Have you ever been homesick for a place you’ve only visited once?
This summer, part of our team took a two-week trip to Greece – and promptly fell in love with it. There’s just something about standing in the town square where Socrates used to stroll and climbing the rock where the Apostle Paul preached that captures your imagination in an irresistible way. And when we saw those crystal clear waters for the first time? Forget about it. We were goners. Someone take us back now, please??
Have we convinced you to start planning your own trip yet? Check out our list of must-visit Greek destinations, and see why we’re so head-over-heels!
1. Kythira, Ionian Island
Kythira (also spelled Kythera) is one of the lesser-known Greek islands, but it was by far our favorite stop of the entire trip. Like Santorini, it boasts white-washed houses and sea views, but it has more of a wild beauty that’s sort of indescribable. The sound of cicadas chirping serves as the perfect background music to a short roadtrip across the island. It also has the most beautiful swimming beaches we’ve ever seen, most notably Kaladi, Avlemonas, and Kapsali. If you add Kythira to your list of stops, don’t forget to wander the main street of Chora (the capitol – pictured above), eat at Toxoti in the town of Livadi, and visit the Potamos market on Sunday.
2. Athens, Mainland Greece
Standing on top of the Acropolis, looking at the Parthenon, is – for lack of a better word – overwhelming. Its history alone is enough to inspire awe, let alone the fact that it (along with all of the other buildings on the Acropolis) was built in a span of 30 years. The view from the top of Mars Hill is also stunning, with a clear shot all the way to the port of Piraeus. For the best gyros and souvlaki, head to a side street of Monastiraki Square nicknamed “Souvlaki Row.” If you order to-go, you can walk through the nearby flea market and the Ancient Agora while you eat!
3. Monemvasia, Peloponnese Region
Though small, Monemvasia makes a big impact, even from a few miles away. The town is essentially a rock jutting out of the sea, connected to the rest of Greece via a small land bridge. Several hundred years ago, the town would have been white-washed, but since it’s now mostly deserted (aside from tourists), the plaster on the houses has faded to show the red brick underneath. Wandering the streets at dusk is a magical experience, but don’t forget to climb to the top of the rock for breathtaking views (if it’s too hot to make the climb, there are a few rooftop bars in the lower town).
4. Nafplio, Peloponnese Region
The first capitol of Greece after its War of Independence, Nafplio has a multi-cultural history, having been controlled at different times by the Byzantines, Franks, Venetians, and Ottomans. The photo above shows the stunning view from the Palamidi Fortress, a Venetian structure that sits high on a hill above the town – one of three such fortresses in the area. Elsewhere in the town, you’ll find Greek Orthodox cathedrals and Turkish mosques within a few blocks from each other. The town also has a gorgeous little swimming beach, and plenty of delicious seafood.
5. Mystras, Peloponnese Region
Mystras is a small town just outside of Sparta in the Peloponnese (peninsula) region of Greece. It’s made up almost entirely of monasteries, which were constructed out of the ruins of Ancient Sparta, after its destruction. But the structures, while impressive, were not the star of the show. Our senses were completely overwhelmed by the Tuscany-like views and the nearly deafening song of the cicadas. While there, you can’t help but feel like you’ve been transported to a different time. Be sure to stop at the little taverna on your way back down the mountain for some mouthwateringly good food.
6. Santorini, Cycladic Island
You probably knew this place just from the photo. Santorini is one of the most recognizable tourist destinations in Greece, and with good reason. It’s so unbelievably beautiful that it’s impossible to take a bad photo here. The entire time we were on the island, we just kept asking, “Is this real?” Oia (pictured above) is the best spot for views of the caldera during the daytime, and you should probably see the sunset from here at least once on your trip (it’s crowded every day, so go an hour early). However, we’d argue that the sunset in Fira is even more beautiful, because of the way the houses reflect the colors of the sky! Grab a reservation at Noussa early in the day, for dinner around sunset time. Kamari beach is also a must for anyone who has “black sand beach” on their bucket list.