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. Greece has the twelfth longest coastline in the world - 13,676 km in length, featuring also a vast number of inhabited islands which attract more and more tourists every summer.
Its capital is the city of Athens, and the second largest city is Thessaloniki. Greece is among the top visited countries in Europe and it is a safe destination, well adapted to tourists and their expectations.
Geography and nature
In order to facilitate travelers, it is generally accepted that Greece consists of Mainland Greece and the Greek islands. Each of them is further divided into regions or islands groups.
Since mainland Greece is surrounded by sea from three sides, there are many seaside villages and resorts with long beach strips. Large part of the country (approximately 80%) is mountainous and rich in canyons and hiking trails, and in some places you can see a combination of mountain and sea. Mainland Greece has the following regions: North Greece, Central Greece, Epirus and Thessaly. The peninsula of Peloponnese is also considered a region of mainland, although it is actually an island because it is connected to the central part of the country via two bridges.
The Greek islands occupy 20% of the territory of the country and their Mediterranean climate slightly varies according to the location. The relief of the islands is also very diverse - from green landscapes and pine forests to dry and barren hills and valleys. Considering this and the fact that each island group has differences in architecture, visiting a new Greek island is almost like visiting a new country.
The Greek islands are the most preferred summer destinations by holidaymakers, as the largest of them attract the greatest number of tourists - Crete, Corfu and Rhodes. Mykonos and Santorini are the main choice of honeymooners and young couples.
Except for the islands, the seaside areas of mainland Greece can also offer nice beaches and plenty of hotels for the perfect stay. Popular tourists destinations in the summer are the Halkidiki peninsula near Thessaloniki, the coastline around Parga and Syvota, the Pelion peninsula and some parts of Peloponnese.
Skiing in Greece? People can hardly imagine this because the first things that comes across a traveler`s mind about this country are beaches, boats, blue sea and everything related to summer.
But in winter Greece does have snow in the mountains, and ski resorts as well. The most famous ski centers are Parnassos (the closest to Athens), Kaimaktsalan (North Greece) Kalavryta (Peloponnese) and Vasilitsa (near Grevena). The villages around these places offer many hotels for both budget and luxury stay, including in boutique stone hotels built in the traditional for these regions style.
Greece is not just sea and mountains, there are many destinations where you can go in any season. In first place these are the two largest cities of the country, Athens and Thessaloniki, where you can easily spend a few days sightseeing, as the best time to visit them is in the spring and autumn.
Popular sites like Delfi and the the monasteries of Meteora also attract tourists all year round. The towns of Ioannina and Kastoria have beautiful lakes and hotels with nice views, and near Ioannina you can visit the picturesque area of Zagorochoria - 46 small villages with stone houses and stone alleys. Those who are not interested in seaside experience can have alternatives in the form of caves, nature trails and authentic old villages in the mountain areas.
Greece has rich history and well preserved historical and archaeological sights, especially around Attica and Peloponnese where you can spend weeks exploring ancient sites.
The most visited historical sites of Greece include Delfi, the Acropolis of Athens, the island of Delos, Mycenae and the Epidaurus. However, there are many more places which are less known but not less worth the visit, like the castle town of Monemvasia, Acrocorinth and the Palamidi castle. The magical Mani peninsula will take you back in the past, in the time of knights and stone towers.
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 if you want to try local sweets and desserts find a zaharoplastio (confectionery store) or artopolio (bakery). Unlike many European destinations, here you can find both sweet and savory options for breakfast, and the most common snack you will find in every bakery is tiropita - phyllo pie with feta cheese. Greece is definitely not the right place to be on a weight loss diet!