Going to Greece? This seven day itinerary offers a little bit of everything —the history and awe-inspiring sights of Athens, the scenery and hiking of incredible Meteora, plus the must-see island of Santorini. If hiking and mountain scenery isn’t your thing, you could easily substitute Meteora for another Greek island such as Crete or Mykonos.
Visit the spectacular monasteries of Meteora, Greece. Hike the trail between the six remaining monasteries and wonder at the devout monks who exist in relative isolation atop towering rocks for over a thousand years. Check out my post on Meteora here.
Explore the beautiful city of Athens, containing ancient ruins and an after-dark scene you just might fall in love with. Soak up the ambience from a streetside cafe while sipping ouzo and feasting on gyros and kebabs dripping with tatziki sauce. Day trip to the Temple of Poseidon, located at the southernmost tip of mainland Greece, just a 90-minute bus ride along the stunning coastline, best enjoyed at sunset. Cap off your day at one of Athen’s many rooftop bars, enjoying a cocktail while you gaze at the city lights and the illuminated Acropolis.
Catch the ferry to Santorini to discover this intoxicating Greek island. Not just a destination for honeymooners, Santorini offers plenty in the way of hiking, swimming and is most commonly explored by ATV. Hop aboard a wooden boat for a day trip to the volcano caldera, nearby hot springs and a visit to a tiny neighboring island. Watch the sunset from Oia, a tiny hilltop town of whitewashed houses and blue-domed chapels crowned with windmills and a sweeping view of the Mediterranean sea.
Finish your adventure by looping back to Athens with a quick flight, or extend your stay by exploring further into the Greek islands.
Athens to Meteora
The easiest way to get to Kalambata (the town nearest to Meteora) is by train, which takes 5 hours and drops you right in the center of town. Trains depart 4x daily from and cost anywhere from US $10 to $50 and up, depending on how far in advance you book. You can check the travel website www.seat61.com for more info. Book your tickets on the Trainose website.
Buses run more frequently and are an equally viable, if slightly less spacious and not-so scenic alternative. I took the bus from Liossom Station in Athens to Meteora and had no issues. The bus stops once along the way for a bathroom/lunch break at a basic roadside cafe.
‘Diaries of a Wandering Lobster’ has a great post on how to take the bus from Athens to Meteora.
Athens to Santorini
By far the most scenic way to reach Santorini, taking a ferry can also give you the option of stopping at additional islands in the Cyclades. However, decoding the Greek island ferry schedules can be a bit of a headache. The most comfortable option also takes the longest (8 hours for about US $50), and is called Blue Star Ferries. You can buy your ticket on their website, or simply show up at the port and book the morning of your departure.
To reach Piraeus ferry port in Athens, simply take the metro to Piraeus Station, exit the metro station and walk towards the water. The Blue Star Ferries ticketing booth will be slightly to your left if you are facing the water.
If you’re short on time, there are frequent flights to Santorini that will get you there in under an hour for as cheap as $30 US. Book in advance to score the rock-bottom fares. Keep in mind the Athens airport is about an hour away from the city (and a $10 metro ticket), so you’ll want to factor that into your travel time and budget.
A note about transportation in Greece
By far my biggest regret during my time in Greece is not lining up my transportation connections more efficiently.
For example, I could have reversed my itinerary and flown straight to Santorini on the same day I arrived in Athens airport, and bused to Meteora on the same day I arrived in Athens, rather than spending the night and departing the next morning).
Instead, I spent a night in Athens the day I arrived, three nights in Athens on my return from Meteora, and an entire day in the Athens airport waiting for a connection after flying back from Santorini at the the end of the week. All of this time in Athens definitely contributed to my falling in love with the city, but in hindsight I could have made more efficient use of my time moving between destinations.
Unpredictable schedules and occasional cancelations mean travel in Greece can throw some curveballs at you. Embrace these unexpected challenges when they arise, and be sure to allow extra time for connections rather than relying on on-time flights or ferries.
Where to stay
Meteora Central Hostel – This is a newer hostel in Kalambaka, Greece run by an amazing young couple who are eager to share their love of Meteora (and tons of tips) with you. It’s also clean and comfortable and pretty much the only show in town when it comes to hostels —don’t be fooled by the another so-called Meteora Hostel, which is located significantly farther away (check a map and read reviews before booking).
Athenstyle – central location near Athens metro, nightlife and sightseeing, epic rooftop with amazing views, great staff, comfiest beds of any hostel ever, clean and stylish decor, truly one of my favorite hostels I have found anywhere.
Fira Backpackers – Offering basic facilities plus a swimming pool, Fira Backpackers hostel is located in Fira town, which is a bit more real than scenic Oia (where you see all the Santorini photos from). It’s also conveniently located in a real town, with cheap food and grocery stores. Don’t worry —the island bus service makes it easy to visit just about anywhere on the island, and the hostel can help with all sorts of tours, ATV rentals etc.
If you have any questions or suggestions for backpacking in Greece, be sure to post a comment below.