Got only one week to visit Greece for the first time but want to pack the most iconic places in Greece in one trip? Use this Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos itinerary for a taste of Greece and spend perfect 7 days soaked in history and the blue Aegean Sea.
Our optimized itinerary will start in Athens for 1.5 days, move onto Santorini for 3 days, and end in Mykonos for 3 days. This itinerary is packed with must-visit places, top things to do, and practical logistic information to build a perfect Greece vacation for you.
Day 0: Arriving in Athens
Most likely, you will fly from a major international airport to Athens (ATH) to start your Greece vacation. Depending on what time you arrive in Athens, you may not be able to plan a lot of activities on your arrival day. You can relax and enjoy the food and drinking scene of Athens around your hotel. If your arrival is early in the day, take advantage of the late afternoon to visit some sites in the neighborhood such as Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.
PRO TIP: Flights from the USA may arrive early in the morning. Contact the hotel before arrival to arrange for early check-in if possible. If early check-in is not available, you can drop off the luggage at the hotel and may get a shower in their facility after a long red-eye flight. Afterwards, you can start exploring the area and have your first Greek lunch.
Even though Athens is a gigantic city, you can cover the most significant ancient sites in one day. Because this is a taste of Greece itinerary, we will focus on the must-visit places in Athens.
Where to Stay in Athens
Where to stay in Athens will impact your experience greatly. Athens is a very big city and the traffic is heavy. But the good news is that most significant sites are located near the Acropolis of Athens. We highly recommend staying within walking distance to the Acropolis to make your days in Athens productive.
If you can get one of the hotels with a rooftop terrace, you can enjoy breakfast with an unobstructed view of the Acropolis and a happy hour with a bright-lit Acropolis during sunset before heading out to one of many best Greek restaurants in the neighborhood.
Our hotel recommendations for Athens near the Acropolis are:
Day 1: Athens
After a good night sleep, get ready for a very busy but fun day exploring Athens. Start the day with an early breakfast and head to the Acropolis. Athens’ sun is hot and bright so try to see the Acropolis early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid mid-day sun exposure, heat, and crowds. Wear comfortable shoes and a hat and bring sunscreen and water for the day.
PRO TIP: Get a multisite ticket from one of the sites’ ticket office. The ticket covers the most important sites of Athens. It will save you money and time at each site’s ticket office. We got ours at the Temple of Olympian Zeus ticket office on the day of arrival. You can also join a small group tour. There is so much history to every site we visited so hiring a professional guide would have been helpful.
The Acropolis of Athens is the most significant and must-visit site in Athens. Get to the entrance when it opens (8:00 AM) and plan at least 1.5 hours here. You will approach the Acropolis from the south slope.
You will visit the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike, and Temple of Erechtheion on the ground of the Acropolis. the Theater of Dionysus, and more). You will climb the Acropolis hill and some big uneven steps.
On your way out of the Acropolis, stop at Herodes Atticus Theater with an impressive backdrop of Athens skyline.
Explore the Acropolis Museum adjacent to the Acropolis. You will find many masterpieces from the Acropolis homed here. Plan 1 hour for your visit.
Located to the northwest of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora of Athens is a massive park and not to be missed in Athens. The Agora was the commercial and political center of Athens and is home to the Temple of Hephaestus and many other monuments. This is where the Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 B.C.) was sentenced to death by drinking poisonous hemlock.
The Museum of the Ancient Agora located in the Stoa of Attalos has an impressive collection of artifacts. It’s an underrated gem in Athens, which means more enjoyable and less crowds to you.
Make your way to the Roman Agora which is just a 5-minute walk from the Ancient Agora. The octagonal Tower of Winds will impress you by ancient Greek’s astronomical knowledge.
On your way back to your hotel to freshen up before dinner, walk through the Monastiraki Flea Market. Maybe shop for a few souvenirs or beachwear for your journey to Santorini and Mykonos.
The Temple of Poseidon sits outside of Athens in the Athens Peninsula.
Day 2: Athens to Santorini
Today, we will travel to Santorini from Athens. You may wonder what the best way to travel from Athens to Santorini (or Mykonos if you reverse Santorini and Mykonos in this itinerary).
Athens to Santorini by Ferry or by Plane?
Greece has a well-developed ferry system. However, ferries are the best option to travel between islands within an island group (such as the Cyclades). In our opinion, flying from Athens to Santorini or Mykonos is by far better than taking a ferry.
Athens to Santorini ferry takes 4.5 hours while most flights are just under one hour. Plus, most flights via Aegean Airlines from Athens to Santorini were cheaper than ferries when we traveled, so you may not save any money by taking the ferry.
PRO TIP: We highly recommend booking a Santorini arrival transfer from the airport or ferry port ahead of time. There are only 36 taxis on the entire island to serve two million tourists per year. You can imagine how hard it is to get taxi. The taxi waiting line was extremely long at the airport when we arrived and we ended up sharing a ride with another couple. Or, you can contact your hotel for a pickup service. But the hotel may charge you more than what you book directly on Viator.
Where to Stay in Santorini
If you plan on visiting Santorini only once in your lifetime, this is where you want to splurge a little on your hotel budget. Most cliffside hotels you see in magazines are in two major towns on the west coast of the island: Oia and Fira.
We preferred Fira because it’s less commercial and crowded than Oia. Being in the middle of the west coastline, Fira is a convenient location to access different parts of the island.
Firostefani is a small town between Fira and Oia. While it is much quieter than both Fira and Oia, it’s not lack of high-quality lodging, restaurants, and shops.
- Live A Little: Lilium Hotel in Fira or Chic Hotel Santorini in Firostefani.
- Just Perfect: Petit Palace in Fira or Caldera Premium Villas – Adults Only in Oia.
- Budget Friendly: Damigos Caldera World in Firostefani or Sole d’oro Luxury Suites in Oia.
After checking into your hotel, start exploring Fira along the cliffside walking path. Take plenty of photos of the best views in Santorini.
You may feel the bright sun and heat pretty quickly after walking for a while. It’s time to enjoy a cold beverage and a full Caldera view from one of the clifftop restaurants and bars in Fira.
For dinner, make a reservation for a table with a sunset view. As mentioned earlier, Santorini has a small population to service a large amount of visitors each year. Reservations are highly recommended.
Firostefani has some really nice restaurants including Onar where we had a romantic sunset dinner. “Venture” into some Greek delicacies like saffron rice stuffed squid and grilled octopus with mashed fava beans. YUM!
While sipping your cocktail, watch the sun start setting behind the Caldera. Even though the Oia sunset is the most famous on Santorini, the sunset from Firostefani is far more impressive with this interesting foreground, brilliant color contrast, and far less crowds.
Santorini lives up to its romantic reputation especially in the evening. The restaurant staff even brought blankets to guests who want to enjoy the evening on the terrace after sunset.
Day 3: Santorini – Fira & Oia
Wake up to a beautiful spread of made-to-order breakfast with a Caldera view. Don’t get too used to it though… Below is a breakfast included in the room rate of Chic Hotel Santorini. All ingredients taste so fresh. And picture below speaks for the view!
After the breakfast, start walking toward Oia if you need to stretch your legs. From Firostefani to Oia, the distance is just short of 6 miles but plan on three hours with stops to take photos. Wear sun protection and good walking shoes. We saw people struggling in their TOMS and sandals.
We enjoyed the walk/hike very much by seeing an unpopulated side of Santorini and the view between Fira and Oia. The approach into Oia shows the beauty of Oia from distance. You may encounter some wedding photography crews as we did.
In hindsight, we would have booked a private photographer to take some postcard-like photos in Santorini. It is worth spending 200-300 dollars because it may be the only time you visit Santorini in a lifetime.
If around lunch time just before entering the town of Oia, follow the signs to take a downhill detour to Amoudi Bay where a tiny fishing villiage sits by the sea. Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch watching boats go in and out of the bay. Maybe dip your toes into the sea to reward your feet after the long walk.
After lunch, follow the steps straight up to Oia. It is a good exercise to burn off a few calories from lunch. Start hunting for the famous blue-domed church that shows up in every picture online. Try to catch bright sunlight to get the most vibrant color contrasts. (We got there a bit late so the domes are partially covered by shadow, but still beautiful and magical.)
Roam through many shops and cafes to find your way to the viewing spot before the sun starts setting. Be aware that almost everyone around you is heading to the west point of Oia town too. It is very crowded around every corner.
Getting back to your hotel could be challenging by taxi due to availability. Know the bus schedule ahead and get there earlier. The bus lines are very long because everyone is heading back toward Fira during that time. There are also “black vans” trying to make 20 euros per person in cash. It may be your quickest option.
Take a Santorini catamaran cruise to explore the coastline of Santorini and to see the beautiful island from the sea.
Day 4: Santorini to Mykonos
In my opinion, you can never spend enough time in Santorini. But we have to move onto Mykonos today. Enjoy your last breakfast in Santorini with the Caldera view.
How to Travel from Santorini to Mykonos
Ferries are the only option to hop between islands in the Cyclades. Greek ferry system is well developed. There are multiple trips run between Santorini and Mykonos daily from April to October. Leave your hotel for the ferry station two hours before departure by a pre-booked transfer service to the ferry station. You can book your ticket online and must activate it at the ferry station at least one hour prior to departure.
It is a 2.5-hour ride with stops to couple more islands on the way. Keep in mind that the Greek ferries are not always on time. The boarding process and the luggage handling is a bit hectic. Our ferry was delayed by an hour and half. Other than that, it is a pleasant and beautiful ride.
PRO TIP: All passengers are required to store all luggages (including carry-on sized cases and bags) in a designated area of the bottom cabin. You can only keep one personal item (such as a backpack or purse) with you during the entire ferry ride. We recommend keeping all your valuables in the personal bag ahead of boarding.
The taxi situation is even worse on Mykonos than Santorini – only 30 in total. While we don’t recommend renting a car in Santorini, renting a car in Mykonos makes a lot of sense. However, if you don’t want to drive in Mykonos, we highly recommend booking a Mykonos port transfer on arrival and a Mykonos airport transfer on departure.
Where to Stay in Mykonos
Where to stay in Mykonos depends on what you want to do in Mykonos. If you visit Mykonos mainly for its nightlife, stay in Mykonos Town near the Old Port and Little Venice. If you want to relax in a quiet beach town and explore the island by car, we recommend Platis Gialos town in southern Mykonos.
Choose a property on or near a beach in Platis Gialos with a great view and easy parking. There are many great restaurants on site and in town so don’t worry about dining options being in a quieter town. Platis Gialos and nearby Ornos have a very chilled vibe and local feel differing from Mykonos Town.
- Live A Little: Palladium Hotel in Platis Gialos, and Vencia Boutique Hotel in Mykonos Town.
- Just Perfect: Myconian Korali in Mykonos Town, and Myconian Ambassador Hotel Relais & Chateaux in Platis Gialos.
- Budget Friendly: The George Hotel in Mykonos Town, and Acrogiali Beach Hotel in Platis Gialos.
- Bonus: we also found this awesome apartment, With Inn, near the Mykonos new port in Tourlos.
After checking into your hotel, head to Ornos Beach for a swim or a cocktail before dinner. Watch the boats roll into the harbor and their lights come on reflecting on this tranquil water. And just chill….
Day 5: Mykonos – Delos Island & Mykonos Town
Start the day on a half-day guided tour from Mykonos to Ancient Delos, a real treasure in the Cyclades not to be missed. Take note the tours and ferries only operate from April through October. Booking this tour on Viator to reserve your space and pay less than what you can book at the port in Mykonos Town.
We chose Mykonos among all the interesting islands in the Cyclades mainly because of its easy access to Delos. There is so much to explore on Delos. Delos is uninhabited so there is not much commercialization other than a museum with a small shop. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, hat and water. Wear comfortable shoes to walk and hike the ruins.
There is also a museum on Delos. Most of the real artifacts are kept indoor in the museum. The archeological digging is ongoing on Delos. Only a small part of the island is above ground and restored. Explore the island and imagine how ancient Greek traded with other cultures.
After returning from Delos, it’s time for an afternoon snack after a lot of walking on Delos. Find a restaurant with a million-dollar view of the windmills near Little Venice.
After the refreshments, roam among the colorful narrow alleys in Mykonos Town. Every corner has a photo opportunity waiting for you. You will find plenty of souvenir shops in Mykonos Town. It’s a good place to buy souvenir as you approach the end of your Greece vacation.
Have a cocktail or dinner while watching the beautiful sunset from Little Venice. Little Venice is waking up as the sun drops behind horizon. Join the crowd into the night scene.
Alternatively, if you want to experience Delos on a sailing trip and swim in Rhenia island, you can take this Mykonos to Delos & Rhenia Sail Cruise for the day. Move Mykonos Town from Day 5 to Day 6 after the northern beaches. Late afternoon visit, dinner, and sunset are very enjoyable in Mykonos Town.
Day 6: Mykonos – Beach Time in Northern Mykonos
The northern part of Mykonos is well worth a visit. Pack a beach bag. Drive toward Agios Sostis Beach on the northern tip of the island. The water is the most beautiful and the beaches are quiet. So far, it is still kind of “a well-kept secret”. There are a few high-end villas and more construction seems to be planned.
Drive along the dirt road to the very end. There are small beaches have no one on them. On a nice day, the water is still and you can see the bottom.
Enjoy another fresh seafood dinner on Mykonos followed by a night swim under the starry Ionic sky.
PRO TIP: Depending on weather, you can switch day 5 and 6 around. A cloudy day is good for Delos while a sunny day is good for swimming.
Day 7: Mykonos to Athens & Departure
Say goodbye to the beautiful Cyclades and head back to Athens. By now, you should have decided you want to come back to Greece after this perfect taste of Greece vacation.
Just as we discussed earlier, traveling between the Cyclades and Athens is better by plane instead of by ferry. Take a short 45-minute flight from Mykonos to Athens in the morning, and connect to your international flight home from the same airport, ATH.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions or want to share your fun travel stories with us!