Greece, you beauty you. Rolling from the Balkan mountains down to the clingfilm-clear waters of the Libyan Sea, this nation is one of the standout stars of the European holiday scene. It’s got resorts for partiers, charming towns for romantic couples, and uber-cool jet-setter escapes, which is what we’ll focus on in this guide to the most expensive places in Greece.
Yep, our list of seven hotspots hops from the celeb-filled bars of Mykonos island in the heart of the Cyclades out to the pine-studded rocks of the Ionian chain in the west. Between those, it pitstops in prestigious Milos and carless Hydra, all to spy out destinations that we think you might just need some extra moolah in the budget to check off the list this year.
We should point out that even the most expensive places in Greece listed below can be done on a budget. Most of the spots we talk about only get pricy when the main summer season hits its stride in June. Others have more off-the-beaten-path sides that shouldn’t break the bank. AKA – don’t be too put off by the prospect of paying $400 a night for a hotel!
Stylo, chic Mykonos has been the jet-setter island of the central Cylades for some decades now. In fact, it was being touted as the millionaire escape of Greece as early as the 1960s. That theme continues on strong today. Just mosey down to the idyllic bays of Psarrou and Ornos, which are invariably clogged up with gleaming yachts that must be worth 100, 200 mil a pop?
Just a cursory glance at Booking.com reveals that hotels in these uber-cool parts of Mykonos can soar past the $700/night mark without even blinking in the peak summer months. But boy are they lux – check out the five-star Alissachni Mykonos, with its private villas and deck pools and boho interiors!
Thing is, Mykonos is a highly seasonal place. The party starts here in May and winds up in September. Between those dates, the cost of everything from car rentals to flights into Mykonos Airport will skyrocket. Outside of those dates, you can come to find a place that’s surprisingly affordable and empty, with the UNESCO history of Delos on the side and east-coast beaches that are rustic and wild.
There’s no doubt that Santorini is up there with the most expensive places in Greece. This coveted isle is among the most bucket-list spots in the whole of Europe. And why not? It’s an isle of sheer drama from tip to toe. Set on a collapsed caldera of an ancient volcano, it looms nearly 1,000 feet above the inky Aegean Sea.
There are tufts of white along the edge of the island. They are the villages of Fira, of Imerovigli, and Oia – luxury honeymoon haunts one and all. There are iconic spa and cave hotels in those that have perhaps the most jaw-dropping sunset views of any on Earth. We’re talking the likes of the Aspaki by Art Maisons, and the Cresanto Luxury Suites, which can sometimes command rates of over $1,000 per night in August.
One thing to remember here is that Santorini isn’t really your classic Greek island destination. Folks come for the incredible views and the trademark cubist villages. They don’t come for sandy beaches and snorkeling. The upshot? You can still appreciate the major draws of Santorini come the winter, only for about 20% of the price of a summer trip. Just saying.
There’s really one reason and one reason alone why Ios is among the most expensive places in Greece: It’s the party mecca of the Cyclades chain. Wedged between Santorini to the south and Naxos to the north, it’s made its name on no-holes-barred partying until dawn, ouzo-soaked lunches, and good-time summer vibes.
All of that happens in just one corner of the island, the Chora (main town) of Ios. That means all those thousands of revelers and yachters that come by to let loose in the peak season between May and August vie for the same array of hotels and aparthotels, cranking up the rates in the process. The soaring summer demand has also fed into the price of cocktails and taverna meals in Ios’s Chora, so bring plenty of bucks to fuel your hedonism.
But Ios doesn’t have to be totally off the menu if you’re traveling on a budget. The bean-shaped island actually has plenty more than just its pumping dance bars. There’s a rugged east coast laden with hidden coves that are snorkeling meccas, plus an interior of pine-clad hills peppered with romantic Orthodox churches. Exploring those areas can usually be done without scaring your accountant away forever.
Perhaps it’s the soft scent of pine and wild thyme in the air? Maybe it’s since Kefalonia featured in the bestselling war romance Captain Corelli’s Mandolin? Or maybe it’s just because this is the biggest and most diverse of the Ionian chain? Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt that Kefalonia is now one of the most coveted islands of western Greece.
There’s one area in particular that stands out among the jet-setter crowds. Cue the northern tip of the isle, around the vibrant harbor of Fiskardo. There, villas hide on lush hillsides between clusters of stone pines and hidden coves crack the coast, gurgling with azure waters and fish that dart this way and that.
If you’re keen to slow the pace a little and crank up the R&R, then that part of Kefalonia is a doozy. Mind you, a house rental can set you back well over $5,000/week in the high season, so it’s certainly not the cheapest of places to visit in the land of moussaka and temple-topped mountains.
When it comes to the cost of holidaying, Crete is a tale of two halves. On the one side, there are parts to this island that are as cheap as olive oil-fried chips. We’re talking the 18-30s party hub of Malia and the resort strips of Rethymno, where bargain hotels fringe the south end of the Aegean Sea. You can vacation there for as little as $50/day. We know because we’ve done it!
However, there’s a yin to that wallet-friendly yang on Crete. The luxury resort area of Elounda is the epicenter of it. Set on a protected bay with glistening waters out front and dusty mountains rising to its back, the town has a lively promenade riddled with cocktail bars, eventually spilling onto the brown-paper sands of Paralia Schisma Elountas.
Pockets of style now also beckon down on the wilder, ruggeder shores of southern Crete. This is the very south end of Greece as a whole, a place almost closer to Tunisia than to Athens. Towns like Matala – a onetime hippy hub but now an elegant party place – and Hora Sfakion – a whitewashed mass of tavernas and hotels under the peaks – await there.
Milos has been celebrated by connoisseurs ever since the discovery of the Venus de Milo . That masterwork of ancient marble is now in the Louvre in Paris, but it’s cemented this island’s image in the annals of history and art and culture. So much so that thousands come each year to tour the 2,000-year-old ruins of Trypiti and see the Roman relics that abound.
Thing is, Milos beguiles pretty much anyone who comes its way with a flurry of the most fantastic coastline you can imagine. It’s all glimmering white travertine and marble that ducks in and out of a turquoise ocean. You’ll see it when swimming in the inlets of Sarakiniko Beach, at the caves in Sikia, and with the empty snorkeling reefs at Tsigrado.
All that’s elevated Milos to a position of high standing on the line up of major island-hopping destinations south of Athens and west of Santorini. The popularity means that demand is high, and so are prices!
Last but most certainly not least on our list of the most expensive places in Greece is Hydra. Sat like a slice of pita bread at the southern end of the Saronic Gulf, this rock-ribbed island has long been an escape for the A-listers of Athens – nay Athens and beyond. Mhmm…the likes of Leonard Cohen and The Beatles even came here throughout the 50s and 60s to write some of their masterworks, or just to chill on the beautiful pebbly coves. Who knows which it was?
The main town is a charming harbor haloing a natural inlet of pure blue water. It’s overlooked by the hunched outline of Mount Eros, where a white-painted monastery clings to the slopes above the tree line. The marina is where the action is at – it’s a hubbub of excellent tavernas, concept clothes stores, and cafes.
Money wise, a trip to Hydra is likely to cost a pretty packet. When the Greek capital heats up around June, oodles of city slicker yachters set sail for this isle. It’s only two hours’ sailing from Piraeus but promises rest, relaxation, and Aegean-lapped villas. Just be warned that rentals and property prices here are some of the highest in Greece – topping $7,000 per square meter last time we checked!
The most expensive places in Greece – our conclusion
Our list of the most expensive places in Greece focuses in on seven islands that have a rep for busting the travel budget just a touch more than the others in the Aegean and Ionian Seas. They are places like Mykonos, which has long been a major magnet for partying celebrities and millionaire yachters, and Hydra, which is the established escape of monied Athenians come the summer.
Just remember that it is possible to travel these destinations without breaking the bank – by coming in the low season, choosing more off-beat areas, and opting for self-catering accommodation.