A holiday in Greece: history, beaches and gods
Many generations travel to Greece for their holiday and with good reason. Nowhere else in Europe do you find such a combination of historic monuments, delightful food and genuine hospitality. Add to that one of the longest European coastline, perfect for a stunning beach vacation, and you know you have found a winner.
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Best time for your holiday in Greece
April until October, including both months, are the main holiday season, but be careful, July and August can be very hot at the coast and in Athens. An alternative for this time of the year is to escape to the mountains, for example Mount Olympus, the home of the Greek gods. Spring bloom is especially spectacular in Greece, and the sea water is already warm enough for a refreshing dip. Autumn, on the other hand, is ideal for those that love swimming in warm sea water and don't mind cooler evenings. Winter in Greece can be wonderful, perhaps the best time to plan an extended visit to Athens and Thessaloniki. The crowds are gone and, with a bit of luck, you will see the Acropolis in all it's splendour and alone.
Greek food you shouldn't miss
- Chaniotiko Boureki, a gratin of potato slices with courgette, Myzithra cheese and mint, typical for Crete
- Filo Pastry, the name indicates the filling, for example kotopita (chicken), spanakotyropita (spinach and cheese), chortopita (greens pie) and kolokythopita (courgette)
- Galaktoboureko, custard tart with pastry layers and soaked with lemon honey
Getting to and around Greece during your holiday
Here is a list of Greece's most important international airports and which of the holiday regions they serve:
- Athens-Spata – Athens and Attica
- Zakynthos – Ionian Islands
- Corfu – Ionian Islands
- Heraklion – Crete
- Kalamata – Peloponnese
Ferries play a big part in Greece's traffic system, no wonder with the country's more than 3,000 islands. If you want to explore the countryside, you might consider renting a car to get around as buses don't always go where and when you want them to go.
The most important Greek Holiday Islands
- The Cyclades group with Delos, Mykonos and Santoríni
The most important attractions of mainland Greece are the historic centres of Athens and Thessaloniki together with Volos, a port city north of Athens that is counted among the most beautiful towns in the country. Pindus National Park in the centre of the country, is a favourite with hikers and nature lovers.
Holidays in Greece: Tips & Tricks
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Greece: the mainland
- Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and the center of the northern province of Macedonia. From Thessaloniki there are intercity buses to Istanbul and by ferry you can reach the islands of Limnos, Thasos and Samothraki. The city itself is worth a stay mainly due to the excellent cuisine and rich history.
- Kavala and the bay of the same name are regions that are frequently visited by holidaymakers in the summer. You will find small guest houses, larger hotels, and crystal clear water.
- Holidays on Halkidiki, a peninsula with the three prominent headlands, are especially popular with the Greeks themselves. The long sandy beaches attract families, solo travelers, and party groups alike.
- The monastic republic of Athos is also located in Halkidiki, but can only be visited by appointment and for a limited time. Unfortunately for female travelers, the monastery region is not accessible to women.
- The port city of Volos is considered one of the most beautiful Greek cities and is located in a sheltered bay north of Athens.
- The peninsula of the Peloponnese is located south of Athens and is rich in ancient sites and monuments. The city of Kalamata in the south of the peninsula is famous for its sandy bays and meaty olives.
- Inland, mountain regions such as the Pindus National Park north of Ioannina attract nature lovers and hikers.
The Greek islands
- Whitewashed houses, oil mills, and azure seas: the Cyclades, which include Mykonos, Santorini, and Naxos, form what is arguably Greece's most famous archipelago. The islands are connected by ferry, so you can hop from island to island and choose for yourself which is the most beautiful.
- The 160-island-strong Sporades includes popular vacation destinations of Kos, Samos, Rhodes, and Patmos. Not as well-known to foreigners but more popular among the Greeks is the island of Skiathos off the Gulf of Volos.
- Corfu is the largest and most important of the Ionian Islands and is located in the extreme north of the archipelago. Corfu is considered a green island because of its lush vegetation, absent on other Mediterranean isles. Along the western coast there are numerous hotels, while the east is more sparsely populated. The largest sandy beaches can be found in the north of the island
- The other Ionian islands such as Kefalonia and Zakynthos may rest in Corfu's shadow but are no less beautiful.
Pirate tip: Relatively unknown, but undeniably enchanting is the small island of Paxos south of Corfu. There are hardly any larger hotels, but there are family "pensiones" and authentic taverns.
Holidays in Crete
- It is said that Crete is not just an island, Crete is a world in and of itself. In fact, the largest of the Greek islands is quite diverse and scenic.
- Crete's biggest cities—Heraklion, Rethymnon, and Chania—are all on the north coast.
- The north coast is the main tourist center of Crete due to the long sandy beaches. In places, the coast is practically wall-to-wall hotels.
- The south coast, which boasts the fishing town of Paleochora, is less densely populated and has smaller hotels and fewer tourists. However, the waters of the south coast are rougher and wilder than the north.
Pirate tip: The well-marked European long-distance hiking trail E4 stretches across Crete. It is possible to do the complete trail, but it can also be broken into stages. A day hike in the mountains Lefka Ori or a brief jaunt along the southern coast will lend spectacular views.
Greek Islands - Insider Tips
Have you had enough of Corfu, Kos, and the like? Or would you rather skip the tourist crowds and search for true relaxation? Then just visit one of the less touristy islands in Greece—after all, there are more than 3,000 Greek islands, 150 of which are inhabited. The only thing left to do is pick one. And we're here to help with our top picks for more low-key island destinations:
It's difficult to understand why Karpathos isn't more popular, given its natural beauty and status as the second largest island of the Dodecanese. Try to get here quick, because the island is already starting to earn the nickname of "the secret Santorini" and its only a matter of time before tourists catch on.
Once you visit Hydra, you're sure to fall in love. The charming island feels as if it's stuck in time, but that's what makes it so special. There are no cars to get around—prepare to be ferried about by donkeys and boats. You will also find excellent food and fascinating art. There's no better place to relax.
You should also hasten to visit Patmos, as the first tourist influences are already starting to creep in. But not to fret, mass tourism is still a long ways off. In addition to beautiful beaches and small towns you can explore a famous UNESCO World Heritage site: the cave in which St. John allegedly wrote the Book of Revelation.
Alonissos is a beautiful Greek island that is particularly well suited to individual travelers and campers. You won't find huge hotel complexes here, but we think that's one of the best things about this little isle. Between pine forests, lush greenery, and wild sandy or pebble beaches you have plenty of places to relax, walk, and hike here. This island is also great for water sports enthusiasts and divers.
In the Aegean you will find the picturesque island of Amorgos, which houses almost 2,000 inhabitants. Visitors are delighted by its natural beauty, traditional architecture, and dreamy, pristine beaches. Apart from that, there is also the Panagia Chozoviotiss monastery, which is considered one of the most beautiful monasteries in Greece.
Which Greek island is best for you?
Island vacations in Greece offer plenty to see and do. These postcard-worthy destinations offer a perfect blend of architectural, historical, and cultural traditions. Take a tour of the island of Mykonos, as famous for its Cycladic architecture and bustling nightlife as it is for its idyllic sandy beaches. Head to the gorgeous island of Santorini and get to know its stunning towns, full of charming whitewashed houses overlooking the sea.
There are a multitude of Greek islands (6,000, to be exact). Finding the right island for your vacation can end up being complicated. Lucky for you we've summarized the essentials for the top islands.