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Greece cruises: Crete, Athens or the Cyclades - where to go in Greece

Author: Sophie Chichester

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Greece is a hugely popular holiday destination, with millions of Britons jetting to Greek shores every year. Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to destinations - so where should you go in Greece?

Greece is bristling with beautiful islands while the mainland holds treasures galore, whether you're after ancient history, stunning landscapes or a warm and vibrant culture.

By sea is one of the best ways to visit the country's breathtaking shores. However, when on a cruise, how do you know where to visit in Greece when there are so many options for an unforgettable holiday?

From Crete to the Cyclades, these are Greek destinations to whet your appetite as travel starts to resume.

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Athens-Piraeus

Piraeus, serving Athens, is home to one of the busiest ports in Europe and is a huge draw for cruise ships from around the world.

There are several museums and art galleries to explore in Piraeus while Mikrolimano port is filled with fishing boats, small ships and luxurious yachts. What’s more, it's the ideal spot to tuck into fresh seafood.

Athens itself needs little elaboration. It is, after all, the historical capital of Europe and the birthplace of democracy, arts, science and philosophy of western civilisation.

The hotspot is the ideal all-year-round city break destination - it boasts the perfect Mediterranean climate, easy transportation and a high standard of hotel accommodation.

Culture and history are very much the name of the game here. Top attractions are the Acropolis Museum, the ancient Theatre of Dionysos and the National Archaeological Museum. Don't miss the Temple of Olympian Zeus or the reopening of the National Gallery.

Wandering around Athens is a brilliant way to soak up the city and stumble across all manner of restaurants serving up mouth-watering dishes. There's plenty of shopping to enjoy, too, followed by a glass of Greek wine or a cocktail in one of the many rooftop bars with views over Acropolis and Lycabettus.

Athens Acropolis
Greece holidays: Athens is the historical capital of Europe.

Serifos

Serifos is just a few hours from the port of Piraeus but has its own distinct Cycladic flair.

The island's terrain ranges from rugged mining sites to magnificent beaches and is embraced by the deep blue colours of the Aegean Sea. Outdoor activities, from hiking and climbing to mountain biking and diving, will keep holidaymakers happy.

In keeping with Cycladic architectural tradition, buildings on Serifos are painted a charming white and blue.

The town of Chora is worth a visit - the walk up to the 15th century Venetian castles affords excellent views.

The local cuisine is a must-try. Serifos offers up delicious meat products including louzes, syglina (traditional cured pork) and sausages, as well as the island's rich aromatic spices.

Be sure to taste marathopites and marathotiganites (fennel pies baked or fried), revythada (traditionally cooked chickpeas), the local variety of raisins, sun-dried octopus and local cheeses such as myzithres and xinomyzithres.

As for dessert, sample pasteli (sesame bar) which is cut in a diamond shape, with an almond in its middle. Make sure to accompany your meal with the island's local wines, too.

Serifos
Greece holidays: Serifos' terrain ranges from rugged mining sites to magnificent beaches

Sýros

Sýros is at the centre of the Cyclades and was one of the most important ports in the Eastern Mediterranean during the 19th century.

Its rich history means there are ancient and religious monuments aplenty to admire, plus a medieval city and the Apollo theatre. There are plenty of opportunities for relaxation, too, thanks to the plethora of beautiful beaches.

Foodies will be sated here - Sýros is well-known for its culinary tradition. Look out for Halva pie (made of thyme honey and roasted almonds), loukoúmi (a delight made of water, starch and sugar), “loosa” ham, fennel sausages and the San Mihalis spicy cheese.

The island also hosts a number of music festivals.

Syros
Greece holidays: Sýros is at the centre of the Cyclades.

Milos

This volcanic island is home to a variety of gorgeous landscapes.

There are 80 amazing beaches. Particularly stand out are Kleftiko and Sarakiniko. The white rocky landscape that embraces the latter forms a unique lunar landscape, while on Kleftiko, which can be reached only by boat, you can dive in secluded rocky caves lapped by crystal clear waters.

Visitors should also check out the white, red, yellow or even black rocks found on the pebble bays. The beaches of Fyriplaka, Yerakas and Tsigrados are adorned with greyish-red rocks.

Ancient spectacular caves can also be found on Milos - Hippocrates even wrote about them! Diving enthusiasts will love exploring the underwater paradise found off the island.

Another interesting claim to fame is that Milos houses one of the most ancient mines in the Mediterranean; minerals such as obsidian are excavated on the island.

The beautiful, white-washed Chora further highlights. It’s adorned with beautiful churches, such as Panagia Korfiatissa and the Catholic Church. What’s more, it’s worth visiting museums such as the Folk Art and the Archaeological Museum.

Among the most important archaeological findings of Milos are the famous three catacombs which were discovered in 1844 and believed to date back to the 1st century. Nearby stands the ancient theatre of Milos built by the Romans during the Hellenistic period. World-famous sculpture the Aphrodite of Milos (better known to us all as the Venus de Milo) was originally found near here.

Milos
Greece holidays: Milos is a volcanic island home to a variety of gorgeous landscapes.

Amorgos

You might recognise the island of Amorgos, at the south-eastern edge of the Cyclades, from the 1988 movie “Le Grand Bleu” with Jean Reno.

In fact, Amorgos is one of the most impressive Cycladic islands. It boasts marvellous beaches with azure waters, gorgeous caves, ideal spots for diving, scenic bays and ancient footpaths leading through its steep rocky terrain.

Another must-visit is the maze-like Chora of Amorgos – it’s considered to be one of the most picturesque in the Cyclades! Wander round narrow streets, visit the 13th-century castle and the monasteries or relax at a local coffee shop. Be sure to check out the traditional Cycladic houses with bougainvillaea trees and the Lilliputian whitewashed alleys.

Small cruise ships often moor at Katapola the main harbour of the island. By boat is the ideal way to explore the island’s sun-kissed beaches!

The island’s top attraction is the 10th-century cliffside monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa - one of the most important ecclesiastic monuments in Greece.

Local food specialities include xerotigana (fried pies filled with white beet and fennel), and ladotyri - sheep’s milk cheese stored in olive oil (hence the name “ladotyri” - literally “oil cheese”). It has a strong, salty taste, a pleasant aroma, hard, dry skin and is off-white and slightly yellowish in colour. There's also patatato (goat cooked with potatoes) and psimeni raki, the local spirit scented and seasoned with herbs.

Amorgos
Greece holidays: Amorgos is one of the most impressive Cycladic islands
Crete
Greece holidays: There is all manner of archaeological sites to explore in and around Chania in Crete

Chania

The island of Crete has long been frequented by holiday-hungry Britons. The city of Chania was once the capital of the island (now Heraklion). Conquered by the Venetians in 1252 and annexed to the rest of the Greek State in 1913, Chania has a well-preserved old town - defined by Venetian walls. It features maze-like alleys with beautiful Venetian mansions, fountains, churches and well-preserved historical monuments.

There is all manner of archaeological sites to explore in and around Chania, ditto museums, making it the ideal spot for culture vultures.

Alternatively, relax on one of the island's enchanting beaches. Elafonissi is particularly unique. It’s an oblong peninsula connected to the mainland with a shallow underwater passage. On both sides of the peninsula, you’ll find gorgeous turquoise waters and pink-coloured beaches, adorned by a myriad of shells. Meanwhile, on the west of the island, there’s Balos, a leeward beach with warm waters and white powder-like sand.

To find out more about visiting Greece, click here.

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