If you’re a first-timer looking to combine the charm of Greece’s architectural heritage, the spectacular cliffs of Meteora and the summery Cyclades islands-hopping… you’ve come to the right place! =)
[Image Credit: Christophe Meneboeuf]
Planning a Greece trip is surprisingly easy.
Sure, many Greek websites are useless. Some bus schedules were horribly outdated. Online ferry bookings do not work. It will take you hours to research the exact name and location of the famous blue-domed church of Santorini (see Day 5 17.00-22.00 below for the names).
But once you’ve reached Greece, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate (even when everything’s written in Greek). Whenever unsure, one of the friendly Greeks will come to your rescue. Just make sure you allow some room for flexibility in your itinerary and everything will be fine.
Here are useful websites which helped in our planning:
– Greeka is an efficient, concise guide to major attractions, beaches and villages in Greece.
– Cycladen provides excellent hiking and trekking options for the more hardcore explorers.
– Danae Travel aggregates schedule of various ferries into one hassle-free booking experience.
– TrainOSE will help you link far-away mainland destinations with slow-but-scenic train rides.
– KTEL is Greece’s official bus operator. You can visit each region’s individual KTEL sites (e.g. Mykonos, Paros, Santorini) for details. Timetables can be quite outdated, but the routes are usually correct.
– Wikitravel, of course, is always helpful for everything else.
And finally, our 10-day Greece itinerary…
I will blog details about each location on my subsequent posts. For now, I’ve summarized them into short bullet points for quick reference. Times are rounded to the nearest half hour.
Day 1 (Rafina)
19.30 – Departed from Athens International Airport towards Rafina.
20.00-21.30 – Explored Rafina town. Rafina is just a small port without any major attraction. But it does offer excellent sunset and souvlakis.
Day 2 (Rafina-Mykonos)
11.00 – Arrived at Mykonos Port via Blue Star Ferries.
11.30-13.00 – Got lost around Tourlos and hiked a little hill to Vista Loca apartment—crazy, amazing views—before finding our way to Gefyraki.
14.00 – Arrived at Mykonos town (Chora) after a 20-minute walk.
14.30-16.30 – All the usual touristy stuff: Panagia Paraportiani, Little Venice at Alefkandra, Kato Milli (the windmills).
17.00 – Climbed to the top of the town to visit the lesser-known Boni’s Windmill. You can get a beautiful bird’s-eye view of Mykonos here.
18.30-20.30 – Relaxing at Agios Stefanos for the rest of the afternoon.
Day 3 (Mykonos-Paros)
07.30 – Visited a small nameless beach at Gefyraki area.
08.30-10.00 – It was a beautiful morning and everything looked gorgeous on camera, so we decided to re-explore the entire town to take more photos. Mykonos is small enough to finish in a couple of hours, so if you have extra time you can consider to include more beaches into your own itinerary. We couldn’t as we had a ferry to catch that morning.
12.30 – Arrived via Blue Star Ferries and headed to our hotel at Parikia (Paros) to check-in.
14.30-17.00 – Took a bus to the seaside town of Naoussa. Both the coastal and the labyrinth-like alleys are worth exploring. We also visited the famous Venetian Castle and had a wonderful seafood + grilled octopus by the seaside for lunch.
18.30-22.00 – Lefkes is a quaint little village at the hilly side of Paros. Buses to Lefkes are rare and only pass a few times daily, but make sure you catch one. Agia Triada church is charming and the streets really come alive at night.
Day 4 (Paros-Santorini)
09.00-11.30 – Walked around the alleys of Parikia. Gems we saw include Frankish Castle and Monastery of Panagia Ekatontapiliani.
15.00 – Arrived at Port Athinios (Santorini) via Blue Star Ferries, then took a bus to the Fira city where our hostel is located at.
18.00-20.30 – Visited the Red Beach at Akrotiri. We also saw Black Beach and White Beach while walking our way down to the Red Beach.
20.30 – We were lucky to arrive just-in-time at the Fira city center to watch an amazing sunset against the caldera. Had delicious grilled meat for dinner before calling it a night.
Day 5 (Santorini)
07.00-09.00 – Had a nice scenic breakfast and spent the morning walking around Fira.
09.00-10.00 – Visited the Domenican Convent, Megaron Gyzi Museum, Catholic Church, Catholic Bishop’s House of Santorini, etc before leaving Fira.
10.00-11.00 – Wandered around admiring the white-washed buildings of Firostefani. We also saw the iconic three-bells church of Agios Theodori.
14.00-17.00 – Very, very long hike through dozens of hills. Spectacular view of the natural side of Santorini. Along the way, we passed by Finikia.
17.00-21.30 – Finally reached the village of Oia to see the world-famous blue-domed churches of Agios Spyridonas and Anastaseos (among a dozen other Orthodox church beauties). Watched the world-famous sunset from Agios Nikolaos Castle and grabbed a perfect dinner at a restaurant hidden behind the alleys called Karma.
Day 6 (Santorini)
08.00-10.00 – Started the day with another wonderful breakfast at Fira before heading down to the Old Port for our caldera boat tour.
13.00-15.00 – Docked at the island of Thirassia, rode a donkey up to a super-quiet village at the top of the mountain. Not much to do up there, but the view of the cliffs and the greenish blue coastline as seen from above is splendid.
15.00-17.00 – Final stop at the Ammoudi Bay of Oia. Lunch at Sunset Restaurant: its shrimp saganaki and oyster with white wine was truly an indulgence. We explored the other side of Oia to visit the windmills before going back to Fira.
17.00-21.00 – Spent the evening just chillaxing at the black gravel beach of Perissa.
Day 7 (Santorini-Piraeus-Kalambaka)
06.30 – Arrived at Piraeus via Blue Star Ferries and headed to the train station for a long scenic train ride through the mountainous Central Greece to Kalambaka. Brief walk around the area upon arrival.
16.00-21.00 – Meteora Sunset Tour: Passed by many photogenic monasteries suspended in the air such as Agios Stefanos, Agia Triada, Rousanu, Varlaam and Great Meteora. We also had brief stops at the Byzantine Church of Virgin Mary, St. Nicholas (Badovas) and St. George Madilas.
Day 8 (Kalambaka-Athens)
07.30-08.30 – Morning exploration of the Kastraki Village.
08.30-13.30 – Morning hike around Meteora, the hiking route of ancient monks’ trail revealed gems such as Doupiani Rock and Ypapanti.
13.30-18.00 – Wonderful lunch at a traditional family restaurant and took a stroll around the Kalambaka town before departing on night train to Athens.
Day 9 (Athens)
10.00-12.00 – Joined the crowd of Athen’s #1 tourist spot: Acropolis. Saw Theater of Dionysus Eleuthereus, Odeum of Herodes Atticus, Parthenon and Erechtheion.
12.00-14.00 – More archaeological gems at Ancient Agora: Stoa of Attalos, Temple of Hepaesthus, Agii Apostoli.
16.00-21.00 – Discovered little-known churches and archaeological remains on the street of Athens. Went around the streets of Psiri (cool graffiti), Monastiraki (great place to buy merchandises) and Plaka (historical neighborhood with cozy, lush gardens).
Day 10 (Athens-Livadia-Delphi-Arachova-Athens)
07.30-08.00 – Sat down at the benches of Syntagma Square feeding pigeons.
08.00-11.00 – Took a one-day excursion outside Athens. Passed by Livadia, Marathon, Parnassos mountain range.
11.00-14.00 – Delphi Archaeological Site & Museum: Saw the Temple of Apollo, Treasury of the Athenians, Delphi Theatre and the postcard-perfect Athena Pronaia Sanctuary.
14.00-18.00 – Break at the picturesque mountain village of Arachova for about 20 minutes before transiting back to Athens.
18.00-21.00 – Wandered around Athens aimlessly, and on last-minute stroke of madness, went to the top of Mount Lycabettus to witness surreal sunset. And then we rushed to airport to catch our midnight flight back to Singapore.
Where I Stayed
- Rafina: Avra Hotel
- Mykonos: Pension Katerina Studios
- Paros: Kato Yialos
- Santorini: Santorini Youth Hostel
- Kalambaka: Ziogas Rooms
- Athens: Pagration Youth Hostel
What’s your ideal Athens itinerary?