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BlogDestinationsEmbark on your own Greek odyssey: The ultimate Travel Guide to Greece
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Embark on your own Greek odyssey: The ultimate Travel Guide to Greece

Nov 22, 2023 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

With a historical heritage spanning millennia, shimmering beaches (each more idyllic than the last), fresh cuisine that tastes simultaneously indulgent and healthy, and a warm, welcoming culture beckoning to be embraced, it’s no wonder that Greece is one of our favorite travel destinations. When you join us on one of our Greece tours, you’ll experience all of the diverse beauty, fascinating history, and unrivaled hospitality of this sunny Mediterranean country up close.

“While visiting Greece, I loved learning about Western Civilization and the birthplace of democracy, theater, [and] the Olympic Games,” said traveler Tonya after returning from our Grand Tour of Italy & Greece. “It was amazing visiting and learning about ancient history and ruins. I loved their culture and food and gorgeous mountains and landscapes. The best trip ever.”

Read on for our ultimate travel guide to Greece, including things to see, places to visit, and tips for traveling to Greece.

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The basics

The best time to go

Cities to visit

What to see

What to eat and drink

What to do

Souvenirs to buy

What to pack

Greece travel guide basics

Currency: The euro

Language: Greek is the language spoken throughout Greece, although many people speak some English, especially in the larger cities. However, many signs outside of cities do not include English translations and are written in the Greek alphabet, as traveler Cristol noted when she returned from our Greece’s Cyclades Islands: Naxos & Paros tour: “Everyone in Greece seemed to speak at least some English… English is prevalent, but sign-reading is a different issue, as many outside Athens are not in the Latin alphabet.” One of our best Greece travel tips? Jot down a few key words or phrases and enlist your Tour Director whenever you need help deciphering something.

UNESCO-listed sites: Greece is home to 19 UNESCO-listed sites, including the Acropolis in Athens, the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Meteora, the Archaeological Site of Olympia, and the Old Town of Corfu.

Best way to get around: The best way to get around the major cities and historical sites is on foot so that you’ll have access to hidden-gem neighborhoods and off-the-beaten-path ruins. We’re also partial to ferries and catamarans for a different perspective when [touring the Greek islands] (/guided-tours/greece-cyclades-islands-naxos-paros). When you join us on a trip to Greece, you and your fellow travelers will move from one location to the next together on a private coach.

Fun fact: Many villages in Greece, especially on the islands, don’t use formal street addresses. Instead, they’re identified by their proximity to landmarks—for example, “the house at the end of the street across from the signpost.”

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When is the best time to visit Greece?

There’s really no bad time to visit Greece, with its lively cities and mild, Mediterranean climate, but if you want to plan your trip around seasonal activities, consider the following:

Visit in the fall for wine tours and the harvest. “November in Greece turned out to be the perfect temperature, and the crowds were at the most wonderful, uncrowded level I have ever experienced,” said traveler Carol, who joined us on our Athens & Ancient Greece tour. Fall in Greece brings mild temperatures, as well as the harvest, making it the best time to enjoy an abundance of fresh, seasonal produce. Join us on a tour of Greece in the fall to taste wine during the joyous year’s end grape collection or witness the rhythm of activity in the olive groves.

Visit in the winter for fewer crowds and holiday celebrations. It’s no secret that we love shoulder season travel, and there are so many reasons to visit the Mediterranean in the off-season, including lighter crowds at many of our favorite sites. Winter temperatures tend to be moderate on the coast, but the farther north you travel on your tour of Greece, the more likely you are to see snow. This is the perfect time of year to travel if you want more time to get to know the locals and enjoy the extra festivities the winter holiday season always brings. Join us on our New Year’s Eve in Rome: Italy & Greece tour and ring in the first few days of a new year exploring places like Athens, Nafplio, Epidaurus, and Mycenae.

Visit in the spring for outdoor exploration. Pleasant weather makes spring the ideal time to explore Greece’s many outdoor sites or hike through the country’s unspoiled nature. “Visiting Greece in the spring offers a kaleidoscope of colorful wildflowers and green valleys,” said traveler Verna, who visited on our Athens & Ancient Greece tour. “There are no crowds and there’s warm, sunny weather.” Join us on the Cretan Coast Boat Ride, Samaria Gorge Hike & Lunch excursion offered on the Crete extension of our Greece’s Cyclades Islands: Naxos & Paros tour to wind your way up hillsides and past the region’s rare flora. Or, do like traveler Kaysha, who chose a speedier method to explore the Greek islands while on the tour: “Naxos was an island like no other. I suggest renting a Vespa ($25 USD) for 24 hours. It made our day!”

Visit in the summer for sun and sand. You’ll find no shortage of beautiful beaches in Greece, and we think the best time to experience them in their full glory is during the hot summer months. Whether you prefer lounging on sandy shores, exploring hidden coves, or savoring fresh seafood in a taverna by the water, summer is the best time to enjoy Greece’s sparkling coastline. Some of our excursions, like the Paros Boat Cruise & Snorkeling excursion offered on our Greece’s Cyclades Islands: Naxos & Paros tour, run seasonally and will take you out on—and into—the water when it’s warm.

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The best places to visit in Greece

From metropolitan cities to ancient archeological sites and island paradises, there are so many incredible places to explore and things to see in Greece. These are some of our favorite places to visit on a trip to Greece.

Athens

This capital city is a must-see stop on any tour of Greece. With a history spanning more than 3,400 years, Athens is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe. It’s seen as the birthplace of democracy and was a hub for art and philosophy in ancient Greece. Today, the city’s heritage seamlessly melds with modern life, creating a harmonious tapestry of culture, historical landmarks, and modern amenities.

Visit Athens on our Grand Tour of Greece: Athens, Corfu & Santorini to stroll through the city’s wide Syntagma Square—a modern plaza with roots in ancient history. Then, head to the Plaka District to grab a bite to eat, shop for souvenirs, or do some people-watching. The charming neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city, and its narrow, winding streets are lined with the best tavernas and sweetest boutiques in Athens. It’s the perfect place to relax and sip a frappé—a frothy iced coffee drink that’s one of the best things to drink in Athens, according to our Athens travel guide—before exploring the legendary ruins of the nearby Acropolis.

Santorini

“Santorini should be on everyone’s bucket list,” said traveler Karen, who visited the island on our Grand Tour of Italy & Greece. “It is gorgeous, and pictures can’t do it justice.” The postcard-worthy volcanic island is known for its black sand beaches, whitewashed buildings, and spectacular sunsets. However, Santorini is also home to fascinating historical sites, like the archaeological site of Akrotiri, known as “the Pompeii of the Aegean.” This Bronze-age city was preserved by a volcanic eruption in the 17th century B.C. Take a tip from our Santorini travel guide and wander the paths and walkways that take you through the ruins of the once-prosperous port town.

Of course, no tour of Santorini would be complete without time spent by—or on—the water. Join us on our Santorini Caldera Cruise & Dinner excursion to cruise through Santorini’s caldera—the underwater crater formed by a volcanic eruption that shaped Santorini and its surrounding islands. Sail past the white and sapphire cliffside village of Oia, then spend the day sunbathing and snorkeling before capping your evening with a dinner of traditional Greek specialties and local wine.

Crete

This wouldn’t be the best Greece travel guide if we didn’t include a little Greek mythology. For a land that’s already steeped in myths and legends, it doesn’t get much more fantastical than Crete, Greece’s largest island. The island is said to be the birthplace of Zeus and is home to the ruins of Knossos Palace, where King Minos imprisoned the legendary Minotaur. You can tour the palace and nearby Heraklion Archaeological Museum, known for its collection of Bronze-age art and artifacts from the Minoan civilization, when you join us on a tour of Crete.

It may not be mythological, but Crete is also known for its legendary wine (see what we did there?). Join us on our Food & Wine: A Taste of Greece tour to visit the Venetian-influenced town of Chania and taste wines made from grape varietals grown exclusively on the island, like Kotsifali and Mandilaria. Tour a local vineyard and then stroll through Chania’s enchanting Venetian harbor to see the striking Egyptian lighthouse at its entrance.

Corfu

“Corfu was my favorite—quaint and lovely!” said traveler Jane after visiting on our Athens & Ancient Greece tour. This tranquil island in the Ionian Sea is one of our favorite hidden corners of Greece, not just for its rolling emerald hills and hidden azure coves but for its diverse architecture and relaxed culture as well. When you join us on a tour of Corfu, stroll through the lovely Spianada, Corfu’s large town square, and look for traces of Italian, French, Turkish, and British influence in the architecture and culture. Later, visit the grand Achillion Palace, the former summer residence of German Kaiser Wilhelm II. The palace’s meticulously designed gardens offer lovely views of the Ionian Sea.

Don’t leave Corfu without trying marmalade, sweets, or liqueur made from kumquats, a bite-sized citrus fruit. Kumquats have Protected Designation of Origin status in Corfu, which means they’re grown, harvested, and processed in that specific geographical area following specific production methods to ensure their authenticity and quality. Traveler Kristie thinks that sipping kumquat liqueur on a sunny afternoon in Corfu’s Old Town is one of the best things to do in Greece, and we agree. “Along with many royals, current and past, I fell in love with the island of Corfu,” she said after returning from our Athens & Ancient Greece tour. “I will be back one day! You must try a kumquat shot…yiamas!”

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The best things to see in Greece

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that there’s a lot to see in Greece—after all, the country is built on thousands of years’ worth of art, artifacts, history, and culture. Below are some of the best things you’ll see when you visit on one of our Greece tours.

The Meteora Monasteries

The soaring Meteora Monasteries look like ancient wonders plucked right out of a dream. The six surviving monasteries—collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site—were built in the 14th century and are perched atop towering sandstone rock columns. “There were so many ‘favorite’ places and moments on this trip, but one that I wasn’t expecting was visiting the monasteries in the Meteora Region,” said traveler Kelly after returning from our Footsteps of Saint Paul in Greece: Thessaloniki to Athens tour. “What an incredible experience to visit these two monasteries perched on top of rock formations that look and feel otherworldly.”

The monasteries are among the most unique places to visit in Greece, and when you visit them on a trip to Meteora, you’ll explore the 1,000-foot-high monasteries and take in breathtaking views of the surrounding Pindus Mountains. Before you make your descent, take some time to meet with the resident nuns to chat about the traditions and faith of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and learn about their lives and work in the monasteries.

The birthplace of the Olympic games

A trip to Olympia is one of the best things to do in Greece if you’re a fan of history, culture, or sports. Here, you’ll step back in time as you explore the Archaeological Site of Olympia, the first location of the famous and enduring Olympic games, which took place in 776 B.C. “What an amazing experience,” said traveler Patty, who joined us on our Athens & Ancient Greece tour. “Everything went smoothly. Not only was this our first tour, it was our first time in Europe, and we loved it. [Tour Director] Rob was amazing; I loved the way he wove Greek mythology stories into our daily trips. One of the reasons we selected Go Ahead Tours was because they include ancient Olympia in the itinerary (not all tour companies do). And we were not disappointed; it was definitely a highlight for us. There were so many great sites, all were wonderful. We still marvel at the antiquities we saw and were awed to see and be in places with such a rich history.”

When you visit Olympia on one of our Greece tours, you’ll see the ancient Gymnasium where the games took place. Try your hand at recreating an ancient Olympic sport, like discus throwing, then admire the artifacts of the Archaeological Museum of Olympia. Nearby, you’ll find the ruins of the Temple of Zeus. The massive temple—the largest in the region—once housed a giant statue of its namesake thunder god, carved by the famous Greek sculptor Phidias. Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the statue was destroyed by the end of the 5th century A.D. Today, all that remains of the statue are depictions in texts and on coins and pottery.

The Acropolis in Athens

No Greece travel guide would be complete without mentioning one of the top things to see in Greece—the Acropolis in Athens. Home of the iconic Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, this ancient citadel is located on a rocky hilltop overlooking Greece’s capital city. “I was totally in my element as a history teacher on this trip to Greece,” said traveler Gregory of our A Week in Ancient Greece: Athens, Delphi & Olympia tour. “I feel that while it was only a week, I got to see just about everything that I have studied about ancient Greece and Greek mythology. Being at the Parthenon is easily one of the highlights of my life so far, the navel of western civilization. Just to be in that one spot, I could just feel the history of this place.”

Join us on a trip to Athens to explore the Parthenon as well as the Temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheion, an asymmetrical temple held up by female statues in place of columns. Not only will you get to admire some of the most striking and famous classical architecture in Greece, but you’ll also be treated to unbeatable views of Athens and its surrounding landscape—on a clear day, you’ll see all the way to the shimmering Aegean Sea.

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What to eat and drink in Greece

One of our favorite things to do in Greece is to enjoy the cuisine. Whether you join us on the Athens Home-Hosted Dinner excursion on our Food & Wine: A Taste of Greece tour, the Food of Athens Walking Tour excursion on our A Week in Greece: Athens, Mykonos & Santorini tour, or pop into a seaside taverna on one of the islands for a quick bite with friends, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sample the diverse and abundant seasonal dishes that the country is known for when you join us on one of our Greece tours. “We ate our way through Greece with zeal!” said traveler Ann, who joined us on our Greece’s Cyclades Islands: Naxos & Paros tour. These are some of the must-try dishes to enjoy in Greece.

Feta cheese. If you try just one thing in Greece, make it the feta. This tangy cheese is celebrated for its balanced flavor and versatility. Try it with pasta, wrapped in phyllo dough, or in a Horiatiki salad, the traditional Greek salad made with cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and olives drizzled with olive oil. Feta is featured in more than one of our favorite dishes to eat in the Greek islands—or anywhere in Greece, for that matter!

Grilled octopus. If you’re dining on the islands, it doesn’t get much better than fresh-caught octopus grilled or braised with olive oil, lemon, and herbs. Pop into any seaside taverna and dig in.

Loukoumades. These bite-sized sweet, fried dough balls are similar to doughnuts and are best when served drenched in honey syrup. They’re served perfectly portioned to share but are so good you might want to keep them all for yourself.

Ouzo. This anise-flavored liqueur is a traditional social drink meant to be shared with friends. In Greece, it’s customary to eat when you drink, so ouzo is always served with small plates known as mezedes. We recommend gathering with friends and fellow travelers to share a bite and sip some ouzo before heading to dinner.

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The best things to do in Greece

If you’re wondering what to do in Greece, look no further! One of our best travel tips for Greece is to slow down and immerse yourself in your surroundings. It can feel challenging when there are so many new places to explore and sites to investigate, but we encourage you to take your time and engage your senses when experiencing the culture, scenery, and storied history of Greece. Below are some of our favorite things to do on a trip to Greece.

Take a cooking class. We think that one of the best ways to enjoy Greek food is by learning to make it yourself. Join us on one of our cooking class excursions, like the Greek Cooking Class & Folkloric Show Dinner excursion offered on our Athens & Ancient Greece tour or the Mykonos Cooking Demonstration & Lunch excursion on our The Greek Islands: Mykonos, Santorini & Crete tour to learn traditional recipes and cooking techniques—and sample the fruits of your labor. “The food in Greece was out of this world,” said traveler Dianna after returning from our Italy & Greece tour. “The cooking class was a ball, and the farmhouse dinner had a special ambiance with good wine and food.”

Go island-hopping. Wondering what to do in Greece that combines adventure with relaxation? Discover the diversity of the Greek islands by island-hopping. Explore the lush landscapes of the Ionian islands on our Greece’s Ionian Islands: Athens, Kefalonia & Corfu tour, the vibrant culture of the Dodecanese on our The Greek Dodecanese Islands: Kos & Rhodes tour, or the whitewashed villages of the Cyclades on our Greece’s Cyclades Islands: Naxos & Paros tour. Swim in crystal clear water, dine in beachside tavernas, and explore hidden gems like colorful Symi Island or dramatic Shipwreck Beach. If you can’t get enough of Greece’s island life, cruise around the coastline on our Greece & Turkey: Athens, Greek Islands Cruise & Istanbul tour.

Visit the seat of the oracle in Delphi. The famed Oracle of Delphi, a priestess known as Pythia, was said to have communicated with the gods from a trance-like state. She delivered her prophecies from the Temple of Apollo, one of the most important religious sites in ancient Greece. Delphi, nestled on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, was once considered to be the “navel of the world.” Today, you can visit the UNESCO-listed Archaeological Site of Delphi and its nearby museum when you join us on one of our Delphi tours. Simply standing in such a powerful location is one of our favorite ways to feel connected to the past.

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Souvenirs to buy in Greece

Want to know one of our best Greece travel tips? Save some extra room in your suitcase for souvenirs! From delectable treats to gorgeous handicrafts, you’ll find plenty of things to take home as reminders of your adventure. These are some of our favorites.

A bottle of extra virgin olive oil. By the time you leave Greece, you’ll be an expert olive oil connoisseur, especially if you join us on the Crete Olive Oil Tasting & Dinner excursion on one of our Crete tours or the extension to Crete on our Greece’s Cyclades Islands: Naxos & Paros tour. Bring home a bottle or two of this liquid gold and infuse your meals with memories from Greece.

Traditional textiles woven by women in Apeiranthos. If you join us on the Apeiranthos Village Hike, Lunch & Liquor Tasting excursion offered on our Greek Islands Adventure: Athens, Naxos & Paros tour, you’ll visit the Apeiranthos Women’s Traditional Crafts Cooperative and learn how the women who work there produce woven textiles, carrying on a tradition that has been passed down through generations. Watch a demonstration of the traditional loom weaving, then support the co-op by purchasing a tablecloth or bag to bring home.

Honey from Kos island. Honey from Kos island. When you visit Kos on our The Greek Dodecanese Islands: Kos & Rhodes tour, you’ll learn all about the island’s famous export—its prized honey. Even Hippocrates, the “Father of Modern Medicine,” praised Koan honey, which is said to be exceptionally pure. Pay a visit to one of the island’s many family-owned honey producers to sample different varieties and snag some to take home. Even if you don’t make it to Kos on your tour of Greece, you’ll find Koan honey in shops across the country.

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What to pack for a trip to Greece

What good would a travel guide to Greece be if we didn’t tell you what you’ll need for your trip? Below are some things to consider bringing when packing for your tour of Greece.

Closed-toed walking shoes or boots. Comfortable walking shoes are a must for nearly any trip, especially those with historical sites, and a trip to Greece is no exception. One of our best tips for traveling to Greece is to make sure that your walking shoes have closed toes to better protect your feet from the often-uneven terrain of Greece’s ancient ruins and archaeological sites. “The walking is hilly (sometimes very steep) and uneven,” cautioned traveler Arlene after returning from our Athens & Ancient Greece tour. “Comfortable, sturdy shoes are necessary.”

A lightweight shawl or scarf. Like many European countries, it’s considered respectful in Greece to have your knees and shoulders covered when visiting religious sites. A lightweight scarf can also double as sun protection when touring the country’s outdoor historical sites, beaches, and ruins—and it will keep you warm when dining al fresco on a breezy night.

A waterproof bag or phone case. A waterproof bag or phone case. A small waterproof bag to keep your phone and other belongings safe is a good idea, especially if you join us on one of our island tours, like our The Greek Islands: Crete & Santorini tour or our Greece’s Ionian Islands: Athens, Kefalonia & Corfu tour. It will protect your phone, allowing you to snap photos of soaring cliffs and sandy shores between dips in the water and catamaran cruises.

Your appetite. Your appetite. By now, we’ve made it clear that one of our best Greece travel tips is to enjoy the food—so come hungry!

Ready to embark on your own odyssey? Join us on one of our trips to Greece.


About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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views of the aegean sea from the greek islands with white buildings in the foreground
views of the aegean sea from the greek islands with white buildings in the foreground views of the aegean sea from the greek islands with white buildings in the foreground
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