Greece is a treasure trove of ancient history mixed with stunning scenery. While its islands in the Aegean Sea have always been a popular travel destination, to discover the true essence of Greek island life, you’ll need to get off the beaten path. Whether you’re wandering through historic ruins, strolling along the sun-drenched coastlines, or savoring some delicious local dishes, Greece promises a memorable travel experience. Join us as we explore some of Greece’s hidden gems, leaving the crowds behind and immersing ourselves on foot and at eye level.
Knossos (also spelled Cnossos), is located on the beautiful island of Crete with an incredible legacy that dates back over 4,000 years. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, the ruins at Knossos offer a fascinating glimpse into the past while learning about the Greek legends and myths that still fascinate today. One of the main attractions at Knossos is the Palace of Knossos itself. This sprawling complex is believed to be the mythical labyrinth of King Minos, showing the ingenuity and advanced civilization of the Minoans. Join us as we tour this ancient archaeological site, often regarded as the center of the Minoan civilization. In the company of an expert local guide, you’ll gain insight while exploring the famed Throne room and admiring the pottery and frescos throughout the halls. You’ll see ancient history come to life in an engaging (and concise) tour of this incredibly vast site.
Aside from the palace, Knossos is home to smaller archeological sites including the Little Palace, a smaller royal residence as well as The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion which houses a remarkable collection of locally-found artifacts. When you are not immersed in ancient history, enjoy soaking in the scenic Mediterranean setting. With a sunny climate and nearby pristine beaches, Knossos is sure to leave you with warm memories.
Rethymno, or Rethimno, is a charming Greek town also located on the island of Crete. Characterized by its narrow, winding streets and Venetian architecture, travelers can wander through its labyrinthine alleys, courtyards, and squares. The imposing Fortezza Castle, a Venetian fortress that overlooks the town, is a must-visit site along the coast. From its 16th-century ruins, you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the town and the shimmering Mediterranean Sea. Exploring the Monastery of Agia Irini, one of the oldest in Crete dating back to the 2nd Byzantine period, is another travel tip. The monastery was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1896 and was left deserted for almost a century, but with restorations, it now operates as a convent. On tour with us, get the ‘only with Classic Journeys’ experience to meet friendly nuns as they welcome you in with coffee and sweets.
The Venetian Harbor is another highlight of Rethymno. Its picturesque waterfront, lined with colorful buildings and quaint fishing boats, creates a postcard-worthy scene. The harbor area is filled with cafes, taverns, and shops selling locally made wares. If you need some downtime after exploring, the nearby beaches offer crystal-clear waters and the surrounding countryside is dotted with charming villages, olive groves, and vineyards.
Kourounochóri & Naxos
Get the chance to explore a charming village on the island of Naxos known as Kourounochóri, which only has about 100 inhabitants. In this traditional town which is nestled among olive groves, you can walk among the whitewashed houses and through its narrow cobblestone streets to truly get off the beaten path. A highlight of this visit is the ancient marble quarry with an unfinished statue from 600 BC. Stroll around these ancient ruins of Messene, an archaeological site that showcases the remains of a once-thriving city, and you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
Afterward, cool off with a visit to a local Citron distillery and sip some refreshing lemon liquor. Locally operated, you’ll get the opportunity to meet the family who has been running this small distillery as you get a true taste of Greek island life. From its azure waters and friendly faces, this tiny town on Naxos has so much to offer when you leave the crowds behind. The ferry ride to and from this hidden gem is a picture-perfect journey, so be sure to have your camera ready.
The small island of Delos, known as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, is bursting with historical and archeological importance. Throughout this picturesque island, you’ll find yourself surrounded by well-preserved ruins and monuments that date back thousands of years. The Terrace of the Lions, a row of imposing marble lion statues, stands as an iconic symbol of Delos and provides a breathtaking photo opportunity. There is a reason that this entire island is preserved as a World Heritage Site.
On a private visit, you’ll get to see Doric temples, an amphitheater, and the iconic Lions of Delos in the company of an expert local guide. Exploring the archaeological sites and ancient temples, you can get up close to mosaics, frescos, and the remains of these grand residences. The House of Dionysus, adorned with stunning frescoes depicting scenes from Greek mythology, is another highlight. Additionally, the Temple of Apollo, dedicated to the god of music and arts, serves as a testament to the island’s religious significance. The Archaeological Museum of Delos is also worth a stop, as it hosts a collection of artifacts discovered on the island, as well as statues, jewelry, and historical relics that provide valuable insights into the daily life and culture of ancient Greece.
Also spelled Thira, Fira is the capital of the beautiful island of Santorini and a captivating destination. Alluring travelers from around the world with its scenic sea views and sunny climate, there is so much to experience on this vibrant island. Exploring the narrow, winding streets of Fira is like stepping into a postcard. From its recognizable whitewashed houses to its blue-domed churches, you’ll feel like you are truly immersed in Greece. Stroll through the charming alleys, stop into a traditional taverna, and browse the art galleries as the locals do.
The town’s most distinctive feature is its stunning caldera views. From the cliffside promenade, visitors are treated to panoramic vistas of the submerged volcanic crater and the neighboring islands. Watching the breathtaking sunset from Fira is a must-do experience, as the sky transforms into vibrant hues and lights up the sky. Before you leave, you’ll want to take a picture in front of the famous Three Bells of Fira that sit on top of the Greek Catholic Church and savor some traditional Greek delicacies, including fresh seafood, locally produced wine, and baklava. “Yamas!” (that’s cheers in Greek).