Where to Go Next in Greece in 2023
Plan your escape route to the islands and tap into the cultural vibrancy of modern Athens.
Greece has most definitely been the word in recent years, having staged an impressive economic comeback. This means that pinning down your hotel and restaurant of choice on the eternally popular islands of Mykonos and Santorini can be a nervous game of chance if left too late. While both big-name destinations have seen a flurry of foreign investment, including global brand names ranging from Radisson to Nobu, there are countless alternative islands where you can orchestrate your grand Greek summer getaway. Look to the Ionian and Sporades for a divine pairing of green hills and blue-green seas, or venture south to the Dodecanese’s lesser-visited isles. Athens, meanwhile, is worthy of a generous stay for its ancient attractions, contemporary cultural delights, and up-to-the-minute dining scene. Here’s your guide for where to go next in Greece—no matter what kind of trip you’re looking for.
I’m heading to the Greek islands for the first time. Where should I go?
Whether you’ve got four days or a week to explore the Greek islands, hone in on a single island group. Stark, rocky landscapes, and sandy beaches await in the celebrated Cyclades, southeast of Greece in the Aegean Sea. They’re home to Mykonos, the millionaires’ playground, whose champagne-popping beach bar parties and nightlife are legendary, along with honeymoon destination Santorini, where a navy Aegean and whitewashed houses echo the colors of Greece’s national flag. Milos is famed for its blond sands and cerulean waters, limestone cliffs, and the lunar-like volcanic ash and pumice stone landscape of Sarakiniko beach.
Where to stay
Book now: Amyth of Mykonos
Beyond Mykonos’s decadence, there’s a low-key side to the glitzy isle. Newly opened 17-suite hotel Amyth of Mykonos is one of a growing number of earthy, sunset-facing boutique pads in Tourlos, a 10-minute drive north of capital Hora and its buzzy restaurants and bars. Guests of Yi Hotel Mykonos, which debuts this summer above Elia beach, can sign up for DJ lessons poolside.
On Santorini, the 25-suite Nobu Hotel Santorini, where you can dine at Greece’s first Nobu restaurant, has embarked on its first full season, following its 2022 opening near Imerovigli. One of the latest arrivals on the volcanic island is Magma Resort Santorini, a member of Hyatt’s the Unbound Collection, sure to draw gourmands to the local iteration of Athens’s two-Michelin-star restaurant Spondi.
The Ionian Islands
Off Greece’s western coast, the Ionian islands include elegant Corfu, picturesque Zakynthos, and mountainous Kefalonia, of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin fame. Here you’ll encounter Venetian architecture, fir-clad hills, and warm turquoise waters. A five-star all-inclusive, family-friendly beachfront resort, Ikos Odisia, opened in June on Corfu, featuring five à la carte restaurants, tennis and football coaching for the kids, and an Anne Semonin spa.
Stargazers eager for seclusion can charter Lunous, a 65-foot crewed sailing yacht with four ensuite cabins hosting up to eight adults and two children. Depart from Corfu for a week’s sailing in the northern Ionian’s aquamarine seas, including the twin isles of Paxos and Antipaxos, whose Voutoumi beach would make its Caribbean cousins blush.
Further to the southeast, close to mainland Turkey, the Dodecanese’s best-known destinations are medieval Rhodes, Hippocrates’ birthplace Kos, and spiritual Patmos. Expect sun-burnished slopes, traditional villages little changed over the centuries, and hospitable hosts.
Crete, Greece’s largest island, is rich in historical wonders, from Minoan-era Knossos Palace to the old towns of Chania and Rethymno, where Venetian and Ottoman rulers made their mark. Pnoé–Breathing Life, an adults-only, well-being-focused resort outside Heraklion on the northern coast, opened in June offering breath work and oxygen therapy, among other treatments.
How to get to the Greek islands
Reaching the islands is easier than ever. Unless you want to engage in a languid island-hop by ferry, save time by flying from Athens to your main destination. From Cyclades island Naxos, for instance, a quartet of tiny sleepy isles—Koufonissia, Schinoussa, Iraklia, and Donousa—are a short boat ride away. Take the minuscule yet hardy Express Skopelitis, renowned for crossing even when peak summer northerly winds, known as the meltemi, are howling. Greek airline Cycladic is launching inter-island flights aboard Cesna Grand Caravans between such destinations as Syros and Naxos or Paros and Milos in summer 2023.
ZenBoat, a small group gulet cruise concept launched in 2023 by a Greek Swiss couple, presents first-time visitors with a way to explore multiple islands over a week. Savor wholesome cuisine and partake in gentle fitness sessions onboard as you sail between islands such as sophisticated Spetses and Hydra.
I’ve done Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete. Which islands should I see next?
While lush locations on Skiathos and Skopelos featured in the movie Mamma Mia! may have lured travelers to Greek shores, their Sporades island sister Alonissos has mostly dodged the limelight. Diving enthusiasts flock to the country’s first underwater museum, which opened in 2020; it features a fifth-century B.C.E. shipwreck that sank with 3,000 wine-filled amphorae off Peristera islet. It’s situated within one of Europe’s largest marine parks where, if you’re lucky, you might spot an endangered Mediterranean monk seal, loggerhead turtle, or pod of dolphins. On a hidden peninsula in the southwest, family-friendly Marpunta Resort has made a two-bedroom seafront villa available as of summer 2023, affording privacy and hotel facility access.
On Kefalonia, Outdoor Kefalonia leads Jeep safaris through the oak- and fir-forested Kefalonia-Ithaca Geopark, designated a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2022. The fortunate few can witness a herd of semi-wild horses galloping across Mount Ainos. Caves and sinkholes count among the island’s drawing cards, the best known of which is Melissani. Board a boat with a guide who will row you through two cavernous chambers; one has a collapsed roof that lets the sun in, creating a luminous watery world.
Where to stay
Book now: Eliamos Villas Hotel & Spa
Make the newly opened Eliamos Villas Hotel & Spa in the south your base for a few days as you explore Kefalonia.
From Kefalonia’s Sami port, set off on an odyssey of your own for Ithaca, the native soil of Homer’s Odysseus, a mere 20-minute ferry ride northeast. Enjoy a hike with Odyssey Outdoor Activities along winding trails through pine forests and stone-built villages. Stop in at frescoed churches, some dating to the 13th century, and survey the ancient ruins of what archaeologists believe could be Odysseus’ eighth-century B.C.E. palace. Your final stop is, of course, a pebbled beach for a dip in crystalline waters.
Where to stay
Book now: Villa Itha
In terms of accommodations, a villa hidden among olive tree–cloaked hills with views across silent expanses of cobalt sea is your best bet. Villa Itha, designed with yoga retreats in mind and now available for exclusive rental, can accommodate up to 18 guests in nine ensuite bedrooms. Take a morning yoga class at one of three shalas, and enjoy buffet meals prepared by your personal chef.
Where can I chill but also have some fun?
If you’ve been to Paros, a 40-minute flight or three-hour fast ferry ride southeast of Athens, you might want to escape the crowds at its suave little sister Antiparos. Athenians have long retreated to this diminutive isle, a seven-minute ferry ride from Pounta on Paros’s southwestern coast. They love it for its sandy coves and diaphanous waters, classic tavernas, low-key nightlife, and overall lack of pretentiousness.
Indulge in a long, lazy post-swim lunch at the island’s definitive fish taverna Captain Pipinos in Agios Georgios. As night falls, if you’re in the mood for socializing, saunter down Antiparos’s sole thoroughfare for whimsical cocktails at Boogaloo, Vintage, or Lime.
Where to stay
Book now: Villa Emma
For complete solitude, check in to Villa Emma, which can accommodate up to 20 in 10 bedrooms. This slick, sea-facing abode features stone exteriors, contemporary interiors, and works by Greek artists. In recent years, cool accommodations like the Rooster and Beach House Antiparos have also enhanced this Cycladic outpost.
Beyond Athens’s ancient sites, what shouldn’t I miss?
Athens is not just its city center, old town Plaka, and bevy of archeological marvels, most notably the fifth-century B.C.E. Parthenon and its monuments crowning the Acropolis hill. Aside from the wealth of historical sites ranging from Hellenistic-era wonders and Byzantine chapels to Ottoman relics, the Greek capital also constitutes several distinct precincts worth exploring. Petralona is one of the city’s last authentic neighborhoods, where old-school tavernas like Oikonomou, which has been operating since 1930, sit comfortably alongside hip bars such as Upupa Epops.
Downtown Athens, meanwhile, is swimming in new hotels, including the Dolli, a listed neoclassical 1925 eclectic-era mansion that has been converted into a 46-room boutique hotel with a rooftop restaurant; its infinity pool reflects the Parthenon’s Pentelic marble columns.
The Athens Riviera
This 38-mile stretch of glittering coastline 3.6 miles south of the capital is bustling with multi-billion-dollar tourism and redevelopment projects. At the sprawling site of Athens’s former airport, the Ellinikon is under construction and will feature a coastal park, hotels including a Mandarin Oriental set to open in 2027, and luxury beachfront residences. One&Only is scheduled to open One&Only Aesthesis, its first property in Greece and second in Europe, on the beachfront in the glitzy resort suburb of Glyfada in October 2023.
Check out the newly reopened National Gallery, which holds over 20,000 works of art, including masterpieces by Picasso, Mondrian, and Delacroix and Greek artists. This year’s Athens Epidaurus Festival program is bursting with big names and youthful talent, so be quick to book tickets for an alfresco music, theater, dance, or opera production. On the southern Athens coast, the annual Release Athens festival features acts as diverse as Arctic Monkeys, Wu-Tang Clan, and the Prodigy.
It’s all about the food for me. Where should I go?
At Soil, in the Athens district of Pagrati, chef Tasos Mantis sources vegetables, edible flowers, and aromatic herbs from his farm for season-conscious fine dining menus that recently earned the restaurant a Michelin star and a bonus green star for sustainable cuisine.
If your tastes run to Michelin-starred dining, reserve Delta. Athens’s latest restaurant to earn the culinary distinction touts not one but two stars. Located on the fifth floor of the Renzo Piano–designed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, with views of marinas and Piraeus, the sustainability-minded restaurant executes a 12-stage haute Hellenic menu focusing on fermentation and Scandi-inspired preservation.
The Greek islands
On the islands, summer always signals a hive of culinary activity. Chef Ettore Botrini has opened a fourth installment of his Botrini’s fine dining restaurants, namely on Mykonos at Katikies Mykonos resort. Joining forces with self-taught chef Nikos Pouliasis, the Corfiot Italian has also revived iconic Santorini restaurant Koukoumavlos, now situated in the hotel Katikies Chromata. Also on Santorini, ever-creative Dimitris Katrivesis this season assumes the helm at Mavro, within the Kivotos Santorini hotel, and pays his respects to Cycladic culinary heritage.
How about an autumn road trip on the mainland to see something different?
Hire a car and set off from Athens for Messolongi, a leisurely drive of under three hours northwest alongside the Gulf of Corinth. The completely flat city, which has a tragic Greek War of Independence story to tell, may not impress at first but dig deeper by connecting with youth-led cultural and ecotourism nonprofit Messolonghi by Locals. A small, dedicated team runs fascinating tours of Messolongi’s vast saltwater lagoons, where you’ll learn how fishermen practice unique centuries-old techniques while respecting important wetland habitats for rare and endangered bird species, both migratory and indigenous.
Our new series The Next List reveals under-the-radar spots in well-trod places and the next great (less-crowded) places to visit this year. Check out our picks for where to go next in France, Italy, and Europe too.