Often called the cradle of Western civilization, Greece has been influential in charting the development and progress of humanity from ancient times to the modern world. Today, the country is among the most visited in the world with figures from the World Tourism Organization showing that in 2019 Greece attracted over 35 million international visitors.
From the ancient wonders and modern city life of Athens to distant islands off the mainland, a visit to Greece can sometimes feel overwhelming. Attempting to visit all the attractive sites and places of interest in Greece in one go is just not possible. The list of attractions and must-visit places can stretch from A to Z, and include popular ones such as Athens, Corfu, Crete, Delphi, Knossos, Meteora, Mycenae, Mykonos, Olympia, Rhodes, Santorini, Skyros, and Zakynthos, as well as less well-known out of way places and islands.
If you do not have the time for a long leisurely visit to Greece to take in all that the country offers, your best bet would be to break down a short visit to either focus on a specific region or theme. The blue beauty of the Grecian Peninsula with its view of scattered islands, the country’s storied heritage and ancient history, its innumerable archeological monuments, temples and ruins that trace human history to the start of civilization, have been around for ages and are going nowhere in a hurry. So you can afford to plan and space your trips to this wondrous land.
Located in southeastern Europe with thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas, Greece is the land that has had the greatest influence on civilization over the eons. As the birthplace of drama, democracy, Western science and medicine, Greece offers a welcome balance of traditional and contemporary life.
The rich culture and history of Greece is reflected in the 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located here, which makes it among countries with the largest number of heritage sites in the world.Though ancient sites and monuments often take the limelight, and it is still easy to find traditional villages with brilliant white buildings and roaming donkeys, Greece is not just about ancient archeological sites.
The country, which is well known for its myriad beautiful beaches, from the black sands of Santorini to the party resorts of Mykonos, is also rich in wildlife and biodiversity. Besides claiming one of the largest varieties of wild fauna in Europe, the country also boasts over 6,000 species and subspecies of the native plants and accounting for nearly 50 percent of the native plants of Europe.
To make this summer a memorable one, plan a trip to one of the world’s greatest cultural lands. Greece balances its past, present and future in a way that very few other countries can claim to do successfully. Let this land with its endless miles of aquamarine coastline, sun-bleached ancient ruins, strong feta and stronger ouzo, fill your senses with the Greece you have been imagining.
Whether you soak in the pulsing nightclubs of city life or immerse in the solemnity and grandeur of ancient temples and monuments, or be awed by the rugged outdoors and natural beauty, a visit to Greece tinged with sessions of coffee and the melancholic music of rembetika (blues songs), will help you unwind and unleash an magination you might not have realized you possessed.
It is easy to understand how so many myths of gods and giants originated in this vast and varied landscape, with wide open skies and a sea speckled with islands, where days melt from one to the next, while you relish the white-sand and palm-fringed beaches.
Greeks also pride themselves on their cuisine, and as some of the most hospitable people on the globe, they will go out of their way to ensure you are well fed. The tang of home-made tzatziki and the aroma of grilled souvlaki are just the beginning. The Greek menu is ﬁlled with scrumptious cuisine that offers an adventure at every mealtime.
Basic ingredients like feta and olive oil are at home in kitchens across the country, but it is the regional dishes and styles of cooking that make traveling around the country such a culinary joy. Cheeses, herbs and mountain greens you might never have heard of compliment local seafood, meat and veggie dishes. The secret of Greek cooking is often found in the back garden where many of the ingredients are freshly gathered and produced.
Adding to its offerings, Greece provides the visitor with endless activities and the land is a magnet for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. Wander along cobbled, Byzantine footpaths, hike into volcanoes, watch for dolphins and sea turtles and cycle through lush forests. Greece also offers some of the world’s top kitesurfing, diving and rock-climbing locations.
Around the land, you also stumble across galleries, live music and impressively modern museums in the most unexpected places. The result is a country with endless cultural pursuits, with a modern art scene that is thriving, fresh and vibrant, and its fashionable clubs and cafes abuzz with life and society that is increasingly multicultural.
There are few cultures in the world that embrace the past so passionately while simultaneously welcoming the future with open arms as Greece. Here are a few pit-stops you can make while traveling across the country:
Old meets new in Athens: The capital of Greece, retains a firm grip on style and sophistication that rivals any other European capital. While retaining its storied landmarks including the 5th-century BCE Acropolis citadel with the Parthenon temple, the city also teems with the energy and vibrancy of a modern metropolis, replete with thought-provoking modern art and a vivacious contemporary music scene and night-life.
Experiencing the Acropolis: The Acropolis is the most important ancient site in the Western world. Crowned by the Parthenon, it stands sentinel over Athens, visible from almost everywhere within the city. Its monuments of Pentelic marble gleam white in the midday sun and gradually take on a honey hue as the sun sinks, while at night they stand brilliantly illuminated above the city. A glimpse of this magnificent sight cannot fail to lift your spirits.
Surreal Santorini: Even the most jaded traveler succumbs to the spectacle of this surreal landscape, a relic of what was probably the biggest eruption in recorded history. The caldera and its vast curtain of multi-coloured cliffs is truly awesome. Santorini is famous for its spectacular sunsets, hugely popular from the village of Oia on the northern tip of the island because there is an uninterrupted view of the sun as it finally sinks below the horizon.
Soaring high at Meteora: You are not likely to forget the first moment the magnificent Meteora come into view — soaring pillars of rock that jut heavenward, and a handful of monasteries at the top. Once, these monasteries were used successfully as refuge by hermit monks seeking a retreat from expanding Turkish occupation. The rope ladders that once enabled the monks to reach the top have long been replaced by steps carved into the rock. Today, these spectacular stone towers beckon rock climbers from around the world.
Medieval old town Rhodes: Getting lost in the Old Town is a must. Only then will you find yourself removed from the throngs of tourists and meandering down twisting, turning, cobbled alleyways with archways above and squares opening up ahead of you. The beauty of the Old Town lies in these hidden corners, where your imagination will take off with flights of medieval fancy.
Climbing to Angelokastro: The ruined fortress of Angelokastro, on Corfu’s west coast, rises above everything, especially the crowds. It is one of those reassuring places where land and water meet sensationally; a great knuckle of rock soaring above the glittering Ionian Sea, a green pelt of olive trees and cypresses at its back. Its name derives from the 11th-century Byzantine rulers of Corfu.