Trip Ideas

The Best Places to Visit in Greece in 2018

For a while, the only thing that made headlines in Greece was the crisis. This year couldn’t be more different. As high season gears up in the glamorous Greek isles, a handful of new boutique hotels, beach bars, and revamped resorts are proudly swinging open their doors everywhere from the Athens Riviera (once frequented by Frank Sinatra) to the sultry shores of Santorini—ushering in a new era for Greece. Here are the best places to visit in Greece this year.

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Athens Riviera

You may be familiar with the French or Italian Riviera, but one of the best places to visit in Greece is its own 35-mile strip of seaside resorts (with golden beaches to boot) known as the Athens Riviera, located just a half-hour drive south of the capital city. One of the newest spots to hit the coastline will be the Four Seasons Hotel Astir Palace Hotel Athens—the brand’s first hotel in Greece—opening later this year with bungalows, celeb chef-driven restaurants like Matsuhisa Athens by Nobu, and a Hippocrates-inspired spa. Another newcomer: Nice-n-Easy Seaside, a beach lounge version of the organic empire’s farm-to-table eateries, where you can order pine-infused cocktails and smoked bone marrow with king crab crackers with a simple push of a button on your sun bed. From the nearby marina, set off on an island-hopping sailboat excursion over to Poros and Aegina or visit one of Athens’ best-kept secrets, Vouliagmeni—a coastal town with a centerpiece thermal lake perfect for swimming or snorkeling.

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Mykonos

Mykonos is to Greece what Ibiza is to Spain—a bohemian beach scene where days quickly slip into nights dancing barefoot on golden sand (or in the water, in the case of celebs like Kendall Jenner). While cabanas can easily cost a cool $5,000 per day, you don’t need to shell out a fortune to get star treatment in Mykonos.This season welcomes the soon-to-debut Katikies Mykonos on the Agios Ioannis peninsula, where 35 seaside suites and two infinity pools dangle over the Aegean, as well as the recently relaunched SantAnna. Sitting in one of the quieter bays on Paranga Beach, SantAnna feels more like a beach house than boutique hotel with its cozy, macramé-covered cabanas and overwater hammocks. The resort’s real pièce-de-résistance is its saltwater pool—one of the largest in Europe. White-hot restaurant Nammos continues to reign the nightlife scene, but for those seeking a more laid-back experience, head to the old port, where you’ll come across a long-time jet-set meeting point Remezzo Restaurant and Bar. There, you can dine on revamped Greek classics (think king crab-stuffed grape leaves and Cretan versions of carbonara) while admiring sweeping views of the town’s twinkling lights.

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Santorini

It's worth climbing the steep steps to Santorini’s capital city, Fira, perched on the cusp of the caldera with bars and bistros hanging hundreds of feet over the sea. From here, a four-hour hike winds its way past the island’s signature blue-domed homes along the “Caldera’s Eyebrow” to the sunset capital of Oia. Avoid the tourists by slipping off to catch the show from the privacy of CAVOTAGOO's poolside lounge. Just as exclusive are the 12 suites at minimalist-chic Istoria Hotel, which sits along the jet-black Perivolos Beach and was constructed from the island’s volcanic stones. If you need sea and sunset views to be a guarantee, you'll find what you're looking for at any of the 24 suites in newly opened Canaves Oia Epitome, which is just a quick stroll from the famous fishing village of Ammoudi. For a special-occasion dinner, Lauda (helmed by chef Emmanuel Renaut, formerly of the three Michelin-starred Flocons de Sel in Megève) was the first restaurant to open in Oia and features locally fueled tasting menus inspired by the surrounding sea and mountains. Otherwise, head down the path leading to Ammoudi and take a seat at the remote beachside meze bar Katharos Lounge for inventive salads, burgers, dips, and an altogether more low-key evening. From there, you can cap off the night at Buddha-Bar Beach, located closer to Fira in the quiet village of Imerovigli, which serves up some of the island’s most lavish libations from a prime perch on the highest point of the caldera.

RELATED: The 7 Best Hotels in Santorini

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Kea

Sailors have long been fans of Kea (locally known as Tzia) which, despite being the closest Cycladic island to Athens, has stayed far off most travelers’ radars since ferries tend to skip over the isle's small port. That’s all about to change, however, when a new 75-villa One&Only resort opens up on the western side of the island later this year. For now, you'll find mostly Athenians escaping city living by holing up in Kea's clay-tiled summer homes and hiking the cobblestoned trail connecting four time-trapped towns—Karthaia, Koressia, Poiessa, and Ioulis. Because of Kea's setting along the Cavo Doro, one of the Mediterranean Sea’s most strenuous passages, the island is also home to treasures that lay beneath the sea. Divers will spot many sunken Greek ships here as well as the famous HMHS Britannic (sister ship to the Titanic), which sits almost entirely intact just four miles off the coast.

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Paros and Antiparos

The Cycladic island of Paros is a much more discreet version of Mykonos, where the fashion set flock to avoid the whole “see and be seen” mentality. Start your stay in the small fishing village of Naoussa, whose stone-paved streets and whitewashed buildings open up to lively tavernas huddled around the harbor. We suggest stopping for lunch at Statheros Meze (helmed by Greek celeb chef Argiro Barbarigou’s daughter), where pretty antique plates are piled with homestyle fare sourced from across the island, before spending the rest of the afternoon strolling around the town's maze-like alleyways. Catch the sunset while sipping Greek liqueur-infused cocktails on the wraparound terrace at Sommaripa Consolato, followed by dinner downstairs at Mario’s, a farm-to-table restaurant known for its whimsical spins on Greek classics (the grilled squid rings with basil pesto and pine cone is a must-try). Truth be told, there's more here to see than a day will allow. If you squeeze in an overnight stay, an early wake-up call on day two can have you setting off on sailing trip to Panteronissia (Paros’ blue lagoons) or enjoying another one of the island’s natural wonders—wine—with a tasting at fourth-generation Moraitis Winery. Less than a 10-minute ferry ride away, sister island Antiparos is home to seaside villas frequented by the likes of Madonna and Truman Capote (who holed up here right after finishing "Breakfast at Tiffany's"). It’s easy to spend the afternoon lingering over lunch along the water at Pipinos Seafood Taverna and exploring the island's quiet countryside and even quieter coves. For the full experience, book a stay at White Key Villas, whose owners can set up everything from sailboat trips to archeological sites on nearby Despotiko island to private masseurs, who weave Greek herbs into soothing spa treatments performed poolside.

RELATED: The Most Stunning Hotel Villas in the Greek Islands

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Corfu

The island earned its name Koryfo thanks to the fortress-topped twin peaks flanking either end of historic Corfu Town. Get your bearings at the 14th-century Palaio Frourio, accessed medieval-style via a seawater moat, before getting lost in the Old Town’s Venetian alleyways, where architectural highlights include French-designed squares like Liston (whose homes were inspired by those lining Paris’ rue de Rivoli). From the town of Pelekas, take the 20-minute trek down to local favorite Kontogialos beach or set off for something slightly more upscale near Glyfada at Pazuzu, where the sunsets are just as infamous as the powdery sand. Two other seaside lounges we love: Imabari Seaside Lounge Bar and NAOK Azur, which overlooks the Venetian fortress. In the center of the island, Ambelonas offers a crash course on Corfiot cuisine, serving up local plates paired with wine blended from the estate’s grapes. It’s also worth seeking out Etrusco in the village of Dassia, where garden-fresh ingredients are the secret to the lauded cuisine on chef Ettore Botrini’s molecular-driven menu. After feasting, fall asleep nearby in at just-opened Ikos Dassia or another of the island’s newcomers: the adults-only MarBella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas.

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Ios

If you’re looking to capture that classic windmill shot, forget about Mykonos; Ios is where you’ll find the most of these ancient beauties huddled together, dotting the slope above capital city Chora and its chalk-white homes. Located halfway between Naxos and Santorini, Ios may be known for some of its more famous neighbor’s party-heavy vibes, but it’s also home to over 30 golden beaches, where cliffs cascade down into the sparkling turquoise sea. One of the most stunning is the more remote Manganari, which requires a light hike to reach its rugged shores. Make the trek over to Paleokastro (“old castle”) on the northeastern side of the island for one of the most panoramic shots over the ocean and surrounding islands. Another historic site worth visiting is Homer’s tomb in the ancient town of Plakoto, where the “poet of poets” is said to be buried on a cliff. Continue the history lesson by exploring one of the oldest settlements on the globe, Skarkos, which dates back nearly 5,000 years. When you’re ready to call it a night (or just sit back and admire the sunset), make your way to Liostasi Ios Hotel & Spa, where glass-encased private plunge pools dip over the sea. Later this summer, on a stretch of 1,000 acres (private beach included), 30-suite eco resort Calilo is slated to debut. Expect a serious digital detox in the form of natural baths overlooking beautiful beaches as well as three farm-to-table restaurants featuring produce plucked straight from the onsite organic garden.

RELATED: Island Hopping in Greece: The Perfect 7-Day Itinerary

Check Prices for Liostasi Hotel & Suites in Paleochora, Crete

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The Peloponnese

The Greek Islands tend to get all the love, but the mainland—particularly the Peloponnese—is where you’ll find the heart of the country’s history. Separated by the Corinth Canal, the Peloponnese is a living museum where you’ll come across everything from Ancient Olympia (the birthplace of the Olympics) to the site of ancient Sparta, where you can soak up the country’s long history of olive oil production at the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil (whose artifacts include 60,000-year-old olive leaf fossils). For a more hands-on approach, travel companies like Scott Dunn can lead you from tree to tray during an olive harvesting expedition in Costa Navarino, where you’ll not only learn the proper way to pluck but help mill oil, too. Those up for exploring by foot can embark on Greece’s first European Ramblers Association-certified trail, Menalon, which stretches nearly 50 miles from the villages of Stemnitsa to Lagkadia. If you only have time to do one stretch of the trail, we recommend the 4.5-hour hike from Stemnitsa to Dimitsana, which winds through Peloponnese wine country. You can also head straight to the source of the region’s well-known wine with tastings at family-run Domain Spiropoulos or Domaine Skouras in Nemea. When you’re ready to rest your head, check in at the ultimate countryside retreat: newly opened Euphoria, a zen-like sanctuary and spa in the foothills of Mount Taygetus.

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