Get your fill of shopping, beach life, traditional cuisine, and coffee (locals will tell you there’s never not time for a cafe break), but don’t overlook the epic wonders, organic and manmade, of Greece. With more than 200 unique islands and a capital that jump-started modern civilization, the country is rich in things to see and do. Take in its history, natural beauty, culture, and tradition with some of these must-see destinations.
Athens: The Acropolis
The journey to the Acropolis, which means “high city,” can be a bit tiring, especially in the summer’s heat. But that’s no excuse to skip this sight. Wear good shoes, pack water, and set along the pilgrimage millions venture to Athens to experience. Along the trek, you’ll pass key sites like the quaint Plaka, or “Neighborhood of the Gods,” and the theater of Dionysus, until you finally reach the 2,500-year-old temples atop the hill. The most wondrous of them is the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena. There’s so much history and so many unfamiliar facts, so if you forgot your guidebook, it may be worth following sneakily behind a tour group!
Crete: Samaria Gorge
The walk through Samaria National Park is 10 miles long, but the scenery along the White Mountains is exceptional. A refuge for the endangered Cretan goat, the kri-kri, the gorge is also home to soaring cliffs, ancient churches, and some of the most spectacular natural views of Greece.
Zakynthos: The Blue Caves and Navagio
The Blue Caves are this Ionian island’s most buzzed-about attractions, and the hype is well warranted. They’re located around the outer edge of Zakynthos, in addition to the famous shipwreck on the pebble-covered private Navagio beach. Catch a chartered boat from St. Nicholas port with a group of friends and experience both up-close and personal—you may even spot a Caretta caretta (a.k.a. loggerhead) turtle.
Santorini: The paths
You’ve seen the photos of Santorini’s white-washed houses and glistening blue Aegean sea, but you have to experience the iconic island for yourself. Santorini is built on the remains of a volcanic explosion, so buildings are placed hillside atop mountainous terrain. There are plenty of slopes, and visitors often take donkeys, mopeds, or the aerial cable cars to see the views atop the island.
Kefalonia: Melissani Cave
Surrounded by forest and mountain slopes, the Melissani Cave in Kefalonia was said to be the cave of nymphs in Greek mythology. The crystal-clear periwinkle-blue water holds shining stones at the bottom, and it’s like something out of a fairy tale. Visitors take an underground tunnel to the site and then can opt for a small boat ride to better view the natural wonder.