Ideal Greece Itinerary 10 Days: Maximizing Relaxation

By

It’s hard to imagine a more relaxing vacation than a 10-day tour of Greece. You’ll have plenty of time to tour historic sites, explore quaint villages, unwind on the beautiful beaches and dive into the crystalline waters of the Aegean Sea. We’ve developed the ideal Greece itinerary 10 days long, which takes you from the enchanted island of Santorini to its equally charming Cycladic sisters, Naxos and Mykonos. You’ll finish your trip with several days on the mainland, including a stay in Athens and a day trip to Delphi.

When to Go to Greece

Greece is a fantastic place to visit any time of year, so it’s fine to go whenever your schedule allows. However, if you have some flexibility in your timing, we recommend going during the “shoulder seasons” in late May/early June or September/early October. You’ll avoid the peak season crowds and prices, and the weather won’t be miserably hot (triple digit heat waves are not uncommon at the height of summer). Most shops and restaurants will still be open—many shut down during the slow winter season—and the water should still be warm enough for swimming.

Day 1: Santorini

Many visitors to the Greek islands fly into Athens and take a ferry to their final destination, but connecting via flight from Athens or another major European city will give you several extra hours to soak up the majesty of Santorini. Nonstop flights from Athens to Santorini take roughly 45 minutes, while a ferry trip lasts anywhere from 4 to 7 hours. If you’re concerned about the cost, one-way flights on budget airlines are often available for around $50, depending on the season and how far in advance you reserve.

Hit the Beach

Once your flight lands, you won’t have to travel far from the airport to find the pristine beaches for which the island is known. Kamari Beach is located just south of the main terminal; keep heading south and you’ll run into the equally popular Perissa Beach. Either one is a perfect location for an afternoon spent sunbathing, swimming and decompressing from a long day of travel.

Unwind at Your Hotel

Most visitors opt to stay in either Fira or Oia, the island’s main villages located on the caldera that forms the island’s west coast. In Oia, consider staying at Andronis Luxury Suites or the Canaves Oia Hotel, both of which have large outdoor pools with breathtaking seaside views. In Fira, the Majestic Hotel offers similarly spectacular views and posh amenities. Santorini is known for its incredible sunsets, so end your first day in Santorini soaking in the pool or relaxing on your terrace with a beverage in hand as the sun sinks below the horizon.

Day 2: Santorini

Take a Self-Guided ATV Tour

Santorini is a small island, making it easy to see the sights on a self-guided all-terrain vehicle (ATV) tour (which also allows you to set your own schedule and linger at your favorite stops as long as you like). Also referred to as “quad bikes,” ATVs are a safe, affordable mode of transportation that allow you to enjoy the sunshine and sea breezes as you roll around the island. They’re also easy to find, with rentals available through most hotels.

Be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen as well as a helmet as you visit any or all of the following popular destinations:

  • Red Beach: The coarse, rust-colored volcanic sand and brilliant blue waters at this aptly-named beach provide a striking photo opportunity.
  • Akrotiri: Located on the southern end of the island, this ancient Minoan settlement was decimated by a violent volcanic eruption almost 4,000 years ago. The ruins are accessible to the public for a small fee and include surprisingly well-preserved drainage systems, buildings and other components of this once-thriving Bronze age civilization.
  • Perissa Beach: If you didn’t stop by here on your first day, be sure to add it to your itinerary; the striking black sands of this unusual beach are not to be missed. It’s also packed with restaurants and tavernas for a convenient meal break.
  • Thera: Just north of Perissa are the ruins of the ancient hillside town of Thera, where you can see the remains of its Roman baths and main square.
  • Profit Ilias: The highest point on the island is also home to a monastery of the same name. The peak provides jaw-dropping panoramic views of virtually the entire island.
  • Oia: Most of the viral photos of Santorini that likely drew you to the island in the first place were probably taken in Oia, with its classic Cycladic architecture, whitewashed homes, narrow cobblestone roads and blue-domed churches. You could easily spend hours exploring the city streets, sipping a glass of wine or a latte at one of its charming cafés or simply gazing out over the cliffs at the impossibly blue sea.

Visit the Open-Air Cinema

Watching movies at open-air cinemas is a common pastime for many Europeans, but it’s a novel experience for many visitors. Cine Kamari on the island’s east coast shows current releases nightly from May to October and is a relaxing and memorable way to close out your second day in Santorini.

Day 3: Santorini

Volcano and Hot Springs Cruise

This three-hour cruise departs daily from Fira at 11 a.m. A short boat ride will carry you to the volcano bay, where you’ll have the opportunity to trek to the top of the volcano and get an up-close view of the active craters. The tour then heads to the tiny island of Palea Kameni, where passengers can soak in the warm, soothing waters of the famous hot springs formed by past volcanic activity. The boat will then return you to Fira, where you can enjoy a classic Greek meal at Ouzeri or Parea Tavern.

Santo Winery

This beloved local vineyard is a key player in Santorini’s centuries-old winemaking tradition, and you can tour the property and enjoy a tasting from the winery’s distinctive offerings, which get their unique flavor from the island’s rich volcanic soil.

Day 4: Santorini to Naxos

With no direct flights available between Santorini and Naxos—the largest of the Cyclades—you’ll need to reserve a seat on a ferry between the islands. Plan to take the earliest available trip to maximize your time on Naxos; the high-speed vessels of Seajets will get you there in about 90 minutes.

Explore Naxos Town

This capital city of Naxos is a convenient home base for your time here. Hotels on the island are surprisingly affordable, especially compared to Santorini and Mykonos, so you can treat yourself to an upgrade without breaking the bank. Nissaki Beach Hotel, the only five-star accommodation in Naxos town, features a gourmet restaurant with seaside views and private terraces with every room. The luxurious Naxos Resort is conveniently located near both the town center and St. George Beach.

Once you’ve checked in at your hotel, head out to explore the photogenic streets of Naxos town. You’ll encounter hundreds of whitewashed homes and churches accented with bright blue trim and bougainvillea blooms. Stop into one of the many small cafés and tavernas for a bite to eat, shop for handcrafted goods in locally owned shops and soak in the warmth of Mediterranean hospitality.

Naxos town is also home to several of the island’s most memorable historic sites, including:

  • Portara, a massive marble “doorway to nowhere” that is believed to have been part of a planned temple dedicated to Apollo
  • The Venetian Castle and fortress that guard the city, which date back to the 13th century
  • The Orthodox Cathedral, an impressive whitewashed church built in 1878

Day 5: Naxos

Go Diving

Divers from around the globe are drawn to Naxos for its crystal-clear waters, thriving reefs, captivating shipwrecks and underwater caves and rock formations. Even if you’ve never dived before, many diving centers along the west coast of Naxos offer instructional sessions and guidance for new divers as well as equipment rental and group excursions. You’ll find yourself refreshed and invigorated after a day spent exploring the tranquil blue depths of the Aegean Sea.

Day 6: Naxos to Mykonos

To get from Naxos to your next destination—Mykonos, the posh playground of the rich and famous—you’ll hop back on a ferry for a short trip across the sea. Again, booking your ticket as early in the day as possible will give you more time to explore your next stop.

Mykonos is one of the most expensive destinations in Greece, so even “budget” hotels may be pricier than you expect. Hotel Fresh and Manto Hotel, both located in Old Town Mykonos (Chora), offer excellent value and convenient access to many popular attractions.

Walk Around Old Town

The “Old Town” area of Mykonos town—also known as Chora—is a labyrinthine mix of whitewashed houses with jewel-tone trim, narrow cobblestone alleys, funky shops, tiny tavernas and other treasures waiting to be discovered. You’ll find Instagram-worthy scenes around every corner, and you could spend hours people-watching and exploring this fascinating area. Be sure to make a reservation at Kastro’s restaurant, which is famous for its seaside views and outstanding Mediterranean menu, and plan a stop by Panagia Paraportiani, an iconic whitewashed church that’s among the most-photographed houses of worship in the world.

Kato Mili Windmills

After wandering the streets of Old Town, head over to the Kato Mili windmills for a picturesque backdrop to the color-drenched sunset. For an ultra-relaxing experience, grab a seat Veranda or one of the other waterfront bars in the Little Venice neighborhood to enjoy a cocktail as the sun goes down.

Day 7: Mykonos

See the Island on a Jeep Safari

This comprehensive tour takes you to the far corners of Mykonos, ensuring that you experience the island’s most unique and memorable sights without the stress of planning or navigating. This all-day excursion includes stops at secluded beaches, quaint rural villages, picturesque lighthouses, historic Venetian ruins, classic churches and much more. You’ll have the opportunity to swim in the crystal-clear waters at Agrari Beach, sample traditional Mediterranean fare at local cafes and much more.

Check Out the Club Scene

Mykonos has a well-deserved reputation as a party island, and you’d be missing out if you didn’t carve out some time to experience the famous nightlife here. Social butterflies can dance the night away at Cavo Paradiso, Astra, Super Paradise Beach Club or Babylon; more reserved tourists will enjoy sitting back with an adult beverage and watching the party unfold. If you’d prefer to keep things low-key, many of the smaller tavernas in Old Town Mykonos offer live music and Greek dancing in the evenings.

Day 8: Mykonos to Athens

Your options for getting to Athens include both flights and ferries; flying will save you precious travel time but may be significantly more costly than a ferry trip, although if you book far enough in advance, you may be able to secure a reasonably-priced ticket on a low-cost carrier.

Once in Athens, you’ll want to stay in one of the centrally-located hotels in the heart of the city, and the Herodion Hotel fits the bill perfectly. This affordably-priced four-star property boasts incredible views of the Acropolis, rooftop terrace and sparkling pool, and it’s situated within easy walking distance of the Acropolis Museum, Acropolis, Herodes Atticus Theater, Plaka arts and commercial district and the Monastiraki Metro station.

Acropolis

The Acropolis is Athens’ crown jewel and your first stop in the city. This hilltop citadel houses the remains of many of the most important structures in the ancient capital, including the Parthenon, Herodes Atticus theater, the Ancient Agora of Athens and more. You’ll want to set aside several hours to explore the iconic ruins; consider purchasing a ticket for a guided tour that will vault you to the head of the line at the most popular attractions.

Dinner and Drinks in Psirri

Just a few blocks from the Acropolis, this eclectic neighborhood offers dozens of dining options, as well as tavernas and bars featuring live music and traditional dancing. Consider a meal at Lithos, a highly-rated restaurant offering classic Greek fare like moussaka and souvlaki as well as adventurous takes on seafood. End your evening with a walk along Pittaki Street to admire the glow of the colorful lights, lanterns and chandeliers that illuminate this thoroughfare.

Day 9: Day Trip to Delphi

Excursions to Delphi are one of the most popular day trips from Athens, and for good reason: the site is steeped in ancient Greek history. The Temple of Apollo and the Oracle of Delphi play central roles in Greek mythology, and their remains still draw millions of visitors each year.

From roughly 600 B.C. to 400 A.D., the Oracle of Delphi was perhaps the most powerful person on Earth. This high priestess was thought to communicate directly with the god Apollo to receive his divine guidance, and all important decisions in the ancient world were laid before the Oracle before any action was taken. She served as a mediator in disputes and dispensed practical wisdom to leaders.

Today, the remains of the temple are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for their enduring cultural significance, and they’re a must-visit destination on your personal Greek odyssey.

Getting to Delphi

Delphi is roughly 110 miles from Athens, so you have several options for reaching the ruins:

  • Rental car: This option gives you the most flexibility, although it does require you to navigate the chaotic streets of Athens. Once you leave the capital, however, most of the drive is through tranquil farmland and mountainous regions. Expect the drive to take between two and three hours depending on traffic in the city.
  • Bus: The public bus system (KTEL) operates a route between Athens and Delphi. It might take a bit longer than driving yourself due to stops along the way, but it’s inexpensive and allows you to relax during the trip instead of battling the crowded streets of Athens. Book as far in advance as possible, as this route often sells out.
  • Taxi: This method is more akin to hiring a private driver than a traditional taxi, but this arrangement is surprisingly affordable, giving you more flexibility and privacy than the bus without requiring you to deal with navigation or traffic headaches. Drivers will pick you up from your hotel in Athens, take you to Delphi and ferry you back at the end of the day. Check prices and reserve your trip here.
  • Group Tour: Organized tours can be a fun and interesting way to meet your fellow tourists as you explore the ancient city. Prices vary based on tour length and amenities (such as bottled water and onboard Wi-Fi).

What to See in Delphi

The primary archaeological excavation is located between the towns of Delphi and Arachova. To get there, simply follow the Sacred Way, a winding, tree-lined path that leads you up the mountain. From there, you’ll pass the following essential sites:

  • Athenian Treasury: The “stoa,” or treasury, of the Athenians originally housed gifts and offerings from visiting dignitaries; today, many of the statues, friezes and other artifacts recovered from the site can be viewed in the Delphi Archaeological Museum.
  • Serpent Column: This twisted black column was erected to commemorate the Greek victory over the Persians in the Battle of Plataea in 479 B.C.
  • Temple of Apollo at Delphi: Six limestone columns rising above a granite foundation are all that remains of the once-grand temple.
  • Amphitheater: Offering an excellent view of the surrounding countryside, this 2,000-seat theater dates back to the fourth century B.C.
  • Stadium: Further up the mountain stands the stadium, where the Pythian Games (a predecessor of the ancient Olympic Games) were held every four years to honor Apollo.
  • Archaeological Museum of Delphi: The museum at the foot of the mountain contains the artifacts recovered from the site, including the impressive sculpture of the Sphinx of Naxos and the cherished bronze Charioteer.

Where to Eat in Delphi

The dining options in Delphi are relatively limited. Taverna Vakchos and Epikouros both offer excellent Greek fare, but both are crowded with tourists and inflate prices accordingly. If you have the flexibility, consider driving to nearby Arachova for additional options and much smaller crowds.

Day 10: Athens

Cap off your time in Greece with a final day in Athens. Assuming you squeezed in all the sights from the Acropolis on day 8, here’s how to fill your remaining hours before flying home.

Syntagma Square

This main square in downtown Athens is the lifeblood of Greek politics and commerce. The Greek Parliament meets in the structure that was once the nation’s Royal Palace, and a ceremonial changing of the guards occurs on the hour. The square is packed with locals hurrying to work and tourists taking in the city sights, making it an excellent station for people-watching. Enjoy a gyro or Greek pastry and a cup of coffee as you relax and take in the scene.

Just a stone’s throw from the Parliament building is the impressive National Garden, a vast public park established in the mid-19th century by Queen Amalia. The park is open to the public from sunrise to sunset, and in addition to more than 500 species of plants and trees, it also contains six lakes, a large sun dial, towering Corinthian columns and busts of celebrated Greek poets and political leaders.

Sunset on Lycabettus

As late afternoon approaches, head to Lycabettus Hill, the highest point in Athens. You can hike up the winding flights of stairs to the summit if you’re feeling ambitious, or you can opt for the gentle pace of the cable car that ferries tourists up and down the mountain at regular intervals from 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. At the top, you can watch the majestic sunset over the city, stop by the picturesque Church of St. George and enjoy a memorable meal at Orizontes, a romantic restaurant with breathtaking views and food to match.

Final Thoughts

With hundreds of islands and just as many unique cities and villages on the mainland, a 10-day visit to Greece offers an almost infinite number of options for your itinerary. If you find yourself with a few extra days to extend your trip—or you’re already planning a return visit—consider spending more time exploring the big island of Naxos, adding a stop in Meteora or cruising to Crete. With its abundance of historic sites, stunning seaside views, diverse cultural heritage and mouthwatering cuisine, you could easily spend a lifetime discovering the hidden jewels of Greece.

Leave a Comment