One Week in Greece
If you only have one week in Greece, stick to Athens and the islands of the Cyclades, and you’ll get a well-rounded glimpse into everything that Greece has to offer. Spend two days in Athens, two in Santorini, two in Naxos, and one night enjoying dinner and drinks at the water’s edge in Mykonos. You can do a lot with one week in Greece.
Athens 105 58, Greece
You can’t miss the Parthenon, the majestic ruin towering above Athens. Originally painted in vivid hues, this feat of architecture, engineering, and artistry is still as awe-inspiring as it was almost 2,500 years ago. Le Corbusier, pioneer of modernism, called it the most “ruthlessly flawless” monument in the world. Hold on to your admission ticket: It’s valid for several other archaeological sites on the slopes surrounding the Acropolis, including the Agora and theater of Dionysus.
Oia 847 02, Greece
This little private church is probably the most photographed stop in Oia. Our rented house was right next to it but lower on the steps so we could see lots of people getting lots of photos. Married couples would take their photos next to it, photographers were offering workshops that included this spot. I woke up at 5.30AM to wonder when nobody else was around. Best time of day to walk around this very busy tourist destination.
Paralia Super Paradise, 846 00, Greece
Super Paradise Beach is a gigantic stretch of sand tucked away next to Paradise Beach. It’s only reachable by taxi-ferry or by public bus, but the trek is worth it. It’s also a notorious party destination, with a friendly gay community. Super Paradise Night Club is the most popular club in the area, and caters to a ritzy crowd. When the sun goes down, this beach really comes to life. If you’re seeking a quieter atmosphere, show up early.
For many travelers to Greece, there’s a conundrum: Do you concentrate on the mainland—Athens, Delphi—or do you spend your time cruising the islands—from fashionable Mykonos to holy Patmos? With Grand Circle Cruise Line, you don’t have to make that decision. The first week of the 15-day Treasures of the Aegean: Greek Island Cruise, Athens & Istanbul itinerary includes the monasteries of Meteora, perched atop rock formations; the town of Kalambaka, Thessaly, where you’ll discover a Byzantine tradition when you stop at an icon-painting workshop and meet one of the artisans; and the majestic ancient sanctuary of Delphi. Then you depart on a cruise to the Aegean’s most beautiful islands aboard a 50-passenger small ship. You’ll call at ports including Amorgos, Delos, and Naxos, where you’ll sit down for an island dinner with some of its residents. While you’ll be following the routes of ancient heroes, Grand Circle assures that travelers also experience modern-day life in the country from those who live, work, and play here. Exclusive Discovery Series events take you deeper, show you more, and give you an unfiltered look into daily life whether you’re dining with a Greek family during a Home-Hosted Dinner, or participating in a cooking class in the mountain village of Arachova.
Cape Sounio, Sounio 195 00, Greece
The Temple of Poseidon, perched on the edge of Cape Sounion, has long been a welcoming sign of “home” for sailors returning to Athens. The 5th-century BC structure is dedicated to the god of the sea, and it’s just a quick drive from downtown Athens. If you happen to come here at sunset, you won’t be disappointed.
Portara, Naxos 843 00, Greece
Guidebooks often lack the practical pieces of advice that could save travelers some rather unpleasant moments, in the Greek Islands one such nugget of wisdom I missed in my reading was that after a late night fueled by Ouzo it is not ideal to ride in a high speed ferry. Thankfully the ferry ride from Mykonos to Naxos is a short one at under an hour. I was greeted at the terminal by part of the family that runs Hotel Grotto, a small retreat perched on the edge of the Aegean sea that would be my home while in Naxos. After weeks competing for beach chairs and being corralled down tight marble alleys in some of the more frequented islands, Hora (also known as Naxos Town) proved the perfect place to relax and experience Greece at a slower pace. Upon arriving to the hotel, the bags were taken out of my hand and replaced with a glass of wine made by “Pappa” along with local olives as I was led out to the pictured patio. The view from patio of the hotel is of the Portara, believed to be the beginning of the Temple of Apollo dated back to 530 BC and is an ideal spot to pack a picnic from the local grocery, and watch the sunset before heading into town for the night. On the walk back to the hotel rising above the town is The Venetian Castle Kastro. During the day it serves as a museum offering tours, on Sunday nights after sunset it hosts traditional music and dance made easier by the accompaniment of Kitron,a liqueur indigineous to the area.
Exarcheia, Athens 106 81, Greece
Exarcheia is the most unique neighborhood in Athens, by far. It’s not for everyone. It’s gritty, graffiti-laden, and crawling with punk rock kids who are far more harmless than they appear. But behind its rough exterior you’ll find a dozen bookshops, tiny cafes where old men sit sipping Greek coffee, and an onslaught of art exhibits with political undertones. The neighborhood’s cultural identity is diverse: you can smoke hookah with Syrians or you can dine with the artsy Greeks. Embrace every second of it.
Fira 1564, Thira 847 00, Greece
The unique quality of soil on Santorini is all due to the island’s history of volcanic activity. The soil is known as “aspa,” and is rich in essential minerals. Santorini is home to some excellent wineries, including Santos Wines Winery, Gavalos Winery, and Estate Argyros. A wine tour will get you out and experiencing the best of the best, all while being introduced to the local culinary scene. You’ll see Santorini’s unique vineyards, with its vines coiled in the island’s rich volcanic soil.
Άκρα Ακρωτήρι, Σαντορίνη 847 00, Greece
In the 20th century, an archaeologist by the name of Spyridon Marinatos wanted to prove “the biggest volcanic eruption in recorded world history” was the reason for the Minoan collapse. It didn’t take long for him to find Akrotiri. Akrotiri is like a Greek version of Pompeii. For the last couple thousands of years, earthquakes and volcanoes have repeatedly caused havoc in this part of the world. The Minoans always rebuilt. But it was that final volcano -- the one famously responsible for Santorini’s dramatic shape -- that destroyed the civilization for good. The site will take you through the various 40-something rooms of Akrotiri. You’ll see the remains of window frames, beds upturned on top of one another as if their owners would be coming back for them, and even the remains of a clay pipe system carrying a constant supply of water to the city. The lava and ash that covered and destroyed the city helped protect it. Scientists have used plaster casts to create replicas of some of the Minoans’ furniture, including intricately detailed tables. Mosaics with ivory pieces were uncovered, and even a gold ibex in a jewelry box. It’s best to take a guide tour onsite, otherwise you’ll miss many important details.
Mykonos, Mikonos, Greece
The first Greek island you’ll explore on Azamara’s nine-night Greek Isles & Adriatic Voyage is one of the most popular destinations in the Aegean Sea, Mykonos. It’s equally famous for its jet-set scene, photogenic windmills, and “Little Venice” of warehouses—some now housing restaurants and shops—along the waterfront. The neighboring island of Delos, which can be visited on the Ancient Delos excursion, was believed to be the birthplace of Apollo, the Greek god of the sun. Your guide will recount the tale of his birth as you explore the Temple of Apollo, the theater, and the Sacred Lake. The island flourished for centuries—there was a sanctuary to Apollo here as early as the ninth-century B.C.E. Its prosperity, however, also led to its destruction at the hand of pirates in 69 B.C.E. Since then time has stood still at this UNESCO World Heritage site. If you prefer a hands-on experience, consider joining the Mosaic Lesson in Mykonos excursion. Local artist Irene Syrianou leads this two-hour introduction to the ancient art of mosaics using colored glass and stones. Her class is held in a lovely garden, where you’ll learn all about mosaics while creating your own to take home. Less tangible, but maybe more valuable, is the knowledge you’ll have about mosaics when you visit Roman, Byzantine, and other sites on your travels. To learn more about this itinerary and other Azamara Club Cruises’ itineraries around the world, visit AFAR Journeys.