The Best Places to Visit in Greece for First-Timers
Just like the Greek mosaics of the ancient empire, Greece is made up of different segments of beauty. The history of Athens, coastal destinations, sites of religious significance and gem-like islands all merge together to paint a picture of one of the most captivating countries on the planet. If you haven’t ever visited Greece before, never fear. Below, we give you a taste of some of the destinations incredible locations.
The majority of visitors to Greece will arrive in Athens, so let’s start our adventure here. The capital city was once the pulsating heart of the Ancient Greek civilisation back in 5th-century BC. Undeniably, Athens is one of the most historically rich locations in the world.
Dominating the skyline atop the Acropolis is the majestic Parthenon. The former temple was constructed in 447 BC as a dedication to the Greek deity Athena; goddess of wisdom, craft and war. On the north side of the Acropolis is a temple dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon called Erechtheion. The temple is famed for its Porch of the Maidens – the supporting columns supporting the roof of the temple. Each pillar is an elegant lady carved from marble. Supporting the sites and putting the protected artefacts into context is the Acropolis Museum.
Stroll from the Acropolis down to the Ancient Agora. This would have been the central public space in Athens for commercial, political and social activity. It is actually the spot where Socrates expounded his philosophies.
This route will lead you to the remains of Temple of Olympian Zeus (once Greece’s largest temple), the astounding Panathenaic Stadium and Hadrian’s Arch.
Images of idyllic Santorini flood travel blogs and Instagram pages. An island in the Aegean Sea, the cliffs are adorned with bright white villas, contrasting against the dark rock and kingfisher-blue ocean. Santorini is as beautiful as it appears in photographs and is often a reason many flock to Greece in the first instance. Granted, in the peak months of June, July and August the island can be busy. However, with temperatures still warm in April, May, September and October, there are quieter times you can visit Santorini and still don your swimwear.
Oia is a beautiful village on the northern tip of Santorini. It has a number of coloured volcanic beaches, from deep black to copper red. The white streets are a maze of shops, restaurants and cafes, all with an incredible view of the island and the caldera.
Another Cyclades island, Mykonos has a reputation as the party capital of Greece. If you want to visit a hybrid of St Tropez and Ibiza, glamorous Mykonos is for you. Holidaymakers, cruise-ship crowds and fashionable jet setters all flock into Hora (Mykonos Town) during the high season and revel in the chic cafes by day and enjoy opulent coastal dinners and unbridled parties by night.
Mykonos, back in the 1950s, was actually one of Greece’s poorest islands. Through the following decades it became very bohemian and gained popularity before becoming the glitziest location in Greece. The place time to visit is during spring; this is when the sea is warm and the summer swarms have not descended. Be aware, however, storms in late September and October can be a real dampener for party goers!
The Greek word Meteora means ‘suspended in the air’. Considering the immense monolithic pillar mountains and cliffs that are topped by buildings, this could not be more appropriate. Rising 1,200 feet in the air, the cliffs and mountains cast shades on the villages of Kalambaka and Kastraki below.
An extraordinary and magical segment of mainland Greece, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is the perfect merger of natural phenomenon and history and architecture. Since Christianity came to Greece, the Meteora cliffs have been considered the perfect place to connect with the divine and find spiritual elevation. Today, Christians from all over the world, as well as curious visitors, visit the site.
Although impressive, what is so captivating about the mountains? Atop the shards of cliff that splice the skyline are a number of monasteries daring back as far as the 14th century. The monasteries were built by monks who were previously living as hermits in caves below. The monks, over the years, painstakingly carried rocks and building equipment to the top of the cliffs, often risking their lives.
Visitors who have a head for heights can visit some of the monasteries open to the public by foot. Alternatively, a rail tour is available.
We could not discuss the Greek island without a focus upon Hydra. Often shadowed by the more popular islands of Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos and Santorini, Hydra is a gem that is often overlooked. Just one hour 30 minutes form the main port of Piraeus, visitors are welcomed into the picturesque horseshoe-shaped harbour with traditional buildings and stone mansions adorning the rocky hillsides. It is no surprise that the pastel homes, quaint harbour and relaxed atmosphere has attracted many artist, writers and celebrities for a spot of respite. With no cars on the island, it is the perfect location.
Hydra’s past is obscure and the island has been settled on by Albanian refugees, Orthodox Christians and Turks. Hydra was actually under Turkish rule until they gained independence in 1821. It wasn’t until the 1950s that tourists began setting their sight on the beautiful island and, today, visitors can envelop themselves in the land’s history at The Historic Archives and Museum of Hydra.