Are you ready for a journey to the land of ancient gods and goddesses? A place where the sun always shines, the food is delicious, and the beaches are to die for? Well pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to embark on a journey to the beautiful country of Greece! From the famous white-washed houses of Santorini to the historic ruins of Athens, Greece has a variety of activities for every traveler. Here’s your one week Greece travel guide and itinerary for first time travelers covering Athens and Santorini.
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What to Expect in Greece
The official language is Greece is… Greek! However, with the large number of tourists visiting Greece every year, you’ll find that most people do speak English. This is especially true in the larger cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki. However, it’s always a good idea to download the Greek translation for offline use on Google Translate. Since the alphabet is totally different from English-speakers, you may want to use the “photo translate” feature to read storefronts, menus, and other signage. Technology, right? What would we do without it!?
Weather Conditions | Best Time to Visit Greece:
The best time to visit Greece depends on what you’re looking to do during your trip.
If you’re interested in warm weather and swimming, the best time to visit is during the summer months of June to September. During this time, you can expect temperatures to be in the mid- to high-80s Fahrenheit and plenty of sunshine. Be aware that it can also be very hot during this time, and it can be crowded with tourists.
If you’re interested in exploring ancient sites and ruins, the spring or fall (April to May and September to October) are ideal. The weather is still warm enough to be comfortable, but the crowds will be smaller, making it easier to visit popular sites such as the Acropolis in Athens.
If you’re looking for a more off-season experience, the winter (November to March) can be a good time to visit as well. During this time, the weather is cooler and some tourist sites and hotels may have reduced prices. However, some tourist facilities and island ferries may have limited schedules during this time.
Greece’s official currency is the Euro (EUR). While some tourist-centric places do accept credit card, you should always carry cash on-hand for local markets, neighborhood restaurants, and historic sites with entry fees.
Data and Phone Usage:
Most international plans don’t cover Greece by default. To avoid running up a high bill, I recommend purchasing a Vodafone SIM card from the Athens Airport when you arrive. It’s located after baggage claim in the arrivals hall near the Tourist Information Desk. It was approximately $25 USD for 15 GB of data and 120 minutes of international call time. Just be sure not to misplace your primary SIM! You’ll need that when you get back home.
For this trip, we decided not to rent a car so that neither one of us were stuck with the responsibility of driving and finding parking. Instead, we opted to rely on our feet and traditional taxis which were surprisingly affordable. Walking around Athens is easy, especially after arriving at the center of the city near Monastiraki Flea Market. For longer trips, we called taxis through the Uber app and paid an average of €5 each time. In Santorini, our Airbnb host kindly picked us up from the ferry terminal, and many of our tours and excursions included transportation. We also discovered the locals’ secret for the cheapest taxis: using the Taxi Beat App which features government-regulated fares. Overall, we found that not having a car was not an issue between these two destinations.
How to Travel Between the Greek Islands
Traveling between the Greek islands is relatively easy and affordable! The most common modes of transportation are ferries, which connect most of the major islands and run year-round. The ferries typically take between 2-5 hours, depending on if you’re taking a regular or high-speed ferry. Another option is to fly between the islands, with flights offered by several Greek airlines. While it’s typically a bit more expensive, it can save time and allow you to explore the islands in a shorter amount of time. Regardless of the method of transportation, be sure to consider that cancellations are frequent due to high winds and be ready to rebook your ticket. We had to do this twice over the course of the trip both departing and returning from Santorini.
Blue Star Ferries
We booked our ferries through the Ferryhopper website, which landed us a spot on the Blue Star Ferries Delos ship. I was thoroughly surprised by the amenities offered on the ship! You’ll find comfortable seating both indoors and outdoors, air-conditioning, and on-board dining options, as well as duty-free shops for shopping. Blue Star Ferries operates daily routes between the major Greek ports, and offers frequent departures to popular islands such as Santorini, Mykonos, and Crete. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic views as you journey through the stunning Greek islands!
Where to Stay in Athens: Grand Hyatt Athens
Offering stunning views of the Acropolis from its rooftop bar and swimming pool, the Grand Hyatt Athens is the comfiest place to call home while in the Greek capital. The rooms are spacious, decorated elegantly, and feature all the modern amenities you could ask for. And when it comes to dining, the onsite restaurant has a wide variety of delicious cocktails and entrees and the best hotel breakfast buffet I’ve ever had.
Day 1: Athens and the Acropolis
Hit the Iconic Stops On a Half-Day Athens Tour
A half-day tour of Athens is the perfect way to get a taste of the city’s rich history and culture. You’ll start your tour at the iconic Acropolis, where you’ll get to explore the ancient citadel that sits high above the city. Here, you’ll see the Parthenon, the most famous temple on the Acropolis, as well as the Erechtheion and the Propylaea. As you walk through the ruins, your guide will bring the history to life with stories and legends of the city’s ancient past. Next, you’ll stop by to see the Panathenaic Stadium. Built entirely of marble in 330 BC, the stadium is home to the first modern Olympic Games. Finish off the tour with entry to the Acropolis Museum, a stunning building with world-famous sculptures and well-preserved artifacts from the Acropolis.
Hot Tip: If you take the charter bus tour, they’ll drive by several notable sites that you can view in passing, including: the National Library of Greece, The Academy of Athens (university), and Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Indulge in Delicious Greek Dishes with a Guided Food Tour
Put on your stretchy pants and eat your way through Athens! Known for its delicious and diverse food scene, a Greek food tour is the best way to unlock the city’s tastiness. From traditional tavernas to trendy eateries, you’ll get to taste some of the most mouth-watering dishes Greece has to offer. Sink your teeth into traditional favorites, like juicy Souvlaki, refreshing tzatziki, and creamy spinach pies (Spanakopita). And let’s not forget about the famous Greek wine and ouzo. Aside from the delicious food, with a local guide, you’ll learn about the history and culture behind the dishes.
See Little Kook in All its Glory
Located near the heart of Athens, The Little Kook Alleyway is a hidden gem that’ll immerse you in a fairytale. As soon as you step down the cobblestone street, you’ll be met with bright lights, vibrant street art, and whimsical decorations to match the season. The neoclassical two-story mansion at the end of the street houses the world-famous Little Kook Bakery, offering decadent sweets and coffee to both tourists and locals alike. Aside from the main bakery, there are also a dozen little shops and cafes peppered along the street. When we visited, the alley had an incredible Halloween display that took my breath away! It’s also been previously themed for Alice in Wonderland, Christmas, Mary Poppins, Fairies, Dragons and more.
Have a Drink at The “Temple” of Cocktails: Noel
During our food tour, our guide gave us a sneak peek into Noel, and we knew we had to come back later that evening. The interior of the bar is absolutely stunning, with eye-catching murals, intricate patterns, sculptures, and flowers that create a feast for the eyes. And the cocktail list is extensive, with over 20 selections to choose from. We loved the drinks so much that we ordered four at once to create our own “tasting” experience, and each one was absolutely delicious! If you’re fortunate enough to visit during the holiday season, be sure to stop by, as the bar is festively decorated for Christmas – adding an extra touch of magic to an already wonderful experience.
Day 2: Flea Market and Cooking Class
Souvenir Shopping at Monastiraki Flea Market
Find unique treasures in the maze of narrow alleys at Monastiraki Flea Market. Traditional Greek souvenirs, one-of-a-kind finds, vintage clothing, and handmade crafts spill out onto the streets everywhere you look. The souvenir shops are open every day, but on Sunday you can shop from locals with antiques to sell. This bustling market is a can’t-miss to score souvenirs for everyone on your list!
Learn to DIY at a Cooking Class
One of the most valuable souvenirs you can bring home with you? A new skill! A cooking class at The Greek Kitchen is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the culture and learn more about the food. Working alongside other travelers and the head chefs to create traditional Greek dishes was a blast, and by far one of the best experiences of the trip. The class started off with walking to a nearby food market to see where locals shop for fresh veggies, fruits, fish, and more. Afterward, we returned to the kitchen and learned step-by-step how to make dishes as a group. For dinner, we made dolmades, moussaka, tzatziki, and spinach pies – plus a delicious orange cinnamon Portokalopita pastry for dessert.
Day 3: Travel to Santorini
As mentioned, the first half of the day will likely be spent traveling from Athens to Santorini via ferry.
Check Into the Emporio Village
There’s a pretty long list of moments in life I’ll never forget. Waking up on the second floor of this luxury Airbnb to the golden glow of sunrise over Santorini is one of them. BlackStone Luxury Suites, located in the charming traditional settlement of Emporio, offers stylish suites that boast feature private jacuzzis for the ultimate indulgence.
My favorite amenities:
– Two Bedrooms
– King-Sized Beds
– Private Bathrooms
– Private Terraces
– Complimentary Wine on Arrival
– Breakfast Every Morning
– Free WiFi
– Free Private Parking
While it was certainly a splurge to stay there, it was totally worth it. The hospitality of the host family and suites were amazing.
Day 4: See the Caldera by Boat
Flying Dress Photoshoot
Imagine yourself standing in the midst of whitewashed buildings, overlooking the mesmerizing caldera, with the Aegean sea in the background. Now make it reality with a flying dress photoshoot! With the wind blowing through your hair and the sun sparkling over the ocean, you’ll feel like a true Greek goddess. The dress will dance and flow in the wind, creating stunning and ethereal images that will be a lasting memory of your visit to Santorini. The photos from this shoot were booked through Goddess Santorini.
Take a Sunset Catamaran Tour of the Caldera
Take off your shoes and enjoy a sunset catamaran sail to see Santorini from a new perspective! You’ll journey to a volcanic hot spring, swim and snorkel in the blue sea, and enjoy the view of large rock formations that look otherworldly. Afterward, watch the sun dip below the horizon and take in breathtaking views of the sunset. Aside from the amazing scenery, enjoy a BBQ lunch grilled to perfection onboard by the crew and unlimited wine (yes, unlimited wine!). Don’t forget to bring towels and a jacket because it does get windy as the boat speeds over the water.
Day 5: Tour the Whole Island
Take an All-Day Tour of Santorini by Bus
Get ready for an unforgettable adventure as you embark on an all-day tour of Santorini by bus! You’ll be whisked away to some of the island’s most breathtaking sights, from the charming villages of Emporio and Oia to the stunning beach of Perissa. We booked a full-day on the Santorini Day Tour with Sunset in Oia, which was a wonderful way to avoid driving and hear about some of the history. Here’s where they took us:
G. Koutsoyannopoulos Winery & Santorini Wine Museum
Located in the heart of Santorini, the G. Koutsoyannopoulos Winery and Museum is a unique experience that combines history, culture, and of course, wine. The museum showcases the history of wine-making in Santorini, with exhibits covering everything from the island’s volcanic soil to the traditional methods used to produce wine. The tour takes you into an underground cave to see the barrels and learn about the winemaking process firsthand. Of course, the best part of the experience is the wine tasting. You’ll have a sampling of delicious wines produced on the island!
Akrotiri Archaeological Site
History buffs , this one’s for you. The Akrotiri Archaeological Site is a well-preserved prehistoric settlement that was buried in volcanic ash and pumice during the Minoan eruption of Santorini in 1627 BC. Nestled in the southern part of the island, the excavation site offers a unique opportunity to explore an ancient city that was advanced for its time. You’ll see the ruins of multi-story buildings, paved streets, and an elaborate drainage system. The pottery and wall paintings also offer a glimpse into the culture of the ancient people who inhabited the city.
Perissa Black Sand Beach
Have you ever visited a black sand beach? Look no further than Perissa Beach! With the stunning black sand and crystal clear waters, it’s the perfect backdrop to stroll down the beach and sunbathe. The beach is surrounded by restaurants and cafes – check out Aquarius restaurant to dine right alongside the water.
Sunset in Oia
As the sun starts to dip below the horizon, visitors flock to the ancient castle and cliffside lookouts on the west side of Oia to catch the famous Santorini sunset. A warm golden glow paints the yellow buildings and blue domes of the skyline. Sunset in Oia is on almost every visitors’ bucket list, so prepare to arrive early to beat the crowds. Regardless, watching the big yellow ball of light sink below the Aegean Sea is a memory you’ll never forget.
Day 6: Thrills and Wine
Drive the Coast of Santorini by ATV
This one’s for the thrill seekers. Hop on an ATV and cruise along the stunning coastline of Santorini! Riding along the winding roads with panoramic views of the sparkling Aegean Sea feels like driving California’s Pacific Coast. With the dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters, every twist and turn will leave you breathless. We rented our ATV for a full-day for only $60 through Pyrgos Rent-a-Car. The most stunning drive was from the car rental office to the Oia village.
Guided Greek Wine Tasting Tour
Get ready to swirl, sip, and savor your way through the best wineries in Santorini! The Guided Wine Tasting Tour takes you to three acclaimed wine estates to sample 12 different locally-produced wines. Start 300 meters above sea level with a cavernous tasting room at Hatzidakis Winery. Then, head over to the Estate Argyros winery, where you’ll learn see how Santorini vineyards wrap their vines into wreaths to protect the grapes from the wind. Lastly, visit Venetsanos Winery for some of the best small plates you’ll ever have with a wine tasting. You’ll learn about the unique viticulture techniques used on the island and how they contribute to the distinct flavors of the wines produced over the last 3,500 years.
Experience Nightlife in Santorini
Let’s talk about the buzzing nightlife in Santorini! The clubs are pumping, the bars are buzzing, and the people are ready to have a good time. Here are a few places we visited during our night on the town in Fira.
For a Drink: Tango Cocktail Bar
Overlooking the stunning caldera and skyline, Tango Champagne & Cocktail Bar is an elegant outdoor lounge with delicious cocktails. We stopped here to begin the night, sipping on sparkling champagne cocktails and bobbing our heads to the music.
For Dancing: Enigma Bar
Enigma Club, one of the oldest clubs in Santorini, has been partying since 1979! We spent most of the night here dancing – the DJ played 90s hip hop, reggaeton, and top 40 hits all night long. I wanted to stay and bust a move until the sun came up! And you could if you want to, since the club doesn’t close until 6AM.
For Selfies: Koo Club
While the music at Koo Club wasn’t great when we visited, the gorgeous interior design is perfect for photos. The vibrant space is known for its popular indoor-outdoor dance experience. With two floors, crystal chandeliers, palm trees and glittering disco balls hanging from the ceiling, it’s easy to see why this spot is touted as one of the best clubs in Santorini (although, I’d have to disagree).
For Cheap Drinks and Divey Vibes: Town Club
Despite its size, the Town Club packs a good punch if you’re looking for reasonably priced drinks and great music – especially hip hop classics. The bar attracts a young crowd, thanks to its cheap prices. It even has a bird cage you can hop into for dancing!
Day 7: Travel Back to Athens
Jump on the ferry from Santorini back to Athens!
Check Into a Hotel Near the Airport: Mati Hotel
Can you believe it’s your last day in Greece?! To make the departure home as smooth as possible, spend the last day lounging around the poolside of the Mati Hotel. Located just 30 minutes from Athens International Airport, you’ll be able to easily call a Taxi Beat to take you to your terminal. There’s an onsite restaurant, bar, and pool that are perfect for lounging the day away before heading home.
Day 8: Safe Travels Home!
Wow, what an incredible adventure! From the ancient ruins of Athens to the stunning vistas of Santorini, this 7-day itinerary for first-timers to Greece has been an unforgettable journey filled with history, culture, and breathtaking scenery. We’ve wandered through bustling markets, swam in crystal-clear waters, and indulged in delicious food and drink. We’ve learned about Greece’s rich stories and discovered its modern-day charm. But most importantly, we’ve made memories that will last a lifetime. Greece truly has a special place in my heart, and I hope this itinerary inspires you to explore this incredible country for yourself. Opa!