Your first real vacation in Greece
As a Greek, I have been frequently asked to recommend the best beaches, or the most authentic island to visit and everything that a local can recommend. The thing is though, every traveler is different, there is no one size fits all when it comes to vacation and travel. I know most of the people who want to experience “Greek Summer” book a holiday package in Santorini or Mykonos or Rhodos, to get the first flavor of the country. This is not bad, really. But if you want to experience and grasp the rich tradition and history of Greece, to be able to travel in time and place, rejuvenate and explore while enjoying captivating landscapes, then note down my itinerary.
A local’s itinerary
This is a route that I came with a couple of years ago, as a trail that includes almost everything for a first time traveler in Greece. It starts from the capital, Athens and then heads south to visit pieces of history, tradition and culture exploration. With this itinerary you will capture many Instagram worthy stories and you can be be prepared to drive, hike and dive!
Landing in Athens
Grab a taxi outside the Athens Airport to take you to your hotel, which will be located either at the downtown of Plaka, if you wish to be around all the ancient monuments, or by the beachside like Glyfada or Faliro, if you prefer relaxation, shopping and nightlife. Whatever you choose, Athens is a very well connected city with public transportation and taxis or Uber are relatively affordable.
Athens Downtown – walk around Plaka, Thyseio and the area around the Acropolis Museum, which you should not miss it together with your visit to the Acropolis. You will need a good 3+ hours to explore all the museum. It has a beautiful terrace with views of the Parthenon and the Classical nearby neighborhoods, where you can enjoy a light lunch or a cold espresso Freddo. If you want to find sophisticated souvenirs, this is your area. Get more ideas where to go and what to do from this article A Local’s Guide to Thissio | The Official Athens Guide (thisisathens.org)
Do not miss: Anafiotika neighborhood, right below the holy rock of Acropolis – Anafiotika: The Hidden Gem Under the Acropolis | Athens By Locals
Glyfada – Buzzling neighborhood by the seaside with lots, LOTS of shopping centers, stores, restaurants and lounge bars. You will enjoy food, drinks and coffees as well. One of my favorites is Ark Restaurant | Ark-Glyfada.gr
It’s time to enjoy Greek food. My favorite spots for traditional sophisticated seafood is Iolkos ΙΩΛΚΟΣ – Γεύσεις Θάλασσας – Seafood Restaurant in Glyfada (business.site) at Glyfada. For meat lovers, you will find excellent tavern in Remoutsiko Ταβέρνα Άγιος Δημήτριος | Το Ρεμούτσικο (remoutsiko.gr) at Agios Dimitrios. Make a reservation!
Time to leave the comfort of the big city of Athens and go after exploration and adventure. Rent a car and prepare to experience a travel in time and place!
Exploring Peloponnesus. First stop, Epidaurus.
Drive south with direction to the Peloponnesus, don’t forget to get a glimpse of the Corinth Canal as you pass over it: Where is the Isthmus of Corinth? – WorldAtlas. After almost 2 hour drive, you are almost there, to Epidaurus. But before that, have a stop at Stork to have a break, enjoy a coffee or grab a bite while overlooking the bay area. STORK Design Suites
Epidaurus – After your break, travel a little more to the south, and arrive at Epidaurus to visit Asclepios Sanctuary, an UNESCO World Heritage Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus – UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus Epidaurus (visitgreece.gr)
Next stop Nafplio, the first capital of Greece
Nafplio – Leave Epidaurus and drive approximately 30’ to arrive to Nafplio, the first capital city of Greece, after the liberation from the Ottoman Empire. Here you will stay 1-2 nights where it will give you enough time to enjoy beaches, food and local villages. Nafplio (visitgreece.gr)
According to mythology, the town was founded by Nafplios, the son of god Poseidon and the daughter of Danaus (Danaida) Anymone. The town’s history traces back to the prehistoric era when soldiers from here participated in the Argonautic expedition and the Trojan War alike.Nafplio (visitgreece.gr)
Also, don’t miss to visit the Mycenean Acropolis of Tiryns, the Mycenaean archaeological site with ongoing excavations, linked to Iliad & Odyssey Homeric epics. Archaeological Site of Mycenae (visitgreece.gr)
Arriving to mystical Monemvasia
Monemvasia – You leave Mycenea and head south with direction to Monemvasia to stay for the night. The views and the scenery will not disappoint you! You will get some rest and you will wake up in a medieval village with views to the open sea.
Monemvasia, founded by the Byzantines in the sixth century, is a breathtaking medieval tower town located on the south-eastern coast of the Peloponnese. Take the opportunity to explore this mystical stone-built settlement, nestled at the edge of a big rock by the sea, and immerse yourself in a unique medieval atmosphere!
Settle to south Peloponnese, Lakonia or Messini?
Lakonia or Messini?– It’s time for some much anticipated relaxation. A place close to the beach, taverns and bars for some convenience but without compromising hospitality and connection with the local culture. In this region your choices are literally endless. From Monemvasia you can stay close and settle to Mani peninsula (Lakonia Province) or move more to the west to Kalamata gulf (Messini Province). Both places count hundreds of seaside hotels and guesthouses to choose.
MANI, The Stonebuilt town – A few years ago, Guardian included Mani peninsula as Europe’s hidden coasts: the Deep Mani, Greece | Greece holidays | The Guardian
KALAMATA, The place where people dance differently – Kalamata is a little bigger city which even has an international airport nearby that connects with many European cities depending the season. And yes, this where the Kalamata olives are named after 😊
While Mani is famous for the rocky landscape and stone built towers, Kalamata and Messini in general are famous for the sandy beaches. Too many choices to explore! Kalamata | Holidays in Peloponnese | Discover Greece
Not a single day without adventure and exploration: Mountain Hiking Menalon
If you are a nature lover who enjoys hiking in mountains and close to fresh water rivers, then you shouldn’t miss the Menalon Trail Hiking the Menalon Trail: the Peloponnese’s star new walking route (thetimes.co.uk)
The Menalon is one of the most highly rated trails of Europe and it offers 75klm of exquisite views. You can get more information from the official and certified website Main – Menalon Trail
Greece, Is it really a holiday?
Greece has so many different “faces” and every step is really a piece of history, ancient or of modern times. The landscape across Greece can change from whitewashed villages to stonebuilt towers, to byzantine and medieval sceneries. You can visit Greece really all year long to enjoy snow and ski, or spring and easter traditions, on top of the sandy beaches and cocktails in lounge cafes. Whatever is your adventure profile, ski, dive, caves, hiking, swimming…Greece literally has it all!