Summer is now in full-fledge and NYC has returned to pre-COVID madness! I'm thrilled my city is thriving, and I look forward to enjoying the rest of what this summer has to offer before the autumn breeze is upon us in the blink of an eye. A couple weeks ago, I roundtripped down the Oregon Coast with a few of my close friends and enjoyed the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Soon after, during the July 4th holiday, I headed to Greece with another girlfriend, and we had the most incredible week in Athens and island hopping through Mykonos, Paros and Santorini. This is actually my 2nd time in Greece, my first time being over 5 years ago right after college graduation. All I can say was having a job this time around meant major upgrades all-around!
I had many friends reach out about our trip and itinerary after seeing my stories and posts on Instagram (@jesslynnma). I wanted to share a comprehensive list of recommendations based on our own research, my past experience in Greece, and from suggestions made by friends who are locals! If I could spend a year here, I absolutely would, and I can pretty much guarantee that even in that amount of time, I wouldn't be able to see all the beauty that this country has to offer. Did you know that Greece has 227 islands!?
This itinerary is for a full week in Greece. If this is your first time here, I would highly recommend you spend a few days in Athens, as that is most likely where you will fly in and out of if you are traveling internationally. Mykonos and Santorini are two of the most popular islands in Greece, and are considered must-visits for first timers. If you have additional time, I would recommend visiting the following islands: Paros, Ios, Milos, Naxos, Crete.
The following is a breakdown of our 7 days in Greece. For us, this was a good amount of time to see the highlights of each place, but I understand that it can feel rushed for some people. Adjust your itinerary to what fits with your travel style! If you enjoy staying in one place instead of bouncing around, choosing only 1 or 2 islands is a perfectly great option.
Athens - 2 Days
Mykonos - 2 Days
Paros - 1 Day
Santorini - 2 Days
Flying or taking a ferry are your two options for traveling between all the different Greek islands
Flying will often be the quicker option, although you must factor the time to get to the airport early, check-in bags, go through baggage claim, etc. In many cases, taking a ferry may be the same amount of time and be cheaper as well
The ferry is very easy and efficient. Purchase your tickets at GoFerry or pick up your tickets day-of at the port. There is usually one main port for the smaller islands and the larger ones will have multiple. Make sure sure you look at your ticket and arrive at the correct one at least 20 minutes before departure.
Once you arrive at your destination, there are a number of options for you to choose from to get you around the city or island: walking, taxi, car rental, ATV, scooter, private car service, etc.
For Athens, I highly recommend picking a hotel near the Acropolis/Monastiraki Square as it is a very central location for getting around without additional transportation. You will be able to walk everywhere in the main parts of Athens within 15-20 minutes max. To get out of the city or to get to and from the airport, you can take public transportation or book a flat-rate taxi.
For any of the Greek islands, transportation is much tougher by foot if you want to explore as much of the island as possible. The safest and best option is to rent a car for the duration of your stay. Many hotels can arrange for a car to be dropped off at your hotel the day of, which is extremely convenient. Our daily car rental rate in Mykonos and Paros was 60 Euros. Many people also choose to rent ATVs and scooters, which is a fun option to experience. For those who do not want to drive, you can arrange for taxi service/private transfer. This will be the most costly option but allows you the freedom to drink and not have to worry about parking and driving around unfamiliar, winding roads. Just keep in mind that taxis are limited on each island and may not be readily available to pick you up, so make proper arrangements prior to ensure you have a ride when you need it!
~ ATHENS ~
THINGS TO DO
Discover the Acropolis
Skip the long lines and book your tickets to the Acropolis online before your visit!
Watch the Sunrise over the Acropolis
The best sunrise will be at Filopappou Hill or Areopagus Hill, which both overlook the Acropolis. I have done both, so if you are a first timer, go with Filopappou and get to the top of the hill at least 20 minutes for before sunrise to experience the magic.
Visit the Acropolis Museum
Skip the long lines and book your tickets to the Acropolis Museum online before your visit!
Explore Plaka Neighborhood
The Plaka Athen's oldest neighborhood located under the Acropolis and stretches almost to Syntagma. There are two main pedestrian streets which intersect at what is generally considered the center of the Plaka: Kydathineon and Adrianou.
Spend a morning or afternoon strolling these beautiful streets, and enjoy the plentiful shopping and restaurants options.
#3 on the World's 50 Best Bars List
#31 on the World's 50 Best Bars List
Rooftop bar and garden with stunning sunset views over the Acropolis and signature cocktails
Not only one of the best rooftop bars in Athens overlooking the Acropolis, but also an awesome hotel! This is where we stayed for our two nights here - good Wi-Fi, strong AC, and a wonderful inclusive breakfast on the rooftop with some of the most stunning views of the city!
A local favorite where you won't find many tourists lurking! They serve a few signature drinks featuring O/PURIST tsipouro, a strong distilled spirit that recently launched in Greece. We had to check it out with our local friend, who's family is behind the brand.
Fresko (Greek yogurt)
Greek yogurt in Greece is like no other in the world! Stop into a local greek yogurt shop and enjoy a delicious yogurt treat topped with all your sweet favorites! Our personal toppings include sour cherry, bergamot and honey.
Located right on the outskirts of Plaka, 2 Mazi is an upscale, Greek creative cuisine restaurant.
Their outdoor patio seating is incredible charming, and makes for a wonderful place to celebrate a special occasion, for a romantic supper, or for us, a first celebratory dinner in Athens!
We enjoyed the sea bream and beef cheeks, but the standout dish for us was the cuttlefish orzo with saffron and ginger, photographed below.
A traditional Greek bistro with a local menu featuring delicious seafood and meat dishes. Also a cozy and comfy place for a glass of wine or coffee for a mid-afternoon break.
Stand outs are the grape leaves, grilled octopus and fava!
Highly recommend stopping by Liondi for lunch after visiting the Acropolis museum. Great prices, big portions, and incredible service.
We absolutely loved the saganaki and Greek salad.
The best Greek donuts you will find in Athens! Try the classic flavor of honey and cinnamon and your taste buds will thank you for the late night treat.
~ MYKONOS ~
THINGS TO DO
Stroll Through Little Venice
A little slice of Italy in Greece! Enjoy a walk through Mykonos' own Little Venice, and enjoy a meal or cocktail along the water as you enjoy the breeze.
Visit Mykonos Old Port
Perfect for a picturesque stroll in the afternoon or during sunset!
We enjoyed a chicken gyro lunch on one of the benches overlooking the port; talk about lunch with a view.
Wander around Mykonos Town
You've seen it on your Instagram feeds, but there's truly nothing like seeing the white buildings of Mykonos Town IRL.
You'll get lost wandering the winding streets but you won't mind it because there is something exciting to discover around every corner.
Don't forget to stop and treat yourself to some gelato!
Visit the Kato Myli (Mykonos Windmill)
Located south of Mykonos Town, these iconic windmills are a must-visit on the island; There isn't much to do in the area except to snap some photos, but because they are elevated on a small hill, you can get a great view of the city standing next to them!
This 16th century windmill, in my opinion, is even more beautiful than the famous Kato Myli and is also much less crowded.
Perched up on a hill and overlooking the Bay, Boni's Windmill in the only one on the island that is open to the public.
Agios Sostis Beach
Mykonos has no shortage of beautiful, clear beaches to choose from, but if you are looking for one of the quieter, more serene beaches, Agios Sostis is off the beaten path and the perfect pick for a beach day.
Note: this is a nudist-friendly beach!
Paraportiani Orthodox Church
There are many churches in Greece, but the most famous one of all in Mykonos is the Paraportiani Church located in the Kastro neighborhood. I didn't get a chance to take any photos of this famous church, but we passed it walking along the water on our second night in Mykonos.
The church dates back to the 1400s and its name literally means "Our Lady of the Side Gate" in Greek.
180 Degrees Sunset Bar
Arguably the best place on the island to watch the incredible sun set!
I would recommend making a reservation in advance so you can secure a table, although you can still walk in if you come a prior to sunset (~1 hour before is perfect). If you do a walk in, you can still enjoy the views but you will have to stand in designated areas and you won't be able to order food.
Tickets cost 20 Euro per person but can be applied toward a drink of your choice.
Beach Bars are a big thing in Mykonos, and the most famous one of all is the one and only, Scorpios! Getting reservations is extremely tough, especially if you don't do it months in advance, so I recommend trying to reserve as soon as you book your trip and don't wait until last minute to try. However, even without cabana or table reservations, you can still access the beach if you manage to sneak in for drinks!
If you show up early at around 4-6pm, you might get lucky and snag a spot inside for drinks like we did!
Sol y Mar
If I could stay in Mykonos for a full week, I would just hop from one beach bar to the next until I hit them all.
Sol y Mar is popular beach bar on Kalo Livadi Beach (one of Mykonos' longest beaches), located on the southern part of the island and is perfect for a day of soaking in the sun.
We were able to get day-of reservations on a Thursday, but call or email ahead to secure your beach chairs or table prior to your visit!
Word is definitely out about Kiki's because this unexpecting restaurant nestled near the entrance of Agios Sostis Beach had a line out the door before it even opened for lunch! By the time it officially opened, they were already taking names down for the 2nd seating of the day.
Come hungry because they have an incredible salad bar, fresh seafood and plenty of freshly grilled meat dishes.
Make sure you try their jumbo prawns, marinated octopus and baked feta (YUM).
Karavaki is located outside of Mykonos Town (near where we stayed at Hotel Alkyon), but it is worth the trek for an incredible meal with a view overlooking the city.
All I will tell you is that you must get the beef carpaccio with black truffle - it's easily the best thing I ate on our entire trip.
Saki's Grill House
Fancy meals are nice and all, but some of the best Greek foods are the most simple and affordable.
Saki's Grill House is a staple in Mykonos Town, so I recommend grabbing a gyro sandwich or plate, and walking over to the port to enjoy lunch or dinner with a view.
One of our favorite meals from the entire trip! The octopus carpaccio and savory panna cotta were amazing, but the star of the show was the croaker. I highly recommend for the food, and the backdrops not too shabby either ;)
~ PAROS ~
THINGS TO DO
Naousa is a small town located in the northeastern corner of Paros, and if there's one place you should stay for the most lively nightlife on the island, it's definitely here!
There are plenty of colorful cafes, restaurants and bars lining the quant little town, so take the day to explore and eat your way through Naousa!
Located on the Plastira Bay, Kolimpithres Beach is one of the most famous beaches of Paros and is most recognizable by its beautiful rock formations.
Sunbeds and umbrellas can be rented for day use, but an authentic experience is to secure yourself a rock and bask in the afternoon sun.
Souvlaki Kargas is a small, no frills restaurant a bit off the coast in Naousa. The menu is short and simple, but the food is incredibly fresh and delicious! Easily one of the best meals of our trip and hands down the best pork souvlaki I've ever had.
Seafood is an absolute must on any Greek island, and you don't have to look far in Paros to find a great seafood restaurant. Mackerel is a must-try in Paros, so don't leave without trying it!
Koralli is located near the port of Paros, next to Parikia Beach on the Western shores of the island. Even better than the seafood is the amazing sunset views from their outdoor patio!
~ SANTORINI ~
THINGS TO DO
Ammoudi is a beautiful bay and small port located 200+ steps below the city of Oia. The trek to get down here is not the easiest (and you may even encounter some donkey poop), but it is truly worth every step once you make it. Ammoudi bay is lined with shops and seafood restaurants with outdoor patios overlooking the water.
For those looking to cool off from the summer heat, you can actually swim in Ammoudi Bay.
The castle of Agios Nikolaos is one of the best places in Santorini to watch the famous sunsets of the island. Here, you will get the classic postcard views of the calderas and the sea.
Contrary to how peaceful and serene it looks in all the photos you have probably seen, behind the scenes is a total different story! Tourists pack into Oia castle and line the stone walls, sometimes hours prior to sunset in order to secure a spot. If you are keen on experiencing this, I recommend coming 2-3 hours prior, picking up food for a picnic and enjoying the views until the sun goes down.
Tip: Be careful on the rocks if you want to climb over the walls for a better view. It is steep and there are no railings at all!
Boat Cruise with Spiridakos Sailing
One of the best parts about visiting any of the Greek islands is experiencing it on the water! There are plenty of excursion options to choose from, from more affordable group tours to private, luxury catamaran charters - something out there for every budget. Since our boat tour in Paros was cancelled day-of due to the strong winds, we pivoted our plans and booked a 5 hour cruise in Santorini instead.
We went with Spiridakos Sailing Cruises because they had wonderful reviews and two time slots to choose from (morning 10:30am or sunset 3:30pm). Though we booked it the night before without any problems, I recommend trying to reserve in advance just in case they are booked up on the day you want.
The 5 hour cruise starts at Ammoudi Bay and includes multiple stops along some of Santorini's most famous landmarks: White Beach, Red Beach, Nea Kameni (hot springs). You will have the chance to jump into the water, snorkel and swim as your heart desires. One of the best parts of the excursion was the delicious greek lunch prepared fresh by the staff. We had fried flounder, grilled chicken, spaghetti with prawns, and home-made tzatziki and of course, fresh Greek salad.
Price per person is 130 Euro, although prices may vary depending on which 3rd party you book from or if the itinerary is different. Transfer to and from your accommodation is included in the price.
Hike from Fira to Oia
The first time I visited Santorini in 2016, I promised myself that if I ever came back, I would have to do the hike from Fira to Oia, which we didn't have the time to do the first time around. We saved this special 7-mile hike for our last morning in Greece, and it was so worth every step (and the early wakeup call)!
You can technically start the path from Oia and walk to Fira instead of the other way around, but research told me the better views and less steep inclines were from Fira to Oia. Since our hotel was in Oia, we took a cab before sunrise to the base of the hike in Fir behind the Atlantis Hotel.
Wear comfortable shoes because you will experience everything from paves pathways to dirt roads, and don't forget the sunscreen because it's a sunny stroll and you WILL get burnt!
The best time of day to do this hike IMO, would be very early in the morning or right at sunrise so you can avoid the crowds and beat the afternoon heat.
Ammoudi Fish Tavern
A seafood meal at Amouddi Bay is an absolute must in Santorini. There are a couple of great options to choose from (Sunset Ammoudi, Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna, Taverna Katina, etc.) if you're looking for a bay-side dining experience.
Ammoudi Fish Tavern takes the cake with some of the most stunning views of Ammoudi. Sit back, relax with a glass of wine, and enjoy the delicious, fresh-caught seafood!
The tomato balls and mastelo cheese were amazing, and the white seabream cooked in charcoal was a treat.
Highly recommend making reservations in advance as this is one of the most restaurants in the area.
Located in the town of Imerovigli, in between Oia and Fira, Athenian house is a romantic, luxurious Greek dining experience with unparalleled views overlooking the sea and calderas.
"The restaurant uses new cooking technologies to transform traditional Greek dishes into gourmet creations with a modern twist." There are 3 tasting menus to choose from, ranging from 80-120 Euros.
I highly recommend booking a table for the sunset seating; the views are nothing short of incredible, especially with the sun setting over Skaros Rock. We even witnessed a couple proposing at the table next to us right after sunset.
We chose the 90 Euro, Discovery Menu (pictured below)