Best 7-Day Greece Itinerary: Islands, History & Culture

A 8 day trip to Greece 
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Leisurely travel may be par standard in Greece, but that will not prevent you from properly exploring with just one week. This handcrafted tour mixes a little of everything that makes Greece so intoxicating with ruins and archaeological sites traditional fishing villages, sublime coastlines and cruises, colorful neighborhoods and indulgent taverns. Mixing an island vacation with a dose of history is easily done while minimizing travel time, and these seven days are the perfect introduction to Greece with time spent in Athens, Santorini, and Crete.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Athens, Acropolis, Beule Gate, Acropolis Museum, Parthenon, Theater of Dionysus, Plaka, Ancient Agora, Temple of Athena Nike, National Archeological Museum, Athinas Street, Santorini, Oia, Imerovigli, Firostefani, Fira, Red Beach, Kamari, Perissa, Pyrgos, Thirassia, Akrotiri, Crete, Iraklion, Knossos, Archeological Museum, Ta Liontaria square, Lasithi Plateau, Psychro Cave, Elounda, Rethymnon, Delphi, Temple of Apollo

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Athens – Ancient Greece, Plaka and the Acropolis

The Acropolis is your Athens compass point, its colonnades, and temples visible from almost anywhere in the city. You might even glimpse its splendor from the plane window, the remains of an ancient civilization perched high on the rocks above Greece’s capital. Check into your hotel and check out the rooftop view, the compass point almost within touching distance. Down below the streets twist and turn, and a myriad of sounds creep out from the tavernas and echo upwards, suggesting what’s to come this evening. But once your bags are dropped there is only one place for you today, the centerpiece of a civilization that changed the world in so many ways.

A path ascends, and the ruins start. Beyond the Beule Gate, you will glimpse what lies ahead with polished stone lies along the path, small sculptures sit on the floor, with temples coming gradually into view. Keep ascending, walking slowly in the heat, and take your time as the Acropolis temples and Parthenon rise high above you. It is the ruins of the Parthenon you never forget, so perfectly proportioned, so remarkably preserved. And although busy with tourists, there is enough to the area that you can also find quiet moments to take it all in. There is a chance to escape the heat with a look inside the Acropolis Museum, a place preserving marble and friezes that were rescued from destruction.

Maintain the slow walking pace as you descend, this time amid the cobblestone and marble of Grand Promenade. Skirting Acropolis Hill, you will be led to the Theater of Dionysus before plunging you forward into the 17th and 18th centuries. That is the time when Plaka evolved, and the neighborhood still has a lived-in old-world atmosphere. Boutique stores spill their wares into pedestrianized streets, enticing aromas come from narrow taverna doorways, and street traders call as they walk past. It is energetic and laid-back at the same time, classically Greek, but just completely different from the nearby Acropolis. Your guide will point you in the right direction for a traditional dinner before you take an early night, or stay out and enjoy all that is on offer.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation, tour

Day 2: Athens to Santorini – More Ruins and History Before Sunset in Santorini

Gods without heads mark the Odeon of Agrippa entrance. Columns line the streets, casting shadows across the dusty ground. You will be in Ancient Agora, walking through more remains and ruins. While the Acropolis was the land of the gods, the Agora was the empire’s business and political hub. Grasp its history with your local guide before a mid-morning visit to the National Archeological Museum. Nowhere else in the world has such an impressive collection of ancient artifacts with gold death masks in the Mycenaean gallery, expressive marble figures from the Cycladic era, and Thira frescoes that hint at where you are heading this afternoon. Your guide will help you explore the highlights before you grab your luggage and head to the airport.

Santorini is five hours away by unreliable boats or just 50 minutes by flight. Touch down and transfer across the island, the vineyards and orchards leading to a sublime cliff-dominated coastline. You will be staying in Oia, the largest of the famous blue and white towns but also one that is relatively quiet, as nearby Fira is much busier with tourists. Oia is where Santorini’s visitors come to watch the sunset, and you will have a private view on your terrace perched above the old town and the Aegean Sea. Spend the evening strolling Oia, without a guide, a plan or a map. This mazy little town has a treat on every corner, and the food is sublime, almost anywhere you dine.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Oia – Cruising Across the Blue and White Island of Santorini

Vineyards flicker in the morning breeze while orchards are punctuated by the faded grandeur of stone outhouses. A road twists through the valley, and slowly you approach a winery. The vines are old, and the terroir is volcanic here, creating a wine that even the Ottomans allowed during their prohibition period. The wine is acidic and dry, lots of citrus on the nose and a lingering earthy finish. Pair it with some Santorini food delicacies, and you have a dreamy morning, complemented by a dreamy view over the island. Continue your private tour of Santorini in Akrotiri, a 5,000-year-old town that is still being excavated from volcanic dust. Frescoes have survived, along with ceramics and alleyways of three-tiered stone houses.

You will now be in the northeast of the island, and enjoy your lunch on the coast before an hour or two to wander, or take some time for a nap on Red Beach. The afternoon is dedicated to blue and white villages, those that Santorini is famous for. Explore Pyrgos and listen to how the church bells sing in harmony. Delve into Fira with your local guide, descending steps to small taverns and a microbrewery. You can then choose to walk the cliffs back to Oia, or travel by boat. Either way, you can gaze up at a stunning volcano, so iconic with its perfect shape and impression of nature. Evenings are quiet in Oia, and once more you can watch the sunset from your private perch.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Oia – Santorini by Catamaran and Helicopter

Santorini’s history starts to make sense from the air. Beneath helicopter propellers, you can see the volcanoes and rugged ash fields, appreciating how civilizations have come and gone through the whim of nature. The island also makes sense on a catamaran, just in a completely different way. Cruise slowly beneath the cliffs with turquoise water all around as wind ruffles the sail. Tiny beaches hide beneath the cliffs, cut off from the land while caves impress more of Santorini’s volcanic history, visited by swimming or perhaps kayaking from the catamaran. Hot springs appear at a small islet in the Aegean, the water not that hot but very refreshing on a warm afternoon.

After the bird’s-eye view, you now get a glimpse at the island’s rugged exterior. It doesn’t take long before there are no other boats in view. The captain lays anchor, and you drift off in the sun-loungers or go swimming in placid pools of blue-green water. As evening draws near you’re sailing back to Oia, enjoying a setting sun from the deck. Gradually the town’s lights turn on and perhaps the moon comes out to play, a peaceful scene that leads into your third night on Greece’s favorite island.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Iraklion to Ellinika – Beauty and Archeology on the Island of Crete

Although there are ferries to Crete, it is far better to fly as the schedules can be inconsistent. An early flight means you can be exploring Knossos before the early-afternoon crowds descend. This centerpiece of Minoan culture is now a maze of rough rock and rugged ruins, the stone surrounded by trees in a peaceful valley. Palace remains are the major highlight, the evocative state of ruin suggesting their true age. Standing before the ruins, you can appreciate that populations were thriving on Crete more than three millennia ago, long before visitors came for the coastline and beaches.

Heading into bustling Iraklion you can take your lunch in the Pantheon, which is not an ancient temple, but a lively market that’s stuffed with great food, so if you want to dine like the locals, this is where you come. Refresh and energize with a cafe stop on Ta Liontaria square, Venetian sculptures the backdrop to a thick, gloopy coffee. Staying in Iraklion, you can delve into Crete’s Archeological Museum. It is not as extensive as in Athens but is very detailed in its portrayal of Minoan life. After all the sights, it will be back to the Greek tranquility, and you will be staying just outside Ellinika, a small resort town that twists elegantly along the waterside.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Ellinika – Discovering the Lasithi Plateau and Elounda Peninsula

Take is even slower today. The rhythm of the islands starts with a late breakfast and continues at a siga siga pace until sundown. It will be an especially slow rhythm in rural Crete, away from the tourist resorts, as this is an island with treasures that should be savored and that’s what you do today, the guide taking you on a scenic drive to the Lasithi Plateau. Orchards and cultivated fields cut a picture across the valleys, with strange hills casting shadows upon them. Windmills are dotted around while small, whitewashed villages are so sleepy you might not see a single person on their streets.

Hidden around here you find Psychro Cave, considered the birthplace of Zeus, if you can imagine that a god has a birthplace. There is a superb rural restaurant out here, perfect for a lunch that can last for over three hours. Eat, relax, eat some more. Drink, eat some more, wait for the heat of the afternoon to slip away. And only now do you finish the meal, perhaps after 4pm. Complete the day trip on the Elounda peninsula, where the water is fresh and placid, back-dropped by palm trees and the odd crucifix-topped church. Like yesterday, you will spend the night near Ellinika, enjoying a final evening of simple island pleasures.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Athens – Day Trip to Delphi and the Temple of Apollo

There is a really early flight back to Athens this morning. Some may say too early, but it is worth it as you get to include one more magnificent attraction. Delphi is high in the mountains, a city of ruins mostly untouched by time. Temples are back-dropped by rugged peaks as the amphitheater gazes down upon an often mist filled valley. Sculpted figures give you the eye while the Temple of Apollo suggests a grandeur that can rival the Athens Acropolis. This alluring place is ancient Greece at its very best, full of mystery and magic for your final day on vacation.

Driving back from Delphi is part of the experience, the road twisting through sublime mountain vistas, each corner a potential photo. You will reach Athens by 7pm after the private tour, perfect timing for a final evening in Plaka. Relax on the hotel rooftop, wander the lively streets, dine on classic Greek fare, and glimpse up at the floodlit Acropolis. One week will have flown by in some senses, yet the country’s serenity ensures it feels like a break as well as an active adventure.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Athens – Departure

After a free morning you are transferred to the airport for your outbound flight.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$1,995
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.