Greece, also known as Hellas and officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country in southeastern Europe. It is situated in the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula and almost all of it is surrounded by sea - the Aegean Sea to the east, the Ionian to the west, and the Mediterranean to the south. Its capital is the city of Athens, and the second largest city is Thessaloniki. Greece has the twelfth longest coastline in the world - 13,676 km in length, featuring also a vast number of islands (about 1400 of which 227 are inhabited). The Greek islands are divided into six groups, according to their location and characteristics:
- Cyclades Islands: these are the islands from the postcards, the beautiful landscapes in white and blue. Sometimes they are referred to as South Aegean islands. The most famous of them are Santorini and Mykonos but there are many other islands in this group with the same atmosphere and less tourists, like Paros, Naxos, Milos, Sifnos, etc.
- Ionian Islands: green islands with specific milky blue water and many sea caves. Zakynthos and Corfu are the most visited.
- Dodecanese Islands: the southernmost group, combining the architecture of the Cyclades and the North Aegean. Kos and the historical Rhodes are the largest of them and there you can find the greatest number of all-inclusive accommodation hotels, something which is not very typical for the rest island groups.
- North Aegean Islands: as the name suggests, they occupy the north part of the Aegean sea. Most of them are large-sized and offer completely different things, from various beaches and green landscapes (Thassos, Samos) to fortified Medieval villages (Chios) and vast sandy beaches (Limnos).
- Sporades Islands: a group of four relatively small islands, suitable for family holidays. Skiathos boasts sandy beaches while Skopelos attracts with its terrace-built capital and numerous chapels.
- Argosaronic Islands: the closest to Athens and Piraeus, they are the favorite holiday destination of the Athenians. The island of Hydra, where all motor vehicles are prohibited, has one of the most picturesque harbor towns of the country.
Crete and Evia are the largest Greek islands which do not belong to any group and they are entirely different from the north to the south. Except for the islands, the seaside areas of mainland can also offer nice beaches and plenty of hotels for the perfect stay (like the Halkidiki peninsula near Thessaloniki, the coastline around Parga and Syvota, the Pelion peninsula). One of the largest sights of the country - Meteora - is also located in the middle of mainland Greece, in Trikala region.
Greece has rich history and well preserved historical and archaeological sights, especially around Attica and Peloponnese where you can spent weeks exploring ancient sites. The magical Mani peninsula will take you back in the past, in the time of knights and stone towers. Those who are not interested in seaside experience only can have alternatives in the form of caves, nature trails and authentic old villages in the mountain areas. Although Greece is not popular at all as a ski destination, there are a few big ski centers - Parnassos, Falakro and Kaimaktsalan.
And last but not least, the genuine Greek cuisine is a real gastronomy adventure. Combining Mediterranean, Balkan and even some Orient style, it suits anyone`s taste. Traditional Greek restaurants are called "tavernas" and apart from grilled meat and seafood, they serve authentic Greek dishes like Greek moussaka, pastitsio, stifado, kokkinisto and gemista. Sometimes regions or islands have their own recipes or typical dishes like fava in Santorini, revithokeftedes in Sifnos, pastitsada in Corfu, kalogeros in Naxos and dakos salad in Crete. Another thing not to miss is the most common Greek street food called gyros, and for local sweets and desserts find a zaharoplastio (confectionery store) or artopolio (bakery).