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The Wonders of Greece: crafting your ideal Greek holiday

Greece is a country infused with ancient mythology, history, art and philosophy. It also happens to be on of the most serenely beautiful countries to visit. Sun-bleached ancient ruins pierce the blue skies above, and the soothing sea laps against glorious golden beaches. Each of the stunning regions, idyllic islands, and vibrant cosmopolitan cities showcase the best of the country, with countless experiences on offer. Greece is a treasure trove waiting to be explored, and presents an exquisite choice for a memorable luxury escape – here's our quick guide to planning a fabulous holiday in Greece:

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How to choose the right Greek holiday destination?

Mainland Greece

The vast and diverse landscape of mainland Greece has much to offer, here we'll look at some of the best areas to choose for your Greek holiday:

  • Attica the southeastern region of the Greek mainland is the home Athens, the famous capital city of Greece and the heart of ancient Greek civilization. Similar to Rome, this charming city is like an open-air museum, full of echoes of its illustrious past, and yet is also vibrant modern city with a cosmopolitan social scene. Crowned by the iconic Acropolis, this city is a captivating blend of ancient marvels and contemporary energy. Discover archaeological treasures, wander through bustling streets lined with charming cafes, lively markets, and exquisite restaurants and trendy bars. Athens embodies a unique fusion of culture, art, and history, inviting travellers to immerse themselves in its timeless allure.

    The region is also home to Piraeus, Greece's main port city and gateway to the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea, the captivating region of Sounion, situated on the southern tip of the peninsula with its Temple of Poseidon and stunning clifftop views over the Aegean Sea, and charming coastal towns such as Nea Makri and historic Marathon.

  • Peloponnese boasts monuments from every period. Greece's southwestern peninsula is home to Mycenae: known for its archaeological site and the Lion Gate, providing insights into ancient Mycenaean civilization, Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games with its ancient stadium and temple ruins dedicated to Zeus, charming coastal towns such as Nafplio, picturesque with its Venetian architecture and historical landmarks, and Messenia and Laconia, regions offering scenic landscapes, beautiful beaches, and historic sites like Mystras, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Enjoy sightseeing and sports; discover unique villages and breathtaking landscapes from mountains and forests, to rivers and caves, and of course lovely sandy beaches, and rocky coves.

  • Central Greece, also known as Roumeli, with its spectacular landscapes has been inhabited since antiquity. Visit the archaeological site of Delphi, home to the ancient Oracle of Delphi and the Temple of Apollo, a significant archaeological site with stunning mountainous scenery. Discover picturesque seaside towns like Galaxidi and Itea, as well as beautiful Nafpaktos. The lagoon of Messolonghi is the largest Greek wetland, ideal for nature lovers.

    While techincally Greece's second-largest island, Evia is connected to the mainland via two bridges and is part of the Central Greece region. This beautiful island charms visitors with its diverse landscapes and array of attractions. Explore quaint villages adorned with traditional architecture, wander through olive groves, and discover hidden beaches along its rugged coastline. Hike through lush forests in the north or bask in the sun on the sandy shores of the southern beaches. Evia also boasts natural wonders like the Dimosaris Gorge and the Edipsos thermal springs, making this a great choice for a spa holiday.
     
  • Thessaly this region is known for its incredible beauty, from its mountains, rivers and lakes, to its beaches, and unique natural sights just as Meteora, a UNESCO-listed geological rock formation topped by a monastery, offering breathtaking views. The region is home to the iconic Mount Olympus, the mythical home of the gods in Greek mythology, offering hiking trails, stunning nature, and diverse flora and fauna. Discover the popular Plastira Lake, Tempi valley, along with an abundance of Byzantine monasteries and churches, traditional settlements spread throughout the region. Meanwhile Mt. Pelion, the mountain which forms a peninsula to the south east of the region is known for both its natural beauty and its buzzing social scene. You'll find here the city of the Argonauts, Volos, full of "tsipouro" tavernas.
     
  • Central Macedonia, in northern Greece, is perhaps best known for Thessaloniki, its vibrant capital, along with its Halkidiki Peninsula, famed for its pristine beaches and azure waters. It is also an ideal destination for a trip to Mount Olympus, which sits on the region's border with Thessaly. Thessaloniki, is Greece's second-largest city, exudes a magnetic charm. Its waterfront promenade, adorned with cafes and historic landmarks, invites leisurely strolls along the seafront. Discover lively markets, trendy bars, and a diverse culinary scene. Delve into history at the White Tower, a symbol of the city, or explore the UNESCO-listed Byzantine churches and Roman ruins scattered across the city.

    Meanwhile, Halkidiki is instantly recognisable with its three distinct peninsulas: Kassandra, Sithonia, and Mount Athos. Kassandra dazzles with its lively beach resorts, vibrant nightlife, and golden sandy beaches. Sithonia, a nature lover's haven, boasts secluded coves, pristine waters, and lush pine forests, perfect for tranquil getaways. While Mount Athos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, remains a monastic sanctuary. Each peninsula offers a unique blend of stunning landscapes, azure seas, and cultural heritage, making Halkidiki a diverse and captivating destination for all types of travellers.

The Greek Islands

There are almost too many Greek islands to count, from the Ionian Islands west of mainland Greece, to the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, every Greek island has its own slightly different character and unique charm. Here we've picked out some of the best:

Ionian Islands:

• Ithaca, the legendary home of Odysseus, embraces visitors with its tranquil landscapes. It offers secluded beaches, lush greenery, and captivating archaeological sites like Odysseus' Palace.
• Corfu enchants with its Venetian architecture, olive-clad hills, and azure waters. Explore historic Corfu Town, relax on idyllic beaches, and delve into the island's rich cultural heritage.
• Zakynthos boasts stunning cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and the famous Navagio Beach. Visit the Blue Caves, witness loggerhead turtles, and experience vibrant nightlife in Laganas.

Cyclades:

• Ios beckons with its vibrant party scene and golden beaches. Discover Homer's Tomb, enjoy water sports, and immerse yourself in its lively nightlife.
• Santorini is one of the most popular of Greece's islands with its postcard-perfect views of whitewashed buildings, iconic blue-domed churches, and dramatic caldera views. Discover the typical churches of Oia, discover ancient ruins at Akrotiri, and enjoy the volcanic beaches, including the striking Red Beach. Witness mesmerising sunsets from the cliffs of Fira, savour local wines from its vineyards, and immerse yourself in luxury at cliffside hotels. Santorini's unique beauty, romantic ambiance, and breathtaking panoramas make it an unforgettable destination.
• Mykonos another of Greeces's most popular and famous islands, attracts people from around the world. Known for its cosmopolitan vibe, it draws visitors with its picturesque windmills, whitewashed buildings, and pulsating nightlife. Wander through the charming alleys of Mykonos Town, Little Venice, and visit historic sites like the Archaeological Museum. Relax on beautiful beaches such as Paradise and Super Paradise, renowned for their parties and water sports. Mykonos combines vibrant energy, stunning beaches, and a trendy atmosphere, making it a hotspot for both relaxation and revelry.allures with its cosmopolitan ambiance, picturesque windmills, and pulsating nightlife. Experience its stunning beaches, chic boutiques, and Little Venice's charm.
• Sifnos offers a blend of traditional charm and gastronomic delights. Discover its whitewashed villages, hiking trails, and local pottery.
• Milos fascinates with its diverse landscapes and stunning beaches like Sarakiniko's moon-like rock formations. Explore catacombs, hot springs, and ancient ruins.
• Naxos welcomes visitors with beautiful beaches, historic sites like the Portara, and traditional villages. Experience windsurfing, local cuisine, and verdant landscapes.

Crete:

Crete is Greece's largest island, and another of its most popular, boasting a rich history and unique culture. It holds a treasure trove of historical landmarks, including ancient Minoan palaces and Venetian fortresses. Discover diverse landscape encompasses majestic gorges like Samaria, the enchanting Balos Lagoon, and the stunning pink sand beach of Elafonissi. Explore gorges, relax on pristine beaches, and savour Cretan cuisine. Experience Cretan hospitality in traditional villages, savour local cuisine, and explore the vibrant city of Heraklion. Crete exudes a vibrant blend of ancient history, breathtaking landscapes, and a vibrant local culture.

North Aegean Islands:

• Lemnos, an unspoiled island, offers serene beaches, archaeological sites, and authentic rural life experiences.
Samos, birthplace of Pythagoras, boasts a captivating blend of ancient history and natural beauty. Explore the UNESCO-listed Heraion and visit ancient ruins like the Tunnel of Eupalinos.

Dodecanese:

• Kos combines ancient ruins like Asklepieion with vibrant nightlife, sandy beaches, and thermal springs.
Patmos enchants with its religious significance, pristine beaches, and the Cave of the Apocalypse.
Rhodes is an island with a rich history. Explore its charming medieval Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its Palace of the Grand Master and Street of the Knights. Explore the Acropolis of Lindos, relax on pristine beaches like Tsambika, and visit the Valley of the Butterflies. Dive into the island's vibrant nightlife in Rhodes Town or experience local traditions in charming villages. Rhodes effortlessly blends historical charm, beautiful beaches, and a vibrant cultural scene, inviting visitors to explore its diverse offerings.

 

Culture, Cuisine, and Contemporary Life

Experience Greek culture by strolling through local markets, indulging in authentic cuisine at tavernas, and joining traditional festivals. Embrace the warmth of Greek hospitality while relishing dishes like moussaka, souvlaki, and baklava. Feel the pulse of modern Greece in vibrant cities like Athens and Thessaloniki. Explore trendy neighbourhoods, visit contemporary art galleries, and enjoy a diverse nightlife that reflects the country's evolving culture.

Greek Cuisine and Culinary Traditions

Greek cuisine is a cornerstone of the country's culture. Indulge in classic dishes such as moussaka, souvlaki, Greek salad, and spanakopita (spinach pie). Discover regional delicacies such as Cretan dakos, Santorini's fava, the rich mezedes of the Peloponnese, or Thessaloniki specialties like bougatsa or koulouri, celebrating the diverse culinary traditions across Greece. Engage in the Greek ritual of dining, where meals are shared among family and friends at tavernas, where local wines, olive oil, olives, and cheeses take centre stage.

Traditional Festivals and Celebrations

Throughout the year, Greece is alive with vibrant festivals and celebrations, each offering a glimpse into the country's rich heritage. From religious festivals honouring saints to cultural events celebrating music, dance, and art, the Greek calendar is filled with opportunities to participate in traditional customs and experience local traditions. For example, Patras, Greece's third city, hosts the famous Patras Carnival, one of Europe's liveliest street festivals, with parades, and plenty of cultural events.

Music, Dance, and Performing Arts

Greek music, including traditional folk tunes and contemporary sounds, plays a significant role in the country's cultural fabric. Experience live performances of bouzouki music, traditional dances like the syrtaki or tsifteteli, and theatrical productions at ancient amphitheatres or modern theatres. Music and dance are integral parts of Greek celebrations and gatherings.

Local Markets and Artisanal Crafts

Exploring local markets, such as Athens' Central Market or Thessaloniki's Modiano Market, provides an authentic taste of Greek life. Witness artisans crafting pottery, weaving textiles, or creating intricate jewellery, showcasing centuries-old crafts passed down through generations. Delve into the markets' vibrant atmosphere, where aromas, colours, and sounds blend to create an immersive experience.

Historical and Cultural Landmarks

Greek historical sites and museums are windows to not just the country's past, but the cradle of Western Civilisation. You can find ancient site spread all across the country, explore ancient ruins like the Acropolis in Athens, the Palace of Knossos or Theatre of Epidaurus in Crete, or the UNESCO-listed Medieval Town of Rhodes. Or the visit the countless museums across the country, displaying artefacts from various eras and regions, uncovering the layers of Greece's history, from ancient civilisations to Byzantine and modern times.

Participating in Local Customs

Engaging with locals and participating in their customs provides a deeper understanding of Greek culture. Learning a few Greek phrases, attending religious processions, or joining in traditional dance circles at village festivals fosters a connection with the warm-hearted Greek people and their way of life.

Exploring Greece as a whole offers a multifaceted cultural journey, allowing travellers to immerse themselves in the country's culinary delights, traditional celebrations, artistic expressions, and historical legacies.

 

Outdoor Adventures and Natural Beauty

Discover the rugged beauty of Greece's landscapes by hiking through the Samaria Gorge in Crete or exploring the Vikos Gorge in the Zagori region. Experience the thrill of water sports in destinations like Naxos or windsurfing in Rhodes. Greece's diverse landscapes offer a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, there's something for everyone:

Hiking and Trekking

Mountains and Gorges: Explore breathtaking gorges like Samaria Gorge in Crete or Vikos Gorge in Zagori, offering scenic trails for hikers of all levels.
Mount Olympus: Ascend Greece's highest peak and mythical home of the gods, Mount Olympus, with numerous trails showcasing stunning vistas.

Water Sports and Beach Activities

Island Beaches: Embrace a myriad of water activities from snorkelling, diving, and windsurfing in spots like Naxos, Rhodes, and Lefkada.
Sailing and Cruising: Sail around the Greek islands or embark on cruises, experiencing the beauty of the Aegean and Ionian Seas.

Nature Reserves and Protected Areas

National Parks: Discover the natural treasures of Greek national parks such as Prespa Lakes or Pindus National Park, perfect for birdwatching and exploring diverse ecosystems.
Wetlands and Lakes: Explore wetlands like Lake Kerkini or Lake Doxa, home to diverse bird species and scenic landscapes.

Caving and Rock Climbing

Caves: Delve into Greece's cave systems, like Diros Cave in Mani or Perama Cave in Ioannina, offering awe-inspiring stalactite formations and underground rivers.
Rock Climbing: Climb the limestone cliffs in Kalymnos or Meteora, known for their challenging routes and stunning views.

Wildlife Watching and Ecotourism

Preservation Areas: Support eco-tourism initiatives in areas like the Zakynthos Marine Park, aimed at protecting loggerhead sea turtles and their nesting sites.
Environmental Activities: Participate in wildlife conservation efforts, nature walks, or volunteer opportunities to support Greece's biodiversity and conservation initiatives.

Skiing and Winter Sports

Winter Resorts: You may be surprised to hear that Greece offers some great spots for skiing and winter activities in its mountainous regions. Mt. Parnassos in particular, is Greece's most popular ski centre. Only about two hours from Athens, near Delphi, the mountain has two peaks, Kellaria at 1750m above sea level, and Fterolakas at 1950m, and offers some great skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.

Greece's outdoor adventures cater to adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, and those seeking some sun-soaked relaxation amid serene landscapes, offering a wide array of activities.

 

When is the best time to visit Greece?

Selecting the best time to visit Greece depends of course on your desired activities, tolerance for the tourist crowds, or specific weather conditions. The climate varies by region, with the mainland experiencing cooler winters compared to the islands' particularly the southernmost of them. Overall however, Greece enjoys that famously mild Mediterranean climate, allowing travellers to tailor their experience to suit their interests and enjoy the beauty of Greece, at any time of year!

Spring (March to May)

Enjoy mild weather with pleasant temperatures, blooming landscapes, and fewer crowds at many of the major tourist sites. Plenty of cultural events take place at this time of year, from Easter celebrations, to traditional and local festivals, showcasing Greek traditions and religious customs. When it comes to outdoor activities: this time of year – not too cold and not too hot! – is ideal for hiking the natural landscapes and exploring the historical sites.

Summer (June to August)

This is of course the high season in Greece, with high levels of tourists and high temperatures. Enjoy a vibrant nightlife, particularly in cities such as Athens and islands such as Mykonos and Santorini, and lively beach scenes across the islands and coastal regions. This is a fantastic time to enjoy some island hopping: discovering multiple Greek islands, mixing and matching some of the more lively islands with some of the more secluded. It's also the best time of year to enjoy water sports, and relaxing on picturesque beaches with crystal-clear waters. Summer also brings a multiture of cultural events, from music festivals and outdoor concerts, to cultural performances, many of which are held in ancient amphitheatres!

Autumn (September to November)

Similar to Spring – although with warmer sea temperatures – autumn brings pleasant temperatures, not to hot and not too cold, especially in early autumn, making it ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities. The reduction in the tourist crowds compared to summer, mean it is another favourable time for exploring historical sites and cultural landmarks. And it is also harvest season, offering a great opportunity to participate in grape and olive harvest activities, wine tastings, and culinary tours showcasing autumnal produce and local gastronomy.

Winter (December to February)

This very much the off-peak season, with even fewer tourists, lower accommodation rates, and a quieter ambiance across many destinations, this isn't to say there is nothing to do. Mild winter temperatures, especially in the southern regions, mean that it is still very pleasant to visit, though not if you intend to go swimming! There are plenty of local traditions to engage in including religious celebrations and Christmas markets, experiencing Greece's festive spirit. And, as we mentioned above, this time of year is ideal for skiing or snowboarding in Greek mountain ranges like Parnassos or Vermio, which offer winter sports activities during the snowy season.

 

How to choose the right accommodations in Greece?

You may have heard people reference "Greek Hospitality", the country and its citizens are known as being supremely welcoming, and visitors are treated as honored guests. "Xenia" is the word for the ancient Greek concept of hospitality, and translates as something close to 'guest-friendship'. It is an established relationship rooted in generosity and reciprocity, and historically, was understood as a moral obligation. As such, combined with the fact that Greece has so much to offer, there are plenty of outstanding accommodations to be found all across the country.

As we saw above, one of the first unique considerations when planning a holiday in Greece is deciding whether to visit the mainland or a specific island, or perhaps a combination of these. Next should be coastal regions for beachside stays or cities for cultural exploration and historical landmarks, and finally the season, peak vs off-peak depending on your preferences for the temerature, activities, tourist crowds, and affordability.

Greece offers a range of hotels, from sprawling five-star resorts, to luxurious villas, apartments and guesthouses, or charming boutique hotels. Whatever the type of accommodation, expect to be met with superb hospitality and service. Boutique hotels in Athens will put you close to all the historical and cultural sights, bars and restaurants, while private villas or apartments provides a more secluded and intimate experience, and often with private terraces offering sublime sea views. Meanwhile luxury seaside resorts offer wide ranging facilties from infinity pools, to extensive spas, along with plenty of activities from cultural excursions to local cooking classes. Take a look at our VeryChic offers in Greece to find your ideal hotel, and to ensure the best accommodations at the best price, be sure to book well in advance!

 

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