One of my favorite things about traveling is visiting friends. This is particularly true when said friends live in amazing places. And that’s why I’m so excited to fly to Greece. Local friends have offered to show my boyfriend and me around, and they’ve planned an amazing 5-day Athens, Delphi, and Meteora itinerary for us.
5-Day Athens, Delphi, and Meteora Itinerary
We’re going to be in Greece for two weeks and our aim is to get a mix of mainland culture and island relaxation.
It’s late October, so we’re hoping for good weather and no crowds (spoiler alert: we get both). Above all, we want to enjoy our time with our friends and see as much as we can while we’re here.
Day 1: Arrival in Athens
Arriving in Athens in the evening, we take a taxi to our friends’ apartment in hip Kerameikos. The neighborhood is just north of the Acropolis and every street is packed with bars, restaurants, and cafes. It’s the perfect place to live like a local in Athens, and as we settle in I can already tell it’s going to be a great trip.
The feeling intensifies as we settle in and walk past ruins and through squares to dinner. We eat on the roof terrace of Cafe Avissinia, our friends’ local favorite. It has excellent views of the Acropolis and food to match.
Day 2: Athens
The next morning marks the beginning of our first full day in Greece, and the official start of our 5-day Athens, Delphi, and Meteora itinerary. At the suggestion of our friends, we walk over to Tailor Made, an amazing coffee shop in the city center with tables spilling into the plaza outside.
On the way, we discover streets full of life, color, and the scent of jasmine. Juicy grapes rest on vines, and everything from bright yellow houses with green shutters to caryatids holding up buildings catches our eyes. By the time we arrive for coffee we’re in need of both caffeine and rest.
After our stop we wander through the narrow cobblestone streets of Plaka. Sitting right below the Acropolis, its tangle of lanes and stairways lures us in like an enchanted labyrinth. After climbing up and down, ducking under bougainvillea vines, and admiring peek-a-boo views, we settle in for lunch at a restaurant to take in the atmosphere.
In the afternoon we get our cultural fix. We’ve both been to the Acropolis on previous trips, so we go modern this time. A lot has changed since my last trip to Athens less than a year and a half ago, and I’m excited to see what’s new.
Our first stop is the The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST), which opened at the end of last year and has a temporary exhibition on. Our second is the Benaki Museum at 138 Pireos Street, which is bright and modern and has a great cafe.
We continue exploring the new attractions in Athens with a trip to the waterfront, where the Renzo Piano-designed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center offers us great views of the city. Opened last year, it houses the National Library and National Opera, and has beautiful gardens to stroll through.
From there we head north to our friends’ house, where we stay for the night before heading off on the next leg of our trip.
Day 3: Monastery of Hosios Loukas, Antikyra, Aspra Spitia, and Arachova
We wake to sunshine the next morning. Hopping in the car with our friends and their children, we drive out of Athens in the direction of Delphi. But there’s a lot to see along the way, and our first stop is the Monastery of Hosios Loukas.
Nestled in a beautiful hillside, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is an important example of Middle Byzantine art and architecture. It also has one of the most important collections of Byzantine sculpture in Greece. As if that’s not enough, it’s a beautiful place to explore.
From the Monastery of Hosios Loukas, the third day of our 5-day Athens, Delphi, and Meteora itinerary takes us to the coast. Specifically, to Antikyra. This delightful port town is full of colorful fishing boats and a domed lighthouse. In ancient times, people sailed here and made their way to Delphi, so it feels fitting to include it in our trip.
We walk along Antikyra’s waterfront, eventually settling in for the catch of the day at Valaouras Fish Restaurant. We while away the afternoon while savoring fresh fish and seafood at an outdoor table with a view of the sea and hills.
After lunch we make a quick stop at nearby Aspra Spitia, a town famous for its modern architecture and for being the setting of the 2010 Greek film Attenberg (named after David Attenborough of nature and wildlife documentary fame). We explore a bit of the town, walking through its neat grid of streets and taking in the classic white and blue facades.
At sunset we reach Arachova, which is close to Delphi and known to our friends as a ski resort town for Mount Parnassos. It’s hard to imagine snow here even in October, but we take their word for it and drive through the pretty streets.
We reach Delphi as the last rays of sun disappear. It’s a great way to end the third day of our itinerary, and I fall asleep dreaming of Ancient Greece and its ruins.
Day 4: Delphi
The next morning we beat a path to the ancient ruins of Delphi. I was last here on a school trip when I was 14, and I can’t wait to see how much (or little) I remember.
We enter the gates at the bottom of the hill and even though I can only see a few stray columns I’m already excited. As we climb the steps and paths, more ruins come into view.
I’m awed by the amphitheater, the stone representing the navel of the world, and the stadium, which turns out to be the only place I remember from my teenage years.
In the adjacent Archaeological Museum of Delphi, we find more treasures, sculptures, and background about Delphi’s famous oracle. At the very end I recognize the bronze Charioteer of Delphi, a stunning sculpture that brings back more memories of the last time I traveled here.
Leaving the museum, we head to lunch in town. At the suggestion of friends from the UK who have recently been here, we eat at Taverna Vakhos. The food and views are equally good, and it’s a great place to end our visit to Delphi.
After lunch it’s time for the three-and-a-half hour drive north to Meteora. The area is famous for its dramatic rock formations and the complex of Orthodox monasteries perched on top of them.
We arrive just in time for sunset and find a cliff from which to photograph the monasteries in the pink light. It’s a breathtaking scene, and the monasteries look like fairy castles on top of the rocks. I can’t wait to see it in the morning.
Day 5: Meteora
The morning brings with it another pink sky. We wake up in time for sunrise, going back to the same place we photographed Meteora at sunset. It’s just as beautiful at dawn as at twilight, and we stay until the day is wide awake.
But a pink sky in the morning means one thing: rain. The rest of the day is drizzly, but we don’t let it stop us from visiting the monasteries. We start at the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoro, the largest and oldest of all the monasteries in the area. Dating back to the 14th century, it looks like it has grown right out of the rock. Inside, we discover everything from terraces with views to an ossuary full of human bones, and everywhere we walk the smell of incense follows.
From there we visit the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Anapafsas. It’s small and the big tour buses don’t stop here, so there’s a more intimate feel than at its larger counterparts. It also has beautiful painted interiors and stunning views of the twisted rocks nearby.
Our third monastery is the Monastery of the Holy Trinity. It looks as if we would have to tightrope walk to get to it, but it turns out there’s a path below that leads to the entrance. Once there, we find more wafting incense and sweeping views.
After the monasteries, we head into Kalabaka, the town at the base of the rocks. We have a quick lunch and a walk there before traveling back to Athens. It’s a four-hour drive, and we get back ready for dinner. Our friends take us to Nice n Easy, a restaurant in chic Kifisia. In the northeast of Athens, this area is devoid of tourists and a great place to experience the city like a local. The food is delicious, too.
It’s a great way to end the first part of our trip to Greece, and sets the bar high for the rest of our journey. We’re off to the islands tomorrow, so stay tuned…
How about you? What would you include in a 5-day Athens, Delphi, and Meteora itinerary?