I’ve been visiting and writing about Greece for almost 30 years now. I can remember a time when getting out of Athens for the trip down to the Peloponnese involved driving around Omonoia Square in circles and shouting my destination out of the car window—“Korinthos! Korinthos!”—until someone pointed me onto the right road.
Nowadays, easy-to-navigate highways make leaving Athens a lot less stressful—though with each passing year the city seems to add more good reasons for sticking around. As the author of the just-released third edition of Frommer’s Athens and the Greek Islands, I’ve been thrilled to report on new Athens attractions such as the contemporary art–filled Goulandris Foundation as well as a raft of new hotels and places to eat and drink.
In the fashionable Kolonaki neighborhood, for instance, Monsieur Didot offers stays in a beautifully redone town house with all the feel of a private home. New rooftop bars, meanwhile, are opening all the time to make the most of views of the city’s star attraction, the Acropolis. My favorite rooftop spot is the Zillers, an oasis of quiet refinement set against that scene-stealing backdrop.
Santorini and Mykonos
(Mykonos, Greece | Credit: Sven Hansche / Shutterstock)
While I encourage anyone to linger in Athens for at least a few days, I realize that travelers are eager to head to the islands, with Santorini and Mykonos often being the top choices. It’s hard to believe, but in the not too distant past I could just show up on Santorini and find a room to rent in a family home teetering right on the edge of the caldera for about $15 a night, breakfast included.
To enjoy those same views today, you’d need to fork over a small fortune for a stay in one of the island’s dozens of luxury hotels—and Mykonos has grown just as costly. But part of the long-standing mission of Frommer’s guides is to find ways to travel well on a reasonable budget, and it’s satisfying to recommend well-priced, good-value hotels even on these very expensive islands.
On Santorini, the Villa Maria is perched at the southern end of the caldera, away from the fray and high costs of Oia and Fira. I’m willing to forgo the caldera views altogether for a stay at Smaragdi near Perissa Beach. On Mykonos, Fresh supplies some welcome calm—and prices that won’t raise the heart rate, either—in the middle of Hora.
Less Crowded Islands and More Magical Sights
(The Meteora monasteries in Greece | Credit: Cristian M Balate / Shutterstock)
Still, I would urge anyone going to Greece to venture beyond Mykonos and Santorini. If I can’t convince you, the color photos throughout this new edition will undoubtedly do the job. I am especially prone to stranding myself on two quiet little islands, Skyros and Folegandros, or on two of the country’s largest islands: green and wild Lesbos or Crete, a continent in itself.
The guidebook is packed with recommendations on getting around (Ferryhopper.com is an indispensable tool), where to stay and eat, and not just what to see and do but how to have the best experiences.
In addition to all the practicalities, we show off the magic of Greece: the marble town of Pyrgos on the appealing island of Tinos, the remarkable seascapes of Milos, the maze of medieval lanes in Rhodes Town, the beaches of Naxos, and many more must-see sights.
To narrow down the choices and get the most from your travels, we’ve put together five itineraries based on varying interests. One of my favorite routes is a tour of classical Greece that begins with a trip into the Peloponnese (don’t worry—you no longer need to plead desperately with strangers for directions). The ancient world is a haunting presence in the region’s fabled places such as Epidaurus, Mycenae, and Olympia. In my research I was delighted to learn about a new company, Olympia Back in Time, that offers self-guided virtual reality tours to bring the ruins eerily to life. Talk about making the old feel new.
Our Holy Places itinerary includes three especially transporting spots: the monastery-topped rock formations in the Meteora and two beautiful, low-key pilgrimage sites, Patmos and Tinos.
I much enjoyed mapping out 10 days on Crete, pointing travelers to places I’ve long enjoyed—Minoan sites, Venetian cities, and those spectacular mountain gorges and beautiful beaches.
As you follow our recommendations and make your own discoveries, keep in mind that traveling in Greece can still be unpredictable at times—and look out for the occasional high winds that can halt ferry traffic and thwart the best-laid plans.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, be flexible, relax, and adopt the approach suggested by the Greek saying “siga, siga” (slowly, slowly). Expect many good meals, warm welcomes, and magical sights along the way.
Frommer's Athens and the Greek Islands by Stephen Brewer is available now in bookstores and from online booksellers.