In southern Europe, the mainland of Greece crumbles into thousands of different islands across the Aegean and Ionian seas. Holidaymakers travel to the nation every year to island-hop and experience the ancient history, traditional cuisine and Mediterranean weather – it’s the perfect destination to visit later this year and unwind post-lockdown. Here’s our inspiration on where to visit, along with a selection of the best places to stay.
Relaxation takes precedence in Greece. Dining on fresh olives and feta, sweet peach nectar and hearty moussaka under the warm sun in the sea breeze is exactly the medicine we prescribe after being cooped up for so long. If you have any intention of leaving your sun lounger, there are plenty of options for the culturally curious – from the Acropolis in the Greek capital, Athens, to the ancient city of Mycenae, as well as sights in Olympia, Delphi, Epidaurus and the isolated temple of Apollo Epicurius. If adventure calls, the Vikos Gorge, with its Dragon Lakes, are a great spot for hiking. Maybe try climbing up Mount Olympus or snowboarding in the Falakro mountains.
Lying back and soaking up the rays from the comfort of a sailing boat, listening to the gentle whirr of an outboard engine as you hop from one Greek island to another, sounds like an ideal way to wash away the stresses of 2020. Boat rentals and excursions are available at a range of prices.
For inland exploration, you can travel around the country by bus or train remarkably cheaply. For cities without public transport, there are scooter rentals at €20-€40 (£18-£36) per day. In smaller cities such as Thessaloniki and across the various islands, buses are the primary mode of transport, starting at €2 (£1.78) per ride.
Greece welcomes millions of visitors each year at airports across the country, with direct flights to many of the islands as well as Athens International on the mainland.
Cine Manto Mykonos
“Dance, drink, never sleep” is the slogan plastered on souvenir T-shirts on the island of Mykonos. However, behind the crazy parties, the expensive restaurants and five-star hotels, the island still features charming traditions and hidden spots to enjoy. Enjoy a movie under the stars at Cine Manto, sip afternoon ouzo – the traditional Greek aniseed drink – with locals at the Old Port, or dance by the sea at the local festival of Panigiri.
Santorini, also known as Thera, is one of the best-loved Greek islands. Once devastated by a volcanic eruption, the island’s history is evident all around, but so is its beauty. Take in the classic whitewashed Cycladic splendour of Imerovigli and other charming villages, spend a day at black-sand volcanic beaches such as Monolithos, and watch the panoramic sunset at Oia – just some of Santorini’s highlights.
As the largest island in Greece, Crete is definitely a stop to add to your list. From exploring the Knossos Palace to hiking Samariá Gorge and swimming in crystal-clear waters, there’s no shortage of activities to help you enjoy your time here. There’s also a lesser-known side of the island that’s worth exploring. Experience traditional weaving, visit a former leper colony and join a raki distillation feast.
Just a short drive from Mykonos International Airport and the old city of Mykonos, this cosy, traditional accommodation in a quiet location is a great choice if you’re looking for a sophisticated, relaxing escape. Fully renovated in 2015, Three Shades combines the simplicity of the island’s classic architecture with a touch of luxury, modern design and elegance. Lie back by the pool, sip on a cocktail in the Mediterranean sunshine and let your worries slip away.
Carved into the scenic hillside of Firostefani in Santorini, Splendour Resort offers elegant five-star accommodation with breathtaking views over the Aegean Sea and the east side of the island. There’s a communal swimming pool with a poolside bar and an on-site restaurant, as well as private pools for each room. Splendour maintains the local whitewashed architectural elements of the Cyclades, while also showcasing a discreet minimalist design.
If it’s Greek island charm you’re after, look no further than Rethymno, a preserved medieval town in northern Crete. After getting lost in the streets of the Old Town, follow the sea air to one of the local tavernas on the harbour, then head back for a well-deserved rest at this luxury 15th-century Venetian-style mansion.