Jul 12, 2023



Travel Inspiration

The Best Places to Visit in Greece for the First Time: 13 Options

Fora Author Fora

The Modern Travel Agency


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Between the ancient city of Athens, Mykonos — the nightlife capital of the eastern Mediterranean — and many unique islands to explore, it can be tough to decide where to go in Greece for the first time. Below, we break down the best places to visit in Greece for first-timers seeking everything from the most delectable gastronomy to the best beaches. 

Or, if you prefer a tailored approach, consider reaching out to a Fora Advisor for help deciding where to go in Greece. Not only can your Fora Advisor provide expert travel suggestions and tips, but they can also score you VIP perks at the best hotels in Greece (or anywhere). It’s like having a (super knowledgeable) friend within the travel industry.

The 13 best places to visit in Greece for first-timers

Read on for 13 of the best places to visit in Greece.

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. 

Athens is ultimately where to go in Greece for the first time if you want to sample as much as possible: 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, arguably one of the best resorts in Greece for couples — gorgeous beaches and an excellent change of pace and scenery from Athens’ urban sprawl.

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 and King George are among our favorites). Or you can always connect with a Fora Advisor for the lowdown on any destination or hotel.

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 King George, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Athens:

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

3. Mykonos: one of the best places to visit in Greece for first-timers who want to party all night

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.

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 available.

4. Santorini: where to go for a couple’s first time in Greece

Sea view from a private terrace at Katikies Santorini

Image courtesy of Katikies Santorini

Santorini’s popularity puts it near the top of many travel experts’ lists of where to go in Greece for the first time. While the island does have a bit of a touristy reputation among Fora Advisors (not that there’s anything wrong with that), one thing that virtually everyone agrees on is that the quieter parts of the island are quite romantic. 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. It’s why we consider Santorini one of the best Greek islands for couples

Beyond the magical nightfalls, 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…And many of the best places to stay in Santorini (we’re enamored with Katikies) allow you to relax right on the beach, admiring the crystal-clear waves.

Fora Perks at Katikies Santorini:

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

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 a little touristy. But as you venture away from the beaten path, you’ll find a much more genuine side of the island. 

As for where to stay in Crete for your first visit, Minos Beach Art Hotel is a beautiful choice right on the beach. You can also ask a Fora Advisor for the lowdown on all your best options.

Fora Perks at Minos Beach Art Hotel:

  • Welcome amenities, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever available.

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 an underrated option among the best places to visit in Greece, especially for those who simply want to relax. The island offers a much more authentic experience than some of the more popular destinations: 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 available.

7. Thessaloniki: one of the best places to experience contemporary Greek culture

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 (Teight Hotel is one of our favorites here), 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.

Fora Perks at Teight Hotel:

  • Welcome amenities & upgrade whenever available.

8. Mount Olympus National Park: an exciting day trip from Thessaloniki 

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 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.

9. Nafplio (a.k.a. Nafplion): a charming Greek city on the mainland ideal for anyone who wants a low-key stay

Nafplio is often overshadowed by Greece’s larger cities and islands. But, that’s precisely why it’s one of the best places to visit in Greece for  travelers seeking a laid-back, authentic trip. 

Nafplio is home to fresh seafood restaurants, casual and upscale boutiques, lovely beaches and so much more. It’s a great place for to explore Old-World streets with the backdrop of a gorgeous harbor. 

Nafplio does have fewer hotels and resorts than, say, Athens or Chania, but you can always ask a Fora Advisor for advice.

10. Rhodes: one of the best places to visit in Greece for Gothic architecture (& lively beaches)

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. Strolling through old fortifications takes you back to a more precarious age. 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. 

Meanwhile, 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. 

Fora Perks at Rodos Park:

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

11. 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 as Mykonos, but it’s arguably just as electric. Along its rocky coasts, you’ll still find lavish resorts (like Lesante Blu) intermixed with nightclubs, bars and restaurants. At the same time, the island is more frequently visited by families; it’s a happy medium between Mykonos and Crete or Santorini.

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).

Fora Perks at Lesante Blu Exclusive Beach Resort:

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

12. 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…  

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. For personalized recommendations, connect with a Fora Advisor.

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.

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

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’. 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. 

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

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. 

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.

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 expert travel suggestions, consider booking and planning 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 — all while booking you incredible accommodations, planning your logistics and unlocking VIP hotel perks.

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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