Simple Greece Itinerary

Simple Greece Itinerary: Ideas for Planning One Week in Greece

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Thousands of years of history. Greek mythology. Gorgeous islands and beaches. Ancient ruins. Delicious food. Greece has a lot to offer! The varied landscape appeals to all types of travelers, whether you enjoy mountains or beaches, big cities or small villages. While the language might not be so easy for those of us who use the Roman alphabet, you will find plenty of friendly people who know a handful of English words in the touristy areas. The following Greece itinerary will help you start planning your trip to this wonderful country, whether it is for one week or longer.

You can’t see the whole country on one vacation, so your best approach is to pick a few places and spend a few days in each. When visiting multiple islands, it’s usually easier to stick to one island group rather than going from one group to another. Remember that it takes time to get from one city or island to the next, and work travel time into your schedule.

Athens – 3 to 4 days

One of the oldest cities in the world, Athens is not to be missed. Spend a few days exploring impressive ruins and soaking in the history of the ancient Greeks.

  • The Acropolis and Parthenon – The most iconic site in Greece, the Parthenon sits on top of a hill overlooking the city of Athens. If you do nothing else in Athens, go see the Parthenon and the Acropolis. If you’re visiting in the summer, go early or late in the day to avoid the heat. For the full experience, consider this tour of the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, which ends with a traditional Greek dinner with a view of the Acropolis.
  • Ancient Agora – This was where ancient Greeks did their shopping. Today there are some interesting ruins to stroll through.
  • Temple of Zeus – It might just look like a few columns at first, but use your imagination and you can see how big the building once was, despite never being completed. You can also get a nice view of the Parthenon from here.
  • The National Archeological Museum – This museum houses the best collection of ancient Greek artifacts, displaying just how advanced Greek society was.
  • Plaka – This is the oldest neighborhood in Athens. Wander through the streets, stop at a cafe or shop and stumble upon more ancient ruins.
  • Athens walking tour – Always one of my favorite ways to explore a new city, a walking tour will help you get your barrings and show you the highlights of Athens. This half-day tour of Athens will teach you about the city’s biggest draw, the Acropolis, along with several other attractions like the Temple of Zeus and the Greek Parliament building.

Greece Itinerary

Delphi – 1 day

Delphi was once concerted the navel of the world. It’s where people came from near and far to ask the Oracle for advice. The advice was purposely vague and interpreted through a priest. There are also theories that she inhaled toxic fumes that came up from the ground while she was giving out her advice. The ruins are impressive and the views of the surrounding mountains and valleys are breathtaking.

Visiting the ancient ruins can be done as a simple day trip from Athens on your own, but I recommend taking a guided tour of Delphi to learn about its history and to avoid transport stress.

Greece Itinerary

Meteora – 1 day

The area of Meteora is a series of monasteries built on top of imposingly high rocks. Monks built the monasteries during the Turkish occupation in order to protect themselves. At the time, they were only reachable by baskets pulled up by rope. It is said that if it wasn’t for these monasteries, Greek culture and history would’ve been lost and modern Greece would be a reflection of the Ottoman empire.

Meteora is a little far from Athens to do as a day trip, but works well if you stay overnight. You can get a taxi to the monasteries and hike back to town if you want. If you want a more guided option, consider taking this half day tour of Meteora from nearby Kalambaka to get a good look at the monasteries. Head to Meteora alone from Athens with this all day tour or combine Meteora and Delphi with this two day tour, both of which start and end in Athens.

Greece Itinerary

Santorini – 3 to 4 days

Santorini is the most famous Greek island, know for its gorgeous sunsets, white washed buildings and bright blue domed roofs. It’s in the Cyclades island group, so it’s fairly easy to get from Santorini to one of the nearby islands, such as Mykonos, Naxos or Paros.

  • Volcano tour – A variety of different but similar tour operators will take you by boat to the volcano that shaped Santorini. They’ll also take you to Thirasia (the smaller island across from Santorini), the hot springs, and then to the town of Oia to watch that famous sunset.
  • Oia Sunset and Villages tour – If you prefer to stay on dry land, consider a tour of some of Santorini’s traditional villages and the archeological site Akrotiri, and end the day by viewing a gorgeous sunset from Oia.
  • Beaches – An obvious thing to do while on the island is go to the beach. Two popular ones are Perissa and Kamari, where you’ll see the sand that has been blackened by volcanic eruption.
  • Akrotiri – This is Santorini’s version of Pompeii. It’s an archeological site where an entire city was preserved by a volcanic eruption. Come early to avoid the crowds.
  • Wine tasting and vineyard tour – All that volcanic soil makes for some amazing wine. Visit some of Santorini’s vineyards and taste the local wine.
Looking for an adventurous island experience? Check out this review of a Greek island hopping sailing tour!

Greece Itinerary

Cyclades Island Chain – 3 – 4 days

The Cyclades are an island chain in the Aegean. This is probably the most popular island chain for vacationers and party-going backpackers, but don’t let that stop you from exploring. Santorini is the southern end of it and one of the gateways to the islands. This is a short list of some of the islands. There are plenty of others each with their unique sights. White washed town streets and shady cafes looking over blue waters are standard scenery.

Ferries link most islands and there are airports on both Mykonos and Santorini. Spring and Fall are the best time to come when weather is reasonable and there aren’t as many tourists. Summer is hot and crowded and a lot of things are closed in the winter (including some of the ferry routes).

  • Mykonos – Mykonos is near the northern end of the Cyclades chain and closest to Athens of the most popular stops. It is well known for its windmills and a town full of narrow whitewashed lanes with plenty of nightlife.
  • Naxos – Largest of the Cyclades islands. Former temple ruins stand in the harbor. Exploring the island by four-wheeler is quite popular.
  • Ios – A well known party haven.
  • Koufranissia – A small island off of the main party trail of the island chain. It is a relaxing hike around the rugged island coast and a place to sleep through the afternoon siesta.
  • Milos – A less touristy island, Milos is just as gorgeous as its neighbors but without the crowds.

Ionian Island Chain – 3 – 4 days

The most famous islands in Greece are in the Aegean, but they are not the only islands in the country. The Ionian Chain is off the west coast toward Italy.

  • Corfu – An extremely popular tourist destination, Corfu island is studded with resorts. Historically Corfu has been owned more by the western European nations than by Greece and was fortified against the Ottomans. This has left a number of castles around the island and in the main city to explore. There are a number of museums on the island as well as the various natural features of the wider island.
  • Zakynthos – A rugged island with beaches and cliffs. Navagio beach with a famously beautiful shipwreck is reachable only by boat from the capitol city of the island. The capitol, called Zakynthos just like the island, was once ruled by the Venetians and still has a castle from that era. The island is also involved in protecting the endangered loggerhead turtle which has a breeding ground there.

Dodecanese Islands – 3 – 4 days

These islands are in the Eastern Aegean near Turkey. This area has been ruled by different groups over the centuries, like the Turks and the Italians as well as the original Greek, and it shows in the various architectural styles.

  • Rhodes – The former site of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the ancient 7 wonders of the world. It is now a island of castles, resorts, and history. Beyond the main arrival town of Rodos, check out Lindros and Monolithos for medieval castles.
  • Kos – Along with being the birthplace of Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, Kos is well known for its many beaches. It too has a castle in the main city.

Crete – 3 days to 1 week

Greece’s largest island of Crete sits south of the rest of the country in the middle of the Mediterranean. It is said that it is diverse and different enough from Greece that it could be its own country. If you want an island place to explore but without having to get on a boat all the time, you could easily spend an entire week in Crete.

Crete was the center of Minoan civilization and the place of several myths including the Minotaur. The capitol city of Heraklion has a Venation fortress and the former Minoan palace at Knossos as well as a number of museums.

The island has many natural beauty spots and a diverse set of landscapes to explore. Beyond that, there are a number of towns with their own feels spread about the island. The island has plenty of resorts as well, but it is worth exploring the real island even if you are there mostly for the sun and the beach.


Want to explore Crete with a tour?

Check out a day trip to see a part of the island you might not normally get to.

More mainland options

While the islands are very popular destinations in Greece, there are plenty of other interesting things on the mainland as well.

  • Thessaloniki – Greece’s second largest city lies in the north of the country. It is known as a vibrant cultural center. City walls and several towers still show its medieval shape. Just explore the city or take a food tour.
  • Halkidiki – The hand shaped peninsula extending into the Aegean near Thessaloniki is an area of rugged cliffs, natural beauty, and beaches.
  • Mt Olympus – The mythical home of the Greek gods is not far from Thessaloniki.
  • Peloponnese Peninsula – The large peninsula south of Athens is home to a lot of the places from Greek mythology and classical history. Corinth, Sparta, Mycenae, and Olympia (home of the original Olympic games) for example. This is a pretty large region and, like the rest of Greece, has plenty of beaches and smaller towns to explore as well..
  • Greece Itinerary

    Transport

    Athens is the easiest entry point into the country, so I recommend starting your trip there. You can fly to some of the more popular islands like Santorini, but there is a certain charm to going by boat. It just takes a bit longer that way, especially if you’re going farther out like to Rhodes or Kos. Many of the smaller ferry routes are more limited (or closed) in the winter. Even in the summer, schedules seem fluid in Greece. Pireaus is the ferry port near Athens that has links to most destinations in the Aegean. Check out our post on transportation in the islands.

    Patras is on the western coast of the mainland and has links to the Ionian chain of islands as well as overnight ferries to Italy.

    While exploring mainland Greece, if you don’t sign up for day tours, you can get around by long distance bus or train depending on your destination, but bring your patience (and a snack) because things don’t always run on schedule.

    Planning a trip for one week in Greece

    Choose a few destinations for your Greece itinerary and enjoy them. As always my advice is to travel slowly. Take into account the time it takes to get from one place to the next. This is especially true in Greece. Pretty much expect to use most of a day to move long distances and note that certain ferry routes leave very early in the morning. Even if transport is on time and you have extra time to explore a city, it is better than missing a tour or flight. Daytrips that include bus transport can thus be quite helpful if you want to see a lot with your time.

    If you really enjoy cities, consider adding a day or two in Athens. On the other hand, if you’re more of a beach person, consider adding time to you stay on Santorini or go island hopping throughout one of the island groups. Enjoy the beauty, the history and the food in this wonderful country.

    Sample One Week in Greece : Islands

    This is a very island focused idea of a week. You could easily stop at an additional island in the Cyclades for a night instead of 2 in Mykonos if you were willing to deal with moving around more and work with they ferry schedule to make it happen. Read our post on island hopping in Greece.

    2 Days – Athens: Explore the ancient sites.
    1 Transport Day: Ferry or fly to Mykonos. The Blue Star Ferry leaves at 7:30am and takes 6 hours. There are several flights a day from Athens as well.
    2 Days – Mykonos: Explore town with the windmills and the winding streets.
    2 Days – Santorini: Head out to the Volcano one day and up to Oia the next day to catch the sunset.

    Sample One Week in Greece : Mainlands

    Alternatively you could aim to explore the mountains and sights on the mainland. Head up to Thessaloniki for a different city to explore.

    2 Days – Athens : Explore the ancient sites.
    2 Days – Meteora/Delphi : There is public transport that gets you to Meteora and Delphi, but they are odd schedules and long rides. It is great freedom if you have an extra few days to spend, but if you do not look into a combination tour from Athens like this one.
    3 Days – Thessaloniki : Take the express train or a long distance bus north to Thessaloniki. Explore the old buildings and food of Greece’s second city and take a day out to experience the nature and beaches on Halkidiki peninsula.

    You might also enjoy:

    Simple Greece Itinerary
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Comments

  1. Matthew Cheyne

    Thank you for this post Ali ๐Ÿ™‚ My mother has been to Greece numerous times but I have never been. After reading your post I feel that this could easily be doable.

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks Matthew! Greece is a wonderful country, I hope you make it there someday. Just writing this post made me want to go back!

      1. Luciano Gomes

        Hi Ali, this is Luciano, and I wanna make it to Greece in January as it will be my honeymoon destination.
        I’d love to be in Santorini as well as I would love to see those ancient ruins of the Greek history. Don’t know how to proceed. Want to keep my Greece vacation to 4 – 5 days max. From there, i’m planning Paris.
        Have never traveled to Europe, so just wanted to know if I can really make it like that.
        I have just about 10 days and want to make this trip and just would want to have a blast.
        I would really appreciate your feedback to know about the possibility of doing it or not.
        Looking forward to your reply.
        Thank you so much,
        Luciano

        1. Author
          Ali Garland

          Hi Luciano! I think 4-5 days is a bit tight, but if that’s the time you have, it’s doable. First, know that the Greek islands are not the most active that time of year. That said, it might be kind of nice to be in Santorini without the crowds.

          Since you’re pressed for time, I’d recommend flying to Santorini, as opposed to taking a ferry. Plus boats don’t run as often, or as reliably, in the winter. If you fly into Athens from wherever you’re coming from, you can get a connecting flight to Santorini. Two nights there should give you a good experience of seeing the island. I’d recommend staying in either Oia or Thira since those are the two most popular towns. You’ll have great sunset views from either (though I don’t know what the sunset is like in the winter, depends on the weather) but Oia is probably what you’ve seen more pictures of. After two nights there, fly back to Athens and explore the ruins there. If you’re looking for lots of activity on this trip, you could probably see the Acropolis and a few other important ruins in Athens in one day and take a day trip like this one to Delphi the next day. Otherwise, there is plenty to do in Athens for a couple of days before flying to Paris for the rest of your trip. (If you’re looking for any Paris tips, we have a detailed itinerary here.)

          I hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks Lauren! I love all the history you can explore in Greece, plus it’s just a gorgeous country. I hope you have a chance to travel there soon!

  2. Stina

    Thanks for the travel cliff notes. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Do you have any packing guidelines for Greece? I am finally fulfilling my dream trip itinerary and will be going island hopping over there this month for 2 weeks and I only want to bring carry on luggage. I am a fashionista at heart so editing clothes and shoes has been a challenge to say the least. I have also been checking the weather and although the days get warm, the nights can still be chilly this time of year which makes for more packing confusion.

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks Stina! Congrats on booking your trip to Greece, should be lots of fun! I think you can totally do it carry-on only. Try to pick outfits that all go with just one or two pairs of shoes so you don’t have to bring so many pairs. Shoes take up a lot of room. On occasion I have hung shoes on the outside of my bag. For cooler nights, you should be able to get away with just one pair of pants and bring a light cardigan or jacket. Layering is a good way to deal with colder temperatures without having to pack too much extra clothing. And the good thing about a jacket or cardigan is you don’t have to pack it in your suitcase, just carry it so it doesn’t take up any precious space. I often get cold on planes anyway, and carrying a jacket doesn’t count as another carry-on.

      Remember that you’re likely to be in a bathing suit a lot of your time over there, and when you’re not at the beach, you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes. A lot of the islands are hilly and have cobblestone roads, or sometimes even dirt roads, so you won’t want to walk around in heels. I think the best way to be comfortable, fashionable and carry-on only is to pack a few bathing suits, a few t-shirts and shorts for daytime, and a couple of cute dresses/skirts or pants and a couple of cute tops for nighttime. Comfortable walking shoes, flip flops, and one pair of cute shoes for nighttime should work. I cut back on clothes by eliminating options. Don’t pack 2 nicer outfits if you really only need one, and don’t be afraid to wear the same thing a few times. Bring a basic skirt or pants (like black) and wear different shirts with it each night, that kind of thing. You’re the only person who will know you’re wearing the same black pants to the bars 3 nights in a row.

      And don’t forget, you can do laundry over there! Two weeks is kind of a long time to go carry-on only without doing laundry, so see which island you’ll be on around the halfway point and either have your hotel/guesthouse do a load of laundry for you (if they offer the service) or ask around for a laundromat or someplace that can wash your clothes for you. Just make sure the clothes you bring are machine washable, not dry clean.

      I hope this helps, but if you have any other questions, feel free to email me! Have a great time in Greece!

  3. Shannon Kircher - The Wanderlust Effect

    Thanks for sharing! Brainstorming a potential trip back to Greece and bringing my parents who’ve never been before. There’s so much to do and see, it’s tough narrowing it down to a single week. I missed Meteora and Delphi last time so it’s on the list for a future visit!

    1. Author
      Ali Garland

      Thanks Shannon! I really liked Delphi. I didn’t make it to Meteora, but my husband went on his trip and loved it, so now I want to go whenever we get around to planning another trip there. Enjoy your time in Greece!

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