Span some key Greek island selections on this 12-day trip. Start off getting your historic background information on a tour of the Acropolis, then head out to discover the island architecture alongside the wine and seafood of Santorini and Cretan history.

Highlights

  • Hear and tour the mythology of the ancient Acropolis
  • Sip volcanic varietals in Santorini's ancient wineries
  • Hike along the architecture of Santorini's iconic caldera
  • Tour the labyrinth of the Minoan Palace at Knossos

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Athens Athens
Day 2 Explore Athens & the Acropolis Athens
Day 3 Athens to Santorini Santorini
Day 4 Fira and Amoudi Bay Santorini
Day 5 Santorini Wine Tasting Tour Santorini
Day 6 Caldera Day Hike Santorini
Day 7 Travel to Heraklion, Transfer to Elounda Elounda
Day 8 Spa Day in Elounda Elounda
Day 9 Visit Spinalonga Elounda
Day 10 Palace of Knossos Day Tour Elounda
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: Explore Athens & the Acropolis

The Panathenaic Stadium
The Panathenaic Stadium

Today's full day tour brings you up to the mighty Acropolis and more. You'll start at the white marble Panathenaic Stadium, home to the first Olympic games in 1896 as well as previous tributes to Athena. Continue past Zappeion, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Athens Trilogy, which includes the University of Athens, the Academy of Athens, and the National Library.

Eventually, you'll reach the top of the Acropolis hill, where you'll follow your expert guide through the ruins of the iconic 5th-century BC complex overlooking the city and hear 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.

Continue with a walk past Herodion and the Dionysus Theater to the 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. Don't miss the Caryatids or the Parthenon Hall, with its impressive metopes, pediments and frieze. Complete your visit with a stop in its cafe for either lunch or a relaxed snack and coffee.

Day 3: Athens to Santorini

Santorini's caldera
Santorini's caldera

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll get an early flight or 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 4: Fira and Amoudi Bay

Boats in the bay
Boats in the bay

Today, start your morning on 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.

Then make your way to Oia for a leisurely stroll down to Amoudi Bay. Do some shopping at the stores you pass along the way before you descend down the 300 steps to the waterside. Once you reach the bottom, jump off the rocks into the water to cool off, then visit the taverna when hunger strikes.

Either walk back up or take the cable car to take in the views over the caldera as you return to the top of the cliffs just in time to watch the sunset.

Day 5: Santorini Wine Tasting Tour

Vineyard hills
Vineyard hills

Raise your glasses to a day in the islands with a vineyard tour. You'll visit three of the island's ancient wineries, where you'll learn about some of the award-winning volcanic vintages of Santorini. With twelve varietals, all accompanied by local cheese and other snacks, the history of the island will be right at the tip of your tongue. 

Don't miss a dramatic Santorini sunset. You can visit the smaller town of Firostefani or stay on the other side of the caldera rim out in Oia. The furthest town along the rim of the caldera, Oia's arty streets are the perfect spot for sunset views, although you won't be alone. Stake out your viewing platform over the panorama, then stick around to wander the alleys and linger in the town's tavernas into the evening.

Day 6: 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 Amoudi Harbor if you want seafood on the shore.

Day 7: Travel to Heraklion, Transfer to Elounda

The Venetian fortress
The Venetian fortress

Travel to Crete, the largest and most populous of the 230 inhabited Greek islands. Upon arrival via airport or ferry, you'll have a few hours to spend seeing Crete's capital city before your transfer to your base of Elounda. Heraklion is a city to be lived in, and with any luck you'll stumble upon one of its many festivals in its streets.

Take some time to walk around the old city's medieval streets with architecture representing the island's Venetian past. Highlights include the Venetian gates, elegant arches of the Loggia (now in use as the town hall), and the Koules Venetian fortress along the harbor walls.

Hop another transfer out to Elounda, a picturesque former fishing village on the island's northern coast. The area wraps around the glittering blue Gulf of Kourfos and is now home to a slew of luxury resorts rubbing elbows with the quieter Plaka harbor town.

Day 8: Spa Day in Elounda

Elounda promenade
Elounda promenade

Greeks have been indulging in various types of spa treatments for centuries, with records of oil massages, medicinal diets, healing music, and physical exercise dating back to the Classical era. Now it's your turn to experience the natural benefits of this island.

Elounda is home to some of Greece's most famous spas just waiting for you to visit them. Curative hot and mineral springs, mineral-rich seawater, and various therapies involving the inhalation, imbibing or bodily application of herbal and flower essences are all on offer.

Day 9: Visit Spinalonga

Approaching the shores of Spinalonga
Approaching the shores of Spinalonga

In addition to its own attractions, Elounda is the neighbor to one of the most fascinating modern Greek ruins out on the isolated island of Spinalonga. This now-abandoned island  was once a leper colony until it was shut down by Greece's government in 1957, and is only populated today by slowly tumbling buildings and strolling day visitors. 

Spend the rest of the day winding through the more down-to-earth Plaka town center scoping out the waterfront bars and restaurants until you find the perfect spot to sip ouzo as the sun goes down.

Day 10: Palace of Knossos Day Tour

Terrace at Knossos
Terrace at Knossos

Spend your day touring the 3,500-year-old Minoan palace of Knossos, a sprawling maze of royal chambers, grand staircases, storerooms, and workshops. The throne room is still in place with the original throne, and replicas of many of the frescoes have been restored to the walls.

 The evocative Bronze Age site is believed to be Europe's oldest city; it flourished for nearly 2,000 years as an economic center, trading with cities across the Mediterranean. It was once home to mythical King Minos, along with the famous Minotaur of Greek mythology.

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
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.