Greece – Experience Ancient Times and the Sea
Greece has been a unique centre of culture, philosophy and science since ancient times. Besides the many culturally significant sites, the numerous islands with their beautiful beaches and the warm, turquoise blue sea make visitors stay, swim and relax.
Geography – Mainland and many islands
Greece lies in the south-east of Europe, bordered by the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea. Besides the mainland, the peninsula of the Peloponnese and the many islands, including Crete and Corfu, belong to Greece. Most of the country is covered in mountains with the Mount Olympus (2,917 m) as the highest point in the Olympus Range. There are several fertile plains, especially in the north-east of the country. Greece is dominated by Mediterranean climate, which causes temperate, wet winters and hot, dry summers. These are perfect conditions for a beach holiday at one of Greece's many fantastic beaches.
Nature – An ideal example of Mediterranean idyll
Olive trees, cypresses, pines and plantations with fruit trees characterise Greece and award it with an idyllic Mediterranean flair. In the upper regions you also find chestnuts and stone pines, while the coasts and beaches are lined with palm trees. The fauna differs considerably from region to the region. The mountains are populated by bears, deer and boars. In contrast, you find many species of tortoises, reptiles and butterflies on the more isolated little islands and bays. The underwater world is filled with exotic fish.
Natural sights – Island paradises offer relaxation, the Samariá Gorge and the Corinth Canal provide spectacular landscapes
Beautiful beaches, the sea and sun galore – Greece's most popular natural attractions are its wonderful recreational areas, which allow for relaxing holidays at the seaside. Many tourists travel to the island Corfu, which combines colourful holiday spots with remote rural regions, or to the island Samos with its many opportunities for water sports, hiking and cycling. Other popular destinations for a holiday at the seaside are the Cyclades, especially Santorini (postcard idyll, breathtaking volcanic cone enclosed by the sea), Mykonos (great party scene, very luxurious) and Naxos (for lovers of nature). Rhodes is the place to be for people who want to relax. In addition to its beautiful beaches, the island is home to the Petaloudes Valley, which is populated by numerous butterflies living by a paradisiacal river. The Greek part of Cyprus, for example the area around the prominent rock associated with Aphrodite, which protrudes from the sea, also attracts sun-worshippers. Greece's many islands display a number of spectacular formations. One example for a marvel which emerged naturally is the Samaria Gorge in the Lefka Ori, which is the greatest gorge in the whole of Europe. Through this valley, which is 18 kilometres long, you can walk along mighty, rugged rocks (for example from the Omalos plateau to the sea) and numerous caves. Unlike the Samaria Gorge, the Corinth Canal is a man-made attraction. It was dug 75 metres deep into the rock and constitutes a connecting path of 25 metres of length between the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf. A view from the bridge over the canal or a boat trip on the waterway, which is framed by steep rocks, offer breathtaking impressions. A trip to the delta of Nestos, which surrounds the river of the same name, is the perfect way of getting to know Greece's natural beauty. The woods and riversides there are home to a number of different birds.
Culture – On the trails of the ancient Greeks
Even today you can still see the influence the ancient Greeks had on Europe. Many developments in science, medicine, literature, philosophy and historiography were given significant impetuses in the shining ancient Greece (8th to 2nd century BC), which is why the country is considered the cradle of European culture. Greece is known especially for its ancient philosophers Socrates and Plato. In the year 146 BC, the territory was annexed by the Roman Empire. Later on, the country belonged to the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empire before it became independent. The Greeks are known for their hospitality and openness towards foreigners. They truly treat their guests like kings and love celebrating in groups of many people with vast quantities of delicious food. The people in Greece enjoy their many festivals and fairs. Especially in rural regions and in the little fishermen's villages, the inhabitants still live the native Greek lifestyle.
Cultural sights – The Acropolis is the tourist destination number one
Experiencing culture in Greece most of all means following the trails of the ancient Greeks. The first place to go for this is the capital Athens. Its best-known and most popular attraction is the Acropolis, which is enthroned on a rock of about 150 metres height and displays the majesty of bygone times. Among the preserved buildings, the Parthenon stands out as the Acropolis' most magnificent structure. It was built in honour of the city goddess Pallas Athena Parthenos in the 5th century BC. At one of the Acropolis mountain's hillsides you find the village Plaka, from where Athens once evolved into a metropolis. It borders on the ancient market square Agora. In former times, the rectangular area was not only an important commercial centre for everyday goods but also a significant gathering point many political institutions chose as their location. Those who want to gain more cultural impressions should visit the Temple of Zeus, the Acropolis Museum (found pieces from the Acropolis) or the National Archaeological Museum (gigantic treasure of ancient Greek artworks). The sportsmanship from past and present is perceptible in the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first Olympic Games of the Modern age took place. Besides the ancient atmosphere, Athens is also a modern city with numerous new buildings. The floral balconies are especially charming and the ruins of Olympia are a must for lovers of history. The same is true of Delphi, which houses the remains of the myth-enshrowded Delphic Sibyl. Also worthwhile is a visit to the ancient theatre, the Temple of Apollo and the archaeological museum. One of the most fascinating sights in Greece are the Metéora monasteries in Thessaly, which were built in the 14th century to protect the Byzantine monks against raids. You find many places which are steeped in history on the peninsula of the Peloponnese such as the Epidaurus (once an important cultural site for people seeking salvation), Mycenae (a palace, you can see parts of the town wall and the Lion Gate) and Corinth (remains of the significant ancient town). The ancient world is also ever-present in Rhodes, especially in the old town and the Grand Master's Palace but Rhodes is also a modern and colourful place. The monks of Mount Athos on the peninsula Chalkidiki still live isolated from the rest of the world. The mostly autonomous community counts 20 monasteries, which are most of all known for their paintings. But only men are allowed to enter the little republic.
Experience – Eat and celebrate like the Greeks
Greece has a unique cuisine, which is also very popular in the rest of Europe. Their meals often contain a lot of meat and fish. Olive oil and the well-flavoured tzatziki are common supplements. Typical dishes are Moussaka (potato casserole with minced meat), Souvlaki (meat on a sewer), Gyros (cut-up pork) and soups. Salads containing the sheep's cheese feta are also very common. You get the aniseed brandy Ouzo with many meals and you can enjoy an exquisite Greek wine. These Greek specialities are best taken in in a traditional, rustic tavern. The big cities and tourist locations offer a wide range of activities for going out. Besides the typical clubs, bars and discos, it is worthwhile to visit a live event with local folklore music, accompanied by a bouzouki (a lute). You can also go shopping while you stay in Greece. Especially Athens has many stores but also little shops and markets you can browse. Needlework and replicas of historical treasures and antiquities are popular souvenirs. Those who want to take an exciting drive through a spectacular landscape can take the train from Diakopto to Kalavryta. Visitors can experience Greek lifestyle at one of the many cultural festivals, which occur all year round. One example is the music and theatre event Athens & Epidaurus Festival.
Activities – Perfectly suited for a holiday at the seaside
Greece is a first rate destination for those who want to unwind during their holiday. You can sunbathe and relax at the scenic, fine beaches or swim, dive and do water sports in the warm, turquoise blue sea. Sailing, surfing and canoeing are also popular activities. Furthermore, there are many public baths, which offer variety. The country's heartland is also suited for being active in nature. In the rural Mediterranean idyll you can take long hiking and cycling tours. The mountains offer great conditions for climbing and even winter sports are possible in Greece. The pistes on Mount Olympus or Parnassus, for example, are popular locations for skiing and snowboarding.
The airports most relevant to tourists are located in Athens (ATH) and Thessaloniki (SKG). From Europe, you can also arrive by ship via the Mediterranean sea. In principle, there are train connections to countries abroad and within Greece but they are partly restricted. You can also take the car to and within Greece.
Who wants to dive into the fascinating world of the ancient Greek civilisation and mythology can do this best of all in this culture's country of origin. In addition, Greece is a popular destination for visitors who want to relax at the seaside and do water sports.