Greece holidays

Experience Greece

Best Places to Visit

No package holiday to Greece would be complete without a trip to Athens. The capital city is rich in history, with spectacular landmarks and iconic architecture at every turn. It also has the reputation of being one of the birthplaces of critical thinking, philosophy, education, modern civilisation and democracy.

If you arrived into Greece via Thessaloniki in Central Macedonia, then you are in Greece's second city, and this is regarded by many as the country's true capital of culture. A calendar packed with events means a slightly faster pace of life and entertainment firmly rooted in the here and now, rather than looking back through the ages to the ancient past of the country. That being said, Thessaloniki has three millennia of history in its own right, along with several churches on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

The largest of the Greek islands, Crete, is about 60 km wide and 260 km long, a narrow strip of land that lies roughly east-west in the Mediterranean. It is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places on Earth, with the classic combination of sun, sea and sand. Despite being an island, it has a diverse geography, with mountains to the interior and coastal plains teeming with life. It is also home to Minoan ruins, and features in many modern-day myths about the lost civilisation of Atlantis. This in turn was described by Plato, and some people believe that a volcanic eruption in the 16th-17th century BC may have triggered a tsunami that wiped out an advanced civilisation on Crete, taking their knowledge of engineering, science and the arts with them to an untimely end.

Top Landmarks

Athens has many of Greece's most famous landmarks, and exploring the city is a great way to get a taste of Greece’s history and culture. The Acropolis is among the more iconic structures and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was originally the fortification of ancient Athens, and buildings like the Parthenon remain emblems of democracy and the birth of modern civilisation. While you may normally need to pay an entry fee to get up close to these buildings, this is waived for anyone who is a student of a university in the EU, a further demonstration of the value the Greeks place on education.

The Temple of Olympian Zeus stands in ruins, but is still worthy of a visit. It is a century since its column fell, brought down during a thunderstorm, but the stones that formed that column can still be seen where they landed. A trip to the Temple is particularly recommended for those with a passion for sport, as the stadium used in the 1896 staging of the Olympic Games is located close-by. While you are there, the Arch of Hadrian, commonly referred to as Hadrian's Gate, completes the set of three local landmarks in close proximity to one another. This would originally have spanned the road from central Athens out to the Temple of Olympian Zeus - a third and final Olympian landmark for your list.

Entertainment

Shopping is a popular tourist pastime, however, there is a word of warning here, as it is easy to misunderstand where Greek culture stands on the issue of haggling. While many visitors expect to make an offer below the asking price on any given item—particularly at the markets—this is in fact not a common custom. Try to buy something for less than its marked price and you risk a frosty reception, and may in fact cause quite a lot of offence to the trader.

Religious dates are significant in the Greek calendar and Easter is the biggest of them all. This means a springtime visit to the country will offer grand celebrations. On Good Friday there are processions through the streets, but if this sounds too formal for your tastes, then the remainder of the weekend should offer something a little different. The last of the processions take place on the Saturday night, where the arrival of midnight—and of Easter Sunday itself—is often marked with a firework display.

Dining Out

The Greek diet is Mediterranean, comprising of regional vegetables, grains and herbs, a good quantity of olive oil, locally caught seafood, and sumptuous lamb. While vegetarianism is not widely recognised in the country, the natural diet itself is much more focused on vegetables than elsewhere, and this should ensure that vegetarians and even vegans can find food to suit their tastes without too much difficulty.

It might not be fine dining, but for many people, a visit to Greece is an opportunity to try the iconic comfort food feast of a traditional Greek kebab. Known as 'gyros'—which is pronounced jee-ros—these consist of a flatbread with grilled meat cooked on a skewer, and a selection of dips, including perhaps the best known option, tzatziki. This is a yoghurt-based sauce with garlic and olive oil, chopped cucumber, and possibly its most instantly recognisable flavour, a cooling hit of mint which helps to take the heat out of whatever dish it is added to.

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Need to know

Language

The UK is the second-biggest tourism market for Greece, and combined with the United States, the total number of English-speaking visitors is even higher. If you are travelling to any of the main cities or holiday hotspots, therefore, there should be a good chance that you will be understood and able to communicate well enough with shopkeepers, waiters and hotel staff.

Currency

Greece uses the euro. Like other participants in the single currency, Greek euro notes and coins have their own design, but you should still find it easy to spend those issued by other countries, too. Exchanging sterling shouldn't be difficult, but it can be more direct to withdraw Greek euros from a cash machine and avoid having to look for a bureau de change with good rates.

Visas

Package holidays to Greece of anywhere up to three months don't need a visa for British citizens. If you want to spend longer than that in Greece, you'll need a residence permit. You will of course need a valid passport to travel at all, and this should also include your return journey. If your passport's expiration date has been extended by 12 months by a British consulate or embassy, the Greek authorities will still accept it.

Climate

Greece has a hot and dry summer climate, with the higher temperatures and almost uninterrupted sunshine starting in April and lasting through until November. However, things change considerably during the winter months, and from late November well into the New Year, it is rainy and rather cold. The contrast with the summertime (when the only rainfall tends to be in the form of short, light showers) is quite stark: something to be aware of when planning a visit during the colder, wetter months of the year.

Main Airports

Greece has a good number of international airports, giving you a choice of destinations when flying into the country. The main one is Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens, the largest and busiest airport in the country. More than 18 million passengers use its terminal each year, and it is a key transport hub for connections to other destinations too. Thessaloniki is another crucial airport for international arrivals, while Heraklion is another of the busiest to fly into, and actually ranks second in the country in terms of its total number of passengers each year.

Flight Options

The peak tourism season has a big effect on the flight schedules and on the available routes, so in the summer you should find many more options are open to you. This may make it easier to fly direct to one of the islands, for instance, or it may simply mean that you can travel at your preferred time of day. As well as a greater number of flights to the Greek islands, there is a similar rise in routes to the mainland during the summer months, and many of these are operated by the lower budget airlines.

Travel Advice

If visiting outside of the peak season, check that the route you want to take is still available and be prepared to possibly pay extra if the low-cost airlines are not serving your destination at that particular time of year.

Other Transport Options

Flying is by far the quickest and easiest way to reach Greece, but not the only way. Overland travel is possible, but will take around three days, non-stop, using a combination of cars, ferries and trains. There’s no doubt that this is a unique and exciting way to reach the islands – just remember that advance planning is essential, and that you may well end up paying more than you would for a flight.

Getting Around

Travel within Greece is relaxed, with an extensive road network, affordable rail options and convenient ferry services. Flights do run between most of the Greek islands, but if you’re looking for the scenic route, hop on a ferry. A regular sight, particularly during picturesque Greek summers, this mode of transport is the ideal way to see more of Greece’s enchanting scenery.

Bus

The majority of Greek towns are small and quaint enough to explore on foot. If you’re visiting one of Greece’s major towns, however, you’ll be pleased to know that they all offer a local bus service. These can mainly be found in places like Athens, Patra, Kalamata and Thessaloniki.

Train

The majority of Grecian destinations lack a metro system, with the only city large enough to warrant one being Athens. However, Greece does boast an affordable rail network. In general, trains can be relatively slow and the routes tough to navigate, but in tourist havens like Athens, the network tends to be more advanced.

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FACTS

  1. Greece is one of the most celebrated countries on the planet, with major influences stemming from ancient philosophy via Socrates and Plato, to ancient and modern sport via the Olympic Games.
  2. Its popularity as a tourist destination almost outweighs its popularity as a place to live: six-monthly statistics show as many as 17 million visitors, compared with a permanent population of just 11 million in the entire country.
  3. The vast majority of international visitors come from elsewhere in Europe, accounting for around 90 per cent of the country's total tourist trade each year, although this is changing over time, as Greece finds favour with more and more holidaymakers from further afield.

FACTS

  1. Greece is one of the most celebrated countries on the planet, with major influences stemming from ancient philosophy via Socrates and Plato, to ancient and modern sport via the Olympic Games.
  2. Its popularity as a tourist destination almost outweighs its popularity as a place to live: six-monthly statistics show as many as 17 million visitors, compared with a permanent population of just 11 million in the entire country.
  3. The vast majority of international visitors come from elsewhere in Europe, accounting for around 90 per cent of the country's total tourist trade each year, although this is changing over time, as Greece finds favour with more and more holidaymakers from further afield.

Where to go in Greece

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