When the idea of a vacation springs to mind, it’s hard not to think about calming sunset views and crystal-clear waters, where a laidback lifestyle reigns supreme. It’s no wonder, then, that 2.5 million tourists landed on the shores of Greece during the first quarter of this year. The Mediterranean country boasts 6,000 stunning islands, where only 227 are inhabited. This makes for a wide variety of seaside explorations, from pebble beaches to sand dunes to mysterious coves. Of course, going on holiday to Greece is about more than just visiting its exquisite coastline. Sun and sand aside, there’s plenty to behold in the birthplace of Western civilization – ancient ruins, world-class museums, fantastic food, and the Greek zest for life that has endeared many tourists to the country for decades.
As the cultural meeting point of Eastern and Western Europe – and the birthplace of Western civilization – you’ll notice Byzantine, Italian, Ottoman, and Balkan influences peppered throughout the country. And because it’s an ideal destination for ocean and culture lovers alike, you’ll want to come well-prepared for Greece’s wide variety of experiences.
There’s perhaps no better way to get to know a country than to immerse yourself in its culture and distinct customs, so why not plan your trip around important Greek celebrations? Oxi Day is celebrated on October 28th, where parades line the streets to mark the Prime Minister’s iconic 1940 refusal to let Italian troops occupy Greek land. It’s a soaring celebration of defiance and patriotism that will give you goosebumps. Or, consider planning your Grecian holiday around iconic events like Orthodox Easter, where Corfu residents fling clay pots from palazzo balconies to celebrate renewal and resurrection. How’s that for a travel story to tell your colleagues and friends when you return?
Eat, drink, and be merry
No trip to Greece is complete without trying its cuisine, particularly its famed filo pastry. Try filo variations at each region, where these crunchy, olive-infused layers sandwich different ingredients from meat to watermelon. The most popular variety is spanakopita, which features an irresistible combination of spinach and feta cheese. And if a local offers you a shot of ouzo or a drink of some kind, it’s considered rude to refuse. So raise your glass, say “Yamas!” like the locals of Lesvos, and try it out!
Prepare to walk – a lot
Most of Greece’s major attractions tend to be within walking distance of one another, so forget hopping into a cab and trek your way through your itinerary instead. You’re far more likely to learn exciting nuances about the country and interact with locals on foot. And when you want to walk off the beaten path, take your pick from petrified forests, hillside villages, churches, or pine-scented hiking trailers. Extreme adventure seekers will find what they’re looking for as they make their way to kitesurfing, bungee jumping, and other hidden-gem locations.
Try something uniquely Greek
Greek’s ancient past and mythology have originated some of the world’s greatest works of fiction. You can’t leave without visiting the iconic Acropolis, the UNESCO World Heritage site in Athens. Guided tours will help you learn about the mighty early Greeks and how they became one of the most advanced societies of their time. Then, get an energy boost from award-winning Cretan Honey at a honey-tasting and beekeeping tour in Heraklion.
When in Greece, challenge yourself to stray from your comfort zone while traveling mindfully, taking the time to savor each stop. The tourist spots, of course, hold an undeniable charm, but when you explore further, you’ll find that there’s so much more to Greece than meets the eye. Yamas!