Centered around a ruggedly beautiful volcanic crater, the small island of Nea Kameni offers a dramatic photo opportunity, with its dark cliffs sculpted from lava rock and natural thermal waters tinted orange by the mineral-rich seabed. Floating off the coast of Santorini Island, Nea (New) Kameni and neighboring Palea (Old) Kameni lie at the heart of the mostly-submerged Santorini caldera, and are Greece’s newest volcanic islands - Nea Kameni dates back just 425 years.
Reachable only by boat, Nea Kameni makes a popular choice for cruises from Santorini Island, with visitors free to explore the unique volcanic landscape and bathe in the natural hot springs, legendary for their healing and rejuvenating minerals.
Psiri sits underneath the Acropolis and along with its neighbors Plaka and Monastiraki, is one of the buzziest districts in Athens. It’s not so long ago that it was a down-at-heel artisan area best known for its abandoned buildings and leather shops, but Psiri is undergoing a facelift and is currently one of the hottest addresses in the city. Yes, its narrow, meandering streets are still covered with graffiti and there are local grocery shops unchanged for decades but today Psiri is a magnet to locals and – increasingly – visitors alike. For starters, it’s slowly becoming home to small independent boutiques selling organic soaps, unusual handmade jewelry, old posters and glittering icons; and often market stalls selling homemade produce line the streets. And by night Psiri undergoes a radical transformation as cool cafés, bars, restaurants and local ouzeries open on to the alleyways and the laidback crowds come strolling in.
Herodes Atticus was an aristocratic and wealthy Greek who funded several great building projects in ancient Athens, including the Odeum (also Odeon or Herodeion), which he commissioned in 161 BC in memory of his wife. Found at the bottom of the southern slopes of the Acropolis, it was a concert hall with 32 rows of seating around a semi-circular, tiled stage and covered with a wooden ceiling to aid acoustics. Able to accommodate an audience of 5,000, the Odeum’s three-story exterior was adorned with four vast arches and decorated with statues of the muses.
Destroyed in 267 AD by Germanic invaders, the Odeum was neglected until the 1950s, when refurbishment saw the seating and stage restored. It is today a popular open-air venue thanks to its spectacular setting underneath the Acropolis and the venue for many magical summertime open-air concerts and staging of classical plays as well as the Athens & Epidarus Festival from June through August.
Sprawling up the northern slopes of the Acropolis and peeking above the rooftops of Plaka, Anafiotika is a tiny enclave of steep, cobbled alleyways lined with squat, whitewashed stone houses reminiscent of villages in the Greek Islands. The area was developed by skilled craftsmen from the Cycladean island of Anafi, who arrived in Athens in 1843 to work in the building boom that followed independence from the Hellenic Republic. Taking advantage of an ancient decree that allowed people to keep their property if they could build it between sunset and sunrise, the islanders worked on grand neo-classical palaces by day and their own cramped quarters by night. Part of Anafiotika was torn down in the 1950s and now only around 50 of the artisan dwellings remain, tucked between the miniscule churches of Agios Georgios tou Vrachou and Agios Simeon, both also the work of the Anafi islanders. Their descendants still live in their mini-homes, amid splashes of color from scented gardens.
Kotzia Square is located in central Athens, Greece and is lined with neo-classical buildings from the 19th century. One of the buildings here is the City Hall of Athens, which is decorated with busts of famous Athenians such as Pericles and Solon. Another impressive building on the square is the National Bank of Greece. The square was built in 1874 and was originally called Loudovikou Square. The current name is for a former Athens mayor, Konstantinos Kotzias. This square was the starting and finishing point of the men's and women's road race events during the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Adrianou Street is one of the main roads in the Plaka neighborhood of Athens, Greece. It is the oldest commercial street in Athens still in continuous use and with the same layout, direction and use since antiquity. It runs from Thesseion in the Monastiraki flea market towards Hadrian's Arch in the Roman Agora, and it is the largest street in Plaka. The street is located below the Acropolis and is lined with restaurants and cafes.
There are also lots of shops along this road where you can find factory-made items as well as handcrafted pieces sold in shops owned by the artists. It's a popular place to shop for jewelry, postcards, crafts, antiques, and more. Since it is a pedestrian street, it is a good place for a leisurely stroll while exploring the neighborhood. It's also a great place to have dinner with a view of the Acropolis and soak up the atmosphere of ancient Athens.
The Monument of Lysicrates is the best preserved choragic monument in Athens, Greece. In ancient times, statues like this one were built as a base for placing trophies. Theater competitions were organized each year, and the sponsor of the winning performance won a trophy. This particular one was built by Lysicrates, a wealthy citizen of Athens, in the 4th century BC. It stands over 30 feet high and is crowned with a capital in the shape of acanthus leaves. The bronze trophy would have been placed on top of this capital.
On top of the pedestal, you can see a tholos, which is a circular structure with Corinthian columns and covered with a marble roof. Beneath the roof you can see a frieze that shows scenes from the winning play along with Dionysus, the patron god of the stage. The monument was integrated into a Capuchin monastery that was built in the same location in the mid 1600s, which is part of the reason it has survived.
Delphi is the second-most important archeological site in Greece (after the Acropolis in Athens). In ancient times Delphi was considered the place where heaven and earth met so the gods were close-by. Established around the 7th century BC, Delphi was a sanctuary to the god Apollo. It was here that the Oracle of Delphi was situated, the most trusted oracle in the ancient world from which the spirit of Apollo gave advice on everything from domestic matters to wars.
Delphi had a theatre and temples as well as the oracle, and has a well preserved stadium which once held chariot races. These were excavated from the mid-1800s and today the ruins stand impressively in their mountain landscape. Many believe the place to have a special magic and report being moved spiritually when visiting Delphi. Ancient engravings on the stone such as 'Know Thyself' and 'Nothing in Excess' could be from today's self-help movement.
Most of Santorini’s pocket-sized beaches are made of dark volcanic sand and pebbles set against black, austere cliffs, but perhaps its most unusual beach is near the Minoan ruins at Akrotíri on the south coast. Aptly named Red Beach (‘Kokkini Ammos’ in Greek) for its blood-red sand and gently crumbling burnt-umber cliffs, the crescent of beach forms a bizarre Martian landscape of red and black lava boulders scattered over grainy red and black sand. Rocks thrown up by ancient volcanic activity lurk just offshore in the calm bay, forming perfect platforms for sun worshippers, and the crystal-clear waters are paradise for snorkelers.
Open-topped wooden boats, known as kaiks, trundle backwards and forwards between Red Beach and Akrotíri disgorging a constant stream of visitors.
In 1967, archaeologists uncovered the spectacularly well-preserved remains of an ancient Bronze Age Minoan village at Ancient Akrotiri, destroyed by a mighty volcanic eruption in around 1650 BC.
The most famous Minoan site outside Crete, the sandstone remains of Akrotiri’s buildings reach several stories. Their door and window lintels are spookily intact, along with stone walls and porticoes, courtyards and rooms. As at Pompeii, the buildings were preserved by the volcanic ash. Fortunately, unlike Pompeii, it appears that the villagers were safely evacuated, as no skeletons have been unearthed during the excavation. The excavation site has been closed for several years, though restoration is continuing. To get an idea of what lies beneath, visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thira, where gorgeous frescos of boats, fishers, wildlife and everyday people from several millennia ago are displayed. You can also see personal artifacts like pottery and furniture.
The site of the Ancient Olympic Games in Olympia in the Peloponnese was lost to time and earthquake until 1875 when excavation began to uncover the ancient stadium (which could seat 20,000), the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera (where the Olympic Flame is still lit from the sun), and many other important buildings.
Today they are only ruins, foundations and columns mainly but still of great interest and one of the most visited ancient sites in Greece.
Adjoining the site is the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, which contains some of Greece's most valuable historic artifacts found in the Altis or sanctuary to Zeus. The museum is famous for its sculpture collection including Nike who was said to come down from the sky to hand a palm leaf to the victors. The large terracotta collection is also renowned and this modern museum is a great way to get a feel for how it was to be at those ancient games.
Located in the village of Gastouri on the island of Corfu, Achillion Palace was built by Empress Elisabeth of Austria in 1890. Designed by Italian architect Raffaello Caritto, the palace was built in a Pompeian architectural style and features paintings and sculptures of Achilles throughout. Among the sculptures is the famous Dying Achilles in the center of the palace gardens, sculpted by the Greek Ernst Herter.
After Empress Elisabeth was killed, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II bought the palace and used it as a summer residence. During World War I, it was used as a military hospital and during World War II, it was used by the axis powers as a military headquarters. Eventually, it was turned over to the control of the Hellenic Tourist Organization and today it is a museum with certain rooms and the gardens open to the public.
With its wide-arching strip of beach dotted with striped umbrellas, it’s easy to see why Kamari Beach is resort central on Santorini.
The Brits feel at home with English-style breakfast cafes and pubs, but there are resorts, tavernas and restaurants here for all tastes, along with bobbing fishing boats and the easily accessible volcanic-sand beach. In fact, it’s the resort town’s variety when it comes to choosing restaurants and hotels that makes it so popular.
Rent a sun chair and umbrella, or organize water sports like diving and snorkeling. Excursion boats sail along the coast, past the rocky headland of Mesa Vouno that frames Kamari’s beach, across the water to the isle of Anafi. A trail leads to the ruins of Ancient Thira, and in summer the town hosts a jazz festival and outdoor cinema.
The archaeological site at Akrotiri may be closed, but fortunately you can get your fill of excavations at the site of Ancient Thira. There’s a mix of ruins to explore, including Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine remnants, excavated in the 1890s. Take a tour to identify the different structures – temples, houses, the market (agora), theater and gymnasium.
At its height, this was a thriving center, with dramatic sanctuaries hewn into rock, temples, an impressive theater and porticoed administrative buildings. The central area is the Agora, the old commercial hub, encircled by temple sanctuaries ringing the city. There are also ancient cemeteries here, unearthed since the 1960s. Don’t miss the views over the coast while you’re here.
Your gateway to ancient Olympia and coincidentally, the flame and founding place of the Olympic Games, the recently modernized port at Katakolon is a pleasant way to begin a quiet and majestic tour of this seaside town in western Pyrgos. It is a very small place with not very many inhabitants, but the increasing amount of visitors here will tell you that if a quiet holiday in one of ancient Greece's most important destinations is what you want, this is the place to find it.
Located at the western edge of Greece's Peloponnese Peninsula, there are a ton of cruise options from within Greece for getting into Katakolon. Because the port is actually one of the few physically able to house certain types of ships, don't be surprised that you will find it as a destination for large excursion trips as well. Once in, the port is located just five minutes walking from the main area in town.
The little island of Thirassia has a population of only 200 or so, making it the perfect spot for a relaxing lunch at a cliff-top taverna, with views over to Santorini. The island used to be part of Santorini’s mainland, until the violent volcanic eruption of 1650 BC set it free.
Sail over from Santorini to escape the crowds on Thirassia’s lovely beaches, and bring a traveler’s dictionary as not many people here speak English. Those tavernas are clustered in the village of Manolas, near the ferry stop, and the tranquil island also has scattered blue-domed churches, ancient monasteries and stone villages.
Agios Gordios is a small village on the west coast of the island of Corfu and can be a great base from which to explore the island by either bicycle or car. Surrounded by mountains, olive groves and cypress trees, the village also features sandy beaches, charming pastel colored homes and a variety of restaurants, bars and shops. At the beach, you will find canoes and boats for hire, as well as a diving center and other water sports. Sunbeds are also available.
From Agios Gordios, you can reach three nearby villages on foot, each within two kilometers. Kato Garouna is a traditional village more than 400 years old, sitting just below Panteleimonas Mountain, which provides great views of the surrounding area. Pentati sits high up on a hill above the famous Ortholithi rock, also providing spectacular views. Sinarades is another traditional village which features a historic folklore museum displaying items from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Lying on the north coast of Crete just west of Heraklion, Chania is Crete’s most charming old town and also one of its most historic areas. Mosques, synagogues and churches exist side by side, and a tumble of photogenic buildings with Roman, Jewish, Moorish, Turkish and Venetian origins cluster around a harbor where life goes on at a leisurely pace. Beyond this ancient core is a thriving modern city and a backdrop of mountains peaks.
The old town has three distinct areas: the Venetian, Turkish and Jewish quarters are each well preserved. Chania’s old port curls within its rampart walls in from a lighthouse that was built by the Venetians in the 16th century and reconstructed in Islamic style a couple of hundred years later.
Bars and restaurants line the waterfront alongside the bubble-shaped Mosque of Hassan Pasha and the Venetian Great Arsenal, where the main attraction is the brightly painted replica Minoan boat built for the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Situated at the edge of Corfu town, the new port takes on ferries from the Greek mainland, as well as from places like Venice and Ancona in Italy. A popular destination for cruise liners, the port acts as the gateway to the phenomenal beaches, resorts, traditional historic architecture and olive tree-laden landscape of the west coast island of Corfu.
Getting to this Greek island town is only a hop and skip away for most international travelers flying in from Europe, with the island's convenient international airport and flights going between continental Europe and other major Greek destinations. Also, the more exciting way in - and more obvious - is through the port, with numerous comfortable and modern ferry services.
Corfu has a number of exciting ways to spend the day. Among the most popular ways are on the beach, or to head in to the resorts for a proper pampering, but there is a lot more to do in this great town.
Sitting on the crescent of Mirabello Bay, Ag Nick is a buzzy and contemporary seaside resort nestled around Lake Voulismeni, which links to the town’s massive harbour via a narrow channel lined with seafood restaurants under brightly colored awnings. The town has a couple of appealing museums but the real joy of a visit is the chance to scour its goldsmiths for hand-crafted jewelry at decent prices, enjoy the open-air market on Wednesday and stroll around the vibrant marina, with its bobbing yachts and traditional, brightly painted wooden fishing boats.
The best beach in Agios Nikolaos is at Almyros, just south of town and easily accessible on foot along the coastal boulevard. Popular day trips include the traditional whitewashed village of Kritsa, famous for its location in the foothills of the Dikti Mountains; and the deserted Venetian fortress at Spinalonga, which was a leper colony until 1957.