While many travel destinations are still a bit off-limits to Americans or having uncertain rules and regulations that make visitors wary of planning the trip, Greece has announced that it is fully open to healthy, vaccinated tourists this season. Always a miraculous place in summer, the historically rustic glamour beckons travelers seeking a respite from all things typical and provides jaw-dropping sites and experiences in abundance. The key to soaking up the Grecian sun in the best way possible is to choose carefully when booking stays excursions, and entertainment options. Your best bet may be through a specialty planning service or group with expertise in the area. Collectives such as Indagare or Virtuoso can help you find independent specialists like Rachel Hoppes of RH Travel Designs, a member of the exclusive Brownell Travel Consultants, who can perfectly plan your itinerary. After years of living in Europe, she now calls Nashville home and is an incredible source for working out the kinks (and getting into elusive places) in planning your adventure. Your own personal travel agent also may have suggestions and packages. Of course, we always trust the recommendations and trips that come straight from savvy friends and neighbors who’ve previously made the journey. We’ve collected a few of those from our own circle to put together a few elements to ensure a dream trip.
WHERE TO STAY
ATHENS: The 5-star King George Palace is a resort ideally situated for easy access to local sightseeing treasures and boasts incredible service in a Victorian-style setting. At the foot of the Acropolis is one of the area’s most luxurious landmark properties, Noble Suites. The royal treatment and period furnishings include actual living-style apartments with throw-back glamour that’s impossibly charming.
SANTORINI: If white-washed structures on hillsides along the Agean Sea are your ultimate fantasy, look no further than the open-plan suites at the Canaves Oia Hotel. Plunge pools, romantic outdoor dining, and relaxing on private verandas are just a few of Canaves guests’ perks. Another option is Vedema (a Luxury Collection Resort) which is especially beloved by vino enthusiasts. The exclusive property is built around a 400-year-old wine cellar and surrounded by vineyards in the medieval village of Megalohori. An Asian spa, intimate stone walkways, outdoor gathering places, and exclusive wine tastings are all favored by seasoned travelers visiting Vedema.
EAST PELOPONNESE: Perhaps one of the world’s most perfectly situated resorts, Amanzoe is the ideal booking for those in need of serious pampering. An unparalleled spa, private villas outfitted with every possible amenity, and the use of luxury speed boats for island hopping are all part of the mix here.
CRETE: Reserve a bungalow at the Blue Palace (a Luxury Collection Resort) on the Elounda coast for immersion in the culture you won’t find elsewhere. The architecture reflects the area’s historical past while the accommodations offer every modern convenience, including private, curated menus for guests and completely private gardens and verandas.
MYKONOS: Set on a hill overlooking the breathtaking Ornos beach, Kensho Boutique Hotel & Suites is the choice for those who love to get their r&r surrounded by gorgeous interior elements. Every corner is well-planned, and the setting is magical. Nearby, the Boheme Mykonos is a young-minded, chic stay for those wanting easy access to the town and beach. The concrete floors, rope fixtures, and bean bag pool lounges are just a few charming nods to the relaxed vibe here.
WHERE TO EAT
It is difficult to go wrong with dining choices here if you stick to the rule to choose restaurants with menus based on locally grown produce and freshly caught seafood. Independent islands do have their specialties and seasonal offerings, so be sure to ask about those choices first when making reservations. Santorini is well-known for its viticulture, growing luscious fava beans, capers, and tomatoes frequently featured on area menus. In Crete, flavorful pies and pastries are must-tries, particularly the savory varieties loaded with spices and handmade cheese. Athens has a lively taverna and café scene (except for August when some shutter for vacation). The grazing that starts at lunch can go on for hours where dips, raw vegetables, chilled seafood, and crumbled cheeses are served for the table. Dinner typically starts quite late due to the lingering lunch tradition. To really jump into the joys of local dining, try Kiki’s Tavern on Mykonos, which is a beach-shack (with no electricity, just a grill). They load up fresh catches and just-picked veggies and grill openly for all to enjoy. No matter what island you may find yourself on, the ecosystems here guarantee incredibly fresh and (mostly) healthy fare, which might have you sticking to a Mediterranean diet for quite some time after returning home.
The wine scene is also quite advanced throughout Greece, with many ‘new-to-Americans’ bottles featured on restaurant and bar wine lists. It’s a true treat for those with adventurous palates looking to explore unfamiliar varietals that are easily paired with the abundance of fresh fare and amazing cheeses offered at almost every restaurant.
WHAT TO DO
Finding the time to embrace what your hotel or resort offers in terms of spa, poolside treats, and watersports is always a good place to start. And of course, setting aside plenty of time for all of the wining and dining is crucial! But your travel specialist can also help with making a list of incredible sightseeing tour stops that are unique to your interests. Perhaps it is a full-day adventure to explore the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos and the city of Heraklion or a journey discovering artifacts at the Acropolis Museum. There are endless opportunities for history buffs and architecture fans to embrace the trip, including visits to historical neighborhoods and landmark buildings such as Parliament and
Edit team member Alaina suggests making the 6-mile hike from Fira to Oia to watch the sunset. You can detour in Firostefani to take in the Three Bells of Thira at Agios Theodoros and then get a ride back at dusk post-hike from either end of this well-known trail. She also endorses booking a private boat tour at sunset where you can enjoy Red, White, and Black Mountain Beaches as well as viewing the volcanic islands and hot springs. On some tours, you can enjoy authentic Greek barbeque feasts and sweets after snorkeling along reefs such as Mesa Pigadia. There are numerous sources for daytime sailing, island-hopping boat excursions, and other outings via water. The only trouble is narrowing down the options to select what will work within the time you have in this unbelievably serene place that is Greece.