See some of Greece's popular high points and hidden secrets with this itinerary. Start out in Athens, where you'll tour the Acropolis and visit the resort town of Vouliagmeni before you head out to the Cyclades. Your island journey includes Naxos, home to the marble village and a sailboat that will take you out to the neighboring Small Cyclades, followed by Santorini, where you'll explore the iconic caldera and the rest of the island before you return to Athens.

Highlights

  • Hear and tour the mythology of the ancient Acropolis
  • Learn to windsurf amid the luxury of the Athenian Riviera
  • Sail out to the pristine natural habitats of the Small Cyclades
  • Visit the marble town of Apeiranthos high in the mountains
  • Cruise through the colorful volcanic caldera of Santorini

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens Athens
Day 2 Guided Acropolis Visit Athens
Day 3 Vouliagmeni Coastal Town & Windsurfing Athens
Day 4 Ferry to Naxos Naxos
Day 5 Small Cyclades Day Sail Naxos
Day 6 Explore Apeiranthos Village Naxos
Day 7 Naxos to Santorini Santorini
Day 8 Explore the Volcano Santorini
Day 9 Relax in Kamari Coastal Village Santorini
Day 10 Free Day in Santorini Santorini
Day 11 Return to Athens & Free Evening Athens
Day 12 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: Vouliagmeni Coastal Town & Windsurfing

Vouliagmeni Lake
Vouliagmeni Lake

Spend a relaxed day in the seaside suburb of Vouliagmeni. This coastal town is considered one of the highlights of the Athenian Riviera, located less than an hour's drive outside the city. The shore is dotted with secret coves and cliffside beaches, and the expansive sands of the Astir beach resort are among the most popular spots to see and be seen in the sun.

For a freshwater dip, visit the hidden Vouliagmeni Lake. Its mineral-rich thermal waters are fed by naturally warm springs, keeping it at a consistent 75 degrees that's believed to assist with a range of ailments. Whether you're in search of health benefits or just a dip, its rock features, underwater tunnels, and lush surroundings make it the ideal swimming spot.

Continue to nearby Varkiza beach town for a windsurfing lesson with expert instructors. This lesson is designed for beginners, but those who are reluctant to brave the surf can opt for a stand-up paddleboard instead, or calmly enjoy the beach.

Day 4: 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 5: Small Cyclades Day Sail

Get onboard
Get onboard

Sail out on a catamaran to the "Small Cyclades." This less-traveled chain include six main islands and their many smaller companions. Your particular destination will depend on the winds as you sail around the various unspoiled islands.

The full-day cruise takes you out away from the hustle and bustle to enjoy the still-pristine nature of the islands, listening to the waves and chorus of cicadas as you visit traditional settlements, relax on the beaches, and take leisurely hikes along old paths and goat tracks.

Day 6: Explore Apeiranthos Village

Aerial view over Naxos
Aerial view over Naxos

Today, you'll have an opportunity to travel to the village of Apeiranthos. This fantastical spot is situated at the foot of the Fanari Mountain, the island's third-highest peak. Also known as the Marble Village, its winding streets and traditional architecture have been nearly untouched since the days of the Venetians, as has its language. The local dialect is believed to contain both ancient Greek and Byzantine elements.

Most of the village can only be accessed on foot. Have a coffee on the pedestrian-only main street and soak in a slower pace of life, and get lost in the village's winding pathways that crawl up and down the mountainside. Don't miss a visit to the nearby Agia Kyriaki church, located within hiking distance beyond the village. This former Byzantine church is best known for the remnants of its historic murals.

If you're looking for a break from Greek food in the evening, the seasonal Picasso Mexican restaurant on Plaka beach has been drawing loyal visitors to its fresh fajitas and margaritas for more than 20 summers.

Day 7: 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 8: Explore the Volcano

The basin from above
The basin from above

No trip to Santorini is complete without an exploration of its iconic caldera. The island is shaped by the volcanic eruptions of its past. The most intense is known as the Minoan eruption in the mid 2nd millennium BCE, which created the island's current geography and was felt around the ancient world. 

After breakfast, you'll head to the port and take a boat to the volcano, either on a private trip or with a larger group. Head down into the basin to the two small black lava islets in its center. These are the youngest of their kind in the eastern Mediterranean, only forming about 50 years ago. Hike around their rocky red soil before hopping in the hot spring at Nea Kameni. These yellow-tinted waters are high in sulfur and renowned for their potential therapeutic benefits.

Day 9: Relax in Kamari Coastal Village

Go poolside or seaside
Go poolside or seaside

After yesterday's activities, take a day to just relax in your temporary neighborhood. The cosmopolitan Kamari beach area is worth savoring, not just sleeping in. The peak of Mesa Vouna, which you spotted previously from Perissa beach, also overlooks this long stretch of black sand, running into crystal blue waters. A stone promenade runs the length of the crescent-shaped bay and is closed to traffic during the summer, making it ideal for a casual stroll.

Wander past a wide spread of cafes, bars, shops, and even supermarkets to complement your sun session, or just recline on a sun lounger and order drinks. As the sun goes down, the beach swings into nightlife mode just waiting for you to dance until dawn. Romantics, on the other hand, can skip the party crowds and take an evening stroll.

Day 10: 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 11: 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 12: 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.