- Greece, the southernmost of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula.
- Geography has greatly influenced the country’s development.
- Mountains historically restricted internal communications, but the sea opened up wider horizons.
- The total land area of Greece (one-fifth of which is made up of the Greek islands) is comparable in size to England or the U.
- state of Alabama.
Greece has so much to offer, here are some of the things Greece is known for.
Experiencing the Acropolis
Regal on its hilltop, the elegant Acropolis: remains the quintessential landmark of Western civilisation. Explore it early in the morning or soak up the view from a dinnertime terrace; no matter how you experience the Acropolis, you will be mesmerised by its beauty, history and sheer size. The Parthenon is the star attraction, but don't overlook the exquisite Temple of Athena Nike and the Theatre of Dionysos. Nearby, the state-of-the-art Acropolis Museum provides a close-up look at the surviving treasures of the site.
Magnificent Meteora: will leave you speechless. Soaring pillars of rock jut heavenward, a handful complete with monasteries perched on their summits. Built as early as the 14th century, these were home to hermit monks fleeing persecution. The rope ladders that once enabled the monks to reach the top have long been replaced by steps carved into the rock, and six of the 24 monasteries remain open to resident monks and visitors alike. Today this spectacular stone forest beckons pilgrims and rock climbers from around the world.
Early morning is a magical time at Delphi:, as the sun's rays pour over the Sanctuary of Athena Pronea. As you gaze out over the Gulf of Corinth, it is easy to understand why the ancient Greeks chose this as the centre of their world. Today, only three columns remain of the magnificent sanctuary, but that's enough to let your imagination soar. Nearby, the Sacred Way meanders past the Temple of Apollo where prophecies were uttered that sent armies to battle and made lovers swoon.
Life in Athens: is a magnificent mash-up of both the ancient and the contemporary. Beneath the majestic facades of the many venerable landmarks, the city is teeming with life and creativity. Galleries and clubs hold the exhibitions, performances and installations of the city’s booming arts scene. Street art is all around. Fashionable restaurants and humble tavernas rustle up plate after plate of satisfying fare. Soulful rembetika (blues songs) serenade the cobbled streets, while cocktail bars and nightclubs abound and swing deep into the night.
Rhodes' Old Town
Getting lost in Rhodes' Old Town: is a must. Away from the crowds, you'll find yourself meandering down twisting, cobbled alleyways with soaring archways and lively squares. In these hidden corners your imagination will take off with flights of medieval fancy. Explore the ancient Knights’ Quarter, the old Jewish Quarter or the Hora (Turkish Quarter). Hear traditional live music in tiny tavernas or dine on fresh seafood at atmospheric outdoor restaurants. Wander along the top of the city’s walls, with the sea on one side and a bird’s-eye view into this living museum.
Easter Festivities on Patmos
The Greek calendar is chock-full of festivals and holidays, but the biggest event of the Greek Orthodox Church is Easter. One of the best places to experience it is on Patmos: in the Dodecanese. The island comes to life with fireworks, dancing in the streets, goats roasted outdoors and plenty of ouzo. Begin by witnessing the moving, candlelit processions of flower-filled biers through the capital, marking the start of the celebration on Good Friday. By Saturday night you’ll be shouting Hristos Anesti (Christ is Risen) and cracking vibrant red-dyed eggs.
Waistlines be damned: Crete: is the perfect place to indulge. The island’s Mediterranean diet is known for its health benefits but the farm-fresh produce, aromatic herbs, straight-from-the-ocean seafood, soft, tangy cheese and some of the world’s best virgin olive oil make it legendary. Whether it’s a bowl of snails, fresh artichokes, mussels or figs, the essence of this rustic cuisine is a balance of flavours. It’s hard to beat traditional hand-spun filo, a salad of horta (wild greens) picked from a backyard garden and red mullet just hauled in.
Island Hopping in the Cyclades
From the spirited nightlife and celebrity hideaways of Mykonos and Ios, to the isolated sandy coasts of tiny, far-flung specks such as Anafi, hopping through the Cyclades: is a Greek experience not to be missed. Peppered with ancient ruins (try Delos), mystical castles (head to Naxos), lush scenery and dramatic coastlines (visit Milos), the islands are spread like Greek jewels across the sea. Speed over the Aegean on catamarans and sway on old-fashioned ferry boats. You won’t regret a single saltwater-splashed second of it.
The dramatic gorge of Samaria: is the most-trodden canyon in Crete – and with good reason. Starting near Omalos and running down through an ancient riverbed to the Libyan Sea, it's home to soaring birds of prey and a dazzling array of wildflowers in spring. It’s a full-day’s walk (about six hours down) but the jaw-dropping views make it worth every step. To get more solitude, try lesser-known Imbros Gorge, which runs roughly parallel to Samaria and is around half the length.
Stylish Thessaloniki: remains northern Greece’s liveliest town, thanks to its universities, cultural scene, arts and nightlife. Explore the old quarter, a neighbourhood full of colourful, winding streets marked by white-plastered houses, lazy cats and Byzantine churches. Taste-test your way through the city’s zaharoplasteia (patisseries) for Ottoman-inspired sweets. Drink up with throngs of students at stylish bars and clubs. Tour the galleries of one of the country’s most artistically fertile locations and save time for the first-rate museums. Thessaloniki has it all going on.
Everyone approaches Hydra: by sea. There is no airport, there are no cars. The white-gold houses of the tiny island's stunningly preserved stone village fill a natural cove and hug the edges of the surrounding mountains. Below, sailboats, caïques (little boats) and megayachts fill Hydra’s quays while locals and vacationers fill the harbourside cafes. Here, a mere hour and a half from Athens, you’ll find a great cappuccino, rich naval and architectural history, and the raw sea coast beckoning you for a swim.
Rub shoulders with the ghosts of the mighty Minoans. Knossos: was their Bronze Age capital more than 4000 years ago; from here they attained an astonishingly high level of civilisation and ruled vast parts of the Aegean. After mysteriously disappearing less than a thousand years later, their extraordinary wealth of frescoes, sculptures, jewellery and structures lay buried under the Cretan soil until the site’s excavation in the early 20th century. Despite a controversial partial reconstruction, Knossos remains one of the most important archaeological sites in the Mediterranean.
With its heart-shaped boulder lapped by the bluest waves just offshore, Crete’s Preveli Beach: is one of Greece's most iconic. Bisected by a freshwater river and flanked by cliffs concealing sea caves, Preveli is a thick ribbon of soft sand on the Libyan Sea, with clear pools of water along its palm-lined riverbank that are perfect for cool dips. The beach lies under the sacred gaze of a magnificent monastery perched high above. Once the centre of anti-Ottoman resistance and later a shelter for Allied soldiers, this tranquil building offers magnificent views.
After passing through a seemingly endless array of tunnels, the Egnatia Odos Hwy brings you into rugged Epiros, home of the Pindos Mountains and the Zagorohoria: – an immaculately preserved region of traditional villages spread along the ridges of Europe’s deepest canyon, the Vikos Gorge. Here, the air is clear, fresh and cool, and the views astounding. You can explore the region by hiking or mountain biking, or simply get cosy by the fire in one of the many rustic BandBs dotting the region.
The story of Corfu: is written across the handsome facades of its main town’s buildings. This is a place that crams a remarkable mix of architecture into its small circumference. Stroll past Byzantine fortresses, neoclassical 19th-century British buildings, Parisian-style arcades, Orthodox church towers and the narrow, sun-dappled streets of the Venetian Old Town. Beyond the town, Corfu is lush green mountains, rolling countryside and dramatic coastlines. And if the architecture and scenery aren’t enough, come to enjoy the Italian-influenced food.
Northern Greece's Halkidiki stretches out into the Aegean like a fat fist with three enticing fingers of sand and sun-soaked bliss. Kassandra Peninsula buzzes in summer with open-air discos and umbrella-peppered beaches, while Sithonia Peninsula is quieter and reserved for escapists on its sandy shores. Athos Peninsula offers stunning beaches and is also home to the men-only preserve of Mt Athos, a monastic community that has preserved its Byzantine rituals for more than 1000 years.
Hiking the Mani
Although it can no longer be described as 'remote', the Mani: holds a magic unlike anywhere else in Greece. For centuries, the feuding families here were literally a law unto themselves and this has contributed to the unique Maniot culture. The Mani’s footpaths and landscape beckon hikers from around the world. With everything from rugged rocky highlands and hidden lush green oases to small fishing tavernas and severe rock-solid tower houses, this pocket of the Peloponnese is well worth exploring.
The atmosphere at the site: of the first Olympics is almost mythical. Feel the watchful eye of Zeus as you tour the ruins of the stadium, gymnasium and temples, imagining the thousands of men that gathered to compete with hands full of offerings. The games were held here for at least 1000 years and the nearby museums offer a glimpse into the world of the long-ago athletes. The historical significance of this site is both humbling and inspiring. You may even be motivated to run a lap or two.
A magnificent guest from Asia Minor, the well-preserved medieval Ottoman town of Molyvos: in northern Lesvos displays a happy marriage of gorgeous landscape and gracious architecture. Sitting on top of an elegantly curving headland and crowned with a Byzantine castle, it faces west as if inviting the setting sun to touch the red-tiled roofs and yachts in the marina with its magic wand and make reality feel like oriental dream.
Kefallonia's Great Outdoors
Kefallonia is a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors:. Paddle kayaks between white-sand beaches lapped by gentle seas that glow with an unnatural luminosity; explore pretty villages surrounded by vine yards and olive groves; scuba-dive in crystal clear waters blushing with fish and hike up mountains that spiral high into the sky. Kayaking, diving, hiking, sailing, horse-riding. You name it and Kefallonia does it. And best of all it remains remarkably unflustered by tourism.