Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics, numerous philosophical theories and democracy. While Athens is the capital of Greece and its major hub, there is more to the country than the mainland. Countless Greek islands offer a glimpse into the culture, cuisine and lifestyle of the Greek people, and they also often provide amazing beaches and unparalleled scenic beauty. This ultimate week-long trip to go island hopping in Greece starts and ends in Athens, but includes stops along the way in amazing Greek islands like Santorini, Mykonos and Delos.
Athens is one of the most popular places to start a trip through Greece simply because it is home to the country’s largest airport, the Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport. The major attraction in Athens is the Acropolis, the ancient high city that was built to honor the goddess Athena. Within the Acropolis, you can tour the 2,5000 year-old Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, the Theatre of Dionysis and the Propylea. Other landmarks with incredible history include the Panathinaiko Stadium, which hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896, the ancient cemetery of Kerameikos and the National Archeological Museum.
At the peak of Greek culture, Delphi was considered to be the center of the universe. Delphi was home to the omphalos stone and, therefore, the most important oracle of the god Apollo. Today, Delphi is a popular day trip destination thanks to its proximity to Athens, but also because of the amazing condition of the ruins. You won’t want to miss the Temple of Apollo, the archaeological museum or the Sanctuary of Athena with the Tholos. Delphi is also a wonderful spot for hiking or cycling, and plenty of narrow paths wind through the mountains and provide spectacular vantage points over the Greek countryside.
Arguably the most famous of the Greek islands is Santorini, which is part of the Cyclades island group in the South Aegean Sea. The volcanic island boasts world-famous views, amazing beaches and a unique blend of big towns and small villages. It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago which also includes Therasia. In the middle of the archipelago is a huge caldera, and destinations like Oia and Fira are perched right on the edge and face the volcanic crater formed roughly 3,500 years ago. Parts of the draw to Santorini include its gorgeous beaches, changing landscape, cliffs overlooking the sea and stunning white architecture. There are endless hikes, beaches like Red Beach and Baxedes and several wineries. You can also dine at a taverna and enjoy local specialties like fried tomato balls or stuffed vine leaves.
Mykonos is another Greek island located in the South Aegean Sea, and it is hugely popular with visitors ready to party until the early hours of the morning or kick back on beautiful white-sand beaches. More historic attractions do exist, of course, and you might spend the day touring the 16th century windmills or exploring the Archaeological Museum of Mykonos. Don’t leave, however, without checking out the island’s world-famous beaches, which include spots like Agios Stefanos, Kalafati and Platys Gialos. After sunset, make your way through the whitewashed buildings and winding lanes of Mykonos Town and enjoy the lively shopping boutiques, restaurants and incredible nightlife at the dozens of bars, clubs and lounges that operate until dawn.
Mykonos makes a great home base for a short trip to the island of Delos, the birth place of Apollo and Artemis in Greek legend. Delos is uninhabited, and daily ferries can take you there from Mykonos for the chance to explore the ruins. While in Delos, you will be able to see the three temples dedicated to Apollo, the Altar of Dionysos, the sacred lake where Artemis was allegedly born, the Terrace of the Lions, Cleopatra’s House and a theater dating back for more than 2,300 years that could hold more than 5,000 people in its heyday. Delos also boasts a museum filled with Greek sculptures and vases as well as a small cafe.
Round out your island hopping in Greece with a final night in the capital city of Athens. If you have already explored the major landmarks and museums, spend this last 24 hours exploring the true culture of the city. If possible, catch a show at the ancient Herodes Atticus Theatre, or cheer on the local Athens team Panathinaikos at a Greek basketball game. Soak up the sun from one of the beaches near Athens like Vouliagmeni, and then take a quick hike through the Pnyx and Ardettos Hill. End the day with a grilled kebab called souvlaki, try the sweet pastry called kataifi for dessert, and mingle with locals at a bar in the Plaka district.
Day 1: Arrive in Athens, sleep in Athens
Day 2: Nafplio or Delphi day trip, sleep in Athens
Day 4: Explore Santorini, sleep in Santorini
Day 6: Delos half-day trip, sleep in Mykonos
Day 7: Return to Athens, sleep in Athens
Day 8: Fly home