It’s that time of year – we know it well; the joy and stress of the holidays are over, a calm settles, and with it… an itch. After spending December shopping for and accommodating others, it feels like it’s now time to treat yourself, and something new to look forward to seems an urgent necessity. Your mind goes to Greece.
To inspire you in planning this year’s trips, below are the 23 things to do and places to go in Greece in 2023 that are already on our bucket lists.
Dive off Alonissos
The island of Alonissos topped The Times’ list of 25 choices for lesser-known Greek islands in May of 2022, and won the Best Diving Destination award at the Greek Travel Awards in London last month. The accolades are unsurprising, seeing as the island is home to Greece’s first underwater museum – the 5th century BC Peristera wreck, as well as other underwater sites in what is also the largest natural marine park in the Mediterranean, spanning around 2,260 square kilometers. The area boasts plenty of underwater caves, and is home to the elusive Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus).
Read more about diving in Greece here.
Visit cinematic Paxos
To walk in the footsteps of the characters in the first Greek series on Netflix “Maestro in Blue,” about to premier soon, plan a trip to the little island of Paxos – a green gem in the Ionian covered in tall olive trees, surrounded by clear blue water. Much smaller and less famous than nearby Corfu and Lefkada, Paxos may have become increasingly popular as a tourist destination over the last few years, but still feels largely unspoiled, though one might expect visitor numbers to increase next year as a result of the series. To find accommodation similar to where Orestis stays in the series, look for a house in one of the many tiny settlements named after families – you’ll recognize them by the “atika” suffixes (Orestis stays in Manessatika).
Read more here.
Summer in Zagori
Most popular during the winter and dependent on domestic tourism thus far, the stone-built villages of Zagori (the “Zagarohoria”) are almost unbelievably pretty year-round. Some 46 villages in total (Megalo Papigo, Aristi, Monodendri are some of the more touristy villages in the region, while Dilofo, Koukouli and Kapesovo have a more genuine charm), the area is great for hikers, who make their way between the villages on picturesque age-old paths and deep into the famous Vikos Gorge. And if you can’t imagine a summer vacation without swimming, fear not: beaches come in the form of sand on the river banks, and hydromassage “services” are offered by the natural waterfalls, while natural rock pools serve as your swimming pools.
Read about visiting the Zagarohoria in summer here.
Sail in the Aegean
Who hasn’t dreamt of this: getting rocked to sleep by gentle waves, traveling to a different Greek island every day, and discovering secluded coves and beaches inaccessible by land? Let 2023 be the year when you make this ideal island-hopping dream come true. With 10,000 miles of coastline and thousands of islands, of which only a couple of hundred are inhabited, this will be a trip to remember, boast about, and be thankful for.
Find some useful tips for an Aegean sailing trip here.
Watch the sunset on Lefkada
The sunsets on Santorini may be more famous, but as the sun drops into the sea on Lefkada, painting the sky and the uninterrupted horizon pink and orange, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. If you spend the day on any of the spectacular beaches along the island’s western coastline, make sure to stick around to watch it.
Read about more incredible sunset spots on the island here.
Take a cultural trip to Kavala
Surprisingly few tourists find their way to the historical city of Kavala. Those who do come are in for plenty of treats in the form of unexpected cultural sights and stops including (but far from limited to) a 15th-century fortress; the house of the founder of modern Egypt, Mohammed Ali; a tobacco museum; artists’ workshops open to visitors; the Halil Bey Mosque; and the iconic Imaret, which now functions as a boutique hotel.
Read about it here.
The mountain resort of Vasilitsa, between Ioannina and Grevena, was recently found to be the most affordable skiing destination in Europe. But the small price tag is not the only reason to plan a ski trip to Greece next winter; While white mountain peaks and ski lifts are likely not the first things that come to mind when you think of holidays in the country, in fact, it boasts a large number of ski resorts, and many of them feature top-class facilities. But hush, don’t tell anyone!
Find a guide to Greece’s ski centers here.
If you have yet to see Meteora, what are you waiting for? As soon as you lay eyes on the first of the monasteries perched improbably on top of pillars of rock, this UNESCO World Heritage site will take your breath away. Of the total of 24 monasteries, 6 are still in operation and open to the public. You can reach them by car, or hike up. You can also book a hot balloon ride to see them from above, or if you’re into unique mountaineering experiences, join a group climbing up some of the many climbing routes (there are 170 peaks and 870 routes total).
Read more here.
Explore the Geoparks of Crete
How does a combination of nature, history, tradition, and adventure sound? Two of Greece’s seven Geoparks included in UNESCO’s Global Geoparks network are located on the island of Crete. The Psiloritis Geopark, covering an area of 1,272 sq. km in central Crete, and the Sitia Geopark, covering 516.7 sq. km in the eastern part of the island, boast mountains and forests, canyons and coasts, interesting geological formations, rare species of flora, and landscapes of great natural beauty. They’re also home to historical monuments dating back to various periods, as well as unique customs and cultural traditions.
Read about touring the Geoparks here.
Harvest mastic on Chios
It’s said that the aristocracy of ancient Rome used toothpicks from the Chian mastic trees, while ancient writers, philosophers, and doctors referred to its medicinal properties. Today, it’s used to prepare ointments and creams, herbal concoctions and deodorants, as well as in cooking and confectionery (the first Turkish delight was made with mastic in the mid-18th century). Anyone visiting the island of Chios will be advised to visit the famous Mastihohoria (mastic villages) – especially the picturesque Mesta and Pyrgi, but for an interactive experience few have tried, we recommend joining the farmers in a mastic tree grove for a day.
Read about it here.
Spend a weekend in Monemvasia
Often described as a couple’s destination, in truth, the tiny island of Monemvasia, connected by a bridge to mainland Peloponnese, impresses all kinds of travelers. A castle town, it’s an ideal place for history lovers to explore, and thanks to information signs set up all around you can easily learn much of the town’s history without the help of a guide. Food and wine lovers won’t be disappointed either, with a number of charming tavernas to choose from and a revived historic wine to try. For everyone else, the beauty of the place is enough to win you over.
Read more here.
Chill with locals in Athens
There’s more to sightseeing than the Acropolis, more to dining than the tourist traps, and certainly more to Attica than central Athens. For the Athenians, the mighty monuments are just the backdrop to everyday life in the busy city. This side of it is also available to travelers, if only for a short while, if you know where to go to find it.
Do like a castaway on a tiny island
Among the most exotic destinations in Greece are its tiniest uninhabited islands, reachable only via little boats from nearby larger islands or your own vessel. On islets such as Polyaigos, Armathia, Aspronissia, and Makronissi, you feel like a castaway in paradise. The only negative thing about the experience is that afterward, your bar for the perfect summer will forever be set high.
Read more here.
Watch movies under the stars
Open-air cinemas did not originate in Greece, but they fit the country like a glove, and are a treat that locals wouldn’t do without in the summer. In the cities especially, the pretty, verdant courtyards where you can sip a cold drink, smoke, and in some cases even dine during the movie awaken nostalgic memories in the minds of older visitors, and provide everyone with a pleasant escape from the noise and rush.
Find a list of open-air cinemas we love in Athens here.
Take a road trip to Nymfaio
Surrounded by dense birch forest at 1,350 meters altitude on Mount Vitsi, before the 1990s, the beautiful traditional village of Nymfaio had all but withered away. Today, it’s been revived by architectural renovations and tourism, and counts as one the top domestic tourist destinations in northern Greece – despite its remoteness. As it’s a region blessed by nature, be prepared to encounter anything from wild horses to brown bears, wolves, and lynxes on your drives through the forest.
Read more here.
Go on a yoga retreat on Evia
Only an hour’s drive from Athens and connected to the mainland by a bridge, Greece’s second-largest island has evolved into a hub for holistic retreats. Combining holidays with yoga, meditation, healthy nutrition, and specialized experiences that promote wellness (arts, sports, nature-loving activities, life coaching, gastronomy, reading, writing, etc.), they offer something for the most of us.
Read about retreats we visited here.
Visit the Acropolis Museum
The Acropolis Museum is on everyone’s tongue lately, as the currently hot campaign for the return of stolen Parthenon marbles promotes it as their rightful home. Created by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, it’s designed to cleverly and subtly echo the structure of the hill, with its inclined Acropolis Slopes Gallery and the Parthenon Gallery which resembles the temple itself in its dimensions, where the sculptures are placed around what would be the walls of the Parthenon – just as they were originally placed. Through the glass walls of the galleries, you look straight up at the citadel. In addition, the museum actually “floats” above an impressive archaeological site, the remains of an ancient Athenian neighborhood, open to visitors since 2019.
Read more here.
A beloved holiday destination for many Greeks, Messinia offers variety and diversity that make visitors want to return. Lately, the regeneration of the Messinian capital, Kalamata; the city’s International Dance Festival; the enhancement of the archaeological site of Ancient Messene; the systematic promotion of the region’s history and natural setting; as well as the Costa Navarino investment which is now synonymous with the wider area, have also attracted quite a few visitors from abroad. Yet the area still feels remarkably unspoiled.
Read all about it here.
Visit a Winery
Assyrtiko, Vidiano, Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, Robola, Moschofilero, Malagousia… Sound like French to you? Actually, Greek wine varieties are gaining more and more fame internationally, and for good reason. These grapes now form the basis of a rapidly growing sophisticated industry, producing fascinating wines that capture the myriad terroirs of Greece’s diverse landscape. If you’re an oenophile, you’ll be happy to learn that plenty of the country’s wineries are open to visitors.
Read about 11 Greek wine varieties and wineries where you can try them here.
Finally visit Thessaloniki
Condé Nast Traveller recently called Thessaloniki one of the best underrated destinations in the world, and we agree. This city only keeps getting better and better; the upgraded port is now a designated homeport for cruise ships, and runs ferry services to several new islands in the Sporades and Cyclades, and even a summer-season route to Izmir; the newly reopened Modiano market, a historic landmark now boasting brand new shops and eateries, is expected to receive 4 million visitors over its first year alone; and the shops and restaurants surprise us every time we visit.
Peek into the past of Macedonia in the village of Vergina
A unique cultural monument not to be missed by any history buff, is the archaeological site and museum at Aigai (Vergina), the original Macedonian capital. While this area has since ancient times fallen into a slumber, life in the village of Vergina (on Thessaloniki’s southwestern countryside) has been anything but sedate lately. Last month, a new portal into Macedonia’s ancient past opened, in the form of the new Polycentric Museum of Aigai, where visitors can explore Greece’s newest archaeological park and gain a more complete, multi-focus view of life and death in the ancient capital.
Read all about the museum here.
Make your way up the Lycabettus Hill
Lycabettus Hill is one of the capital’s most instantly recognizable landmarks, the highest point in downtown Athens, offering a 360-degree view of the city and the sea and mountains that contain it. Reachable by foot or teleferique, it’s crowned by the 19th century chapel of Aghios Giorgios, a theatre, and the iconic restaurant Prasini Tenta, which recently reopened after being closed for nearly two decades. While Lycabettus arguably offers the best view in the city, not that many tourists make it up here. In fact, even many of the savviest locals don’t have a clue where the teleferique is located.
Find our guide to getting up the hill here.
Catch a show in Elefsina
A 40-minute drive west of Athens, Elefsina, or Eleusis, was once one of the most sacred cities of antiquity and home to the Eleusinian Mysteries (at the center of one of the biggest religious cults at the time). Today, it’s known as an industrial center, but also a polluted and worn down district, which is why we’d bet money that you’ve probably never heard of it. But you might. In 2023, Elefsina is one of the three European Capitals of Culture, designated by the European Commission. Following the opening ceremony on February 4, a rich program of events open to all will feature exhibitions, concerts, theatrical performances and more, taking place everywhere from the town’s archeological sites to an industrial complex and an old soap factory.
You can find the program of events here.