Culture / Travel

Exploring Greece and Its Islands Like a Local — A Strict No Tourist Traps Policy Always Wins In This Land of Seaside Wonders

From The Athens Riviera to Old Town Corfu to Paxos Island

BY // 08.17.22

Shortly after I embarked on my first visit to Greece, I learned how to say Yamas, the Greek word for cheers. I was there to celebrate a dear friend’s wedding, and there was no shortage of Yamas for the fun-loving and soulful Greek natives toasting the Greek-American bride and groom.

After hearing friends tell tales of their Greek getaways for years, I was ready to see the authentic truth. With travelers heading to Europe in record numbers these days, it was a treat to explore Greece with locals who held a strict no tourist traps policy. 

Long after the Greek Gods roamed these vast lands, destinations like Mykonos and Santorini still top the bucket lists of discerning travelers for good reason. The sparkling white sand and ocean hues cannot be beaten. Greece boasts some of the world’s most picturesque oceanside scenes, all complemented by friendly hospitality and plenty of charm. With more than 227 inhabited islands, not to mention the pristine coasts along the mainland, you’ll never run out of things to explore in Greece. There are countless ways to soak up the Grecian sun and savor that alluring water in a shade of blue that only Greece seems to possess.

Traveling with Greek friends brought home just how much there is to toast. While revealing several off-the-tourist-path finds. This is How to Explore Greece Like a Local:

The Athens Riviera

For many Greek travelers, Athens is merely a quick urban stopover on the way to the country’s numerous dreamy islands. But don’t be so fast to bolt. The Athens Riviera is a delightful beachside oasis worthy of more than a quick night’s stay. Just a quickish, 30-minute drive from the Athens airport or downtown area (think Santa Monica to Los Angeles proper), this 35-mile Southern stretch is an Aegean sea enclave with clear blue waters and soft sandy beaches that rival any of the Greek islands.

With walkable seaside villages dotted with family-owned cafes smelling of gyros, ice cream shops beckoning with treats, and quaint beach clubs with cabana boys at the ready, it’s as convenient as it is indulgent. 

Introducing Pêche

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Four Seasons Astir Palace
The Four Seasons Astir Palace is a storied luxury land fit for royals. 

The historic Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel brings a mega luxury experience in a recently renovated compound. Known back in the day as a haven for Aristotle and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis — not to mention Frank Sinatra — this storied resort’s undergone a special revamp. That means new fine dining restaurants, a private beach and sumptuous accommodations.

Sipping a crisp Greek wine on the Four Seasons Astir’s spacious patio, looking out at the countless super yachts against a mountain backdrop, I felt my own glamorous Jacky O vibes.

Corfu — Another Side of Greece

After soaking up the best of Athens, you should consider beginning a Greek island hopping journey with Corfu. One of the northernmost islands of the Greek collective, Corfu provides a unique perspective on Greek culture with its touches of influence from nearby Italy.

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Corfu’s Old Town is a photo-worthy village with windy alleyways of adorable restaurants, shops, and bars surrounded by ancient historical sites. Right off the main town square, stunning fortresses compete with historic castles and Greek temples for your attention. I found myself reaching for my phone to Google the pages of history so I could fathom all the wonder that came long before me.

Corfu Old Town
Corfu, one of Greece’s northernmost islands, is a more Italian-influenced offshoot of the well-known white and blue painted townscapes of the country. (Photo by Georgie Miller)

Angsana Corfu, a recently opened hotel from the Banyan Tree hospitality brand, is a breath of fresh air for the island. This is a true luxury resort with insane island views. Perched atop a hill, the newly built resort brings sophisticated rooms full of luxury amenities. 

The picturesque infinity edge pool and Angsana Corfu’s private beach, easily accessible by the hotel’s speedy shuttle, offer postcard-worthy respites from the hustle and bustle of Old Town Corfu. 

Vertigo Sky Bar, the highest rooftop watering hole in the area, is an airy space with inventive cocktails and 360-degree views of the mountainous, tree-filled coastline and shimmering turquoise waters. The hotel’s restaurants are a refreshing departure from the Greek seafood and Italian eats most popular on the island.

There is a rooftop restaurant with mouthwatering Asian food and Botrini’s, a gastronomy-focused masterpiece from Michelin-starred chef Ettore Botrini. Alas, it’s been booking up since it opened.

But it’s Greece. You can always relax.

The enormous Angsana Spa brings a lengthy menu of East meets West treatments and services. All are offered in spacious treatment rooms complete with private bathrooms and seating areas.


With so many Greek islands and so little time, Corfu also makes for a great starting point to explore the smaller islands that scatter the Mediterranean. A day trip to Paxos and Antipaxos islands, only accessible by ferry or private boat, drives home why so many travelers (and natives like my friends) love Greece with such a passion.

Paxos Vilage
Stopping off for lunch at a fishing village on Paxos Island proves that Greek Island hopping is a must.

A day spent exploring the caves of Antipaxos, a small uninhabited island with photo-worthy swimming holes, is what Greek vacation dreams are made of. 

Our boat stopped at the marina at a quaint little fishing village on Paxos Island with beyond fresh seafood and gyros. Better yet. you could eat amidst the breathtaking cliffs of the island. 

Greece vacations may be all the rage right now, but there is something to be said for getting off those well-worn tourist paths. There’s nothing like doing Greece like a local.

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