Top Destinations for 2015: Greece
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As a holiday spot that includes history, stunning waterfront views and a prime party scene, Greece has it all. Located in south-eastern Europe, it’s the perfect place to get your fix of sunshine. Experience the beach environment, scenic hiking, and ancient ruins all within kilometres of each other. Its beauty attracts tourists from all over the world, meaning they’re already prepared and excited for your arrival.
There’s almost 132,000 km2 of gorgeous views, as well as 16,000 km of coastline for the water lovers. Greece includes roughly 6,000 individual islands, 227 of which are inhabited. Sadly, it’s unreasonable to visit every last one (although that would be quite a bucket list task), but here are the highlights to narrow down your trip.
Where to go
With so many islands to visit, the choice of where to head is difficult for tourists. But one thing we do know is that Santorini is a must. By almost unanimous vote, Santorini is the most fantastic and beautiful of all the Greek islands. Santorini is part of the Cyclades islands, which many recommend hopping between to get a touch of culture from each of the drastically different areas. The atmosphere has carved a gorgeous mountaintop city that many recommend spending considerable time in. It’s an especially a good choice if travelling with a significant other as Santorini is seen as the most romantic of all the islands.
If romance isn’t your cup of tea and you’d rather enjoy a gin and tonic, head only 90 miles south to Mykonos Island. Also one of the Cyclades, Mykonos is known for its exotic beaches and rowdy atmosphere. The nonstop party island has plenty of beaches to tan, swim or party on along with glamorous bars for when the sun goes down. If you’re looking for electrifying beach parties but don’t know where to head first, Paradise Beach is a good place to hit up. Stay for the day with fruity drinks, gorgeous views and sun bed naps but when evening sparks the music starts playing and the atmosphere is taken up a notch. But amidst your partying, don’t forget to take a trip to Little Venice for picturesque views and priceless art galleries.
If you have time, definitely squeeze in a trip to Crete. As the largest Greek island there’s plenty to see and do, especially involving the gorgeous terrain.
You can’t visit Greece without taking in the layers and centuries of history around you. Before you’re completely tuckered out from the party scene, make your way to Meteora and climb to the Cliff-top Monasteries. Established in the 9th century, the six monasteries were home to hermit monks who lived lives of solitude and worship. The cliffs are now a spiritual haven where visitors can breathe in ancient history with every step. To cram more history into a short period, companies provide two day bus tours of Meteora from Athens. You’ll first stop in Delphi to see the famous Temple of Apollo, another highly recommended excursion. Trips to the temple and the monasteries will be sandwiched between explorations of other Greek cities.
Finish out your trip back in the well-known capital, Athens. Rich with history, mainly in the form of archaeological sites, Athens is a staple when visiting Greece. You could spend the whole time visiting ancient ruins like the Temple of Poseidon (a favourite of many). But the city is littered with fascinating museums for the curious type. For Greece memorabilia, touristy trinkets or a delicious bite to eat, spend the afternoon in Plaka, one of the oldest sections of Athens. Don’t forget to grab a last minute gift for your mum here before you head home.
What to do
Watch the sun set in Santorini
“Faros”, a lighthouse near Akrotiri, rests on a rock peak - the perfect location to watch the sun melt into the water. Watching the sunset from the village of Oia is also a tourist favourite because of the beauty, but only if you’re looking for more of a viewing party than relaxing contemplation.
Experience a wine tasting
Before you post up to watch the sun set, get a wine buzz during the Santorini Wine Tour. Known for its fine wines, the island is the perfect place to satisfy your tongue. Visit multiple wineries on your tour and perfect your expertise.
Enjoy the thrill of windsurfing
The consistent wind makes windsurfing a popular sport on the beaches of Greece. From first-timers to experts, give the waves a shot and let the Greek culture carry you. The sparkling blue water makes many water sports a popular pastime. If windsurfing isn’t your thing, trying rafting, kayaking or canoeing.
Hike the Samaria Gorge
The mountainous state of Greece means there are plenty of stunning hiking opportunities. The highlight of White Mountains’ National Park in Crete, Samaria Gorge reaches an altitude of 1,200m and provides trails for hikers of all levels of experience. The nature park is home to 450 plant and animal species making it a great, active sightseeing adventure. And for the directionally challenged, don’t worry. It’s nearly impossible to get lost.
Explore an archaeological site
Greece has layers of history, as it was inhabited in prehistoric times. Ancient remains of temples, theatres and public assembly buildings attract loads of tourists to be momentarily transported into another time. Sites inhabit many areas of Greece but some of the most popular are the Acropolis in Athens and Knossos Palace in Crete.
Attend one of the many festivals
From food to music to plays, Greece’s long existing festivals cover all the bases. Specifically, the Hellenic Festival is a great way to experience traditional Greek culture in music, dance and theatre. Depending on when you’re planning to visit, leave a day free to soak up Greek culture at a festival in one of your many destinations.