Santorini at dusk Travel Guide

Greece Travel Guide

This travel guide for gorgeous Greece highlights the top places to visit, how to get there, safety, scams, logistics, and more to help you plan your visit.

With its amazing history and cultural achievements from ancient times, to its thousands of stunning sun-drenched islands spread across the Aegean and Ionian seas, Greece is a must-visit site with plenty to see and do. I’ve visited three times and still feel it calling me back for more.

This travel guide and posts on Greece are updated as of January 2024.

Greece Travel Guide: Top Attractions

Greece Travel Guide: Mainland Greece

Athens

The Acropolis, museums, and other ancient ruins of Athens are high on many bucket lists. After all this city is not only one of the oldest in world, it’s considered the birthplace of western civilization and the world’s first known democracy.

The history here is staggering. My heart skips a beat just thinking about it. Plus it’s amazingly beautiful, and full of charming people, proud of their heritage.

The Parthenon is one of the top things to do in Athens
Acropolis

Exploring the Acropolis, Ancient Greek, and Roman, Agoras, the Temple of Zeus, Panathenaic Stadium, and artifact-filled museums here is an unforgettable experience.

It’s also fun to explore the shops and cafes in the lively old towns around the Acropolis, taste amazing Greek food and sip their spirits.

Monasteries of Meteora

The magnificent monasteries of Meteora are about a 4 hour drive north of Athens. Hermit monks started coming here in the 9th century, choosing the giant rock formations, some up to 1300’ high to be closer to god.

The Great Meteoron is one of the monasteries of Meteora
Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron

In the 14th century they started building monasteries on these rocks for protection from Turkish invaders. They used ropes and ladders to get up, then removed them for protection. At one time, there were 24 monasteries here, 6 are still functioning today and can be visited.

The monasteries, and the views from them, really are spectacular. I visited in April, when the wildflowers were in bloom, making it even more amazing.

Greece Travel Guide: Top Islands

There are around 200 inhabited islands in Greece. Each spectacular in its own way. Below are a few of the most popular.

Santorini

Santorini, one of the most beautiful, is the most visited island in Greece. It’s rugged coastline, with chic, whitewashed villages perched along its cliffs, was formed when a 16th century BC earthquake sunk a big portion of the island.

Although there are beaches on Santorini, the really stunning beaches are on the other islands. Santorini is more about exploring its villages, enjoying the stunning views, and trying some of the many cafes perched on the cliffs, while watching the sunset.

Stunning wildflowers hiking from Fira to Oia
Hike Along Santorini’s Coast

To really explore the coastline, there’s a hike that follows it between Fira and Oia. The views are absolutely amazing. The full hike will take 3-6 hours, depending on your pace. In fact, if you stop at multiple cafes to enjoy the spectacular views, take a side hike or two, and make multiple photo stops, you can make it last all day.

Mykonos

Once a retreat for celebrities and jetsetters, Mykonos is the island to visit if you want beautiful people, thumping dance clubs, and a vibrant night life. The beaches at Paradise and Super Paradise are full of bars with dance music.

Little Venice, Mykonos | Strakhov

It does, however, have a quieter side too, with some small, exclusive beaches, like Ftelia, Panormos, and Agios Sostis (although they may require a car to access).

Also, make sure to explore the charming alleyways with white-washed cafes and shops of the main town, Chora. The cafes near Little Venice, above, are a popular spot for a drink at sunset.

Crete

Crete is Greece’s southernmost and largest island. There are several stunning beaches to visit as part of a day trip here, Balos Bay and Elafonisi Island.

Balos Bay in Crete Greece Travel Guide
Balos Bay, Crete

There’s also an amazing hike down Samaria Gorge, reportedly the longest gorge in Europe. It drops around 4,000’ in 9 miles, with “The Gates” being one of the highlights. Here you walk through a narrow passage between the rocks that’s a mere 13’ wide and 980’ high! If you want to feel insignificant and awed by nature, this is the place to be.

Exploring the excavation site of Knossos Palace is also a highlight, part of ancient Minoan civilization here almost 4,000 years ago. This complex was several stores high with over a thousand rooms, full of beautiful frescoes, and had running water and plumbing!

The charming towns of Chania and Rethymno make great bases for exploring the island and are both full of intersting shops, cafes, and more ancient sites.

Naxos

In mythology, Naxos is the island where the young god Zeus grew up. Not as famous as some of its sister islands, it’s a great choice as it’s less touristy with lovely sandy beaches lining miles of the west coast, the whitewashed village of Chora, the Temple of Apollo (a giant stone door from the 6th century BC), charming hillside villages, and other ancient ruins. The island is also laced with hiking trails.

Portara is one of the best things to do in Naxos
Temple of Apollo
The walkway to Portara is one of the best things to do in Naxos
Chora

Naxos is not a party island, but has plenty of delicious traditional tavernas and fun sea-side bars. It’s located about a 3-4 hour ferry ride south of mainland Greece and about 2 hours north of Santorini.

Paros

The enchanting island of Paros lies just east of Naxos. This island also has many lovely beaches, quaint whitewashed villages, and old ruins and temples.

Visiting Naoussa is one of the best things to do On Paros
Naoussa, Paros, Greece

It’s different in that it has a must-see charming old fishing harbor, Naoussa Harbor, on the northeastern side of the island, a more vibrant nightlife, and fine dining in addition to traditional Greek tavernas.

It also has its own island, Anti-Paros, off its northwest coast. It used to be the quiet getaway from Paros, but now, with many lovely cafes and cool shops, it’s becoming a destination.

Ios

The little island of Ios, which sits just below Naxos and Paros, and above Santorini, is a party island. Very popular with people in their 20’s. Some even call it an inexpensive version of Mykonos.

But there’s a lot more to this little island, and I loved it even though I’m well beyond my 20’s. In addition to the party-all-night scene on the beach and in the clubs, there are stunning sunsets, old windmills, an charming Chora, great beaches, and much more.

Visiting the windmills is one of the top things to do on Ios
Ios Windmils

Corfu

Corfu is one of the Ionian islands, off mainland Greece’s west coast. Fringed with sandy white beaches and brilliant azure waters, its mountainous interior is lush and green.

The highlights of Corfu are its UNESCO listed Old Town, bath for its Classic Venetian architecture and the old Venetian Fortress, the Canal d’Amour, which is a fun sandstone rock formation to swim around and jump off of, Paleokastrista, a mountainous village on the west coast with many beaches, caves, and coves to explore and much more.

You can also hike the Corfu trail, a 93-mile trail, from the southern to the northern tip. This fairly easy trail passes by a variety of features, including mountains, lakes, monasteries and has charming towns that you can stay in along the way.

Kefalonia

Kefalonia is the largest island in the Ionian Sea and a hidden gem. It’s home to Myrtos Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece and often noted on lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Northern viewpoint for Myrtos Beach
Myrtos Beach

There are also the charming villages of Assos and Fiskardo to wander and explore. Assos sits on a calm, turquoise bay with colorful houses and tavernas near the beach. There’s also the ruins of an old Venetian Castle you can hike up to and explore on the promontory behind the beach area.

Zakynthos

Zankythos, or Zante, is another Ionian island, with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

One of its most photographed is Shipwreck Beach, or Navagio Beach, which is surrounded by large white limestone cliffs. you can visit by sea or at the viewpoint up above. It’s often listed as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world.

Shipwreck Beach is a highlight in the Greece Travel Guide
Shipwreck Beach

There are also other sandy beaches to explore and several beautiful caves around the island. The most famous are the Blue Caves, by Shipwreck Beach, and the Keri Caves in the southern part of the island. They’re known for the brilliant blue color of the water there.


The Myzithres Rocks are also a stunning feature here. Located on the southwestern part of the island this spot is an underrated gem.

Zakynthos is also the mating and breeding ground for 80% of the rare Caretta Caretta, or Loggerhead Turtles, so you may spot one swimming here.

Best Time To Visit Greece

The weather is sunniest from May to October, although it can get really hot in July and August. Summer is the busiest season, and when prices will be the highest, making the shoulder seasons of spring and fall ideal.

Languages In Greece

Greek is the official language, but many also speak English, especially in tourist areas.

Greece Money Matters

Currency: The currency is the Euro. The following conversation rates are from of January 1, 2024.

  • 1 USD=.91 Euro
  • 1 CNY=.13 Euro

Credit Cards & ATMs: Credit and Debit Cards are widely accepted, but there are always a few places that only accept cash. ATMs are easy to find in larger cities, but you may need cash in smaller ones. Greek ATMs use 4 digit pins, so if yours is longer, change it before you travel.

Tipping: Tipping of 5-10% in restaurants is good. Make sure there is not a service fee added to the bill first. For taxis, just round up to the nearest Euro.

Safety In Greece

Greece is relatively safe, but pick-pocketing and petty theft do occur. Take normal precautions, always being vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Don’t carry too much cash and keep a close eye on your purse or wallet.

Avoid public demonstrations, protests, and civil unrest, which occur from time to time.

Always check the latest situation on your government website. Sign up for STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), or similar in your country. This program will alert you if issues do arise.

Eating at a cafe with a view is one of the top things to do on Ios
Cafe on Ios

Scams In Greece

Generally Greece is safe, but there are always a few people that try to take advantage of tourists. Common scams in Greece are:

Bill Switching

When you receive change, they may try to say you handed over a smaller bill than you actually did. Try to keep smaller bills on you to minimize change and avoid this. If you do hand over a large bill, say out loud what you are handing over, like “Here is 50 Euros”.

Cafe Scam

Be careful keeping your phone of other valuables on the table at a cafe. Sometimes someone will approach with a map or sign, asking for directions or some other fake excuse. They them will cover your phone, or other valuables, with the paper and take it with them.

Free Gifts

Never accept free gifts from anyone, as they will usually demand money or make a scene and pickpocket you. A very common form of this is ‘nuns’ giving out crosses. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Overcharging In Cafes

Some cafes intentionally do not list prices on the menu, then charge outrageous fees. Always ask the price and look for it in writing. If they say ‘don’t worry’, it’s not a good sign. Never eat at a restaurants that does not have the prices in print.

Broken Taxi Meter

This is a common scam everywhere. Make sure the meter works and that the driver is willing to use it before closing the door. Even better, get an estimate of your fare before you get in (from you hotel or a local) and discuss expected costs with the driver. If they ask you to pay in advance, don’t.

To avoid taxi scams, use ride hailing apps. Two in Greece are Beat and iMove, although they won’t be in every location. Uber suspended service in Greece in 2018 and Lyft does not operate here. You can, however, use the Uber app to order regular taxis. Prices may not be provided in advance though, which is one of the advantages of ride-hailing apps.

Tampered ATM’s

Always choose ATMs inside, or connected to bank of you can as they are less likely to be tampered with. Check for hidden cameras positioned over the keypad, scanners with tampered covers, and/or fake key pad covers. Really look at the machine before using it to see if something appears altered. If the machine keeps your card, try to get help to come to you, don’t walk away.

Donkey Rides

Although this is not a scam, please don’t ride the donkeys up the 600 steps in Santorini. With the high number of tourists here, these animals are often overworked, overloaded, and overheated. There is a cable car not far away that is a more humane option.

Santorini Travel Guide Donkey Rides
Santorini

Travel Guide: Getting Around Greece

To The Islands And Between Them

Fly

Flying from Athens to any of the islands above is generally the fastest way to get there, and is relatively inexpensive. You can fly between the islands, but many flights stop at Athens first, then back to another island, making it counterproductive.

Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Naxos, Paros, and Zankythos all have airports (Naxos and Paros only have flights from Athens, the others have international flights).

Ferry

Ferry is a great way to travel from Athens to the islands. Although it’s slower than flying, it’s a much better experience. One of the most popular booking sites is Ferryhopper.com. At the very least, it’s a great way to get an idea of routes, timing, and costs.

There are regular ferries from Piraeus to Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, and Naxos. Note that it’s easy to get to Piraeus port in Greece (the main port in the mainland) from Athens via the metro. Just allow yourself enough time and arrive for your ferry early.

The ferry to Corfu leaves from the port on the west site, Igoumenitsa, while the ferry for Zakynthos leaves from Kilini (also on the west side of mainland Greece).

The ferry is also an ideal way to travel between the islands on the east side of Greece, Crete, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Ios, Milos, and Santorini. And the islands on the west side, Corfu and Zakynthos.

There are a variety of ferry options, including express, and ferries with and without a car option. It’s best to buy your ticket in advance, especially during peak season.

The island of Naxos is a highlight of the Greece Travel Guide
Naxos, Greece

On The Mainland, Or Islands

Bus

Athens: The cheapest way to get to downtown Athens from the airport is by bus, but it’s not the fastest. See Athens Airport Bus for bus details. To get to sites inside Athens, the metro is the best way to get around. Bus is a convenient way to get from Athens to Meteora (and back). See Visit Meteora for more details.

Islands: Click the island name for bus service info on Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Corfu, and Zakynthos.

Train

Train is another convenient way to get from Athens to Meteora (and back). See this link at Visit Meteora for more details.

Metro

There is a metro line in Athens with stops near the major attractions (see my post on Athens for more details). You can also get to Old Town Athens and the Acropolis from the airport via metro, and to Piraeus Port to catch a ferry. See the Athens metro map for more details.

Taxi

Uber suspended service in Greece in 2018 and Lyft does not operate here. You can, however, use the Uber app to order a regular taxi. Prices may not be provided in advance. It is more convenient than hailing a traditional taxi though. Beat and iMove are two ride hailing apps in Greece, although may not be available in all locations.

See details in ‘Broken Taxi Meter’ under scams on using taxis in Greece.

Motorbike Or ATV

Renting a motorbike or ATV on the islands is a great way to explore them!

The island of Ios is a highlight of the Greece Travel Guide
Ios, Greece

Greece Travel Guide: Visa Information

Greece is in the Schengen, so operates on the Schengen Visa policy. US citizens can enter visa free for up to 90 days, then can only re-enter after an additional 90 days.

Chinese citizens need to apply for a Schengen Visa. See Schengen Visa Info to learn more.

Greece Travel Guide: Top Destination Blogs & Stories

Click the images below for more detailed information on some of my favorite spots in Greece and stories of my visits here.





If this travel guide has been useful in planning, or just dreaming about visiting Greece, I’d love to hear from you, please add a comment below.

Safe travels!

Julie

Note: All efforts have been made to provide accurate information in the Travel Guide for Greece, but from time to time things change. If you see somethings that is not right, please contact me below.

To read more about me and my philosophy on travel, see my about me page.

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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