Joys of Traveling > Greece > Guide to Visiting Greece

Guide to Visiting Greece

Greece is a country of mysteries, myths and legends, some of which have not been revealed to this day. Even if you are visiting Greece for the umpteenth time, you will never get bored here. Every time this country will surprise you and you will have a reason to keep coming back.

It is impossible to describe holidays in Greece in a few words. Despite the fact that this is a very small country, it comprises of numerous lands, each of which impresses with its color and beauty. A significant part of Greece and its capital, Athens, is located on the Balkan Peninsula, and numerous islands in the Aegean, Mediterranean, Cretan, Thracian and Ionian seas.

The islands represent the main tourist pride of this country. It is not for nothing that Greece is called the “Land of a Thousand Islands”. At the moment there are more than 160 inhabited and at least 1250 uninhabited islands that belong to Greece. The largest ones – CreteRhodes , Corfu , Euboea (or Evia) – attract tens of thousands of tourists every year, despite the crisis in the country and the world.

Despite the fact that the islands are located close to each other, they are very different. For example, Folegandros is mountainous and deserted, while Santorini is bubbly and fun. Thousands of people visit this place. In a two-week vacation you will have time to see several islands at once.

Different regions to visit in Greece

There is a lot of see and do in Greece. We like to break it down into several regions so as to make it easier to make our travel plans.

1. Attica – most famous for ancient history

athens
The capital of Greece is Athens

The most famous area belongs to the central part of Greece – Attica. It is here that the cradle of European civilization is located – the capital city of Athens with its incredible Acropolis. Ancient temples and theaters, squares that remember the great orators and philosophers, the list of sights of the capital looks endless, and it is easy to spend a whole vacation here. And do not forget that Athens and the surrounding cities are famous for their nightclubs and entertainment.

But if you decide plan a short trip around the region and not just Athens, then you must visit the temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion and the Byzantine monastery of Daphni. And then you can relax at one of the popular resorts. The most famous are Loutraki, Sounion, Lagonissi, Glyfada. All of them guarantee excellent service and beautiful clean beaches. It is also convenient to travel from Attica to neighboring regions of the country, for example, to the Peloponnese peninsula.

2. Peloponnese, Western Greece and the Ionian Islands

Perhaps, one vacation will not be enough to explore this region, you will have to return to Greece. And perhaps more than once.

The huge Peloponnese peninsula is full of sights. Acropolises, ancient cities, Byzantine temples and Ottoman mosques, fortresses, Mycenaean tombs. This is one of the most beautiful regions of the country. Vacation opportunities are also endless. From the west, the peninsula is washed by the Ionian Sea, from the south and east by the Mediterranean.

Peloponnese
Coast of the Peloponnese

There are many resorts in the Peloponnese, for every taste and budget. The region also includes the Ionian Islands. The most famous, Zakynthos , Corfu and Kefalonia attract fans of beautiful beaches.

Western Greece will appeal to fans of ancient history, Sparta and Corinth are located here. The nature of the region is also very picturesque – mountains, capes, sandy beaches and the Corinth Canal.

3. Thessaly and Central Greece – for Delphi and Meteora

The geographical center of the country is the administration of Thessaly and Central Greece.

The main city of the region is called Larisa. The region is washed by the Aegean Sea, there are many resort towns here. But people come here not for beaches and sunbathing, but mostly for the sake of sightseeing.

The list of local attractions is well known even to those tourists who have never been to Greece. For example, there are incredible ruins of the temple of Apollo in Delphi , where in ancient times the oracle predicted the future.

Delphi

Then there is Meteora, fantastic monasteries in the mountains, their name is translated literally as “stones in the air”. As well as Byzantine churches, ancient ruins and picturesque panoramas. The region of Central Greece should definitely be included in your itinerary if you are interested in the history of brilliant Hellas.

4. Macedonia and Thrace

The northernmost region of Greece is called Macedonia and Thrace.

The region borders on Macedonia and  Bulgaria, and from the south it is kissed by the Aegean Sea. Both architecturally and culturally, the region is very different from the rest of Hellas. First of all, it is here that the famous resort peninsula of Halkidiki is located. The peninsula is divided into three “teeth” – Kassandra , Sithonia and Athos.

Beach in Kassandra
Beach in Kassandra

The first two are entirely for tourists, guaranteeing them marvelous beaches and a relaxed holiday. Mount Athos with an autonomous monastic territory belongs to the monks and the clergy. To visit it, you need to comply with a number of formalities and obtain special permission. But no permission is needed to see Thessaloniki, one of the oldest cities in Greece.

Mount Athos
Mount Athos

In this region you should also consider visiting Mount Olympus, home of the ancient pantheon of deities, the seaside town of Kavala and Kastoria. In the northern part of Greece, a lot of towns with ancient history have been well preserved. So rent a car and hit the road for an adventure!

5. Epirus and Western Macedonia

In the northwest of Greece is the region of Epirus and Western Macedonia. The central city of the region is Ioannina. Ioannina attracts a few tourists with its medieval castle, Byzantine basilicas and heritage from the Ottoman period.

The most famous seaside town in this region is called Igoumenitsa, and the best beach is Karavostasi. It is convenient to visit neighboring Albania as the distances between the countries are small.

6. Aegean islands – most popular in Greece

The North and South Aegean Islands are one of the most popular regions in Greece.

The administrative center is the city of Piraeus, the most popular islands are Lemnos, Lesvos , Thassos , Mykonos , Rhodes and Kos . There is a ferry service between the islands and you can easily see several islands in one vacation.

Don’t miss the city of Samos with its outstanding Archaeological Museum, the thermal springs on the island of Lesvos, the birthplace of Hippocrates, the island of Kos, as well as the relaxed and incredibly atmospheric Mykonos. On Lemnos, wine tastings await you, and on Rhodes, the Palace of the Grand Masters, charming Lindos and ancient Kamiros.

Palace of the Grand Masters in Rhodes
Palace of the Grand Masters on the hilltop in Rhodes

You can spend more than one vacation on a trip to the Aegean Islands, and there is always a reason to come back here.

7. Crete – the sunniest Greek Island

The last, seventh region of Greece is the island of Crete. The southernmost, warmest and sunniest Greek island welcomes guests all year round. It is true, you can fly to Crete in May and October. The swimming season here is the longest in Greece, and on the south coast of Crete it is always a little warmer.

Elounda-Crete
Elounda, Crete

However, people come here not only for the sake of the sun and beaches, although they are excellent on the island. The Minoan civilization, which dominated Crete about 5,000 years ago, left incredible architectural masterpieces.

And the later inhabitants of the island – the Romans, the Venetians, the Turks, continued the glorious tradition. And now on the streets of the cities of Crete you can observe the original squares, basilicas, mosques, fortresses and modern tourist locations. The list of local attractions is also diverse – there is the Palace of Knossos, and the ghost island of Spinalonga, the azure bay of Balos.

Most Visited Islands of Greece

Crete, as written above is the largest island of Greece, which is surrounded by three seas: Ionian, Cretan and Libyan. The main attraction of the island is the Palace of Knossos. According to legend, it was there that the labyrinth of the Minotaur was located.

Knossos Palace
Knossos Palace

Crete has dozens of beaches, hotels, guest houses and restaurants, as well as olive oil factories and water parks. There is a bus service between the cities on the island, so you can do without renting a car. We recommend Crete to those who want civilization and entertainment at par with mainland, but with an island flavor.

Santorini 
Santorini

Santorini is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world. The cities of Imerovigli, Oia and Fira with snow-white houses are located on top of a sheer cliff opposite the volcano. The best time to walk around these cities and enjoy the views is at sunrise and sunset.

The most convenient beaches are Kamari and Perissa with black sand of volcanic origin. A sunbed per person costs from 4 €⁣.

Rhodes  is a popular island among tourists. It is suitable for families with children. It has a water park, a zoo, ancient fortresses and dozens of pebble beaches.

Plaka on Milos Island
Plaka on Milos Island

MilosThe length of the island is only 21 km, but there are many sparsely populated and unusual beaches. For example, Sarakiniko Beach looks like the surface of the moon: instead of sand, there are snow-white rocks of an unusual shape.

If you like equipped beaches, choose Paliohoris with colorful rocks or Firiplaka with clear water. Sun loungers there cost from 6 €⁣. They may not be enough if you arrive after 11 am. The most exotic and wild beach is the unequipped Tsigrado. This is a tiny cove with clear turquoise water where you can swim right under the cliffs. But it is difficult to get there. You have to go down into the crevice between the rocks, holding on to the rope.

Folegandros is a rocky island with even fewer tourists than Milos. The main attraction is the Church of Our Lady on the top of the hill in the town of Chora. This is the best viewpoint on the island. CNN has included Hora in its list of the seven most beautiful villages in Europe.

Folegandros should appeal to those who love mountains and solitude. But there are fewer hotels, and prices are higher than on the popular islands. For example, in June, three nights in a three-star hotel in Folegandros cost about €270 , and in Rhodes about €216.

Corfu has a varied terrain. On the one hand, there are gently sloping beaches where it is good to swim with children, on the other, rocks. The island is very green and suitable for independent trips.

On Zakynthos tourists go for Navagio. This is a bay with blue water, which is surrounded by high cliffs. On the beach of Navagio lies an old rusty ship covered in tourists’ autographs.

Navagio beach
Navagio beach

Ios is an island in the southern Aegean. It is tiny, but at the same time quite densely populated. According to statistics, there are 17 local residents per square kilometer. It is worth coming here for the views that are not inferior to Santorini. There are several picturesque mills on the mountain, and the church overlooks a narrow bay where sea liners from other islands enter.

Aegina is located an hour from Athens. Go there not for parties but across the sea to pine trees. And the water is clear even in the port. Among the attractions are the Orthodox monastery and the temple of Aphaia.

Most Visited Sights in Greece

Athens Acropolis – One of the wonders of the world, without which the panorama of Athens is unthinkable. This Acropolis – the main attraction of Greece – was one of the first to be listed by UNESCO as being of great cultural and historical value. The foundation stone of this significant temple was laid around 447 BC. Once there was a majestic statue of Athena, but it was taken to Istanbul, where it was ruined in a fire. Not far from the Parthenon is the Erechteion, which, according to legend, was built on the site of a long-standing dispute between the gods Poseidon and Athena. When the god of the seas got angry and struck the ground with his trident, a spring gushed near the temple. At the entrance are statues of Caryatids, decorated with ancient mosaics. They are more than 2000 years old.

Acropolis in Athens
Athens Acropolis

You can buy a ticket for 20 euros. Students and pupils receive a discount. The Acropolis is closed on weekends and national holidays. You can get there by metro and get off at the Acropoli station.

Mount Olympus – What to see in Greece, if not the abode of the legendary gods? Known to everyone with some knowledge about ancient Greek myths, Mount Olympus continues to attract thousands of travelers and pilgrims from all over the world. According to ancient legends, ancient gods led by Zeus lived on the top of this mountain. It is now a popular tourist attraction. It is not too high – just over 2900 meters above sea level. There are paid lifts, as well as roads for tourist transport. Those who wish can reach the very top on foot, but first you need to obtain permission from the directorate of the reserve.

Mount Olympus

Archaeological Museum of Olympia – It is here that the ruins of the Temple of Zeus are kept, which was once one of the seven wonders of the world. It was so huge for the ancient world that it gradually began to be considered a miraculous building – supposedly it was erected by the gods themselves. Unfortunately, divine intervention did not save the majestic temple from destruction – in 402 AD. Emperor Theodosius ordered the destruction of all pagan structures, including the Temple of Zeus. What people did not destroy was finally finished off by an earthquake that happened about 100 years later. Now only a few fragments remain from the temple of Zeus. Nevertheless, every year thousands of tourists come to look at these fragments and see with their own eyes the real history of the Ancient World.

Museum of Olympia
Museum of Olympia

Monasteries of Meteorathese incredible religious buildings that are located on the very top of a sheer cliff. On foggy days, they seem to be floating right in the sky. Until the middle of the 20th century, there was no road connection with the monastery. Any traveler and pilgrim had to climb a very steep staircase of several thousand steps, and food baskets were lifted on special ropes.

The monasteries are open for visiting by pilgrims from April to September, including weekends. Inside you can see ancient frescoes, some of which were created in the 10th century AD. Entrance costs 3 euros.

Monasteries of Meteora
Monasteries of Meteora

Knossos palace – It is impossible to ignore this masterpiece of architecture in Crete. According to legend, the Palace of Knossos is the most likely residence of the mythical Minotaur, who once terrified the entire island of Crete. The palace of Knossos is very different from others in its interior. Inside you can see bright frescoes that are more than 2000 years old. In the 20th century, it was extensively reconstructed by Arthur Evans, so looking at the remains of the palace, one can imagine how majestic it used to be.

Knossos palace
Knossos palace

Cave Lake Melissani – Greece is known not only for monuments of architecture and history. The islands amaze with their amazing nature. The lake, located inside a karst cave on the island of Kefalonia, is known to the whole world, although it was discovered only recently. In 1963, a local shepherd got lost and accidentally opened the entrance to the cave, where he saw an incredible sight – a turquoise lake illuminated from above with the purest spring water. Further excavations showed that the lake was previously known to people – the god of fertility Pan was worshiped here, but then the magical place was forgotten for many centuries.

Melissani Lake

Panathinaikos – The famous ancient stadium, built entirely of white marble, was used to host the first Olympic Games in 1870. It was once again used at the 2004 Olympics – archery competitions were held here. And the very first competitions in this stadium happened even before the birth of Christ – in 333 BC. This perfectly preserved stadium continues to be visited by lovers of antiquity, because it perfectly captures the spirit of Ancient Greece.

 

Panathinaikos
Panathinaikos

Valley of Butterflies in Rhodes – Mentioning the natural attractions of Greece, one cannot help but recall this reserve, which for several decades has been forcing tourists to defend huge queues at the entrance. This small valley – just a few square kilometers – is home to several hundred species of rare butterflies. Some of them are no longer found in the wild. Most insects can be seen from May to September. It is forbidden to make noise in the park, break trees, etc., so as not to disturb the beauties.

Valley of the Butterflies

Theater of Dionysus – One of the main sights of Greece is the theater of Dionysus. It is included in the list of the most ancient theaters in the world and is located near the walls of the famous Acropolis. The first mention of this place dates back to the 5th century BC. At first, there was a wooden stage, which was soon replaced by a marble one. In the forefront there are nominal chairs – emperors and governors of Athens once sat on them. Nero’s famous speech was also delivered here. On weekends, blood was shed here – gladiator fights were fought, and actors of the local theater performed on weekdays. A large-scale reconstruction in 2010 breathed new life into the building.

Dionysus
Dionysus Theater

Delphi – The historic city is located in the heart of Greece, and its center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was here, according to ancient Greek legends, that there were oracles that predicted the fate of a person. Now the temple of Apollo (V-IV centuries BC), the theater, stadiums and even the treasury of the Siphnos remained from the legendary city. And the first settlements on the site of Delphi were formed in 1600 BC.

 

Amphitheater in Delphi
Amphitheater in Delphi

Plaka – If you want to see Athens exactly as it was many hundreds of years ago, you should visit its historical center, which is called Plaka. The buildings here have hardly changed since the time of construction. Many of them are over 400 years old. Moreover, almost each of them was erected on the foundation of ancient times. The quiet city center is free from annoying advertising and crowds of tourists, so those who are looking for solitude and silence will like it. It is in Plaka that the main attractions of Athens are located, including the Library of Hadrian, the Roman Forum, the Tower of the Winds.

The streets of Plaka Athens
The streets of Plaka Athens

Medieval Rhodes – Once it was a Turkish settlement, and an old fortress on a hill, founded in the 14th century, reminds of those times. It was here that the Colossus of Rhodes once stood, a huge structure, rightfully ranked among the wonders of the world of antiquity. Now here you can see the old market, buying some homemade souvenirs from Turkish merchants, as well as numerous ancient mosques. This town is a real interweaving of Greek and Turkish culture, the only place where they coexist peacefully side by side. It is this symbiosis that attracts tourists.

Rhodes palace
Rhodes palace

Mount Athos – One of the places of worship for Christians is Mount Athos, located in the southern part of Crete. The first legends about religious buildings at the very top date back to the 4th century AD. There is even a legend that it was at the foot of Mount Athos that a ship with John the Theologian moored, who brought the news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Cretans. In the VI century, the emperor of Byzantium, Constantine, gave the monks the whole land of this elevation, where they live to this day.

Mount Athos in Crete
Mount Athos in Crete

Now it is a full-fledged monastic republic within Crete. The monasteries are open to pilgrims, but only for males. According to legend, this started from the time when the emperor’s daughter, Plakidia, wanted to climb the mountain, but the icon suddenly came to life and did not allow the woman to enter the holy land. In addition, even men will have to obtain special permission from the abbot before visiting the monasteries.

Mistra – The ancient city, lying just 8 kilometers from the legendary Sparta. Of course, Sparta is much more known to travelers. But Mistra once rivaled her neighbor for influence. After all, it was founded at the very beginning of the second millennium by the crusaders who went through these lands to Constantinople. Interesting architecture and location of buildings. Around the main fortress, all the houses are located in a semicircle, in the form of a Roman amphitheater. Almost immediately after its foundation, the city became one of the most famous and wealthy in Greece.

Mistra
Mistra

Many philosophers, scientists and politicians who left a significant mark on history lived here – George Plethon, Emperor John, Nicephorus Moskhopul. After 300 years, it was Mistra that became the last refuge of Byzantine culture before its death. For many years the city remained the capital of the Ottoman Empire. But from the beginning of the XVIII century, he gradually began to lose ground. The last straw was the Greek Revolution of 1821, when a significant part of the old city was destroyed and almost all the inhabitants left their homes. After 100 years, the beautiful capital city was completely empty and is now called a ghost town. A kind of Greek Chernobyl. It will be very interesting for tourists to walk along the ancient winding streets, where time has stopped forever.

Chania – Venice is best known for its many canals and bridges. But Greece also has its own Italian corner. The Greek city of Chania has its own harbor, which belongs to the national architectural monuments. The first buildings for mooring ships here date back to the 12th century. Near the harbor is the Maritime Museum, where you can see ancient galleys and accessories for maritime affairs. Chania for its long history managed to be in the hands of the Byzantines, Greeks, Italians and even the Egyptians. Each nationality has left its mark on the harbor and made it truly unique and unforgettable.

Old Venetian Harbor and the waterfront of the city of Chania
Old Venetian Harbor and the waterfront of the city of Chania

Thessaloniki – The second largest city in Greece, which is definitely worth a visit not only for beach lovers, but also for those who are interested in the history of the Ancient World. In addition, Thessaloniki is located in the continental part of Greece, therefore it has its own distinctive history, different from the island. According to legend, the city was founded by the Byzantine king Cassander. Numerous ancient religious buildings are located on its territory: the Basilica of St. Dmitry, the Church of St. Sophia, the triumphal arch of Emperor Galerius. The symbol of the city is the famous White Tower, standing by the sea. It is already more than 600 years old, and the foundation on which it stands belongs to the early Greek culture.

 

Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki

Rethymnon – The picturesque town, the second largest on the island of Crete, boasts a historic center that attracts hundreds of tourists every year. In addition, music festivals are regularly held here, where famous bands and bands from all over the world come together. The most famous building of the city is the Fortezza fortress built by the Venetians, which is already over 600 years old. The construction was so impressive for its time that more than 100 thousand people were employed at the construction at the same time. Inside there is an exposition dedicated to the influence of Italian culture on Greece of those times. The monastery of Preveli, located not far from the city, also deserves attention. Its library contains several thousand ancient manuscripts dating back to the times of the Venetian Republic. The monastery is open to tourists all year round.

Rethymnon lighthouse

Weather in Greece

The tourist season is open in Greece all year round, especially since the most interesting holidays begin here in December and continue until February. It is also better to visit sights at this time as there are either few or no tourists at all, and the ticket price is reduced quite a bit. However, winter weather is not at all suitable for swimming in the sea.

The coldest months in these places are January and December when the air temperature does not rise above 10-12 degrees. February and March warm up to 15-17 degrees, and in May some daring travelers declare open the swimming season which eventually lasts until the end of October. In November, strong winds, rains and frequent storms at sea will not allow even the most desperate men to swim, although this month is not so cold yet.

The Dodecanese islands – RhodesKos, Symi and others to the south have a milder climate and a longer beach season, unlike the northernmost island of Greece – Corfu.

Greece Holiday with Children

Greece is a country that is perfect for holidays with kids. Little tourists of all ages will not be bored here. For children from 3 to 10 years old, hotels with entertainment plans are suitable. These are in no way inferior to Turkish ones, but you should not count on the availability of such a service in a three-star hotel. Days on the beach can be combined with visits to water parks, aquariums, oceanariums and zoos, of which there are plenty throughout the country.

Best places in Greece for holidays with kids

  • On Rhodes, the city of Faliraki. It is located not so far from the capital of the island – only 12 km. It is famous for its clean beaches with a gentle entry into the water.
  • In Crete – Rethymno and Agios Nikolaos, the hotels of the first beach line in these cities often provide benefits for children.
  • On the Halkidiki peninsula, the resorts of Tolo, Kassandra and Sithonia, protected from the winds by cozy bays, are suitable for relaxing with children.
  • In Corfu, children will love to relax in the capital of the island, Kerkyra. There is entertainment for every taste, from sightseeing to swimming on the beach.

Leave a Comment