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Greece Travel Guide

Updated on February 4, 2013
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos
Navagio Beach, Zakynthos

Greece is the cradle of the European civilization – a cliché that expresses however a truth that deserves to be rediscovered in every occasion. Athena, Corinth and Sparta weren’t just myths, but great cities that reached their peak in 700 BC, and Athena became in the 5th century BC the Mediterranean cultural and artistic center, which has left behind magnificent works of architecture, sculpture, drama and literature. The inhabitants of this realm had invented the Renaissance long before its time and they were remarkable in mastering philosophy, art and sports. In today’s Greece the monasteries seem to be part of the rocks they are climbed upon, a three hour siesta is the law and dancing on the tables is a ritual.

Greece’s landscape consists of mountain chains, heavenly islands, groves of emerald olives and golden sand beaches that are opposed to the Aegean Sea’s blue waters. The remote scenic villages, the islands with the jasmine scent and the greatness of the ruins offer a diversity that satisfies even the most demanding tourist. Being a place where drama, democracy and western philosophy were born, Greece contains a lot of historical sites. The most impressive one is the Acropolis, in the city of Athens. The Parthenon’s perfect columns illuminated by the sun rays and the marble’s brilliance inspire admiration and respect to the visitors, like they did hundreds of years ago. A journey in the Peloponnesus will take you into a world of nymphae, satyrs and disguised gods. Take a tour on the stadium in Olympus, visit Agamemnon’s tomb in Micene and watch a classic play in the Epidaurus’ amphitheater. Other archeological sites include the Oracle in Delphi, Apollo’s Temple, the Minoic palace reconstruction in Knosos and the stunning city Akrotiri in Santorini.

The summer program in Greece consists of days spent on the seaside, spectacular sunsets and wild nights in pubs and clubs. The waking call is around the afternoon and goes on with relaxing on the beach, followed by a siesta. You can have your dinner in the port, around 11 o’clock in the evening, and afterwards you can wander through the clubs until 5 o’clock in the morning. The Greek islands are traditionally a heaven for those who adore sunshine and the seaside. Immediately after you’ll leave Athens towards the islands, your skin will become coppery and you inhibitions will disappear. In the Aegean Sea, the black sand in Santorini absorbs all the heat from the sun and maintains it long after the sun sets. Here you can swim in the underground caves and you can indulge yourselves on the long beaches. In the wild Mykonos there is also a beach for nudism. Corfu is surrounded all over by fabulous beaches, and in the IosIslands and Naxos you will find various water sports.

Greece doesn’t mean only pubs, islands and nice girls. If you can miss the fun in the sun you will discover the wild nature filled with tracks where you can recharge your batteries. By foot or by wheels and engine, don’t hesitate to cross the hills with olives, the remote villages and the mountainous pastures. The AlonissosIsland is largely uninhabited, but it’s crisscrossed by tracks. And for the alpinists’ joy, 80% of Greece’s territory consists of mountains – MountOlympus, 2900m high and MountParnasius.

Greece's Tourist Attractions

  • Explore Athens. Start with the Acropolis, where the 5th century BC Parthenon is located, then walk towards Agora, the former social, political and commercial center of Athens. Don’t miss the ArcheologicalMuseum, filled with old marble statues, jewels and ceramics.

  • Discover Delphi, whom the ancients believed to be the center of the world. This pagan religious complex, located in a charming landscape, comprises classical temples, a theatre and a stadium. In the ArcheologicalMuseum in Delphi you’ll find countless interesting artifacts.
  • Admire the former state-city of Corinth, once renowned for its wealth, elegance, immorality and orgy cults. Explore the temples and the theaters then visit the museum.
  • Visit the original Olympic track in Olympia, the place where the Olympics started, between the 8th and 4th centuries BC. Located near the site there are the ArcheologyMuseum and the OlympicsMuseum.
  • Discover the landscape in Meteora, with the six monasteries built on strange rock formations. The monasteries’ total number was 24 and you could get to them using a tackle. Now there are steps carved in the stone.
  • Don’t miss Salonic, the second most important city in Greece, where you’ll find the Archeology Museum in Salonic and which exhibits ancient marble statues and golden jewels from the region of Macedonia. The Byzantine churches are enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Men can visit the peninsula where Mount Athos is located, an autonomous monk state since 1060. Here you can visit 20 monasteries which provide shelter for 1700 monks. Only men can enter this state, upon request.
  • Explore the ruins of Knossos, a Minoic palace which is 3000 years old, the home of one of the first civilizations in Europe. Discoveries that have been made on this site are now exhibited in the ArcheologyMuseum from the IralkioPort in Crete.
  • Visit the white houses on the SantoriniIsland, build on a rock that has a view towards the caldera, a circular depression in the sea created by a volcanic eruption that obliterated the center of the island around the year 1600 BC.
  • Don’t miss Mykonos, famous for its glamorous night life. You’ll find there white cubic buildings, fancy restaurants, modern pubs, lake-side night clubs and some classy hotels.
  • Visit the city of Rhodes. The historical center is an imposing fortress dating from the 14th century, built by the St John’s knights during the crusades. Visit the Palace of the Great Masters, the mosques and the Turkish bath from the 16th century.
  • Don’t miss the Helen Festival with music, dance and theatrical performances in the second century Odeon in Athens and the classical Greek dramas from the 4th century amphitheater in Epidaurus.
  • The beaches in Greece are superb. Some of the best include Lalaria, o gravel beach in Skiathos and Plaka, a stretch of sand in Naxos.
  • Climb the highest mountain in Greece, MountOlympus – 2917m, whom the ancients believed to be the home of Zeus.
  • Go into the depths! You can engage in scuba diving in some locations on the Attic coast, Corfu, Kalamata, Kalymnos, Mykonos, Preveza, Rhoes, Skiathos and Zakynthos, where you’ll find instruction centers and equipment rental.
  • Go into the underground! Greece has around 6000 carst caves, most of them located in Crete. There are organized tours in over 20 of them, and Perama is the biggest and the most impressive one.

Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece

Greek Cuisine

If you walk into a Greek restaurant and you open a menu, the first things you’ll see are the aperitifs. Some of the most popular aperitifs are tsatsiki, made out of yoghurt, garlic and cucumbers, Taramosalata, red caviar with fried eggplants, Horta, boiled dandelions or radish, and cheese croquets. The main dishes include moussaka, stuffed tomatoes, Dolmades (stuffed cabbage leaves), soutzoukakia (meatballs in red sauce), Spaghetti Bolognese and many dishes made out of chicken, calf and lamb meat. But the most are the fish dishes, best accompanied by the Retsina wine. The desserts include yoghurt with honey, caramel cream and baklava.

Temple of Zeus, Athens
Temple of Zeus, Athens

Greek History

Greece and its islands represent a territory with a rich and enduring history. The archeological excavations have shown that the first settlements date from the Paleolithic, 11.000 – 3000 BC. During the second century BC Greece gave birth to the Minoic (2600-1500 BC), Mycenaean (1500-1150 BC) and Cycladic civilizations, in the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea’s center. The classical period in the history of Greece (centuries VI-IVBC) represents the country’s golden age, famous all over the world. In this period the greatest philosophers and mathematicians had lived.

Then a number of invasions and dominations followed – the Macedonians formed a powerful empire, followed by the Romans and the Byzantine Empire that ended with the Turkish invasion. The Ottoman rule lasted for 400 years and represents a dark period. Waiting for their independence, the Greeks started to get organized and many riots broke out against the Turkish oppressors.

The Independence War began in Peloponnesus in 1821 and ended in 1831, with the foundation of a new independent Greek state. For a couple of years the monarchy functioned, but then the Greeks elected Eleutherios Venizelos, who was assassinated a few years later. This resulted in a civil war, followed by the German occupation and the Italian Metaxa that ended in 1974.

What You Should Know

The tourist season in Greece peaks in July and August. The pubs along the beaches and the sun rays over the ancient temples and the avid tourists create a favourable environment for Dyonisic pleasures and full relaxation. If you find this period to be too crowded, visit Greece in May, June or September, when the weather is gorgeous and there are fewer tourists.

Hiking lovers can take advantage of the pleasant temperature to wander through the Greece’s north and center. In the ski areas, the winter brings another season peak, on the slopes of the Parnassos, Pelion and Metsovo mountains. From October to May the prices are usually lower, but the tourist attractions offer less hours for visiting. In this period Greece is hibernating, waiting for the summer turmoil.

The Greeks are very proud of their cultural heritage, and the traditions and customs are different all over Greece. The Orthodox Church has a powerful influence over its lifestyle, especially in the countryside. Smoking is forbidden in means of transport and in public spaces. The local hour is GMT+2 and the summer time is GMT+3. The currency is euro and the electricity is 220V.


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