Setting sail from Athens (Piraeus)
Athens is a city awash with historical and cultural significance. Towering over the city are the gleaming columns of the Parthenon, surely one of the most iconic sights in the whole of Europe. And yet Athens is much more than an open air museum; this is a dynamic, bustling metropolis, and a place where history is still very much unfolding. For all its faults, the Greek capital possesses an energy and an optimism that are manifest in everything from the burgeoning art scene to the restaurants and bars that continue to pop up on a regular basis.
Once you have seen the essentials, explore further afield and you will immediately escape the tourist crowds. Visit Kerameikos cemetery, for example, or Mount Lycabettus.
The volcanic island of Santorini (known officially as Thira) is one of the most spectacularly beautiful in the Mediterranean. The pretty village of Oia, with its whitewashed houses and windmills tumbling down the hillside, is particularly photogenic.
The volcanic island of Milos is ringed by pretty beaches and scattered with charming villages, famous as the place where the Venus de Milo was discovered by a local peasant in 1820. Milos is also known as the ‘island of colours’ thanks to its many-hued, mineral-rich cliffs and beaches.
Chania, Crete’s second city, is an alluring blend of architectural styles. The jumble of streets that make up the Venetian old town are remarkably intact, and there are plenty of reminders too of the two centuries of Ottoman rule, such as the imposing harbourfront Mosque of the Janissaries.
Greece: Fiskardo (Kefalonia)
Rugged Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian islands, and remains unspoilt by tourism despite earning fame as the setting for ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. The island rewards exploration, with some splendid beaches and lovely little villages, and the vineyards here produce some excellent wines.
Kotor sits at the head of a beautiful, fjord-like bay, hemmed in by glowering mountains. The compact, walled old town is Montenegro’s star attraction, a warren of little alleyways and shady squares that is often described as a ‘mini Dubrovnik’.
We never fail to be moved when we see the terracotta roofs and honey-golden walls of Dubrovnik, and a stroll around the perfectly preserved old town is a highlight of any visit to the Dalmatian coast. Make sure you take the time to walk around the walls and soak up the marvellous sea views.
Hvar is the most popular of Croatia’s islands, a ruggedly beautiful place carpeted with lavender fields and dotted with little villages. The island’s capital, Hvar Town, is a charming collection of marble streets arranged around a harbour, and it gets very busy in the summer months.
Croatia’s second city enjoys a dramatic setting, hugging a sweeping bay against a backdrop of sheer grey mountains. Split's labyrinthine old town is contained within the remarkable Roman ruins of Diocletian’s Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and spills out onto the buzzing seafront Riva promenade.
Rovinj is undoubtedly the highlight of the Istrian coast, a picturesque medieval fishing port with a strong Italian influence discernible in everything from the elegant architecture to the bilingual street signs. A day trip to one of the nearby islands also makes for an enjoyable excursion.
Arriving in Venice
Venice is a city like no other, a marble maze of turquoise canals criss-crossed by beautiful bridges, overflowing with palaces, churches and charming little piazzas. No matter how many times you've seen it in photographs, that first glimpse of the Grand Canal will simply take your breath away; it hardly seems credible that such an eye-popping scene could exist outside of a Canaletto painting. Of course Venice is a city that draws big crowds, especially in summer, but don't let this put you off; even the busiest areas are never more than a few steps from a quiet courtyard or a secluded square.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection houses an eclectic assortment of works from the likes of Picasso, Magritte and Jackson Pollock. There is also a lovely garden facing on to the Grand Canal, with a rather rude sculpture of a rider on horseback.
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Tailor-make your trip
Extend your stay in Athens
At Mundy, we have long been hunting for the perfect Athenian hotel - our favourite so far is the Electra Palace in Plaka.
Excursions from Athens
Delphi is an absolute must – you’ll need a full day though, it’s quite a drive.
Our favourite hotel in Venice
The Metropole is an old favourite for its quieter location and lovely lagoon views.
See more of the Veneto
If you’ve time, take the train to Padova and visit the Scrovegni Chapel.