If you only get to spend one week in Greece, you have to have a plan! Here’s an itinerary to help you map out your trip to the land of olive trees, feta cheese, and the birthplace of democracy.
One Week in Greece
For me, Greece was love at first sight. Which was actually completely unexpected; I had expected the country to be riddled with signs of economic collapse, an out-of-control refugee situation, and riots on every street corner. Because at the time of our trip in 2017, Greece was often in the nightly news for all of those things.
While Greece has had a rough few years (or decades), the country’s vast number of charms far outweigh its negatives. Its incredible scenery, fresh and delectable food, ancient historical sites around every bend, and the intoxicating hospitality of the Greek people have me constantly pining for a return trip to this amazing Mediterranean country. So if you’re considering a trip to Greece, just do it. You won’t regret it.
But there are so many things to do and see in Greece that it can be very difficult to decide what (and what not) to include in your itinerary! So to help you out, here’s a one week in Greece itinerary, based on the trip I took.
One Week in Greece Itinerary
Day 1: Arrive in Athens, Drive West
Athens is the closest airport to the majority of Greece’s must-see places, so start your journey here. The easiest way to explore Greece is, by far, renting a car. While public transportation in Athens is very convenient, that is not the case nationwide. There are trains and buses, but a car is the easiest way to get from place to place outside any of the big cities. And unlike driving in Tuscany, driving in Greece is very easy and relatively stress-free.
Once you pick up your car, head out of Athens (don’t worry, you’ll come back!) and start driving west to what is called the Peloponnese, the peninsula on the opposite side of the Gulf of Corinth from Athens. Enjoy your first views of beautiful Greece as the road hugs the coastline and goes around cliffs and through valleys filled with olive trees.
First stop: Epidaurus. The Ancient Theater at Epidaurus is famous for its incredible acoustics. From the amphitheater’s stage at the bottom, a performer’s spoken words could be heard by every one of the 14,000 viewers in the rows above, no matter where they were seated. And because the theater is still almost entirely intact, the acoustics still work (you can just trust me, or test it out when you visit!)
Next, head to the coastal town of Nafplio. The city was the first capital of modern-day Greece, from 1823-1834. Filled with Venetian architecture and cobblestone alleyways, Nafplio is a popular weekend destination for Athenians. But for you, it’s the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs and grab dinner from one of the many sidewalk cafes. If you have a little extra time, climb the steps up to the Palamidi Castle for a stunning view of the region.
Nafplio has many cute places to stay the night if you choose to stay there. Or, you can do what we did and head over to the nearby tiny, seaside town of Tolo and stay at Hotel Amaryllis. The most incredible sunrise I’ve ever seen was viewed from our apartment balcony, and every item offered for breakfast, from the Greek yogurt to the jams to the pressed cherry juice, is homemade by the owner or someone in his family (the olives were even picked from his own olive trees!).
Day 2: Mycenae and Corinth
During your one week in Greece, you’re going to see a lot of history. So you might as well see one of the oldest and most important archaeological sites in the entire country! Just up the road from Tolo and Nafplio is the ancient citadel of Mycenae. In Greek mythology, the city was founded by Perseus. In reality, the Mycenean people, who inhabited Greece before even the ancient Greeks did, built the fort between 2100BC and 1900BC. For reference, that’s the same time that the Biblical Abraham and Isaac were around. Greece obviously has a lot of pretty old things, but that’s old even by Greek standards.
It’s here at Mycenae that the famous mask of Agamemnon was discovered. Make sure to check out the actual tomb that the archaeologists found it in! You can also walk right through the giant Lion Gate when you enter the fort. When the Greeks first discovered this incredible stone monolith, they thought that Cyclops must have built it; there was no way humans could have lifted stones of that size!
The site, which includes the remains of the fort, several gravesites, and the museum, only takes a couple of hours to explore. But it is well worth including during your one week in Greece!
From Mycenae, continue on up the road to the ancient city of Corinth.
Just outside of the modern-day city of Corinth are the remains of its once-bustling predecessor. At one point, it was one of the largest and most important cities in Greece, with nearly 90,000 people living there in its hay-day around 400 BC. Around 40 AD, it was invaded, destroyed, and rebuilt by the Romans. And then over time, the ancient site was covered up by modern development.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s that a team of American archaeologists began excavating it. Today, for a small fee of €6, visitors can walk through what has been uncovered of the once great metropolis, such as the temple of Apollo. There is also a stone that marks the spot where the Apostle Paul once gave a speech to the church here (and walking in the footsteps of Paul is a pretty cool experience).
If you visit Corinth, make sure to also drive up to the castle that looms over the ancient city, the Acrocorinth. For centuries, the Acrocorinth served as the fortified acropolis for Corinth. Unlike the city it was meant to protect, it was never destroyed by invasions and wars, and so is much better preserved. Whereas Corinth looks like a pile of rubble at a glance, the Acrocorinth remains one of the most impressive castles in Greece. Plus, the view from the top is incredible.
Tip: Check the hours for the Acrocorinth before you go. We didn’t actually get to go in because we didn’t realize it would be closed on the day we visited. So we just admired it from the outside.
Corinth has several family-run hotels to stay at for the night, before continuing your one week in Greece itinerary!
Day 3: Olympia
Day 3 of your one week in Greece includes a trip to the birthplace of the Olympic games – Ancient Olympia.
The archaeological site of Olympia was once the most important religious and athletic center in all of Greece. Although very few structures are left standing, and it looks like just another collection of rubble, a visit to Olympia is a step back to the beginnings of our most celebrated modern-day sporting event.
Today, visitors can wander through the ruins where athletes once trained. Check out the foundations of the Temple of Zeus, which once housed a 42ft. statue of Zeus (42 feet!!!), one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World. Walk through the Temple of Hera, where the torch is still lit for every modern Olympics before being taken to that year’s host country. Take a run on the stadium track, which could hold 20,000 people – the largest of its kind at the time it was in use (or do what I did and admire the poppies in the field while everyone else runs 😉 ).
After touring the grounds, be sure to check out the Archaeological Museum. Founded in the 1800s to store the artifacts found at the site, this museum is considered to be one of the most important in Greece. It’s here that the famous statues of Hermes of Praxiteles and Nike of Paionios both reside. The pediments from the Temple of Zeus can also be seen here.
Olympia may be one of the most-visited sites in all of Greece, but for good reason. It’s worth taking a day out of your one week in Greece to explore. The modern-day village of Olympia caters to tourists with gift shops and mediocre restaurants (along with several nice hotels where you can stay the night), but the ancient site has done an excellent job of preserving the several millennia worth of history that has happened there.
Day 4: Delphi, Thermopolyae
It would be a travesty if Delphi was left out of your one week in Greece itinerary. For me, Delphi was a highlight of our time in Greece (which is saying something, since everywhere we went was pretty awesome!)
The ancient city of Delphi is perched high on the side of Mount Parnassus, with amazing views overlooking the valley and coastal plain to the south. At one point, Delphi was considered by the Greeks to be the center of the world, and so was a critically important site. It was here that the famous Oracle of Delphi would spout her prophecies for kings and generals and other important leaders of the ancient world.
Nowadays, visitors can make their way up the Sacred Way, past the once-grand treasuries, the Temple of Apollo, and what scholars even believe may have been the Oracle’s seat. The archaeological site is large and can take several hours to fully explore.
If you have the time, also check out the onsite museum.
From Delphi, make your way back to Athens. Once there, you can ditch the rental car back at the airport, as public transportation in Greece’s capital is more than sufficient for the rest of your trip. Take the metro (or bus) back to Athens and rest up for the remainder of your one week in Greece.
Tip: Athens has a number of great hotel options, but you’ll probably want to choose one close to the Acropolis for both convenience and safety reasons. We stayed at the Hermes Hotel, which I can’t recommend highly enough. The rooms were clean and modern, the price was very affordable, and the staff were incredibly kind – they made sure a delicious hot breakfast was ready for us at 3 AM the morning we flew out of Greece!
Day 5: Athens (Acropolis)
Today is a big day on your one week in Greece itinerary; it’s Acropolis day! The Parthenon is probably the most recognizable building in Greece, and thus probably the most crowded of all of Greece’s historical sites. To beat the crowds, start your day early. The Acropolis opens at 8 AM, so if you’re in town during the peak summer months, be there before the gates open.
Although everyone is familiar with the Parthenon, the Acropolis includes far more than just that many-columned building. But, there are no signposts or plaques to explain what anything is! We were fortunate enough to be accompanied by my college’s Greek history professor, who could explain what we were looking at. But I would recommend taking a guided tour. Otherwise, the Acropolis will look like yet another pile of ancient rocks that probably used to be something important.
Some people can spend several hours on the Acropolis, but others don’t need quite as much time! Depending on how your day goes, two other nearby sites you can check out are the Areopagus and the Ancient Agora of Athens. The Areopagus (also known as Mars Hill) is a rock outcropping that was used for trials of violent crimes such as homicide and arson. Greek mythology says that even the Greek god of war, Ares, was tried here once. But it’s also the same spot that Paul gave his speech in Acts 17 to the Athenians.
The Ancient Agora is the greatest example of what an ancient Greek marketplace would have been like. And this particular agora is likely to have been the very one that Socrates spent his time at, annoyingly asking people questions that they didn’t want to answer! Since both places are so close to the Acropolis, they’re easy to include on the same day of your one week in Greece itinerary.
Having already recommended a number of museums, you might be surprised to learn that I, in fact, am not a fan of museums. Too many tiny words, too many clay pots, too many hours spent inside looking at things I won’t remember much about. However, one museum I’ve been to that I think everyone should visit is the Acropolis Museum. So after you’re done touring around the Acropolis itself, pop into the air-conditioned museum nearby.
The museum has a number of artifacts related to the Acropolis itself, but those are not the most interesting feature. Since modern-day Athens was built overtop of Ancient Athens, the remains of the old city are, for the most part, covered up. But the Acropolis Museum has a glass floor so that you can look down onto the foundations of homes and businesses that were in use several thousand years ago!
Day 6: Athens
Your second day in Athens is for all of the things you didn’t do on your first day. There are a number of museums to hit (if you’re a museum person), as well as other archeological and historic sites. My advice though (as a non-museum person): don’t spend an entire day in museums. Your eyes will glaze over, you’ll stop reading words, and stop caring about all of the interesting stuff you’re seeing. If you want to visit them, I suggest splitting them up over a couple of days. Or just pick a couple of the ones that sound most interesting to you!
Of the museums in Athens, the most significant is the National Archaeological Museum. It’s by far the largest and has several famous statues and artifacts that’ll you’ll probably recognize.
While Athens has TONS of museums to visit, there are, fortunately, plenty of other things to do!
Like the Panathenaic Stadium. A visit here is a perfect compliment to your visit to Olympia earlier in the week. This stadium was the site of the very first modern-day Olympic Games. It’s tiny in comparison to the stadiums we build nowadays! When you visit, make sure to walk through the tunnel to the torch room, where the torch from every modern games is displayed along the wall.
There’s also the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You can visit the tomb in Syntagma Square at any time, but the ceremony happens at the top of the hour, every hour. When we were in Athens, we accidentally stumbled upon this and had no idea what was going on. The guards wear shoes with pompoms on them, heels that click, socks that have tassels, and they perform a strange choreographed routine during the ceremony. The whole thing is very odd if you’ve never heard of it before, but I’ve since learned that there is, in fact, a method (and a lot of symbolism) behind the seeming madness. Check it out if you have time!
Another thing to do in Athens is walk through a garden! Located just behind Syntagma Square and the Tomb is the National Garden. The first Queen of Greece, Queen Amalia, commissioned the creation of the garden, and by 1840 it was complete. With over 59 acres (24 hectares) of gravel paths, ponds, rare plants, and lush vegetation, it’s a great place to escape the heat for a while during your one week in Greece.
And make sure to spend time exploring the Plaka neighborhood, which is directly below the Acropolis. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhoods in the world. Today, its cobblestone streets and narrow alleys are lined with gift shops, beautiful churches, amazing restaurants, more museums, and stately homes.
Day 7: Athens (or Santorini)
There are so many different things to see and do in Athens that you could easily spend half of your one week in Greece in the capital city. So if you feel like you need more time here, spend Day 7 exploring the places in town that you haven’t made it to yet! In fact, here’s an itinerary for 3 days in Athens you can check out.
But I’m also going to propose an alternative option for today, particularly if you are in Greece during the off-season – visit a Greek island, such as Crete or Santorini. “What?! In one day?!” It sounds crazy, but it’s actually doable! You won’t regret it!
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that my family really likes to pack in a lot on a trip. So when we realized we had one extra day on our Greece trip, and that flights from Athens to Instagram-famous Santorini were only €15, we planned a one-day field trip. And I am so glad we did! If you want more info on how to do that too, check out my post on one day in Santorini. And check out this great post on island hopping in Greece for more options!
Day 8: Home
Your whirlwind one week in Greece is at an end. Time to fly home and start planning your next trip!
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