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Greece See And Do

Hotel Photo
Acropolis
Dionysiou Areopagitou
City Center
Athens
Greece 10558
Tel: 30 210 321 4172
Tel: 30 210 321 0219
www.culture.gr

The entire hill is the Acropolis; the 5th-century B.C. temple to Athena Parthenos is the Parthenon. Try to arrive early for less heat and fewer crowds; you can always return, because admission allows you back in anytime the same day. And whatever you do, don't pick up any stones (remember the tourist arrest in spring 2004?). Wear your comfiest shoes and lots of sunscreen—the climb is pretty relentless and there isn't much shade—and take your bathroom break beforehand (the facilities at the top aren't exactly up to the demand). A barely advertised elevator for wheelchair users has existed on the north face since August 2004. The approaches from the south and west sides—Apostolou Pavlou and Dionysiou Areopagitou—have been recently improved, widened, pedestrianized, and generally beautified, making the whole experience much sweeter.

Open daily 8 am to sunset, mid-April through October; open daily 8 am to 4:30 pm, November through early-April.

Acropolis of Rhodes
Rhodes Town , Rhodes
Greece

The Hellenistic acropolis, built during the fourth century B.C., overlooks both the New and Old Towns from its perch atop Mount Smith. The site contains the ruins of several ancient buildings. The small reconstructed theater was probably used for events associated with the cult of Apollo; the stadium below still hosts occasional performances of classical tragedies. The three restored columns of the Temple of Apollo, a landmark for ships at sea, sit on a platform above the retaining wall behind the theater. To the north, the foundations of a temple to Zeus and to Athena Polias have been revealed. Visit in the late afternoon to see the ruins bathed by the setting sun.

Archeologico Museo (National Archeological Museum)
44 Patission Street
Omonia
Athens
Greece
Tel: 30 210 821 7717
www.culture.gr

The National Archaeological Museum is newly (post-Olympics) renovated and a must-see. With 48 rooms, it's the largest museum in the land, but still way too small for everything to be on display—especially since 30,000 further objects of antiquity were unearthed during the Metro construction. See rooms and rooms of sculptures from 700 B.C. to the early Byzantine era, including (no surprise) the world's most important collection of ancient Greek works, and don't miss the curiously haunting 14th-century B.C. golden Mask of Agamemnon.

Beaches on Crete
Crete
Greece

While none of Crete's beaches approach the household-name status of Mykonos's Paradise or Super-Paradise, there are hundreds of them, offering clear water, almost guaranteed sun, and, usually, a taverna you become more appreciative of as the afternoon grows warmer. The better beaches tend to be on the south coast, and at the eastern and western extremities of the island. Visit them in September, when the summer crowds and umbrella-snatching meltemi winds have dissipated but the water is still warm.

Beginning in the northwest, Falasarna is a long stretch of yellow sand far enough from Chania that you can find some quiet time here, if you need it. The water is especially clean, but the wind can blow, so try to go on days when the locals' cigarette smoke rises straight up into their umbrellas. At the southwest corner, Elafonisi, with its pinkish sand, sits on a lagoon bounded by islets and sandbars you can wade out to. The wading is hardly strenuous, but prepare anyway by stocking up at one of the snack bars. The new paved road along which the snack bars are popping up is, of course, a shame.

On the south coast, not far east of the Samaria Gorge, is Sweetwater Beach, named for the freshwater seeping up from the rocks at its edge. It is a favorite of nudists, no doubt because as appreciators of natural beauty they admire the dramatic cliff backdrop. Another of Sweetwater's virtues is that the only way to reach it is by boat or by walking an hour from Loutro. Directly south of Rethymnon town, another beach often reached by boat is tiny, palm-fringed Preveli. Boat rides to it are so popular that you may be happier going out of season, and walking the steep path down to it from the Preveli Monastery.

Way southeast is long and lovely Makriyalos Beach, where alternating stretches of sand and pebbles are backed by pine trees and a lively, growing resort town. At the northeast corner is the also lovely—and in this case, overloved—Vai Beach, famous for its large grove of date palms. Looking more like North Africa than Greece, it's a place where you'll find every beach enticement, from jet skis to sailboards to umbrellas without number.

Cephalonia
Cephalonia
Greece

The only redeeming quality of the 2001 film Captain Corelli's Mandolin may have been that it showcased the gorgeousness of Cephalonia, the largest of the Ionians. As the movie made clear, beaches are the main reason to come here—especially the pine-tree-lined Anti-Samos, on the mid-eastern coast, and the white sandy crescent of Myrtos, just north of the capital city of Argostoli (both had cameos in the film). Also worth a visit are two dramatic underground caves: Melissani Lake, where the blue water is surrounded by overarching limestone walls; and the stalactite-festooned Drogarati Cave, which is so large that Maria Callas once gave a concert in its chamber. Persa's Tours runs trips to both (30-267-108-1075; www.persas-tours.com), as well as to the 5,341-foot Mt. Ainos in the center of the island, where you can go hiking and sometimes see herds of wild horses. Of the many charming villages that dot the coast, the most compelling is Fiskardo, at the northern end. The only town on Cephalonia that remained untouched by the devastating 1953 earthquake (which registered 7.3 on the Richter scale), Fiskardo is full of preserved tile-roofed Venetian-style buildings and adorable tavernas. The capital city of Argostoli is even more cosmopolitan; it's chockablock with shops, cafés, and bars.

Corfu
Corfu
Greece

The most heavily visited of the Ionian Islands, Corfu draws sun-worshippers and resort-hoppers (and is a good jumping-off location for more islands), but it also attracts history and architecture buffs. Corfu Town retains the hodgepodge cultural elements brought over by the French, British, and especially the Venetians—all of whom ruled at different points over the past eight centuries. Venetian architecture abounds: Instead of the usual white sugar-cube-style buildings endemic to Greece, structures here tend to be ocher or dark pink, with shutters and red-tile roofs. The most venerable Venetian structures are the town's two fortresses: the Palaio Frourio, or "Old Fortress," originally a Byzantine structure that was renovated by the Venetians between the 13th and 15th centuries (30-266-104-8310), and the Neo Frourio, the "New Fortress," built by the Venetians between 1576 and 1589. Both are open daily to tourists for a small admission fee.

Two other sites that attract culture vultures (and buses of package tourists—unless you arrive early) are the palaces-turned-museums of Mon Repos and the Achilleon. Mon Repos, the closest to town, was once the summer house of the Greek Royal family; it has two Doric temples on its grounds, a beach, lovely gardens, and a theater (30-266-103-0680; closed Mon). Slightly farther afield in the village of Gastouri is the Achilleon, a rococo palace built in 1890 by a hypochondriac Austrian empress who settled on the island to take advantage of the clean air (30-266-105-6245; open daily). More recently, the property served as a backdrop for several scenes in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. Corfu Town has tons of restaurants and cafés, making it the easiest place to stay if you're only here for a bit. The waterfront is dominated by a grassy esplanade called the Spaniada, which includes a cricket ground and is ringed by the Liston—a gorgeous stone pedestrian walkway that's the best place to while away the afternoon with a glass of wine. For shopping, head to M. Theotok Square and the streets around the church of St. Spyridon.

Beaches! Yes, Corfu has dozens, but they're a pebbly bunch. The best are Glyfada, a sceney favorite of wealthy Greeks; Sidari, which has rock formations such as the hyped Canal D'Amour (where the cliffs form a canyon in the sea that you can swim through—very romantic); and rocky Paleokastritsa, overlooked by a cliff-top monastery whose museum contains what monks claim is the skeleton of a sea monster.

Delos
Delos
Greece

The sacred isle—20 minutes by taxi boat from Mykonos—birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, is an essential day trip (you can't stay over). One of the world's largest archaeological sites, it contains some phenomenal structures, including the Agora of the Competialists, a theater with stunningly detailed floor mosaics, and temples dedicated to various deities and religions (Apollo, Isis, Dionysus, Syrian gods, even a synagogue) that attest to the city's cosmopolitan nature. There's a small museum with some terrific artifacts, and a climb to the highest hill is essential, if only for the views of the Aegean. Arrive as early as you can and bring water and a hat; it's hot and crowded, and the last boats leave around 3 pm.

Epidaurus Theater
Epidaurus
Greece
Tel: 27530 22009/22666

Drama geeks take note. Dating to the fourth century B.C., this is the world's best-preserved Greek theater—and is now used for summer historical performances. The acoustics are so perfect that every word can be heard even from the outermost of the 55 tiers. As if possessed by the spirits of the ancient actors, visitors are often compelled to stand center stage and recite poetry, or whatever literary scraps they know by heart. The ruins of the Sanctuary of Asklepios nearby feel jejune by comparison. Open daily. Nov–Mar: 8–5, Apr–Oct: 7:45 a.m.–6:45 p.m.; 6 Euros.

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Ethnikos Kipos (National Gardens)
Amalias Avenue
Southeast of Syntagma Square
City Center
Athens
Greece

When your lungs are dusty and you need to see green, slip inside the verdant, semi-tropical National Gardens, established in 1840. Also useful for kids—there's a playground, a children's library with toys (and blessed AC), and a lot of ducks.

Open daily 7 am to sunset.

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Folegandros
Folegandros
Greece

While the Phoenician translation, meaning dry, rocky place, certainly fits, those overly prosaic ancients appear to have missed the characteristics of Folegandros that modern visitors would consider more worth noting. There's a village, Chora, whose three linked squares are among the most pleasant in the Greek islands for wiling away a summer evening. And cliff-top views of the Aegean so grand, and so timeless, it is easy to imagine Odysseus and his cohorts appearing from over the horizon at any moment. The ferry schedule makes this island on the southern end of the Cyclades just hard enough to reach that only oneself and those others who are truly worthy will make the effort. Although a few cars, several rumored to be for rent, have come to Folegandros, along with the bus that connects the few places it is possible to get to by road (the port, the village of Ano Meria, the paths leading down to a handful of good beaches), walking is still often a necessity and—at least on the downhill legs—a delight.

Glyfada
Glyfada
Greece

Athens's nicest, nearest beach is found in the pleasant resort area of Glyfada. It's accessible by tram (get off at the Paralia Glyfadas stop), and packed with lots of cafés, restaurants, and good shopping.

Ios
Greece

Yes, summer can still be backpacker bedlam on this isle of crazed repute. But like many backpackers of summers past, Ios is growing up. Witness it best just out of the high season, in May and September, when voices around the pool at the 22-room Liostasi Ios Hotel & Spa are seldom raised higher than a glass. And even at the much bigger, and livelier, Ios Palace, which sits above the scene-by-the-sea at Mylopotas Beach, an hour on your balcony can be as much about contemplation as celebration. Excepting the bar-jammed port and the village that rises above it, the surprisingly bucolic island is inhabited mostly by goats and the ghost of Homer, who is purported to be buried here. Even among Odyssey-reading, feta cheese–appreciating grown-ups, though, Ios's primary appeal lies in beaches—some so secluded they are accessible only by boat—as pretty as any in the Aegean.—Bob Payne

Ithaca
Ithaca
Greece

The legendary home port of Homer's Odysseus, this tiny island draws few tourists apart from yachties who've stepped off their pleasure boats in the ports of Frikes or Kioni. The capital of Vathy, near the middle of the island, has cafés, quaint bars, and a few surprisingly chic shops. The only other real "attractions" are a few Odyssey-related sites, including Dexia Bay, at the southern end of the island, where Odysseus is said to have landed when he returned to Ithaca, and the nearby Cave of the Nymphs, where he ostensibly hid treasure after returning from Troy. There are no organized tours to these sites (nor are they signposted), but looking for them is a good excuse for wandering the island.

Knossos Palace
Iraklio , Crete
Greece

At the risk of sounding pedantic, pronounce it with a short "o," NOS-us, and keep in mind that this site is not a faithful re-creation but an amateur archaeologist's perhaps overly fanciful vision of what it might have looked like, and you'll start well ahead of most visitors in your understanding of Knossos Palace. Despite the crowds, Knossos, about three miles south of Iraklio, is worth a few hours' visit for the insight it provides to an advanced civilization, the Minoan (2700 to 1450 B.C.), that predates even the ancient Greeks. Probably once leveled by a wall of water generated by the eruption of the Santorini volcano, Knossos was, at least in Greek legend, home to the Minotaur, a creature half man and half bull imprisoned in the palace's labyrinth by King Minos. But what most impresses the majority of visitors is that Knossos shows evidence of having developed something rarely achieved even in Greece today: plumbing that works. Not developed, though, is signage. To know what you are looking at, consider hiring one of the on-site guides—though not all are as knowledgeable as the guidebooks.

Kythera
Kythera
Greece

The southernmost of the Ionian Islands and the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, Kythira was once considered all but inaccessible. Though it's still remote (you can reach it by plane from Athens or ferry from the Peloponnese), it's worth the trip. The few tourists here tend to be quiet sorts who've come to enjoy the stark, ruggedly beautiful scenery. Though there are walking trails all over, your best bet is to rent a car or moped and tool around (there are lots of rental options in the island's single resort town, Kapsali, on the southern end). You can check out the gorgeous (and usually empty) beach at Agia Pelagia on the northeastern coast, or take photographs at the windswept medieval villages of Aroniadika and Pitsinades, which are rumored to be haunted. Other sights include a ruined early-16th-century Venetian castle above the lovely capital of Chora; the Cave of Agia Sophia, with its 11th-century wall paintings; and the picture-perfect main square and nearby Neraida Waterfalls at the inland village of Milopotamos.

Lefkada
Levkás
Greece

A cove-laden coastline and balmy thermal winds make this island a mecca for wind- and kite-surfers. Windsurfers head to Vasiliki, a wide, wind-whipped bay at the island's southern end; it's one of the prime windsurfing spots in Europe (www.greeka.com/ionian/lefkada/island/lefkada-windsurfing.htm). Kite-surfers make for the northern tip of the island (near the bridge to the mainland); the most popular spot is Milos Beach (www.milosbeach.gr/en/academy/kite/index.php). For some simple beach downtime, the southernmost point of the island, Porto Katsiki, offers a dramatic spot at the base of soaring cliffs. (You'll need to walk down a staircase of 50 steps before you can stake out a spot on the sand.) Evening time, the best place for dinner and drinks is the island's capital (and point of entry by car), Lefkada Town. Its winding lanes are lined with tavernas, and the waterfront promenade is packed with street performers and artists displaying their wares.

Lindos
Lindos , Rhodes
Greece

The village that launched a thousand postcards has streets filled with elaborate villas—"captain's houses" that were built by merchant ship owners between the 16th and 18th centuries (many with courtyards of lovely pebble mosaic). In the 1960s and '70s, artists, writers, and rock musicians gravitated here to soak up the sun and swig retsina; David Gilmour of Pink Floyd still has a house here. Lindos also has an acropolis, one of three original Dorian acropoleis on Rhodes, containing the ruined Sanctuary of Athena Lindia, with its large Doric portico from the fourth century B.C.

The Little Cyclades
Greece

Only four of the Little Cyclades—Iraklia, Donousa, Schinousa, and Pano Koufonisi—are permanently inhabited, and those just barely. But make the effort to get there, preferably on the valiant but erratic little Express Skopelitis out of Naxos, and you'll discover a Greece most of us thought died sometime in the 1970s. The beaches are very good, especially on Pano Koufonisi; it's also the island with the most places to stay (Aeolos is a favorite, in part because of its friendly owners). If you are a walker, Iraklia is best: Try the trail leading to the Cave of St. John, one of the biggest in the Cyclades. Except in July and August, when even Odysseus himself would be unwise to arrive anywhere in the Greek islands without a reservation, count on having your walks, and your beaches, to yourself…for now.—Bob Payne

Mani
Mani
Greece

One of the least visited areas in Greece (although that is changing with improved roads), Mani is a region of barren mountains dotted with dwarf olive trees and prickly-pear cactuses. Blissfully free of major tourist sights, Mani is best enjoyed through a leisurely drive. You'll see tiny medieval churches nestled in cypress groves, and the remains of tower houses—until the early 20th century, the Peloponnesians fought with one other constantly and liked to see their enemies coming. Pretty beaches are near Githio and Kardamili.

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Milos
Milos
Greece

A fertile volcanic island and the center (along with Naxos) of the Cyclades in ancient times, it's not clear exactly why Milos is not more popular with non-Greeks. It's neither too commercialized nor too sleepy; it has terrain reminiscent of Santorini, with similarly dramatic cliffs; it gave us that nice armless statue; and it boasts about 70 beaches, many of them excellent. It is, however, a working island—a mining island to be precise—and the port, Adamas, is no charmer, though there are several beaches and a saltwater lake nearby. Plaka, the capital, is cuter, and there are catacombs in the vicinity of Tripiti, as well as the site of the discovery of the Venus de Milo (the Archaeological Museum makes do with a copy). Apollonia has several sandy beaches nearby. There's another great beach, plus natural hot springs at Paleohori, a nudist beach on the south end of the island.

Mycenae
Mycenae
Greece
Tel: 27510 76585

Now a maze of paths and crumbling walls, this ancient citadel was once (1,400–1,100 B.C.) the center of an empire that embraced the Plain of Argos and much of mainland Greece and Crete. It was also home to that unlucky family, the House of Atreus, one of whom, Agamemnon, killed his mother, Clytemnestra, as she bathed. (You can see her tub in the palace.) As you head down from Mycenae, stop at the Treasury of Atreus, a cavernous beehive tomb from 1,300 B.C. Open daily. May–Oct: 8–7, Nov–Apr: 8–5; 3 Euros.

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Mykonos
Mykonos
Greece

If a person can name only one Greek island, it's bound to be this one. Famous in the 1960s, when Jackie and Ari Onassis put it on the map, it soon became the gay capital of the vacation world. Now, while still very rainbow flag, Mykonos is having a second coming as the chic see-and-be-seen Eurotrash island (jostling for first place with Ibiza). It's as whitewashed and pretty as its trillion pictures would suggest, and it's distinguished by a couple of unusual features: Mykonos Town, with its windmills and mazelike, stone-paved streets, as well as the gallery-bar-club neighborhood known as Little Venice for its Venetian-style houses lining the water. The island's nightlife is infamous, particularly the dance-till-dawn nightclubs, including Cavo Paradiso, on a cliff overlooking Paradise Beach (30-228-902-7205; www.cavoparadiso.gr); Space, the largest club on Mykonos, near the bus station at the north end of town (30-228-902-4100; www.spacemykonos.gr); and Pierro's, the big gay spot (Matoyanni St.; 30-22890-22177; www.pierrosbar.gr). The other draw of this island is, of course, the beach. There are several famous golden-sand stretches: Psarou is close to town and attracts a glam crowd; Panormos, on the north coast, is quieter and more protected from the wind; Platis Gialos is lined with hotels and popular with families. The most renowned beaches in the Cyclades—perhaps even in all of Greece—are Paradise and Super Paradise, two bacchanalian strands on the south coast. They're fun for a day, but once you get tired of the blaring disco soundtrack and Girls Gone Wild vibe, head to more grown-up Elia, which brings in a nice mix of straight and gay, nudist and clothed (all beaches on Mykonos are clothing-optional to a certain extent), has a good taverna, and provides access to water sports if you're feeling active.

Mystras
Mystras
Greece
Tel: 27310 83377

After Byzantium fell to the Turks in 1453, Mystras was the last capital of the great empire, filled with palaces, churches, and monasteries. Now it's a ghost town. Only a tiny community of nuns lives here, housed in the Pantanassa monastery (you can buy their embroidery). Spend a haunting afternoon poking about the ruins here—it's likely you'll see only a handful of other people. All Mystras sites open daily. Nov–Apr: 8:30–3, May–Oct: 8–7; 5 Euros.

Nafplio
Nafplio
Greece

Nafplio is a pretty seaside town that makes a great home base for visits to the ancient sites (although it can get crowded on weekends). After the establishment of the modern Greek nation, Nafplio was the capital for a brief period (1821–1828), hence its impressive neoclassical civic buildings and the statues of revolutionary figures. The town also contains two hilltop Venetian fortresses, a 13th-century castle on the small island of Bourtzi, and a lovely promenade that runs midway along the cliff on the south side of the peninsula.

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National Museum of Contemporary Art
14 Frantzi Street
City Center
Athens
Greece
Tel: 30 210 924 2111
www.emst.gr

Modern art is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Athens, but this institution, established in 2000, aims to change that. It occupies an appropriate building: Greece's first brewery, established in 1853; it was rebuilt in 1957 by Takis Zenetos, probably Greece's foremost architect of the postwar modernist period. Now it's being transformed into a 21st-century arts palace with many exhibition spaces, shops, and restaurants, by hip Athenian architects 3SK Stylianidis. Until it's finished, the EMST (National Museum of Contemporary Art) is occupying the exhibition spaces at the Megaron (Athens Concert Hall) for its shows (1 Kokkali St.; 30-210-728-2333).

New Acropolis Museum
Acropolis
Athens
Greece 10558
Tel: 30 210 923 8175
www.newacropolismuseum.gr

Following what some might call a classic Greek construction schedule, the New Acropolis Museum, originally planned to be ready for the 2004 Olympics, finally opened in June 2009. Sections of the ground floor are glass, allowing views of excavations beneath the new building. Glass is a primary design element throughout the modern structure—so distinct in style from its neighbor, the Parthenon—which replaces the old, too small Acropolis Museum (which closed in July 2007) as a repository of finds made during excavations of the Acropolis. While the new museum displays many marble and bronze artifacts, the most interesting display may prove to be the veiled plaster casts meant to represent the Elgin Marbles, a collection of decorative pieces largely from the Parthenon that since 1817 has been in the British Museum—which, despite Greek protests, shows no interest in returning it.

Open daily 10 am to 6 pm.

New Town
Rhodes Town , Rhodes
Greece

The New Town dates to the 16th-century Ottoman occupation, when Greek Orthodox natives, forbidden to dwell in the Old Town, had to settle outside it. The Murad Reis Mosque and Muslim cemetery, just south of Elli Beach, are worth a look. Writer Lawrence Durrell lived in the dilapidated Villa Cleobolus, bordering on the graveyard. (He later recorded his two years on Rhodes in his florid prose in Reflections on a Marine Venus. ) As for New Town beaches, many are reachable only via the hotels next to them; public Elli Beach, however, has fine sand and pedal boats for rent.

Old Town
Rhodes Town , Rhodes
Greece

This maze of lanes is the oldest inhabited medieval city in Europe. The Knights of St. John, a military religious order organized in Jerusalem to care for Christian pilgrims, used it as their power base in medieval times. Ippoton, the "Street of the Knights," is a long cobbled lane lined with inns, a separate one for Knights from each country. Rhodes was the warriors' last defense against the Ottoman Turks, but in 1522, they were crushed by Süleyman the Magnificent and his army of 100,000. The mosque built shortly after his victory stands at the top of Sokratous Street.

Olympia
Olympia
Greece
Tel: 26240 22517 or 26260 22529

Starting in 776 B.C., the Olympic Games were held every four years over a five-day period, during which the entire Greek world observed a sacred truce. Events included a foot race, boxing, and chariot- and horse-racing. The Roman emperor, Theodosius I, a Christian, banned the games as pagan rites in 393 A.D. As well as the stadium and other buildings, you'll see the impressive ruins of the Temples of Zeus and Hera. The modern village of Olympia is a 15-minute walk away. Open daily. May–Oct: 8–7:30, Nov–Apr, 8:30–5; 6 Euros.

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Paros
Paros
Greece

Paros is by no means undiscovered by tourists—it's one of the most popular islands, though it's less frequented by Americans. It's big enough (the third biggest in the Cyclades) to harbor a bit of everything, from clubby towns to sleepy fishing villages, and it has a great beach. It's also famous for its white marble, from which the Venus de Milo was carved. Its little satellite, Antiparos, was absolutely unspoiled not too long ago, but sadly that's no longer the case. The main port, Parikia (a.k.a. Paros town), is pretty but touristy, which does have advantages in the taverna department. From here a few beaches are easily reached, though not the best ones on the island—and Paros beaches can be very good (Molos near Marmara; Santa Maria near Naoussa). Naoussa, the second port, was once cute but is now the other main tourist town. It pays to seek out-of-the-way spots if you're after some peace: Stay longer on the bus; charter a boat; ask around. Paros is one island that rewards such a strategy.

Paxos
Paxos
Greece

This eight-mile-long island might just as well be called Anti-Corfu; it's as sleepy and lush as its more popular neighbor is thronged and developed. Not many tourists even come to Paxos; those who do tend to rent villas and stay for a while to enjoy the olive groves and the craggy coastline with sea caves so large they hid submarines during World War II. The unpopulated landscape cries for exploration; Ita's Cars, in the port of Gaios, rents the four-wheel-drives needed to reach many of the hilltop hamlets (Gaios; 30-697-340-1658; www.paxos-greece.com/itascarhire.htm; closed Sun). Conversely, Captain Nikos Boat Hire, in the port of Loggos, rents motorboats; after a quick boat-handling lesson, clients are set loose for the day (Loggos; 30-266-203-0059; www.paxos-greece.com/niikosboathire.htm; closed Oct–April). If you'd rather not do your own navigating, hitch a ride on one of the fishing boats that leave daily from Gaios (just ask around at the docks) to the islets of Agios Nikolaos, which has the ruins of a 1423 Venetian castle. Boats also run regularly to Antipaxos, which has a few tavernas and summer homes, two sandy beaches, vineyards, and not much else.

Petaloudes
Petaloudes , Rhodes
Greece
Tel: 30 22 4108 1801

From mid-June through September, millions of zebra-striped "butterflies" (actually Jersey tiger moths) congregate in this lovely green ravine. Covering every stone and tree, the insects are invisible until they move, revealing their red underbellies. Unfortunately, tourists come swarming after them, with flashing cameras, blaring radios, and crying babies, so an early-morning visit is advisable if you want to fully enjoy this splendid spectacle. Petaloudes ("Butterfly Valley") is 15.5 miles south of Rhodes. Open from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. (extended hours during high season).

Samaria Gorge
Samaria National Park
Chania , Crete
Greece

Whether or not it is the longest gorge in Europe, this giant crack in the earth at the far west end of Crete is certainly, on many days, the most crowded. From May to the middle of October, the months the gorge is open to trekkers, as many as 2,000 people a day follow its steep, rocky trail from up in the White Mountains about ten miles down to the sea. A few hardy souls, tough enough to withstand almost 2,000 repetitions of being told they are going the wrong way, even hike up it. By starting early and pushing through the first popular rest stop or two, it's possible to have this remarkably beautiful slice of nature—with its towering rock walls, its forest of pine and cypress, its pebbly stream—mostly to yourself. The logistics of arranging transport, which requires two separate bus rides and a boat ride, almost demands that you go with a tour company. Among the better ones is Diktynna Travel, which limits itself to smaller groups than most (30-28210-41458; www.diktynna-travel.gr). Don't go on days when rain threatens (as the trail, which can get deadly slick, will be closed anyway). And don't go unless you are physically up to the challenge, because once you start there is no shortcut out.

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Santorini
Santorini
Greece

No other island is like it. This Minoan capital was decimated by its volcano 3,500 years ago, which has led many archaeologists to suggest it may have been home to the lost civilization of Atlantis. Santorini owes its present peculiar, twin-peaked, arched shape—as well its famous black-sand beaches and the high, striated black-red-gray cliffs—to that cataclysm. The caldera, a seven-mile crater enclosed by the two arms of the crescent, is Santorini's defining feature and its harbor. Sunset over the caldera is the nightly big show, which is accompanied by a festive atmosphere wherever there's a west-facing cliff-side terrace (and there are a lot of them). If you're thinking of walking, the capital, Thira, is dramatically perched on a cliff, up nearly 600 steps (alternatively, catch a cab, a cable car, or a mule), and is very gorgeous but very spoiled by tourism. The center of gentrified, controlled tourism is breathtaking Oia (a.k.a. Ia), clinging to the cliffs on the northernmost edge of the caldera, its 19th-century merchants' villas and restored troglodytic peasant houses spread around the ruins of a 13th-century Venetian castle. This is where the posh, beautiful hotels and villas are, and it's likely to stay posh and beautiful thanks to zoning laws. Many beaches on Santorini, as mentioned, have black sand (you can imagine what this does to bare feet), and they are concentrated in the east and south. Kamari is the main one but not worth the journey—it's been touristed to death. Head north-east to Baxedes beach, just outside Oia, to avoid the crowds.

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Sifnos
Sifnos
Greece

One of the prettiest of the Cyclades, Sifnos is friendly, accessible, varied, and green in the center, with great beaches and great food (Greeks believe Sifniot chefs are the best). Also, there are 365 churches. The port, Kamares, could easily suffice for an entire vacation. It has an OK beach, but buses and boats make everywhere else accessible. Apollonia is the capital, high up and inland, throbbing (though more gently than the notorious party islands) at night, peaceful and pretty by day. The ancient village of Kastro on the east coast, dating back to 3000 B.C., is so unspoiled you can imagine the centuries rolling back. Platys Yialos is the big, big beach, which sucks up most of the mass tourism, and tiny Vathy, a beach with a fishing village attached, is heavenly and not (yet) ruined by its newly paved access road.

Spinalonga
Elounda , Crete
Greece

Visiting a former leper colony is not everyone's cup of tea. But a recent best-selling beach read, The Island, by British author Victoria Hislop, has put Spinalonga high on many must-see lists. This now deserted island served as Europe's last (and certainly its most infamous) detention center for sufferers of a disease for which drugs to control it had already been found. Boats to the island are frequent, leaving from Agios Nikolaos and, more conveniently, from Elounda, where the crossing takes about 15 minutes. In an hour or so, you can explore the Venetian fortress that was built here in the 1500s, and get a chilling sense of what it would have been like to be a "patient".

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Technopolis
100 Piraeus Street
Gazi
Athens
Greece 11854
Tel: 30 210 346 0981

In Gazi, the old gasworks next to Keramikos, is this enormous art project, established in 1999. It consists of eight buildings converted from gas containers, chimney stacks, and furnaces, and named after Greek poets (Andreas Embirikos, Angelos Sikelianos, Yannis Ritsos, etc.). At the center is The Millennium Globe, a sculpture by Nikos Yiorgos Papoutsides symbolizing world peace. The place is still very much evolving, as is the surrounding area—it's often called a "factory for generating art."

Open Mondays through Fridays 10 am to 10 pm.

Zakros Palace
Kato Zakros , Crete
Greece

Like Knossos, Zakros, at the far eastern end of the island, is a Minoan palace that may have been destroyed by a tidal wave in 1500 B.C. generated by the eruption of the Santorini volcano. The difference is that you'll have to use your own imagination to reconstruct this one, which was unearthed only in the early 1960s, as little remains except the foundations. On the other hand, on most days about the only thing that will disturb your imagining is the occasional tinkling of goat bells. For a rare opportunity to feel a personal connection with a Greek archaeological site, ask the proprietor of Stella's Traditional Apartments to show you a photograph of the vase—once exquisite, no doubt—her father accidentally shattered when he drove a shovel through it while helping to excavate the palace.

Zakynthos
Zakynthos
Greece

Two kinds of visitors are drawn here, and they're wildly different. On one end are party-hearty twentysomethings who come to lose what few inhibitions they have left in the southern resort town of Laganas. (Unfortunately, endangered loggerhead turtles use the same southerly beaches as their nesting grounds.) On the other end are the nature-loving types who head for the amazingly verdant and pristine northern coast. Two extraordinary sites are here: the Blue Caves of Cape Skinari—huge, light-filled sea caves large enough to swim in or take boats into—and Shipwreck Beach, a remote, cliff-surrounded crescent of sand where cigarette smugglers ran aground in the 1970s and left behind a boat carcass half-buried in the sand. The brothers who run the Potamitis Brothers Windmills Accommodation in the northerly town of Volimes operate tours to both.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.