From the Olympics to My Fat Greek Wedding, Greece has always been a cultural centerpiece in the history of man. Summing up its contribution requires a small library, but here is an overview.
Overview of Greece for Travelers
Greece was home to some of the earliest advanced civilizations. From the Minoans of the second BC millennium to Mycenaeans who established the basis of the current language, the country has produced cultural, philosophical, political and sport advancements unrivaled by others.
The modern Greek state obtained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830. It has carried on what seems like a constant conflict with Turkey and was also involved in both World Wars. In 1981, Greece joined the European Community that eventually evolved into the European Union.
The official name of Greece is the Hellenic Republic. Greece covers an area of roughly 51,000 square miles. Athens is both the capital and largest population center with roughly 3.5 million inhabitants. Thessaloniki is the second largest population area with just over one million people. The terrain of Greece ranges from mountains in the north to flat plains in the south and beautiful islands off the coast. Winters are mild while summers are hot and dry making Greece a huge tourist destination.
The people of Greece are known as Greeks. They total more than 10.96 million. Population growth exists, but it is just above .2 percent annually. Greek is the official language. From a religious perspective, 99 percent of Greeks claim Greek Orthodox as their religion. Literacy rate is 95 percent and all levels of education are absolutely free. Life expectancy is 76 for males and 81 for women.
Greece is a relatively small country, but has accounted for a remarkable number of developments in the trek of mankind through history. Whether you are going to see the culture or loaf on the islands, Greece is a top travel destination for a good reason.
Yamas! You might come across this several times during your visit to Greece. Even if the country has several ancient beliefs, the word “yamas” is not a black magic prayer. It is actually a kind of greeting, like “cheers”, and literally means “our health”.
What draws people to Greece? Most reasons for Greece travel have to do with the country’s familiar history and its appealing mystique at the same time.
Because Greece is blessed to have mild winters and hot summers, everyday is a good day for a Greece travel. The country boasts of more than a thousand islands, of which only less than two hundred are inhabited. The islands are all varied, adding to the overall charm of Greece.
If the numerous places to see aren’t enough reasons for a Greece travel, try the year-round festivals. January 8 is a fun day called Gynaikratia. Men exchange roles with women. They are made to spend their day at home doing chores, while women stay in cafés frequented by men. A good time for a Greece travel would be during the Greek Carnival. This period of merry-making, fancy-dressing, and feasting, happens for more than three weeks just before Lent begins. However, Easter is the most celebrated of all festivals in Greece. There are several processions, and firework displays to commemorate this event every year. Summer has its own share of festivals. The Hellenic Festival though is by far, the most popular. This event, which involves presentations in ancient theatres, runs from the middle of June until the end late in September.
Knowing the best places in Greece is not enough to assure a great vacation. The Greeks are basically united citizens as reflected in the large percentage of the population that make up the same religion. They are strongly in touch with their cultural heritage and are very firm in their ancient beliefs.
Useful Greece travel tips include knowing what the country can offer during the different seasons. Anytime is actually a good time to travel to Greece. If winter means harsh cold weather in other countries, it is generally one of the best seasons in Greece. Fewer crowds mean more opportunity to explore the country.
Make sure that you learn more than a thing or two of the Greek language as English is not so widely spoken in the country. Tipping is left to the discretion of the tourists. Bills generally include the service charge, however, it is still common practice to tip in tourist areas and establishments such as restaurants. Unlike the U.S., Greece utilizes 220 volts electricity. These Greece travel tips are very basic, yet very important.
Tourists are mostly “excused” from the local dress code. Attire is probably one of the most neglected among the Greece travel tips. Most guests can be seen walking around in their beach wear which are not exactly a taboo. However, Greeks would appreciate it if tourist will slip on something more proper especially when entering sacred places like churches.
If you want to get more acquainted with Greece, you should be willing to travel its various small towns and not just its bustling cities. Greece travel tips will surely come in handy. A lot of tour guides have been recipient of questions that pertain mostly to ancient beliefs of the Greek. You might see locals making the sign of the cross without any obvious cause. Or you might see a local spitting at someone right after he pays that person a compliment. Part of Greece travel tips is differentiating a crazy person from someone that is merely manifesting his beliefs. These may all sound very weird to you, but are actually just an expression of their ancient practices.
If you want to find the right places to travel in Greece, you have a variety of choices. Below are just a few that could serve as a guide for your traveling pleasure.
As a Greece travel destination this boasts of popular monuments as the temple of Zeus, and the Stadium. This is where the very first ever Olympic Games started. Tradition was to hold the games every four years, and this was in honor of the god, Zeus. The Gymnasium can also be found here. It is a rectangular building with a big yard where the athletes trained for their events. Then there is the Leonidaion, which was then a guesthouse during those times. This was where the important guests stayed during their visit to Olympia.
This Greece travel destination is considered to be one of Greece’s significant cultural treasures. The temple of Apollo and the Castalian Spring are located here. In Greek mythology, this Greece travel destination was considered to be the center of the world or the “Navel of the Earth” as it was commonly called. Myth has it that this is where Apollo killed the she-dragon Pytho. Make sure to give more time to your visit here.
The view of this Greece travel destination is really a must see. A fortress, a palace, the Royal Tombs, as well as the tomb of their hero, Agamemnon can be seen here.
The monasteries, which prove to be popular for this Greece travel destination, were set up during the Byzantine period. The first hermits settled in this place at around the 11th century. The most wonderful site to behold is the Holy Monastery of Great Meteoron. It is the biggest of the monasteries here. Also the Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas Anapausas, built in the 16th century with a small dome is also worth your time to see.
This place is located at the foot of Mount Olympus. Known for having been completely destroyed due to an earthquake in the 5th century AD. It was in 1928 that the site was unearthed, which resulted in the discovery of public buildings, shops, statues, and a large theatre. Visiting this famous Greece travel destination, and you will feel being transported back to their historic past.
Definitely, a personal visit to these Greece travel destinations will prove to be worth all your time and money. Being on these historic places, where Greek mythology is founded upon, one can’t help but marvel upon the mysteries these places possess.
Planning a trip to Greece
If you are planning a visit to Greece, don’t miss the Hellenic Festival in Athens located in the second century Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Planning a sea voyage to Greece’s many islands can be a memorable experience. Greece offers mountain climbing, sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving, river rafting, kayaking, and hiking in it’s beautiful natural settings.
Piraeus is known as the premier port on the Aegean Sea and is a busy hub for travelers and locals. While in Piraeus, visit the Marina Zea and catch a ride to the Saronic Gulf to view the large yachts, restaurants, shops and taverns along the shoreline. The Hellenic Maritime Museum exhibits modern and ancient ships and is a great place for those interested in naval history. Piraeus also offers an archeological museum featuring bronzed statues of Apollo, Athena, and Artemis. Kastella Hill offers a spectacular view of the sea and the surrounding traditional Greek houses perched on the scenery. The Hill is home to shops, restaurants, clubs and coffee houses. Take in a soccer game of the Olympiako’s, the resident, champions of Greek Soccer.
The Acropolis is the most famous site in all of Athens and lies in the center of the city. It contains a cluster of ancient ruins and is very popular among tourists. National Archaeological Museum is a museum featuring the art and artifacts of the Minoan’s an ancient tribe of people who once dominated the Aegean Sea. The Jewish Museum, Parthenon, and the National Gardens are all tourist hot spots in Athens. Kolonaki is a modern Athenian street filled with chic boutiques, coffee houses and restaurants.
Staying in Athens is recommended at the Hotel Athens, the Grande Bretagne Hotel, the Art Hotel, the Athens Hilton, the King George Palace, the Life Gallery Athens Hotel, the Periscope Hotel, and the Eridanus Hotel. These hotels are highly recommended by fellow tourists visiting Greece.
The Palace of Knossos is home to labyrinthine ruins that have been reported to be the home to the monstrous Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull creature that devoured young virgins in ancient times. Be sure to visit the Venetian Walls and Tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, the historic village of Iraklion and the beautiful sixteenth century fortress known as The Venetian Fortezza. Some popular lodgings in Crete are: The Anastasia Hotel, King Minos Palace Hotel, the Megaron Hotel, Mike Hotel and Apartments, the Galaxy Iraklio Hotel, the Santa Marina Plaza, and the Camari Garden Apartments. Greece is filled with ancient history, beautiful scenery and friendly hospitality. Including Greece in your travel itinerary will ensure a pleasurable, memorable trip for the entire family. Greece is a land that must be experienced to be truly appreciated.
Camping, hiking and trekking across scenic islands like Mykonos, Santorini, Tinos and Naxos is a popular activity in Greece these days. Steep rocks and natural environment make these trekking expeditions fun and excitement. Greek hotels and tour operators often help you plan out these adventures according to your needs. Vans and mini buses are pressed into service to ferry up people to rocky mountains where they are able to climb up steep slopes under watchful eyes. Such 7 to 14 day long camps can cost anything from $ 1000 to $2500 per candidate.
As an alternative, one should try undertaking a yacht journeys that will sail through scenic Greek islands. These trips may last up to three weeks and may cover many historic towns and scenic spots as they move from one to another tourist destination. There are several routes that one could choose to have their vacations planned. Greek hotels, in conjunction with major tour operators, will offer to arrange such yacht journeys for you. Travelers can take part in hiking, snorkeling, and carry on doing similar other stuff while being part of such tours. Exploration of various heritage sites and visiting taverna-lined harbors will also be part of your fun and relaxation!
Cycling and biking across Greek mountains and countryside is yet another way of enhancing one’s experience of holidaying. However, no significant help may be garnered either from Greek hotels or tour operators in this case, and one should try looking out for online resources instead. Some biking and cycling enthusiasts will extend guidance and logistic support, to help you carry out your biking expeditions. They will lead you into areas deep inside the Greek countryside and will help you bike through some very unorthodox routes. You will be able to have a close look at Greek countryside as you move on.
Visiting Greece’s archaeological sites is a key way of vacationing in Europe. However, it could be further enhanced by undertaking additional outdoor activities like biking, camping and sailing through various Greek islands. There can not be a better way than spending more time in the Greek countryside to get to know more about its culture heritage and life.