Your quick guide to a holiday packed with sunshine, salt air and endless shades of blue.
1 | You’ll experience more by cruise ship.
With so many incredible islands to explore, the route between them could seem daunting. Make life much simpler by unpacking once and leaving transportation worries to the ship’s captain. Many cruises depart and return to Athens, making your onward journey easy. And many of Greece’s most famous islands, like Santorini, have tiny villages, not towns, so you can easily take in most of the sights from the famous cliffs and still have plenty of time for shopping and exploring along the beach. By the next day, you’ll be in a new port. It’s the ideal way to see as much as possible and find your favourite spot for a next visit!
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Did you know there are more than 6,000 islands in Greece – but only 227 are inhabited? As a general guide, Santorini, Mykonos and Crete are three of the most popular. Here you’ll find the white-washed buildings with blue roofs, cobblestone streets and the quaint cafés lining the waterfront. History buffs will love Delos, which is said to be Apollo’s birthplace and offers plenty of ancient ruins for exploring. Kefalonia is known for fantastic beaches and excellent wineries. Skopelos provided the setting for Mama Mia, Rhodes is famous for its nightlife and, of course, Patmos is the unofficial centre of Greek religious history.
2 | Go hungry and try everything.
The only thing as beautiful as Greek sights is Greek food. Olives are everywhere and the locals’ standards are exacting. It probably goes without saying that the seafood is the freshest around, and calamari is something of a natural treasure. The decadent feta and other cheeses are unmissable, but you really must leave space for moussaka, a baked dish of heaven involving aubergine, mince, tomato, garlic, spices, and cheese. If you like a cockail, taste the ouzo, a dry anise-flavoured aperitif that is unspeakably strong. We don’t recommend matching the locals sip for sip! Wine drinkers should try asking for local barrelled varieties, which are delicious and much cheaper than bottled.
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Coffee lovers should look out for Ellinikos, a popular Greek preparation in a traditional long-handled copper pot. When ordering Ellinikos, select your sweet tooth: Vari Glyko (strong and very sweet), Metrios (medium sweetness) or Sketos (without sugar).
3 | Greece makes a fantastic family holiday.
Family is a major part of Greek culture, and locals love seeing families visiting. Many of the sun-soaked beachfront resorts offer kids clubs just for the wee ones. On top of that, the country boasts a good number of waterparks and archaeology experiences. For an unforgettable adventure, ask your consultant about family sailing trips.
4 | You can visit working archaeological dig sites.
If visiting Greece’s incredible ruins and museums is only just skimming the surface of your curiosity, ask your consultant about a day trip to a working archaeological dig. You’ll experience history being made first-hand as you take in vast settlements and tiny dwellings in the process of being uncovered.
5 | Explore the lesser known highlights of Athens too.
It’s easy to get caught up visiting some of the world’s most famous sights, but it would be a mistake not to get off the tourist circuit and visit the tiny neighbourhood of Anafiotika. More Greek island than major city, the sleepy narrow streets are flanked by white stone churches, leafy lemon trees and charming cafes. In the evening, head to Cine Paris in Plaka, a seasonal outdoor cinema open from May through to September. Perhaps its biggest draw is where it sits, affording the best night time views of the Parthenon. At least once, grab a meal at Ouzeri Lesvos Restaurant. Do it like a true Athenian and combine the strong ouzo with the delicious tapas.
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O Kostas is a hole in the wall but it serves fresh, old world, mouth-watering gyros at great prices. Perfect for a quick lunch! It’s a few blocks from A for Athens, which, we should mention, offers one of the best rooftop bars in the city.
6 | Embrace Greek Time.
Punctuality is not a top Greek priority, and popular attitude is that nothing needs to be rushed. As a result, it’s best not to expect fast meals in tavernas or public transportation that runs like clockwork. Instead, think of it as a reminder to slow down, sip in the salty air and enjoy your holiday.
7 | Skiing is Greece’s best kept secret.
The resorts in the northern part of the country, close to Thessaloniki, are a great place to spend a winter ski break. There are 14 fabulous ski areas: the largest and most popular is Parnassos. Compared to better known spots in Europe, the ski passes and accommodation are great value, but the scenery is every bit as breath-taking. The ski season starts in December and ends in March or mid-April, depending on the region.
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Karpenisi boasts fantastic skiing and is just four hours from Athens, making it an easy add-on to an island-hopping holiday. Snowboarders will love two full snowboard runs and a snowboard park. Karpenisi itself is a charming mountain town full of cafes and restaurants for après-ski warmers.