Exploring Athens and the Greek Islands

posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 1:38:00 PM

Oia Santorini Greece at Sunset

Defined by rich history and stunning beauty, Greece is truly a sight to behold. But if you’re thinking about planning a vacation to Greece, it can be surprisingly overwhelmingly. Not only does Greece offer the ancient city of Athens, but it also has over 200 inhabited islands spread throughout the Ionian and Aegean Sea. Whether you choose to go island hopping, stay on the mainland or both, you can’t go wrong wherever you go.

Athens

As one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Athens bears a wealth of historical significance that only a few cities can match. History buffs should immediately flock to the Acropolis, an ancient citadel located in central Athens boasting a variety of monuments and ruins constructed between 510 and 440 B.C. Don’t miss out on taking a selfie in front of the site’s most famous monument, the Parthenon. You can also find plenty of historical Greek treasures to see at the gargantuan and world-renowned National Archaeological Museum.

Once you get your history fix, enjoy a pleasant stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets of Plaka, a bustling neighborhood brimming with quaint shops, restaurants and small-village charm. For food, grab a table at Ydria for some traditional cuisine like moussaka, pastitsio and souvlaki, or make a quick stop at the low-key café Glykys for a winning combo of Greek coffee and sweet pastries. Have a knack for bargain shopping? Pay a visit to the district of Monastiraki and spend time sifting through antiques, trinkets and more at its famous flea market.

Where to Stay: Situated in the heart of Athens, King George, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Athens exemplifies the captivating soul of a boutique hotel thanks to opulent rooms with hardwood floors, luxurious furnishings and breathtaking sights of Athens. Freely explore the Acropolis, Plaka, Agora and Thission, all within walking distance. You’ll also be able to savor authentic Greek fare paired with one-of-a-kind views at Tudor Hall Restaurant, located on the seventh floor.

Crete

As the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete offers plenty of diverse things to see and explore, from its magnificent beaches and sprawling mountains to its bustling cities and delectable cuisine.

Heraklion, situated in north Crete, is where you’ll most likely start and end your adventure, since it’s home to the island’s biggest airport and main port. While you’re there, be sure to check out Knossos, an archeological treasure often considered the oldest city in Europe. Heraklion also provides some of the island’s best wineries, so book a tour to sip and savor reds and whites at all the hot spots. Located on the west side of the island, Chania is surrounded by the impressive White Mountains and teeming with beautiful beaches including Balos, Stefanou and Elafonisi.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in gastronomic heaven. In fact, Cretan cuisine is much different than what you would find on the mainland. Instead of the ubiquitous Feta cheese, you can treat your taste buds to graviera and mizithra. And if you’re adventurous enough, you must try the island’s delicacy: fried snails. To eat like a true local, stop in an authentic taverna, where they often produce their own meat, cheese, olive oil and more. Be sure to pair your meal with a shot of Raki, a sweet libation made from excess wine grapes.

Where to Stay: Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort and Spa, Crete, located along the northern coast in the small town of Eloundia, is the epitome of a secluded paradise. Picturesque sea views, crystal-clear waters, private infinity pools and unique dining experiences are just a few of the expectational amenities you’ll come to cherish at Blue Palace.

Rhodes

Whether you prefer beaches, nightlife or ancient architecture, there’s a plethora of all three in Rhodes, the largest and most popular of 12 Dodecanese islands. Step back to medieval times in the Old Town of Rhodes, where towering bastions and walls, narrow alleys and classical architecture bolster a unique atmosphere that any type of traveler would love. While you’re in Old Town, make a stop at the Modern Greek Art Museum and the Archeological Museum of Rhodes to help you get familiar with the local culture.

As far as beaches go, Agathi is a tame, kid-friendly spot with clean shallow waters perfect for snorkeling or teaching your little one how to swim. Avid wind and kitesurfers will adore the gusty conditions of Prasonisi, which is nestled along the southern coast of Rhodes. If you want to take a day off from the sand and saltwater, Faliraki Water Park makes an exciting alternative for travelers of all ages.

Looking to paint the town red? Rhodes offers a myriad of vibrant nightlife scenes, from laid-back watering holes to raucous dance clubs. If you’re more inclined to the latter, Faliraki is the place to cut loose, especially Club Street and Bar Street. Old Town of Rhodes is a little more relaxed than Falikaki, but equally as fun. Stop by Hippocrates Square and enjoy a cocktail at one of the many tavernas and bars.

Where to Stay: Only a quick drive away from the medieval spectacle of Old Town of Rhodes, Sheraton Rhodes Resort delivers an unparalleled experience capturing the essence of the island. Stay just steps away from a shimmering private beach, dine at one of the premier restaurants and revel in luxury from spacious, well-appointed rooms and suites.

Santorini

Many theorize that Santorini is the lost city of Atlantis. Whatever the truth may be, this volcanic island situated in the Aegean Sea is undoubtedly special. Upon arrival, it’ll be difficult to not center your attention on the bundle of whitewashed buildings nestled in the island’s towering, steep cliffs, making it one of Santorini’s main cornerstones. The island is also one of the hottest destinations for honeymoons and romantic getaways, thanks to its unique architecture, pristine beaches and breathtaking sunsets reminiscent of a Monet painting.  

Santorini’s volcanic terrain lends itself to a multitude of outdoor activities. Hike along the rim of the caldera through the villages of Fira, Firostefani, and Oia on this scenic tour, or take a boat to Nea Kameni and trek up to the crater of the island’s active volcano. The immaculate beaches should not be missed, either. Relax at the black pebble beach of Kamari or whet your snorkeling appetite at Red Beach.

Once you’ve checked everything off your sightseeing list for the day, it’s time to embrace the culinary treasures Santorini has to offer. Sink your teeth into some of the island’s gastronomic staples including fava, capers, white eggplants and tomatokefthedes. Don’t forget to complement your meal with distinct wine varieties including Athyri, Aidani and Assyrtiko, many of which were produced from grapes grown in the Santorini’s volcanic soil.

Where to Stay: An idyllic destination for honeymoons and romantic escapes, Mystique, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Santorini sits among the rugged caldera cliffs and utilizes the island’s signature Cycladic architecture to personify the ultimate paradise. Reserve one of our vibrant suites and indulge in our three restaurants, full-service spa, panoramic sea views and glistening infinity pools.

Mykonos

With its barrage of quaint whitewashed buildings, rolling hills and sparkling turquoise waters, Mykonos seems like a tranquil environment, but don’t let this fool you. Underneath its mild exterior is a trendy and vibrant nightlife that begs to be experienced. During the daytime, head over to Paradise Beach to soak up some sun while sipping on some tasty cocktails at the Tropicana Club. Once night falls, make your way to Cavo Paradiso to dance away night away among thousands of revelers.

Now, don’t think of Mykonos as just a nonstop party hub. Fokos Beach and Agios Sostis are excellent spots to escape the rowdiness and relax under the sun in peace. Wander through the narrow lanes of Mykonos Town, where you’ll discover a throng of boutiques, cafés and souvenir shops. For a little dose of history, sail over to the nearby island of Delos, one of the most sacred places in all of Greece, and explore its ancient ruins. You can take a tour of the historic oceanfront Church of Paraportiani, which actually comprises five small churches either built on top of or next to each other. And no trip to Mykonos is complete without seeing the iconic 16-century windmills, also known as Kato Myli.

Where to Stay: Elevate your Mykonos trip to the next level at Santa Marina, a Luxury Collection Resort, Mykonos, situated on the southern tip of the island overlooking the Ornos Bay. This luxe resort offers the only private beach on the entire island, bestowing you with a secluded oasis only few can experience. Reserve your stay and enjoy unique villas, world-class dining, a full-service spa and infinity pools.

Corfu

Endearingly nicknamed “the Grand Lady of the Ionian,” Corfu is regularly hailed as one of the most beautiful and greenest destinations among the Greek islands. Thousands of olive trees, cypress trees and wildflowers encompass the mesmerizing landscape, creating the ideal canvas for honeymoons, couple getaways or even family trips. You’ll also have a fair share of stunning beaches to pick from when visiting Corfu. Paleokastritsa and Arkoudilas are all fantastic choices to satisfy your ocean cravings, but perhaps the most famous beach on the island is Canal d’Amour, which translates to “channel of love.” Surrounded by crystal-clear waters, this natural wonder offers gorgeous rock formations you can admire while sunbathing or enjoying a picnic.

Once you get a sample of the island’s beaches, your next stop should be Corfu Town. Displaying a unique pastiche of architecture influenced by Venetian, French and British structures, this charming historic town sets the scene for a lively jaunt through fine restaurants, artisan shops and first-rate museums. Then, sail over to Pontikonisi, a tiny, tree-laden island home to a 13th century Byzantine chapel. For a true taste of opulence, tour Mon Repos. Built in 1830, this neoclassical palace was owned by the Greek royal family, but it is now a museum where you can explore historical artifacts and take a stroll around the surrounding seaside gardens.

Where to Stay: Domes Miramare, a Luxury Collection Resort, Corfu offers the true spirit of authentic hospitality and refined experiences. This oceanfront adults-only resort is steps away from the Ionian Sea and offers easy access to Corfu Town and Pontikonisi. Book one of the elegant rooms, suites or villas and enjoy two first-rate restaurants, multiple pools and breathtaking views.

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