Explore Greece: Land of Six Thousand Islands
Overflowing olive groves, glittering bays, postcard-worthy beaches, and thousands of islands: this geographically scattered country is tops in diversity. It's no wonder vacationers are drawn to this Mediterranean gem.
Today, Greece is known worldwide to be one of the most popular tourist destinations. Every summer, millions of visitors flock to the beautiful islands and mainland of Greece to enjoy the warm climate and the dazzling sun, as well as to explore the endless beaches and the impressive ruins. But if you look a little closer, you'll see that Greece has even more to offer.
Check out our best travel deals to Greece:
8 Reasons To Visit Greece Now While It's Cheap
As the U.S. dollar continues to demonstrate dominance over many other currencies, now is a great time for Americans to travel. Prices to many European countries have seen a significant decline as competition between airlines increases, which has created more and more opportunities to hop across the Atlantic Ocean and explore. Although there are many countries that have become very affordable in recent times, Greece is an incredible option for bargain travelers.
1. It's Cheap To Get To Greece
As prices for flights to Europe continue to drop, it's never been more affordable to get to Greece. While many major airlines now run flights from most major U.S. cities to Athens, there are also plenty of budget airlines offering inexpensive flights to many European cities where travelers can easily catch a connecting flight to Greece. Flights from Athens to several islands are also inexpensive, and short!
2. The Greek Food
Whether you're a meat-eater, vegetarian, or vegan, you won't have to worry about going hungry in Greece. Salads covered with tomatoes, feta, onions, olives and cucumbers are common throughout the country, as are gyros (inexpensive wraps with meats, vegetables and sauce). The quality of food in Greece is superb, and the prices are incredibly affordable. When in Athens, explore the side streets near Monastiraki and you'll find some hidden gems with local prices.
3. The Weather In Greece
Looking to plan a winter escape, but don't want to spend your vacation anywhere cold? You can leave the winter jackets behind because the average low temperature in Athens is 45 degrees in January (the coldest month)—this is much warmer than other European countries during this time of the year. You may want a rain jacket if visiting during the winter months, but there are still plenty of things to do and see any time of the year in this gorgeous Mediterranean country.
4. The Greek Islands
Plenty of cheap flights are available from Athens to Santorini, Mykonos and Crete daily. If you have a bit more time on your trip, there are ferry options offering travelers incredible views of the Aegean Sea at even lower prices. The islands of Greece are filled with beautiful beaches, a relaxing vibe, stunning backdrops, and many affordable and jaw-dropping accommodations. Head to Santorini in the fall season for fantastic prices, mild weather, and next to no tourists.
5. The History Of Greece
Athens offers some of the most spectacular museums, archeological and historical sites in the world. While prices for the main attractions, such as the Acropolis, fluctuate depending on the time of year, the entrance fees are still inexpensive in comparison to the rest of Europe. Travelers looking to see as many sites for as little money should invest in the package ticket option which includes the Acropolis, Hadrian's Library, the Ancient Agora, and more!
6. The Transportation In Greece
Athens is the only city large enough to justify an underground metro. It is fast, efficient, inexpensive, and offers visitors a 'local' vibe. Travelers can easily get to and from the airport from as little as 8 Euros each way. Taxis are available, and there are buses that also run through the capital and several other cities. Greece is relatively easy to navigate, and many towns are accessible by public transportation.
7. The Location
Greece is in a fantastic location for those looking to explore neighboring European countries. Want to combine multiple destinations on one trip? You can fly from Athens to Rome, Berlin, Prague or Zurich in less than three hours, and you can find flights to Paris or Barcelona that are just four hours in duration. Here you can read more about round trips.
8. Be Different
So frequently travelers choose destinations that are familiar and well-known, such as London, Barcelona, Rome, and Paris. Although these places are incredible, wouldn't it be cool to choose a country that's less-traveled and come back with different stories and memories than everyone else? Take advantage of Greece's low prices (especially when compared to Western Europe), dive into the ancient culture and get off the beaten path!
by Jessica Bisesto
Destinations in Greece
Interesting destinations abound all over Greece. Here are the most important ones:
Vacations in Greece: Tips & Tricks
Let us help you find plan your ideal budget holiday in sunny Greece.
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.
- Vacations 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.
Vacations 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.
- The 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.
- Vacations in Crete - the all-round destination: Crete has everything, from beaches to mountains to hiking to cultural attractions. The north is quite touristy, but the south holds tight to its originality. So the island offers something for everyone and is particularly suitable for families and "Greece holiday beginners".
- Vacations in Santorini - dream scenery: Santorini is an absolute dream. The island is incredibly beautiful and the white houses have garnered a cult following. You'll be rubbing shoulders with wealthy tourists from across the world and the prices reflect it—if there's one thing Santorini is not, it's cheap.
- Vacations in Rhodes - sun guaranteed: After Crete, Rhodes is the most popular island among tourists and the crowds of tourists and overabundance of hotels reflect it. Nevertheless, Rhodes has a clear advantage over other islands: the consistently sunny weather. In the summer, you are practically guaranteed sun, since it hardly rains here. For those who want more than just a beach vacation, there is, for example, Rhodes Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site or attractions like the Acropolis of Lindos. These places give you an interesting slice of Greek history.
- Vacations in Kos - party & relax: Kos is one thing above all: peaceful. We highly recommend the Tigak beach in the north or Agios Theologos beach in the southwest. In the evening, you can easily find a party atmosphere, but if you're trying to keep it low-key, a few drinks in a local bar or a delicious meal at a restaurants can be quite relaxing. Kos is particularly suitable for families.
- Vacations in Corfu - the green paradise: Corfu and its neighbors like Lefkada or Kefalonia are much rainier and less sunny than other Greek islands. Therefore, the Ionian Islands may not be ideal for the sun-worshipping crowd, but are a great choice for nature lovers. Due to the increased rain, there is impressive vegetation here and the mountains are beautifully green. There's also attractions of cultural interest, like the old town of Corfu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Vacations in Mykonos - the celebrity island: Similar to Santorini, Mykonos draws a wealthy crowd, which includes all sorts of stars and starlets. As a result, expect extremely high prices and keep in mind that although Mykonos is known for its nightlife, you'll be shelling out 4x as much for a drink here as you will on any other island. But if you're willing to splash out, it's worth taking a trip to celebrate with the who's who of the Greek Islands.
If you're still overwhelmed by choice, we recommend a bit ofislandhopping. The Greek islands are all close to each other and there are also cheap domestic flights. You can easily plan a trip around your budget. For example, you can treat yourself to one night of luxury on Santorini and spend the rest of your vacation on one of the cheaper islands.
Important information for your vacation to Greece
When is the best time to go to Greece?
The best time to travel to Greece is between April and October, with temperatures peaking in July and August. In the spring, the skies are clear, the temperatures are pleasant, and nature is in full bloom. The cool sea water invites you to in for a refreshing dip. In the fall, the sun is not as strong, but the temperatures are still pleasant. The colors in the landscape are more nuanced and the tourist attractions are not as crowded, although the evenings can be quite cool.
Tourism in Greece is a seasonal business. Many hotels close over the winter, entire cities empty, and the ferries run less frequently.
July through August is the high season, which means it can be very crowded, relatively expensive, and extremely hot all at the same time. Hikes, extended sightseeing tours, and stays in busy cities like Athens or Thessaloniki should be avoided in midsummer. September is ideal for families, while spring is best for hikers and outdoor fanatics.
Must-sees in Greece
Greece is the cradle of civilization. Ancient sights are so numerous that you may just stumble upon them on accident. One building in particular does deserve your time and attention: the Acropolis, overlooking Athens. The ancient place of worship, dedicated to the goddess Athen, still dominates the cityscape of modern Athens.
Pirate tip: Everyone wants to see the Acropolis but in the intense heat of day, the crowds are as intense as the sun. It's better not to ascend til 6pm, or about two hours before sunset. There will be fewer crowds and you'll have a spectacular view over Athens as the sun goes down.
For the mythologically curious, the Greek gods were said to live on Mt. Olympus, which is located in Macedonia, in the northern part of the Greek mainland. Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece at 2,918 meters and can be hiked during the warm season. Starting from Litorocho, marked hiking trails lead up to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
In Crete, in Knossos near Heraklion, you will marvel at the colorful remains of the Minoan civilization.
The most important festival in Greece is Easter. For the Easter holidays, Greeks return to the villages of their youth to celebrate there amongst relatives and friends. As a result the cities are generally empty, although that may just mean there are more tourists than acutal Greeks.
Greek cuisine enjoys a well-deserved worldwide reputation, but in order to enjoy authentic dishes, try to avoid tourist taverns with 100 seats or more. You'll have a better experience in the villages and local taverns, where you should ask around to find out the best places to eat. The most common way to eat is to fill up the table with "meze", or small starters, and share.
In the wake of the Greek financial crisis, the VAT was raised to 24 percent. As a result, the beverage prices in the kafenia and taverns have skyrocketed. The food prices in the supermarkets are also relatively high. The farmers markets and street vendors are cheaper.
Opinions are divided on Greek cuisine: while some may find Greek cuisine to be heavy or too meat-focused, others rave over the healthy salads, fresh fish, and olive oil. Greek cuisine is very diverse and can fall anywhere on the scale from decadent grease-soaked gyros to fresh salads with feta tomatoes, and olives, because the Greeks "do not eat to live, but live to eat". When dining with Greeks you're sure to have a great time, as meals are always a lively social occasion. Set aside a few hours for lunch and dinner if you want to live your best Greek life.
The Greeks attach great importance to regional products and simply prepared, quality food. They would rather use olive oil, salt, and pepper than spices or herbs from across the world. Be sure not to miss the quality Greek wine and ouzo, sure to be available at any restaurant.
- Pork gyros with fries and sauce
- Dakos with feta cheese, tomatoes, and olives (soaked bread with toppings, similar to the Italian bruschetta)
- Moussaka (a casserole-type dish with eggplant or potatoes and ground meat)
- Souvlaki (meat or vegetable skewers)
- Pastitsio (baked pasta with ground meat and creamy sauce)
- Spanakopita (puff pastries filled with spinach and cheese)
- Greek salad
- Kolokythoanthoi (stuffed zucchini flowers)
- Botargo (dried, salted fish eggs)
- Melomakarona (a honey-based pastry)
- Melitinia cookies
- Spetsofai (spicy sausages)
- Saganaki (fried cheese)
- Various soups such as fasolada (white bean and vegetables) or spanakorizo (spinach and rice)
- Various breads like Pita or Daktyla
- Tzatziki (sweet, cool, and creamy, it's the ubiquitous condiment in Greece)
Practical travel tips for Greece
Two things everyone should pack: sunscreen with a high SPF and an mosquitoes repellent.
Accommodations in Greece
In Greece, you will find accommodations of all categories. There are many large hotels in the tourist centers, and there are numerous family pensiones in the smaller towns and on the islands.
During the summer and especially in August, the Greeks like to vacation, particularly beachside. If you're traveling in the summer months, you should book well in advance and not try your luck in person. This is especially true for popular islands such as Mykonos and Santorini.
Campsites are also available in Greece, but are fewer than in Italy, for example. Wildcamping is not allowed in Greece and is explicitly forbidden on many beaches.
Transportation in Greece
Greece has a well-developed bus network, and you can reach many remote corners using it. Many resorts will rent out scooters or quadbikes for the day, if you choose to forego a rental car. The ferry connections between the mainland and the islands and between the islands themselves are amazingly cheap and ferries run frequently. Many islands have small airports that are dominated by regional airlines.
Greece by car
If you are only in Greece for a short city trip, a car is not necessary. Otherwise, it makes perfect sense to rent a car on the Greek mainland. For example, landing at the airport in Athens and renting a car will allow you to explore the beautiful Viotia region with all its charming towns and breathtaking scenery. Even the more remote regions Evrytania and Fthiotid are best seen by car.
On the Peloponnese peninsula, travelers with a car also have an advantage. You can visit all the must-see sights at a relaxed pace, from amphitheater to the Temple of Apollon Epikourios.
A car makes sense in the north of Greece as well. Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city, is the ideal starting point. Driving a car in this region has one major drawback: if you want to take advantage of the many wineries, you may not want to be driving.
Cars are rented on almost every island and in larger cities. To rent a car you need a driver who is at least 21 years old and has a valid driver's license. For a small car, you should calculate around 25-35 euros per day, making it even more economical if you travel as a couple or in a group. You can also easily rent mopeds in most places, although this is only advised for very experienced drivers.
Greece without a car
Worried about being at a disadvantage without a car? That's not necessarily the case. Car-free islands promise you clean air and plenty of quiet, so they are ideal for a relaxing getaway. If that sounds right for you, head to the island of Hydra, where there are no cars. You'll move from place to place on donkeys or in boats, making modern life seem, if only for the time your transport takes, to be far away. The result is a slow-paced vacation on a beautiful island.
In addition, you can take advantage of the aforementioned bus routes. For example, if you're vacationing on the island of Rhodes, you can move quickly and cheaply from point A to point B by bus. Of course, you are a bit more limited in terms of flexibility, but you'll likely save a whole lot of money.
Greece for couples
Greece is perfect for a couples holiday, whether you prefer romantic walks down the beach or adventurous hikes. Of course, cultural highlights are also abundant in Greece and the picturesque villages on the Greek islands invite lengthy strolls.
Many hotels in Greece specialize in romantic holidays focused on relaxation. Many of these hotels also have excellent spa services.
Greece with children
Greece is ideal for a family vacation. The colorful and varied destinations will keep children engaged throughout your trip. Whether they're building sandcastles on the beach or exploring ancient ruins they've only seen pictures of, it won't be hard to keep them entertained.
In the bustling cities and the crowded Greek beaches with lots of noise, a screaming child won't necessarily turn heads. If one of the little ones has a tantrum at the supermarket then don't be overly embarrassed. You'll also find that most places are well equipped for children (for examples, restaurants have high chairs).
If you're a bit flexible, you shouldn't run into any problems. Some negatives are that certain places may not be stroller friendly and not all restaurants have a ban on smoking.
Package holidays in Greece
Are you looking for an all-round package for your Greece vacation? There are plenty of great choices.
Since the fifties, package holidays to Greece have been very popular. Even for solo travelers can find a quality package holiday.
Reasons to book a package holiday in Greece:
- Countless beach hotels
- Clear water
- Dreamy beaches
- Trips to ancient sites
- Mediterranean cuisine
- Low prices
If you have the time, we advise that you travel around the country or go island hopping.
Greece for backpackers
Greece is perfect for a backpacking trip. The network of roads is well developed and there are plenty of cheap and easy travel options like trains and buses. The particular advantage for backpackers in Greece is the number of airports: there are 38 major airports here, which will allow you to get from A to B even faster and easily reach different islands.
Routes from Athens or Thessaloniki are especially popular. From there you can set off along the coast or through the mountainous regions, which will inspire you with their impressive vegetation. The mountains on the mainland are some of the most beautiful hiking areas in the whole of Europe, but they are rather undeveloped and sometimes difficult to walk, so only experienced hikers should go out without a guide. The most isolated, and thus most peaceful, hiking regions of Greece are Chalkidiki, Párga, Dimitsána, and the Pindos Mountains.
You may not learn Greek in a single trip, but the locals you encounter will generally be happy if you manage to pick up a few words, and it can go a long way to making friends and connections in-country. In the more touristy areas you should be okay speaking English.
Those on a low budget will fare better in the less touristy areas, as you will find cheap accommodation and food here. Bigger cities like Athens and other popular tourist destinations are much more expensive.
In rural, less touristy areas, you can buy or even trade food produced by the locals themselves. If your vacation funds are running low, many locals will allow you to pick a few apples or grapes from their private orchards and vineyards, if you ask nicely. Although they will likely refuse compensation, you should always offer. If somone invites you into their home, be sure not to accidentally overstay your welcome, as they will likely insist you can stay as long as you like (3 days should be a hard limit).
If you want to hike during your backpacking trip, we recommend traveling in the spring months. Although Greece is suitable for backpackers during the rest of the year, you may experiene heavy rainfall in winter (although the temperatures are still decent). In summer, when temperatures sometimes exceed the 100° limit, it is a bit too hot for hiking. Those simply looking to explore the sights and beaches and forego the hikes, on the otherhand, can easily plan a trip in midsummer.