12 Days in Greece
Welcome to the perfect Greek getaway, curated for those in search of a tranquil escape. Greece is one of my favorite locations for the beautiful weather and friendly people. The food is fresh and delicious, and from Athens to the islands, there is a bit of something for everyone. This is a 12-night escape, beginning and ending in the historic city of Athens, with most days spent soaking up the sun on the beautiful islands of Santorini and Crete. I took this trip with my husband and our close friends, so this itinerary is designed for two couples, but feel free to mix and match it to fit your trip.
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Where to stay
Vedema, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini
Within the medieval village of Megalochori, this special resort takes inspiration from its ancient setting, with peaceful rooms, a prized wine cellar and authentic spa.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out based upon availability at check-in.
Domes Zeen Chania, a Luxury Collection Resort, Crete
Luxurious beachfront resort in Chania, Crete, offering a blend of contemporary design, exceptional amenities and stunning views of the Aegean Sea.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
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Day 1: Arrival in Athens and leisurely first evening
Your Greek adventure begins the moment you land in Athens. I highly recommend a prepared transfer that will take you directly to your accommodation.
A great place to stay is in the Plaka district. This vibrant area, renowned for its scenic beauty and historical significance, is ideal for first-time visitors, with its central location and welcoming atmosphere.
I prefer to settle in with a local coffee and a celebratory bottle of local sparkling wine or champagne. Unwind and relax for the afternoon.
After freshening up, its time to explore and find some food! Check out the Ydria Cafe for
fresh seafood and pleasant outdoor seating.
Day 2: Exploring Athens – parks & local cuisine
Kick off your second day in Athens by wandering through the sprawling streets of the city. Each corner has cute boutiques and tasty snacks. There are a few more touristy flea markets that are worth a walk through, if not just to people watch!
Athens has some beautiful parks. The Athens National Garden is a particularly enjoyable spot. This offers a nice break from the bustling streets, grab a coffee and take a mid-day stroll.
Of course, an exploration of Athens wouldn't be complete without indulging in its culinary scene. For a truly exceptional dining experience, I recommend a meal at Varoulko Seaside, a Michelin-starred restaurant that we reached comfortably by cab. Don't miss out on the wonderful appetizers and the views over the water.
As your day of exploration winds down, immerse yourself in the local nightlife at Barley Cargo. A cute spot to enjoy a selection of local and international beers. There's no better way to toast to your second day in Athens than with a cold beer in hand, surrounded by the vibrant energy of the city at night.
Day 3: The Parthenon and the flavors of Athens
Embrace the third day of your Greek adventure by visiting the iconic Parthenon, a symbol of ancient Greek civilization and a pinnacle of Doric architecture. Sitting atop the Acropolis, this ancient temple dedicated to Athena, the city's namesake goddess, dates back to the 5th century BC. A testament to the Athenians' ambitious vision, the Parthenon's enduring elegance lies in its towering presence and incredible architectural details, making it a masterpiece of Greek history. A trip to Greece wouldn't be complete without a visit to this remarkable site.
Having soaked in the wonderful views from the Acropolis, make your way down to the city's lively streets where local eateries await. Indulge in some classic Greek cuisine, our top choices include the lamb gyros and grilled octopus - yum!
As evening rolls around, I highly recommend a visit to The Clumsies. Here you'll find creative cocktails and a great menu. A top dish of our trip included their exquisite bechamel pasta. As your last full day in the city concludes, take a stop at a bar or two on your way back to your hotel and enjoy the city life.
Day 4: To the islands - Santorini
The fourth day of your Greek getaway beckons you to the idyllic island of Santorini. While a flight is quick and convenient, we highly recommend taking the ferry at least once during your visit. The journey across the Aegean Sea not only offers stunning ocean views, but it's a novel way to experience the magnitude of Greece's oceans.
For those prone to seasickness, ensure you're equipped with anti-nausea medication. Booking a full cabin with beds is another worthwhile upgrade, promising a comfortable voyage.
FYI - make sure to stay informed about local news. Occasionally, local strikes can occur, which could impact your travel plans. Always have a backup plan and stay flexible - an essential tenet of stress-free travel.
Upon arrival in Santorini, you have the choice to book a transfer or rent a car. Navigating the island's winding roads can be part of the fun if you're up for the adventure! Check into your island accommodation - we recommend the charming Vedema Santorini hotel. This is tucked into the quieter part of the island. While you'll have to drive out to the idyllic cliffs of Oia, this is a nice place to enjoy some local culture and have a break from the touristy areas.
Days 5 & 6: Enjoying Santorini
Dedicate your next couple days to exploring the wonders of Santorini. I'd recommend a journey into the island's renowned viticulture with a wine tour. Our hotel graciously coordinated ours, and we particularly loved the cliffside Venetsanos Winery. Here, you'll not only taste exquisite wines but also learn about the unique basket-shaped grapevines, a trademark technique used in the vineyards on the island to protect the grapes from harsh winds and intense summer heat.
Oia, with its iconic blue-domed churches and whitewashed houses clinging to the cliffside, is the perfect place to soak in breathtaking views of the caldera. We suggest an early morning or an afternoon visit as the area gets crowded around sunset. To secure a serene spot for the sunset spectacle, plan ahead and make a reservation, or scope out a spot well in advance.
Around the hotel, the charming village of Megalochori offers a plethora of inviting restaurants. We particularly loved Feggera, a delightful little eatery known for its local cuisine and cute courtyard.
Day 7: Journey to Crete
Today, say goodbye to the picturesque cliffside landscapes of Santorini as you embark on a new adventure to the largest Greek island - Crete. A quicker ferry ride smoothly transitions you between the islands, a journey that once again lets you bask in the splendor of the Aegean Sea.
Remember, Crete is expansive. Upon arrival, you'll realize that distances can be deceptive, as our stay at the luxurious Domes Zeen was a two-hour drive from the port. To ensure a hassle-free transit, I highly recommend arranging a transfer service or renting a car. As you traverse through the diverse landscapes of Crete, the anticipation of the island's rich history and vibrant lifestyle begins to grow, setting the stage for the next chapter of your Grecian odyssey.
Day 8 & 9: Olive groves, wine tasting, and beach views
Your first full days on Crete promise an immersive dive into the heart of Mediterranean culture. Start your journey with a visit to the local olive farms, where you'll witness the traditional process of olive oil making. Be ready to taste some of the world's finest olive oil, fresh from the press, and learn about the age-old techniques used in its creation. A great gift to bring home for loved ones as well!
In the spirit of local flavors, a trip to Manousakis Winery is a must. Nestled amidst the verdant landscapes of Crete, the winery offers an authentic insight into winemaking traditions that have stood the test of time. Pair your tour with an unforgettable dinner amidst the vines, savoring the vibrant flavors of Cretan cuisine and world-class wines.
Crete's coastal cities is also not to be missed. Spend your day soaking in the sun in the town of Chania. The crystal-clear waters, set against a backdrop of quaint boutiques and vibrant life, are just a 15-minute stroll from the Domes Zeen.
To cap off any one of your days in Crete, make your way to The Five Restaurant. Offering beach-side dining, this gem offers an exquisite menu and a nice cocktail list. As you relish in the delicate flavors, the sound of waves and setting sun create the perfect ambiance to toast your Grecian adventure.
Day 10: Hiking the Samaria Gorge
Nestled in the rugged heartland of the White Mountains, the Samaria Gorge is a breathtaking testament to Crete's wild beauty. This impressive gorge, one of Europe's longest, runs a robust 16 kilometers (or roughly 10 miles) - a gorgeous hike for any outdoor enthusiast. Venturing down its craggy path, you will traverse ancient riverbeds and lush forestland, immersing yourself in the beautiful terrain.
An old village, aptly named Samaria, whispers tales of a long ago past, its remnants nestled midway through the hike.
A word of caution: the trek down can be intense, especially on the knees due to the steep downhill sections. My husband was glad he wore his knee brace for his weak knee (from years of playing tennis), and gladly accepted the walking sticks they offer. The walking sticks provided a nice additional support, and made the downhill part of the hike more comfortable.
The terrain can be challenging, rocky and uneven in parts. I managed fine in my Allbirds, but those prone to ankle injuries might prefer hiking boots for added support. Also, remember that the trail is long, so pack ample water and snacks to keep you energized throughout the hike. We found trail mix, jerky, and some fresh fruit to be a great combination.
After navigating the rugged, beautiful terrain, the gorge gracefully opens up to the expansive Libyan Sea. A well-earned swim in its cooling waters is the perfect finale to the hike - so be sure to bring your swimsuit along.
In summary, tackling the Samaria Gorge is not just about the hike - it's an encounter with Crete's untamed landscape, steeped in history, and rewarded by the refreshing embrace of the sea. So lace up, pack well, and get ready for an unforgettable
Day 11 & 12: Farewell to Greece
As our Greek escape drew to a close, we bid adieu to the breathtaking island of Crete and embarked on a swift flight back to Athens. We spent our final night soaking in the city's charm, reminiscing about our travels, and already dreaming of our next visit.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Nilda Del Valle Heller’s guide, Greece 10-Day Itinerary of Incredible Beauty.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Greece.