Greece Travel Guide

By Admin | Last Updated August 27, 2019

Greece, the cradle of Western civilization, is a country without compare. Spread over thousands of small islands, you will find everything in Greece – a rich history, ancient ruins, famous landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage sites, stunning views, cultural traditions that go back a long time, cruise journeys, beaches, food, and a vibrant nightlife. A country of 131,957 square kilometers, 27.2 million tourists visited Greece in 2017 according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), making it the 8th most popular country for tourism in Europe.

The country has a seafront on three sides – Aegean Sea to the east, Ionian Sea in the west, and Mediterranean in the south. Volcanic cliffs rise over turquoise crystal clear water. Athens, the capital, is a delight and a learning experience. See the 5th century BC Acropolis, Parthenon Temple, Byzantine Museum, Agora, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus. The island of Santorini with its whitewashed buildings is a delight. Mykonos is best for clubbing and nightlife. Crete has many hikes, historical sites, and beaches.

Enjoy a cruise while in Greece with epic sunsets. Hike volcanoes, walk along cobblestoned footpaths, swim with sea turtles and dolphins, explore lush forests, visit idyllic villages and olive groves, sample the food, learn the cultural traditions, party hard, and of course, you have to visit the historical sites. Small in size, Greece offers a lot of attractions for a memorable holiday.

Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, and Rhodes are the most popular places. Athens, the largest city of Greece, is also one of the oldest cities in the world. The country has recovered from its economic crisis. Tourists are coming back again, the prices are still low. This is a good time to visit Greece.

There are around 6000 islands in Greece. 227 are inhabited.

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Greece – Quick Facts

  1. Official Name – Hellenic Republic (also called Hellas / Hellada)
  2. Capital – Athens
  3. Area – 131,957 square kilometers
  4. Population – 10,768,477 (2017 estimate)
  5. Currency – Euro
  6. ISD code – +30
  7. Time zone – GMT+2
  8. Religion – Orthodox Catholic
  9. Official language – Greek
  10. Travel + Leisure magazine rated Santorini as the “World’s Best Island”.

Top Reasons To Visit Greece

Archaeology, History Neo-classical to Ottoman influenced to Baroque to Cycladic. Parthenon, Delphi, Olympia. Long history of about 4000 years. Influenced by different cultures like Romans, Ottomans, Byzantines and Orthodox Christianity
Beaches There are many stunning beaches with crystal clear water. Sandy, rocky, and cliffy beaches. Many are colorful too. Photogenic & Instagramable. Greece has a coastline of 13,500 kilometers.
Islands More than 6000. 227 inhabited. Crete, Cyclades, Kefalonia, Lesbos, Mykonos, Paros, Santorini, and Zakynthos  are the most popular.
Hospitality Greeks are known for their hospitality. They are polite too. Most locals are friendly. The locals understand English well.
Food & Drinks Influence by Italian & Turkish, Greek cuisine is an amalgamation of foreign & indigenous traditions. Vegan food is almost non-existent, though the Greeks eat less meat. You will find quality wine and beer.
Nightlife A vibrant nightlife scene, especially in Mykonos. Find Greek and Latin music, clubbing, bars, and restaurants. See the lit up Acropolis in Athens.
Safety Greece is a safe for tourists. Theft and crime rates are low. Drugs are strictly prohibited.
Landscape Peninsulas, mountains, beaches, islands, caves and canyons, volcanoes, lakes, waterfalls, national parks
Activities Riding, biking, kayaking, rafting, swimming, snorkeling, rock climbing, mountaineering, driving, diving
Smoking Officially banned in public places. Greeks are heavy smokers, often defying the ban.
Greece has more than 13,500 kilometers of coastline, the world’s 11th longest.

How To Reach

Athens airport is the biggest and busiest. (It is the 30th busiest airport of Europe).

By Plane – There are 15 international airports in Greece. Every island worth visiting has an airport with flights connecting to national and international cities. Most tourists arrive at the Athens airport, the biggest in Greece and Europe’s 30th busiest. Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Rhodes and Corfu also have international airports. Athens is connected to all major cities in the world and also smaller cities in Europe. Charter flights fly to the different Greek islands during the tourist season.

By Train – North Greece is connected to mainland Europe. There are regular rail connections to Bulgaria, Czech Republic, North Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey. All international trains arrive at and depart from Thessaloniki. The train service is run by the Hellenic Railways Organization Ltd. (OSE).

By Bus – International bus service is limited. Buses ply between Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Serbia and Turkey. The bus service is also operated by Hellenic Railways Organization Ltd. (OSE).

By Boat (Ferry) – There are regular ferries between different Greek cities and islands from Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus and Israel.

By Car – You can reach Greece by car from neighboring countries. Cars are ferried from across Italy to Greece. Car travel is very popular with European tourists.

Customs

Greece has different regulations for European Union (EU) Countries and non European Union (EU) Countries.

         European Union (EU) Countries          Non European Union (EU) Countries
800 cigarettes/400 cigarillos/200 cigars/ 1 kg of tobacco 200 cigarettes/100 cigarillos/50 cigars/ 250 g of tobacco
10 liters of spirits/20 liters of alcoholic beverages/90 liters of wine/110 liters of beer 1liter of spirits/2 liters of alcoholic beverages/4 liters of wine/16 liters of beer
No limit on medicinal products if required by passenger No limit on medicinal products if required by passenger
Baggage is to be cleared at the final destination airport Baggage is to be cleared at the first airport in Greece.
No restrictions on both foreign currency and the local Euro Declaration to be made for amounts exceeding Euro 10000 or equivalent of foreign currency

You can carry firearms and ammunitions out of Greece with prior approval.

Vaccinations

  • MMR (measles-mumps-rubella)
  • DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Polio and flu shot.
  • Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Rabies vaccinations may also be required.

There are 18 UNESCO World Heritage sites, the 16th most among all countries.

Getting Around

By Plane – You can take a flight to reach many islands, served by the Aegean Airlines. There are other carriers also servicing the islands and the mainland. You will find more flights in the summer, which is the peak season.

By Train – Extremely limited because of the terrain. The country is divided into small islands.

By Bus – KTEL, the national carrier, operates buses throughout the country. Islands are also serviced by the KTEL buses, traveling on ferries.

By Boat (Ferry) – The most popular and efficient way to travel. But remember, ferry travel depends on the weather. In the peak season, ferries are full, so book in advance. There are fewer ferries in the winter. Check the schedule while planning.

By Car – The roads are extensive, scenic and well maintained. Toll fees and gasoline or petrol can be costly, though. You will find car rentals in all big cities.

By Taxi – Taxis are costly. The drivers too are not always polite. It is best to take Uber.

Weather

The Mediterranean Sea influences the weather of most of Greece.

  • The country has dry and hot summers and mild and wet winters.
  • The hills experience Alpine climate with heavy snowfalls in winter.
  • Northern regions have temperate climate with hot summers and cold winters.
  • Snowfall is common in the hills, and sometimes in the low lying areas too.

The maximum and minimum temperatures, rainfall, number of rainy days vary a great deal. Different areas have different average temperatures and rainfall.

Best Time To Visit Greece

Spring to early summer (between April and the middle of June), and the autumn season (September to the middle of October), are both good times to visit the country.

  • High Season – Summer is the high season. Good for visiting Athens, Thessaloniki, Rhodes, Mykonos, Crete, and Santorini. Nightlife is lively at Mykonos. However, there will be more tourists this time of the year. Flight, accommodation, food, drinks, everything will cost more.
  • Low Season – November to April. Many hotels-restaurants are closed. Accommodation and ferry services can be of problem.

Greece By Region

Greece can be broadly divided into 5 tourist divisions.

Attica East of central Greece and comprising of several islands. The capital city of Athens and Aegina (the first capital), Cape Sounion (temple of Poseidon), Marathon (birthplace of the marathon run), Megara (archaeological museum) and Piraeus (the largest port in Greece). Many archaeological sites, beaches, and mountains. Athens has the Acropolis, Parthenon, and much more.
Central and Northern Greece The largest area-wise. Delphi (UNESCO World Heritage site, oracle of Apollo, archaeological ruins), Halkidiki (resorts, nightlife, Mount Athos, forests, beaches with blue waters), Ioannina (Lake Pamvotida, boating, Byzantine fortress), Meteora (monasteries on top of rocky hills, hiking), Mount Olympus (the highest mountain in Greece, abode of the Greek Gods, natural beauty, flora and fauna), Thessaloniki (the second largest city in Greece after Athens, architectural and cultural hub, Byzantine castles, museums, and the sea).
Crete The largest of all Greek islands, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Tourism infrastructure is well developed. Beautiful landscape with ruins, archaeological and historical museums, monasteries, caves, beaches, festivals and the trees (some as old as 2000 years). Vibrant nightlife. Heraklion (the capital of Crete, port city, museums, buildings, old city, bars & restaurants), Chania (Venetian lighthouse, Turkish mosque, leather production center-Tabakaria, Halepa), Agios Nikolaos (summer resort, Lake Vouliagmeni), Rethymno (Old Town, Venetian architectures, caves at Idaio Antro), Ierapatra (Europe’s southernmost city, Venetian fortress of Kales, sandy beaches), Elounda (five star resorts, private beaches, Spinalonga Island).
Greek Islands Stunning beaches, nightlife, honeymoon, museums, archaeological sites, harbors, religion, landscapes – the islands have everything. Santorini is on an active volcano. Beaches in multiple colors, varied landscapes, nightlife, archaeological sites, gastronomic and culinary delights), Mykonos (the most visited island for its beaches, museums, windmills, churches), Delos (UNESCO World Heritage site in a small island near Mykonos). Rhodes (also known as “Island of Roses”. Medieval town, beaches, archaeological sites, castles, sunbathing, snorkeling, swimming, diving, and surfing. Corfu (Kerkira or Kerkyra in Greek. Old fortresses, palaces, churches, monasteries, beaches and traditional Greek villages). Ithaca and Lesbos are for solitude tourists with clear water beaches.
Peloponnese Peninsula in the south with natural wonders and ancient and historical sites. Archaeological sites include Olympia and the Temple of Zeus, Patras, Mycenae, Ancient Corinth and Sparta. There are many beaches, old castles, medieval towns, caves, monasteries, lakes, and open-air theaters. Carnivals are also held here.

How To Visit Greece On A Budget

  1. Eat cheap - Gyros & Souvlaki are not only cheap but tasty and fulfilling. Eat where the locals eat.
  2. Accommodation – Dorms, hostels and budget hotels provide good, but cheap accommodation.
  3. Travel – Rent a bike or moped. But gas is costly. You will also find shared taxis. Plus, you will also find Uber, which is cheaper. There are buses to all major cities and attractions. Bus travel is cheap and efficient. Take the subway in Athens. Also, the overnight ferries are usually cheaper.
  4. Season – Off season travel can cut costs. Greece is a lot costlier during the peak tourist season from July to September. Try April-May instead.
  5. Drinks – Buy wine rather than drinking at bar. Wine and other drinks are cheap in Greece.