Wherever you stand in the Greek capital, you can’t miss the Acropolis. Indeed, you’re not supposed to. The Parthenon, the temple that rises beautifully out of this ancient summit citadel was completed in 432BC as a tribute to the city’s guardian goddess Athena — and as a constant reminder to its citizens as to who they should thank for the good times.
Over two millennia on, it’s still visible from almost every street, even in the modern metropolis. But while you should certainly visit this global wonder, there’s more to Athens than its cornerstone. Not least, the adjacent Acropolis Museum, an elegant showcase for the Parthenon friezes since 2009 — and an eloquent appeal for the return of the London half of these tale-telling slabs, the Elgin Marbles.
But there’s much more. Head for the retail-therapeutic district of Kolonaki, and you can see where Athenians spend their money. Take your hunger pangs into neighbouring Psiri and sate them in one of its many non-tourist-trap restaurants. On the side-alley of Esopou, Gostijo offers kosher dishes (including stifado, a gloopy beef stew), while its opposite number Oineas has a seafood-inflected menu. Keep the night going on the long avenue of Kolokotroni — its bars have inventive names like The Bank Job and Booze Cooperativa — or on the pedestrian strip of Herakleidon in pretty Thissio.
And if you have to climb another hill, make it towering Lycabettus, from the top of which you can see all the way to the port of Piraeus. cityofathens.gr
How to do it: Kirker Holidays offers three nights B&B at King George Palace from £739 per person, including flights.
Inntravel offers a week-long Traditions & History of Crete tour, from £558 per person (excluding flights), while Ramblers Worldwide has a Knights’ Island tour, from £885 per person (with flights). Or try Exodus’s eight-day Walking on the Greek Islands, from £949 per person (with flights).
Only true disciples of Greece appreciate its north-west corner, where the country rubs shoulders with Albania. Yet Epirus is intriguing — the Pindus peaks jutting up sharply; the capital Ioannina set on the edge of the lake; the ruined Roman city of Nicopolis. Thomas Cook and Thomson fly to Preveza (from Gatwick and Manchester) and James Villa Holidays features a seven-night stay in a six-bed retreat at Syvota, from £2,591 (villa only).
Gaze north-west through the sunset inferno that envelops Oia — Santorini’s most northerly clifftop town — every evening, and you may just be able to spy a lingering Greek secret.
Folegandros lies 31 miles beyond the most feted piece of the Cyclades jigsaw. Ferries (from the port of Athinios) take around 70 minutes and drop you at Karavostasis, whose dock area is almost the sole concession that this island makes to the noise and motion of travel.
What waits beyond is a sleepy time capsule: the modest capital, Chora, where the whitewashed Panagia church preens on a bluff above the rest of the town; the implausibly tranquil village of Ano Meria in the west; Agali beach, a seafront pocket on the south coast reached down a rough road, where you might find a sizeable scattering of hotels — but only encounter a pair of tavernas and the relentless slap of waves on shore.
Read more in the May 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)