If you ask any European where they like to vacation, chances are they will say “Greece”. This answer makes sense – in Greece, you’ll find a warm climate, friendly people, fascinating ancient history – and affordable prices. It is surprising, however, that many people who visit Greece only travel to three locations: Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. After all, Greece is home to more than 500 islands. Because so many head to Mykonos and Santorini, both islands are very crowded. Instead, lets venture off the beaten path. Will explore an itinerary that takes us from Athens to the Aegean islands of Milos and Sifnos. Many Greeks think that Milos and Sifnos are the most beautiful Greek islands. And there is no question, they are a lot less crowded than either Mykonos or Santorini.
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7 day Greek Islands Itinerary, Day 1
Arrive in Athens
Athens, a city steeped in history, is one of the oldest metropolises in the world. Athens is a large town and not all parts of it are historically interesting. Consequently, as a tourist, the best place to stay in Athens is in the center. Two locations are ideal – the royal gardens or the Acropolis. Getting to the center from the airport is simple, cabs are available for a flat fee of 38 euros. Alternatively, you can take the bus, which will bring you to either the gardens or the Acropolis. Few people in Greece bother paying for public transport, but the bus ride costs about 6 euros.
In Greece, like in all European countries, excellent hotels are everywhere. You’ll find a range of price and service levels, and it’s great to know your options when booking. Take a look at my complete article – Best Hotels in Athens in Every Price Range for a lot more information.
I decided to stay in an apartment. Tripadvisor.com offers a selection of apartments in Greece, and I used this website to plan the entire Greek trip. Although hostels are available, many travelers say that Greek hostels are not as nice as in other places in Europe. My apartment in the city center, located just a few feet from the royal gardens cost 65 euros per night.
On your first day in Athens, make your way into the center and drop your bags off at your hotel or apartment. There are so many great restaurants in Athens, and all the food is delicious and fresh. The first night I had my first taste of Greek chicken and French fries topped with fresh feta.
Mavros Gatos Restaurant in Athens
If, however, you are looking for a special place to eat and celebrate your first night in Athens, a dinner at Mavros Gatos is a great way to do so. Many locals recommend this Athens staples for its delicious food and unique and authentic atmosphere.
Also Read: European Vacation Travel Tips
Take in the Spectacular Views at Mount Lycabettus
After dinner, its time for sunset, Greek style. Take a walk to the area called Mt Lycabettus. This hill, located in central Athens, offers the best sunset views in the city. From Mt. Lycabettus you’ll see the Acropolis, the surrounding neighborhoods, and even the Aegean sea. At the top of Mount Lycabettus, you’ll find a little church with the most stunning views.
To get to mount Lycabettus use google maps or just follow the well-paved path with stairs. Avoid the mud paths, they all lead to different places in the park. Stick to the stairs you’ll get to the top fairly quickly of the mountain quickly. Enjoy the breathtaking sunset as you celebrate your first night in Athens. In addition, take a look at more helpful European travel tips.
7 day Greek Islands Itinerary, Day 2
Visit the Acropolis
The Acropolis, a UNESCO heritage site, is one of the wonders of the world and the most famous architectural sites in Europe. Of course, the Acropolis is almost a must visit your first time in Athens. Unfortunately, that means the site is a must every other tourist. During the summer, thousands of people an hour arrive at these famous gates.
However, if you want to avoid the crowds here is an easy travel tip I picked up in Athens. Show up early! The Acropolis opens at 8 am and I came at about 7.45. I was one of the first people in line for the tickets. When the clerk opened, she discovered that the credit card machine wasn’t working (not uncommon in Greece). While others fumbled for cash, I was prepared with cash in hand. As a result, was the first person to walk into the Acropolis that day.
Athens Travel Tip
The Acropolis opens at 8 am. To avoid the crowds, show up before opening time. Have cash ready just in case the credit card machines don’t work.
By 9 am you’ll discover that the sun is high, and the crowds are thick. An in the Acropolis is just enough to tour the Acropolis, read the signs and get some great pictures. By 9 I suggest you slowly make your way out.
This is a great time for breakfast. Make your way from the Acropolis to Plaka, the quaint historic area next to the Acropolis. Here, take a stroll on the picturesque Mnisikleous street and stop in one of the tiny cafes for breakfast. Many cafes on this street offer a great Greek breakfast for just under 10 euros. Relax in the shade and enjoy a leisurely meal.
Next, stroll over to the National Gardens of Athens. The gardens are a great place to visit on a sunny and hot morning. The trees provide ample shade and there is much to see here. If you prefer to visit a museum instead of the gardens, check out the world famous the National Archeological Museum. Here you can learn more about Greek history and discover priceless artifacts.
For more European island travel ideas, check out The Sao Miguel Azores guide
A Historical Detour Into Ancient Greece
And speaking of Greek history, let’s take a short historical detour. Greece, the seat of ancient democracy, has a long and proud history.
The term “Ancient Greece” refers to the period of 800 to 500 bc, a span of 300 years when Greece brought important cultural and political ideas to the rest of the world. At the height of power, the Greek empire spanned from Asia to North Africa. The stable political system based on an idea of direct democracy, a solid middle class, and general prosperity, meant art and philosophy thrived in ancient Greece.
Later, when Rome took over as the most important country in the world, Romans made many new discoveries based on concepts originally developed in Greece. Even many of the famous Roman statues are copies of Greek statues. When Rome took the reins of power from Greece, what had started as democracy slowly eroded into a dictatorship. Power concentrated in the hands of a few led to the inevitable – the dark ages. Later in the trip will discover much more Greek history and how it impacts the world to this day. For now, let’s get back to modern Athens.
Now that you are a bit more familiar with Athens, its time to move to the next location in this seven-day itinerary – Milos. To get to Milos, you’ll first have to the city port and catch a ferry. The easiest way to get to the port from the center is by cab, and the cost is approximately 11 euros. Public transport option while available will take more than an hour. I took the 2.45 ferry to Milos.
Not looking forward to the long flight in coach? Check out: The Ultimate Guide to an Awesome Coach Flight.
Catch a Ferry to the Beautiful Island of Milos
There are several kinds of ferries you can take in Greece. The big, slow ferries are cheaper and less rocky than their faster and smaller cousins. If you might get seasick, I suggest you opt for the slower ferry. Altogether, it takes about six and a half hours on the slow ferry to make your way to Milos. The Greek are not very punctual, so the ferry is likely to leave every port a few minutes late. This means that if you take the 2.45 ferry you will get to Milos after 10 pm.
Arrange a car rental before you travel to Milos. Milos is a big island with limited public transport – a car is almost a necessity. To find the best deal for car rentals in Milos check out my two favorite car aggregate websites: Skyscanner.com and Hotwire.com. Look for a company with great reviews. Additionally, don’t forget to check with your credit card to make sure car rentals are insured. If you are not comfortable driving stick shift, arrange an automatic. Milos mountains and hills are no place to learn a complex driving skill. Moreover, you may need an international drivers permit, especially in case of an accident. You can get one from AAA before you leave the States, for about $20.
Milos Car Rental Travel Tip:
When you pick the rental car, walk around and record on video any scratches or other imperfections. The car company I rented from (milosrent.gr) attempted to charge me for preexisting damage. Originally, when I arrived to pick up the car, the employee very smoothly told me not to inspect it. “Everything is clean he said, no damage.” Tired after a long journey I agreed. But I realized something wasn’t right after I drove only a few minutes.
I decided to pull over on the side of the road and take a video of the car. Those few minutes, saved me several hundred dollars and a big headache. Of course, I can not recommend milosrent.gr because of my experience. But beware – even the best rental places can have sneaky employees so always protect yourself. Take your time with the video – better to spend 10 minutes at the beginning of your trip documenting issues than hundreds or thousands of dollars at the end.
After you pick up your car, head to your apartments. There are many places to rent an apartment on the island, but my favorite is Polonia. I stayed at the Vilos Suites. Just a two-minute walk from the beach, the apartments are an ideal location for both sunset and sunrise and of course for all beach activities. The suites are located only a five-minute walk from the center of town. The owner is friendly and super helpful, and the apartments are newly remodeled and decorated in a modern style.
7 day Greece Itinerary, Day 3
If you are an early bird, the beach in Polonia is a fantastic place to watch the sunrise. On the other hand, if early mornings aren’t for you, get up around 8 or 9 and make your way into “center town,” the restaurant street in center Polonia. Here, stop in at the bakery run by a friendly husband and wife team – Alesta. Enjoy a full breakfast for a reasonable 9.50 euros.
Afterward, hop in your car and begin to slowly make your way to the west coast. The east-west road here (none of the roads or streets in Milos have names) travels from Pollonia to Plaka, the capital of Polonia. As you slowly make your way east, stop in the villages on the way. Every hill has a view and every village a unique charm. You are not in Mykonos or Santorini. There are few tourists and most of them are Greek. The atmosphere is relaxed.
Enjoy the Picture Perfect Village of Ag. Konstantinos
My favorite stop on the North Coast is the little village of Ag. Konstantinos. In this small fishing village, you will find homes houses built into the rock. Boats park under the homes and the atmosphere is pure peace. Later today will also visit Klima, another fishing village with similar architecture. Klima is well known throughout Greece – but Ag Konstantinos is a lovely secret spot.
Explore the “Birthplace” of Venus de Milo
Eventually, you will make your way down the coast to Plaka, the capital of Milos. Here, park your car and walk towards the center where the streets are closed to traffic. The typical Greek blue and white houses here, host a variety of shops and restaurants. Plaka is a great place to get some coffee, lunch or shop for souvenirs. When you are done, get back into the car and make your way down to the amphitheater and the catacombs.
When Venus De Milo was found here, it wasn’t clear who she would belong to. At the time, Greece was still caught in a power struggle between the French and the Ottoman empires. One thing was quite clear – it wouldn’t be the Greeks. After much finagling, the French finally secured Venus and she was presented to the French king. And of course, to this day, Venus lives in the Louvre.
In Plaka, you are visiting the city that was once so powerful as to produce one of the greatest works of art the world has ever known. The amphitheater is free to visit, and you can walk right in and even sit on the benches if you’d like. Nearby, you can find a piece of the old city wall. On the opposite side of a short road is the catacombs.
Check out the Catacombs in Plaka
Several thousand people once lay buried at the catacombs, which were used as a burial site during the early Christian period from the 1st to 6th centuries. Over the past 1500 years, explorers of all stripes made their way out here. Some left behind graffiti. Consequently, the graffiti that covers the walls has become historic too – you will see names and dates from the 1700s scratched into the walls. However, the catacombs tour is rather small and rushed – so don’t expect too much. Still, it was a fun visit considering that I didn’t come out here just for this alone.
After you are done with the catacombs take the car to visit Klima, the second small fishing village on the coast. Klima one is well known and many pictures of Milos feature this village. Klima is small and there is not much to do here. After you are done, head back to Polonia for dinner.
Many locals say that Polonia offers the best seafood on the island – and I can’t disagree. As proof, you’ll find dozens of restaurants specializing in seafood in this small village. Additionally, consider parking by your apartments and walking into town – this way you can enjoy a bottle of local wine as well. Before you go to sleep this evening, arrange your trip to Kleftiko by boat. The proprietor of your hotel or apartments can make the arrangements for you. Kleftikos is a famous bay that is as isolated as it is picturesque. The easiest way to travel here is by joining a boat tour. I had a great experience with Zephyros company and I am happy to recommend them.
Milos Travel Tip:
If you need to eat every few hours, stop by the market in Pollonia to pick up food for tomorrow. Additionally, buy a large water bottle for every traveler in your group. Although the tour boats provide some refreshments you should bring your own food and water on board.
7 day Greece Itinerary, Day 4
Take a Day Trip to Kleftikos
To make it to Kleftikos on time, wake up around 8 am. In Polonia, stop and have breakfast, since you will pass by any open restaurants on your way to Kleftikos. After breakfast, make your way down to meet your boat. The Zephyros company leaves from Tarantella Taverna located next to Ag. Sostis. The meeting location can be hard to find. However, look for a sign on the main road and once you see the sign turn onto the dirt road.
I have to say that the four-hour cruise to Kleftikos was probably one of my favorite experiences in Greece. The boats are small, traditional wooden vessels. They are very comfortable and feel very high end. However, with the cost of only 29 euros, the Kleftikos cruise is an amazing bargain.
The crew of the Zephyros really made us feel welcome. The crew served fresh iced coffee as soon as we boarded, and made great small talk with the customers. The four-hour cruise (not to be confused with the unfortunate three-hour cruise of Gilligan’s Island fame), was a great ride. During the day, we made two stops. Our second stop was in the famous Kleftikos Bay.
Milos, Greece – Keftikos Bay,
Kleftikos is a small, very secluded bay in Milos. There are only two ways to get to Kleftikos. The first is by boat, and the second is with an all road vehicle over what a Greek gentleman colorfully described to me as “a wasteland of poisonous snakes.” I opted against a poisonous snake wasteland and joined the Zephyros boat instead. The soft rock protects the bay and makes for a lovely place to swim, although the water is still fairly cold in May.
Before you turn back, the crew of the Zephyros will serve some snacks and alcoholic beverages – the perfect end to a lovely half day. After the boat lands, you have a few hours until your boat to Sifnos.
How to Spend the Last Few Hours in Milos
Here are a few ideas for your last few hours in Milos. The first option is to go straight to the port town and spend this time perusing Adamas. Another pretty town, Adamas is more commercial and I thought less authentic. In Adamas, you can, however, find some interesting shops and museums. Alternatively, stop by one of many restaurants in town and enjoy lunch. I must warn you though – I thought the food at the restaurant in Adamas just wasn’t great. It was the only bad meal I had in Greece. If I had to do it all over again, I would have instead spent the last few hours in one of the small villages on the way to the port. Here you are more likely to get a great meal and the atmosphere is less commercial.
Hop On the Ferry and Move to the Island of Sifnos
Finally, board the 4 pm boat for the 40-minute journey to Sifnos.
If you thought Milos was small and quaint meet Sifnos – smaller and quainter still. The island is so small, I don’t recommend renting a car. Instead, use public transport to get around. But that’s for tomorrow – for today check into your hotel or apartment and enjoy a great night.
While in Sifnos I stayed at the absolutely delightful Villa Areto. This small, family-run hotel is also the setting of the family farm. The rooms are decorated in antique style, very different from my home base in Milos. Here you’ll find complimentary breakfast, which consists almost entirely of food produced on the property. The hotel grounds are gorgeous and sport the classical architecture so unique to the Greek islands. If you stay here, say “hi” to the cute donkey who hangs outside the hotel door.
7 Day Greece Itinerary, Day 5
I hope this day will be as memorable for you as it was for me. Wake up at 8.30 am and enjoy the lovely complimentary breakfast with a view of the farms at your apartments. Afterward, ask your host for the bus stop information and walk down to the stop. Take the high-end tourist bus to the first stop – Appolonia. This short ride only costs a little over a euro, and you’ll need exact change. Today, wear comfortable hiking shoes because you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking.
Explore the Appolonia to Sifnos Hiking Trail
Sifnos is famous for hiking, and dozens of trails start in Appolonia. The most popular trail takes you from Appolonia to Sifnos Castle. I believe this trail to be one of the most beautiful hikes in the world.
The trail takes you through two picturesque blue and white villages and suddenly your path ends on a cliff. From here, walk down about 45 minutes of steps where you encounter a narrow, but level pathway above the sea. As you walk on this pathway you’ll see two tiny churches situated off two cliffs and then, the hike ends in the small Sifnos village, propped on a mountain and named after the castle.
The views here are outstanding so don’t forget your camera. I have to say, having hiked in dozens of countries this might be the prettiest hike I’ve ever seen.
After you finally make it down to Sifnos village, find one of two restaurants in town. The first, a larger restaurant will greet you as soon as you walk into town. If you walk a few more minutes you’ll see a smaller, more intimate one. This one is run by a soft-spoken woman proprietor and it was this one I chose for lunch – the food was amazing. But be careful – the portions are huge, as a result, I ended up getting way too much food. I only ordered two appetizers but they were big enough for four full meals.
Sifnos Castle Archeological Museum
After lunch, stop in the Sifnos Castle Archeological Museum and learn about 3,300 years of history that have led to your hike. There are plenty of interesting artifacts here, and much of this village’s lifestyle hasn’t changed for centuries. In many ways, the entire little village is a living museum. And perhaps one of very few left in the world. After the museum, walk back to Appolonia or alternatively take the bus from the village closest to Sifnos castle – Artemis. You can ask anyone for directions or if you prefer to use your phone GPS to take you to center Artemis and the bus stop.
If you’d like to do something else today, take the bus to Farros, the small fishing village on the coast. I opted to go back to the port and to walk around the main street in Kamares. If you are yearning for the beach, grab a free beach lounge chair in one of the restaurants lining the sea in the port of Kamares. The complimentary lounges are yours to use, but you should purchase something from the restaurant hosting you.
Finish your day in Sifnos with dinner in port, and enjoy the beautiful sunset on the water.
7 Day Greece Itinerary, Day 6
A Lazy Day in Sifnos – Enjoy the Beach
Today is the day to travel back to Athens, but all the ferries leave in the afternoon. You have a few options for the day. The first is to get down to Farros fishing village if you didn’t have a chance to do that yesterday. The second and the one I chose is a beach day in Kamares, the port town. As I mentioned, there are plenty of free beach lounges lining the water, each hosted by the restaurant next to them. Enjoy a lazy day and don’t forget to patronize the restaurant that is providing your chairs. It is customary to buy a few drinks and lunch at the restaurant you are staying in.
Sifnos to Athens
On the way back to Athens, my ferry was late, and it was not clear if it would come in at all. In order not to miss my boat (sort of speak) and ensure I was back in Athens in time for my flight the following day, I hopped on a different ferry, the super fast ferry which would get me to Athens in just over 2 hours. This was a very different experience from the big, slow boat I initially took to Milos.
The Fast Ferry Service in Greece
The ferry was faster. Additionally, there was no smoking in any indoor areas which made it far more pleasant for me. However, the small speedy ferry was very rocky. Lots of people got sick, including pretty much every American on board. As I do not get seasick I was ok – but I would suggest that if you do, stick with the slower boat. If you do not and have no trouble spending the extra 20 euros the faster ferry is definitely a more efficient option.
Greece Ferry Travel Tip:
I had to think quickly in order to get out of port. The ferries aren’t always reliable, so it helps to think on your feet. This is helpful to know: if your ferry (the ferry for which you originally purchased the tickets) is very late and may not show up, you can usually get a refund with your credit card insurance. Remember, every ferry is run by a different company so don’t expect to use the same ticket on another boat, just because it’s going to the same location. Instead, you will need to buy an additional ticket for the ferry on board, at a small premium.
7 Day Greece Itinerary, Day 7
The Acropolis Museum in Athens
I hope you are staying in central Athens, and close to the Acropolis because today is another day for an incredible experience. The Acropolis Museum has got to be one of the most stunning, and architecturally significant museums in the world. A recent addition to the city of Athens, this museum build in 2009 is constructed entirely above an ongoing archeological dig. The first floor of the museum is mostly glass and as you enter the museum you will walk over the dig, complete with archeologists going on about their day. It is such an incredible experience and I enjoyed it immensely.
Photography is forbidden in most of the Acropolis museum, but on the second floor, you can take pictures. Here you will see an incredible view of the Acropolis itself, the walls of glass make for a fantastic place for a selfie.
The cost of entry to the museum is only 5 euro, and if you only visit one museum in Greece, it should be this one.
Want more warm European travel ideas? Check out Spain’s Andalucia region.
If your flight is in the afternoon, like mine, and you are taking public transport make sure to leave about 4 hours prior to your flight. Public transport can be unreliable and I found several people who had waited for a bus for hours.
This itinerary takes you through only a tiny portion of what Greece has to offer. There are, after all, thousands of years of history and culture to explore here. I hope to come back many more times, and I hope you will as well.