Let's kick-start this new conversation space! What's your favorite destination in Greece and why?
Wow, no one has posted here yet??? My absolute favorite place was Santorini, but that was over 20 years ago and so I'm not certain if it is still as marvelous as it was for us back then. We didn't stay in Thira, but were a bit in the countryside. In those days, the cruise ships would come in in the morning and Thira would fill up and then it would empty out again. We spent one day sitting in a cafe at the top of the donkey path watching the Greeks put out the tourist wares. Then we heard the NYC accents echoing up the donkey path as the soft ice cream machine moved from the back of the cafe to the front. Then there was the day we rented mopeds and explored the ruins and the black sand beaches. We stopped for lunch when we saw sign that said "cafe" with an arrow pointed downward. We found a wonderful cafe on the caldera side on shore.
Corfu remains one of my favorite places. We were there in March and explored the island on mopeds. Later, I ready Gerry Durrell's books about Corfu and his family.
But then there are the magical places with the ancient ruins. Sounion was magical at sunset. And Delphi was appropriately mystical. But I think it was Mycenae that captured my imagination and made me start really visualize ancient Greece and think about Agamemnon and all that I had read in school.
In 2012 we spent a month in Greece so we'll weigh in with our favorites. Santorini for the scenery and history; Naxos for the peacefulness and small town feel; the Peloponnese for the scenery, history, food. That pretty much covers every place we've been in Greece with the exception of Delos, Hydra, Ancient Olympia, Delphi, and Athens, and we loved them, too. Bottom line - it's hard to have a favorite place in Greece!
I agree with everyone so far! Have been to Greece four times for three weeks each, and loved it. Sounian at sunset, yes, magical. Delphi, Hydra, Santorini, all great. Three not mentioned that are also terrific: Dodoni, also an ancient oracle like Delphi, but surrounded by mountains instead of on top of them. Metsovo, a ski resort with incredible scenery and a marvelous little town. And finally, where we always ended up to relax, Skopolos, in the Sporades Islands. It's much like other Greek islands with all the white houses spilling down the hills, but it is green farmland and olive groves. Rows of waterfront restaurants filled with relaxed people.
We love the Greek islands, to the point that in five visits (of 3-4 weeks each) we have not yet ventured outside of Athens on the mainland. I do know we need to do that at some point. But to date, we have stayed on 16 islands. We tend to like the smaller, less visited islands along the coast of Turkey. Here are some favorites:
Kastellorizo is a tiny jewel of an island, rivaling Santorini for its beauty, but small and rather difficult to reach so not overrun with tourists. Take a look at this video.
Nisyros was fascinating; another small island, with an active (but not erupting) volcano. You can actually walk down into the crater, which has soft warm patches and steaming fumaroles. Never in the U.S. would you be allowed to walk around a place like this! It was like walking on the moon. We rented a car here for a day; there was just one road on the island. A pretty little harbor. Tourist-free, which you will see is a theme of ours.
The island of Leros was peaceful and had a gorgeous bay (Xerocampos); we remember this island for the best food we have ever eaten in Greece. I had a memorable experience here: my husband and I were the only people on the beach at Xerocampos in mid-September, sitting in beach chairs in front of a taverna. A British couple arrived and sat near us. She pulled her book out of her bag, and it happened to be the same book I was reading! So we chatted a bit, found out they had been coming to Leros annually for 16 years, and got some restaurant recommendations from them .... all spot on.
My all-time favorite is the island of Lesvos, the 3rd largest island in Greece but off the tourist track, so it is inexpensive and uncrowded. We first visited here in 2005, spending 3 weeks in 4 different towns around the island. All four places were different enough that it was like island-hopping without the ferries. We started in Vatera Beach, toward the southwest side .... a long, sandy beach (rare in Greece). Then we went to beautiful, scenic Skala Erresos. Then on to Molivos, with another beautiful harbor. And we finished at Hotel Votsala just north of Mytilene, the main city on the island. We loved this hotel, to the point where we have returned three times since. The owner is an architect in Athens in the winter, and from May-October runs this hotel that his father started. He loves archeology, and the island, so he offers optional excursions (at a small cost) to hotel guests. On trips with him we have seen remains of Roman aqueducts, monasteries, secret beaches. We have gone on boat trips and once a trip to Pergamum in Turkey. Great fun. The rooms are not fancy but spotless, and the food is incredible. There's a huge buffet for breakfast, with fresh figs and pomegranites; you eat by the sea under the olive trees, with classical music playing. Twice a week they have an optional dinner, which is always fabulous. Other nights you walk 10 minutes down the beach to two little tavernas in the port, for a delicious meal of fish fresh from the ocean. On our last three trips to Greece and Turkey, we have ended the vacation with a stay here, at this hotel. Perfect.
Great post! Thanks for sharing that. We are currently wondering where to go in May and that gives me some food for thought.
I know I'm in the minority here but I love Athens. We've spent quite a bit of time there over the years and the mixture of the sites and the bustle really works well for us. (It may be because I was brought up in London and am a big city boy at heart.)
Our two favourite islands are Andros and Syros. Neither have a large number of tourists and both have a lot of everyday Greek life.
On the mainland we return again and again to Nafplio. A comfortable size, scenic in it's own right, easy to get to from Athens and central to visit some great sites. If you are going to branch out onto the mainland it's a really good starting point.
Thanks Alan -- Andros & Syros are still on our list, along with Nafplio & Delphi. Not to mention Milos. And, of course, London!
Have you been to Rhodes? I think you'd enjoy the Knights Quarter. We stayed in a great little hotel in old town (Hotel Attiki). And Rhodes is a good start to an island-hopping trip. The big Blue Star ferries make a run through the Dodecanese twice a week, last time I checked. We started our trip by flying to Rhodes, then flew to Kastellorizo (ferry timing didn't work). But then we rode the ferry to Nisyros, then Tilos, and back to Rhodes. If you want, you could take it all the way to Athens, stopping off at additional islands if you'd like. You could also visit Symi from Rhodes on a day trip or overnight.
There is also a ferry line called the Dodecanese Express that runs through the islands from Rhodes to Samos. On that run you could stop at Leros & Patmos (another pretty island). Take the ferry all the way to Samos and you could take a day trip to Ephesus, which is fascinating.
Have fun planning!