This 11-day itinerary takes you through some of Greece's top spots, starting with the Acropolis in Athens. Get better-acquainted with the city from atop the hill before you board the ferry to the Cyclades. Hike through the island's history and spend some time enjoying the sun in Naxos, then continue onto Santorini, where you'll sea kayak and stroll along the famous caldera.

Highlights

  • Hear and tour the mythology of the ancient Acropolis
  • Hike through island archaeological history on Naxos
  • Kayak and hike on the iconic shores of Santorini

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens Athens
Day 2 Guided Acropolis Visit Athens
Day 3 Ferry to Naxos Naxos
Day 4 Beach Day on Naxos Naxos
Day 5 Historic Naxos Hike Naxos
Day 6 Naxos to Santorini Santorini
Day 7 Free Day in Santorini Santorini
Day 8 Sea Kayaking in Santorini Santorini
Day 9 Caldera Day Hike Santorini
Day 10 Return to Athens & Free Evening Athens
Day 11 Depart Athens  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Athens

Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis
Monastiraki Square and the Acropolis

Welcome to Greece! You'll begin your trip in Athens, home to both the iconic Acropolis and so much more. The mythology of this spectacular city precedes it, with towering temples to Classical deities and the ruins of ancient marketplaces rubbing shoulders with lively nightlife, crowded flea markets, and contemporary cuisine. Make the most of your time in the city at some of these spots:

  • Check out the views of the can't-miss Parthenon. (Pro tip: The Parthenon is the temple, the Acropolis is the hill.) This temple to Athena has enchanted visitors since its construction was completed in 438 BC. It's probably the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of ancient Greece and is visible from many of the city's high points.
  • Stop at the sprawling National Museum for a crash course in ancient iconography. Be sure to seek out the room housing the Antikythera mechanism, essentially an ancient astronomical computer.
  • Visit a smaller archaeological site at the Tower of the Winds, then stroll down neighboring pedestrian Aiolou Street to stop at shops and cafes. 
  • Find your perfect souvenir or sun hat in the busy stalls of the Monastiraki flea market. 

Spend your evening exploring the up-and-coming Pangrati neighborhood or amid the nightlife and mezze of the Psyrri district.

Day 2: Guided Acropolis Visit

Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion
Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion

Today you'll get to experience the mighty Acropolis—ruins of the iconic 5th-century BCE complex located on the rocky hilltop overlooking the city. Take a guided tour of the entire settlement with an English-speaking professional guide who will share the stories of the country's most famous monument. In addition to the iconic Parthenon, dedicated to the city's patron goddess Athena, you'll view and learn about the Propylaea, the Temple of Athena Nike, and the most sacred temple of Erechtheion, all located on the sacred rock of the Acropolis.

Complement your tour with a trip to the nearby modern Acropolis Museum. Many of the more delicate statues and other artifacts originally found at the Acropolis have been moved here, but you can imagine them in their previous home as you explore the exhibits. Complete your visit with a stop in its cafe for either lunch or a relaxed snack and coffee.

Stop to explore the Anafiotika neighborhood on the northeast side of the hill before you leave. The oldest neighborhood in the city, Anafiotika's classic white geometric architecture echoes the motifs of the Cyclades in this tranquil urban oasis.

Day 3: Ferry to Naxos

Hiking the Portara in Naxos
Hiking the Portara in Naxos

Time to ferry over to bustling Naxos after breakfast. With an active main town where you can shop and admire the Venetian architecture, a historic Kastro (castle) area, and expansive beaches, the island offers opportunities for both laidback relaxation, as well as water or land activities. The rest of the day is yours to unwind as you choose. Try out some of these options:

  • Hike up to the summit of Mount Zas, the mythological childhood home of Zeus, the ruler of the gods, and the highest point in the Cyclades.
  • Head inland to the town of Chalki, home to the island's oldest market and a petite, shady square perfect for whiling away the afternoon. Stop at the kitron distillery to sample the local liqueur and learn about its distillation process over the years.
  • Visit the Temple of Demeter at Sangri on your way. Multiple deities of fertility were worshipped here, particularly the goddess Demeter. The temple was constructed in 530 BC, during the tyranny of Lygdamis, and represents a precursor of classical Athenian architecture. 
  • Stroll to the Portara, the entrance to the Temple of Apollo. Construction on the temple began in the sixth century BCE but was never finished, but the still-standing entranceway has become one of the hallmarks of the island. You can find it on the islet of Palatia, just over a causeway from the heart of Naxos Town (Chora).

For dinner, wander up the hill through the streets of the Kastro neighborhood to pick out your favorite of the area's tavernas, where you can sample the island's fresh produce in its best forms.

Day 4: Beach Day on Naxos

Aliko Beach on Naxos
Aliko Beach on Naxos

What's a trip to the islands without a day on the beach? With smaller crowds than its Cycladic neighbors, Naxos makes it easy to find your own slice of paradise, whether you want privacy or a more lively scene. Terminology tip: If a beach is described as "organized," that generally means it has sunbeds and umbrellas available to rent and plentiful restaurants.

Agios Georgios is the closest to the main town and generally filled with families enjoying the shallow waters. Neighbors Agia Anna and Agios Prokopios also have plenty of amenities on their sweeping sands, with enough shoreline that you'll be able to stake out a spot but sufficient tavernas to keep you fed.

The more isolated beaches of the southwest coast—including Plaka, Mikri Vigla, and cedar-lined Aliko—are some of the best on the island. They're farther out from the main town, and your travel will be rewarded with quieter sands and scenic surroundings.

Day 5: Historic Naxos Hike

Inland Naxos

After breakfast, head to the village of Melanes, where you'll pick up an old footpath that leads to the island's ancient aqueduct. You'll find two large kouros, unfinished statues of ancient male figures, lying on the ground as you hike, one behind a village home and the other after a steep upward path to Ano Potamia. Originally intended to hold up a temple roof, these giant statues were abandoned by their ancient sculptors when they discovered faults in the marble, but they're no less impressive for that today.

Pass the statues along with olive groves, orchards, and a shady riverside before you take a well-deserved break in Ano Potamia on the riverbank. Then continue your climb up to Apana Kastro, the upper castle area, built in this defensive position in the 13th century to control access to the central island farms. You can keep going all the way up to the peak or just take in the panoramic views of Naxos Town, port, and surrounding villages from here.

Swing east toward the hamlet of Tsikalario, with its 6th century church of Agios Stefanos, then make your way to the central town of Halki to meet your pickup. Before you go, stop in at the Valindras Distillery for a taste of kitron, the island's local liqueur.

Day 6: Naxos to Santorini

Caldera-side lights
Caldera-side lights

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll get an early ferry to Santorini. Nothing says "good morning" like watching the sun coming up over the island's iconic cubic architecture. Upon arrival, you'll take in the island's central caldera—the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history—rising above you. 

The island's volcanic history has led to the formation of some of the more unique beaches in the Greek islands, along with the dramatic cliff views on the island's caldera side. Spend your day relaxing at the beach or catching some exercise—and even more views—from one of Santorini’s more than 12 scenic walking routes, ranging from between two to eight miles each.  At dinner, sample the island's signature cherry tomatoes and white eggplants as guest stars in seafood dishes or the main event.

Day 7: Free Day in Santorini

The approach to Oia
The approach to Oia

Spend the day exploring the island at your whim.

Wander the streets of Fira, the island's capital, and pay a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Santorini, the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, the Folklore Museum of Emmanuel Lignos, and the sweeping white arches of the Orthodox church of Hypapante.

Get beachside on the other side of the island, or stroll through famous Oia and climb up to the highest peak on the island, with 360 degree views at the top for the perfect souvenir photo (or five). Or head on to the medieval villages at Megalochori and Pyrgos, which feel a world away from the touristy towns along the caldera rim.

Day 8: Sea Kayaking in Santorini

Your vessel awaits
Your vessel awaits

This morning, you'll take a post-breakfast transfer to the island's southern coast for a new perspective on Santorini. Hop in a sea kayak to enjoy spectacular rock formations, crystal waters, and beaches on the island's frequently overlooked southern side. The tour will last about 3 hours, with a stop for snorkeling to see your fellow sea creatures. 

Once you've returned to your hotel, rest in the free afternoon before dinner. For those who still have energy, visit the Archaeological Museum for a glimpse into the island's past, or stroll through the streets to scout for perfect souvenirs.

Day 9: Caldera Day Hike

Trailside views
Trailside views

You'll really get those postcard views with today's hike. Lace up your sneakers and depart for one of the best walks on the island. Circle the caldera from Fira to Oia, taking in the picture-perfect surroundings. The full hike takes roughly five hours, but can be broken up with stops in the towns or tavernas along the way.

Start early if you'd like the trail to yourself or go out in the late afternoon to arrive in Oia just in time for the sunset views the town is known for, but try to avoid the heat of the midday sun. Stroll through Oia's alleyways and art galleries once you arrive, or head down into Ammoudi Harbor if you want seafood on the shore.

Day 10: Return to Athens & Free Evening

National Archaeological Museum
National Archaeological Museum

Return to Athens after your final breakfast. Once you've returned, use your afternoon to scope out some of the museums you may have missed earlier in your trip. The city has a whole slew to be explored, depending on what specialty speaks to you.

For more history and mythology:

  • Acropolis Museum
  • National Archaeological Museum
  • Museum of the Ancient Agora
  • Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos

Find some fine arts at:

  • Benaki Museum
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • National Gallery

Go off the beaten path at:

  • Museum of Cycladic Art, where you can also buy some truly unique souvenirs
  • The digital interactive museum at the Platonic Academy, next to the site where the actual Academy stood
  • Museum of Ancient Greek Technology in the center of Athens, featuring a working model of the Antikythera mechanism, the first analog computer 

Museum tickets and guided tours can be arranged upon request.

Day 11: Depart Athens

Wave to the Acropolis

Time to say farewell to Greece. Enjoy your final Athenian breakfast and sneak in some last-minute exploring before your transfer to the airport.