The Best Places to Visit in Greece for the First Time: 14 Options

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The Modern Travel Agency


    Between the ancient city of Athens to Mykonos (the nightlife capital of the eastern Mediterranean) as well as many unique islands to explore, it can be tough to decide where to go in Greece for the first time. Below, we’re breaking down the best places to visit in Greece for first-timers. Whether you’re looking for incredible food  or the best beaches (or a bit of both), we’ve got you covered. 

    For personalized recommendations, reach out to a Fora Advisor. Not only can your Fora Advisor provide expert travel suggestions and tips, but they can also unlock VIP perks at the best hotels in Greece (or anywhere). 

    14 of the best places to visit in Greece for first-timers

    Read on for 14 of the best places to visit in Greece, including some tried-and-true favorites as well as some off-the-beaten-path offerings.

    1–2. Athens & the Athens Riviera: where to go in Greece for first-timers interested in culture, variety & great beaches

    A view of the Athens Riviera an its beaches, forests and homes from the private balcony of a suite at Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens

    Image courtesy of Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens

    Considered by many historians to be the birthplace of Western civilization, Athens is an ancient city overflowing with culture. It’s also one of the best places to stay in Greece for first-time visitors. Remnants of Ancient Greece are prominently spread throughout the city’s narrow stone streets. The Acropolis (which has an accompanying museum), Hadrian’s Arc and the Temple of Zeus are among the most famous sites, but there are many more. (Insider tip: your Fora Advisor can help you arrange a private tour of the Acropolis, even one that’s after hours. Ask us how).

    Athens is typically the hub city you’ll fly into on a trip to Greece, but it’s more than just a layover destination. It’s a great spot to sample Greek cuisine, local and upscale shopping, cultural experiences…the list goes on. 

    But there’s plenty to do in Athens’ surrounding areas, too. To name a few, you can get off-the-beaten-path to Hydra, take a day trip to the Ruins of Delphi or enjoy a segue to the Athens Riviera. The latter is home to luxe resorts — like Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel, our top-booked hotel in all of Greece. More commonly known as the Four Seasons Athens, it’s worth noting that the property isn’t in Athens itself, it’s in the Riviera (driving from Athens proper takes anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours, depending on traffic). The One&Only Aesthesis is a welcome new contender to the hotel scene; it welcomed its first guests in November 2023. 

    We recommend the Athens Riviera at the end of your trip – it’s a great spot for some quality R&R time, especially if you’ve had a jam-packed schedule in the rest of your trip. However, you might also opt for the Athens Riviera before your trip (or as a destination in itself). Just note that you’ll get a different, more laid-back vibe there than you will with the bustling city center in Athens proper. 

    For more intel on Athens and the Athens Riviera, check out our guides to how many days in Athens you need or the best boutique hotels in Athens (A77 is a great local option that’s hidden behind a boutique clothing store). You can always connect with a Fora Advisor for a personalized itinerary.

    Fora Perks at Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens:

    • When you book Four Seasons through Fora, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

    Fora Perks at A77 Suites by Andronis:

    • Complimentary air & concierge services.

    Fora Perks at One&Only Aesthesis:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    3. Mykonos: a vibrant island known for its party life

    Sapphire seas contrast with rocky hills and the whitewashed buildings of Cali Mykonos

    Image courtesy of Cali Mykonos

    It’s not an understatement to call Mykonos the nightlife capital of the Mediterranean (although Ibiza, a Spain bucket list essential, is a top contender). But at the very least, Mykonos is Greece’s nightlife capital. This Greek island is an electric, must-stop destination for a party seeker’s first time in Greece. The best time to visit is late spring through very early fall, when the weather is warm and comfortable.

    A favorite among celebrities and discerning travelers, Mykonos is fairly small — you can easily traverse the entire island by vehicle in a few hours or less — but it’s packed with lively beaches, waterfront clubs and, if you prefer a quieter stay (or temporary reprieve), private villas.

    Mykonos also has a fantastic reputation among LGBTQ+ travelers, and many clubs and bars cater to the community (allies are welcome, too).

    As for places to stay, Cali Mykonos is one of our favorite properties on the island (whether it’s your first visit or otherwise). Whitewashed villas built into a rocky hillside provide lavish furnishings and gorgeous views of the Mediterranean. It’s worth noting that Cali Mykonos is located on a quieter side of the island, so you’ll have a respite from the party crowds. 

    If you’re traveling with a group, BlueVillas are a great option. They have different villas across the entire island, in a variety of different price points and sizes. Your Fora Advisor can help matchmake you to one that matches your travel preferences. BlueVillas are a great hybrid option between a hotel and rental home because their team can help to arrange private chefs, transportation and 24/7 bespoke service.

    Fora Perks at Cali Mykonos:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, complimentary boat transfer to a beach club on Mykonos’ South Coast, welcome amenity, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    4. Santorini: if you’re craving that Instagrammable moment

    Sea view from a private terrace at Katikies Santorini

    Image courtesy of Katikies Santorini

    Santorini’s popularity puts it near the top of many travelers’ lists of where to go in Greece for the first time. Chances are, you’ve seen the island’s whitewashed cliffs more than a few times on your Instagram feed. 

    Yes, Santorini is becoming more touristy, but if the destination is high on your bucket list, it’s still worth a visit. We recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons to avoid the crowds; May is a great time for fewer (but still a lot) of tourists, plus you’ll also get milder climates. 

    Santorini’s sunsets are among the best in the world. Even locals often make a point of stopping whatever they’re doing to admire the coming dusk.Santorini’s popularity means there’s something to do for everyone here. You can take a boat tour of nearby islands, check out the local villages, go shopping, enjoy an Aperol Spritz with a stunning view… There’s a reason this is a bucket list destination for many. 

    In terms of where to stay, if you saw Santorini on Instagram and you want to replicate that classic Santorini experience, Katikies is a great option. It’s got a boutique feel to it which serves the property well. It is worth noting that if you stay in the popular caldera area, you won’t get as much privacy, but if this is your must-have bucketlist spot, then it’s a good bet. Alternatively, Canaves Oia is located just on the other side (within a walkable distance) of the tourist hot spots, and it’s a respite in itself. 

    Or, if you’re looking for a quieter, more intimate experience just outside of Santorini, Santa Irini Retreat is located on the nearby (and very small) island of Thirasia. A small home, Santa Irini Retreat is perfect for a group getaway, or, we’re daydreaming of the perfect small wedding hosted on the island. 

    Fora Perks at Katikies Santorini:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, welcome drink, upgrade whenever available & guaranteed late check out.

    Fora Perks at Canaves Oia:

    • $100 food / beverage credit, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    5. Crete: the place to go for a family’s first time in Greece

    A lone swimmer strokes through a sapphire-blue pool surrounded by luxe loungers at Minos Beach Art Hotel in Crete

    Image courtesy of Minos Beach Art Hotel

    Crete is the largest of the Greek Isles, and has numerous activities to try. Go kitesurfing off the coast, enjoy local cuisine in charming towns, tour ancient ruins, relax on Crete’s beaches and more. The options are plentiful, and mostly family friendly, too, making Crete one of the best Greek islands for families to visit together.

    Like Santorini, Crete does have a reputation for being more touristy. But as you venture away from the beaten path, you’ll find a genuine side of the island. 

    “From secluded beachfront retreats to lavish resorts nestled in historical settings, Crete offers an array of unforgettable accommodations to suit every taste,” Fora Advisor Elizabeth Kaczka explained in her travel guide on the island.

    For families, Elizabeth recommends the Elounda Gulf Villas & Suites, Elounda.

    “Perched on a hillside overlooking the Gulf of Mirabello, the hotel is ideal for families and couples seeking ultimate privacy and personalized service,” she said.

    6. Paros: where to go in Greece for first-timers who want to relax

    Aerial view: the sun sets over distant mountains, with loungers lining the shoreline in front of Cosme, a Luxury Collection Resort, Paros

    Image courtesy of Cosme, a Luxury Collection Resort, Paros

    Paros is quickly rising in the ranks as one of the top islands to visit in Greece. It’s got a more laid back, quiet vibe, and is perfect for those who simply want to relax. The island offers a much more authentic experience than some of the more popular destinations: for example, you’ll find more local, boutique stores than the big chains like Gucci and Prada that you’ll see in Mykonos. The locals are friendly, Greek culture is celebrated, the scenery is extraordinary. Paros is a special choice with a boutique vibe that resonates well with people who love off-the-beaten-path travel.

    Among our favorite places to stay in Paros: Cosme and Parīlio. Both offer a luxe vibe and ample opportunities for unwinding and taking in the scenery.

    Fora Perks at Cosme, A Luxury Collection Resort, Paros:

    • Complimentary air & concierge services.

    Fora Perks at Parīlio, a Member of Design Hotels:

    • $100 food / beverage credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    7–8. Thessaloniki & Mount Olympus National Park: a mix of contemporary Greek culture & natural beauty

    Greece’s second-largest city behind Athens, Thessaloniki brings an entirely different cultural experience. 

    The city’s architecture, markets and waterfront promenade display a rich blend of Byzantine, Ottoman and Roman influences. It’s a stark contrast from the ancient Greek influences you’ll find throughout much of the rest of the country. But what really makes Thessaloniki such an interesting place to visit in Greece is its thriving youth culture. Thessaloniki is home to one of Greece’s most prominent universities, and the large student body has cultivated a fun, cosmopolitan vibe throughout the city.

    From the iconic White Tower to the trendy neighborhood of Ladadika (The Met is a great choice if you don’t mind it’s slightly out-of-the-way location), Thessaloniki invites first-time visitors to wander a mix of trendy and ancient haunts, savor diverse cuisine and immerse themselves in its captivating mix of past and present.

    If you need a break from the urban hustle and bustle of Thessaloniki, one of Greece’s best-kept natural secrets, Mount Olympus National Park, is only about 90 minutes away by car. 

    The legendary home of the ancient Greek Gods, Mount Olympus wows guests with its towering peaks, lush forests and rugged landscapes, providing opportunities for hiking and wildlife observation. Dedicated hikers willing to brave the Enipeas Gorge will be rewarded with some of the best views in the park (including the gorge’s many waterfalls).

    If you want to include a day trip to Mount Olympus with your Thessaloniki itinerary, a Fora Advisor will be happy to provide expert assistance.

    Fora Perks at The Met, Thessaloniki:

    • Welcome amenity, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    9. Kefalonia: a special island for nature enthusiasts

    The largest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia is home to dramatic landscapes and some of the best beaches in the Greek Isles. Myrtos Beach, for example, is consistently ranked among the world's best beaches. 

    Other unique highlights include Melissani Cave and its enchanting blue lake, which offer a magical experience for visitors. And the island’s small villages, such as Fiskardo with its Venetian architecture, provide a glimpse into the island's rich history and culture. 

    Celestial and Eliamos Villas Hotel are among the top accommodations on Kefalonia. Both cater to small groups and travelers seeking homey, spacious suites or private villas. 

    Fora Perks at Celestial All Suites:

    • €20 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenity, upgrade & extended check-out whenever possible. 

    Fora Perks at Eliamos Villas Hotel & Spa:

    • Breakfast daily.

    10. Naxos: a lovely island ideal for tranquil getaways

    Private villa with a pool surrounded by loungers

    Image courtesy of Naxian Collection

    Like Kefalonia, Naxos offers an enchanting mix of ancient history and natural beauty. It is the greenest island in the Cyclades group, and offers valleys, mountains and landscapes that differ from the more arid terrain of other islands. Quiet beaches like Agios Prokopios and Plaka boast golden sands and crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming and sunbathing. 

    The island is steeped in deep Greek mythology: it is known as the birthplace of Zeus. The island's deep history is evident in landmarks like the Portara (a.k.a. the ancient Greek Temple of Apollo), a massive marble gateway that stands as a testament to its ancient past. Traditional villages like Apiranthos and Halki invite visitors to explore cobbled streets, local crafts and authentic cuisine. Then lush landscapes provide a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering excellent hiking and cycling trails.

    There aren’t many hotels and resorts on Naxos — which is part of its charm— but one place that stands out is the Naxian Collection. The resort is made up of a collection of whitewashed villas promising beautiful views, privacy and luxe amenities.

    Naxos' close proximity to smaller islands like Paros, Antiparos and the Small Cyclades makes it convenient for island-hopping day trips.

    Fora Perks at Naxian Collection:

    • $50 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    11. Rhodes: one of the best places to visit in Greece for history buffs

    Classical statues and hedge art surrounds an elegant pool courtyard at Rodos Park in Rhodes, Greece

    Image courtesy of Rodos Park

    The island of Rhodes (or Rodos) is best known for its walled, UNESCO-recognized medieval city center, which dates back to the 14th century. Yet, even within the castle walls, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Rhodes: narrow alleys host interesting shops, lively tavernas and local homes. It’s another island rich with Greek mythology history, and is believed to be the island where the sun god Helios resided. The island’s name comes from the nymph Rhodos, who bore seven sons to Helios.

    Modern Rhodes invites travelers to bask on loungers at high-end resorts like Rodos Park and peruse a mix of recognizable retailers and local boutiques. 

    If you’re looking to add on a lesser-known day trip, Rhodes' location in the Dodecanese chain close to Türkiye allows for easy day trips across the border.

    Fora Perks at Rodos Park:

    • $50 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    12. Zakynthos (a.k.a Zante): for nightlife seekers, a more casual alternative to Mykonos 

    Glowing pools and water features define the well-manicured resort grounds at Lesante Blu Exclusive Beach Resort at night

    Image courtesy of Lesante Blu Exclusive Beach Resort

    Zakynthos isn’t quite as glamorous (or Instagrammed) as Mykonos, but it’s arguably just as electric, particularly in the region of Laganas. Along its rocky coasts, you’ll still find lavish resorts (like Lesante Blu) intermixed with nightclubs, bars and restaurants. A few crowd favorites include Rescue Club and CherryBay Beach Club. 

    The island also hosts stunning natural beauty, with Navagio Beach being one of the top spots. Turquoise waves tumble over white sands while rougher seas are usually kept at bay by surrounding mountains and cliffs, which also happen to make the beach inaccessible by land. A Fora Advisor can connect you with the best boat tour operators on the island (our guide to exploring Zakynthos has more details). For animal lovers, it’s worth noting that Zakynthos is a major nesting ground for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle. Areas like Laganas Bay are protected as part of the National Marine Park to safeguard these nesting sites.

    Fora Perks at Lesante Blu Exclusive Beach Resort:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    13. Corfu: an off-the-beaten-path destination great for first-time visitors to Greece

    The shoreline of Corfu takes center stage, with sapphire waves turning turquoise in the shallows and whitewashed resort buildings lining the beaches

    Image courtesy of Domes Miramare, A Luxury Collection Resort, Corfu

    As one of the more unique places to visit in Greece, Corfu is a great destination for travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience. The island’s location in the Mediterranean protects it from choppy seas, making it one of the best places to visit in Greece for watersports — kayaking, snorkeling, boat tours and anything waterbound.  

    It is another island known as one of the top party islands in Europe, especially the Kavos area.On the coasts, beach resorts (such as Domes Miramare), clubs and taverns offer a lively nightlife scene. 

    As you move inland, small towns showcase a quieter side of Greek island life and historical architecture. If you’re interested in spending a few days in Corfu, our guide offers itinerary ideas. 

    Fora Perks at Domes Miramare, A Luxury Collection Resort, Corfu:

    • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, complimentary air & concierge services, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    14. Milos: a low-key Greek island with culture, adventure and lovely scenery

    At Domes White Coast Milos, one of the coolest places to stay in Greece: a luxe and minimalist infinity pool area leads to Milos' rocky shoreline, with other Greek islands visible in the far distance

    Image courtesy of Domes White Coast Milos

    Milos shares a lot of traits with Paros: it’s quiet, beautiful and a solid choice for visitors to Greece interested in cultural immersion. There’s still a fun nightlife to experience in the island’s major port, Adamantas (or Adamas), but it’s fairly tame compared to Mykonos’ scene. Still, Milos makes a case for being one of the best Greek islands for families — you don’t really have to worry about encountering rowdy crowds as much as you would on some of the other islands.

    The island also has beautiful outdoor offerings. It’s known for stunning beaches like Sarakiniko, as well as volcanic landscapes that formed the island’s geology.  

    Regarding where to stay in Milos, the island’s options mostly boil down to boutique hotels and luxury options, though still comparatively low-key, hilltop or beach resorts like Domes White Coast and Melian Boutique Hotel and Spa.

    Fora Perks at Domes White Coast Milos:

    • $50 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

    A few tips for your first visit to Greece

    If this is your first time planning a trip to Greece, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

    Greece has great weather well beyond its peak travel season, but not all resorts are open

    This does depend on where you want to visit, as each island has its own microclimate. However, given Greece’s location in the Mediterranean, the climate is largely warm and comfortable year-round. It can get chilly in winter, and wind is a major consideration if you’re ferrying between certain islands. (There are other options besides ferrying between islands, including private transfers, and flights on certain islands.) 

    Plus, many resorts in the Greek Isles are only open from spring to fall. If you’re interested in visiting Greece during the shoulder seasons, for instance, you can always check with a Fora Advisor to see which hotels and resorts will be open.

    Read more: The Best Time to Visit Greece & the Greek Isles: Full Guide 

    Greece is largely a family-friendly destination 

    Even on the Mykonos and Zakynthos, famous for their nightlife, there’s plenty for families to enjoy away from the more electric areas. Ultimately, consider Greece an excellent destination for families looking for a new place to explore together.

    One thing to keep in mind: Greece doesn’t have designated nude beaches, but it’s not uncommon to encounter people swimming or lounging in the nude if you venture away from the busiest parts of popular beaches.

    English is widely spoken in urban areas & popular destinations

    Throughout all the best places to visit in Greece, you shouldn’t have much trouble with language barriers. English is commonly spoken in resort areas and major cities. As you venture into more rural areas, you can expect fewer English speakers.

    Greece is a great destination for island hopping

    You don’t have to choose just one spot to visit in Greece. The islands are pretty easy to get around, and many travelers opt to include several in an itinerary (especially if you have a week or more for your vacation). A lot of travelers also pair Athens with an island visit. Reach out to a Fora Advisor to share your travel preferences, and they can help to make some recommendations for your trip.

    For expert help planning your first (or any) visit to the best places in Greece, ask a Fora Advisor

    Few places as small as Greece offer such a diverse array of amazing places to visit for first-timers. Deciding where to go in Greece can be tough, especially if you’re not quite sure whether you’re more interested in exploring old ruins, picturesque Mediterranean beaches or anything in between. 

    For personalized travel recommendations, book and plan your trip with a Fora Advisor. They’ll help you navigate all your options — and can curate an itinerary that’ll take you to many of the best places to visit in Greece, including island hopping. Plus, they’ll help you unlock perks and insider experiences throughout your trip. Reach out to book today.

    Other travel inspiration resources

    Greece isn’t the only great destination in the region; check out more incredible places to visit in the Mediterranean and Mid-Atlantic:

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