advertisement

Ideally, everyone should have a whole summer for Greece. But let's face it, most people leave home on a Friday evening and then fly back to work the next Sunday. That's 8 full days on the ground. We've included 2 weekends, but any 8 days will work. Keep in mind that travel in Greece on summer weekends is always more difficult and hotels are almost always more expensive than during the week.

Day 1: Athens & the Acropolis

Arrive in Athens and get settled in your hotel. Especially if you've had a long flight, stretch your legs with a walk to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. If you'd like to combine culture and coffee, head for the Acropolis Museum (art-course sculptures and a great cafe). On the way, you'll get a glimpse of the Theater of Dionysos, the ground zero of Greek drama. After that long flight, and long walk (and, perhaps, a short nap!), how about a stroll along Adrianou (Hadrian) Street, the main drag in Plaka (where all too many "Greek" souvenirs are made in China) and dinner under a shady plane tree at the long-time favorite, the Platanos Taverna. If you like tortoises, you might spot one in the adjacent garden of the Museum of Popular Greek Music Instruments.

Day 2: Athens & Santorini

Check out the gold masks, jewelry, and sculptures, at the National Archaeological Museum. Then head to the Ancient Agora to experience the Temple of Theseus and the business and political hub of ancient Athens. En route, you'll also experience a good deal of the hubbub of souvenir peddlers (knock-off handbags and watches, bizarre rubber tomatoes and fried eggs) who hang out along Adrianou Street. There are lots of cafes where you can grab a cold drink, but keep an eye on your purse and camera: this is a favorite haunt of pickpockets. Perhaps lunch at Oraia Ellada -- great Acropolis views, snacks, reproductions of folk art -- in the Plaka. You may want to do a circuit of Syntagma Square, and have a look at the House of Parliament and National Gardens. Take the evening flight or overnight ferry to Santorini. If you take the ferry, set your alarm clock as early as necessary to be on deck when your ship sails past Santorini's drop-dead amazing cliffs. Get a taxi to Oia (Ia) and, after checking in at a hotel there, try Skala for dinner.

Days 3 & 4: Santorini & Crete

If ancient Akrotiri has reopened, you must see it -- how many chances will you ever have to walk down ancient streets and peer into frescoed homes last occupied some 3,500 years ago? If Akrotiri is still closed, head for ancient Thira, a mountaintop settlement with 360-degree views over the island and beyond. Spend the rest of the day at Kamari beach, where the pebbles and sand are jet black and there are plenty of cafes for snacks. Have lunch on the beach at Camille Stefani. Later, in Oia, take in sunset and then dinner at the Restaurant-Bar 1800, a restored sea captain's mansion. On Day 4, perhaps visit a winery and keep an eye out for the low-growing vines near the island's typical cave houses hollowed into the solidified ash Then you can fly via Athens or take the ferry to Iraklion, Crete. Check into your hotel, stroll around, and grab a patio table for a meal at Loukoulos.

Days 5 & 6: Crete

Go early to visit the heavily -- too heavily, many archaeologists say -- restored palace of Knossos. Then, have a look at some of the palace's treasures, including the graceful figurines of snake goddesses and carved vases and frescoes the Archaeological Museum.and then have lunch at the Pantheon in the center of the market. After a siesta, take the walking tour of Iraklion before treating yourself to a meal at the Brillant Gourmet. With only 1 day left, it's decision time: relaxing on a beach, or seeing more of Crete. You could spend Day 6 touring the charming port town of Chania, with its relatively intact Venetian-Turkish old town; or Phaestos, the second most ambitious Minoan palace. Eat lunch at the restaurant above the Phaetos site, or along Chania's harbor at the Amphora. Either trip involves a lot of driving -- easily 5 hours round-trip -- which may make a relaxed beach day pretty irresistible! Take an evening flight back to Athens.

Day 7: Athens or Delphi?

You may prefer to spend a leisurely day taking in more of Athens. Otherwise, why not take a day trip to Delphi (177km/110 miles), one of Greece's most breathtaking ancient sites. At Delphi, in addition to major attractions such as the Sanctuary of Apollo and the Delphi Museum, you'll be treated to glorious mountain scenery with vistas off to the Gulf of Corinth. If Delphi seems like too long a day trip, have a relaxing morning and then head off for a swim near the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion. Stay for sunset before heading back to Athens. Whatever you've chosen to do, treat yourself to a leisurely dinner when you get back to Athens; if you want to admire the Acropolis while you eat, try a rooftop table at Strofi Tavern.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.