Greece is, in some ways, the epitome of the Mediterranean. From being the birthplace of the modern world, dotted with monuments fit for the Gods to its deep blue sea as strikingly as the whitewashed buildings the gaze over it. Greece proudly boasts some of the best food in the world, the fresh herbs and produce with a healthy drizzle of local olive oil, the lemons, the fish from its vast sea, all served with a hearty dose of famous Greek hospitality. The passion, history and colors of Greece are why visitors always hold her close to their hearts.
“Greece was a muse. It inspired creativity in magical ways that I can’t even begin to understand or explain.”Joe Bonamassa
Before You Go to Greece
From April to September, several airlines (American, Delta, Emirates and United) have direct flights to Athens. Most of these are from the east coast. Just about every major airline has connecting flights in their European hubs (such as Lufthansa, British, American, Iberia and more). Getting to the islands from there is just peddle jumper flights away on Olympic and Aegean Airlines. There are also a few low cost airlines with flights from European airports directly to main islands. Thus, making travel to Greece much easier and more efficient to get from place to place.
With that said, there is still something appealing about taking a ferry from island to island. We suggest doing that at least once. For the smaller islands, it’s a “must” as most of them do not have airports. For exploring the mainland, the best way to get around is by car. The motorway for the most part is well groomed and fast. But we also recommend enjoying the scenery of the secondary roads. Lesser traveled Greece is quite a treat and best seen by rental car or with a private driver.
It’s a long ways to go to get to Greece, so we are not fans of short “getaway” trips here. Give yourself a minimum 10 days to discover and enjoy. While many use Athens as a very limited starting point, we recommend at least 3 full days here. With a 10 days trip you can still enjoy 2 islands before heading home. For first timers, the classic vacation includes Athens, Santorini and Mykonos. Yet, Greece offers so much more beyond the obvious. The island of Crete is nearly a country in itself, so a week could easily be spent here. While (too) many tourists flock to Mykonos and Santorini, there are PLENTY of non-tourist trap islands to enjoy. Paros and Naxos are known for unspoilt beaches. Folegrandos considered a mini Santorini with a fraction of the people. Corfu representing lush Greece on the Adriatic, and don’t forget the entire Peloponnese peninsula. Moving inland, there are some fantastic sights to explore. From Delphi to Meteora, and to the far north Thessonaliki is Greece’s second largest city know for its laid-back yet cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Greek is incredibly healthy and tasty, and significantly less expensive than other Mediterranean countries. You will find a great choice of memes (finger food) to start your meal or enjoy with a pre-dinner cocktail. The moving on to the main courses, you will find excellent meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. Not to be missed dishes include souvlaki (whether it be cow, chicken or lamb, you can’t go wrong!), moussaka (the greek version of lasagna!), grilled octopus, fava pure, hummus, and so many delectable more. Greek wine is also very up and coming especially from Santorini. Note, like the Spaniards, the Greeks tend be on the late side when it comes to dining. Lunch can easily be served at 3:00PM and dinner after 9PM.
While the national language is Greek, English is taught in school and widely spoken. Note that you will find road signs written both in the Greek, Roman alphabet and English.
No visas are necessary for North Americans for travel less than 90 days.
When to Go
Greece tends to be a bit more seasonal than other Mediterranean countries and mostly visited between April and October. The ideal time to plan your beach holiday is June or September. May can be very nice as well but the water will still be on the chilly side. October can be perfect by day, but starting to get a bit chilly in the evenings. July and August are peak season. It is very crowded and usually very, very hot. Yet, if you are looking to enjoy the Greek islands at their pinnacle, this is the time to go.
If hitting the beach is not your objective, one can truly enjoy Greece on the shoulder and low season. Sun and blue skies rule over rain and cold in the south. The main islands now tend to stay “half-open” throughout the year and you will (happily) miss the crowds. Archaeological sites are in abundance throughout the country all year long. You will find wonderful, lush hiking opportunities across both the mainland and islands. And the wineries remain open all year long to “testing” out a new breed of varietals.
Where You’ll Stay
In recent years, Greece has built itself a reputation for boutique, atmospheric and often family run accommodations. There are plenty of large, all-inclusive resorts if that’s your ideal lodging. We prefer going with the smaller more charming options you will find throughout the country. We have an extensive portfolio of hand-picked properties that follow our strict criteria of character, location, style and comfort. Be it a 5-star gem built into caves of lava, a traditional and historical building converted into a luxury inn or a mountain top guesthouse, we have found something for everyone.
Memories You’ll Make
- Athens like you never thought – Underrated yet so interesting and lively. The city deserves a few days on the front or back end of your holiday. One day alone can be spent on a VIP tour of the Acropolis and its spectacular museum. Make sure to enjoy a walk and lunch in the Plaka. Athens food scene is very hot at the moment. We offer a fabulous and delicious foodie tour through some of the best neighborhoods. Day three could be spent discovering the Athenian Riviera. Spend a half-day boat cruising along the coast and ending the day with sunset from The Temple Of Poseidon ay Sounion. Athens also boast a fabulous summer festival where you can enjoy music or theatre performances at the open-air Odeon of Herodes Atticus Theatre.
- Visit the monasteries of Meteora – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Meteora is known for its eye-dropping monasteries (6 in total remaining of 20) that sit on top of towering rock formations. The monks that live in the area are Eastern Orthodox. They fled to Meteora as a result of the invasion of the Turkish army. The surrounding landscape is particularly beautiful with ancient rock formations and monolithic pillars. Meteora is about a 4 hour drive from Athens. Therefore, we suggest combining it with Delphi (see below) and/or Mount Olympus (see below). Give it a couple of nights using a rental car or our private driver/guide.
- Climb Mount Olympus – should not be missed if you are a fan of Greek mythology. Mount Olympus is known in Greek mythology as the spot where Zeus sat on his throne. It is also where Hades ruled the Underworld. We can arrange for a private hiking guide to literally guide you through history as you ascend this majestic mountain which can be done in a day.
- Discover Delphi – Another not to be missed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Delphi sits on the sides of Mount Parnassus and in Ancient Greece, this city was considered to be the center of the world. It is particularly famous for being the place where the Oracle of Delphi communicated Appolo’s directives from the gods to humans. Nowadays, you can still enjoy the breath-taking natural beauty of the historical remains and stunning views over the valley and the sea.
- Soak up Santorini by land and sea – Beyond the tourist driven Fira, there is quite a bit to explore on the island. With our private guide you can visit the other, less trampled villages such as Pyrgos and Megalochori, plus have a visit to archaeological site of Akrotiri and finish off with a tour and tasting lunch at one of the islands lovely wineries. We can also hook you up with one of our locals guides for an early morning hiking tour from Fira to Oia 8with picnic along the way!). Another excellent way to fill your day in with our private or semi-private sunset cruise that takes you to visit the Palea Kamini hot springs, island of Nea Kameni, a few of the famous beaches of Santorini and finally enjoying a spectacular sunset passed Amoudi Bay.
- Greek Olive Oil – Another reason to spend some time in the Pelopponese! Just outside of Sparta lies the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil. This lovely establishment transports you to the culture, history and technology of olive oil making in Greece, from prehistoric times into the 20th century.
- The Byzantine city of Mystras – Mystra was once one of the capitals of the Byzantine Empire as well as a major cultural city. An impressive restoration helped put this on the this UNESCO World Heritage Site list and is truly worth a visit (as does the entire Peloponnese peninsula). Admire the fortress and the Kastro (Castle) as well as many churches and monasteries with your private archaeologist guide. Note, There are both upper and a lower town, take the time to explore both.
- Conquer Crete – The largest of the Greek Islands sometimes feels like a small country on its own so give it the time it deserves. Don’t miss the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, the island’s largest city. Knossos Palace is one of Greece’s most important archaeological site. Swim in the incredible turquoise blue water of Balos Lagoon. Take the 16km hike to the amazing Samaria Gorge. Visit the Venice of Greece, Chania with its old town full of historic buildings and local craft shops. Drink the wine and much, much more!
- Enjoy a few days of hedonist, day and nightlife on Mykonos – One of Greece’s (if not all of Europe) most famous islands for summer indulgence but also breaming with picture perfect architecture, landscape beaches and sunsets. The island has many world-class hotels, restaurants and the Chora (old village of Mykonos town) still holds its charm with bougainvillea lined alleyways and blue shuttered, whitewashed buildings. There is also a wonderful ”secret” place for Greek cooking lessons that we can arrange.
GREECE ITINERARIES FOR INSPIRATION
We invite you to peruse our sample itineraries for your next trip to Greece, which can be fine-tuned to your travel wishes…