a number of choices when it comes to accommodation for Delphi.
You can stay right in Delphi town itself, nearby in the town of Arachova or down by the sea in Itea, Galaxidi or further along in the pretty town of Nafpaktos. The first two are great in colder months while the others are lovely year round.
There are a number of hotels right near Delphi as well. Our pick is Kastalia Boutique Hotel which is only a 5-minute walk from the site and has spectacular views of the Valley. Nidimos Hotel is also very good.
Pitho Rooms is an inexpensive family-run hotel in a very central location.
Arachova is a charming mountain town that is often described as Greece’s ‘Vail’ as it is a popular ski resort in winter, in fact the most popular in the country.
It is only 10kms past Delphi but is larger and busier and where many people choose to stay when they visit Delphi archeological site.
Here we recommend Elafivolia Arachova Suites and Aegli Arachova both gorgeous boutique hotels with stunning views and excellent amenities including swimming pools. If you are looking for a splurge the views from Clock Tower Luxury Suites and Villas are simply breathtaking.
Chania is one of the most popular places to stay in Crete, and also one of the most charming.
It has a beautiful Old Town, wrapped around an equally picturesque harbor where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time. Here, you’ll find plenty of excellent restaurants, bars, and shops and you’ll see the strong fourteenth-century influence of groups including the Ottomans and the Egyptians as you wander the harbor and the narrow streets and alleys. There are also a number of museums and archaeological sites, and it is also a great best pick for those interested in learning more about Greece’s history.
The town is well connected by public transport and taxis, so it is easy to get around to other sites on the island such as Knossos in Heraklion and the famous beaches of Balos, Falasarna, and Elafonisos.
This all means it is one of the busiest places in Crete, so you should be prepared for some crowds, especially in the summer. However, this only adds to the bustling atmosphere and it’s possible to head further out to get some respite from the crowds.
How to get to Chania
There is a small international airport in Chania so it is possible to fly in.
There are several ferry services that operate between Athens and Chania. The journey takes about 9 hours and is an overnight ferry. Sometimes there are ferry connections between Chania and Santorini but if not there are several a day during summer from Heraklion, Crete’s capital.
There are regular bus services between Chania and major cities in Crete, or you can rent a car and drive to Chania from other parts of Crete which takes about 2 hours. It’s also possible to book a private transfer.
Where to stay in Chania
For couples it’s hard to beat Chania Flair Boutique Hotel (adults only) near the Marina. it’s walking distance to the Neo Chora Beach in one direction and the Venetian Harbour in the other. Or, on the other side of the Old Town look at Fortino Boutique Hotel or Porto Veneziano Hotel which are an easy walk to popular Koum Kapi Beach.
Families and groups who want a great hotel in the heart of the Old Town with a pool and family/triple rooms, check out Samaria Hotel. If you’re happy to splurge then it’s hard to beat the new Tanneries Hotel & Spa or Villa Giota, which is also close to the beach.
Things to do in Chania
- head to the beaches! Balos is best visited by boat from Kissamos or Chania while Falasarna, Limania and Elafonisi are great day trip by bus, car or organised tour.
- explore Chania Old Town
- do a walking food tour or cooking class
- do a day trip to Knossos Palace– home of the Minoans and the Minataur!
- visit a winery or two and/or an olive oil experience as well
- do a cooking class in the White Mountains
- Hike in the Mountains – the Samaria Gorge is one of the most sought after hikes in Europe
- Do a Land Rover Safari on the Minoan Route
Where to stay in Santorini
There are 18 towns and villages in Santorini. Most visitors stay in only 5 of them mostly the capital, Fira or the much-photographed Oia or Imerovigli. All of these are perched on the Caldera and look out over the volcano, with incredible sunsets. Some people also like to stay in the beachside towns of Kamari or Perissa which are a more affordable alternative.
For couples & solo travelers it’s hard to beat Santorini Supreme for luxury, privacy and gob-smacking views from the private pool. Sweet Peony is also gorgeous and quite good value compared to other villas of its standard. If you are happy to splurge even more then check out Armenaki.
For families and groups White Harmony Suites have 2 bedroom suites or Theoxenia Boutique Hotel have quad rooms and are not far from, dare I say it, McDonald’s. If you really want to be in Oia with the views of the Blue Church Domes etc…then Aloia Villas are good value (for Oia) with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms plus a hot tub! We have also had a great stay with our family at Armeni Village who have loft style rooms with daybeds.
Bonus Tip – Where to eat in Santorini
Lunch: Enjoy lunch either at one of the wineries or at Aeolos Tavernain Akrotiri. If heading to Black Beach enjoy lunch at Akro Beach Bar. Mataxi Mas is also considered one of the best on the island for delicious, traditional food.
Dinner: Book a sunset dinner cruise on the Caldera
Drinks: V Lounge Cafe & Cocktail Bar or P.K. Cocktail Bar in Fira or Moustache Bar
Things to do in Santorini
- half day cruise on the caldera with swim stops and walking on the volcano plug
- tour the world-renowned wineries with 12 tastings and tapas
- do a wine tasting AND a cooking class
- swim at Black Beach, Red Beach and Kamari Beaches
- do a sunset fishing trip with dinner and drinks
- attend a traditional’ Greek wedding!
- have a professional photographic session done – hard to beat the backdrop!
We like to stay in Naoussa on Paros which many say is like a small, cheaper version of Mykonos with a lively mix of tavernas, bars, and nightclubs as well as lovely whitewashed alleys full of great cafes and boutiques and gelati stores.
The port town of Parikia is also nice and a little more affordable than Naoussa.
How to get to Paros
You can also travel to Paros by ferry from Naxos which takes about 30 minutes.
There are many ferries each day, year-round. The port town is called Parikia and that, or Naoussa are the best options to base yourself. Book ferry tickets HERE.
Where to stay in Paros
For couples Lilly Residence is stunning and Adults Only or Senia Hotel is a perennial favourite year-round. There is also Cosme, and Cove, both with private pools or hot tubs, are near the beach and are walking distance into town.
As a family we have often stayed with our kids in a family room at Paliomylos Hotel. We have also stayed there with 37 friends so it’s great for groups too! Adonis is right next door and also have several lovely 2 bedroom suites with great views.
If it’s booked out try Sea & Sun who have Quad rooms, or Ariti Apartments which have great views although you may need to get two rooms. Ricos House is a charming little fully equipped house with 2 bedrooms and a short walk to everything, in a beautiful garden setting. You’ll have a very local experience here! Or Villa Isabella have a great family suite with 2 connected studios, 2 bathrooms and great views from the big terrace.
If you’re travelling solo have a look at Parian Village Beach Hotel which is right across from the beach near the port town of Parikia, right next to our favourite beach bar, Tango Mar, and has great value single rooms with beautiful sea views and a nice pool.
Where to eat in Paros
BreakfastRagoussis Bakery is huge and amazing! In fact, there are many excellent bakeries across the island.
Lunch: If staying in Naoussa head to Kargas for delicious Gyros and cold beer. In Parikia eat at Filoxenia Seaside Grill and have a swim at the calm beach across the road. We also love to stop for a great fish lunch at To Balcony tou Aki in Aliki, a lovely seaside village in the south. O Mylos in Marpissa have the best Gyros we’ve eaten anywhere!
Dinner: You cant visit Naoussa without dining at one of the lively port restaurants like Sigi Ikthios or its famous neighbour Barbarossa which is favoured by celebrities. Sativa Music Bar in Parikia which has great food as well as entertainment.
Drinks: if you’re wanting to kick on after dinner, Agosta bar in Naoussa or any of its immediate neighbours, are the place to be.
Things to do in Paros
- Naoussa: don’t miss the Venetian Fort, the old fishing port, Kapopoulos Fine Arts Gallery, the ducks at the Harbour Bridge and the Church of the Virgin Mary ( Panayia).
- Do a loop of the island and visit the many beaches such as Ampelas, Tripiti, Golden Beach, Faragas and Punta. There are a lot of great beach clubs now too!
- Parikia: The Church of 100 doors ( and its museum), the Frankish Castle, the Archaic Temple of Athena, the myriad of shops and cafes in the back alleys and the Port.
- Pop over to Antiparos to see yet more amazing beaches and the deepest vertical cave in Europe!
- visit Moraitis Winery in Naoussa
- spend a few hours at Paros Park – a historic nature reserve with a lovely beach and beach club
- Do a full-day sailing trip around the island or even over to Naxos – a highlight for everyone!
With similar extraordinary geology and landscapes as the result of volcanic activity it also has stunning beaches, quaint villages and some of the best food in Greece!
Milos has some of the best, and most interesting beaches in Greece. It’s main industry is Mining and there are many mines still in production today. This is why you see amazing colours and landscapes on Milos that you don’t see on the other islands.
It is not as developed as islands like Paros and Naxos and certainly Santorini and Mykonos so it is luckily rarely crowded, as there is simply a limited number of rooms. It often books out completely in summer so be sure to book your accommodation here well in advance.
How to get to Milos
Milos has a small domestic airport with year-round flights, especially during the tourist season. All flights are to or from Athens and the flight is a pleasant 35-minute journey.
By sea, there are several direct routes from Piraeus port in Athens to Milos each day throughout the year. The fastest takes around 4 hours and 20 minutes whilst the long journey can be up to 14 hours on the Blue Star Ferry. Indirect routes are also available via other islands such as Syros and Paros.
Where to stay in Milos
Adamas is the Port town where there are regular connections with Athens and the other Cyclades islands. Adamas is a typical port town, full of car rental agencies, boats, cafes, and backpackers. The other main towns are Plaka which is up on the hill above Adamas (charming and great views but it’s still a pretty small village) and Pollonia which is a charming seaside town at the north-east tip of the island.
There are no large hotels or resorts on the island but a growing number of very good boutique hotels and family-run B&Bs. There is a Windmill in Karamitsos that has 2 bedrooms, amazing views, and is a very unique place to stay.
Otherwise look at Delmar or Flag Suites in Pollonia who have 2-bedroom apartments or, for something on a tight budget, we recommend Ostria Vento in Pollonia, who have triple rooms, or Zeras Apartments in Adamas, who have 1 and 2 bedrooms apartments and sea views – great for families.
Things to do on Milos
- The legend of O’Hamos taverna has spread across the world with long queues in peak times. Operating for over 30 years just outside Adamas this family established one of the first paddock-to-plate models in Greece.
- Things are very spread out on Milos so a car is a great idea. If you’d rather not rent one there are a few tours you can do :
one on archeology and culture and another half-day tour on Volcanology and Geology which is quite fascinating! Otherwise, the BEST OF MILOS TOUR is an 8-hour guided tour of all the highlights of the island and is hard to beat.
- The many wonderful beaches – 73 all up!
- The Catacombs
- Sailing to Kleftiko Pirate Cove ( the highlight of Milos for many)
- The Mining Museum – quite fascinating
- A day trip over to Kimolos Island
- Visiting the ‘Syrma’ ( colourful fishing huts) villages
- Enjoy wine tasting and a private tour at Kostantaki Winery in Pollonia
Further reading: Head to the Milos page for lots more!
What is the Athenian Riviera
Located on the southern coast of Attica, the region that surrounds Athens, the Riviera stretches from the port of Piraeus to Cape Sounion, a distance of approximately 70 kilometers (43 miles).
The beaches along the Riviera are some of the best in Greece, with golden sand and crystal-clear waters that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.
The Riviera is not just about the beaches, though. The coastal road that runs from Piraeus to Cape Sounion offers breathtaking views of the sea and the rugged coastline and end at one of the highlights of the Riviera, the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. This ancient temple sits atop a cliff overlooking the sea, offering stunning views of the sunset.
The Athenian Riviera is also known for its vibrant nightlife. The town of Glyfada is home to some of the best bars and clubs in Athens, where locals and visitors come to dance the night away.
Where to stay in the Athenian Riviera
Right near Kalamaki Beach and the infamous beach clubs of Bolivar, Penarrubia and Urban Suites have views over the sparkling sea while nearby Maison 66 represents great value at a bargain price.
Further down at bustling Glyfada O2Suites are a welcome new, luxury addition overlooking the beach while London Hotel has been a favourite with visitors for many years. The Palmyra Hotel is another favourite and is very budget friendly for families while Sea View Hotel across from Asteras Beach is a statement in elegance.
The Divani Apollon Palace and Thalasso is one of the most popular hotels in Greece and offers full resort services and amenities including 5 swimming pools, 4 restaurants and Day Spa. Very popular with families and groups.
In exclusive Vouliagnmeni you will find some of the most exclusive accommodation in Athens including the only Four Seasons Hotel in Greece. Right next door is Arion, a Luxury Collection resort and spa, while The Margi offers a more intimate luxury experience.
For people on a tighter budget wanting to check out Vouliagmeni we recommend Azur Hotel or Athenian Riviera Hotel & Suites, which are both reasonably prices and a short walk to the beaches and restaurants. Somewhere Boutique Hotel is a great mid-range choice that is right across from BlueFish restaurant and a short walk to amazing Lake Vouliagmeni, a thermal lake with a day spa and restuarant.
The first capital of modern Greece, Nafplio (aka Nafplion) is a romantic blend of past and present surrounded by postcard-perfect scenery.
Loved by locals and visitors alike, it is close to Athens and is the perfect destination as a base for 3 or 4 days to explore the northern part of the Peloponnese, including Corinth and the Argolis.
How to get to Nafplio
Located 139 kilometers from Athens (around a 1.5-hour drive), Nafplio is easily accessible by car. Alternatively, you can get to Nafplio from Athens by bus with KTel buses. The journey takes around two hours, and there are multiple daily departures from the Kifissos Bus Terminal.
Where to stay in Nafplio
There is a good range of accommodation right across Naplio including the Port, the Beach, and the newer suburbs in the outskirts but the Old Town is the place to be. It is mostly car-free, festooned in fairy lights and vibrant bougainvillea, and has a lively town square and cobblestone streets lined with wonderful, authentic tavernas, excellent boutiques and shops, modern bars, and more.
Gambelo Rooms is a small boutique hotel just a few steps from the Old Town with views over the bay. The décor is modern and chic and yet the rooms are surprisingly affordable. Try and book a room at the front that has a balcony. Another great option is Nafsimedon Hotel .
For a splurge, it’s hard to beat uber cool 3 Sixty Hotel, right on the square and with a very funky bar and restaurant.
For families and groups, Porto Bello Nafplio has spacious family rooms with panoramic views and bicycle hire and they are located a short walk from both the Old Town and the beach! Avra Nafpliou is on the outskirts of town with a gorgeous pool and beautiful shady gardens, so it’s also very popular with families, especially in Summer.
Things to do in Nafplio
- explore the old townBoasting some of Nafplio’s most important landmarks, the Old Town is easy to define as the vibrant heart of the city and includes places such as Syntagma Square, which includes Vouleftiko, a building that housed the first Hellenic parliament back in 1825.Nearby, the Turkish madrasa and the Trianon stand as proof of the city’s Ottoman heritage. Over the centuries, this place was used as a mosque, then a church, a school, and even a theatre. The church of Agios Spyridonas is another important landmark to see.
- hang out at Karathona or Arvanitia Beach
- there are a number of excellent museums including the Komnoloi Museum, The Archaeological Museum, the War Museum of Nafplion, and the Peloponnese Folklore Foundation Museum.
- Explore Nema Wine Region, one of Greece’s best.
- visit the ancient sites of Tiryns, Mycenae, and Epidvaros.
- Climb Palamidi Fortress
- Take a boat ride to Bortiz Castle
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Nafplio
Often called the ‘Fortress Island’ Momenvasia is located in the eastern Peloponnese, roughly three hours south of Nafplio. It is the result of an earthquake in 375AD and its unique geography has made it a popular place to reside over the years from initial Byzantine occupation, through the Franks, Venetians and Ottomans as well as the local Spartans.
During the 14th century, the citadel was an important trading port and gateway between the east and the west and it enabled occupants to remain concealed from invading forces.
How to get to Monemvasia
There is no airport in Monemvasia or anywhere on the Peloponnese except Kalamata, which only recieves limited seasonal flights from some European destinations and Thessaloniki.
From Athens or Nafplio you can reach Monemvasia by rental car or public bus. From Athens you need to get on the Greek National Road to Tripolis. This highway is big and modern and rarely has much traffic. Tolls apply several times which are best paid in cash.
Once you reach Tripolis, the next step would be to take the route to Sparta, which is the capital of the Prefecture of Laconia and 2 hours from Monemvasia. The road from Sparta to Monemvasia is not a highway but a rural one, meaning a single lane in each direction.
Where to stay in Monemvasia
Staying in Momenvasia for a night or two is highly recommended.
You can stay within the castle walls which is a very unique and something that most guests describe as ‘magical’. There are a handful of small boutique hotels and pensions, that are all reasonably priced and very good.
At the very back of the village Malvasia Traditional Hotel was one of the first to open and is consistently fantastic.
Lower down the hill is Likinia Hotel which is slightly more expensive and a little more luxurious with views out over the ocean. Ritsos Guesthouse is a great budget option that also has a spacious family apartment too.
You can also stay on the Mainland with views back over Momenvasia. Our favourite Mainland hotel is undoubtedly Kinsterna, a former mansion and estate that has been converted into a luxury hotel with every conceivable amenity. Somewhat closer and less expensive is Alkinoi Resort and Spa which is newly renovated and has a huge pool that rents out suns beds as well.
Things to do in Monemvasia
- Discover the food and wine! There is a small but exceptional number of traditional tavernas serving up some of the best food in the Peloponnese. Monemvasia also exports its wine and oil all over the world and it is very highly regarded.
- Be sure to drop into To-Kelari, a small shop on the main walkway bursting with local goods and wines, as well as cheese, honey, oil, herbs, tea and even local delicacies like candied olives which are very unusual. Tell Yannis we sent you!
- hike the various trails of the castle including the Ano Poli.
- visit the Archaeological Collection of Monemvasia, housed in a former Muslim Mosque, one of the town’s best-preserved buildings.
- visit the Castles exquisite Churches – small Church of Elkomenos Christos, the Church of Agia Sofia and the Church of Panagia Chrysafitissa.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Monemvasia
Sparta and Mystras
Sparta itself has a rich history but not many attractions, having been rebuilt after several earthquakes. You can get a photo with the Statue of Leonidas, the legendary general of the army and leader of the Battle of the ‘300’. You can also visit his tomb.
There are also several archaeological sites: The Archaeological Site of Ancient Sparta, the Acropolis of Ancient Sparta, and, just outside town the Menelaion.
There are several good museums, notably the Archaeological Museum of Sparta, the Manousakeio Museum, and the Museum of Olive Oil, which is a highlight for most people.
Mystras Acropolis and Fortification Castle is located high in the hills to the west of Sparta and is nestled between a convent and a Monastery, near the village of Mystras. This is a fascinating site to explore but there is a lot of steep walking so be sure to come prepared. It is a beautiful site undergoing significant restoration and is a must-see on the Peloponnese.
wHERE TO STAY IN MYSTRAS
There are only a few places to stay near Mystras but they are very good. It really can warrant a night or two.
Euphoria Retreat is a luxury, 5 star retreat that is one of the most exclusive hotels on the Mainland. At a much lower prices but also very charming, is Mystras Inn, just down the road. Further away and popular with families and groups is Kyniska Palace Conference and Spa.
THINGS TO DO IN MYSTRAS
While visiting Mystras, make sure not to miss these three places:
- The Palace of Despots, the second most important palace of the Byzantine Empire. Located on Mystras’ highest spot, the palace was the house of the city’s ruler.
- The Cathedral of Agios Demetrios was founded in 1292 AD. Built with a mixed architectural style, it was in this gorgeous place that the last Byzantine emperor, Constantinos Paleologos, was crowned in 1449. The interior of the Cathedral is particularly spectacular, as it is decorated with wall paintings in many different styles.
- The Archeological Museum, with Ecclesiastical items from the Byzantine period. You will find the museum in the yard of Agios Demetrios Cathedral.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Mystras
Ancient Olympia likely needs no explanation. Home to the first Olympic Games in 776, Olympia was an important sanctuary and house of worship to the Father of the Gods, Zeus. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most important archeological sites in Greece and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe.
How to get to Olympia
From Mystra it’s a two hour drive north-west to Olympia. You can take windy Highway 76 through the mountains which is a little longer and very scenic but not so good for people prone to motion sickness. Or, turn left at Gefyra and follow E65 to the west coast where it becomes E55 and take the turnoff for Olympia which is well signed.
Where to stay in Olympia
There is a a small number of hotels in Olympia and a number of good tavernas and cafes.
Arty Grand Hotel is outside town and is the only 5 star establishment. The two 4 star hotels are Olympio Asty and Hotel Europa Olmpia, both excellent.
For budget travellers it’s hard to beat Anesi Rooms and Taverna or Hotel Pelops.
THINGS TO DO in ANCIENT OLYMPIA
- The ancient Stadium, where most Olympic Games used to take place. The racetrack is over 200 meters long and nearly 30 to 34 meters wide.
- The Temple of Zeus, built in the 5th century B.C., is made of limestone and marble.
- The Temple of Hera is one of the oldest temples in Greece, dedicated to the goddess Hera. It was constructed in the 7th century B.C. The Olympic flame is still lit inside the temple!
- The Archaeological Museum, which hosts findings from the archeological site and others in the area. Among the famous exhibits, you will find the statues of Hermes of Praxiteles and of Nike Paionios.
In the summer there are performances during the International Festival of Ancient Olympia and the area around the Alpheios River is great for hiking and swimming. There is even the Kaiafas hot springs.
Further reading: A Complete Guide to Ancient Olympia
A significant hub of trade, art, and culture in ancient Greece, Corinth was one of the most significant cities in the country.
It was home to a major citadel, Acrocorinth, that was one of the most important military strongholds in the Peloponnese region. It was over 60 acres in size and virtually impenetrable and played a major role in many historical events. It was occupied by the Byzantines, Franks and Ottomans and destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC. The city was eventually restored and developed into a significant Christian hub.
With a population of about 58,000 people today, Corinth is a vibrant, contemporary city. It is famous for both its ancient archeological site and the equally impressive Corinth Canal.
How to get to Corinth
From Athens it takes just one hour to drive to Corinth, or you can get there by bus or train too.
From Olympia your can drive or bus on highways E65 and A7 and the journey takes around two hours and fifteen minutes.
Where to stay in Corinth
If you want to spend a few days exploring Corinth, you can either do it from Nafplio or stay somewhere closer in either Corinth itself or the popular resort town of Loutraki nearby.
In Corinth Maria’s Boutique Rooms are very close to the ancient site and gets excellent reviews. In Loutraki Petit Palais and Anthemio Studios are very popular for good reason. On there Athens side of the Isthmus the new Isla Brown Hotel has been an instant success as well.
Things to do in Corinth
- Ancient Corinth: Visit the ancient ruins including the Temple of Apollo, the Agora, the Bema, and the Peirene Fountain.
- Acrocorinth: Explore the ancient fortress of Acrocorinth, which is located on the hill overlooking Corinth.
- Corinth Canal: Walk across the Corinth Canal, a narrow waterway that separates the Peloponnese peninsula from the mainland of Greece. You can even bungee jump off it!
- Beaches: including Loutraki Beach, Pefkaki Beach, and Kalamia Beach.
- Museums: Visit the Archaeological Museum of Corinth, which features artifacts and exhibits from ancient Corinth, as well as the Folklore Museum of Corinth, which showcases the traditional arts and culture of the region.
The Saronic Islands
The Saronic Islands are the group closest to Athens so are popular for daytrippers and overnight visitors from the capital. Most of the islands – Aegina, Angistri, Hydra, Poros, Salamina and Spetses – are only an hour or two from Athens by ferry, so they are popular year-round.
Their popularity is also helped by the fact that they are largely sheltered from the strong winds experienced on many other islands in the Aegean and they often experience clear ‘halcyon days’ in Winter.
The islands have long been considered historically significant and today, most of the islands have lots of accommodations and other amenities.
Hydra is famed for its nightlife and has been famously home to a number of writers, actors, and Poets, most famously Leonard Cohen for over 20 years.
Aegina will delight history lovers whilst Agistri offers beautiful beaches, and Spetses is the playground of shy celebrities and wealthy Athenians with a little bit of everything.
How to get to the Saronic Islands
There are no airports on these islands so the only way to arrive or depart is by sea unless you are cashed up and able to book a helicopter. Ferries run daily from Athens year round with more in Summer. There are also small ferries and water taxis between the islands and the Peloponnese mainland, and each other.
Where to stay in the Saronic Islands
If you only have a few days then we suggest picking just one island. They are all wonderful and you really can’t go wrong although Hydra is the most popular and the most expensive, while Aegina is the closest to Athens and also the cheapest.
If you are unable to spend a few days (or more) it is possible to visit on a day trip from Athens and there is even a 3 island cruise that is a lot of fun.