Not many countries in Europe can offer you the multitude of attractions of Greece, including sandy beaches with limpid waters; ancient ruins and citadels; lush forests; delicious cuisine; numerous cultural festivals; and relaxed lifestyle, not as fast paced as many developed European countries. There are simply so many amazing cities and regions in this relatively small country, and choosing among them can be challenging. But here's a quick look at some of its highlights to help you decide, whether you visit independently or with Greece tour packages.
Some Top Greek Destinations
Chances are you'll fly into the nation's capital first, and this ancient city is a delight for visitors, with enough remarkable sights and experiences to fill your entire holiday. They include the picturesque old quarter, Plaka; impressive museums packed with treasures of classical antiquity and the Byzantine Middle Ages; amazing restaurants from traditional to cutting-edge nouvel; and of course the iconic ruins of the ancients, such as the Acropolis and the Parthenon. And when the sun goes down, the nightlife heats up. In short, Athens is awesome!
This port on the Peloponnese Peninsula is known as one of the country's prettiest, most enticing, and most romantic towns, and that plus its closeness to Athens - less than two hours - makes it a popular weekend getaway for Athenians. Nafplio's impressive heritage includes impressive neoclassical and Renaissance Venetian Renaissance mansions, as well as the awe-inspiring, Baroque Palamidi fortress, built by the Venetians in the early 18th century.
Also on the Peloponnese, this archaeological site is where the ancient Olympic Games were held. Some 70 structures in various states of ruin can be explored, and there's also an 138-year-old (but modernized) archaeological museum full of impressive finds from Olympia and the surrounding region. .
One of the most beautiful of Greece's many islands, it lies in the Saronic Gulf a short distance off the Peloponnese (also making it one of the closest to Athens). It is a gem for the marble-cobbled lanes, lovely stone architecture, and gorgeous harbor views of its main settlement, Hydra Town, and outside town visitors are mesmerized by its lovely beaches, crystalline waters, and magnificent coastal hikes. As an added bonus, it's one of the few Greek islands with no cars, or even scooters. Transport is on foot, by donkey, or water taxi.
Hydra of course is just one of hundreds of Greek islands scattered across the Aegean Sea, with other top choices such as well known Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes, and Santorini, but also the likes of Amorgos, Ios, Paxos, and Serifos, Other worthwhile mainland spots on the mainland include Monemvasia in the Peloponnese with its famous medieval fortress, dubbed "the Gibraltar of the East"; the ancient ruins of Hellenic Delphi and pre-Hellenic Mycenae; and Thessaloniki, Greece's second city. a vibrant mix of the ancient, the medieval, and the modern.
When to Visit
The tourist season is between Easter and October, but off season can also be rewarding, and frankly, the peak of summer should be avoided if high temperatures and/or big crowds are a turn off for you (hotel rates also spike in summer). The winter, meantime, is a mixed bag; rates go down but turbulent sea conditions may affect transport reliability.
Getting Around in Greece
You may use a rail pass when touring Greece but the railway network here is not as robust as they are in some other European countries; international trains, meanwhile, connect Thessaloniki and Athens but not many other cities and towns. You can find plenty of cheap flights from most places in Europe and other continents into Athens and sometimes Thessaloniki and key islands.
As for intra-city road travel, there is a decent amount of bus service, but its frequency goes down significantly in off season. In some cases visitors are better advised to either rent a car or take organized motorcoach tours.
And speaking of the islands, quite a few ferries connects Athens with a number of them, as well as ports in Italy and Turkey, and there is of course ferry service of various frequency (and in winter, reliability) between Greek islands, not all of which transport cars as well as passengers; most ferry services have websites and allow advance online booking. Some of the islands also have air service connecting them with Athens.
Other Useful Tips
If history is a draw for you, the majority of major monuments and archaeological sites are to be found on the mainland (with notable island exceptions like Crete and Rhodes). In addition, traveling between mainland towns and cities is simpler and cheaper than hopping between the islands.
When it comes to dining, make an effort to research your choices ahead of time to avoid tourist traps and find eateries frequented by the locals. Also, you can drink tap water and wine from barrels without worry.
While touring in Greece, you should keep in mind that as a whole, Greeks aren't exactly known for punctuality. So expect service in restaurants to usually not be super fast, and transportation to at time be less than punctual.
As for social mores, the younger generations are fairly liberal and tolerant these days, but older people somewhat less so (depending on the location), and in general Greece has been a traditionally conservative society, partly due to the influence of its Orthodox Church; for example, when visiting places of worship and rural, non-resort towns and countryside, it's recommended (and in the case of many churches and monasteries, required) to avoid wearing excessively revealing outfits.
Though credit cards are widely accepted, it's still a good idea to keep a certain amount of cash in your wallet; this is especially true in non-urban and non-resort areas of the mainland and the islands.
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