Santorini may well have conquered a corner of your imagination before you've even set eyes on it. With multicoloured cliffs soaring over 300m from a sea-drowned caldera, it rests in the middle of the indigo Aegean, looking like a giant slab of layered cake. The island spoons the vast crater left by one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in history.
Nowhere else in the Dodecanese are so many layers of architectural history piled upon one another as in the fortified Old Town; be it classical, medieval and Byzantine or Ottoman and Italian periods. A volta (stroll) down its hauntingly pretty cobbled streets is evocative, as black-clad octogenarians loom from doorways, the scent of leather shops competing with bougainvillea.
Knossos (k-nos-os), 5km from Iraklio, was the capital of Minoan Crete and the Palace of Knossos (28102 31940; admission €6; 8am-7pm Jun-Oct, 8am-3pm Nov-May) is the island’s major tourist attraction. The ruins of Knossos, home of the mythical Minotaur kept by King Minos, were uncovered in the early 1900s by the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans.
Immensely likable Thessaloniki (thess-ah-lo-nee-kih) has never been more fun, cultured or affordable than it is right now. Greece's second city has excellent restaurants, museums and sights, plus an increasingly hip and inventive nightlife scene fleshed out by many thousands of Greek and foreign university students.
Charming, cosmopolitan Corfu Town (also known as Kerkyra) takes hold of you and never lets go. If you approach by sea, you will be met by the majesty of the famous Palaio Frourio (Old Fortress). Take a wander after the day-trippers leave to discover enchanting pastel-hued Venetian-era mansions, top museums and artistic life, and a buoyant year-round cosmopolitan spirit.
Mt Athos (Agion Oros)
If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit Mt Athos, do it – it’s an experience you won’t forget. For over a millennium, unbroken spiritual activity has survived on this isolated peninsula, in a semi-autonomous monastic republic following the Julian calendar. Athos has 20 working monasteries, and skites (monastic dependencies), plus kelli (ascetic hermitages).
The Mani (Η Μάνη), the region covering the central peninsula in the south of the Peloponnese, is a wild, rugged place. Greeks from elsewhere will tell you, so are its people. Such was the formidable reputation of the inhabitants of the remote inner Mani that many would-be occupiers opted in the end to leave them alone.
The Zagorohoria's 46 traditional stone-and-slate villages, tucked into the Pindos range, offer atmospheric accommodation, crisp alpine air, sublime views and myriad local legends. Once connected only by mountain paths and stone bridges, they're now connected by paved roads, some of which enjoy spectacular twists and turns.