20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Greece
Home to some of the world's most important historical sites, along with some 6,000 islands, Greece is known for its natural beauty and fascinating culture. Ancient archaeological sites, cliffs tumbling into sparkling blue water, sand and pebble beaches, and a balmy Mediterranean climate make Greece one of Europe's prime tourist destinations.
Besides the capital, Athens, top things to see on the mainland include Ancient Delphi and the monasteries of Meteora. But most people come here to catch a ferry to the islands; Santorini, Mykonos, Zakynthos, Corfu, and Crete are the most popular. Plan your trip with our list of the top attractions in Greece.
Stunning Santorini is the most dramatic of all the Greek isles. It is best known for the west coast cliff-top towns of Fira and Oia, which appear to hang over a deep, blue sea-filled caldera. Made up of typical Cycladic whitewashed cubic buildings, many of which have been converted into boutique hotels with infinity pools, both Fira and Oia are considered romantic destinations, popular for weddings and honeymoons. Things to do in Santorini include sunbathing and swimming at the black volcanic-sand beaches on the south and east coasts and visiting the archaeological site of Akrotiri, an Ancient Minoan settlement buried below lava following the volcanic eruption that created the caldera, some 3,600 years ago. The island has an airport and is served by ferries and catamarans from Athens' port, Piraeus.
Founded in the 11th century BC, the city was at the center of the power of the ancient Greek kingdom of the Pylians, the first of the Minoan kingdoms. These early influences remained in the ancient site, which retains a beautifully harmonious mix of buildings, churches and churches, and Byzantine-Roman walls. A Greek National Historic Monuments, Nafplio has a large network of narrow streets and alleys that feels like a very small village. Fira, the main attraction, lies just to the north and is made up of a series of whitewashed houses hugging the cliffs that give the town its name. The views are magnificent, particularly during sunset and sunrise, when the sky and sea glow in oranges and reds. To the west is the port of Matka, which houses a series of hotels, restaurants and bars. There is also the archaeological site of Thera, the remains of an extinct volcano that served as the main base for the people of Nafplio, including Homer. Things to do in Nafplio include trekking the narrow streets of the old town; cycling through the open countryside to explore the tiny villages of the Peloponnese; visiting the archeological site of Ancient Athens, the best preserved in the world; and hiking in the lush forests and lakes around the city.
Travelling the Western Aegean islands is the perfect way to witness the beauty of the Greek landscape. A highlight of the Archipelago's many fascinating towns is Mykonos. Its old town nestled on a charming, crescent-shaped bay is a one-of-a-kind village, offering a wide selection of restaurants, tavernas, craft shops, museums, boutiques and shops, water sports, and a variety of lodging options. An easy half-day trip from Mykonos is the island of Delos. Be sure to visit the archaeological site, the island's most famous monument, the Temple of Apollo. Its unique buildings date back to the 3rd century BC, and some of its walls date back to the 3rd century BC. There are also a number of museums to explore and shops to browse. As you journey through the Mykonos peninsula, stop to explore the exquisite cave churches on Evraouni and spend some time relaxing on the spectacular beaches of Petaloudes and Ola Beach.
Delphi is located at the feet of Mount Parnassus at the center of a 1,700-square-mile park. It's the most sacred site in Greece and home to one of the world's most important archaeological treasures, the ancient world's premier oracle. Visible through trees at the site is the graceful Temple of Apollo, oracle of the Delphic oracle, with its massive Ionic columns, porticoes, and rows of sphinxes. The colossal statue of the god Apollo graces its peristyle, or porticoed courtyard. Today, the Delphi archaeological site is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and as you can tell, the modern visitor center and restaurant are also impressive. Visitors are able to walk around inside the enormous, well-preserved classical ruins and view the exhibits at the museum, which has been established in the massive Temple of Apollo, the most revered structure in the ancient world. Delphi is a little inconvenient to get to in terms of transportation. If you're not driving, get here from Athens via public bus or by air-con train.
Thessaloniki was once the capital of Byzantine, Frankish and Ottoman empires, and nowadays it's the second largest city in the country, and one of the cultural capitals of Greece. The city of more than a million inhabitants spreads across a number of hills and boasts a magnificent panorama and an excellent historic center. The dramatic location on a peninsula over the Thessaloniki Gulf, also known as the Gulf of Pagasitiko (Thessaloniki's river mouth), gave the city strategic advantages during the Greek War of Independence. It is easily reached by road from Athens and Thessaloniki, but Thessaloniki also has excellent air connections to several European and Asian cities.
Zakynthos is an island in the Ionian Sea that is part of the Greek region of the same name. It lies east of the Cyclades island chain. The capital of Zakynthos is Kalamaki. Located on a rocky peninsula between the northeast and northwest coasts, the island has a forested interior and white beaches. Things to do in Zakynthos include relaxing in the powdery, bright white beaches along the southeast coast, shopping, exploring the nearby ruins of ancient Olympia and visiting the museums on the mainland island of Mykonos.
Samaria Gorge is one of the most spectacular natural sites in Greece, and an ideal destination for hiking, climbing and a spectacular view of the sea. At the western side, the most well-known trails are the famous Rhododendron Park hike, the Path of Life hike, and the Kasoia Monti hike. There are also plenty of other trekking paths with easy grade. Each trekking path is marked with a red and white boubouri (indicating very easy and easy). The gorge is located about 30 km east of Lefkimmi and is often called the "heart of Greek nature." The Samaria Gorge provides a very good example of a sedimentary rock that caused the slow and gradual creation of the impressive Mount Kamateros rock formations. The gorges have an interesting history. Although famous for the beauty of its rock formations, it is also mentioned as an easy route for the pilgrimage to the Aghios Panteleimon monastery. Although it is not very busy during the summer, the trails in the Samaria Gorge are kept in a good condition and therefore they are easy to use. For this reason, many people take some days to walk the gorge and use it as a hiking tour.
Acropolis Museum, Athens
The Acropolis Museum in Athens is the largest museum of Greek archaeology. The permanent collection is housed in a lovely collection of ancient buildings located in the grounds of the Acropolis (Athens' ancient citadel), a UNESCO World Heritage site. The museum is also home to the Fotis Diliaspis Collection, which includes a remarkable collection of Classical ceramics and sculptures. Notable objects on display include the Acropolis bronzes, which are the world's oldest standing, free-standing sculptures. The set, dating from the Classical period, includes two standing warriors (standing at approximately 9.5 meters), and two beautifully preserved limestone marble statues (2.3 meters) of two nude women, each with flowing hair and wearing a laurel wreath. Although the museum is devoted to displaying pieces from the Acropolis, other significant ancient statues can be found within the grounds. These include an intact statue of the Greek goddess Athena found in 1873, the statue of the Hesychast monk El Greco (1541-1614), the fifth-century BC Asclepeion, the first Greek hospital, and a 4,500-year-old stone oil lamp.
Meteora is a magnificent cluster of giant rock pinnacles and monasteries that soar into the air above the rolling hills of central Greece. Its name literally means'suspended on high' as the many monasteries tower upwards from the top of the rock pinnacles. The monasteries are most famously known for their brilliant painted icons. The 7th century Holy Trinity monastery, known as Assumption of the Virgin or Santa Maria Lavra, is still visited by pilgrims and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each year at the feast of the Assumption on 15 August there are special services and masses. Along the way to the Meteora monasteries you will be rewarded with a scenic vista as you climb or descend past cypress trees and some of the largest pine trees in the world that still grow here.
In the Peloponnese Peninsula of southern Greece, Rhodes has become an area that appeals to tourists in search of somewhere special. You'll find a gorgeous town, a stunning beach, the ruins of an amphitheater and an enormous cathedral. The best way to get around is to rent a bicycle and take a tour of the whole island on two wheels. Highlights of a visit to Rhodes include Rhodes Town, which has elegant old buildings, a large castle and a number of wonderful restaurants and bars. You'll also find the fascinating site of the Byzantine-era City of Rhodes and a Venetian fortress that once dominated the Mediterranean. The highlight of the island, however, is its beach, and you should make the pilgrimage to Bodrum in Turkey where you can drive straight on to Rhodes Town. Rhodes also has its own small airport, and there are regular flights to Athens.
Sinking under the waves to explore Greece's second-most-isolated island, located in the middle of the Aegean, has been an essential Greek destination for over 2,500 years. Aboard an "excursion boat," traveling from the modern city of Limnos in northwestern Attica, visitors will enjoy a two-and-a-half-hour sail to the beautiful island of Hydra. Hydra is the kind of spot that's best explored on foot. The only settlement on the island and capital of the civil-war-torn Cyclades, Hydra is a labyrinth of streets, markets and bazaars, with winding alleys, shops selling silver, ceramics, marbles and relics of Hydra's ancient past, old houses, little guesthouses, and cafes serving traditional dishes. After having seen and visited the main sights, hop back on the boat to return to Limnos.
Delos is in the eastern Cyclades, about a 2.5 hour boat ride from Mykonos. Situated on the shore of the Erechtheion channel, it is the best place to visit on Delos. The Erechtheion is also a beautiful island-wide site, and the impressive remains of an early Doric temple are still in good condition. Before exploring the island, plan to spend some time at the Museum of Delos, which houses finds from the island’s various excavations, such as terra-cotta fragments, metal tools and pottery, and artwork. Also on Delos are two massive temples, the Temple of Apollo and the Temple of Artemis, both in good condition. Both feature two parallel rows of columns carved from the rockface and surrounded by pilasters. The island is also home to the Sacred Way, a modern marble sculpture of a woman representing the Greek goddess of a beautiful new age. A local ferry operates twice daily, and some hotels offer free pick-ups from Mykonos.
Paros is known for its Greek island charm. Its steep hills and traditional stone villages are home to red-roofed buildings that have stood for centuries and monasteries still ringing with their tranquil bells. Small ferries cross the Argo-Saronic gulf from Parikia to Parikia Pier, the island's port. The village of Naoussa and its working port are the island's capital, as well as the most popular spot for swimming. Its winding streets lead past marble-paved paths lined with potted lemon trees and verdant olive groves. Beaches at the western end of the island are picturesque, but north of Naoussa there are more beaches like the empty and rocky Agia Anna, which is popular for diving. The Cyclades archipelago is divided into two groups: the more northerly Aegean islands, which include Paros; and the Ionian islands, which include Corfu, Kefalonia, and Zakynthos.
Dramatically situated on a spit of land rising up from the Aegean Sea at the mouth of the river Ambracia, Samos is arguably Greece's second city. The capital of the island of the same name, it dates back to the 6th century BC and the classical city still bears many traces of its ancient past. There are several interesting sights in Samos. Most importantly, the island is a gateway to the Greek isles and is a great base from which to visit Lesbos, Kythira, Andros, Folegandros, Rhodes, and other islands. The island's most famous attractions include its medieval walled city and two UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sites, the ancient port city of Andriani and the Lycian ruins at Pergamon. The island of Samos, with a population of more than 65,000, is a modern tourist haven with lively markets, good restaurants, and interesting historical sites.
Piraeus is the port of Athens and home to Athens International Airport. It is linked to the city by both rail and road. The first buildings on the site date back to the early 19th century. A crossroads of Eastern European immigration and Greek patriotism, this area was one of the major European ports before the First World War. The Athens Zoological Museum, the center of Natural Science in Greece, is located in Piraeus. In addition, there is a large shopping center, the Forum Athens and an ethnographic museum (Maritime Museum), a museum dedicated to the Greek Navy and a museum of Asian antiquities. Other notable landmarks include the Monument of Liberty (Erechtheion), the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the statue of Theseus (Asteria), the Post Office and the New Athens City Hall. Also worth visiting are the New Gazi Modinos National Archaeological Museum and the Imperial Tobacco Museum. Athens International Airport is approximately 25 km from Piraeus; the city of Piraeus is approximately 4 km from the airport.
The historic city of Athens is an archetypal urban area of winding cobblestone streets and neoclassical buildings rising from a labyrinth of hills. Although it has been the capital of Greece since the time of King Otto of Germany (c. 878-924), its size and feel today recalls the Roman influence. Athens is divided by a river into two parts, the mainland (Ano Xeno) to the west and the islands (Outero Xeno) to the east. It is here that the Acropolis and its ancient agora square of Propylaea mark the island's historic center. Athens' museums contain numerous classical sculptures and exhibit an impressive number of works of art from the Acropolis. Athens also holds a wealth of exhibitions, ranging from archaeological excavations to contemporary art. The island of Salamis lies in the sea off the southwest coast of Athens and its seascapes and beaches remain largely unspoiled. The Corfu Club has been a fixture of Athens since the Greek War of Independence (1821), and hosts regular exhibitions and conferences. The city is home to two major universities: the University of Athens and the National Technical University of Athens. Athens' airport (Aia Solon) is the fifth-busiest in Europe. It lies 11 km northwest of the city center, with extensive bus services. Some international airlines also operate out of Eleftherios Venizelos airport. Flights from London's Heathrow Airport to Athens are generally via Frankfurt and/or Rome.
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Chios, a small, emerald island with a small-town atmosphere, lies off the Turkish coast. It's an island of hills and beaches, old white houses and towns, and an abundance of bright and beautiful flowers. Chios is much warmer than other Greek islands, and the climate makes it very pleasant in the summer months. The island has many wonderful and peaceful walking paths to enjoy, and it's a popular destination for tourists. There are restaurants and tavernas serving delicious traditional Greek food, and all kinds of watersports can be enjoyed. There is a bus service from Chios Town to the island's villages, including Perama and the national sea park, and it takes 30 minutes.
Heralding from the serene marble villages of Kommos and Kato Kardamili, the beach resort of Rhodes on the southernmost tip of the Peloponnese peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in the world. A jagged citadel that looms over the town is only one of the island's most famous attractions. The town is often visited by artists who find the pure white houses and sparkling turquoise water ideal for sketching. Shopping, nightlife, and sailing are among the main attractions, but visitors are drawn back to the island for the tranquil beaches along the southeastern shore.
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Pylos is a small town on the southern coast of the Peloponnese, about 75 miles from the city of Sparta. As the gateway to the Peloponnese's southwest coast, it is also one of the main tourist destinations. The road leading to Pylos from Sparta is the E6 (Via Egnatia). This wonderful old road begins in Thessaloniki and heads along the Isthmus of Corinth to Athens, crossing the Attic plain and then a low-lying mountain range, the Taygetos, before reaching the Saronic Gulf. It can be driven in either direction. The regional museum in Pylos is one of the best, housing an important collection of classical artifacts including a large number of bronze statues, some exquisite gold and silver vessels, pottery and other ancient artifacts from the site. Nearby, a restored Mycenaean citadel is used as a National Gallery for art lovers. Other sights include the church of Agios Nikolaos (Italica) and the Orthodox monastery of Vachagia, both within easy walking distance of Pylos. In the town of Neapoli, on the west side of the Taygetos range, there is a small military cemetery with more than 400 crosses. Here, are buried more than 7,000 soldiers from the Greek and Allied countries who died in World War II.
The ancient Greek city of Thessaloniki was founded in 335 BC on the site of the last holdout of the Greek kingdom of Macedon. Even today, it retains many traces of its antiquity, including the Church of Theotokos in the Roman Agora, the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the Metamorfosis section, and the Byzantine Museum. The one-and-a-half-mile long Egnatia Odos, which runs through the heart of the city, was once an important Roman road and the first major land road constructed after the conquests of Alexander the Great. This through-road, which runs from the Turkish border at Edirne to Alexandroupolis in Greece, was constructed between 192 BC and 175 BC. The Egnatia Odos has a stunning avenue of plane trees and is much-used by bikers and bicyclists. In Byzantine times, Thessaloniki had an important role as the administrative and ecclesiastical capital of Macedonia. In AD 393, Emperor Theodosius I founded the city's famous monastery, the Monastery of Vlacherna, which later became the first of the many monasteries that filled the city's ancient churches, like that of St. Eleutherios, one of the city's landmarks. Today, Thessaloniki is a major center of business, education, the media and tourism, the city's important historical monuments and Byzantine buildings having been brought back to their former glory.