2021 Greece Vacation Guide
With well over a hundred inhabited islands and a territory that stretches from the south Aegean to the Balkan countries, Greece offers enough to fill months of travel. The historic sites span four millennia, encompassing both the legendary and the obscure, where a visit can still seem like a personal discovery. Beaches are parcelled out along a convoluted coastline equal to France’s in length, and islands range from backwaters where the boat calls twice a week to resorts as cosmopolitan as any in the Mediterranean.
Modern Greece is the result of extraordinarily diverse influences. Romans, Arabs, Latin Crusaders, Venetians, Slavs, Albanians, Turks, Italians, not to mention the Byzantine Empire, have been and gone since the time of Alexander the Great. All have left their mark: the Byzantines in countless churches and monasteries; the Venetians in impregnable fortifications in the Peloponnese; and other Latin powers, such as the Knights of Saint John and the Genoese, in imposing castles across the northeastern Aegean. Most obvious is the heritage of four centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule which, while universally derided, contributed substantially to Greek music, cuisine, language and way of life. Significant, and still-existing, minorities – Vlachs, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Gypsies – have also helped to forge the hard-to-define but resilient Hellenic identity, which has kept alive the people’s sense of themselves throughout their turbulent history.
With no local ruling class or formal Renaissance period to impose superior models of taste or patronize the arts, medieval Greek peasants, fishermen and shepherds created a vigorous and truly popular culture, which found expression in the songs and dances, costumes, embroidery, carved furniture and the white Cubist houses of popular imagination. During the last few decades much of this has disappeared under the impact of Western consumer values, relegated to museums at best, but recently the country’s architectural and musical heritage, in particular, has undergone a renaissance, with buildings rescued from dereliction and performers reviving, to varying degrees, half-forgotten musical traditions.
Of course, there are formal cultural activities as well: museums that shouldn’t be missed, magnificent medieval mansions and castles, as well as the great ancient sites dating from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Minoan, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras. Greece hosts some excellent summer festivals too, bringing international theatre, dance and musical groups to perform in ancient theatres, as well as castle courtyards and more contemporary venues in coastal and island resorts.
But the call to cultural duty will never be too overwhelming on a Greek holiday. The hedonistic pleasures of languor and warmth – going lightly dressed, swimming in balmy seas at dusk, talking, and drinking under the stars – are just as appealing. And despite recent improvements to the tourism “product”, Greece is still essentially a land for adaptable sybarites, not for those who crave orthopedic mattresses, faultless plumbing, Cordon-Bleu cuisine, and attentive service. Except at the growing number of luxury facilities in new or restored buildings, hotel and pension rooms can be box-like, campsites offer the minimum of facilities, and the food at its best is fresh and uncomplicated.
Top Attractions in Greece
Dominating Athens, the Acropolis is one of the archetypal images of Western civilization.
The Byzantine town of Mystra is the most exciting and dramatic site in the Peloponnese.
Windsurfing off Vassilikí
Located in a vast, cliff-flanked bay, Vassilikí is one of Europe’s biggest windsurf centers.
View over Firá
The island capital of Firá is one of several villages that teeter at the edge of Thíra’s (Santoríni’s) caldera cliff.
Monastery of Saint John, Pátmos
Built in honor of Saint John the Divine, this huge monastery is a warren of interconnecting courtyards, chapels, stairways, arcades, galleries, and roof terraces.
Knossós palace, Crete
The most restored, vividly colored, and ultimately the most exciting of Crete’s Minoan palaces.
The exquisite Byzantine monasteries of Metéora perched atop pinnacles of rock are arguably mainland Greece’s most extraordinary sight.
Kárpathos: view south from Ólymbos
The view south from windswept, remote Ólymbos gives a good idea of the rugged coast of unspoiled northern Kárpathos.
Ídhra’s perfect horseshoe-shaped harbor is surrounded by grand eighteenth-century mansions.
The mansions of Symi’s picturesque harbor, built with wealth from the sponge trade, are part of an architecturally protected area.
People of Greece
To attempt an understanding of the Greek people, it’s useful to realize just how recent and traumatic were the events that created the modern state and national character – the latter a complex blend of extroversion and pessimism, which cannot be accounted for merely by Greece’s position as a natural bridge between Europe and the Middle East. Until the early decades of the twentieth century, many parts of Greece were in Ottoman (or in the case of the Dodecanese, Italian) hands. Meanwhile, numerous Greek Orthodox lived in Asia Minor, Egypt, western Europe and in the northern Balkans. The Balkan Wars of 1912-13, Greece’s 1917-18 World War I involvement, the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-22 and the organized population exchanges – essentially regulated ethnic cleansing – which followed each of these conflicts had sudden, profound effects. Worse was to come during World War II, and its aftermath of civil war between the Communists and the UK- and US-backed Nationalist government forces. The viciousness of this period found a later echo in nearly seven years of military dictatorship under the colonels’ junta between 1967 and 1974.
Such memories of misrule, diaspora, and catastrophe (including frequent devastating earthquakes) remain uncomfortably close for many Greeks, despite nearly three decades of democratic stability and the country’s integration into the EU. The poverty of, and enduring paucity of opportunity in, their homeland long frustrated talented and resourceful Greeks, many of whom emigrated. Those who stayed were lulled, until the late 1980s, by a civil-service-driven full-employment policy which resulted in the lowest jobless rate in western Europe. The downside of this was an occasionally staggering lack of worker initiative, but official attempts to impose a more austere economic line are still often met by waves of strikes. Since the early 1990s, Greece has become fully integrated into the Western economy, privatization and competition have demolished state monopolies, and inevitably growing disparities in wealth have appeared.
Outside the public sector, the meticulousness of Greek craftworkers is legendary, even if their values and skills took a back seat to the demands of crisis and profiteering when the evacuation of Asia Minor and the rapid 1950s depopulation of rural villages prompted the graceless urbanization of Athens and other cities. Amidst the often superficial sophistication that resulted, it’s easy to forget the nearness of the village past and stubbornly lingering Third World attributes. You may find, for example, that buses operate with Germanic efficiency, but ferries sail with an unpredictability little changed since the time of Odysseus.
Social attitudes, too, are in transition as Greece adapts to mass tourism and the modern world. The encounter has been painful and at times destructive, as the values of a rural, conservative society have been irrevocably lost. Though younger Greeks are adaptable and cash registers ring happily, at least in tourist areas, visitors still need to be sensitive in their behavior towards the older generation. The mind boggles imagining the reaction of black-clad elders to nudism, or even scanty clothing, in a country where the Orthodox church remains an all-but-established faith and the self-appointed guardian of national identity. Although senior clerics have recently depleted a huge reservoir of respect with regressive stances on a number of issues, even the most worldly young Greeks, who never otherwise set foot in a church, are still likely to be married, buried and have their children baptized with Orthodox rites.
Before Visiting Greece
A beautiful and interesting country to visit, Greece actually is a top tourist destination in Europe. The wonderful sights, amazing food, but also the interesting history make numerous visitors pick Greece as their next vacation spot. If you plan on spending your next vacation in this country, there are some things you should know.
One of the most beautiful places in Greece, Santorini is a must-see for anyone willing to spend a vacation here. The beauty of Santorini draws thousands of tourists to this area. Santorini is one of the most popular vacation spots in Greece. The island is located in the southern Aegean Sea, at about 120 miles distance from Greece’s mainland. Santorini was formed after an enormous volcanic explosion, known as the Minoan eruption. An active volcano is still located here.
Santorini is the perfect romantic gateway, visitors say. This is one of the few places on earth in which tourists can enjoy clear waters while watching a massive active volcano in the middle of the sea. Santorini has also become a popular wedding destination for couples arriving from all over the world. Spectacular rock formations, beaches with white, red or even black sand, lunar landscapes and unique recreation options make Santorini a wonderful vacation destination.
Visitors who really want to enjoy a one of a kind trip here should be ready to walk a lot. So, pack comfortable shoes.
The capital city of Greece, Athens is filled with beautiful attractions. The rich history of the city makes it a perfect destination in the country, too.
It is better to bring cash and exchange it at the airport before embarking for your vacation. In fact, you should know that usually, the exchange rate is not good at all in Greece, so better come prepared. Also, there are few ATMs in Mykonos for instance, as well as in many areas of the country.
In most restaurants and shops in many regions of Greece, you won’t be able to pay with credit cards or money orders. So, bring cash.
The official currency in Greece is the euro.
Naturally, the official language spoken in the country is Modern Greek. Still, don’t worry, as you will probably be able to get by just fine in English, mostly in tourist areas, where the language is often spoken.
Greeks are friendly people
Greeks are very friendly and so in case you meet locals during a vacation here, get ready for personal questions and conversations about anything.
When meeting someone new, people in Greece commonly shake hands. It is common for Greeks to kiss on the cheeks when meeting acquaintances.
During a conversation with someone it is better to avoid one gesture: the open palm, fingers slightly spread, shoved toward someone’s face. This is considered to be a serious insult in the country.
Another very interesting custom in this country is that when you wave people with your palm towards them, they are going to interpret your gesture as come here. If you want to say good bye, it is better to wave with your palm facing you.
Greeks are well known for their delicious food. And they are great hosts, too. A good host will always offer you a lot of food and many drinks in this country.
It is quite well-known that taxi services are pretty expensive in Greece. In case you need such a service, you should know that after certain hours the charge is almost double. Be even more careful if you have a lot of bags, as many taxi drivers charge you extra for them.
Souvenirs can be quite affordable in airports. Many people think that they are more expensive on the islands than in different cities, but they might be wrong.
The temperatures in Greece is quite hot, while the sun is tricky. This means that you should wear sunscreen even though it may not be very sunny outside.
When to visit
Most tourists visit Greece in the summer months, when there are many visitors, but also many things to do. Between October and April, most hotels, restaurants and even shops and sites are closed.
Churches and monasteries
There are numerous churches and monasteries all over the country. If you want to visit such a place, make sure to dress accordingly. There are certain locations in which you cannot enter if you are not properly dressed. Swimming tanks, skirts, and shorts are not appropriate.
One of the most famous foods in Greece is gyros, which is a type of sandwich with pork or chicken, onions, tomatoes and potatoes, as well as tzatziki sauce. It can be found almost anywhere in the country, so you have to taste it.
Bread is present at any meal in Greece. Even if you don’t order, it will be brought to your table at restaurants.
Checks don’t come separately
Asking separate checks at a table when you are at the restaurant is considered impolite. Usually, the check is divided evenly or someone takes it all.
Share your plate
Greeks commonly share their plates when eating at a restaurant. It’s natural according to Greeks, so you should know that everyone’s plate is free for sharing.
When being in Greece, try to discover more than its relaxing and beautiful beaches. The rich history of the country and its amazing culture will make all visitors fall in love with Greece.
If your vacation in Greece is a summer trip, take with you light dressing. The weather is very hot.
Mount Athos is one of the most impressive attractions in the country. Still, only men can visit it.
One of the most important sites in Ancient Greek religion, Delphi Theater is a must-see place. It was home to the sanctuary and oracle of Apollo.
If a visit to Athens is included in your vacation, the Parthenon is a must-see spot. The construction has served with different purposes throughout the years, being a temple, fortress, church, and mosque.
Even though this place may not be as famous as Santorini, Lindos is a particularly beautiful attraction in Greece. The medieval village is located on the island of Rhodes, offering some spectacular views over the harbors and coastline.
Meteora is a collection of 6 beautiful monasteries located on top of different rock structures. Access to these attractions can be quite difficult, but they are worth the effort, as the views and the beauty that can be admired here is breathtaking.
Myrtos Beach is very popular among visitors. Actually, this beach located in the north-west of Kefalonia has been voted the best beach in Greece no less than 12 times.
Greece is a beautiful country, worth to be visited for both its attractions and rich history. Would you like to spend your summer vacation here?