Greece Highlights

We just came back from an incredible Honeymooners trip in Greece and the Cycladic islands, so we want to share with you the highlights of our trip and how you can make the most of your stay in Greece! Our trip was 8 days and we certainly packed a lot in. We did book a tour because it allowed us to see many locations with tour guides, but if you want to travel and plan yourself, here are the highlights not to miss!

Parthenon in Athens Greece

Top Places To Visit In Athens

Athens is the capital of Greece and the most visited city in the entire country. Athens is a city with a rich history and a wealth of fascinating places to visit. Here are some of the top places you don’t want to miss:

  1. Acropolis with Parthenon: The Acropolis is arguably the most famous attraction in Athens. It’s an ancient citadel perched on a rocky outcrop above the city and is home to several important ancient buildings, including the Parthenon, Erechtheion, and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. The view of Athens from the Acropolis is breathtaking.. The Acropolis does get very very crowded during the morning and end of the day because it is the least hot time. We visited twice, once at lunch time when it was dead hot and once when it opened in the morning. I have to say that braving the heat will give you the best experience with less crowds and will give you a chance to take better photos. The morning hours are so crowded that it takes you a good 15-20 minutes just to leave the place due to the long lines.
    The Parthenon, located on the Acropolis, is one of the most iconic ancient temples in the world. It’s dedicated to the goddess Athena and is a masterpiece of classical Greek architecture. You can’t visit Greece without visiting the Parthenon!
    Erechtheion: Located on the Acropolis, the Erechtheion is known for its stunning Caryatid statues and its complex, multi-level design. This is the place where it is said that Poseidon and Athena showed off their skills to the villagers to decide who would be the God of the local people. You can see an olive tree supposedly where Athena planted her olive tree, as well as the hole in the ground where Poseidon’s trident struck and made the stream of salty water come up from the ground.
    To the west side Acropolis is also a large boulder called Areopagus, which the site where the Apostle Paul spoke to the Athenians after which Dionysius adopted some of his ideas. For Christians this can be a pretty impressive site to visit.
  2. Ancient Agora: This was the central gathering place in ancient Athens and includes various historic structures, such as the Temple of Hephaestus (the best preserved temple in the city) and the Stoa of Attalos (the world’s first shopping mall, really!) It’s a fascinating insight into daily life in ancient Athens. I will say that other than those two historic structures, the rest are all just ruins on the ground that you can’t make out, so it’s not as exciting. You will get through the Agora pretty quickly. Right outside of the Ancient Agora we found our favorite restaurant that had the best food we ate while in Greece: Dia Tauta on Adrianou 37. More on the food below!
  3. National Archaeological Museum: This museum houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Greek antiquities in the world. It’s a great place to learn about Greece’s rich history and admire countless artifacts.
  4. Plaka: Plaka is a historic neighborhood nestled in the shadow of the Acropolis. It’s known for its charming streets, neoclassical architecture, and numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops.
  5. Syntagma Square: This central square is home to the Greek Parliament building (which used to be the Royal Palace) and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Don’t miss the changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place in front of the Parliament building every hour on the hour during the day. The guards wear traditional outfits and have to stay completely still during the full hour. We were told by our guide who actually had to serve (Greeks are mandated to serve in the military upon completion of 18 years of age) and had to train for this guard position that putting on the traditional outfit takes a full hour!
  6. Panathenaic Stadium: This ancient stadium was refurbished in the late 19th century and hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. You can visit the stadium and even run on the track. A must see for any athlete!
  7. Monastiraki: This lively district is known for its flea market and vibrant atmosphere. You can shop for souvenirs, antiques, and enjoy the local cuisine at the many restaurants and tavernas. We loved all the little shops but beware, a lot of items are made in China. Look for authentic souvenirs if you are looking to bring a piece of Greece home. Next to Monastiraki square you will also see the ruins of Hadrian’s library. You can go inside or just look from the outside. There is a 5 day discounted ticket that you can purchase at any of the archeological sites in Athens that allows you to visit all sites for one discounted price. If you will be in Athens for more than 2 days, it is highly recommended you purchase this ticket instead of paying $10 per site (and $20 for the Acropolis) separately.

These are just a few highlights of Athens that you can get done in about 2-3 days depending on how fast you want to walk from one place to the next. The city center is very walkable and we loved meandering and getting “lost” in the beautiful streets. The night life is vibrant and has so much to enjoy. There are metros but the lines are a little too spaced out and we found that it was faster to walk than to change train lines or wait for a bus. Now THIS IS IMPORTANT: TAXI RIDES! You have to “negotiate your price” before you get in. This was very odd to us as we live in a culture where price negotiation for cabs or commercial goods isn’t a thing. You’ll get a taste of it in Greece if you ever want to hail a cab. Your price can vary a lot, and I wish I could tell you a range but for Taxi cabs I saw a range of about 10 Euros, for goods, I know some people that had a difference of 75 Euros on goods that they purchased from the same vendor/person. TIP: Start lower than what you are willing to pay and settle in the middle.

Places to Visit Outside of Athens

We visited many beautiful towns outside of Athens such as Itea, Delphi, Meteora,

Itea is a charming coastal town located in central Greece, along the Gulf of Corinth. It’s situated on the northern slopes of Mount Parnassus and offers visitors a combination of natural beauty, historical significance, and a tranquil atmosphere. The winding mountain road to get to it makes for a beautiful yet nauseating ride. There are a lot of turns so you want to take it slow!
Itea is known for its thermal springs, which are believed to have therapeutic properties. Some hotels in the area offer spa facilities that make use of these natural springs. We found the small town very charming and our favorite part was the seafront promenade lined with cafes and restaurants, making it a great place for a leisurely stroll or a meal with a view. It was very romantic and beautiful. There wasn’t particularly a lot to do there but we stayed there because it was close to Delphi, our next stop!

Delphi is one of the most famous and historically significant archaeological sites in Greece. It’s located on the southwestern slope of Mount Parnassus, about 112 miles northwest of Athens. Delphi was considered the center of the world in ancient Greece and was dedicated to the god Apollo. The temple of Apollo is located at this historical site, as well as many other ruins like a stadium for the Pythian Games, the treasury, a large ancient theater with a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. It could accommodate up to 5,000 spectators and was used for musical and dramatic performances. The Archeological site is certainly worth the visit, even if just to say you walked the same path as Alexander the Great! This site also has a museum with some incredible ruins found in history books. It is worth paying for a tour guide to explain the site and stories that go along with it.

Meteora was one of those places where we just couldn’t stop saying WOW! It is truly a unique and breathtaking destination located in central Greece, known for its stunning monasteries perched high on top of rock pillars. These rocks look different than all the mountains around it because they were eroded by water thousands of years ago. The valley used to contain water and these mountains were shaped by the water. They are now places of solitude for monks and nuns in monasteries. The architecture of these buildings is out of this world! Meteora’s name means “suspended in the air”, and this is fitting when you see that some of these monasteries are atop mountains that are 1300 feet high!

Cruising to the Cycladic Islands

The Cycladic Islands are a group of Greek islands located in the Aegean Sea, known for their stunning natural beauty, white-washed buildings, and rich cultural heritage. These islands are a popular destination for tourists from around the world. Ever hear of Santorini? That’s one of them. Mykonos? That’s another! We visited a total of 4 islands, which included Mykonos, Santorini, Patmos, Crete, we also made a quick stop in Kusadasi to visit Ephesus. To make this many stops we took a Celestyal Cruise which had all these stops perfectly timed.

Mykonos

Let’s start with Mykonos because it was our favorite. Once, a place for people to escape to and not be seen, now is a trendy spot for celebrities and anyone who wants to be seen. The white washed streets are beautiful, something out of a magazine or instagram post. (Most houses get painted white three times a year to maintain their clean white appearance.) We found that everyone was way over dressed in Mykonos, almost as if they were going to a casino in Montecarlo, but then we noticed all the influencers and instagramers on every corner. Mykonos is so trendy that everyone wants to be seen there.

The sunsets in Mykonos are said to be some of the most beautiful and we can attest to that. They were stunning. You had everyone lined up by the water waiting as if for a concert, just to watch the beautiful sunset at the end of the evening. It was worth it!

Mykonos also has the famous windmills by the water which everybody and their grandmother wanted a photo with. It was so crowded from the front that it was hard to get a decent photo, so we walked around to the back of the windmill where it wasn’t so crowded and captured some beautiful photos before everyone caught on. The Windmills are a little run down and don’t actually work. There was only one windmill in good condition and that had been painted. That’s the one we photographed!

Santorini

Santorini has been on our bucket list for years, and if you have an instagram account, chances are that it is also on yours. The beautiful white washed streets and blue domes, with the stunning water in the background that we see on photos all over the world is enough to make us want to move there without a second thought. INSTAGRAM LIED! This was probably my biggest disappointment on this entire trip and I blame social media. First things first, Santorini is not all the photos we see on the internet, the only part we see on the internet is a town called Oia which you need to drive to in order to get there. The actual island of Santorini has blue domes on every church, but the houses are much more spread out. The Island is actually an active volcano that collapsed thousands of years ago.

There is a lot of natural beauty in Oia, but the mass crowds on every street, make it almost impossible to get around. There isn’t one time of day that the place isn’t loaded with tourists. Families and couples are dressed up nicely in matching blue to take a beautiful photo for their facebook page or family album but the truth is, you can’t! There is no space to take any photos. The streets are so narrow and so crowded you simply can’t. I used a Selfie Stick with Remote and aimed it up high above everybody’s head so that I could get a few good photos. That worked really well, but then let’s talk about the color correction on every photo you see online. Every photographer wants their photo to be a piece of art, and some photos are absolutely stunning. But what we found out is that the gorgeous colors you see on Instagram are not a true depiction of Oia, not even on the brightest summer day.

Oia has two sides, the right side which is more residential and where everyone wants to take the photos with the blue dome, and then the left side. The left side has more restaurants and shops and the streets are not as narrow or crowded. We went both ways and felt less suffocated on the left side. We found more space to take photos with the gorgeous backdrop of the Aegean Sea. Still, when in Oia, go both ways!

Patmos

Patmos is often referred to as the “Island of the Apocalypse” because it is where St. John the Divine, also known as John of Patmos, is believed to have written the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. As a result, Patmos is a significant pilgrimage site for Christians. Patmos was a very quick stop for us. It is a smaller island and we found the main attraction was the monastery of Saint John the Theologian, which was built in the 11th century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains a rich collection of religious artifacts and manuscripts. The monastery is perched on a hill overlooking the island and offers stunning panoramic views.

Crete

Crete is the largest and the southmost Greek Island. It is often considered the birthplace of the ancient Minoan civilization, one of the earliest advanced cultures in Europe. The ruins of the Minoan palace of Knossos, located near the modern capital city of Heraklion, are a major archaeological site. The site was impressive and has been heavily restored. I think our biggest disappointment is that many of the original artifacts and paintings that were on display at the archeological site were copies, and the real ones were in a museum (not next to the archeological site). The replicas gave us a good idea of what the place used to look like, but we would have liked to have seen the originals.

Ephesus, Turkey

The town of Ephesus dates back to the 10th century BC when it was founded by Ionian Greeks. It later became a major city in the Roman Empire, with a population that is believed to have reached around 250,000 people during its peak in the 1st century AD. The Virgin Mary lived in Ephesus, and the bible mentions this town and the Ephesians in many passages. For a Christian, this is a very symbolic site. Ephesus also offers a remarkable journey back in time, allowing visitors to walk through well-preserved streets, marvel at the architecture, and imagine life in an ancient Roman city. This is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and travelers interested in ancient civilizations.


A short drive away from Ephesus we visited a rug weaving factory. They explained how the rugs are woven and the amount of man hours that go into one rug. It was incredible. Even the men on our tour were impressed and admired the rugs, not just the women. It is truly a labor of love and worth every penny. These rugs cost thousands of dollars, the price is not determined by the size but by how many hours went into making them. Most take over 12 months to complete!

A Journey Through History

Our trip to Greece was a journey through time, culture, and natural beauty. From the iconic historical sites of Athens to the breathtaking sunsets of Mykonos, the ancient ruins of Ephesus to the tranquil monasteries of Meteora, Greece offers a diverse and enriching travel experience for anyone looking for adventure. Whether you seek adventure in the mountains, relaxation on the beaches, or a deep dive into ancient history, Greece has something to offer every traveler. It truly is is like living and walking through ancient history.

Happy Traveling!

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