Greece is undeniably a summer classic. With so many incredible places to discover ranging from major cities, bucolic mainland towns and villages to cosmopolitan or off the grid islands, choosing your next Greek summer destination poses one of the most enjoyable dilemmas yet. Combining ancient heritage, impressive landmarks and scenic landscapes, we have singled out 2 plus 1 iconic Greek destinations for summer that consist of all the elements that Greece is able of offering to even the most demanding of travellers.
1. Athens - the modern city infused with the aura of the Ancients
When thinking of Athens, the Acropolis is the first thing that comes to mind. Although Athens is a city that can be explored across all seasons of the year, spending a few days discovering it during summer proves to be very rewarding. The wonderful weather and clear blue skies during the summertime, reveal Athens at its most glorious. The old city of Athens was essentially built around this ancient marvel, and as the eras succeeded one another, adding their own architectural and cultural charm to every neighbourhood that surrounds the Acropolis, creating an enchanting amalgam of experiences for visitors to indulge in. Contrary to other major capital cities, central Athens can easily be discovered by taking a relaxed saunter around the perimeter of the Acropolis rock. The areas of Koukaki, Thiseio, Monastiraki, Anafiotika, Plaka and Psirri make up the conflicting yet charming tapestry of the city. All of these neighbourhoods have their own distinct flair, brimming with quaint cafes, bars, markets, restaurants and loads of interesting tourist and non tourist shops that are buzzing, both day and night. For fully immersing into the intoxicating aura that the iconic monument emits, you can choose to stay at the Design AthensWas Hotel in Athens that offers Acropolis view Suites. It is the sister hotel of Anemi Hotel in Folegandros. Athens also has a coastal side to it, and the Athenian Riviera counts more than 40 km in length. It is not comparable to island coasts, as you would imagine, but a drive along it will fill your mind with some wonderful visuals, especially if you wish to venture out to Sounion, where the imposing Temple of Poseidon stands proudly atop of a hill.
- Taste the local street food delights, such as the koulouri, a bread ring sprinkled with sesame seeds, sold by many vendors, and the famous Greek souvlaki from Monastiraki Square.
- Visit the Acropolis museum, where there are many ancient artefacts and items that will inspire you and amplify your reverence for the accomplishments of a civilisation that flourished many centuries ago.
- Walk through Anafiotika by night, one of Athens’s oldest residential areas, where the houses and cobblestone paths leading down from the rock exude a wonderful island feel.
2. Crete’s Heraklion - Venetian fortifications, landmarks and beaches
The seafront, capital town of Greece’s largest island, Crete, offers a wonderful base from which onward exploration is an easy task. Especially if you have not visited Crete before, Heraklion should be your first stop. Consider staying at the elegant Galaxy Hotel Iraklio which is located just on the outskirts of the old city, offering 5 star facilities and amenities, and a wonderful pool in its courtyard for a quick dip to beat the summer’s heat. Your well being and a good night's rest is guaranteed at the pure wellness luxury rooms of Galaxy Hotel. Now, Heraklion’s harbour is quite iconic, with the Koules fortress, surrounded by Venetian built, fortified walls that act like a raised platform for a perimeter promenade, revealing the gates of the old city. The central square of the city, Lion’s square, is where all intercity roads meet. There is a marble fountain at its centre, the Morosini Lion fountain, and opposite it you will find the elegant Basilica St. Mark Municipal Gallery, while in close proximity, lies the magnificent Venetian Loggia. With numerous museums and some truly stunning churches nearby, Heraklion has a diverse charm that spans centuries of history. Last but definitely not least, the greatest treasure of Heraklion which is its most emblematic landmark, is the Minoan Knossos Palace. Located just under 5 km from Heraklion centre, this ancient site is one of the few that still manage to preserve its original colours. It is a common misconception that the ancient Greek temples were bare and monochromatic. Knossos Palace still retains its red and blue wall paintings as well as some astonishing frescoes. Furthermore, there are some pretty amazing beaches within a 10 km radius from Heraklion. Amoudara beach is 5 km east, while Tombrouk and Amnissos beaches lie 9 km west, while Kokkino Hani beach is a popular spot for SUP (stand up paddle) and surfing.
- Walk on the fortified walls around the old part of the city and take in the amazing scenic sea vistas. In fact, this is one of the top things to do in Heraklion.
- Visit Nikos Kazantzakis’ tomb, located just outside the city’s walls, which is quite a poignant site, given the writer’s great contribution to modern Greek literature.
- Did you know you can also golf in Crete? Hersonissos boasts a state-of-the-art, exceptional 18-hole golf course that boasts some staggering landscape views.
Plus 1: Santorini island - the cosmopolitan island full of dramatic landscapes
No article on the subject of iconic Greek destinations could leave Santorini island out.
The most emblematic of the Cyclades islands, if not of all the Greek islands, Santorini is most known for its romantic association, its gorgeous sunset over sea and its volcanic landscapes. A crescent shape, stark white, clifftop settlements that cascade down the Caldera cliff, blue dome churches and colourful beaches of black, red and white complete the tapestry that makes Santorini so unique. Contrary to popular opinion, or the stereotypical view that Santorini is often seen by, this iconic island is actually able of offering a wider range of experiences beyond the classic romantic couple retreat destination. Yes it is glamorous, filled with luxurious boutique hotels; yes it is cosmopolitan, with a vibrant nightlife and many top tier restaurants and bars; yes it is full of dramatic landscapes that will take your breath away. However, you may be surprised to know that Santorini is home to a significant archaeological site, that of Akrotiri. For being able to fully explore the area, you may consider staying at some secluded, luxury suites in Akrotiri. You may also be surprised to know that its underwater terrain is especially beautiful, due to the atypical geomorphology. You may want to know about the other, lesser known settlements apart from Oia village and Fira, such as Pyrgos that even has a medieval castle to show for. So when considering Santorini as your summer destination, also bear in mind that it harbours an unseen side that can be ever so rewarding.
- Visit the Akrotiri Lighthouse; it is located on the southern cape of the island’s crescent shape, and it is less crowded to watch the sunset by.
- Don’t take the donkey ride. Donkeys have been a part of Santorini’s biodiversity and were once the only means of transport around the island. Now, they are a tourist attraction and often have to work many hours in dire conditions.
- Take a glass bottom boat tour to the volcano, so you can get a glimpse of the underwater world. Or choose to visit Santorini as part of a Greek island cruise, which means you can discover more destinations than one.
You can comfortably visit any of these destinations until mid October but for optimum beach time summer should be your choice.
"The light of Greece opened my eyes,penetrated my pores,expanded my whole being."