Last updated on November 13th, 2019 at 04:11 pm
Greece is a small country, but there are many places that are worth visiting. This is probably why many people return! This article lists the main Greece tourist attractions, and will help you plan your first couple of trips in Greece.
Places to visit in Greece
Most people have heard of Mykonos, Santorini and Athens. Unless you’ve already done some research on Greece, however, you may have not heard of places like Meteora, Milos, Mycenae, Sounion or Thessaloniki.
All of these places (and hundreds more!) are often times just as interesting, if not more so, than the ‘big name’ destinations. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to a few popular places as well as some lesser known places in Greece.
Greece tourist attractions – The sites and museums in Athens
Referring to Athens as a Greek tourist attraction might be slightly misleading. Our vibrant capital is a destination, not a tourist attraction! However, there are many places in Athens that are visited more by tourists than by Athenians.
It goes without saying that you should visit the Acropolis. The ancient citadel includes the remains of several temples and other buildings. The most famous temple is the Parthenon, built in the 5th century BC.
The large site of the Ancient Agora was the centre of political, social, commercial and financial life in ancient times. Try to go with a licensed guide, who will explain life in ancient Athens.
The Acropolis and the Ancient Agora can be visited on the combined ticket to all the archaeological sites in Athens. If you have two or more days in Athens, you can easily visit all the sites.
Another Athens tourist attraction is the Acropolis museum. Located very close to the Acropolis, it exhibits statues, sanctuaries, everyday items used by Athenians, and other artefacts. There are many more museums in Athens though!
Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion
If you get tired of the busy centre, you can easily escape to the coast. Many people visit the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion on a half-day trip. This impressive temple was built a few years after the Acropolis, and the location is simply spectacular. Visit at sunset, as the views are really awesome.
Apart from the main attractions in Athens, our city has a lot more to offer. Some of our favourite things about Athens are the amazing food, the vibrant markets, the rich street art, the Greek coffee culture and the everyday life. If you are interested in seeing an alternative side of Athens that not many visitors fully experience, ask us about our walking tours in Athens.
Greece tourist attractions – The volcano in Santorini
People come from all over the world to see this little gem of an island, Santorini. The iconic white-and-blue houses and the incredible views to the volcano are very exotic for most visitors.
You can’t run out of things to do in Santorini. Activities include hiking from Fira to Oia, volcano tours, sailing trips, the Akrotiri ancient site, winery tours, swimming, and a lot more. However, you can also just sit at a café with a view to the caldera, and relax with a glass of local wine.
When to visit Santorini
Some people will find our suggestion to visit Santorini in winter rather strange. However, if you are not a huge fan of crowds, inflated prices and lots of pre-planning, winter might be the best time to visit Santorini. You probably won’t be able to swim, but you might have the entire Oia to yourself, like we did when we visited in late November.
If you visit in summer, prepare yourself for crowds. This tiny island, with a population of less than 20,000 permanent residents, currently receives around 2 million visitors a year! Consider staying outside Fira and Oia, so that you can have some peace and quiet in the evenings. You may find our post on things to avoid in Santorini helpful.
How many days to spend in Santorini is also an often asked question. Four days / three nights were just the perfect time in Santorini when we visited in November. If you are going in summer it might not be enough, unless you don’t care much about the beaches, in which case it’s probably about right.
Greece tourist attractions – The nightlife in Mykonos
Mykonos was a popular Greek destination long before Santorini came into the picture. Since the 1960s, international jet-setters and many Greeks visited Mykonos to see and be seen.
The island quickly developed a reputation for wild parties, crazy clubbing and a gay-friendly scene, at a time when the rest of Greece was still fairly conservative.
Mykonos is included in many people’s Greece itinerary, often combined with Athens and Santorini. Getting from Santorini to Mykonos is very straightforward. However, we encourage you to do some research before you decide if Mykonos appeals.
If you are thinking to island hop in Greece on a budget, it’s probably best to leave Mykonos out of your itinerary. Anything on the island is expensive, from accommodation and food to renting a car, or umbrellas and loungers on the beaches.
Many visitors we’ve spoken to mentioned that Mykonos was their least favourite island in Greece. They said that the landscapes weren’t as unique as in Santorini, while it was also very crowded.
That said, we know people who visit Mykonos on an annual basis and they love it. Apparently, the beaches are fantastic, and the standards of services are very high. All these people can’t be wrong!
We will be honest – from what we hear, Mykonos is not our type of place, as we prefer quieter islands. Vanessa has been once, stayed for a few hours, and she literally left with the next ferry! But that’s just our opinion.
Still, we are curious to visit Mykonos and see it with our own eyes. We also want to visit the nearby Delos, an uninhabited island that used to be the commercial hub of the Cyclades and is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. Stay tuned!
Greece tourist attractions – The beaches in Milos
Close to Santorini and Mykonos, you will find Milos. This Greek island has been gaining popularity within the last few years, and for very good reason. It has amazing beaches, dramatic landscapes, quaint villages, lovely hiking paths, beautiful views and a wild side that is unlike any other Greek island.
Milos is ideal for people who want to relax, but are also keen on exploring different beaches and authentic villages. The lovely coastal villages of Klima and Pollonia should definitely be on your Milos itinerary. Similarly, don’t miss out on the inland villages, like Plaka and Tripiti.
The island has a long history of a thriving mining industry. Rent a 4WD for a day or two, and get off the beaten track. Even better, book a Milos tour and learn the exciting history of some of the island’s deserted and functioning mines. Make sure you visit the excellent mining museum, which will help you put things into context.
One of the highlights in Milos is the sailing trip around the island. This is the only way to explore the amazing rocky coves, such as the famous Kleftiko. The boat will also drop you off some of the island’s best beaches, where you can swim and snorkel without the crowds.
We absolutely recommend visiting Milos – we stayed for about a week and we could have easily spent more time! Go there before it gets too popular – and try to ignore the paradox in our suggestion.
Greece tourist attractions – Chania and Knossos in Crete
Crete is Greece’s largest island. It could easily be an independent country, as it’s 26 times the size of Malta. To be fair, if you visit a few times, you will start thinking it’s an independent country indeed!
Crete has it all. Magnificent ancient sites, lovely coastal towns, wild gorges, gorgeous beaches, delicious food, and lots of soul. It’s hard to put into words what makes Crete an ideal Greek destination. You have to go an experience it yourself.
That said, Crete has some tourist attractions that are very popular with visitors. The picturesque coastal town of Chania and the archaeological site of Ancient Knossos attract travellers from all over the world. Along with the beaches of Balos and Elafonissi, and the archaeological museum of Heraklion, they are the top things to do in Crete.
If you want to dive deeper into the real Greek culture, however, consider staying in Crete for a few more days. The soul of the island will slowly unfold, and more so if you share the favourite local alcoholic drink, raki. Spend some time in the smaller towns, and the coastal villages on the south, and you will discover a unique side of Greece that few tourists get to experience.
Yes, we are biased – Crete is one of our favourite places in Greece, if not the world!
Greece tourist attractions – Rhodes town
The island of Rhodes, along with the rest of the Dodecanese, only became part of Greece in 1948. Before that, it was occupied for a few decades by the Italians, while in the past it was home to the Knights Hospitaller and the Ottomans.
The Medieval castle in Rhodes town is unlike anything else you have seen in Greece, and it’s deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take at least a couple of days to explore this fascinating town, where the past meets the present.
Rhodes is Greece’s fourth biggest island, and there are several lovely beaches all around the island. If you are only going for a couple of days, you can stay in Rhodes Town and go for a swim on the local sandy beach. If you are staying longer, rent a car and explore the island.
You can visit the archaeological site of Lindos, swing by the famous Anthony Quinn beach, and perhaps venture out to Prasonissi beach on the south. During summer, Prasonissi island is connected with Rhodes through a narrow sand path. In winter, the sea covers the path and high tide makes this impossible.
Rhodes island has some of the mildest weather in Greece, and many locals swim all year round. If you are looking for a Greek holiday without too many crowds and you are flexible in terms of when to visit, go in late autumn. You will discover a quieter, more authentic side of the island.
Greece tourist attractions – Corinth, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Nafplio and Olympia in the Peloponnese
Few first-time visitors opt for a visit to the Peloponnese. However, this large, diverse area of Greece combines everything – picturesque towns, lovely beaches, and tons of archaeological sites.
Any visit to the Peloponnese will pass by the Corinth Canal, which separates the Peloponnese and mainland Greece. Take some time to appreciate the impressive engineering feat, which was completed in 1893. In October 2019, a huge passenger boat, MS Braemar, navigated through the canal. Hats off to the captain!
The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus is another popular tourist attraction in Greece. Its acoustics are famous around the world, and they have never been reproduced, even with modern techniques. Actors from all around the planet have performed in the theatre. If you are in Greece in summer, you could plan to attend a performance – book your tickets early, as some shows are sold out.
The massive ancient site of Mycenae is often combined with Epidaurus on a day trip from Athens. What is known as the Agamemnon’s kingdom was of great importance in ancient times, and particularly between 1600-1100 BC. The Mycenean civilization reached its peak at around 1350 BC, and the majority of the sites we can see today are from that period.
The charming coastal town of Nafplio is a popular day trip from Athens, though you can easily spend much longer in the area. Nafplio was Greece’s first capital after the liberation from the Ottoman Empire, and many of the beautiful neoclassical buildings have been preserved. Stroll around the town, and go up the castle for awesome views.
The archaeological site of Olympia is another popular Greece tourist attraction. Consider going with a guide, in order to learn more about the first Olympic Games and the customs of the times. Allow enough time for the excellent museum.
Greece tourist attractions – The Meteora monasteries
The Meteora monasteries are among the most visited tourist attractions in mainland Greece. The incredible rocky landscape provides an excellent backdrop for six functioning monasteries that have been built on top of the huge rocks, many centuries ago.
Unless you are going on an organized tour, we would suggest at least one full day in Meteora if you want to appreciate the area. There are many accommodation options at nearby Kalambaka, where you can get to by direct train from Athens in about 5 hours.
The monasteries are open to the public on a rotating basis, and each of them is closed once a week. In our opinion, the most impressive monasteries are Moni Megalou Meteorou (Great Monastery) and Moni Varlaam, but all six of them are very unique. Make sure that you are dressed appropriately, and cover your shoulders and knees.
Greece tourist attractions – The archaeological site of Delphi
The site of Delphi, the ancient navel of the earth, is often combined with Meteora on a two day trip from Athens. This large, impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site is located up on Parnassos mountain, around three hours away from Athens by bus.
Once you walk in the main complex, you will soon see the theatre and the temple of Apollo. This is the area where Pythia, the Oracle, used to give her ambiguous prophecies. Fun fact – when we were at school we were told that she was smoking bay leaves in order to give more accurate prophecies. For people past the age of primary school, this is probably questionable!
Unless you have walking difficulties, do go up all the way to see the Ancient Stadium, constructed in the 4th century BC. This is where the “Pythia” Games used to take place, in honour of Apollo. This is the best preserved stadium in all of Greece, with a capacity of around 6,500 spectators.
After your visit to the archaeological site, spend some time in the well-arranged Delphi museum. Among other artefacts, you will see the famous charioteer, whose gaze seems to follow you all around the room.
Greece tourist attractions
We hope this blog post has given you a first idea of the main Greece tourist attractions. If you have been to Greece already, you must have seen some of them. What did you think? Let us know in the comments.