Things to do in Greece: 12 breathtaking places you must see [with map]
Greece is one of the favorite destinations of the Germans - no wonder with the variety of sights in Greece . In this article, I will show you that Greece is more than just sun, sea, and ouzo.
I will take you on a journey through a country whose culture, nature, and mentality I have fallen in love with and which will also enchant you. On top of that, there are more insider tips , secret places , and interesting facts .
Together we will visit the Vikos gorge , the Metéora monasteries , my favorite city Athens , Santorini , Rhodes , and many other sights.
Hi! We are Biggi & Flo
We are two adventurous travelers who are drawn to faraway places. On our travel blog, written with a lot of heart and soul, you will find exciting tips and reports on the topics of travel, outdoor and photography.Advertising notice: All links marked with * are affiliate links. If you order something through this link, we receive a small commission - nothing changes in the price.
The top sights at a glance
We tell you the top attractions in Greece. You want to know what you can do in the beautiful Mediterranean country? Then come with us to one of the most exciting countries in Europe. Here you will find our top sights to see at a glance.
These picturesque places of longing should definitely be on your bucket list.
- Athens with the Acropolis
- Metéora monasteries
- Navagio Bay on Zakynthos
- Ruins of Delphi
- Vikos gorge
- Corinth Canal
- Palace of Knossos on Crete
Map: The most beautiful things to see in Greece
On our interactive map, you will find the top sights in Greece at a glance. Have fun discovering the most beautiful places in the Mediterranean country.
1. Athens with the Acropolis
Of course, a trip to Greece should not be without a detour to the capital. Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and will captivate you with its ancient flair.
The landmark of the Greek metropolis is the Acropolis. The famous castle mountain looks back on 2500 years of history and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. The main attraction is the Parthenon, a marble temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.
Also very worth seeing is the modern Acropolis Museum at the foot of the Acropolis, which houses many exciting exhibits from the Persian period and antiquity.
Nearby is also the Old Agora, where the entire political, economic and social life of the Athenians once took place. Accordingly, the 2500-year-old marketplace served as a gathering place for discussions and elections, a trading place, and a social meeting place.
Of the former 30 buildings, you can still admire two: the Temple of Hephaestus, one of the best-preserved temples in Greece, and the Stoa of Attalos, which impresses with its 116-meter-long porticoes.
From the Agora, it’s only a stone’s throw to the lively shopping district of Monastiraki, which resembles one big flea market. The old town district of Plaka is quieter, where you can stroll through the picturesque alleys and fortify yourself in one of the small tavernas.
A particularly beautiful view of Athens and the Acropolis can be enjoyed from Athens’ local mountain, the 277-meter-high Lycabettus (Lykavittós), on whose summit the chapel of Ágios Geórgios is enthroned. There is also a restaurant up here with a magnificent view. There are several hiking trails and a funicular leading to the summit.
Well, is the flight to Athens already booked? Another tip: book a guided Urban street art tour on-site*. You will be thrilled.
2. Metéora Monasteries
Near the town of Kalambaka in the heart of Greece, you’ll find the Metéora Monasteries, one of the most enchanting things to do in all of Europe. They perch majestically on high sandstone cliffs and seem to float in the mist – hence the name Metéora, which means “to lift up into the air.”
The first Metéora monastery was built as early as the 13th century, but the monasteries’ heyday did not begin until 1334 when the monk Athanasios fled to Metéora from the
monastic republic of Athos. In the course of the 14th century, he founded the monastery of Metamórphosis, the largest floating monastery to this day, and determined the rules of monastic life that would apply from then on.
Accordingly, the monks and nuns here live cenobitically, that is, in close community, without possessions and shielded from the outside world. Since 1988, the Méteora monasteries, built on cliffs several hundred meters high, have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Of the total of 24 monasteries, you can still visit six today, where monks and nuns continue to live. In the meantime, they can be reached via stairs; in the past, you still had to climb up a rope.
Speaking of climbing, the Metéora rocks are also a popular climbing destination for adrenaline junkies. In 2001, base jumper Felix Baumgartner – internationally known for his stratospheric jump – jumped off a 120-meter-high rock here.
In view of the breathtaking panorama, the floating monasteries of Metéora have also served as a film set for classics such as Tintin and the Secret of the Golden Fleece (1961) and James Bond 007 – On a Deadly Mission (1981).
See the magic of the place for yourself but be sure to wear appropriate clothing when exploring – wear long pants and cover your shoulders! There is a clothing check at the entrance. In case of emergency, if you are a woman, you can buy a scarf to cover your legs or shoulders. Women have to wear a (long) skirt or put a cloth around their waist.
And another exciting fact: in one of the rock caves, more precisely at the entrance of the Theopetra Cave, there is the oldest man-made structure in the world: a stone wall that is a whopping 23,000 years old. A visit to the Méteora Monasteries is truly a superlative excursion.
3. Navagio Bay on Zakynthos
Off the east coast of the Peloponnese lies the island of Zakynthos, where you can find probably the most beautiful and most photographed beach in all of Greece: Navagio Bay. The reason for this is not only the azure blue water and white sand surrounded by steep cliffs but also the rusty shipwreck on the beach.
In October 1980, the smuggler ship “Panagiotis” beached here after being pursued by the Coast Guard and shipwrecked due to the stormy waves. This is where the name “Navagio” comes from, which means “shipwreck”.
Since then, Smuggler’s Bay attracts many tourists every day – no wonder with this
enchanting panorama. However, you shouldn’t venture too close to the cliff, as there was a rock fall in September 2018.
The viewpoint above the bay offers the ultimate postcard motif. For the all-inclusive Pirates of the Caribbean experience, you’ll have to embark on a boat adventure, as the beach is only accessible from the sea.
Tip: Early morning or late afternoon is your best chance to escape the tourist crowds and enjoy the gorgeous scenery in peace.
Recommended travel guide for your trip to Greece
For even more inspiration and insider tips on the country and its people, I highly recommend this travel guide. It offers everything you need to go on your own personal journey of discovery in Greece. Have a look at the Lonely Planet Greece travel guide (get it here*) and also I recommend to you the Fodor’s Essential Greece: with the Best of the Islands (buy it here*).
4. Ruins of Delphi
Another famous mythical site is the ruins of Delphi. The excavation site is beautifully located on the slopes of the Parnassus Mountains and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987.
Delphi was revered in ancient times as the center of the world. Of particular importance was the oracle, which was dedicated to Apollo and was consulted especially before important undertakings such as wars. The priestess Pythia, who was the only woman with access to the temple of Apollo, served as the god’s medium.
However, Delphi was not only a place of divination but also the site of the Pythian Games, which were considered the second most important Panhellenic Games of antiquity after the Olympic Games and were held every four years in honor of Apollo.
Disciplines included musical and athletic contests, with singing to the cithara in the theater, gymnastic competitions in the stadium at Delphi, and horse races on the plain at Krissa.
During a visit to the excavation site, you can admire, among other things, the ruins of the sanctuary of Apollo with its temple and treasure houses. In addition, there is the picturesque mountain panorama in which the holy place is located.
In the neighboring Delphi Archaeological Museum, you will also find the most important excavation pieces such as the statue of the charioteer of Delphi and the omphalos, which marked the “navel of the world” at the temple of Apollo.
As you can see, a trip to Delphi is not only worthwhile for history buffs. With a good chance, you might even get a glimpse of the future.
Tip: On March 6, April 18, May 18, the last weekend in September, October 28, and every first Sunday from November 1 to March 1, you get free admission to the excavation site and the museum.
White houses, blue domes, beautiful sunsets: Santorini (Santorini) is considered the Greek island paradise par excellence. The volcanic island belongs to the Cyclades and offers breathtaking sights. A visit here is a wonderful thing to do in Greece!
What’s in Santorini to do? Probably the most popular attraction on Santorini is the village of Oia, where you can admire the famous blue and white architecture and take the typical Instagram photo. Also located on the cliff is the main town of Fira, which will delight you with its great views of the sea and the caldera – the volcanic crater.
At least as picturesque but less touristy are the small villages of Imerovigli and Pygros, which enchant with their winding alleys and the blue-white townscape.
Archaeology fans should not miss a visit to the excavation site of the ancient city of Old Thera on the mountain Mesa Vouno, which was inhabited from the 9th century BC to 726 AD. In that year it was buried with pumice during a volcanic eruption and abandoned a little later.
Speaking of volcanoes, the two volcanic islands of Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni, which lie in the caldera and can be easily reached by excursion boat, are also a highlight. On Nea Kameni, you can climb the almost 130-meter-high volcanic crater, which still emits sulfurous smoke. In front of both islands, there are warm underground springs that invite you to a relaxing swim.
A detour to Santorini’s beaches is also worthwhile: these offer not only cooling off in the clear water but also black and, in the case of the Red Beach, even red pebble sand made of lava rock. What else can you say except “wow, let’s go”?
Continue to the Peloponnese peninsula, where you should not miss the ancient city of Olympia. The sanctuary was built around the middle of the 11th century BC in honor of Zeus, the father of the gods, and served as an oracle and venue for the ancient Olympic Games.
However, in order to combat paganism, the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II had the
games and dedication ceremonies banned in 426 AD. Presumably, the games nevertheless continued in secret until an earthquake in 551 destroyed most of the sacred site.
In the course of the following two centuries, Olympia was covered by a layer of sand up to five meters high and was only rediscovered in 1766 and excavated in 1874. In the meantime, the sanctuary has become part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nowadays you can visit the ancient cult site and explore the ruins of the buildings. Among the most important monuments is the Temple of Zeus, which was the largest temple in the Peloponnese in its time. Inside was once the statue of Zeus by Phidias, over 12 meters high, made of gold and ivory, which is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Other sights include the workshop of Phidias, who made the statue of Zeus there, and the Temple of Hera, the oldest temple in the sanctuary. At the altar of Hera, since 1936, the Olympic flame is lit for the Olympic Games of the modern era and then brought to the respective venue by torch relay.
When you’re out and about in Olympia, be sure to check out the Museum of the History of the Ancient Olympic Games. Here you can learn a lot of interesting facts about the Olympic Games and also admire impressive statues.
If you also feel like doing some sports, a picturesque hike in the hilly surroundings of Olympia is worthwhile.
Tip: As with the ruins of Delphi, admission is free on the following days: March 6, April 18, May 18, the last weekend in September, October 28, and every first Sunday from November 1 to March 1.
Video: Our highlights in the Peloponnese
7. Vikos Gorge
Our journey now takes us to the northwest of Greece, more precisely to the picturesque Pindos Mountains, home to one of the most beautiful natural highlights of the entire country. We are talking about the Vikos Gorge, which stretches over a length of ten kilometers between the villages of Monodendri and Vikos and whose rugged limestone walls drop almost vertically down to a depth of 1000 meters. It’s definitely a fun thing to do in Greece!
Already the approach to the viewpoint Oxya (Google Maps) is an experience. The winding road (which is never very narrow and offers enough space for two cars) leads you through a breathtaking landscape. By the way, there are some very good and popular restaurants along the way. From the parking lot, it’s only a few minutes walk to the spectacular viewpoint.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, this is the deepest gorge in the world – measured by the ratio of the biggest depth to the smallest width. Vikos Gorge is part of the Vikos Aoos National Park, which is the purest paradise for nature lovers. During an adventurous hike through the spectacular gorge, you can enjoy the untouched landscape and with a little luck even observe vultures and eagles.
A hiking destination worth seeing in the area is the Paraskevi Monastery, which was founded in the 15th century and inspires by a breathtaking view of the gorge. A very special thrill is offered by the Veli rock near Vradeto, where you can look down on two gorges at once. Do you dare to go to the edge of the rock?
The medieval town of Monemvasia is a must-do in Greece. Located off the coast of Laconia in the southeast of the Peloponnese peninsula, Monemvasia is one of the most beautiful places in Greece.
The town was an important base in the Byzantine Empire. Monemvasia has completely preserved its medieval charm. Within the old city walls, you feel transported back to a bygone era.
It’s simply fun to stroll through the narrow streets (cars must be parked outside the city walls). Around every corner, there is something new to discover.
Also worthwhile is a detour to the upper town, from which you have a great view down to Monemvasia.
If you are into mythology and nature, Olympus should be at the top of your list. The legendary seat of the Greek gods is also Greece’s highest mountain and is located on the east coast of the country.
For hikers and mountaineers, Mount Olympus is heaven on earth. What to see at Mount Olympus? On the various routes through the limestone massif, you can not only follow in the footsteps of the gods but also admire its unique flora and fauna.
These include about 30 species of orchids and many rare species of mammals and birds such as chamois, wild cats, and birds of prey. Due to its rich flora and fauna, Mount Olympus has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1981.
Good starting points for a mountain tour are the picturesque mountain village Litochoro and the village Dion, where you can visit the excavations of an ancient city. If you decide to walk from Litochoro to Prionia, you will pass the important monastery of Agios Dionysios.
If you are planning a longer hike, an overnight stay in one of the mountain huts is a good option. However, you should always bring the right equipment and not overestimate your fitness. Thus, the ascent of Mytikas, which at 2918 meters is the highest peak of Mount Olympus, is only something for experienced climbers.
10. Corinth Canal
Our next stop is the Corinth Canal, which separates the Peloponnese peninsula from the Greek mainland. It was built between 1881 and 1893 and since then it connects the Saronic Gulf with the Corinthian Gulf. Thanks to the 6.3-kilometer-long canal, the sea route for ships is shortened by up to 325 kilometers. It’s a really cool thing to do in Greece!
Although the canal was built at the end of the 19th century, the idea goes back more than 2600 years. Already the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero tried to create an artificial shipping route. After the failed projects of antiquity, a successful breakthrough came only with industrialization.
Due to its narrowness, only narrow ships with a width of up to 17 meters can pass through it. Nevertheless, about 11,000 ships pass through the canal annually, many of which are excursion ships and ferries.
A beautiful view is offered to you not only from the water but also from the “Old Bridge over the Corinth Canal” (Google Maps). The pedestrian bridge (still marked on Google Maps) has long been closed. No need to drive there.
Sun worshippers beware: With over 3000 hours of sunshine annually, the following Greek island is one of the sunniest regions in all of Europe. We are talking about Rhodes. Apart from perfect beach weather, the largest of the Dodecanese islands has a whole range of historical sights and natural wonders to offer.
The old town of Rhodes Town is surrounded by a 4-kilometer-long city wall and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. The main attraction is the Grand Master’s Palace, which was once the headquarters of the Order of St. John.
However, the mighty 14th-century fortress was destroyed by an explosion in 1856 and is now reconstructed. Only the entrance area with its two imposing towers has been preserved.
The next tip should be of particular interest to all mythology fans: At the entrance to the Mandraki harbor of Rhodes Town, the Colossus of Rhodes is said to have once stood. This was a bronze statue of the sun and city god Helios, over 30 meters high, which collapsed due to an earthquake in about 227/226 BC.
The imposing colossus is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and is a myth that still raises many questions today. At today’s harbor entrance there are two columns with a hissing cow and a stag, the heraldic animals of Rhodes.
A natural highlight of the island is the famous Valley of the Butterflies, where between June and September thousands of butterflies – mainly of the species of the Russian bear – can be found in the rock walls, but usually can be seen only at a second glance.
The reason for this natural spectacle is the resinous smell of the Oriental amber tree, which attracts the butterflies in whole swarms. On the five-kilometer-long path through the valley, you will also pass waterfalls and can hike up to the monastery of Kalopetra, from where you have a great view of the area.
12. Palace of Knossos in Crete
Last but not least, it’s time for a visit to the largest island in Greece: Crete. Apart from nature and hiking paradises like Samaria Gorge, you can look forward to historical sites like the Palace of Knossos.
It’s one of the largest Minoan palaces in Crete and was built as early as the second millennium BC in the ancient city of Knossos. After its destruction between 1750 and 1700 BC by a severe earthquake, the palace was rebuilt even more splendidly, and Knossos experienced its greatest political, economic, and cultural flowering at that time.
According to excavators, the magnificent building probably consisted of 1300 rooms with up to five floors. Today, you can explore the ruins of the various halls and rooms on the huge palace grounds and follow in the footsteps of the oldest advanced civilization in Europe.
As you can see, a visit to the Palace of Knossos is an absolute must, and not just for amateur archaeologists. Besides the palace, there are other beautiful sights on Crete that you should not miss!
Tips for island lovers
You already know Crete and Rhodes like the back of your hand and feel like discovering another Greek island? Good idea, then you might find your next vacation destination here:
- On Corfu, you can not only have a super relaxing beach vacation but also explore many exciting historical sights. The landmark of the island is the peninsula Kanoni, from where you can reach the monastery island Vlacherna and have a beautiful view of Mouse Island.
- Mamma Mia fans like me should not miss a visit to the island of Skolepos. Despite the worldwide success of the movie, the island has kept its originality and enchants with its white houses and beaches, green forests, and turquoise sea. With 80 percent of its surface covered by forests and groves, Skolepos is considered the greenest island in Greece and is a dream for all hiking enthusiasts.
- If you are looking for a party atmosphere, you will find it on Mykonos. The island is famous for its exuberant parties in beach clubs and bars. A famous sight is the impressive windmills Kato Mili from the 15th century.
- If you prefer it more relaxed and traditional, you can go to Folegandros. The island is considered the unknown Santorini and inspires by its picturesque villages, spectacular cliffs, and secluded beaches. Folegandros is the perfect place to experience the Greek way of life.
- Did you know that you can spot sea turtles in Europe? No? Then hurry to the island of Kefalonia. Here you will not only find a dream beach, which was voted the most beautiful beach in the world – Myrtos Beach – but at the right time of the year, you can also see the sea turtles laying their eggs, hatching, or making their rounds in the harbor of Argostoli.
An absolute insider tip is still the island Thassos. Thassos (also: Thasos) carries the epithet “the green one” and possesses is hereby already unique. A visit to the northernmost of all Greek islands makes you want more.
Exciting Fun Facts about Greece
- The official name of Greece is actually “Hellenic Republic”.
- The motto of the country is “Elftheria i thanatos” (“Freedom or Death”) – these nine
- syllables are reflected in the nine stripes of the Greek flag and symbolize the resistance of the Greek people against the Ottoman rule
- Ancient Greece is considered the cradle of democracy and European culture
- The Greek national anthem has no less than 158 stanzas, although usually only the first two are sung.
- Of the nearly 10,000 Greek islands only about 100 are inhabited
- The omnipresent color blue is said to drive away evil spirits
- Since 2002, according to EU regulations, only cheeses that have been ripened in brine and made from sheep’s and goat’s milk on the Greek mainland and the islands of the northeastern Aegean are allowed to be called feta.
I hope you enjoyed my tour of the most amazing sights in Greece as much as I did. My absolute highlights are the hip city of Athens, the Metéora monasteries but also the coveted Greek islands like Santorini, Rhodes, and Zakynthos.