10 Tips for Unforgettable Travel to Greece
Greece is a popular vacation destination for anyone seeking stunning beaches and fascinating history. When I found myself with a few unexpected days off work one summer, I headed to the birthplace of Western civilization with a group of close friends. From that unforgettable trip, I’ve compiled suggestions of how to get the most out of your time when you travel to Greece.
1. Start in Athens
Starting in Athens gave us a feel for the country. It’s an international city welcoming of tourists. We got our feet wet in the capital city with some delicious Greek food (more on that later!), quick basic language practice, and unbelievable sightseeing.
2. Visit the Acropolis
It’s arguably one of the most recognizable structures on the entire continent. The Acropolis stands on top of a high rocky hill. Seeing the Acropolis and Parthenon were akin to seeing the pyramids for the first time. My jaw dropped. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to sit and soak it in. Luckily, we booked a hotel with a view of the Acropolis. I would certainly recommend doing this—we got to continue admiring the ancient wonder with cold beverages on our hotel rooftop at night.
3. Enjoy drinks with friends
Speaking of those rooftop drinks, we often paired our meals with refreshing local wine. Try cool anise flavored ouzo at a quiet café on a cobblestone street leading to the Acropolis. Drink Alfa beer with your gyro from a modest stand with a local vibe. Sip coffee on a relaxing morning to slow down the pace. And drink plenty of water as you wander about ancient sites in the heat.
4. Drive through the Peloponnese
We rented a car and took turns driving through the southern mountainous region of the Peloponnese. The mountains were full of twists and turns. At every turn we had a new beautiful view to look forward to. I recommend going into the drive with an open mind, and stopping at roadside stands or small restaurants serving local dishes (again, food!).
5. Visit Ancient Mycenae
This site is for the history enthusiasts and archaeologists. It is an ancient city so high on a hill that visitors can see the sea from the top. We climbed up the steep stone steps to imagine life in Ancient Greece. The site was big enough to wander and explore for an afternoon. After that exploration and climbing, we had built up quite an appetite.
6. Eat local treats
After hours of touring and driving, we stumbled upon a small restaurant filled with locals along the water. We left a lot of our order up to the jovial owner-manager-chef-waiter. I ordered fresh fish that melted in my mouth (once I figured out how to pick around the bones!). Then, we were served Greek salad topped with an entire block of feta cheese. After consuming our delectable meals as quickly as we breathed, we were served fried blocks of feta cheese with honey drizzled on top. Yum!
7. Spend a day in Olympia
The original Olympic games were held here. The Olympic flame is still lit before every Olympics, amid these ruins. Visitors can run on the first Olympic track, imagining a roaring crowd from thousands of years ago cheering them on. Wander around the ancient site, admiring the temples dedicated to the ancient Greek gods. The site was surprisingly quiet and peaceful (and well-worn). We had sections of the timeless wonder to ourselves as we roamed.
8. Visit an island
Kefalonia is a short ferry ride across the Ionian Sea from the mainland. As our ferry sputtered along, we were even joined by a pod of dolphins swimming alongside the boat—an unforgettable bonus! Kefalonia is filled with beautiful marble-white beaches, sapphire water, and steep cliffs. On this part of the trip, take time to relax at a rented villa. Watch the sunset. Appreciate the scenery and company of close friends. And if you do end up on Kefalonia, stop at the Melissani Cave to see the cobalt brackish water inside the expansive cave.
9. Bundle up for a night in the mountains
If you plan to do this, pack for the cold mountain air (or stay somewhere with a fireplace). On our way back to Athens, we drove through the mountains and stopped at a cozy lodge. We were the only foreigners in the charming village. The air was so clean and crisp I wish I could have bottled it up. We walked to the only restaurants open in the town and attempted to order, not knowing what we would end up eating. Hello, language barrier! But everyone was so welcoming, friendly, and good-humored that I remember turning to my friend and saying, “This is a night I will remember and yearn for forever.” That ended up being the way I felt about the entire vacation…
10. Stay for as long as possible
Greece will always be on my travel list, but I’ve only had the privilege of visiting once. I will go again, and again, and again, until I’ve had my fill of ancient sites, delectable food, and inspiring scenery. And then I will visit again.