Famous for its wide-open skies, blue Aegean Sea, hundreds of islands, Byzantine culture, and picturesque villages, Greece is a top-rated tourist destination in the Mediterranean. Often considered the “Cradle of Western Civilization”, Greece is best known as the birthplace of democracy.
When most people think of Greece, they reminisce about Mount Olympia and the Gods, philosophers like Plato, and ancient ruins like the Parthenon. The country has an extensive historical timeline that extends back to ancient times and continues on.
Modern-day Greece is home to a population of 10.66 million (as of 2021) who are eager to welcome visitors and share in their unique history and culture.
Yia Sas – Welcome to Greece!
Athens is the capital of Greece and has been for centuries. The city has always remained the heart of the country from ancient times to today. It’s famously home to 5th Century BC landmarks like the Acropolis, which is where the Parthenon rests in ruins.
And it’s considered to be one of the oldest cities in the world and continues to entice visitors to unlock its ancient secrets.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
Greece is a small country in southeastern Europe. The country consists of a mainland and hundreds of smaller islands of which Santorini and Mykonos are the two most popular for tourists. The gorgeous Aegean Sea is the backdrop for the coastline and islands and is easily one of the most recognizable features of the country.
Beyond the pristine landscape, Greece is steeped in history and culture from Neolithic to modern times.
The first people of Greece lived over 40,000 years ago and had a simple farming lifestyle, but they also survived by hunting and gathering. The first Greek civilization was the Minoans. The Minoans lived during Greece’s Bronze Age from 1600 to 1100 BC and helped make way for Ancient Greece.
Ancient Greece is the birthplace of democracy and was often considered to be highly sophisticated. The culture at the time was steeped in art and philosophy. The Greeks loved their sculptures, which often depicted the male body and they painted their stories on pottery. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are famous Greek philosophers whose ideologies are still taught today.
After Ancient Greece, the Romans took control which paved the way for the Byzantine Empire. Then, in the 15th century, Greece became part of the Ottoman Empire which helped modernize the country into what it is today.
In modern Greece, the country’s past is proudly on display and the culture is steeped in traditions and festivals. One popular festival is the panygiria, which is a religious celebration of the saints with music and dance, which takes place in the summer.
While Greece’s culture is strong, one of the oldest parts of the country’s identity is its language: Greek.
Greek is the official language of Greece and is the oldest recorded language in the world, which has been found on clay tablets in Messenia that have been dated back to as early as 1450 BC. Today, modern Greek is spoken throughout the country, though there are a few different variations.
However, due to Greece’s location and diverse culture other languages like English, German, French, and Italian may also be spoken in the country.
While you are more than likely eager to explore the beauty of Greece, you’ll need to consider your spending budget when you plan your trip. Greece is a small country, so you could potentially travel and see a lot of different destinations on a limited budget. But like in any country, your budget could cost thousands of dollars depending on where you stay, how you travel, and what you do.
One of the biggest parts of your budget and the most challenging to secure will be the plane ticket. Greece tends to have flight costs that fluctuate to extreme levels. Costing anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, where you take off from will vastly change the cost.
As with any flight, traveling in the tourist offseason will reduce prices. But if you want to travel during peak tourist season, you should always try to book your ticket as early as possible because the prices will be lower.
After you’ve booked your flight, accommodation will be the next big cost of your budget and where you choose to stay can make your trip more or less affordable. Hostels are actually very affordable in Greece and are a great choice for those on a budget. Additionally, there are many well-reviewed hostels throughout the country.
If private accommodation is preferred, you should expect to spend more, but nothing unreasonable. Airbnb accommodations in Greece are also very well-priced and many are situated in the most popular tourist locations. However, there are plenty of hotels in Greece too.
Better priced than many other European nations, you will need to increase your budget or adjust certain expenses if you’re looking for something nicer. Luxury locations will be by far the most expensive and can easily cost thousands of dollars each night.
Other big parts of your budget will be your food, drink, and entertainment. Greece has a Mediterranean-based cuisine that incorporates vegetables, olive oil, fish, meat, and wine into the palate. Amygdalota is a Greek almond cookie that is often enjoyed with a cup of coffee.
Dolmadakia is grape leaves with meat and rice. Gyros are perhaps the most famous, which is meat wrapped inside a pita with Tzatziki sauce, onions, lettuce, and tomato.
Famous for its wine, there is also plenty of drink when visiting Greece. Costing a few euros for a glass, be aware that premium wine will cost more. If you wish to save, you can head to a grocery store to buy a bottle of wine, which will be nearly the same cost as a glass.
Other alcoholic beverages will cost a bit more. Two of Greece’s most famous bars are in Athens. These two bars, Baba Au Rum and Clumsies made the list of The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2018.
How to Get Around
As we’ve said, Greece is a small country, but the unique layout means that there are also hundreds of islands for tourists to explore, which can make transportation more difficult. Many of the islands do have airports, so flights are available for those trying to save time.
The most affordable way to get around the islands is to use a ferry. Highly recommended, especially for those who don’t mind taking their time while traveling, ferries are a great way to see the coast and sea. Going on routes with stunning scenery, tickets are moderately priced.
If you are trying to get around a specific city, you might try hailing a taxi. Greek taxis are well-priced, especially for short distances. Uber no longer operates in Greece but Beat is an alternative, which can be more affordable than a street taxi.
Unfortunately, many tourists will find that public transportation is not the most reliable and they will choose to rent a vehicle. Cars can be rented for a decent amount per day and will likely have manual transmissions.
ATVs can also be rented and will cost slightly less. Scooters are another option and are available in a variety of sizes. However, in some neighborhoods or cities, it is perfectly safe to walk. Walking will allow you to see more of the city and is free, so you can save a little and put the money elsewhere in your budget.
Top Cities to Visit
Greece may be small but there are still many different places to visit. While Athens may be the most well-known destination, there are plenty of sites worth exploring. To help you narrow down where you would like to visit, here is a brief overview of the country’s most popular tourist cities.
As the capital city of Greece, Athens has always been important to the country and was even the heart of Ancient Greece. The city is most popular because it is still home to 5th-century landmarks, which have been preserved. Listed as a World Heritage site in 1987, the Acropolis is home to the Parthenon, which sits like a crown at the very top.
This area is full of monuments and sanctuaries that are made of white marble as well as the modern-day Acropolis Museum, where you can learn about its history. Athens is also popular with tourists who seek its energetic vibe. The city is filled with cafes, restaurants, bars, and cozy neighborhoods to explore.
While musing over Ancient Greece, you can also appreciate modern-day Greece and its friendly people, tasty food, and overall charm.
Thessaloniki is a hub for culture, art, and gastronomy. It’s one of the largest cities in Greece and is popular for exploring the country’s ancient history.
The Museum of Byzantine Culture holds treasures from that time period alongside hundreds of other artifacts. The Arch of Galerius dates back to 303 AD and lets visitors step inside history.
Kalampaka is a popular destination because it gets close to the Metéora, which is a large rock formation and World Heritage site. The Metéora is popular for its unique and breathtaking landscape, but it’s quite remote.
This is why Kalampaka is a fun place; not only can you stay and enjoy the modern city but also take a step into nature just a short distance away.
Volos is uniquely situated on the water but surrounded by mountains. Close to Mount Pelion, the dramatic landscape is also near the Pelion Villages, which are popular with tourists.
Portaria is one that’s famous for its Byzantine architecture and cheese, meanwhile, Zagora has an amazing view of the sea and is home to delicious red wine.
Nafplio is a romantic seaside city that’s popular for its culture and gastronomy. Old Town is idyllic for taking a stroll and features brightly colored buildings and impressive street art. There are many authentic Greek bars here, which sell glasses of local wine.
While Nafpaktos is usually a stopover city for tourists who are going to Olympia, it’s a gorgeous place to visit in its own right. The city is a Venetian port, which is host to local businesses that rest on the edge of the blue water.
More of a local area where you can experience Greek culture, the Medieval characteristics make the city unique.
Naxos is the best choice for those seeking adventure. An island city in the Cyclades, there are plenty of thrilling activities to choose from. Tourists can experience windsurfing, horseback riding, hiking, and diving into a deep-sea wreck while exploring the area.
Points of Interest
While there are a lot of cities to choose from, there are also plenty of points of interest to visit in Greece too. Including museums, islands, world heritage sites, and beaches, there are numerous attractions to add to your itinerary. Here are just some of the top tourist destinations in Greece.
Discover the best of Greece’s thermal springs to add to your itinerary, on our sister site, Top Hot Springs.
As we stated, the Acropolis of Athens is one of the busiest tourist spots in the city. The ancient temples stand in ruins but are preserved and open to visitors. The Parthenon is the most famous feature of the Acropolis and is built from various columns.
The Archeological Promenade is the best walking path to see the Acropolis and it’s 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long.
Besides the ancient buildings of the Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum is also a popular point of interest because it houses all the artifacts found at the ancient Acropolis site. The museum has a modern style and architecture with a beautiful terrace for a view of the Acropolis in the distance.
Santorini is one of the most famous Greek islands because of the cliff-hanging towns and deep blue waters. The white buildings are uniform and help the colors of the landscape stand out more.
The island is also home to black sand beaches, archeological sites, and an ancient Minoan settlement. Tourists today mostly visit Fira and Oia, which have become popular destinations for weddings and honeymoons.
Mykonos is another stunning island location in Greece, which has more colorful architecture and is famous for its lively nighttime activities in Mykonos Town. There are numerous sandy beaches along the coast and is host to numerous resorts. More recently, Mykonos has grown to become very popular with international celebrities.
On mainland Greece, Delphi is an ancient site that was once used to worship the god Apollo or to ask advice from an Oracle. The ruins of Delphi are now a World Heritage site and the Delphi Archeological Museum, which has numerous archeological discoveries from the site, is located nearby. With gorgeous views, the site sits on Mount Parnassus and overlooks a dramatic ravine.
Corfu is a unique town because it has Italian architecture that’s elevated by the breathtakingly clear blue Ionian Sea. The capital, Corfu Town, is a World Heritage site and has pedestrian-only streets.
Outside the main town, the island has limestone rocks that fall into the sea and lush green hills. Paleokastritsa is the most popular beach which has deep bays and pebble beaches.
Located in Metéora, the monasteries sit atop impressive rock formations and have done so for centuries. Inside the monasteries are religious shrines, icons, and Byzantine frescoes. There are six monasteries open to the public, but you’ll have to climb multiple flights of stone steps to reach them.
Rhodes Town is built of two different towns, the Old Town and the New Town. The two towns are vastly different but immensely popular amongst tourists.
The Old Town has high medieval walls and a deep moat, meanwhile, the New Town is home to gorgeous resorts, upscale shops, and buzzing waterfront bars. The two towns are some of the most visited in all of Greece because of the unique blend of history and modernity.
Zákynthos will take your breath away with the beauty of its beaches and sea caves. One of the most famous is Shipwreck Beach, which has stunning sea caves that turn blue due to the reflection of the sky’s color bouncing off the waters.
The Blue Caves are very popular, and many people choose to snorkel and scuba dive in the area.
Olympia is located in Peloponnese and is an archeological site of Ancient Greece. Home to the original ancient Olympic games, and used previously for the modern-day lighting of the flame ceremony, visitors in Olympia can see sports sites like the stadium, gymnasium, and other athletic facilities.
Crete is the largest Greek island and has an extremely diverse terrain with both mountains and beaches. The landscape is very popular for tourists to explore with driving tours and treks offered to tourists. Boasting crystal-clear waters, the most popular activities are boating, snorkeling, and kayaking.
Additionally, Crete is known for its cuisine, which includes fresh seafood, meat, cheese, olive oil, and wine, as well as its village culture. The villagers are very lively, and welcoming, and often showcase their culture through traditional music and dance.
“Cradle of Western Civilization”
Greece is an overall stunning country that offers tourists the chance to escape into pure bliss and beauty. The country’s architecture, landscape, and history have become top destinations for adventure-hungry and curious travelers.
With history at every turn and jaw-dropping beauty in every scene, Greece will likely entice you to take multiple trips to this exciting country.