Imagine many small beautiful islands surrounded by an emerald sea and warmed by the Mediterranean sun; imagine white houses and traditional taverns on the coast; imagine the ruins of ancient Greece and the mind-blowingly tasty food –- you are almost certainly thinking about Greece.
Greece travel resources
Greece is located in the south of the Balkan Peninsula in Eastern Europe. The country borders Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania to the north and Turkey to the east. It has one of the longest coastlines in the world and more than 1000 islands, of which around 200 are inhabited. Greece’s most famous mountain is Mount Olympus, where according to Greek legends the gods used to live.
Today’s Greece is strongly connected with its ancestry from ancient Greece, and traces of this epoch can be found almost everywhere in the country. Ancient Greece is considered to be the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, history, drama, comedy, tragedy and of course the Olympic games.
City focus: Thessaloniki
Most travellers only visit the capital of the country, Athens, on their trip to Greece, which turns the second largest city, Thessaloniki, into a hidden pearl in the north.
Thessaloniki has a long tradition of being an important commercial port and transportation link between Europe and the Middle East. The city’s architecture is influenced by the many different cultures that have had a presence there; contemporary urban elements perfectly accompany remnants of Byzantine times.
The best place to start your adventure in Thessaloniki is on the picturesque waterfront. This very long street is bordered by the blue sea on one side and many beautiful, tall, white buildings on the other; it’s a great place for late-afternoon walks. Enjoy the refreshing sea breeze while sipping a cup of cold frappuccino (icy coffee drink) in one of the many welcoming coffee shops. At the end of the street you will find the famous White Tower. This monument and museum was built in Ottoman times and was primarily used as prison and as a site for mass executions. Today the tower is one of the symbols of the city.
Another Thessaloniki landmark is Aristotelous Square, where you’ll find a statue of Aristotelous. It’s said that if you rub his feet you’ll become more intelligent and have luck with your education — no harm in trying it!
Thessaloniki is great for shopping — from high-streets brands to small local markets, where you can buy all kinds of handmade traditional souvenirs. The city is also famous for its beautiful and richly decorated churches, which proudly represent the orthodox religion.Read more about sailing in Greece
Getting to and from Greece
If you are arriving in Athens by boat you will be arriving in Piraeus, which is not far from the city. From there you can take a bus or metro line 1, however both the bus and metro stations are quite far away from the port. If you are good at bargaining you can get a taxi to Athens for about 10-15 euros.
Getting around Greece
There is a very good intercity bus system in Greece, which enables you to travel problem-free anywhere on the mainland.
Look for the “KTEL” (intercity) green-coloured buses, which have a station in every town. The only problem with the buses is the language barrier as most of the drivers don’t speak English very well.
The national railway system in Greece is quite limited. There are two main routes: Athens to Patra, and Athens to Thessoloniki.
However, the trains are quite comfortable, they leave on time and prices are reasonable, so if the routes available suit your itinerary, they are worth considering.
Car, moped and camper rental
Renting a car in Greece is as easy as anywhere else, but the most popular way for tourists to get around is by moped. You can rent one for about €10 per day and you will probably need to show your driving license in order to rent it.
There are many ferries and boats in Greece offering fast and exciting transportation to the islands. Just go to the port and ask about schedules and prices; remember that you can always bargain especially if you are travelling as a group. The Flying Dolphins service islands close to Piraeus and are very efficient.
Top 10 things to do in Greece
- Visit Oia, Santorini. One of the most beautiful places in Greece and in Europe. This is the village with white houses, narrow streets and blue-domed churches, which you have probably seen on ads or postcards of Greece. It has the most astonishing views, the most tempting boutique hotels and the tastiest seafood. Our advice: enjoy the sunset with a drink in one of its fantastic taverns.
- Ride a donkey. It is a rather crazy, smelly and wacky experience but it is definitely worth a try. Donkeys used to be a traditional means of transport in Greece years ago and are still used in some rural places. The ride will probably cost you about five euros, and the best place to do it is in Santorini.
- Drink yso in a tavern. Yso is a traditional Greek drink which resembles the French Pernod. It is rather strong and goes perfectly with a Greek salad.
- Eat, eat, eat. Greek salad with white cheese, and moussaka are absolute musts when you go to Greece. Other tasty and highly recommended meals are courgettes with garlic sauce, and stuffed paprika with rice and mincemeat. Don’t miss the pastries either (particularly tea cookies), you can find them in the many pastry shops located in almost every town.
- Visit an orthodox church. Orthodox churches are very different from Catholic ones and are extremely impressive. There are normally a lot of paintings on the walls illustrating different saints and their stories. But probably the most remarkable element is the icon-covered screen or wall called “iconostas”, which separates the nave from the sanctuary.
- Visit Meteora. This is a complex of six monasteries built on sandstone rock pillars. “Meteora” means “suspended in the air” and this is exactly the impression that they give. Built in the 14th century to resist the Turkish occupation, these magnificent monasteries will definitely take your breath away.
- Go to the northern parts of the country. Many travelers visit only the islands or Athens, but if you really want to experience real life in Greece you should go north.
- Spend a night in one of the monasteries on the Peninsula of Aton (males only). The Peninsula of Aton is one of three peninsulas forming Halkidiki. It is an autonomic country under the protection of Greece and is mainly inhabited by monks, who have an ascetic way of life. No women are allowed in, so if you are female the only way to see the Mount Athos monasteries is by doing a boat trip around the coastline.
- Spend all your time on the beach. Greece has one of the word’s longest coastlines and some of the most beautiful beaches, so why not take advantage of this? Spend the whole day enjoying the picturesque views and the warm sand and, you know — get tanned!
- Go to the Acropolis but don’t raise your expectations too high because there will be many cranes masking the majestic, beautiful scenery. Enjoy the 360-degree view of Athens — it’s your only real chance to see and understand that between seven and eight million people live there.
This page by Steffy Dechina.