Greece

View from Megalo Meteoron by CC user cod_gabriel on Flickr

Introduction

Home to one of the world’s most revered civilizations, Greece has left an indelible mark on the world in many areas that include philosophy, political science, mathematics and sports to only name a few. Because of this, and its outstanding natural environment and remarkably healthy cuisine, Greece has been one of the most popular travel destinations in the world for many years.

Whether it’s the many crumbling columns of a former giant in the world 2,000 years ago, the countless islands that fan out across the Aegean towards Turkey that contain timeless experiences just waiting to be lived, or late night meals that turn into all-night parties, Greece has a peak travel moment that has your name on it.

Greece has been struggling in the wake of a devastating recession brought on by the global financial crisis.  If we wish to help them, one can start by discovering this timeless nation in the coming months, as every travel dollar will go a long way to help get this classic destination back on its feet!

Currency: Euro

Languages: Greek

Parthenon by CC user 72906133@N00 on Flickr

What To Do

After getting settled into your accommodation in Athens, the icon of a nation likely lies within visual range, calling out to you to visit its ancient bones.  The Parthenon, which served as the temple to the goddess that watched over Athens in the olden times, was once the shiniest gem in the crown of the Acropolis, the site of the ancient city of Athens that is seated on a high plateau that cowers over where the present day city resides. Other monuments to various Greek gods are also present, such as the Erectheion, which worships Attica and Poseidon, as well as Athena.

Located near the modern day settlement of the same name, Delphi used to be the temple that housed the oracle of the god Apollo.  Considered by Greeks to be the centre of the universe, the scenery of the surrounding mountains will help you to understand why they thought this way about this site.  Hiking and cycling opportunities abound in this area, so don’t be in a big rush to move on from here when you get to Delphi.

Birthing the movement that gave rise to the best known athletic event in the history of sports, Olympia was the site of a set of athletic competition that took place every four years from about the 8th century BCE to the 4th century AD. Even though the original site today is mostly ruins from the days of yore, the Olympic flame in the modern games is always lit for the first time at the original Olympia stadium using a parabolic mirror near the Temple of Hera, making this place a must for those who eat, breathe and live sports.

meteora monastery by CC user alaskapine on Flickr

After the Roman period of Greece has passed into the annals of history, the Byzantine Empire assumed cultural and imperial control over the land here.  As such, magnificent monasteries were built atop sheer plateaus in Meteora, soaring above the landscape in a scene that may make you gasp upon first sighting it on your travels.

These pillars of stone, broken apart by earthquakes in the ancient past, and shaped by the elements in the eons that followed, were originally only accessible and rope and ladder … today, getting there is much easier, but do respect the sanctity of the monks and nuns that still reside here by covering up, keeping your voice down and acting like you would to be considered an ideal house guest.

While Greece is definitely heavy on cultural highlights, we would be remiss if we ignored the hedonistic, beautiful and sanguine islands that are scattered across the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas like pearls off a broken necklace.

Playing hopscotch between these gems is highly advised for those that have the time, as Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, and Zakynthos, among countless others will stick with you throughout the remainder of your traveling days as one of the best trips to make anywhere in the world.

Santorini-Village of Oia 2 by CC user brucehh on Flickr

Corfu is where the young, fabulous and beautiful should head for sleepless nights and cheap free flowing Greek wine.  White sand beaches, crystalline waters, and old but character-filled provincial towns will keep you occupied during the day, while the thumping nightlife after the sun goes down will keep you moving as long as you can hold out.

Santorini should be the photographer’s choice, as the whitewashed houses and the deep blue doors, window shutters and domes will cause the visually stimulated to cry out in excitement upon arrival.  Built on the remnants of a giant volcanic explosion that occurred 3,500 years ago, the visages here will make for an excellent romantic getaway.

Shipwreck Bay, Zakynthos by CC user annushka_74 on Flickr

Mykonos will appeal to those seeking out a cosmopolitan experience that caters to the needs of just about anybody, as this island is by far the most developed and touristed locale of the major Greek islands. Those that prefer the same sex will especially enjoy their holiday here, as the scene here ranks alongside Ibiza and Gran Canaria as having one of the best gay scenes in Europe.

Finally, those seeking a pleasant holiday in the Aegean that includes a visit to one of the most famous “hidden” beaches in the world will want to set sail for Zakynthos. Shipwreck Beach has been plastered on computer backgrounds around the world, and while most have no clue where it could be, more and more people are finding it here on this formerly low-key Greek isle.

Those who are also seeking to do good will want to look into volunteering with a sea turtle charity. There are a number that do excellent work on this island protecting and nurturing loggerhead sea turtles, helping them get the best possible leg up on a tough life in the ocean that lies beyond.

Moussaka by CC user ganmed64 on Flickr

What To Eat

A treat that is well-loved in the mornings in Greece is Spanakopita, which is a spinach pie that is also filled with feta cheese, onions, and bits of egg. Also enjoyed as a snack during much of the day, it satisfies with its savoury blend of flavours.

Those seeking grilled meats should opt for a Souvlaki, which commonly uses pork as the main protein, though chicken are lamb are commonly featured. While humble in nature, it has been enjoyed in Greece stretching back into prehistoric periods, making it a must try when in the country.

Those seeking something more vegetable based should try Moussaka, a layered dish that consists of eggplant on the bottom, minced lamb in the middle, and a custardy top that will delight most that consume it.  Given the low meat input, this dish is easy to customize to suit vegetarians.

Finally, end your multi-course Greek feast with a sweet and light Baklava.  This dessert is a pastry that is imbued with chopped nuts and is often drizzled with honey, giving it a flavour that is just sweet enough, while providing a texture that truly satisfies!

4 Comments

  • H says:

    Hi, I will be in greece in october and have the following plan in mind and needed your advice.

    Friday, 7th October: Arrive in Athens in the evening. Walk around Plaka neighborhood; see the sights that need to be visited next day and dinner.

    Saturday, 8th October: Acropolis, Parthenon, and any other sites (any ideas would be welcome).

    Sunday, 9th October: Delphi day trip.

    Monday, 10th October: Morning ferry to Mykonos. Stroll around Mykonos town; visit little Venice for sunset; windmills, church and then dinner.

    Tuesday, 11th October: Day trip to Delos, and then head to beaches.

    Wednesday, 12th October: Morning ferry to Santorini. In the afternoon start the hike from Fira to Oia, watch sunset, dinner and back to fira via bus.

    Thursday, 13th October: Head to Akrotiri in the morning; Take a boat tour in the afternoon/early evening and visit the volcano sights, hot springs, Thirassia, white and red beach; take cable car on the way back.

    Friday, 14th October: Beaches (Kamari/Perissa route – going through the towns of ancient Thira/Emporio); Ammoudi Bay or Pyrgos in the evening.

    Saturday, 15th October: Stroll around fira town in the morning. Evening ferry to Heraklion and then drive to hotel in Agios Nikolos.

    Sunday, 16th October: Stroll around Agios Nikoloas and Lake Voulismeni. Then head to Elounda and take happy train to plaka to head to Spinalonga .

    Monday, 17th October: Drive from Ag Nik to Chania. On the way stop at Heraklion, Knossos, and Rethymon to look around at the sights.

    Tuesday, 18th October: Stroll around Chania old town and Lake Kournas. In the afternoon head to one of Marathi, Balos, or Elafonisi beach.

    Wednesday, 19th October. Day trip to Samaria Gorge.

    Thursday, 20th October: Morning flight to Athens from Chania. Spend day in Athens and over night in Athens.

    Friday, 21st October: departure

    I wanted your feedback about our plan. Me and my wife are both interested in historical sightseeing and chilling on some beautiful sandy beaches. We also like to visit local markets to shop around for handicraft etc.

    Could you tell me which area to stay in Athens?

    Whether we should stay in Mykonos town or on a beach in Mykonos. I have heard most of the life is around Mykonos town and at night taxis are hard to find.

    Are 2 nights in Mykonos enough?

    We should stay in Fira or Oia?

    Should we stay in Agios Nikolaos or Elounda?

    Lastly, does our plan for Crete sounds ok. Do 5 nights do the place justice? Should we cut down a night from Santorini and add another to Crete?

    Thanks

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