Greece is a magnificent mash-up of the ancient and contemporary, with gorgeous multi-colored sandy beaches, lush green gorges, and pretty churches with bell towers standing proudly and tall on steep hills. This all time classic destination has so much to offer, and 9 days would be too short to explore every aspect of this beautiful country.
However, you can still strike some “must-dos” off your travel bucket list if you have a week or more to spare! Listed below is a suggested 9-day Greece itinerary for you and your partner in crime!
Day 1: ATHENS - Acropolis, Ancient Agora, Nightlife in Athens
You can’t proudly say you’ve been to Athens if you skip the Acropolis. This iconic ancient site is a quintessential landmark of western civilization and one of the greatest architectural structures of all time. It is best to visit the Acropolis in the morning when the weather is still cool and the area is free from tourist crowds. It tends to get blazing hot in the afternoon, and being cramped with hundreds of other tourists won’t make your visit a pleasant one. Allow yourselves an hour or two just exploring the ancient ruins and admiring the beauty of Athens from every angle when you’re on top.
More travel reviews on Acropolis:
Acropolis of Athens
Opening Hours: 8 am - 7.30 pm in summer (April-October), 8.30 am - 3 pm in winter (November-March)
Duration: around 3 hours required.
Official Website: Athens
After lunch, head to Ancient Agora for further exploration of the ancient civilization. You’ve got to visit the Temple of Hephaestus. It is one of the best-preserved Greek temples, and it dates back to the 5th century BC. The eye-catching Temple of Hephaestus can be viewed from the Acropolis and it’s the main landmark of Agora, but you’ve got to view it up close to see the beauty in its imperfectly sun-bleached columns. Another site is the Church of the Holy Apostles. Featuring decorative tilework on the exterior, this church is among the oldest in Athens. Don’t forget to take a selfie here!
Opening Hours: 8 am - 8 pm.
Duration: around 3 hours required.
Website: Ancient Agora
Contact: +30 21 0321 0185
Athens has a pretty decent night life. Head to Syntagma and Kolonaki, where you can find several bars and cafes with spectacular views of the Acropolis at night. Just chill over a cocktail and unwind after a day of walking.
Friendly advice: with the recent financial crisis, crime has been heightened in Athens. There has been an increase in prostitutes and drug-users in the streets surrounding Omonia, so avoid that area especially at night. While its okay to enjoy the nightlife in Athens, beware of adulterated drinks. Some bars in Athens serve adulterated drinks diluted with cheap imports leaving you ultra dispirited and low the next day.
Day 2: ATHENS - Monastiraki Flea Market, Explore Plaka & Syntagma
What’s a holiday without some shopping? The traditional Monastiraki Flea Market is filled with a festive atmosphere that instantly perks up your shopping instincts. You’ll find almost everything you need here: little trinkets, mass produced “I Love Greece” t-shirts, antiques and fake antiques, hand-crafted plastic beaded bracelets, and more. This is the ultimate place to get your souvenirs for your friends and family! The shops sell pretty much the same thing, but if it happens to be a Sunday, you’re in luck! On Sundays, things are taken to a higher level. The locals set up their own stores and sell all kinds of junk to antiques. If this doesn’t sound interesting to you, remember that “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”, you’ll be surprised at what you can get at this market!
Friendly advice: Do visit the Monastiraki Flea Market before 11 am though, as you won’t want to be caught in a situation when you’re packed like sardines in this alley. And also be vigilant and mindful of pickpockets, especially in a crowded area like that.
Monastiraki Flea Market
Address: Ifestou, Athina, Greece
Opening Hours: 24 Hours
Website: Monastiraki Flea Market
After grabbing some good buys and gems at the Flea Market, head to Plaka and Syntagma to just wander around aimlessly, free and easy. Spend the afternoon walking through the neighbourhood, past cafes and boutiques and the vast Syntagma Square, simply observing the local way of life. Walking around idyllic, while trying the different Greek street food, how does that sound? From vendors selling koulouria (Fresh pretzel style bread), grilled corn and chestnuts, local tiropites (Cheese pies), there’s no shortage of snacks in Athens! Skip lunch and dinner to save stomach space for more of these yummy delicacies!
Greek cuisine is surely unique. Learn the secrets behind whipping up these tantalizing dishes at a Greek cooking class! It’s a great way to spend a relaxing day after so much walking for the past two days. You’ll be guided by an experienced chef and prepare your own authentic Greek feast, then sit down with your fellow food-lovers in the group to eat. Not only do you hone your cooking skills, you also learn more about Greek cuisine in general and how to pronounce Greek dishes other than olives and Greek salad!
Athens Taverna Small-Group Greek Cooking Class
Duration: 3 hours
Day 4: SANTORINI - Hiking From Fira to Oia, sunset watching
Santorini is a picture-perfect village, from its rainbow-colored cliffs soaring over 300 meters (984 feet) and a sea-drowned caldera, to its spectacular views of the deep Aegean sea and the clear blue sky, multi-colored beaches, and glistening and gleaming sunsets. Its beauty is overwhelming, and the best way to take in all of these things is by walking. There’s a hiking pathway along the caldera that brings you from Fira to Oia. You’ll view nature at its best. It takes about 3 - 4 hours, depending on how often you stop to take pictures. While hiking seems like a bad idea to some, just go for it. The scenery and breathless beauty you will be exposed to will make everything worthwhile.
Oia is famous for its sunsets. It’s a breathtaking spectacle that lures many tourists to the area to find the perfect spots for the best view as the sky makes its transition from fiery orange to off-gray. After the hike, find a spot high up to catch this scene of transitioning magical colours. Take out your cameras and snap away! Selfies or panoramas, “square” or landscape, don’t worry, you won’t be judged, because everyone else will be doing the same!
Take the alternative route, read how Trip101 writer hiked from Oia to Fira: Take A Hike Along Santorini’s Famous Caldera!
Day 5: SANTORINI - Perissa beach, explore alleys and pathways in Fira to Imerovigil
It’s not every day you get to visit a beach with black sand. Perissa Beach is famous for being the longest black sand beach. Head down there just to immerse yourself in its beauty in the late morning when it’s not very crowded. While you’re at it, you can go for a swim, or just laze around and get deeply engrossed in a book. You’ll feel like time automatically slows down at Perissa Beach. Feel free to take all the time you need; there’s no hurry!
Treat yourselves to a delicious meal along Perissa Beach; there are some restaurants selling really good Greek cuisine. The beautiful scenery sets the ambience of the restaurants, and you’re in for a relaxing experience. When you get sick of the beach, head to Fira and Imerovigil to wander along its complex street layouts. Because of the layout, it’s easy to get lost, but you may just find yourselves gems during the process. Wander along the narrow cobblestone paths, admire quirky and colorful houses, and step into local shops selling jewelery, clothes, and colorful scarves. Climb up the cliffs, even if you hate climbing, and amble past whitewashed houses with blue windows and doors. There are several small shopping streets with shops selling stuff you might not be able to get back home, so put yourselves out there and explore!
Day 6: SANTORINI - Catamaran sunset cruise
It’s the last day on the Island, which means it’s the last day you get to enjoy those beautiful sunsets. After so much exploring and walking for the past 2 days, spend this one relaxing on a sunset cruise! Being out at sea is one of the best ways to view Santorini’s romantic sunsets, and a cruise takes you to places you can’t get to by walking. The sunset cruise departs from Ammoudi Bay at 3.30 pm. It brings you to Thirassia Island, sails to Palea Kameni, where you get to swim at the famous hot springs, and you can snorkel at the volcano and visit famous beaches such as the Red Beach.
As sunset approaches, you’ll be left breathless by the spectacular colors of the Santorinean sunset. The night finally ends with a sumptuous dinner served on board.
Day 7: CRETE - Palace of Knossos, Cretaquarium
The Palace of Knossos is Crete’s must-see attraction. Though it may sound like just another palace at first, its grandeur definitely makes it more complex and attractive than other palaces. Set off early in the morning to avoid the crowd, and try to get there before 10 am. There are guided tours provided for a fee of 10 EUR (11.40 USD), but you can also choose to go free and easy and figure out things on your own. Take some time to understand the complexities behind the architecture and try to visualize what the palace looked like in its heyday. Or if it’s too much brain work, simply admire the palace for its unique structure, or snap some shots for a keepsake.
Palace of Knossos
Opening Hours: 8 am - 6 pm
Duration: around 3 hours required
Access: From Heraklion take the road to Nea Alikarnassos
Website: Palace of Knossos
After lunch, head to the massive Cretaquarium. It may sound a little silly and childish at first, but with its extensive huge aquarium housing over 2,500 Mediterranean and tropical aquatic critters, a visit to this aquarium is bound to bring a smile to your face. If you’re a fan of marine life, you will love this visit as you’ll get to see so many interesting and rare underwater creatures. Besides, it’s quiet, and it’s nice to be in a quiet area once in a while.
Address: Heraklion 710 03
Opening Hours: 9 am - 9 pm
Contact: +30 2810 337788
Day 8: CRETE - Samaria Gorge Hiking
Pick up your hiking boots! The Samaria Gorge is Europe’s longest gorge, stretching over 16 kilometers (9.9 miles). It’s not a walk in the park, but the view will be worth it. Not only does the Samaria Gorge boast stunning scenery, but if you happen to visit during April and May, you’ll see carpets of blooming wildflowers, which is a spectacular sight. If you’re in luck, you’ll get to see a kri kri, a cute and shy wild goat that wanders around the Samaria Gorge.
It’s good to get an early start, as it will get hot and crowded with tourists in the afternoon and you wont want your pretty shots to be disturbed by random tourists appearing in the backdrop. Remember to wear good hiking boots, and load your bags with sunblock, sunglasses, a hat, and of course water to keep yourself hydrated!
Friendly advice: beware of falling rocks! There were two fatal incidents in 2006, so be careful!
Address: Samaria 730 11, Greece
Opening Hours: 6 am - 4 pm. Open from 1st May to 15th October each year.
Duration: around 4 - 8 hours
Website: Samaria Gorge
Contact: +30 2821045570
Day 9: CRETE - Harbour and old towns in Chania
Crete is most famous for its beautiful waterfront, with its light house, magnificent harbour, and pretty Venetian quarter. You can easily spend a day here just exploring its narrow cobblestone lanes and admiring the brilliant view of the harbour with ships at the dock.
The harbour is at the center of the Old Town. The Old Town is a maze of alleys where remnants of Venetian and Turkish architecture abound, and streets are lined with several small museums, souvenir shops, boutique hotels, and Greek restaurants. There will be many tourists in the summer but it’s still worth the visit!
If time is on your side, you can visit the Venetian Fortifications. It’s a series of impressive and well-preserved walls that surrounds the city of Chania. The abundance of restaurants around the harbour also means that there is plenty of opportunity for eating at Greek tavernas. Dine at one of the restaurants along the harbour at night, and watch the dazzling lights illuminate the city. Crete is famous for its Cretan wine, so do get a taste of that along with other Greek dishes against the spectacular backdrop!
Read more: Top 4 Things To Do In Crete, Greece
The best 9 days of your life
There are many other activities to do and places waiting to be explored in Greece, and 9 days may seem insufficient. However, this 9-day Greece itinerary will make some of the best days of your life and you will miss the country’s beautiful sun-bleached ancient ruins, romantic sunsets, delicious Greek cuisine, and beautiful lush greenery. Before you know it, you will be back for more.
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