Greece

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Greece is a country in Southern Europe, on the southernmost tip of the Balkan peninsula, with extensive coastlines and islands in the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas. It shares borders in the north with Albania, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. It has an ancient culture that has had a significant influence on the arts, language, philosophy, politics, and sports of western society, including the genres of comedy and drama, western alphabets, Platonic ideals and the Socratic method, democracies and republics, and the Olympics. Furthermore it's an appealing place to visit, with a mountainous mainland and idyllic island beaches. (less...) (more...)

Population: 10,772,967 people
Area: 131,957 km2
Highest point: 2,917 m
Coastline: 13,676 km
Life expectancy: 80.18 years
GDP per capita: $24,900
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About Greece

History

Greece boasts a very long history, with the Greek language being present in the country for nearly 4000 years.

First civilisations

The country's first inhabitants are now referred to as the Pelasgians. Little is known about them, but it is believed that they were a primitive people. The first advanced civilizations in Greece are known as the Cycladic in the Cyclades Islands, and the Minoan in Crete and Santorini. The Minoans had a written language which remains undecipherable to modern-day archaeologists. This is one of the most interesting and profound historical mysteries and a link to our own modern civilisation.

Dark Age

Greek-speaking Indo-European peoples arrived in the country from somewhere to the north, around 1700BC, and slowly invaded the entire country from the north all the way to Crete, as well as the west coast of Asia Minor (now Turkey), absorbing the native peoples. Their arrival may have been responsible for ending the Cycladic and Minoan civilizations and brought the country into what is now referred to as the Dark Age of ancient Greece; although it is now understood among historians that civilization in Greece remained sophisticated and advanced during this time. The first Greek-speaking civilization, the Mycenean Civilization, centred in the Peloponnese region, was prominent during this time period. Many ancient Greeks made a living from the sea, as their descendants the modern Greeks also do now. They became accomplished fishers, sailors and traders and the sea has profoundly shaped Greek civilization.

Classical Greece

The rise of the Greek city-states occurred in the period 1200 to 800BC and heralded the Golden Age of Greece, which lasted many centuries and spurred several scientific, architectural, political, economic, artistic, and literary achievements. Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes were the most prominent of the city-states (with Athens being the most prestigious), but there were several other advanced city-states and colonies that had developed across the Aegean basin. Greek settlements were also established in southern Italy and other coastal areas of the Mediterranean colonized by Greeks. The legacy of Greek Civilization from this time period made a major impact on the world and continues to influence us to this day, since democracy, philosophy and theater were born.

Hellenistic and Roman eras

The epicentre of Greek Civilization shifted, during the 4th century BC, from southern Greece to northern Greece. The northern Macedonian kingdom, under Alexander the Great, conquered all of Greece, and proceeded eastward, creating an empire all the way to South Asia with the stated intent of spreading Greek Civilization. The empire broke up after Alexander's death, and Greece was eventually annexed by the growing Roman Empire. Although weakened politically, Greek Civilization continued to flourish under Roman rule and heavily influenced Roman culture.

Arrival of Christianity and rise of Byzantine Empire

Christianity arrived in Greece with the preachings of St. Paul during the 1st century AD, and eventually spread throughout Greece and the Roman Empire. In the 4th century, Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christian worship and declared it the state religion of the empire. He moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium (present-day Istanbul), which he renamed Constantinople. Internal divisions eventually divided the Roman Empire into a western half (the West Roman Empire) and an eastern half (East Roman Empire.) The West was eventually invaded and sacked by invaders from northern Europe, while the East survived for another millennium as the Byzantine Empire with Constantinople as its capital.

Medieval Greece

Greece's medieval history is dominated by the Byzantine Empire which revolved around Christianity, Greek Language and Civilization, and Roman law. It was a powerful force in the Mediterranean basin for centuries, engaging in trade, politics, and the spread of Christianity. The empire collaborated with Rome during the Crusades against the Muslims. However, during the 13th century, the Crusaders turned on the Byzantine Empire itself and sacked Constantinople. With a weakened Byzantine Empire, Frankish and Latin invaders arrived and occupied various parts of Greece. Over the following centuries, the Byzantine Empire began to regain strength and reconquer lost territory, but received a final blow in the 15th century when a growing Ottoman Turkish Empire to the east conquered Constantinople.

Ottoman rule

With the capture of Constantinople, Greece fell under Ottoman Turkish rule, but vigorously retained its Greek-speaking Christian culture. However, many Greeks fled the country, establishing Greek communities elsewhere in Europe; these communities would later influence the Greek Revolution.

Enlightenment and revolution

The Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice competed with the Ottoman Turks for control of various areas of Greece and managed to conquer various islands and coastal areas, bringing pan-European movements such as the Renaissance (and later the Enlightenment) to places in Greece such as Crete, Corfu, and parts of the Peloponnese region. In the 18th century, the Enlightenment, both in Venetian/Genoese-occupied areas of Greece and from Greek communities abroad, led to an awakening among prominent Greeks and gave birth to the goal of an independent, unified, and sovereign Greek state. The Greek Revolution finally broke out on the 25th of March, 1821, and led to a long war against the Ottomans for independence. The Greek Revolution gained attention across Europe, with Russia, Britain, and France sending military aid to assist Greece.

19th century to mid-20th

The nation finally achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. The newly-independent Greek State was briefly a republic, before becoming a monarchy at the will of major European powers. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, Greece gradually annexed neighbouring islands and territories with Greek-speaking populations. The country sided with the allies during WW1. Despite declaring neutrality during WW2, the country was invaded by Mussolini's forces in 1941. Greek forces victoriously pushed the Italians out of Greece, but the Germans then came to their aid, occupying the country until its liberation toward the end of the war. Civil war broke out in 1946 between communist rebels and royalists, the former supported by Yugoslavia (until the Tito-Stalin rift of 1948) and the latter by the West. The communist rebels were defeated by the royalists in 1949. The second world war and the civil war that followed had left the country war-torn, forcing many people to flee the country in search of a better life abroad.

Greece joined NATO in 1952; rapid economic growth and social change followed. A right-wing military dictatorship staged a coup in 1967, disbanding all political parties, suspending political liberties and forcing many prominent Greeks into exile, including Communists, who played an active part in the Greek Parliament before and after the junta. King Constantine II and his family also fled the country. Democracy returned in 1974, and a national referendum abolished the monarchy, creating a parliamentary republic.

Modern Greece

Greece joined the European Community or EC in 1981, which later became the European Union (EU) in 1992. The country's tourism industry – which had begun to take off during the 1960s – began to flourish, bringing 5 million annual visitors to the country in 1980 (a figure that eventually grew to over 17 million by 2007). The country suffered serious economic stagnation in the 1980s, but began to experience remarkable economic growth in the 1990s, fuelled by heavy investment, entrepreneurship, trade, and EU aid. By the early 21st century, Greece had seemingly achieved stability and prosperity, with a high standard of living. An influx of immigrants began in the late 1980s, transforming Greece, once an immigrant-sender, into an immigrant-receiving country. Foreign-born residents, most of them undocumented and coming from various parts of the world (Eastern and Central Europe, Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa) are estimated to number at least 1 million, or equivalent to 10% of the population. In 2004, the nation stepped into the global spotlight as it successfully hosted the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, to the defiance of critics. More recently, it has borne the brunt of the late-2000s recession and related 2010 European sovereign debt crisis. The main issues facing Greek society are a high and growing level of bureaucratic corruption, high unemployment, sluggish economic growth and widespread poverty. As a by-product of the ongoing economic depression, there has also been a rise in extremism. Particularly worrying is the rise in support for Golden Dawn, a violently anti-foreigner opposition party that has often been called Nazi or neo-Nazi, some of whose members of Parliament have been arrested for beating foreigners in the street, and which has reportedly gained a considerable degree of control over some Greek police forces. This is unlikely to affect most travellers, but if you could be mistaken for a refugee or illegal migrant to Greece, think twice about whether now is the right time to visit.

Climate

Despite its small size, Greece has a varied climate.

Most of the country, including all coastal areas, enjoys a so-called Mediterranean climate, almost identical to much of California. Summers are hot and dry with a 7-month period of near-constant sunshine generally from April until November. The remainder of the year is characterized by a relatively cold, rainy period which generally starts sometime in November and lasts until late March or early April. Sporadic rains do occur during the dry season, but they tend to be rare, quick showers. The country’s Ionian Coast and Ionian Islands tend to receive more annual precipitation than the rest of the country. The islands in the southern Aegean and parts of the southeastern mainland are the driest areas of the country.

The most pleasant weather occurs in May–June and September–October. The warmest time of the year starts in mid-July and generally lasts until mid-August, when the annual meltémi winds from the north cool the country. Mid-July to mid-August is the height of summer, and the midday sun tends to get very strong; during this time, most Greeks avoid heavy physical activity outdoors between 13:00 and 17:00. It is best advised to get in tune with the local way of life by waking up early, doing all sightseeing and errands in the cool morning hours, and then spending the afternoon in the relaxing shade or at the beach. In fact, the bulk of tourists arrive in Greece during the height of summer, to do just that! For visitors from more northerly climates, the off season from November through February can be a rewarding time to see Greece. It will not be beach weather, but temperatures are mild. The much added bonus is that there will be very few other tourists and reduced prices.

Summer evenings tend to be very rewarding. As strong as the sun may get on a summer afternoon, the low levels of atmospheric humidity in most areas of the country prevent the air from trapping much heat, and temperatures tend to dip to very pleasant levels in the evenings. But even during midday, high temperatures actually tend to be quite comfortable as long as the time is not spent doing a lot of walking or other physical activity. (Athens, however, can still be uncomfortably warm during summer afternoons due to the predominance of concrete in the city, an effect similar to New York City.) Coastal areas near open waters (away from tightly-closed bays and gulfs), especially on many of the islands, tend to be quite breezy, and can be quite cold at night.

While the Mediterranean climate characterizes most of the country, two other climate systems are present. One is the cool Alpine climate which is found on mountainous areas of the country's interior, including many high-altitude valleys. Another system is the Continental climate found on the interiors of north-central and northeastern Greece, which gives those areas very cold winters and warm, relatively humid summers.

Activities

There are a variety of activities that someone can follow in Greece. One of the most unique that also started to become more and more well known is, during the trip from Athens to Thessaloniki, a stop for few days at Mount Olympus, the mythic palace of the 12 Gods of the Greek Mythology.

Food

Greek cuisine is a blend of indigenous traditions and foreign influences. Neighbouring Italy and Turkey have left a major impact on Greek cuisine, and there are shared dishes with both of these nations. The traditional Greek diet is very Mediterranean, espousing vegetables, herbs, and grains native to the Mediterranean biome. Being a highly maritime nation, the Greeks incorporate plenty of seafood into their diet. Greece is also a major producer and consumer of lamb; beef, pork, and especially chicken are also popular. Olive oil is a staple in Greek cooking, and lemon and tomatoes are common ingredients. Bread and wine are always served at the dinner table.

The cuisine in Greece can be radically different from what is offered in Greek restaurants around the world. Greek restaurants abroad tend to cater more to customer expectations rather than offer a truly authentic Greek dining experience. One example is the famous gyros (yee-ros), a common item on Greek menus outside Greece. While it is a popular fast-food item in Greece today, it is actually a relatively recent foreign import (adapted from the Turkish döner kebap) and is considered by Greeks as junk food. It is never served in the home and is generally not found on the menus of non-fast-food restaurants.

Eating out is Greece's national pastime and a rewarding experience for visitors; however, not knowing where to go or what to do can dampen the experience. In the past, restaurants that catered mostly to tourists were generally disappointing. Thankfully, the nation's restaurant industry has grown in sophistication over the past decade, and it is now possible to find excellent restaurants in highly-touristed areas, particularly areas that are popular with Greek tourists as well. Thus, it remains a good idea to dine where Greeks dine (Go search them at the times Greeks dine: 21:00-23:00). The best restaurants will offer not only authentic traditional Greek cuisine (along with regional specialities) but Greece's latest culinary trends as well. A good sign of authenticity is when you get a small free dessert when you ask for the bill. Bad signs are when desserts are listed on the menu, and also when the waiter is taking your plates away while you are still sitting at the table (traditionally everything is left on the table until the customer is gone, even if there is hardly any space left).

Restaurants serving international cuisine have also made a presence in the country, offering various options such as Chinese, French, Italian, and international contemporary.

Vegetarian

In Greece, vegetarianism never took off as a trend, and restaurants catering strictly to vegetarians are practically non-existent. However, Greeks traditionally eat less meat per capita than northern Europeans and North Americans, and there are countless vegetarian dishes in Greek cuisine. Greeks are meat and dairy eaters, but because such a large percentage of their diet consists of pulses, vegetables, greens and fruits, a vegan or vegetarian visitor will not have any difficulty in finding a huge variety of vegetarian food all over Greece. The Porto Club travel agency offers a number of tours designed for vegetarians and vegans.

Popular local dishes

The traditional fast foods are gyros (γύρος, "GHEER-ohs", not "JIE-rohs" as in "gyroscope"), roast pork or chicken (and rarely beef) and fixings wrapped in a fried pita; souvlaki (σουβλάκι, "soov-LAH-kee"), grilled meat on a skewer; Greek dips such as tzatziki (τζατζίκι), made of strained yoghurt, olive oil, garlic and finely chopped cucumbers and dill or mint; and skordhalia (σκορδαλιά), a garlic mashed potato dip which is usually served with deep fried salted cod.

With its extensive coastline and islands, Greece has excellent seafood. Try the grilled octopus and the achinosalata (sea-urchin eggs in lemon and olive oil). By law, frozen seafood must be marked as such on the menu. Fresh fish, sold by the kilogram, can be very expensive; if you're watching your budget, be sure to ask how much your particular portion will cost before ordering it.

Greek salad (called "country salad" locally, "HorIAtiki"), a mix of tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and onion – all sliced – plus some olives, and occasionally green bell pepper or other vegetables, usually garnished with oregano. Traditionally it is dressed only with olive oil; vinaigrette or lettuce are added only in the most tourist-oriented restaurants.

Also consider:

  • moussaka, a rich oven-baked dish of eggplant, minced meat, tomato and white sauce
  • pastitsio, a variety of lasagna
  • stifado, pieces of meat and onion in a wine and cinnamon stew
  • spetzofai, braised sausage with pepper and tomatoes, a hearty dish originally from the Mt. Pelion region
  • sahanaki, fried semi-hard cheese
  • paidakia, grilled lamb chops, are also popular. They tend to have a gamier taste and chewier texture than North American lamb chops, which you may or may not like

Fried potatoes (often listed on menus as chips) are a naturalized Greek dish, found almost everywhere. They can be very good when freshly made and served still hot. Tzatziki is usually a good dip for them, though they are still good on their own.

For dessert, ask for baklava, tissue-thin layers of pastry with honey and chopped nuts; or galaktoboureko, a custard pie similar to mille feuille. Other pastries are also worth tasting. Another must-try is yogort with honey: yoghurts in Greece are really different from what you used to see at Danone stores: to start with, genuine yoghurt in Greece is has 10% of fat. Fruit such as watermelon is also a common summertime treat.

For breakfast, head to local bakeries (fourno) and try fresh tiropita, cheese pie; spanakopita, spinach pie; or bougatsa, custard filled pie, or even a ""horiatiko psomi", a traditional, crusty village type bread that is a household staple, and very tasty on its own too. All are delicious and popular among Greeks for quick breakfast eats. Each bakery does own rendition and you are never disappointed. Go to the next Kafeneion with them and have it there with a Greek coffee to be local.

A popular drink is a frappe made with instant Nescafé, water, sugar, and sometimes milk. It is frothed and served over ice.

Cover fee

It's common to charge a cover fee in restaurants officially (i.e. stating it in a receipt), such as €0.30 to €2 per person, but if it's tending towards €2 you should really consider eating somewhere else.

Fast food

McDonald's and Pizza Hut have made a significant presence in Greece over the past 15 years. However, they face strong competition from the popular local chains and they are not really popular with natives, especially outside Athens.

Goody's is the most popular fast-food chain in the country, offering a large variety of fast food meals, with numerous outlets throughout the country. A hamburger with Coke costs €3-5. A more recent chain is Everest which specialises in hand-held snacks. Also in Thessaloniki you can find Subito. Flocafé is gaining popularity through its coffee and dessert items. There are also many independently-owned fast food businesses that offer typical fast food items, such as gyros. Many of these small businesses tend to be open late at night, and are popular with younger crowds on their way home from a night out.

Drinks

Those wishing to booze in Greece would be well advised to stick to the traditional domestic Greek products discussed below, which are freely available, mostly cheap by European standards, and usually of good quality. Any imported, non-Greek alcoholic beverages are likely to be very expensive if genuine and, if cheap, may well be "bomba," a locally distilled alcohol with flavourings which sometimes, especially in island bars catering to young people, masquerade as whiskey, gin, etc. If you drink it, you'll be very sorry. Drink in respectable places where you can see the bartender mix your drink.

Water

A glass of water is traditionally served with any drink you order; one glass for each drink, especially with any form of coffee. Sometimes you even get a glass of water first and then you are asked what you want to drink! Sometimes you might as well get a bottle instead of just a glass. In touristy areas you might have to ask for a glass of water if you want one. If you don't get water with a coffee you just stepped into a tourist-trap! Also, if you did not explicitly ask for a bottle instead of a glass, and they try to charge you for it you should refuse!

Tap water in most places a traveller would go today is drinkable; if in doubt, ask your hotel. But often though technically drinkable it doesn't taste very good, especially on some small islands (as it is imported in and heavily chlorinated), and many travellers, like many Greeks, prefer to stick to bottled water. By law, water prices in shops must remain within acceptable limits, making it much cheaper than in Anglosphere nations. A half litre easily portable bottled water costs (May 2013) €0.50 if you buy it on the street and only €0.15 if you buy it from the super market.

Wines

To be able to purchase or drink alcohol in Greece, according the law, you must be 17 and photographic ID will be asked for infrequently, especially in venues that sell food (many independent fast food outlets will serve alcohol).

Greece, an ancient wine producing country, offers a wide variety of local wines, from indigenous and imported grape varieties, including fortified and even sparkling wines. Greek wines are generally not available on the international market, as production is relatively small, costs are quite high and little remains for export. However, in the past decade Greek wines have won many international prizes, with the rise of a new generation of wineries. Exports are rising as well.

Wine (Krasi: κρασί / oenos: οίνος ) is most Greeks' drink of choice.

Almost every taverna has "barrel wine," usually local, which is usually of good quality and a bargain (€6-8/L, but check this before ordering when you are in a touristy area!).

If they have it, try also the Imiglyko (Half-Sweet) red, even if sweet wine is usually not your preferred thing, it is different from anything you know.

Retsina is a "resinated wine" with a strong, distinctive taste that can take some getting used to; the flavour comes from pine resin, which was once employed as a sealant for wine flasks and bottles. The most well-known and cheap-n-dirty is "Kourtaki Retsina".

Bottled wines have gotten increasingly more expensive; some that the beginner may find worth trying are whites from Santorini and reds from Naoussa and Drama. All wines and alcoholic beverages are cheaper in the super markets, but then you can't consume them in a bar, unless you keep them hidden in small bottles and use them very discretely.

Local producers include:

  • Boutari (regions: Peloponnese, Crete, Goumenissa, Santorini, Naoussa).
  • Skouras (region of Peloponnese). Good selection found in several tourist shops in Nafplion.
  • Mercouri Estate (region of Peloponnese).
  • Gentilini [2] (region of Kefalonia). Recommended by Dorling Kindesley's Eyewitness Travel Guides: Greek Islands, 2001;
  • region of Santorini:
    • Canava Argyros.
    • Volcan Wines [3]. Also, a Volcan Wine Museum.
    • Santo Wines. [4]
  • region of Crete:
    • Peza Union [5]
    • Sitia Agricultural Cooperatives Union [6]
    • Creta Olympias Winery [7]
    • Minos Wines. [8]
    • Lyrarakis Wines [9]
    • Douloufakis Wines [10]
    • Michalakis Winery [11]
  • Tsantali [12]

Beer

Even if beer (bira: μπύρα) is consumed all around the country, don't come to Greece for the beer. The only local varieties widely available are Mythos and Alpha, but Greeks drink mostly Northern European beers produced under license in Greece like Heineken and Amstel. Heineken is affectionately known as "green"; order it by saying "Mia Prasini."

On the quality front, there is also a microbrewery/restaurant called Craft (2 litre jug also available in large supermarkets), and new organic beer producers like Piraiki Zythopoiia.

Liquor

The most famous indigenous Greek liquor is ouzo (ούζο), an anise-flavored strong spirit (37.5%), which is transparent by itself but turns milky white when mixed with water. Mainlanders do not drink ouzo with ice, but tourists and Greek islanders generally do. A 200 mL bottle can be under €2 in supermarkets and rarely goes above €8 even in expensive restaurants. Mytilene (Lesbos) is particularly famous for its ouzo. A few to try are "Mini" and "Number 12," two of the most popular made in a middle-of-the-road style, "Sans Rival," one of the most strongly anise-flavored ones, "Arvanitis," much lighter, and the potent "Barba Yianni" and "Aphrodite," more expensive and much appreciated by connoisseurs.

Raki or tsikoudia is the Greek equivalent of the Italian grappa, produced by boiling the remains of the grapes after the wine has been squeezed off. It is quite strong (35-40% of alcohol) and in the summer months it is served cold. It costs very little when one buys it in supermarkets or village stores. The raki producing process has become a male event, as usually men are gathering to produce the raki and get drunk by constantly trying the raki as it comes out warm from the distillery. One raki distillery in working order is exhibited in Ippikos Omilos Irakleiou in Heraklion, but they can be found in most large villages. In northern Greece it is also called tsipouro (τσίπουρο). In Crete, raki is traditionally considered an after-dinner drink and is often served with fruit as dessert.

Coffee

Coffee (kafes: καφές) is an important part of Greek culture.

The country is littered with kafetéries (kafetéria singular) which are cafes that serve as popular hangouts for Greeks, especially among the under-35s. They tend to be pretty trendy -yet relaxed- and serve a variety of beverages from coffee, to wine, beer, spirits, as well as snacks, desserts, and ice cream. In the pleasant months of spring, summer, and fall, all kafetéries provide outdoor tables/seating and they are busiest with customers in the late afternoon and evening hours. Several kafetéries also double as bars.

Kafeneia (coffee houses) are ubiquitous, found even in the smallest village, where they traditionally served a function similar to that of the village pub in Ireland. Their clientele tends to be overwhelmingly men over 50, however everyone is welcome, male or female, young or old, Greek or foreigner; and you will be treated extremely courteously. However, if you're not interested in cultural immersion to this extent, you may find the kafeneia pretty boring.

Traditionally, coffee is prepared with the grounds left in. It is actually a somewhat lighter version of Turkish coffee but in Greece it's only known as Greek coffee - "ellinikós kafés" or simply "ellinikós." Despite being slightly lighter than the original Turkish coffee, it remains a thick, strong black coffee, served in a small cup either sweetened or unsweetened. If you don't specfy, the coffee is usually served moderately sweet. Greek coffee traditionally was made by boiling the grounds and water on a stove in a special small pot called a "briki." More and more now days it's made by simply shooting steam from an espresso machine into the water/coffee mixture in the briki, resulting in an inferior drink. If you find a place that still actually uses a stove burner to make their coffee, you can be sure it's a traditional cafe.

During the hot summer months, the most popular coffee at the kafetéries is frappé (φραπέ): shaken iced instant coffee. This is actually an original Greek coffee and can be really refreshing, ordered with or without milk, sweetened or unsweetened.

Coffee can also be made espresso-style, French press (mainly at hotels), and with modern filter technology. The latter is sometimes known as Γαλλικός: gallikos ("French") which can lead to some confusion with the press method. It is best to ask for φίλτρου: filtrou, which refers unambiguously to filter coffee. It is best not to ask for black coffee, as it is unlikely that anyone will understand what you are asking for.

Espresso or cappuccino fredo are also gaining popularity. Espresso fredo is simply espresso + ice (no milk or foam); cappuccino fredo may be served from mousse containers, not prepared just-in-time; be careful to check.

Iced tea

In mass-sector taverns and cafe, iced tea typically means instant; ask twice if you prefer real brewed ice tea.

Shopping

Things you might buy at home but are (usually) fresh in Greece include olive oil, fruits (watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, grapes, strawberries, etc.), feta cheese, and some breads and sweets that are local (see the "Eat" section). As for drinks, "Retsina" and "tsipouro" are also local, but the first has a peculiar taste and the second is really strong, like "ouzo" and "raki". Don't mix those four with other drinks if you buy some for back home. It's nice to buy small statues and miniatures of ancient Greek art, but search for the cheap ones in various shops - you can almost always find them in half the price. Shops that cater to tourists are always more expensive - a local you can trust could be of great use. Buy definitely a hat for the sun if it's summer and sunblock (see the "Natural dangers" section).

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Greece on Wikivoyage.

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Interesting places:

  • Tree of Hippocrates
  • Ancient Agora
  • Kos Castle
  • Port of Kos
  • Church of Agia Paraskevi
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133 hotels in this place

Chania is a beautiful port town on the north west coast of Crete, with an atmosphere reflecting its Venetian and Turkish past. Highly livable spot.

Interesting places:

  • Venetian Port
  • Mosque of the Janissaries
  • Chania Archaeological Museum
  • Cathedral of the 3 Martyrs
  • Maritime Museum of Crete
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128 hotels in this place

Athens , is the capital city of Greece with a metropolitan population of 3.7 million inhabitants. It is in many ways the birthplace of Classical Greece, and therefore of Western civilization.

Interesting places:

  • Erechtheion
  • Roman Agora
  • Tower of the Winds
  • Temple of Hephaestos
  • Acropolis Museum
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123 hotels in this place

Chersonissos is a city in Crete.

Interesting places:

  • Star Beach Water Park
  • Aquaworld Aquarium
  • Crete Golf Club
  • Cave of Psychro
  • Lychnostatis
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109 hotels in this place

Paros is a major island of the Cyclades group.

Interesting places:

  • Port of Parikia
  • Naoussa Harbour
  • Church of One Hundred Gates
  • Paros Archaeological Museum
  • Livadia Beach
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106 hotels in this place

Naxos is one of the major islands in Greece's Cyclades group.

Interesting places:

  • Naxos Kastro
  • Temple of Apollo
  • Archaeological Museum
  • Agios Georgios Beach
  • Plaka Beach
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States in Greece

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1465 hotels in this place

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Points of Interest in Greece

Few countries can pride themselves on a heritage as important to Western civilization as Greece. A range of first class historic landmarks remind one of the days when the great Greek emperors and writers made their mark on the development of science, literature and democracy. No less than 17 of those monuments are listed as World Heritage Sites. However, the many charming little islands, sandy beaches and picturesque whitewashed coastal towns are at least as much a reason to come for the millions of tourists that this Mediterranean country receives each year.

Cultural heritage

World famous are the iconic Parthenon in the bustling capital Athens and the splendid site of Delphi, where the mighty emperors sought the prophecies of the most prominent oracle in the ancient Greek world. There's the temple of Apollo at Bassae and the gorgeous old city of Rhodes, once overlooked by the Colossus of Rhodes. The archaeological site of Olympia is the birthplace of our modern Olympic Games and the place from where the Olympic flame is sent across the world. The many Eastern Orthodox monasteries of Meteora are just stunning to look at, built high on natural sandstone rock pillars. At the small town of Vergina the ancient site of Agai was found, and many valuable artifacts were discovered in several untouched tombs, one of them being the tomb of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Proudly situated on Mt. Taygetos is the ancient town of Mystras, close to (and often mistaken for) ancient Sparta. Another great site is the island of Delos, not far from the popular holiday destination Mykonos. According to myths, this is were Apollo and Artemis were born. The island used to be the main Panhellenic sanctuary and is now dotted with archaeological remains.

Some major sights are nicely located on one of the beautiful Greek islands, allowing for a delightful combination of sightseeing and relaxing on one of the many fine beaches. Patmos is a lovely example, boasting the historic centre Chora, the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse, but also some pleasant sea side restaurants with pretty views. Corfu has the same characteristics, being a popular holiday destination with good beaches and an impressive historic town centre. The beach towns of Samos, just a stone's throw away from the Turkish mainland, are a good place to try the islands local wines (famous in the ancient world!). On the island are also the World Heritage Temple of Hera, the remains of the fortified port of Pythagoreion and the famous Tunnel of Eupalinos, a 1 km long subterranean aqueduct built in the 6th century BC. Although not an island, the ancient Mount Athos is located in the north of Greece, on the peninsula of Chalkidiki. It's one of the country's most popular tourist regions with excellent beaches, numerous other ancient sites and many charming villages.

If you still want more of the historic stuff, admire the massive Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus or the Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns. The Monasteries of Daphni (Athens), Hosios Loukas (Beotia) and Nea Moni (on the island of Chios) complete the World Heritage listings for Greece.

Islands

When it comes to Greece's famously gorgeous islands, it's hard to take your pick out of the 6000 options you have, 227 of them being inhabited. Their rocky coast lines, sandy beaches, charming villages, sheltered bays and many yacht harbours make them extremely popular among all kinds of travellers. The large island of Crete is a highly popular tourist destination, with landscapes varying from great sandy palm beaches to snow-covered high peaks and stunning river gorges and a good deal of night life in its main tourist towns. If you're looking to party at night, lovely Mykonos or Ios are good options too. The volcanic island of Santorini is one of the most romantic picks and offers some spectacular views. Its whitewashed capital of Fira is dramatically situated on the edge of a 400m high cliff, overlooking a beautiful blue lagoon. Other popular ones are Lesbos, Paros, Lefkada and Kos. The National Marine Park on Zakynthos is the primary nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles in the Mediterranean. The rugged, green hills and valleys of Kefalonia boast a number of vineyards, and the island's cliffs and beautiful beaches make it a tourist hotspot. For a slightly more authentic and less touristy experience, try Syros, Amorgos or any of the other small and less developed islands. But if you want to live the way of life in Cyclades, Andros one of the most original places to visit.

Erechtheion - Athens

Marine Gate - Rhodes

Museum of Asian Art - Corfu

Catholic Cathedral - Santorini

Venetian Port - Khania

Venetian Loggia - Rethimnon

Aristotelous Square - Thessaloniki

Ancient Agora - Kos

Windmills of Mykonos - Mykonos

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens - Zografos

Acronafplia - Nafplion

Hydra Town Harbour - Hydra Town

Monenvasia Kastro - Monemvasia

Port of Piraeus - Piraeus

Ioannina Castle - Ioannina

Shipwreck Beach - Zakynthos

Ancient Olympia - Olympia

Roman Agora - Athens

Tower of the Winds - Athens

Temple of Hephaestos - Athens

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