Greece is famous for its illustrious history as the cradle of Western civilization, as well as its thousands of islands. In modern Greece, you’ll enjoy a relaxing lifestyle during the day that comes to life after the sun goes down. Whether you’re looking to party it up, taste some of the best cuisine on the Mediterranean, or lose yourself in a bygone era – we’ll let you know where to go in Greece.
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In the past couple decades, the transportation network in Greece has been significantly upgraded. Road, rail, city transport, and airports have all been expanded and improved, making it much easier to navigate the mainland. If you’re looking to travel to one of the many islands, ferries are going to be your best bet, especially if you want to island hop. Taking a ferry can be an experience in itself, plus they’ll take you where you want to go.
Most of Greece enjoys a pleasant Mediterranean climate. The Pindus mountain range has a large effect on the weather of the country, with areas directly to the west much wetter, while the east can be dry and windy in the summer. Other mountainous areas will feature alpine conditions, with snow in the higher elevation regions. Still, most of the popular destinations are warm for the majority of the year, and trips to the country are thus viable year-round.
Where to go in Greece
The Greek capital is an odd place nowadays. Rapid modernization has made it a sometimes congested, confusing jumble of a city. Still, the changing face of Athens makes for a wealth of activities and establishments to discover. New restaurants, shops, and bars have been cropping up around the ancient city. The most famous landmark in Athens is, of course, the Acropolis. The magnificent historic complex rises up above the city, with the fabulous Parthenon at its apex. It’s one of, if not the most, recognizable relics of classical antiquity in the world and is worth the trip alone to say you’ve been there. Athens may be a bit rough around the edges, but with a laid-back lifestyle coupled with a nightlife that goes on much later than most places – you might just get sucked in.
This peninsula lies only an hour west of Athens, and is home to some of the best historical and cultural sights on mainland Greece. From Olympia (see below) to remnants of the Byzantines, Franks, Venetians, and more – Peloponnese offers a wealth of things to see and do. Check out the chic port town of Nafplio or explore the remote Mani peninsula to find less traveled villages and stunning vistas. While the islands might get a lot of the attention, Peloponnese is proof that the mainland is just as worth a visit. Plus its proximity to Athens make it a convenient side trip!
For history buffs, a trip to Olympia is an essential part of any Greek getaway. It was the site of the original Olympic Games, and was even used for some events during the 2004 Athens Summer Games. Remnants of the temples, buildings, and even the original start line from the stadium remain to this day. The games date back to the 8th century BC and continued for over 1000 years before they were abolished. A trip to Olympia is truly a step back into a different era, and is just as impressive as exploring many of the famous Ancient Roman complexes that dot the Italian landscape.
This Greek island located in the Cyclades is one of the premier party destinations in Europe for young people. Though visitors no longer sleep on the beach in sleeping bags like they used to, the beaches and towns are still hubs of life and hedonism in late summer especially. Spend the day relaxing and wandering the beaches and streets. Enjoy a late dinner, then get ready to lose yourself to the crowds around 11. Like many places in Greece, the festivities last throughout the night, with most revelers not hitting the hay until the sun starts to come up. In addition, prices are usually relatively cheap compared to other destinations that cater to young clubbers, though it can still add up depending on how much you ‘enjoy yourself’.
Another picturesque Greek island which also doubles as a renowned party destination, Mykonos is sometimes known is the ‘Ibiza of Greece’. The town is exactly what you’d imagine from a Greek locale, with white buildings, windmills, and sandy shores. During the winter, visitors can enjoy the subdued and relaxing atmosphere, while during peak season throngs of partiers and tourists flock to Mykonos. Prices can skyrocket during this time, so only visit if you have the extra cash to spend. The island is also a well-known destination for gay visitors. Mykonos is definitely worth a trip for young revelers, though you might be better off with Ios if you want to save a bit of money.
Like Ios and Mykonos, Santorini is another island in the Cyclades, and is easily the most visually stunning of the three. The Minoan volcanic eruption that occurred 3600 years ago obliterated much of the landscape, leaving massive cliffs, craters, and a large water-filled caldera. The eruption is often believed to be the inspiration for the legend of Atlantis. The traditional town of Oia is worth a trip, as is most everything on the island. Santorini is the location most likely to take your breath away in all of Greece, and should absolutely be visited after you’ve had your fill of the nearby party lifestyle.
It’s the largest, most populated, and arguably most well known Greek island. Gorgeous beaches, remnants of some of the oldest civilizations in the country, and great food are just a few reasons why Crete has remained a popular getaway. The size of the island means there is much more diversity here than in many other destinations on this list. Cliffs, coves, and sandy beaches line the coasts while snowcapped mountains can be found in the interior. Overall however, it’s the culture of the land that makes a lasting impression on so many that make the trip. The local diet is incredibly healthy but also very tasty. In addition, great wines and shot of raki can give you a kick to go along with your meal. Crete serves as a great window into the Greek way of life and history, while also maintaining its own unique culture.
Both the island and city of Corfu are worth a trip if you’re looking for a slightly different experience than some of the other destinations. The island was an important defense point against the Ottoman Turks, and the city has been declared a “castle city” as result of its many fortifications. The island has been under both Venetian and British rule at various points in its history, and influences of both can still be seen – from Italian inspired cuisine to a love of cricket. The old town of Corfu is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets that, while confusing, can be a joy to explore. Take the time to discover both the city and the island, and you’ll come across many imposing historical fortifications that offer great views of the bays, cities, and surrounding landscape.
How much does it cost?
Like most far away destinations, getting there is expensive and this is especially true with Greece. Expect a round trip flight between Pearson and Athens to run at least $1200 Canadian or more. Definitely look at layovers as opposed to non stop flights (as they can be around $200 more expensive). Be sure to adjust your arrival and departure dates as well as your airline of choice to find the best possible deal.
Despite the well-publicized economic problems in the Eurozone and Greece in particular, it is not an overly cheap place to visit. On average expect to spend about $118 per day, with a budget of $57 for accommodation and $37 for food. If you’re thrifty, you could probably get by with closer to $48 per day while the high-end lifestyle will cost around $283 per day. These prices will vary considerably depending on where you are. Though the islands are beautiful and one of the main reasons to visit Greece, expect many of the more popular ones to set you back a bit. Still, there are always bargains and less-touristy areas waiting to be discovered if you look hard enough.
Health and Safety
There is no nationwide advisory for Greece and the Canadian government recommends normal security procedures throughout the whole country. That being said, there are still potential dangers you should be aware of. Due to the austerity measures imposed on Greece, protests and demonstrations are common, especially in Athens. These can occur on short notice and may turn violent, so definitely avoid all public gatherings. Keep in mind these can also disrupt local transport so you might have your plans forcefully changed. There are also periodic terrorist attacks or bombings perpetrated by ultra-left groups, so be aware especially in urban areas.
Though the transportation infrastructure has been greatly improved, road safety is not great and the accident rate is among the highest in the EU. Be careful as there are aggressive drivers, difficult terrain, dangerous motorcycles and mopeds, and sometimes-shoddy rental cars (be sure to rent from a legit agency).
Petty crime is a danger as it usually is in tourist areas. To stay safe, avoid secluded areas in urban regions. In addition, the Athens districts of Monastiraki and Omonia are best avoided. Sexual assaults have also been known to occur, particularly on the islands, so be wary of accepting drinks or rides from strangers.
Overall though, Greece is a relatively safe country despite the current political, economic, and social problems they face. As long as you use your best judgment, there shouldn’t be anything standing in the way of a truly memorable trip – for all the right reasons.
These are just a few examples of where to go in Greece, there’s tons more to see and do. If you think somewhere else should be on the list, let us know in the comments. Check out our past Country of the Week for more general information about the history and culture of Greece. For more information about currency in Greece, check out our spotlight on the euro.
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