Did you know that the sparkling waters of Greece are dotted with as many as 6,000 islands and inlets? About 227 of them are inhabited, and they each are packed with beautiful sights, vibrant cultures and centuries-old history.
With so much to offer, Greece and the Greek Isles regularly top travel wish lists. Think: ancient ruins like the Acropolis of Athens, miles of sand-swept beaches, like Santorini’s famous Red Beach and fresh-from-the-sea food like grilled octopus and sea bass—all in one trip.
One of the best ways to see it all is on a Royal Caribbean cruise; it’s island-hopping—sans daily ferry schedules or packing and unpacking at every new place.
Take a look at the multitude of adventures you can experience on a cruise to many of Greece’s most popular spots:
Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world and known as both the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western civilization. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time when exploring centuries-old sites like the Temple of Olympian Zeus, shopping for keepsakes like handmade pottery in Plaka, the city’s oldest district; and marveling at the grandeur of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis of Athens.
When you’re ready, you can step back into the present with a stroll through the picturesque Mikrolimano harbor. It’s a favorite place in Greece for many, where you can grab fresh seafood at a local taverna overlooking the glittering water.
The sun-drenched island of Mykonos, Greece—best known for its stark white buildings with recognizable blue shutters and doors—is noted as one of the most eye-catching destinations in Greece… Though its nightlife and famous beach parties are hits, too.
Travelers say that a wander through the charming streets of Mykonos is like strolling through a fairytale. And it’s true; the island’s quaint villages, filled with bougainvillea-covered medieval houses, cobblestone paths, stunning beaches and waterfront cafes, are as spectacular as people say. Mykonos is also known as The Island of the Winds because it’s chock-full of 16th-century windmills. If you’re into history or mythology, there’s the nearby Delos to explore, an archaeological site that’s the mythological birthplace of twin gods Apollo and Artemis.
There are few sunsets in the world that rival those over villages like Oia, Pyrgos, Emporio and more in Santorini, Greece—and for many, this alone makes it a must-see destination. With golden evening light and striking cliffside villages, Santorini is a sight to behold, and there’s a lot more than breathtaking scenery, like the well-known Red Beach which is surrounded by cliffs of red and black volcanic rocks.
The island’s dramatic geography was shaped by a devastating Minoan volcanic eruption in 1600 B.C. It is now the perfect backdrop for a day of sailing and swimming in the clear, blue Aegean Sea or exploring the Bronze Age Akrotiri ruins preserved in ash. Fun fact: The ash makes the area ideal for assyrtiko grapes, which are white Greek grapes often used for dry, sweet wines like vinsanto, a dessert wine. You can also discover more about the land’s volcanic geology by taking a walk around Nea Kameni, an island in the center of Santorini’s caldera (a large depression that forms when a volcano erupts and collapses). There, you’ll see smoking craters and can soak in the hot springs.
The island of Rhodes, Greece, is well known for having been home to Colossus—one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Colossus stood as high as the Statue of Liberty in 280 B.C., making it the tallest statue in the world, before it collapsed during an earthquake.
Today, you can find many other sights and experiences in Rhodes, especially historical adventures. Dive in by taking a walk through the aptly named Old Town, where there are medieval walls, Byzantine churches, Roman ruins and ancient synagogues and minarets. There’s also the archaeological site of the ancient city of Lindos just an hour’s drive from Old Town; it’s known for its clifftop acropolis, which features monumental 4th-century gates. With the longest summer season of all the Greek Isles, you’ll also have plenty of ways to take in the beauty of Rhodes and its white sand beaches while enjoying local delicacies like stuffed clams, grilled sea bass and squid.
Along on the western coast of Greece, the Ionian Islands are home to a unique cultural identity that includes Italian influences, thanks to centuries spent under Venetian rule.
One of the best ways to unlock this storied past is by taking a walking food tour in Corfu, Greece—literally a moveable feast—or pedaling through mountainside villages to explore the island’s stunning coastal roads and historic fortresses. In Cephalonia, the largest of these islands, you’ll find Argostoli, a city full of natural and cultural wonders that include the Koutavos Lagoon nature preserve and the hidden Melissani Lake, known as the Cave of Nymphs in Greek mythology.
There are many adventures to choose from when you cruise to Greece and the Greek Isles with Royal Caribbean. Imagine the thrill of walking the original site of the ancient Olympic Games in the small beach town of Katakolon and enjoying tastings at Manousakis Winery in Chania, Crete.
And there’s more where that came from. To get your fill of island-hopping across Greece on a cruise sooner rather than later, you can start to plan your vacation here.