Discover the Best Greek Gems: Your Ultimate Guide to Exploring Greece for the First Time

It’s been several years since my last trip to Greece but I remember it fondly and would love to go back and explore Greece some more. My first visit to Greece left me wanting more!

Together we are going to embark on a journey to uncover the hidden treasures of Greece, where ancient history and breathtaking landscapes intertwine. From the iconic white-washed buildings of Santorini to the ancient ruins of Athens, Greece is a land filled with wonder and beauty.

Whether you’re a history buff, a beach lover, or a food enthusiast, this ultimate guide is your roadmap to experiencing the best that Greece has to offer. Get ready to immerse yourself in the rich traditions, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality that make Greece an unforgettable destination. Wondering where to visit in Greece for the first time? You came to the right place!

Women at Temple of Poseidon

Visitors Guide to Greece

In this comprehensive first-time visitors’ guide, we’ll take you through the must-visit destinations, the unique experiences, and the mouthwatering cuisine that will leave you craving for more. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure as we explore the best Greek gems together.

If you are into stunning natural scenery, you will have a fantastic time gazing at the timeless beauty of Greece’s snow-capped mountains, diverse landscapes, lush forests, and crystal-clear turquoise waters. If you love the water like I do, you will enjoy swimming and sunbathing on the sun-kissed beaches of the Aegean Sea.

Meanwhile, avid party-goers will take delight in the fact that they can dance the night away at beach parties at the clubs and bars in Mykonos and Ios or even in cosmopolitan cities like Athens and Thessaloniki. Indeed, Greece has something to offer for all types of tourists.

But since it is almost impossible to visit all the spectacular tourist attractions in Greece in such a limited time, here are the top three must-see places on your itinerary for where to visit in Greece the first time you go.

Woman overlooking the city of Athens

The cities you should visit when exploring Greece for the first time

Athens

Athens is where I ended my Greek Island sailing trip and it’s my favourite Greek city. Yes, Santorini is beautiful, but Athens is incredibly full of life and culture. It has a vibe all its own.

Athens, Greece’s capital city, should be at the top of your list of places to visit. It is considered among the world’s oldest cities, with a history spanning more than 3,400 years. That said, it would come as no surprise that Athens has a rich culture and history.

After all, it is the city that birthed the notion of democracy and Western civilization as we know it today. It is also home to the most iconic ancient ruins in the world, such as the Acropolis—a UNESCO World Heritage Site which houses the Parthenon, a temple built to honour the goddess Athena.

A few other must-visit Athenian monuments include:

  • The Propylaia
  • The Temple of Athena Nike
  • The Erechtheum and its famous Caryatids
  • The theatres of Dionysus
  • Herodes Atticus
  • The Areopagus
  • The Pnyx
  • The Kerameikos Ancient Cemetery
  • The Ancient Agora
  • The Temple of Zeus
  • Hadrian’s Gate
The Temple of Zeus is an example of where to visit in Greece on your first time
My friend and I at the Temple of Zeus

After admiring such elegant architectural works of art, you can visit the National Archaeological Museum, which contains a collection of ancient Greek artifacts.

As shown above, we toured the Temple of Olympian Zeus, a ruined temple dedicated to the god Zeus, which holds the world record as the largest temple ever built in the ancient world.

After a day of learning all that there is to learn about Greece’s ancient history and mythology, you can dance the night away and enjoy Athens’ vibrant nightlife scene. We ended up at Lindsay Lohan’s night club, Lohan, and we had a blast dancing all night long.

And if you happen to be in Athens in time for the Athens Epidaurus Festival, you will get to watch a reinvented Greek tragedy or dance troupe performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus amphitheatre.

Santorini

Regardless of whether you’re travelling alone or with the love of your life, it is almost impossible not to fall in love with Santorini’s allure. I showed you Santorini in an earlier photo gallery post with ten reasons to visit stunning Santorini.

Your trip to Greece will not be complete if you haven’t posed and taken Instagram-worthy photos of Santorini’s famous whitewashed houses clinging to the steep cliffsides above the famed Aegean caldera. Of course, you can’t forget to snap some photos of the postcard-perfect village of Oia with its blue-domed churches.

Visit Santorini in Greece

When you tire of strolling and weaving your way amidst Santorini’s narrow pathways, you can relax your sore muscles by bathing in the thermal springs warmed by an active volcano. Alternatively, you can sunbathe and take a dip on Santorini’s black sand beaches.

And if you are a fan of the Greek’s advanced architectural ingenuity, be sure to visit and explore the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri, where you will find remnants of the advanced drainage system they used back in the day.

Lastly, if you are a wine connoisseur, you can book a private tour of Santorini’s wine estates, where you can sample traditional wines with a modern twist like mezzo and Nychteri, courtesy of Santorini’s new generation of vintners.

Mykonos

Known for its beach bars and nightlife, Mykonos is so much more than just a party city. Its iconic 16th-century windmills are a sight to see and so are its narrow and colourful streets. We spent the better part of our afternoon in Mykonos simply strolling the cobblestone streets.

We went shopping for local souvenirs and I bought several local designer dresses and rompers. The shopping was great in Mykonos! We also dined at a restaurant overlooking the ocean, in fact, we were sitting overtop of the ocean. The views were incredible.

Where to visit Greece first time - Mykonos, that's where!

Having said all of this, Mykonos was also the city where we partied the hardest. One of my favourite memories of Mykonos was sailing up to a beach bar that’s only accessible by boat. What a fun experience! We also danced the night away until sunrise listening to DJs at one of Mykonos’ nightclubs.

Olympus National Park

I didn’t make it here, but I’ve heard it’s stunning so I’ve included it in this first-timer’s guide to Greece. Olympus National Park has an area of 92 square miles (238 sq km) and is one of Greece’s leading attractions. The pinnacle of the park’s attractions is, of course, Mount Olympus.

The mythical mountain of the Gods, Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece. Located in Thessaly, this mountain peaks at a height of 9,570 ft (2,917 m). Surrounded by waterfalls and lush forests, the mighty mythical mountain of Olympus is an otherwordly sight. In fact, the mere sight of its ethereal beauty is enough to make one say that the trip to Greece is worth it.

There are 52 various peaks spread out across the mountain. Mytikas is the highest peak standing at a height of 9,570 feet (2,917 m). And if there are peaks, be careful because there are also deep gorges found within the mountain’s prominence.

While it will be challenging to climb Mount Olympus’ peak, you can opt to climb only a portion of the mountain just so you can experience the exhilarating thrill of hiking. The best place to start the hike is in the nearby town of Litochoro.

Olympus Mountain not only boasts of being the most desirable peak to hike across Europe, but it offers a glimpse at a vast diversity of wildlife and ecosystems as well. Here, you can find wolves, wild cats, jackals, foxes, chamois, wild goats, and roe deer. Avid birdwatchers should also keep an eye on rare birds like the short-toed snake eagle, peregrine falcon, sparrow hawk, lanner falcon, golden eagle, and booted eagle.

Petra Restaurant
Catching a sunset while dining al fresco in Oia

Best Time to Visit Greece

The best time to visit Greece largely depends on your preferences and the activities you want to engage in. The peak tourist season in Greece is during the summer months of June to August when the weather is warm and sunny. I went in August and it was very, very hot 🥵

While summer is the perfect time to enjoy the pristine beaches and vibrant nightlife, be prepared for large crowds and higher prices during this period. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) and fall (September to October).

The weather is still pleasant, and you can explore popular attractions without the crowds. Winter (November to March) is the low season in Greece, but it offers a unique experience for those interested in exploring the historical sites and enjoying a more authentic Greek atmosphere.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Greece depends on your preferences and the type of experience you’re looking for. I loved visiting in August since I love hot weather, but the humidity was almost too much for me. I’d advise against a summer visit unless you really love hot weather and crowds.

Fresh octopus dinner in Greece
Fresh Octopus I enjoyed at a restaurant in Fira

Greek Cuisine: A Food Lover’s Paradise

Greek cuisine is a delicious blend of Mediterranean flavours, fresh ingredients, and traditional cooking techniques. From souvlaki to moussaka, here are some dishes you must try during your visit to Greece:

1. Souvlaki: Grilled skewers of marinated meat, usually pork or chicken, served with pita bread, tzatziki sauce, and a side of Greek salad. Whenever I dine in a Greek restaurant at home, I tend to order their souvlaki.

2. Moussaka: A hearty dish made with layers of eggplant, ground meat, and béchamel sauce, baked to perfection. This one isn’t my favourite, but it is very popular so I felt that I had to include it.

3. Spanakopita: A savoury pie made with layers of phyllo pastry filled with spinach, feta cheese, and herbs. I love Spanakopita!

4. Dolmades: Grape leaves stuffed with a flavorful mixture of rice, herbs, and sometimes ground meat. Again, not a fave of mine, but definitely a crowd-pleaser and very traditional.

5. Baklava: A sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo pastry, nuts, honey, and spices. Need I say more?

In addition to these traditional dishes, Greece is also known for its fresh seafood, olive oil, and Greek yogurt. If you like the taste of black licorice, pair your meal with a glass of ouzo, the traditional Greek spirit.

Whether you’re dining at a local taverna or trying street food from a food stall, the flavours of Greek cuisine will leave you craving for more. I loved every meal I enjoyed in Greece.

Woman at the top of The Acropolis, a must-visit place in Greece
A very hot and windy day at The Acropolis in Athens

Tips for Travelling in Greece

To make the most of your trip to Greece, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Dress appropriately when visiting religious sites. Shoulders and knees should be covered out of respect. And wear flat shoes as their roads are old and uneven. Also, for my gals, be wary of how windy it can be. In the photo above, this dress went flying a few times!

Pro tip: I carry a scarf with me whenever I travel around Europe so I can quickly and easily cover up if I want to pop into a cathedral or other site.

2. Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen, especially during the summer months when temperatures can be high. Carry a reusable water bottle with you, you’re going to need it!

3. Be prepared for a slower pace of life, especially in smaller towns and islands. Embrace the relaxed atmosphere and enjoy the Greek concept of “siga siga” (slowly, slowly).

4. Carry some cash with you as some smaller establishments may not accept credit cards. ATMs are widely available throughout Greece.

5. Respect the environment and avoid littering. Greece’s natural beauty is one of its greatest assets, and it’s important to preserve it for future generations. Although this is definitely a general travel tip and should be respected no matter where you go.

By following these tips, you’ll have a smooth and enjoyable experience exploring Greece.

Conclusion – Where to visit in Greece for your first time

Greece is home to numerous ancient ruins of the Greek civilization and centuries worth of history. If you are a mythology geek, take a trip to Greece in 2024 because you will surely fall in love with this country, I know I did!

No matter which city, or cities, you decide to visit, you really can’t go wrong. Writing this post brought back a lot of memories for me. I know I’ve been reminiscing about my Greek Islands sailing trip and how amazing it was! I think I left a piece of my heart in Athens and I’d love to return one day to explore it further.

If you’re looking for a Greek Islands itinerary, check out Your Complete Greek Islands Itinerary.

If wellness travel is up your alley and you’d like to combine your trip with a stay at a luxury wellness resort, check out this newly opened wellness resort in Greece.

The ultimate guide for where to visit in greece the first time
first time visitor's guide to Greece