Greece is the country that confirmed my love for traveling. With beautiful beaches, fresh and affordable eats, and an array of ancient ruins for history buffs, Greece has something for everybody.
In fact, one of my taxi drivers in Greece praised his homeland for this very reason.
Best of all, Greece is super affordable, and if that isn't enough, Greeks are the nicest people I have ever met. They welcome you with open arms and treat you to the true Greek experience.
Young adults (or any adults) can party from sundown to sunrise and spend their hungover days at the beach. It's no wonder Greece is a bucket-list destination for so many travelers.
My Greece travel guide is a combination of all my greatest experiences in this wonderful country from the best things to do, where to find the best food, where to stay, and some bonus tips for budget travelers.
Disclaimer: During my Greek travels, I only had time to explore Athens, Meteora, Crete, Santorini, and Ios, so I can only speak to these locations.
Things to Do in Greece
1. Explore the Ancient Ruins of Athens.
For thousands of years, Athens has been a cultural and historical hotspot of the world.
Built around the Acropolis which dates back to the Bronze Age, Athens is littered with historical sites and ancient ruins for travelers to view and learn about.
The most popular of them is the Acropolis, which houses the Parthenon and the Theater of Dionysus amongst other ruins. I recommend going early in the morning to beat the heat and the hoards of tourists that will be prevalent in the afternoon.
Other top sites in Athens includes the Ancient Agora, Kerameikos, and the Panathenaic Stadium.
2. Brush up on your history at the Acropolis Museum.
History buffs and curious travelers alike will find great satisfaction in wandering around the Acropolis Museum for a few hours on a hot afternoon.
With an affordable entry fee and multiple floors full of artifacts and information, there's lots to be learned about the Acropolis and Athens in general.
Here's what I would recommend: download a free audio guide, tour the Acropolis Museum, and then go and apply your knowledge at the Acropolis the next morning!
3. Enjoy the sunset from Lycabettus Hill.
As the highest point in Athens at 277 meters tall, Mount Lycabettus makes the ideal spot to get a 360 degree view of the sunset over Athens.
I should warn you: it will be challenging to hike up, and it will definitely be crowded.
Lace up some comfortable shoes and trek up the hill a couple hours before sunset to claim your spot. If you like, pack a couple snacks and a bottle of wine to enjoy at the top.
Just be prepared for the large crowds that come swarming in when it starts to cool off and the sky begins to fade.
If you prefer not to deal with the crowds, I recommend making a reservation at Orizontes, a restaurant located at the top of a hill. Their balcony has a magnificent view without having to compete with other sightseers.
4. Visit the Monasteries of Meteora.
While Greece is known for its islands and beaches above all else, don't neglect the mainland. A train ride up to Meteora is something every traveler should do!
Built on towering rock spires, Meteora is home to 6 Greek Orthodox monasteries that date back to the 15th century.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the views are breath-taking and the serenity in the monasteries is sure to leave an impression on you.
Today, there are still a select few monks and nuns who practice at the monasteries. Be sure to cover shoulders and knees out of respect for their culture.
5. Take a cooking class ran by locals.
What better way to get familiar with the Greek cuisine than to learn how to make it yourself?
Taking a cooking class in Greece was one of my favorite activites from my time in the country. We learned how to make lamb, stuffed vegetables, the perfect tzatziki, and more!
It's a true insight not only into Greek food, but into the people and culture of Greece. The hospitality of our host was unmatched.
The class I took was in Chania on an olive tree farm! Contact Veerna's Kitchen to experience it for yourself.
6. Spend a day in Heraklion marveling at The Palace of Knossos.
Anyone remotely interested in Greek mythology knows about the Labyrinth used to hold the Minotaur on Crete.
Now is the chance to see it for yourself. The Palace of Knossos, located outside Heraklion, was said to have housed the Labyrinth that contained the Minotaur.
While that's obviously fictitious, it's a neat experience to see what inspired the myth. Besides, the Palace of Knossos is amazing in scale, so much so that it warrants a trip even if you aren't familiar with the mythology behind it.
I recommend buying a combination ticket at the Heraklion Archaelogical Museum that will also gain you entry to the palace.
7. Visit Oia for Pinterest-esque views.
Santorini is the one Greek island everyone has heard of, and for good reason. It's truly gorgeous and serves as a prime example of the beauty of Cycladic architecture.
Oia is the town you've seen so many pictures of, whether that be on Facebook, Pinterest, or wherever else you get your inspiration.
However, you need to see it for yourself. It's unreal.
The white-washed houses framed against the bluest water I've ever seen makes for a once-in-a-lifetime view (and photo op).
Beware, Oia is super touristy. You'll definitely want to do this one early in the morning, or better yet in the offseason.
Nevertheless, you have to go. It's incredible!
8. Experience the wild nightlife on Ios!
Ios is the underrated land of hedonism. Known for its' incredible nightlife, Ios is a spectacle to experience if you have the energy for it.
I visited Ios at the end of the May, during shoulder season, and the bars were still pretty crowded (so long as you found the right one). I can only imagine during summer!
With Far Out Beach Club dominating Mylopotas Beach, there's always a party going on. When the beach club closes up for the night, head into town and hit the bars and nightclubs to keep the party going.
Spend the next day hungover at the beach and do it all over again. It'll draw you in, I promise.
Where to Eat
Finding good restaurants to eat at in Greece was one of my favorite parts about visiting the country.
The food was so good, I've been trying to perfect my Greek cooking back home. Unfortunately, nothing will ever be able to compare!
- The Frog Guesthouse (Athens) - Solid breakfast and Greek coffee!
- Oinopoleion (Athens) - Amazing wine and a beautiful back porch for a nice night.
- Taverna Klimataria (Athens) - Make a reservation in advance! Live music paired with amazing food and a rustic Greek atmosphere has established this taverna as one of the best in Athens.
- Bouloukos Kebab (Athens) - Cheap street food for walking around Athens!
- To Kafeneoia (Athens) - Traditional Greek mezes near the Acropolis for after a long day of sightseeing.
- Panellinion (Kalambaka) - Great food with ample seating indoors and outdoors.
- Food Factory (Kalambaka) - Best gyro I've ever had!
- Taverna Strata (Chania, Crete) - Located in a quiet back alley of Old Town, Strata boasts tender lamb dishes, delicious Greek wine, and the best baklava I had during my time in Greece.
- Katogi Greek Tapas (Ios) - A bit pricey, but probably the best meal of our entire trip!
- Passagio (Ios) - The place to go for good pizza on Ios.
- The Bakehouse (Ios) - Cheap pastries and coffee for after a long night out.
Where to Stay
Greece is a backpacker's bestfriend; there are tons of affordable places to stay between hostels and unique AirBNBs.
Our accommodations were mostly top-tier, so here are my recommendations with a brief description of what to expect!
- Athens Hawks Hostel (Athens) - Athens Hawks is the definition of a party hostel. With 8 floors plus a rooftop bar, there's no shortage of fun to be had and people to meet. I had an amazing time here and would recommend Athens Hawks to anybody with a hunger for long nights.
- Cocoon City Hostel (Chania, Crete) - Just a short walk from Old Town, Cocoon City is centrally located with great amenities. They have a nice pool, great showers, big kitchen, and it's located right across from a laundromat. My only complaint would be that it's pretty quiet and laidback with older travelers; younger backpackers may find it boring.
- So Young Hostel (Heraklion, Crete) - Affordable and with great location, So Young is a great hostel for backpackers in Heraklion. The desk admin were extremely nice and helpful, and the beds are very clean and comfortable. Definitely recommend!
- Youth Hostel Anna (Perissa, Santorini) - Youth Hostel Anna was about what we expected: bare bones but affordable. While it's across the island from Oia, Perissa Beach is a short 5-minute walk away. As a bonus, there's a great bakery right down the road for breakfast!
- Maria's Place AirBNB (Ios) - Hands down my favorite stay! With a jaw-dropping view, great pricing, and the sweetest host ever, I think anyone staying on Ios should be staying at Maria's Place. It's a short stumble away from town too!
- Francesco's (Ios) - Francesco's is the only hostel on this list we didn't stay at. I put it on here because it's consistently rated as a top hostel in the entire world and because we met lots of people on Ios who loved their time at Francesco's. It's built for young backpackers, so rest up and party hard!
Estimated Costs and Daily Budget
I was meticulous about keeping track of every euro I spent on my backpacking trip. Here are the numbers:
- Total trip cost for 18 days: 2,638.19 USD
- Daily budget: 146 per day USD
I will admit, I spent a lot of money on drinks, souvenirs for family, and on extra activities. You could definitely cut this in half by sticking to street food and avoiding the bars and clubs.
Travel Tips in Greece
Whether the goal is to save money or to make your life a whole lot easier, here are some tips for traveling through Greece!
- Utilize student deals and combination tickets to get the best bang for your buck. Individuals under 25 are eligible for discounts at many attractions.
- Buy the metro pass in Athens! It's not a walkable city in the slightest.
- Splurge on a cabin if you take an overnight ferry; the bed is worth the extra 10 euros! Additionally, it alleviates you from having to keep an eye on your bag.
- Everyone loves Santorini - get your pictures and leave if you want to save money and seek a more authentic experience.
- If you plan to spend a lot of time at the beach, bring a dry bag to protect your goods. For solo travelers who don't want to leave their stuff on the beach for fear of theft, a dry bag will allow you to pack up your stuff and take it in the water with you.
- Stick to bakeries and street food to save money on food without missing out on local cuisine. You can eat on as little as 10 euros a day!
- Buy drinks at the local convenience store or market. As with all places, drinks at the bar or club have hiked prices.
Additional Resources and Guides
Seeing as I've only been to Greece once, my knowledge is limited. For more information about destinations, good eats, and things to do, consult some of these other travel guides!
I can personally attest to them as I used them in figuring out lots of the nuts and bolts of my trip!