- Making Haste Slowly: Enjoy a taverna meal under the stars. You can experience this pleasure anywhere in Greece, of course—maybe on an island with the sea in view, or in the countryside, with the scent of pine in the air, or even in busy, noisy Athens. The food is usually simple but fresh and delicious, the pace is almost always easygoing, and the spectacle of life buzzing around you is endlessly entertaining, like being in the theater. Give yourself time to sit and watch the fishing boats come and go. If you visit Greece in the spring, take the time to smell the flowers; the fields are covered with poppies, daisies, and other blooms. Even in Athens, you'll see hardy species growing through the cracks in concrete sidewalks—or better yet, visit Athens' Ancient Agora, which will be carpeted with a dazzling variety of wildflowers.
- Island-Hopping in the Cyclades: Succumb to the simple charms of Mykonos: For all its glitz and glamour, worldly Mykonos shows off its best side in Hora, where wooden balconies hang from square white houses, outdoor staircases are lined with pots of geraniums, and oleander and hibiscus scent the air. Most picturesque of all is the Little Venice quarter, where the island’s sea captains built their homes so close to the water’s edge that waves wash against the lower floors. Though the Cyclades are bound by unmistakable family resemblance, each island has a unique personality. Distances between islands are small, making travel by ferry logistically straightforward (at least in principle). Whether you are traveling in the off season, when you do not need hotel reservations, or in high season, when hotel reservations are a must, we suggest that you prepare to be flexible—which is a tactful way of preparing you for the unexpected in island boat schedules!
- Gaze at the Acropolis, Athens: You don’t have to go out of your way to find a vantage point. The best approach is to let the sight take you unawares—let it catch you by surprise as you look up from a narrow side street or traffic-choked square. In fact, the more mundane the surroundings from which you catch a glimpse of the timeless pediments and columns, the more remarkable this ancient wonder seems. One prime spot is the Grand Promenade; even Athenians get a thrill every time they follow this walkway around the base of the Acropolis Hill past some of the greatest monuments of antiquity. Think of the experience as time travel.
- Get into the rhythms of Lalaria Beach, Skiathos: Greece’s beaches are among the most beautiful in the world, but nothing quite prepares you for the approach to this almost mystical cove in the Sporades archipelago. At first you won’t quite know what that murmur is. Then you slowly become accustomed to the murmurous rumble of white marble stones rolling back and forth in the surf, amplified by sea cliffs dappled by the play of sun and turquoise water.
- Descend onto the Lasithi Plateau, Crete: First the road climbs and climbs; then suddenly you reach the summit of the pass, and at your feet, spreads a high haven of orchards and fields, studded with windmills and protected by a tidy ring of mountains. Your explorations can include a cave that’s one of the alleged birthplaces of Zeus—it’s not hard to believe a god would choose to be born up here, where the biggest pleasure is simply experiencing a slice of rural Cretan life.
- Catch your first glimpse of Skyros Town, Skyros: This hilltop hora appears to defy gravity—at first sight, the white houses clinging to a rocky mount high above the coastal plain look like a mirage. Make the ascent to the upper town, where a walk along the steep, narrow lanes only heightens the illusion.
- Leaving the Beaten Path: Leave the main routes and major attractions behind, and make your own discoveries of landscape, villages, or activities. For instance, seek out a church or monastery such as Moni Ayios Nikolaos outside Metsovo—you may be rewarded by a moving encounter with the church and its caretaker. When you visit the Cycladic Islands, consider a base on Tinos or Siros. Both are popular with Greeks but attract hardly any foreigners.
- Exploring the Naturalists' Greece: There is a Greece beyond the columns and cafes—a land of rugged terrain and wildflowers and birds and other natural phenomena. Sign up for a special tour, or go it alone with one of the several beautifully illustrated handbooks available, such as Oleg Polunin's Flowers of Greece and the Balkans (Oxford University Press) or Paul Sterry's Birds of the Mediterranean (Yale University Press). And don't forget your binoculars!
- Sunrise, Sunset, Siesta: Get up a little earlier than usual to see the sun rise (preferably from the Aegean, illuminating the islands). Then watch it sink over the mountains (anywhere in Greece, but try not to miss the sunsets that change the Ionian Sea from the deepest blue to a fiery red). And, in between sunrise and sunset, don't forget to have a siesta—most Greeks do, especially in the summer.
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.