What should I do in Greece that isn't a beach or a nightclub?
July 2, 2013 5:13 PM   Subscribe

I'll be in Greece in September for work and it seems a shame not to take some vacation time while I'm there. Problem is most of the tourist guides seem to focus quite a bit on how great the various beaches are or how awesome the nightlife is, neither of which interest me when I'm traveling alone. Ruins and archaeology are good and I intend to include some of that but there must be some awesome things that I don't even know to look for. Some more specifics inside.

I'm a male in my late 20s. I'm in reasonable shape, hikes and climbs don't bother me, nor do hostels. I'll be in Athens for work for the weekend of Sep 5, 2013. I do not speak Greek. I have a US driver's license, have driven in Europe before and don't mind renting a car if that's the best way to do something. I could take about 5 days of vacation so plus a weekend 7-ish days and I do not need to fly out of Athens (within reason). I prefer cheaper things but I don't mind splurging if something is worth it.

Density of things to do is also nice, i.e. I'd prefer not to spend a whole day on the road/in a ferry/flying if I can avoid it.
posted by Skorgu to Travel & Transportation around Greece (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed walking in the volcano at Santorini - which itself is gorgeous and must be seen anyway.
posted by pompomtom at 5:19 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I spent a few days on Santorini as well-- my timing was poor, as the archaelogical sites were closed, but the volcano tour was awesome, and so were the people, the food, the wine, and the general laid-back and temperate atmosphere of the island.

Are you strictly limited to Greece, or could you visit Cyprus/Egypt/Turkey as well?
posted by Schielisque at 5:24 PM on July 2, 2013

I was just there and my girlfriend and I (also late 20s) liked hanging out in Exarchia, the radical/student neighborhood north of downtown near the Polytechnic college. It's a bunch of narrow pedestrian streets packed with cafes and bars and everything is covered in murals and graffiti.
posted by bradbane at 5:24 PM on July 2, 2013

I can go anywhere in the region that will take a US passport (but ideally not require a visa) though as I mentioned I'd like to avoid blowing a day in travel time if I can avoid it.
posted by Skorgu at 5:32 PM on July 2, 2013

(Learning the Greek alphabet is very useful, especially when you get outside of tourist areas.)
posted by florencetnoa at 5:50 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Exarchia. I also recommend Athens' jazz clubs, which, even though they're obviously music at night, are a very different kind of "nightlife" than the kind that a travel guide might call "awesome". I can't remember where I went, but I'm sure travel guides will help. (I'm sure Half Note is great).
posted by xueexueg at 6:37 PM on July 2, 2013

Cooking classes?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:38 PM on July 2, 2013

Archaeological/historical things that I have loved in Greece:


The National Archaeological Museum is *awesome*. So much stuff to see!

The New Acropolis Museum. Worth a visit for the architecture of the museum itself even if the marbles are replicas. (If you're a person who might wear skirts, note: the floors are glass!)

Hadrian's Arch is cool because it's a Roman style arch in honor of Hadrian (famously Hellenophile), but that just bothered the Greeks so much they stuck a Greek post-and-lintel arch on top of it. Heh.

Outside of Athens:

Mycenae. Absolutely worth the trip. AMAZING.

Delphi. Same. (I would pick Mycenae over Delphi, but both are really cool.)

Tolo is a really cute little town, if you're looking for seaside!
posted by lysimache at 6:43 PM on July 2, 2013

Outside of Athens I recommend:
Napflio - which can be reached by public transit and is a short trip from Athens. Mycenae is near-ish to here.
The Peloponese - if you don't mind driving, drive the Peloponese. it's gorgeous. Specifically, visit the ruins at Mystras. I also stayed in a gorgeous little town called Adritsaina.

You could easily spend 5 days just exploring athens. For that, I recommend all the stuff i said here. Sadly, I was there awhile ago now (2006), but I think most of this should hold up!
posted by nanhey at 7:24 PM on July 2, 2013

Here are my recommendations from five years ago. Lots from Crete but some Athens as well. Two main points: get up really early to tour the ruins, and eat dinner at Cafe Avissinia.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:30 PM on July 2, 2013

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens is absolutely amazing. Ditto for the ruins in the city, and those two things will eat up most of your weekend. If you can get down to the temple of Poseidon you'll get some nice views, but it can be a pain - the bus ride is long and if you're coming back at the end of the day it gets packed.

If you have any interest in Greek mythology, Delphi is a must. There isn't much there beyond the Oracle and the associated museum, so if myths aren't your thing you could skip it. But, really, wow. Wow.

Napflio / Napflion is also gorgeous for the beaches, the old town, and the fortress in the hills. It's definitely touristy, though. The city is close to Mycenae and I believe Epidauros /Epidavro. One thing I regret not doing & will therefore endorse is taking in a play there. Epidauros is an ancient theater, and seeing a performance there would probably have some great resonances.

While totally outside my personal experience, after reading Michael Lewis's account of the financial dealings by the monks at Vatopaidi, I got a little curious about the place. It seems like staying there is feasible, and if that kind of architecture is your thing you might want to check it out.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:38 PM on July 2, 2013

How do you feel about caves? There's a bunch of caves you can visit - Diros is one of the most impressive. There's a guided tour by boat - but it's a good drive away from Athens, not really a day trip. Plenty of other stuff to see on the way though (as well as good swimming and food), so you might want to spend your 5 days driving around Peloponese.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:40 AM on July 3, 2013

Delphi is pretty awesome, there's something about the place that gives off this presence and sense of mystery. Many people visit the place via tour buses, but you could spend a night in the village there and get to enjoy the ruins when the crowds aren't around.

We also spend a fair amount of time on Crete, which has probably much more to explore than we ended up seeing. Hania is nice port town, good for wandering around and just soaking in the atmosphere. Iraklio/Heraklion we didn't find that interesting.

Santorini is on most people's must-see list, and the sunset there was fantastic, but our favourite experience in Greece was spending a few days on the island of Naxos. Its one of the larger Greek islands, and you can drive around to explore the countryside. There are also guidebooks for walks you can take around Naxos as well, the hostel we stayed in lent us one. There aren't that many tourists so its quite easy to get to some spot that is totally secluded except for you and some ruined temple. Makes for a much more evocative experience.
posted by destrius at 3:23 AM on July 3, 2013

Seconding Naxos, it's a very cool island for hiking and tooling around on an ATV or moped. Buy some wine and cheese, do some hikes, enjoy the cool ocean breezes. It's worth the ferry time to get out to the islands, and if you plan it right you should be able to do a lot of your ferry-ing after dark anyway. Allows for some nice sunsets on the boat.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:42 AM on July 3, 2013

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