Greece is one place that really checks all the boxes for those seeking both an exciting European vacation destination and a luxury travel experience. Boasting Europe’s longest coastline, it’s no wonder travelers flock to Greece for world-renowned beaches framed by crystal clear waters. From the bustling cities to the ancient historical temples and ruins, and the deep blue Mediterranean sea, there is truly something for everyone when you visit Greece. Follow team member Heather on her recent trip to Greece, and learn about her experiences with Greek culture as she explores the mainland & Chios.
I began my journey in Chios. The 5th largest island in Greece and located in the North Aegean, Chios is a mountainous island dotted with medieval villages and countless beaches.
In Chios, there is one main town where the port is located, known as Chios Town or “Chora.” Along the port, you will find many restaurants, shops, and bars – and because this island is less “touristy” than others, you will find authentic Greek food and hospitality anywhere you go!
Located just a 5 minutes drive from Chios Town, these particular windmills on the jetty have been renovated (as opposed to other windmills you will find across the island). I would suggest only stopping for 10-15 minutes, as this is purely a “picture spot” – not an entire tourist attraction.
The feel of Chios is different to many of the islands that American travelers tend to visit, such as Santorini or Mykonos. Black, stenciled geographic designs adorn traditional, white-washed buildings throughout the medieval towns, which is truly unique. With many of the towns famously surrounded by fortified walls, the winding architecture within the walls lends a mysterious air to the alleyways and streets of the island. One of the most “Instagram-worthy” villages is Pyrgi, or “the painted village”. One of the largest villages on the island, due to the narrow roads and walkways, cars are not allowed in the central part of the village.
After relaxing on the beautiful island of Chios, I made my way back to the mainland, where the historical portion of my cultural adventure began. A 3 to 4 hour car drive from Athens will take you to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Delphi. The Temple to Apollo, multiple treasuries, and the theater are only part of these ancient ruins.
Bring your walking shoes and start early in the day in order to see everything. Stop along the “hike” up to take in the views, acknowledge the history, and to catch your breath in the Mediterranean sun.
There is also the Museum of Delphi, located next to the archeological site. The museum is one of the most visited in Greece. The actual town of Delphi is where you will find small shops, intimate hotels, and restaurants with breathtaking views overlooking the Mount Parnassus valley.
My next stop was the iconic monasteries of Meteora. While Delphi and Meteora can be day-trips from Athens solely on their own, they can also be combined into a multi-day adventure in the mountains. The main reason to visit the Meteora region are the 6 Meteora Monasteries. These ancient monasteries were built on top of and into the sides of cliffs, seemingly floating in the clouds.
The monasteries are also UNESCO World Heritage sites, but they are also currently active and holy sites for Orthodox Christians around the world. There is a strict dress code required for men and women, and some areas where pictures are prohibited. Also, most of the monasteries are only accessible via stairs, and in the case of the Great Meteora Monastery (the largest and most popular) be prepared to climb over 300 stairs!
Most of the hotels and shops are located in Kalambaka, the town at the bottoms of the mountains. This lively town serves as the base for many tours and it’s main road is filled with places to eat, drink, and rest your legs after all of those steps.
I wrapped my trip up in Greece’s largest city and capital, Athens. Athens is not unlike any other major bustling city – with the exception of some extremely famous ancient ruins right in the middle of the city center! Of course, you cannot go to Athens without visiting the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum.
Booking a hotel with a view of the Acropolis is 100% worth it – whether it’s a room with a view or if the hotel has a rooftop bar or patio to relax on after a day of touring. As the night falls on the Acropolis and the spotlights turn on, you’ll be awestruck at the difference.
The neighborhood of Plaka, located a short walk from Monastiraki Square, is where I would suggest spending most of your time. There are many cobblestone streets to explore with local shops selling unique souvenirs and great restaurants.
If you’re feeling inspired and want to plan your next trip to Greece, check out our sample itinerary Southern Jewels With Islands which is one of the best ways to get the full Greek experience.