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Greece travel guide - Travel S helper


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Greece, formally the Hellenic Republic, was once known as Hellas. It is located in southeastern Europe. As of 2015, Greece has a population of about 10.955 million. The capital and biggest city of Greece is Athens, followed by Thessaloniki.

Greece has a key position at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa. It has land borders with Albania to the northwest, Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the northeast. Greece is divided into nine geographical regions: Macedonia, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, the Aegean Islands (including the Dodecanese and Cyclades), Thrace, and Crete. To the east of the mainland is the Aegean Sea, to the west is the Ionian Sea, and to the south is the Cretan Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Greece has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean Basin and the eleventh longest in the world, measuring 13,676 kilometers (8,498 miles) in length and dotted with an abundance of islands, 227 of which are inhabited. Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, with Mount Olympus at 2,918 metres the highest peak (9,573 ft).

Ancient Greece is regarded as the origin of Western civilisation, having produced democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature, history, political science, key scientific and mathematical concepts, and Western theatre. From the ninth century BC, the Greeks were organized into many autonomous city-states known as polis that covered the whole Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. In the fourth century BC, Philip of Macedon unified the majority of Greece’s peninsula, and his son Alexander the Great quickly conquered much of the ancient world, spreading Greek culture and knowledge from the eastern Mediterranean to the Indus River.

Greece was conquered by Rome in the second century BC, becoming an important component of the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire, both of which were dominated by the Greek language and culture. In the first century AD, the foundation of the Greek Orthodox Church molded contemporary Greek identity and conveyed Greek customs to the broader Orthodox World. After succumbing to Ottoman rule in the mid-15th century, Greece’s modern nation state formed in 1830 after an independence struggle. Greece’s illustrious historical heritage is represented in the country’s 18 UNESCO Globe Heritage Sites, which is the highest number in Europe and the world.

Greece is a democratic and developed nation with a high-income advanced economy, a high standard of living, and a good quality of life. Greece, a founding member of the United Nations, joined the European Communities (precursor to the European Union) as the tenth member and has been a member of the Eurozone since 2001. It is also a member of a number of other international organizations, including the Council of Europe, NATO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) (OIF). Greece is classified as a medium power due to its rich cultural legacy, burgeoning tourist economy, significant maritime sector, and geostrategic significance. It is one of Europe’s most visited nations and the Balkans’ biggest economy, where it is a significant regional investor.

Greece - Info Card




Euro (€) (EUR)

Time zone

UTC+02:00 (EET)


131,957 km2 (50,949 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language


Greece | Introduction

Tourism in Greece

A significant percentage of Greece’s national income comes from tourism. Tourism finances 16% of the gross domestic product, which also includes the Tourism Board and London-based World Travel. According to Eurostat statistics, Greece received more than 19.5 million tourists in 2009, up from 17.7 million in 2007.

In 2007, most visitors to Greece arrived from the European continent with 12.7 million, while most visitors, regardless of nationality, came from the United Kingdom (2.6 million), closely followed by Germany (2.3 million). The most visited region in Greece in 2010 was Central Macedonia with 18% of the total number of tourists in the country (3.6 million), followed by Attica with 2.6 million and the Peloponnese with 1.8 million. With 6.5 million tourists, the north of Greece is the most visited region of the country, and central Greece ranks 2nd with 6.3 million tourists.

In 2015, Greece has drawn 26 million visitors, making it one of the most visited destinations in Europe and the world.

Weather & Climate in Greece

Greece, although small in size, has a very diverse climate.

The majority of the country, which includes all coastal areas, has a so-called Mediterranean climate, which is nearly the same as most parts of California. Summers are hot and dry with a period of 7 months of almost constant sunshine, usually from April to November. The rest of the year is characterized by a relatively cold and rainy period that usually begins in November and lasts until late March or early April. Sporadic rainfall occurs during the dry season, but it is usually brief and infrequent. The Ionian coast and islands generally receive more annual rainfall than the rest of the country. The islands in the southern Aegean Sea and parts of the south-eastern mainland are the driest areas of the country.

The most pleasant weather is in May-June and September-October. The hottest period of the year begins in mid-July and usually lasts until mid-August, when the annual Meltemia winds from the north cool the land. The period from mid-July to mid-August is the height of summer, and the midday sun tends to be very strong; during this period, most Greeks avoid intense outdoor physical activity between 1 and 5 pm. It is best to adapt to the lifestyle of the locals by getting up early, doing all your sightseeing and shopping in the cool morning hours and then spending the afternoon in the shade or on the beach. In fact, the majority of tourists come to Greece at the height of summer to do this! For visitors from more northern climes, the low season, from November to February, can be a rewarding time to visit Greece. It won’t be beach weather, but the temperatures will be mild. The big advantage is that there are very few other tourists and prices are reduced.

Summer evenings tend to be very rewarding. As strong as the sun may shine on a summer afternoon, the low humidity in most parts of the country prevents the air from retaining much heat, and temperatures tend to drop to very comfortable levels in the evenings. But even at noon, the high temperatures are actually quite pleasant, as long as you don’t spend your time running or doing other physical activity. (However, Athens can be uncomfortably hot on summer afternoons, as the city is mostly concrete, an effect similar to that of New York). Coastal areas close to open water (away from bays and narrow gulfs), especially on many islands, tend to be quite windy and can be quite cold at night.

While the Mediterranean climate dominates most of the country, there are two other climate systems. One is the cool Alpine climate, which is found in the mountainous inland areas, including many high-altitude valleys. Another system is the continental climate, found in the interior of north-central and north-eastern Greece, which gives these regions very cold winters and hot, relatively humid summers.

Geography of Greece

Greece, being located in southern Europe, is a trans-continental country composed of a mountainous, peninsular land that juts into the sea on the southern end of the Balkans ending in the Peloponnese peninsula (separated from the mainland by the channel of the Isthmus of Corinth) which is strategically situated on the crossroads of Asia, Europe and Africa. Because of its highly indented coastline with numerous islands, Greece possesses the 11th longest coastline in the world with 13,676 km, and its land border is 1,160 km. The country lies roughly between latitudes 34°and 42°N, and longitudes 19°and 30°E.

80 % of Greece is made up of mountains or hills, making it one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. The mythical abode of the Greek gods, Mount Olympus, culminates in the Mytikas peak, which is the highest in the country at 2,918 metres. A number of lakes and wetlands are located in western Greece, which is dominated by the Pindus mountain range. A continuation of the Dinaric Alps, the Pindus reaches a maximum height of 2,637 metres at Smolikas (the second highest mountain in Greece) and has historically been a major barrier to east-west travel.

The Pindus Mountains continue through the central Peloponnese, crossing the islands of Kythera and Antikythera, and find their way into the southwestern Aegean, to the island of Crete, where they finally end. Islands in the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains which were once an extension for the mainland. Pindus is characterised by its high, steep peaks, often cut by numerous canyons and a variety of other karst landscapes. The spectacular Vikos Gorge, part of the Vikos-Aoos National Park in the Pindus Mountains, is listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the deepest gorge in the world. Another remarkable formation is the Meteora rock pillars, on which medieval Greek Orthodox monasteries were built.

In the north-east of Greece is another high mountain range, the Rhodope Mountains, which cover the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace; this area is covered with vast, dense, ancient forests, among them is the famous Dadia Forest in the Evros in the far north-east of the country.

Extensive plains are found mainly in the regions of Thessaly, Central Macedonia and Thrace. They are key economic regions, as they are among the few arable areas in the country. The seas surrounding the Greek mainland are home to rare marine species such as the spiny mackerel and the loggerhead turtle, while the dense forests are home to the endangered brown bear, Eurasian lynx, roe deer and wild goat.

Islands in Greece

Greece has a large number of islands, between 1,200 and 6,000 depending on the definition, of which 227 are inhabited. Crete is the largest and most populated island; Evia, separated from the mainland by the 60 m wide Strait of Euripus, is the second largest, followed by Lesvos and Rhodes.

The Greek islands are traditionally divided into several groups : The Argo-Saronic Islands, in the Saronic Gulf near Athens; the Cyclades, a large but dense group occupying the central part of the Aegean Sea; the North Aegean Islands, a loose group off the west coast of Turkey; the Dodecanese, another loose group in the southeast between Crete and Turkey; the Sporades, a small but narrow group off the northeast coast of Evia; and the Ionian Islands, located west of the continent in the Ionian Sea.

Demographics of Greece

In 2011, according to the official Greek statistics,, the country’s total population had a total of 10,816,286 inhabitants. The birth rate in 2003 was 9.5 per 1,000 inhabitants, which is significantly lower than the rate of 14.5 per 1,000 in 1981. At the same time, the death rate increased slightly from 8.9 per 1 000 inhabitants in 1981 to 9.6 per 1 000 inhabitants in 2003.

Greek society has changed rapidly in recent decades. The falling birth rate has led to an increase in the median age, which coincides with the general ageing of Europe. According to the 2001 census, the population was 16.71% aged 65 years or older, 68.12% was aged between 15 and 64 years while 15.18% was aged 14 years or younger.

The marriage rate started to decline from almost 71 per thousand inhabitants in 1981 to 2002, then increased slightly to 61 per thousand in 2003 and fell back to 51 in 2004. In addition, the divorce rate rose from 191.2 per 1,000 marriages in 1991 to 239.5 per 1,000 marriages in 2004. As a consequence of these trends, today an average Greek family is both smaller and older compared to previous generations.


Millions of Greeks immigrated to the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Germany throughout the 20th century, establishing a significant Greek diaspora.

A study by the Mediterranean Migration Observatory states that, at the time of the 2001 census, 762,191 persons without Greek citizenship were living in Greece, representing about 7% of the total population. There were 48,560 EU or European Free Trade Association citizens among the residents who did not have citizenship, while 17,426 where Cypriots who had privileged status. The majority of them are from Eastern European countries: Albania (56%), Bulgaria (5%) and Romania (3%), while migrants from the former Soviet Union (Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, etc.) account for 10% of the total. A part of the immigrants from Albania come from the Greek minority in Albania, concentrated in the region of Northern Epirus. In addition, the total Albanian population, which includes temporary migrants and undocumented persons, is about 600,000.

The 2011 census recorded 9,903,268 Greek nationals (91.56%), 480,824 Albanian nationals (4.44%), 75,915 Bulgarian nationals (0.7%), 46,523 Romanian nationals (0.43%), 34,177 Pakistani nationals (0.32%), 27,400 Georgian nationals (0.25%) and 247,090 persons with another nationality or unidentified (2.3%).

The largest accumulation of non-European immigrants can be found in the major urban centres, particularly in the city of Athens with 132,000 immigrants representing 17% of the local population, followed by Thessaloniki with 27,000 immigrants representing 7% of the local population. There is also a significant number of co-ethnics from the Greek communities in Albania and the former Soviet Union.

Greece, together with Italy and Spain, is a major destination for illegal immigrants trying to enter the EU. Illegal immigrants entering Greece do so mainly through the border with Turkey, at the Evros River, and through the islands of the Eastern Aegean Sea opposite Turkey (mainly Lesvos, Chios, Kos and Samos). In 2012, most of the illegal immigrants in Greece came from Afghanistan, followed by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. In 2015, refugee arrivals by sea increased dramatically, mainly due to the ongoing Syrian civil war. There were 856,723 arrivals by sea in Greece, almost five times more than in the same period in 2014, with Syrians accounting for almost 45%. It is estimated that 8% of the arrivals applied for asylum in Greece.

Religion in Greece

The Greek Constitution recognizes Eastern Orthodoxy as the country’s “predominant” faith while guaranteeing freedom of religious belief for all. The Greek government does not keep statistics on religious groups and censuses do not ask questions on religious affiliation. An estimated 97% of Greek citizens describe themselves as Eastern Orthodox who belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, based on the U.S. Department of State report.

In a 2010 Eurostat – Eurobarometer survey, 79% of Greek citizens answered that they “believe in God”. 15.8% of Greeks describe themselves as “very religious” according to other sources, which is the highest rate of all European countries. The survey also revealed that only 3.5% of respondents never go to church, compared to 4.9% in Poland and 59.1% in the Czech Republic.

Estimates for the recognized Greek Muslim minority, mainly in Thrace, range from 98,000 to 140,000 (around 1%), while the immigrant Muslim community is estimated to number between 200,000 and 300,000. Albanian immigrants in Greece are generally associated with the Muslim religion, although most are secular in orientation. Under the 1919-1922 Treaties of Greece and Lausanne, Greece and Turkey agreed on a transfer of population-based on cultural and religious identity. About 500,000 Muslims from Greece, mainly those defined as Turks, but also Greek Muslims such as the Vallahades of Western Macedonia, were exchanged with about 1,500,000 Greeks from Turkey. Many refugees who have settled in formerly predominantly Ottoman Muslim villages across Central Macedonia and who were identified as Caucasian Orthodox Greeks, came from the Russian province of Transcaucasia Kars oblast after its transfer to Turkey, but in the few years before the official population exchange.

In Greece, Judaism have been present more than 2,000 years ago. Sephardic Jews were once a significant community in the city of Thessaloniki, numbering about 80,000 in 1900, more than half the population. However, after the German occupation of Greece and the Holocaust during the Second World War, the number of Jews is estimated at around 5,500.

The Roman Catholic community is estimated at about 250,000, of whom 50,000 are Greek citizens. There are 500,000 adherents of the Old Calendar. Protestants, among them the Greek Evangelical Church as well as the Free Evangelical Churches, are approximately 30,000. Other Christian minorities, such as the Assemblies of God, the International Foursquare Gospel Church and various Pentecostal churches of the Greek Synod of the Apostolic Church, have a total membership of about 12,000. The Independent Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost is the largest Protestant denomination in Greece with 120 congregations. There are no official statistics on the Free Apostolic Pentecostal Church, but the Orthodox Church estimates its membership at 20,000. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim 28,874 active members.

In recent years, the ancient Greek religion has undergone a slight revival, with about 2,000 active followers and 100,000 “sympathisers”.

Language in Greece

Greek is the official language of the country and the mother tongue of the vast majority of the population, although the English-speaking visitor has no significant language problems. English is the most widely learned and understood foreign language in Greece, followed by French, Italian and German. A basic knowledge of English can be expected of almost everyone working in the tourism industry and in public transport. Learning a few Greek terms such as “hello” and “thank you” will be most welcome.

The Latin and Cyrillic alphabets were derived from the Greek alphabet, and about half of the Greek letters resemble their Latin counterparts, and most Greek letters resemble their Cyrillic counterparts. With a little study, it is not too difficult to decipher written names and common terms such as “hotel”, “cafeteria”, etc. You will find that place names on street signs throughout the country are often transliterated in Latin letters (some signs, especially on newer streets, are even translated entirely into English).

Like everywhere else in Greece, you will find several spellings for the same place because the Greek alphabet has been transcribed into Roman and because Greek grammar rules change the spelling of the word depending on whether it is the subject or object of a verb or to indicate possession (each of these rules also changes the pronunciation), and because of the 1976 language reform. On the maps you will see signs and place names spelled differently for the same place. Sometimes a place is written as it is pronounced, sometimes it is written with Roman letter substitutions. So you will see Heraklion, Iraklion, Heraklio and Iraklio for Ηράκλειο and Rethymnon, Rethymno, Rethimnon and Rethimno for Ρέθυμνο.

Internet & Communications in Greece


You can check with various news agencies that offer Greek news in English, such as the official news agency of Athens and Reuters or Kathimerini, English Edition (a daily newspaper published in Athens and distributed exclusively with the International New York Times in Greece and Cyprus), but it is always safer to stay in touch with the local population (e.g. in case of a fire in a nearby town you want to visit).


The cheapest way to call someone abroad – and it is really cheap – is to use a prepaid card and call from a landline anywhere (even from your hotel room). Prepaid calling cards are sold in many shops and kiosks. The calling card is nothing more than a phone number and a pin code that you dial before dialling your usual phone number. If you want to call abroad, ask for an international calling card. For one euro, you can make calls for about 45 minutes. So buy a card with the cheapest value (which is about 3 euros). Calling someone for half an hour is cheaper than sending an email from an internet café. Cards usually expire 90 days after the first use.

You can also use this prepaid phone card in public phone boxes, which are very common.

Mobile phones are widely used for communication in Greece and if you need to talk to your fellow travellers, it is advisable to buy a local prepaid plan instead of roaming as it is much cheaper. There are at least three mobile operators, Cosmote, Wind and Vodafone, all of which by law require you to show ID to activate your prepaid package. Choose the one that offers the best reception in your area. Note that the GSM 900, GSM 1800 and UMTS 2100 bands are supported. Data usage is cheap, costing about 3 euros per 100 MB. Check with your mobile phone operator for more information.


Internet access is available throughout the country. Almost all hotels offer internet access, either for free or for a fee. Local cafés usually offer free Wi-Fi access, as do many other public places. Feel free to ask for the password if the network is locked. However, internet cafés tend to be expensive, around 1.5 to 2 euros per hour. Mobile operators support data roaming with 2G, 3G, 4G and LTE technologies.

Economy of Greece

According to World Bank statistics for 2013, the Greek economy is the 43rd largest in terms of nominal GDP, with $242 billion, and the 52nd largest in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), with $284 billion. Greece is also the 15th largest economy in the EU-27. Greece ranks 40th in the world in terms of per capita income.

Greece has a high standard of living as well as a high Human Development Index. Its economy is mainly composed of services (85.0%) and industry (12.0%), while agriculture accounts for 3.0% of national economic output. The main sectors of the Greek economy are tourism (with 14.9 million international tourists in 2009, the country is the 7th most visited country in the European Union and ranked 16th in the world according to the UN WTO) and the merchant navy (with 16.2% of the world total, the Greek merchant navy is the largest in the world), while the country is also an important agricultural producer (including fishing) within the Union.

The Greek economy is bigger than all Balkan economies combined, which makes Greece the most significant economy in the Balkans as well as a major regional investor. Greece is the second largest investor of foreign capital in Albania, the third largest foreign investor in Bulgaria, the top three foreign investors in Romania and Serbia, and the largest trading partner and foreign investor in the Republic of Macedonia. Almost every week, Greek banks open a new branch somewhere in the Balkans. The Greek telecommunications company OTE has become an important investor in Yugoslavia and other Balkan countries.

The Greek economy is considered advanced and high-income. Greece was admitted to the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union on 19 June 2000 and adopted the euro as its currency in January 2001, replacing the Greek drachma at an exchange rate of 340.75 drachmas to the euro.

Financial crisis (2010–present)

At the end of 2009, due to a combination of international and local factors, the Greek economy faced its most serious crisis since the restoration of democracy in 1974, after the Greek authorities had revised its deficit estimates from 6% to 12.7% of (GDP).

In early 2010, it was revealed that financial products had been developed with the help of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and many other banks that allowed the governments of Greece, Italy and many other European countries to hide their debt. Dozens of similar agreements were concluded across Europe, in which banks delivered cash in advance in exchange for future payments from the governments concerned.

According to Spiegel, the loans granted to European governments were disguised as “swaps” and were therefore not recorded as debt. As Eurostat did not know the statistics on financial derivatives at the time, a German derivatives trader told Der Spiegel: “The Maastricht rules can be circumvented quite legally through swaps”, and, “Italy has used a similar trick in recent years to conceal its real debt with the help of another US bank”. These conditions had allowed Greek governments, as well as many other European governments, to manage beyond their means while meeting EU deficit targets.

In May 2010, Greece’s government deficit was again revised to 13.6%, the second highest in the world as a percentage of GDP, with Iceland first at 15.7% and the UK third at 12.6%. Government debt is expected to reach 120% of GDP in 2010, according to some estimates.

As a result, there has been an international crisis of confidence in Greece’s ability to repay its sovereign debt. To avoid such a default, the other eurozone countries and the IMF agreed in May 2010 on a rescue plan which provides for the immediate granting of 45 billion euros in loans to Greece, with additional financing of 110 billion euros to follow. To obtain this financing, Greece had to adopt severe austerity measures to control its deficit.

On 15 November 2010, the EU statistical agency Eurostat revised Greece’s public finance and debt figures following a methodological mission to Athens on the excessive deficit procedure and estimated Greece’s government deficit at 15.4% of GDP in 2009 and its government debt at 126.8% of GDP, making it the largest deficit (as a percentage of GDP) among EU Member States.

In 2011 it became clear that the rescue package would not be enough and in 2012 a second rescue package of €130bn ($173bn) was agreed, with strict conditions including financial reforms and further austerity measures. As part of this agreement, the burden of Greek debt to private creditors was to be reduced by 53% and all profits made by eurozone central banks on their holdings of Greek debt were to be repatriated to Greece. Greece recorded a primary budget surplus in 2013. In April 2014, Greece returned to the global bond market by selling €3bn worth of five-year government bonds with a yield of 4.95%. After six years of economic decline, Greece returned to growth in the second quarter of 2014 and was the fastest growing economy in the eurozone in the third quarter.

Entry Requirements For Greece

Visa & Passport for Greece

Greece is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

  • There are normally no border controls between the countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most countries of the European Union and a few other countries.
  • Before boarding an international flight or ship, there is usually an identity check. Sometimes there are temporary checks at land borders.
  • Similarly, a visa issued for a member of the Schengen area is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.

Nationals of Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Mauritius, St. Kitts and Nevis and Seychelles may work in Greece without having to obtain a visa or other authorisation for the duration of their 90-day visa-free stay. However, this possibility to work without a visa does not necessarily extend to the other countries of the Schengen area.

Detailed regulations in your country can be found at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tourism in Greece

Tourism in Greece is a key element of the country’s economic activity and is one of the country’s most important sectors. Greece has been a major tourist destination and attraction in Europe since ancient times because of its rich culture and history, much of which is reflected in its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the most numerous in Europe and the world, as well as its long coastline, numerous islands and beaches.

Greece attracted 26.5 million visitors in 2015 and is expected to attract 30 million in 2016. This makes Greece one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world, contributing 18 % to the country’s gross domestic product. The capital Athens as well as Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Corfu, Crete and Halkidiki are among the country’s top tourist destinations.

In recent years, Greece, in cooperation with other countries, has also promoted religious tourism and pilgrimages to regions with a significant historical religious presence, such as the monasteries of Meteora and Mount Athos.

History Of Tourism In Greece

Tourism in Greece dates back to antiquity. Cultural exchange took place between the Greek colonies of Magna Graeca and the young Roman Republic before Rome dominated the western Mediterranean. When Greece was annexed by the Roman Empire centuries later, the onset of cultural exchange between the two civilisations triggered large numbers of Romans visiting the famous centres of Greek philosophy and science such as Athens, Corinth and Thebes, also because Greece had become a province of the Roman Empire and Greeks were granted Roman citizenship.

Tourism in modern Greece began to flourish in the 1960s and 1970s with so-called mass tourism. During this period, projects to build hotels and other such facilities were carried out on a large scale and the country experienced an increase in the number of international tourists over the years. International events such as the 2004 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, both held in Athens, have contributed significantly to boosting tourism in the country, while major cultural facilities funded by the country, such as the new Acropolis Museum, have also contributed to the flow of tourists to the country. Thessaloniki was the European Youth Capital in 2014.


In 2009, the country received more than 19.3 million tourists, a significant increase from the 17.7 million tourists in 2008. The vast majority of tourists to the country came from the European Union (12.7 million), followed by those from the Americas (0.56 million), Asia (0.52 million), Oceania (0.1 million) and Africa (0.06 million). In 2007, more Britons visited the country than any other nationality, totalling 2.61 million people, or 15 per cent of the country’s tourists in that year alone. In addition, 2.3 million Germans, 1.8 million Albanians and 1.1 million Bulgarians visited the country that year. In 2007, 92.8 % of the total number of tourists in Greece came from European countries.

The most visited region in Greece is Central Macedonia, in the north of the country, close to some of the country’s most popular attractions, such as Halkidiki, Mount Olympus, Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great, and the second largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki. In 2009, Central Macedonia welcomed 3.6 million tourists, representing 18% of the total number of tourists visiting Greece that year, followed by Attica (2.6 million) and the Peloponnese (1.8 million). Northern Greece is the most visited region in the country with 6.5 million tourists, while Central Greece is in second place with 6.3 million.

According to a survey conducted in China in 2005, Greece was chosen as the preferred destination of the Chinese. In November 2006, Austria, like China, announced that Greece was the preferred destination of its citizens. In line with these observations, former Greek Tourism Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos announced the opening of an office of the Greek National Tourism Organisation in Shanghai by the end of 2010, and the GNTO currently operates two tourism offices in China, one in Shanghai and one in Beijing. It is estimated that Greece received more than 17.93 million tourists in 2013, a 10% increase over 2012. More than 22 million tourists visited Greece in 2014 and this number increased to 26 million visitors in 2015 and is expected to reach 28 million visitors in 2016, making Greece one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world. Tourism in Greece generally peaks between May and September, when about 75% of all tourist visits take place.

Arrivals by country

Most visitors who arrived in Greece at short notice in 2015 came from the following countries:

Rank Country Number
1 Macedonia 3,023,059
2 Germany 2,810,350
3 United Kingdom 2,397,169
4 Bulgaria 1,900,642
5 France 1,522,100
6 Italy 1,355,327
7 Turkey 1,153,046
8 Poland 754,402
9 United States 750,250
10 Serbia 727,831

Economic impact

At the same time, tourism consumption has increased significantly since the beginning of the millennium, from US$17.7 billion in 2000 to US$29.6 billion in 2004. The number of jobs directly or indirectly related to the tourism sector was 659,719, accounting for 16.5 per cent of the country’s total employment that year.


As a developed country heavily dependent on tourism, Greece offers a wide variety of tourism facilities. The tourism infrastructure in Greece has been significantly improved since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and continues to develop through a number of important projects, especially in areas where mass tourism is less developed.

Hotels and conference facilities

Conference tourism targeting academic, business or cultural markets is a cornerstone of Greek national tourism policy. Accordingly, the Greek government, with the support of local authorities, has offered lucrative cash grants, rental and employment subsidies, and tax breaks to establish new conference facilities and expand existing ones. In a recent report published in Meeting and Incentive Travel magazine, Greece ranked eighth in the world for conference accommodation. Figures from the Tourism Satellite Accounting Study, conducted by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), forecast a global increase in business travel revenue to Greece from US$1.51 billion in 2001 to US$2.69 billion in 2011, up from US$1.18 billion in 1998.

According to the Greek Chamber of Hotels, the number of hotels in Greece is determined by classification (bed spaces):

Star rating Number Beds
5 stars 176 64,913
4 stars 994 176,631
3 stars 1,804 163,077
2 stars 4,460 231,333
1 star 1,677 57,298
Total 9,111 693,252


There are 51 marinas in Greece with 14,661 berths offering services such as moorings, fuel, water and electricity, telephony and repairs. Some of the most developed and busy marinas in Greece are located just a few kilometres from the centre of Athens. The marinas of Alimos and Flisvos on the south coast of Athens have a total capacity of more than 1,800 boats.


There are several types of museums in the Hellenic Republic. Most of them are located in big cities like Athens, where the famous New Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum are located. In addition, there are a large number of galleries such as the National Gallery (Athens). There are also many museums in Thessaloniki, such as the Byzantine Museum. In total, there are about 150 museums nationwide that are easily accessible to tourists.

Archaeological sites and cities

  • Acropolis of Rhodes: The Acropolis of Rhodes is an acropolis from the classical Greek period (5th-3rd century BC).
  • Acropolis of Lindos: Natural citadel fortified successively by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Knights of St John and Ottomans.
  • Ancient Thera: An ancient city located on a ridge of the steep and 360 m high Messavouno Mountain on the Greek island of Santorini.
  • Abdera, Thrace: city-state on the Thracian coast, 17 km east-northeast of the mouth of the Nestos River, and almost opposite Thasos.
  • Akrotiri (Santorini): A Bronze Age Minoan settlement on the Greek volcanic island of Santorini (Thera).
  • Ambracia: Ruins of the ancient capital of Pyrrhus of Epirus in present-day Arta in Epirus.
  • Amphipolis: An ancient city in the region of Macedonia, once inhabited by the Edoni people.
  • Argos: Several ancient ruins, including the Heraion.
  • Athens: The Greek capital has many archaeological sites, the most famous being the Acropolis and the ancient Agora of Athens.
  • Bassae: An archaeological site in the north-eastern part of Messinia, Greece.
  • Chalcis: on Euboea.
  • Ancient Corinth: Ancient ruins near the modern city include the Temple of the Isthmus and the Temple of Apollo.
  • Delos: Uninhabited island famous for its many archaeological sites, including the Stoivadeion, the Temple of the Delians, the Terrace of the Lions and the House of the Dolphins.
  • Delphi: City in western Greece, with an important ancient theatre, the site of the oracle.
  • Dion, Pieria: The sacred place of the ancient Macedonians. In Dion there is a large temple dedicated to Zeus, as well as a number of temples to Demeter and Isis.
  • Dodona: The sanctuary of Dodona in Epirus was considered the oldest Hellenic oracle, probably dating back to the second millennium BC according to Herodotus.
  • Eleusis: From 1700 BC to the 4th century AD, Eleusis was the site of the Mysteries of Eleusina or the Mysteries of Demeter and Korea.
  • Elaea (Epirus): An ancient port city at the mouth of the river Acheron in Epirus.
  • Epidaurus: the ancient theatre, now restored.
  • Gitanae: Ruins of ancient Gitanae in Epirus.
  • Kameiros: ancient town on the island of Rhodes, in the Dodecanese, Greece.
  • Knossos: Archaeological site in Crete, famous for the ruins of the Minoan palace with bull motifs.
  • Leibethra: An ancient city near Mount Olympus where Orpheus was buried by the Muses.
  • Lycosura: A city in Arcadia, which Pausanias called the oldest city in the world.
  • Meteors: Monasteries that are World Heritage Sites.
  • Mycenae: During the second millennium BC, Mycenae was one of the main centres of Greek civilisation, a military stronghold that dominated much of southern Greece. The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae.
  • Messina: Most of the area of ancient Messinia contains the ruins of the great classical city-state of Messinia, refounded by Epaminondas in 369 BC.
  • Nekromanteion: The Nekromanteion was an ancient Greek temple of necromancy dedicated to Hades and Persephone.
  • Nemea: In Greek mythology, Heracles defeated the lion of the mistress Hera, and this is where the games of Nemea were held in antiquity.
  • Nicopolis: or Actia Nicopolis is an ancient city in Epirus founded in 31 BC by Octavian in commemoration of his victory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium the year before.
  • Olympia: Numerous ancient ruins, including the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, the Palestra and the Leonidion.
  • Olynthus: An ancient city of Chalkidiki.
  • Nestor’s Palace: Nestor’s Palace is the main building of a larger settlement from the late Helladic period, which was probably surrounded by a fortified wall.
  • Pella: Capital of ancient Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great and Philip II of Macedonia.
  • Phaistos: a Bronze Age archaeological site in Faistos, a municipality in south-central Crete.
  • Philippi: Founded by the king of Macedonia, Philip II, on the site of the Thasian colony of Krinides or Crenides.
  • Sounion: The Temple of Poseidon.
  • The temple complex of Samothrace: It is one of the most important Panhellenic sanctuaries and is located on the island of Samothrace.
  • Syros:Neoclassical town of Hermoupolis…2 civilisations 2 religions living together harmoniously and peacefully. 2.5 hours by ferry from Piraeus…. a destination to visit 12 months a year…. Beautiful beaches, a classical theatre, a casino, a general hospital and many sights.
  • Stagira (ancient city): Ruins of the ancient city known as the birthplace of Aristotle.
  • Sparta: Near the modern city are ancient ruins, the most important of which is the tomb of Leonidas.
  • Tiryns: A Mycenaean archaeological site near Argolis in the Peloponnese.
  • Tegea: A colony in ancient Greece. Ancient Tegea was an important religious centre of ancient Greece, where the temple of Athena Alea was located.
  • Thebes: An ancient city that once rivalled Athens and plays a role in Greek mythology.
  • Thermopylae: Mainly known for the battle that took place there in 480 BC, in which a Greek force of probably 7,000 men (including the famous 300 Spartans) defeated a much larger Persian force estimated at 70,000-300,000 men under Xerxes.
  • Thessaloniki: City with many historic buildings, some of them World Heritage Sites, including the Arch and Rotunda of Galerius, the Church of Panagia Chalkeon and the White Tower.
  • Vergina: The Macedonian royal tombs and the ruins of the former Macedonian capital in the region of Macedonia, Greece. This is a World Heritage Site.

Ecotourism and skiing

In recent years, Greece has become a destination for ecotourism (including hiking, canoeing, caving and climbing). The main ski destinations in Greece are Arachova, Kalavryta, Karpenisi and Metsovo.

Promotion of Greek tourism

The government intends to promote winter tourism in Greece, which could potentially further increase international arrivals.

Tourism in Greece is managed by the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), which has appointed Helena Paparizou, a famous Greek singer who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005, as ambassador. Singer Sakis Rouvas, who represented Greece at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, is currently the Greek Tourism Ambassador. The new logo of the Greek National Tourism Organisation consists of nine circles symbolising the nine new types of tourism that need to be promoted in order to combat the seasonality of the tourism sector. The slogan of the new logo is “Greece, the real experience”, which shows that the marketing campaign is now aimed at experience seekers and not only at mass tourism.

The disadvantage of the new logo is that at first glance it cannot be associated with Greece. The ads on the ONTG website still focus on the sea, sun and sand triptych. However, the tourism campaign is undergoing a significant change, with city breaks and congress tourism being promoted as well as cultural and wellness tourism. It is expected that the impact of the new campaign will lead to an increase in tourism revenue. The name of the commercials is You in Greece.

How To Travel To Greece

Get In - By plane

Eleftherios of Venizélos International Airport Athens, near Spáta, on the outskirts of Athens, is the country’s largest airport and main hub, handling more than 15 million passengers per year since 2006. Other major international airports in terms of passenger traffic are, in order of passengers handled per year, Heraklion (Nikos Kazantzákis Int’l), Thessaloniki (Makedonia Int’l), Rhodes (Diagóras) and Corfu (Ioánnis Kapodístrias).

Athens and Thessaloniki operate most of the scheduled international flights. However, during the tourist season, several charter flights and scheduled low-cost flights arrive daily from many European cities to many islands and small towns on the mainland.

Olympic Air (formerly Olympic Airlines) operates flights to Greece from various cities in Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia. Aegean Airlines, which holds half of the domestic market, also operates international routes to Greece from a growing number of European cities. Sky Express is the second largest airline in Greece and operates both domestic routes and international on-demand routes.

Athens is also well served by airlines from all over Europe, the Middle East, North America and Southeast Asia, with flights from their respective hubs.

The presence of low-cost carriers in the Greek international market has increased tenfold in the last ten years. They offer flights to Athens and Thessaloniki from several other European locations, such as Easyjet (from London Gatwick, London Luton, Manchester, Milan, Paris and Berlin), Virgin Express (from Brussels), Transavia (Amsterdam), German Wings (Cologne/Bonn and Stuttgart), Hemus Air (Sofia), Sterling (Copenhagen, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Oslo), LTU (Düsseldorf), MyAir (Venice), Norwegian Air (Warsaw, Katowice and Krakow), Wizzair (Katowice and Prague), FlyGlobeSpan (Glasgow) and Vueling (Barcelona). Ryanair (Bergamo, Rome, Frankfurt-Hahn, Charleroi and Pisa) offers flights to small Greek airports (Volos, Rhodes and Kos).

Get In - By train

Due to the bad economic situation, Greek Railways has stopped all international trains since 13 February 2011.

The national railway company is Trainose (Τραινοσέ).

Thessaloniki is the hub of Greece for international rail traffic. Trains connect Thessaloniki with Sofia (3 per day), Bucharest (1 per day), Istanbul (2 per day) and Belgrade via Skopje (2 per day).

There were special fares such as the Flexipass Balkans and other offers, for example the City Star Ticket from the Czech Republic to Greece.

Get In - By car

You can enter Greece by car from any of its land neighbours. From Italy, ferries carry cars and passengers to Greece (see section on ships). From Western Europe, the most popular route to Greece is via Yugoslavia. After the unrest in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, most Western European motorists came to Italy by land and took a trans-Adriatic ferry from there. Although the countries of the former Yugoslavia have since stabilised and Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria offer another, albeit much longer, alternative, the overland route via Italy is still the most popular option today.

Get In - By bus

There is limited international bus service to neighbouring Albania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey, as well as to Serbia and Georgia.

Get In - By boat

From Italy, the main Adriatic sea routes connect the ports of Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi in Italy with Patras and Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland. Several ferries also connect Italy with the Ionian Islands, but mainly during the summer months. Travel time varies from a minimum of about 8 hours from Brindisi to Igoumenitsa to a maximum of 26 hours from Venice to Patras. Many ferries depart daily for Greece.

There are ferries from Turkey: from Marmaris to Rhodes, from Cesme to Chios, from Bodrum to Kos, from Kusadasi to Samos.

There are also ferries connecting Piraeus and Rhodes with Alexandria (Egypt), Larnaca and Limassol (Cyprus) and Haifa (Israel).

How To Travel Around Greece

General considerations

A common question asked by travellers in Greece is whether they should rent a car. The main advantage of a car is that you can cover much more distance per day if you are travelling to rural areas or the larger islands: You can travel almost anywhere in Greece by bus, but some remote villages only have one or two buses a day, and having your own car means you don’t have to wait for the bus in the heat of summer. Almost all archaeological sites can be reached by bus, but for some of the more remote and lesser-known sites, the bus can drop you off up to a kilometre from the site, whereas with a car you can almost always drive directly to the site by taking at least one difficult road.

On the other hand, driving without a car in Greece is not only possible but also offers significant advantages, while driving has a number of disadvantages. While many people find driving in Greece easy and even enjoyable, others are concerned about the high accident rate (one of the highest in Europe), the nationwide reputation for risky driving and the presence of many winding mountain roads that sometimes skirt cliffs. Petrol is as expensive as anywhere else. (See below for more information on driving conditions in Greece).

Driving in Athens and other major cities can be a frustrating and sometimes frightening experience, and finding a parking space can be very difficult. In addition, a car severely limits your freedom of action when exploring the islands, as only the largest and usually slowest ferries offer a car service, which must be paid for in addition to your passenger ticket. Bus transport is not only cheaper, but also offers more opportunities to engage in conversation with locals and other travellers than the car. Language is generally not a problem for English speakers using public transport: Wherever there is a lot of tourism in Greece, bus timetables are posted in English and bus and taxi drivers understand at least enough English to answer your questions.

Public transport can be supplemented by taxis (see below), which in many places, especially on the islands, offer fixed fares to various beaches that can be affordable, especially if the fare is split between several people. And on many islands it is possible to walk to the beach, which can be a pleasant experience in itself.

Get Around - By bus and train

Intercity buses are a very popular option for domestic travel. KTEL is a national network of independent, state-subsidised companies that work together to form a dense route network that serves almost the entire country. The system is efficient, reliable and relatively inexpensive. It serves both long and short routes, including connections between major cities and islands near the mainland, such as Corfu and Kefalonia (in these cases, the ferry crossing is included in the price of the bus ticket).

The train is the better mode of transport, but the national rail network (OSE) is extremely limited. This is due to neglect following the advent of large-scale use of private vehicles and air travel, but also to earlier technological difficulties in overcoming the country’s difficult terrain. The importance of rail transport is now being rediscovered and the national rail network is undergoing a major renovation. The completion of the project is still a long way off. The Athens-Thessaloniki corridor has been significantly (and continuously) modernised, resulting in shorter journey times.

Get Around - By car

Exploring the country by car can be an extremely rewarding experience, allowing you to explore the incredibly picturesque and varied landscape of the coasts, interior and islands at your own leisure. Roads are generally well signposted and maintained, and billions are being invested in the expansion of the multi-lane motorway network. Due to the rapid expansion and improvement of the national road network, it is advisable to have the most up-to-date road map(s). Most new motorways are subject to tolls and charges can be high. Road signs in Greek are usually repeated with a transliterated version in Latin alphabet.

Car rental offices can be found all over Greece, especially in the big cities and in very touristy areas. Most of the cars on offer have a manual transmission; automatic transmissions are available, but it is advisable to book one in advance. The price of petrol is high, but relatively cheap compared to many other EU countries. Some car rental companies and insurance companies do not allow you to take your car out of Greece.

Drivers who do not hold an EU driving licence must have an international driving licence obtained in their country of origin. This licence is not required for car rental, but it is certainly needed if the driver is involved in an accident or is stopped by the police for a traffic ticket. Insurance policies can be cancelled if the driver is a third-country national without an international driving licence.

For those used to driving in North America, driving in Greece can be a challenge. To them, Greek (and European) drivers may seem aggressive. The topographical features of the country also pose a problem, with many narrow roads in mountainous regions requiring multiple turns. Roads in towns and villages can also be surprisingly narrow. When cars meet on a narrow road, it is common for one driver to look for a place to park and let the other driver pass. Sometimes one driver has to back up for the other.

This practice must be respected and any failure to do so will cause annoyance to other drivers. Drive slowly in villages and small towns as there are often pedestrians on the road. Another big difference between driving in North America and Greece is the range of speeds at which vehicles travel, especially on highways. While speed limits can be as high as 120 km/h, some vehicles travel at speeds as low as 60 km/h. Other vehicles travel at speeds well above the prescribed limits and can come up from behind very quickly.

Get Around - With the ferry

The frequency, reliability and availability of Greek ferries largely depends on the season. For example, in the winter season (January to March), the weather in the Aegean can be extremely rough and boats often stay in port for several days. This type of delay is extremely unpredictable (it is not a decision of the ferry companies, but of the port authority) and it is practically impossible to determine when a ship will actually leave port. For this reason, travellers in the low season should be flexible in their schedule and not plan to leave an island in the morning and take a return flight in the afternoon. On the other hand, ferries are full in August due to the bank holidays (15 August), so travellers are advised to plan ahead.

As for routes, there are many connections from Athens in the high season and a number of intermediate islands to “jump off”. Even in winter, some of these ferries run once or even twice a week.

Visitors to Greece planning to travel by ferry should be aware of some possible complications. Firstly, it cannot be assumed that it is possible to travel from one island to another every day of the week. The Greek ferry system is essentially a star system, with beams radiating out from Piraeus to the various island groups. As a result, boats are quite common within groups, but less so between groups. Sometimes islands that are geographically close to each other are in different groups: e.g. the Western Cyclades (Serifos, Sifnos, Milos) are very close to the Central Cyclades (Naxos, Paros, Mykonos,) on a map, but these groups are on different radii, which means that in summer you can usually travel from one island to another in the same group on any given day, but boats between groups, e.g. from Naxos to Sifnos, can be much rarer. Secondly, it can be frustrating trying to find information about ferry timetables in advance: Unfortunately, there is no single comprehensive official source of Greek ferry timetables, either in print or online, although there are a number of private websites run by travel agents or other companies that claim to provide full timetables, and many ferry companies have websites that include their timetables and, in some cases, allow you to book and pay for tickets online. (Ferry timetables are also always posted at the ship counters in the ports of departure). Secondly, although it is generally not a problem to get a ticket, some ships to the most popular destinations, especially those departing at the cheapest times, are fully booked in high season or on holiday weekends. Although today’s ferries usually run on schedule, weather conditions, strikes and mechanical breakdowns can occasionally cause delays. None of these problems are insurmountable, but they do mean that you shouldn’t try to plan your ferry route too strictly in advance: be flexible and always have a plan for emergencies. And it’s always a good idea not to rely on taking a ferry from the islands to return to Athens on the same day as your plane leaves, even if the ships’ schedules should theoretically allow you to do so: It will probably work, but there are enough chances that it is not wise to plan your return to Athens at least a day before your flight.

There are three ports in Athens: the main port of Piraeus and the peripheral ports of Rafina and Lavrio. These serve all the islands, but for the islands of the central Cyclades, such as Tinos and Mykonos, it is often better to start from Rafina.

In Greece, the ferries are the only things that leave on time, so be quick. The new “fast ferries” halve the journey distances, but the prices are a bit higher. Sometimes it’s more convenient to fly, especially to Crete or Rhodes. However, flights are usually more expensive. Santorini is 8 hours by slow boat from Athens, but the view from the entrance of the boat is spectacular.

Among the main ferry companies operating in Greece are

The timetables and websites of some very local ferry services can be found on the destination pages of the islands or ports concerned. You can also choose to hire a sailboat, motorboat, catamaran or schooner and explore Greece from the deep blue sea.

Although this guide does not usually list transport websites unless they are run by a government or major transport provider (such as the shipping companies listed above). Due to the high level of interest in Greek ferry timetables and the fact that there is no single official source for them, readers are referred in this case to the full Greek ferry timetable pages on Greek Travel Pages and OpenSeas.

Get Around - By plane

The country’s domestic airline industry is dominated by Olympic Air and its growing competitor Aegean Airlines. Both airlines offer an extensive network of routes within the country, including flights connecting several islands with the mainland. Both Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air offer electronic tickets, which exist only as an email or website with booking confirmation. It must be presented in printed form at the airport check-in counter (going to the airline office is not necessary).

Get Around - By taxi

There are many taxis in Greece. More than ten years ago it could be quite a challenge to get one, but not anymore. You greet the taxis on the street like in any big city.

Transport from the airport to the centre of Athens costs a flat rate of 35€.

If you need a taxi from the ferry in Piraeus at night, it won’t be easy. The drivers waiting outside sometimes try to pick up at least three different people going in the same direction so they can charge three fares! If there are two or three of you, only one of you has to hail the taxi and, if he agrees to pick you up, get the other(s) on board. In Greece you don’t pay “per head”, unless of course the other passengers are strangers to you and you happen to hail the same taxi. In that case, you pay separately – e.g. you and your wife pay one fare, and the others also pay one fare (one fare for each “group”, regardless of the number of people in the same company). If you are 4 friends, you pay one fare. The taxi situation has improved since the debt crisis in Greece, but as a tourist you may be vulnerable to “extra” charges.

Get Around - By boat

Many large cruise ships visit the islands and it is also possible to hire your own boat in one of the main ports such as Athens, Kos and Lefkas.

For experienced sailors, the Greek islands offer an idyllic sailing experience with moderate winds and calm waters. It is an exceptional opportunity to sail and visit many places at once.

There are several yacht charter companies where you can rent a boat with or without a skipper, such as Kavas YachtingVernicos YachtsEgiali Yachtingetc.

Destinations in Greece

Regions in Greece

  • The Peloponnese (Achée, Arcadia, Argolida, Corinth, Elis, Laconia, Messinia)
  • Central Greece (Evvia, Attica, Boeotia, Phthiotis, Phocis, Evrytania, Aetolia-Acarnania). Location of the national capital, Athens
  • Thessaly (Magnesia, Larissa, Trikala, Karditsa)
  • Northern Greece (Kastoria, Florina, Kozani, Grevena, Pella, Imathia, Pieria, Kilkis, Thessaloniki, Chalkidiki, Serres, Mount Athos, Drama, Kavala, Xanthi, Rhodopes, Evros)
  • Epirus (Arta, Ioannina, Preveza, Thesprotia)
  • Greek Islands (Saronic Gulf Islands, Cyclades, Dodecanese, Rhodes, Sporades, East Aegean, North Aegean, Ionian Islands)
  • Crete (Crete, Gavdos, Chrysi)

Cities in Greece

  • Athens – the capital, famous for the Parthenon
  • Thessaloniki – the most important city in the northern region of Macedonia
  • Chania – surrounded by beaches and the Samaria National Park
  • Chersonissos – the party capital of Crete in summer
  • Heraklion – the largest city in Crete and the main centre with the archaeological site of Knossos
  • Patra – known for its wine production
  • Larissa – a lively agricultural and university town
  • Rhodes – impressive medieval structures, nightlife and beaches
  • Volos – coastal port with beautiful museums and architecture

Islands in Greece

Greece has an extremely large number of islands, with estimates ranging from about 1 200 to 6 000, depending on the minimum size to be considered. The number of inhabited islands ranges from 166 to 227. The largest Greek island by area is Crete, which lies on the southern edge of the Aegean Sea. The second largest island is Evia, which is separated from the mainland by the 60-metre-wide Strait of Euripus and is administered as part of the region of Central Greece. After the third and fourth largest Greek islands, Lesbos and Rhodes, the remaining islands occupy two-thirds or less of the area of Rhodes. The Greek islands are traditionally divided into the following groups: The Argo-Saronic Islands in the Saronic Gulf near Athens; the Cyclades, an important but dense group occupying the central part of the Aegean; the North Aegean Islands, a free group off the west coast of Turkey; the Dodecanese, another free group in the southeast between Crete and Turkey; the Sporades, a small, limited group off the coast of Euboea, and the Ionian Islands, located west of the continent in the Ionian Sea (one of these islands, Kythera, lies off the southern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula and belongs to the Attica region, but is nevertheless counted as part of the Ionian Islands, mainly for historical reasons). There are also many islands, islets and rocks surrounding the coast of Crete.

Other destinations

  • Delphi – site of the famous Oracle of Apollo, an important archaeological site
  • Ithaca – the famous house of Odysseus
  • Meteors – Monasteries on Hills
  • Mount Athos – semi-independent republic, home to many Orthodox monasteries (restricted access).
  • Olympia – sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, venue of the ancient Olympic Games

Accommodation & Hotels in Greece

If you like local traditions and charm, the quiet rhythm of life, small family guesthouses are the best way to enrich your experience. The owners and staff are friendly and approachable, compared to the impersonal service you usually find in big hotels.

If you have a larger budget, renting a villa is a luxurious and splendid idea. They are usually located near or on the beach and offer more space and a magnificent view.

It should be noted that hotels in Greece, especially on the islands but also in Athens and other big cities, tend to be basic establishments. The rooms are usually small, the bathrooms smaller, the shower is often a hand shower; if there is a bathtub, it is often a sitz bath. Sometimes shower curtains are lacking in the most basic places. Cupboards are often inadequate, and sometimes there is only one cupboard. On the positive side, these hotels usually have a (sometimes tiny) balcony or veranda, either private or shared by all rooms (but these are usually spacious enough not to be cramped). The standard of cleanliness is generally good, even in the most basic places. Those who want more luxurious accommodation can usually find it in the most popular towns and on the islands, but they should check the quality of the hotel with reliable sources to be sure of what they are getting.

Today, most Greek hotels, even the smallest, have a website and accept reservations by e-mail, although fax is sometimes a more reliable means of communication. There are also many Greek and international hotel reservation services that make reservations, sometimes cheaper, or offer rooms if the hotel itself says it is full. If you don’t feel like picking a hotel, you can usually find a room without too much difficulty without booking in advance on all but the busiest islands, where it can be difficult to find rooms in high season and even in low season on weekends and holidays. If you get stuck looking for a room, try a local travel agency (preferably one that is recognised by a reputable guide) or ask in a café if the owner knows of a room for rent; this is often the case.

On some islands, although this varies from place to place, the owners of the accommodation meet the arriving ferries to offer them rooms. Often they have a van to transport you from the port and have brochures to show you around. These places are completely legitimate, sometimes they are some of the most profitable places. You can negotiate prices, especially when many of them are trying to fill their rooms, and it’s not uncommon to find prices in the 20-25 EUR range for a room or even a studio in the off-season. But they can be just a few steps from the harbour or a kilometre from the city. So before you accept such an offer, it’s best to get a good idea of the location.

The places listed in the guidebooks are usually booked up in advance and usually become more expensive as soon as you know they exist!

Nowadays, Greek rooms are usually air-conditioned. If this is important to you, please enquire before booking. In some rooms, which are in old, traditional buildings with thick stone walls, this may not be necessary. Televisions are also common, but the picture may be too blurry to use. When you turn on your TV, you may find that it only receives Greek-language programmes. Room telephones are rare in the cheapest accommodation.

The main problem you are likely to encounter in a Greek hotel room is noise. Anything on a road is likely to suffer from traffic noise, and even in hotels that are not on a main road, you will find that this outdoor ‘path’ is used as a highway by the notoriously noisy Greek motorbikes. And the pubs and clubs in the area can be noisy. If you are concerned about noise, it is advisable to choose the location of your hotel carefully. It will probably be quietest in an old part of the town or village that can only be reached by stairs, which goes against the prevailing philosophy of cars and motorbikes that “if I can drive it there, I will drive it there”.

In addition to hotels, almost all popular Greek destinations offer independent accommodation called studios or sometimes flats – the terms are practically interchangeable. Often these facilities are managed by hotels: a hotel may include some catering units, or hotel managers may also manage a separate building with catering flats. Although not often mentioned in travel guides, these studios are certainly a good option for many travellers. Typically, a studio consists of one large room, usually larger than a hotel room (although sometimes there are several rooms), with a sink, a small fridge and a two-burner hob. They usually have a private balcony or veranda, a television and air conditioning, but rarely an in-room telephone and almost never internet access. Unlike hotels, they do not have a reception, there are no breakfast or other catering facilities, and sometimes there is only a maid every two or three days. Studios are often located in quieter and more picturesque areas than hotels. For those who do not need all the services of a hotel, studios can be an interesting alternative. They offer better accommodation for the money spent and the opportunity to save money on food by preparing some meals yourself.

Things To See in Greece

Cities in Greece

Few countries can boast such an important heritage for Western civilisation as Greece. A number of first-class historical monuments recall the time when the great Greek emperors and writers shaped the development of science, literature and democracy. No fewer than 17 of these monuments are inscribed on the World Heritage List. However, the many charming small islands, sandy beaches and picturesque whitewashed coastal towns are at least as many reasons for the millions of tourists who visit this Mediterranean country every year.

Cultural heritage

The Parthenon, the landmark of the capital Athens, is world famous, as is the magnificent site of Delphi, where powerful rulers sought the prophecies of the most important oracle of the ancient Greek world. There is the Temple of Apollo at Bassae and the beautiful old town of Rhodes, once dominated by the Colossus of Rhodes. The archaeological site of Olympia is the birthplace of our modern Olympic Games and the place from which the Olympic flame is sent around the world. The many Eastern Orthodox monasteries of Meteora are simply breathtaking to behold, built high on rock pillars of natural sandstone. In the small town of Vergina, the ancient site of Agai was discovered and many valuables were found in several intact tombs, including the tomb of Philip II of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great. Proudly perched on Mount Taygetos is the ancient city of Mystras, which is close to (and often confused with) ancient Sparta. Another great place is the island of Delos, not far from the popular resort of Mykonos. According to legend, Apollo and Artemis were born here. The island was once the most important Panhellenic sanctuary and is now littered with archaeological remains.

Some of the main tourist attractions are on one of the beautiful Greek islands, so you can combine sightseeing with relaxation on one of the many quality beaches. Patmos is a good example, with its historic Chora centre, the Monastery of St John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse, but also with pleasant seaside restaurants with beautiful views. Corfu has the same qualities and is a popular holiday destination with good beaches and an impressive historic town centre. The coastal towns of Samos, just a stone’s throw from the Turkish mainland, are a good place to sample the island’s local wines (famous in ancient times!). Also on the island are the World Heritage Temple of Hera, the remains of the fortified port of Pythagoreion and the famous Eupalinos Tunnel, a kilometre-long underground aqueduct built in the 6th century BC. Although not an island, ancient Mount Athos is located in northern Greece, on the Halkidiki peninsula. It is one of the most popular tourist areas in the country, with excellent beaches, many other ancient sites and many charming villages.

If you want more history, admire the huge sanctuary of Asclepius in Epidaurus or the archaeological sites of Mycenae and Tiryns. The monasteries of Daphne (Athens), Hosios Loukas (Boeotia) and Nea Moni (on the island of Chios) complete the World Heritage lists for Greece.


When it comes to the famous Greek islands, it’s hard to choose from the 6,000 options available to you, 227 of which are inhabited. Their rocky coasts, sandy beaches, charming villages, sheltered coves and numerous marinas make them extremely popular with travellers of all kinds. The large island of Crete is a very popular tourist destination, with scenery ranging from wide sandy palm beaches to high snow-capped peaks and beautiful river gorges, and a lively nightlife in the main tourist towns. If you want to party in the evening, the charming towns of Mykonos or Ios are also good choices. The volcanic island of Santorini is one of the most romantic choices and offers spectacular views. Its whitewashed capital, Fira, sits spectacularly on the edge of a 400m cliff overlooking a beautiful blue lagoon. Other popular spots include Lesvos, Paros, Lefkada and KosZakynthos National Marine Park is the most important nesting site for loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean. The green, rugged hills and valleys of Kefalonia are home to a number of vineyards, and the island’s cliffs and beautiful beaches make it a hotspot for tourism. For a more authentic and less touristy experience, try Syros, Amorgos or another small, less developed island. But if you want to live the Cycladic way, Andros is one of the most pristine places to visit.

Food & Drinks in Greece

Food in Greece

Greek cuisine is a mixture of local traditions and foreign influences. The neighbouring countries of Italy and Turkey have a great influence on Greek cuisine, and there are dishes in common with both nations. The traditional Greek diet is very Mediterranean, with vegetables, herbs and grains from the Mediterranean biome. Being a very maritime nation, the Greeks include a lot of seafood in their diet. Greece is also a large producer and consumer of lamb; beef, pork and especially chicken are also very popular. Olive oil is a staple in Greek cuisine, and lemon and tomatoes are common ingredients. Bread and wine are always served at the dining 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 to customers’ expectations rather than offering a truly authentic Greek dining experience. An example is the famous gyros (yee-ros), which is often found on Greek menus outside Greece. Although it is now a popular fast food item in Greece, it is actually a relatively recent foreign import (adapted from the Turkish kebab) and is considered junk food by Greeks. It is never served at home and is not usually on the menus of fast food restaurants.

Greeks live to eat, and eating in restaurants is Greece’s national pastime and an enriching experience for visitors; however, not knowing where to go or what to do can spoil the experience. In the past, restaurants that catered mainly to tourists were usually disappointing. Fortunately, the restaurant industry has become more sophisticated in the last decade and it is now possible to find excellent restaurants in areas that are very touristy, especially those that are also popular with Greek tourists. Therefore, it is still a good idea to dine where the Greeks dine (pick them up at the times when the Greeks eat: 21:00-23:00). The best restaurants will not only offer authentic traditional Greek cuisine (as well as regional specialities), but also the latest culinary trends in Greece. A good sign of authenticity is the small free dessert you get when you ask for the bill. Bad signs are when the desserts are on the menu, and also when a waiter stands outside calling for customers or takes away your plates while you are still at the table (traditionally, everything is left on the table until the customer has left, even if there is almost no space left).

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


In Greece, vegetarianism is uncommon and strictly vegetarian restaurants are practically non-existent. However, Greeks traditionally eat less meat per capita than Northern Europeans and North Americans, and there are many vegetarian dishes in Greek cuisine. Greeks are meat and dairy eaters, but with such a large proportion of their diet consisting of pulses, vegetables, greens and fruit, a vegan or vegan visitor will have no difficulty finding a wide range of vegetarian dishes throughout Greece. The Porto Club travel agency offers a range of tours designed for vegetarians and vegans.

Traditional fast foods include gyros (γύρος, “GHEER-ohs”, not “JIE-rohs” as in “Gyroscope”), roasted pork or chicken (and rarely beef) and side dishes wrapped in a fried pita; souvlaki (σουβλάκι, “soov-LAH-kee”), meat grilled on a skewer ; Greek dips such as tzatziki (τζατζίκι), made with filtered yoghurt, olive oil, finely chopped garlic and cucumber, and dill or mint; and skordhalia (σκορδαλιά), a garlic mashed potato usually served with fried stockfish.

With its extensive coastline and islands, Greece offers excellent seafood. Try grilled octopus and achinosalata (sea urchin roe with lemon and olive oil). Frozen seafood must be labelled as such on the menu by law. Fresh fish sold by the kilo can be very expensive; if you are on a budget, find out how much a particular portion will cost before ordering.

Greek salad (locally called “farmer’s salad”, “HorIAtiki”), a mixture of tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and onions – all sliced – plus a few olives and occasionally green peppers or other vegetables, usually garnished with oregano. Traditionally, it is seasoned only with olive oil; vinaigrette or salad is added only in the most touristy restaurants.

Think about that too:

  • Moussaka, a rich dish of aubergines, minced meat, tomatoes and white sauce baked in the oven.
  • Pastitsio, a variation of lasagne
  • Stifado, pieces of meat and onions in a stew of wine and cinnamon
  • spetzofai, a braised sausage with peppers and tomatoes, a hearty dish from the Pelion Mountains region
  • Sahanaki, semi-hard fried cheese
  • Payakia, grilled lamb chops, are also popular. They generally have a stronger flavour and softer texture than North American lamb chops, whether you like it or not.

French fries (often listed as chips on menus) are a naturalised Greek dish that can be found almost everywhere. They can be very good if they are freshly prepared and served while still hot. Tzatziki is usually a good sauce for them, although they are also good on their own.

For dessert, ask for baklava, a thin pastry with honey and chopped nuts, or galaktoboureko, a cream cake similar to a mille-feuille. Other pastries are also worth trying. Another must-try is yoghurt with honey: yoghurts in Greece are really different from what you see in Danone shops: For one thing, real yoghurt in Greece contains 10% fat. Fruits like watermelon are also very popular in summer.

Go to the local bakeries (fourno) for breakfast and try the fresh tiropita, a cheese cake, the spanakopita, a spinach cake, or the bougatsa, a custard-filled cake, or even a “horiatiko psomi”, a traditional crusty village bread that is a staple of the house and also delicious in its own right. All are delicious and much appreciated by Greeks for a quick breakfast. Each bakery has its own recipe and you will never be disappointed. Take them to the nearest kafeneion and have a Greek coffee with them to be on the spot.

A popular drink is a frappe, made from instant nescafé, water, sugar and sometimes milk. It is foamed and served over ice.

Cover fee

It is common to officially charge a cover in restaurants (i.e. by stating it on the receipt), e.g. from 0.30 to 2 euros per person, but if it tends towards 2 euros, you should really consider eating elsewhere.

Fast food restaurants

McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have had a strong presence in Greece for 15 years. However, they face strong competition from the popular local channels and are not really popular with the locals, especially outside Athens.

Goody’s is the most popular fast food chain in the country and offers a wide range of fast food, with many branches throughout the country. A hamburger with Coca-Cola costs between 3 and 5 euros. A newer chain is Everest, which specialises in takeaway snacks. There is also the Subito chain in Thessaloniki. Flocafé is becoming increasingly popular with its coffee and dessert offerings. There are also many independent fast food companies that offer typical fast food products such as gyros. Many of these small shops are usually open late into the evening and are popular with young people coming home after a night out.

Drinks in Greece

Anyone wishing to consume alcohol in Greece would do well to stick to the traditional Greek national products mentioned below, which are freely available, usually cheap by European standards and generally 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 flavours that sometimes, especially in bars on the islands that appeal to young people, masquerades as whisky, gin etc. and can be very expensive. If you drink it, you will regret it. Drink in respectable establishments where you can see the barman mixing your drink.


A glass of water is traditionally served with every drink you order; one glass for each drink, especially with any form of coffee. Sometimes you are even served a glass of water first and then asked what you would like to drink. Sometimes it is better to take a bottle and not just a glass. In tourist areas you may have to ask for a glass of water if you want one. If you don’t get water with a coffee, you have fallen into a tourist trap. Also, if you have not specifically asked for a bottle instead of a glass and someone tries to charge you, you should refuse.

In most places a tourist would visit, tap water is drinkable; if in doubt, ask at your hotel. But often, although drinkable, it doesn’t taste very good, especially on some small islands (because it is imported and heavily chlorinated), and many visitors, like many Greeks, prefer bottled water. By law, the price of water in shops must remain within acceptable limits, which makes it much cheaper than in Anglosphere countries. Half a litre of bottled water costs (May 2013) €0.50 if you buy it on the street and only €0.15 if you buy it in the supermarket.


To buy or drink alcohol in Greece, you must be 17 years old by law, and photo ID is rarely required, especially in places where food is sold (many independent fast-food outlets serve alcohol).

Greece, a former wine-growing country, offers a wide range of local wines, from indigenous and imported varieties, including fortified and even sparkling wines. Greek wines are generally not available on the international market, as production is relatively low, costs are quite high and little is left for export. However, in the last decade Greek wines have won many international awards and a new generation of wineries has emerged. Exports are also on the rise.

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

Almost all tavernas offer “wine on tap”, mostly local, which is usually of good quality and at a good price (6 to 8 €/litre, but check before ordering if you are in a tourist area).

Euro American Express Travellers Cheques. If they do, also try the red Imiglyko (semi-sweet), even if sweet wine is not usually your preference, it is unlike anything you know.

Retsina is a “resinous wine” with a strong and distinct taste that takes some getting used to. The taste comes from pine resin, which used to be used as a sealant for wine bottles and flasks. The best known and cheapest is “Kourtaki Retsina”.

Bottled wines have become increasingly expensive; some that the beginner might want to try are the white wines of Santorini and the red wines of Naoussa and Drama. All the wines and alcoholic drinks are cheaper in the supermarkets, but you can’t drink them in a bar unless you keep them hidden in small bottles and use them very discreetly.


Even though beer (bira: μπύρα) is drunk all over the country, you don’t come to Greece for the beer. The only widely available local varieties are Mythos and Alpha, but Greeks mostly drink northern European beers made under licence in Greece, such as Heineken and Amstel. Heineken is affectionately called “green”; order it by saying “Mia Prasini”.

In terms of quality, there is also a microbrewery/restaurant called Craft (2-litre jugs are also available in large supermarkets) and new organic beer producers like Piraiki Zythopoiia.


The best-known local Greek liqueur is ouzo(ούζο), a strong alcohol (37.5%) with an aniseed flavour that is transparent by itself but turns milky white when mixed with water. Mainlanders do not drink ouzo with ice, but Greek tourists and islanders usually do. A 200 ml bottle can cost less than 2 euros in supermarkets and rarely more than 8 euros, even in the most expensive restaurants. Mytilene(Lesvos) is particularly famous for its ouzo. Try “Mini” and “Number 12”, two of the most popular, made in the medium style, “Sans Rival”, one of the strongest tasting of aniseed, “Arvanitis”, much lighter, and the strong “Barba Yianni” and “Aphrodite”, more expensive and much appreciated by connoisseurs.

Raki or tsikoudia is the Greek equivalent of Italian grappa and is made by boiling the grape residue after pressing the wine. It is quite strong (35-40% alcohol) and is served cold in the summer months. It costs very little to buy in supermarkets or village shops. The process of making raki has become a masculine event, as usually men get together to make raki and get drunk, constantly tasting the raki as it comes hot from the distillery. A working raki distillery can be seen at Ippikos Omilos Irakleiou in Heraklion, but raki can be found in most larger 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 for dessert.


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

The country is littered with kafeterias (kafetéria singular), which are cafés that serve as popular meeting places for Greeks, especially those under 35. They tend to be quite trendy – but relaxed – and serve a variety of drinks, from coffee to wine, beer and spirits to snacks, desserts and ice cream. In the pleasant spring, summer and autumn months, all cafeterias offer outdoor tables and seating and are popular with customers in the late afternoon and evening. Several cafés also serve as bars.

Kafeneia (cafés) are ubiquitous, even in the smallest village, where they traditionally serve a similar function to the village pub in Ireland. The clientele is mainly men over 50, but everyone is welcome, man or woman, young or old, Greek or foreign; and you will be treated with the utmost courtesy. However, if you are not interested in cultural immersionyou might find Kafeneia quite boring.

Traditionally, the coffee is made with the coffee grounds left on site. It is actually a slightly lighter version of Turkish coffee, but in Greece it is known only as Greek coffee – “ellinikós kafés” or simply “ellinikós“. Although it is slightly lighter than the original Turkish coffee, it is still a thick, strong black coffee served in a small cup, sweetened or unsweetened. If you don’t specify, the coffee is usually served moderately sweet. Traditionally, Greek coffee was prepared by boiling the coffee grounds and water in a special small pot called a “briki” over a fire. Nowadays, it is increasingly prepared by simply injecting 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 prepares its coffee with a cooker burner, you can be sure that it is a traditional coffee.

In the hot summer months, one of the most popular coffees from the kafetéries is the frappé(φραπέ): a shaken instant iced coffee. It is indeed an original Greek coffee that can be very refreshing, ordered with or without milk, sweetened or unsweetened.

Coffee can also be prepared like an espresso, with the French press (mainly in hotels) and with modern filter technology. The latter is sometimes called Γαλλικός: gallikos (“French”), which can lead to some confusion with the press method. It is best to ask for φίλτρου: filtrou, which clearly refers to filter coffee. It is best not to ask for black coffee, as it is unlikely that anyone will understand what you are asking.

Freddo espresso or freddo cappuccino have gained popularity in the last decade and are the most popular coffees throughout Greece. Freddo espresso is simply espresso + ice; freddo cappuccino is espresso + ice + chilled milk foam. They can be served in foam containers, not made to order; be sure to check.

Ice tea

In pubs and cafés, iced tea is usually instant; ask twice if you prefer brewed iced tea.

Money & Shopping in Greece

Products you can buy at home, but which are (usually) fresh in Greece, include olive oil, fruit (watermelon, melon, peaches, grapes, strawberries, etc.), feta cheese and some local breads and sweets. As for drinks, “retsina” and “tsipouro” are also local, but the former has a special taste and the latter is very strong, like “ouzo” and “raki”. Do not mix these four drinks with other drinks when you buy them for home. It’s nice to buy small statues and miniatures of ancient Greek art, but look for the cheap ones in the various shops – you can almost always find them for half price. Shops aimed at tourists are always more expensive – a local you can trust might be a big help. Be sure to buy a sun hat if it’s summer, and sunscreen.

Costs in Greece

Prices are frightening compared to wages. Petrol will cost between €1.6 and €1.8/litre from May 2013. A pack of cigarettes costs about €3.5. A loaf of bread cost about €0.60-0.80. A coffee in a bar costs about 3-5 €, a bottle of beer in a small bar about 5 €, a glass of spirits about 7-8 €. You can buy water, cheese, milk, ham, fruit, soaps, health products etc. much cheaper in a supermarket like Aldi, but bread is cheaper in bakeries.

If you use public transport, the price is about €1 for each trip in the city and €5 or more for destinations outside Athens (for distances over 20-30 km). Buses and trains in the cities stop at night, so you will need a taxi. The minimum fare was €2.65 and €0.30/km, double at night and double also if your destination is outside the city limits. There is a €3 surcharge if you take a taxi from the airport – ask for the official card with the specific costs for luggage etc. that all taxis must have.

You can eat cheaply if you have “souvlaki” (pieces of pork or chicken) for €2 per chopstick, but usually one person needs two. Tavernas are much cheaper than restaurants for lunch or dinner – you can eat in a taverna for €12 to €20 per person. The main course usually costs €7 to €12, the salad €7, the Coke €2, the cover depending on the region. If you need clothes, a swimming costume or shoes, bags, T-shirts for tea, etc., the cheapest (but not the best) shops are the Chinese ones, which you can find in almost every part of the cities.

A cinema ticket costs about 8 euros per person, plus 5 to 8 euros for a drink or snack during the interval. The sea is usually free, but near Athens many cost 4 or 5 euros per person. On free beaches, you sometimes have to pay extra (if you want) to use the umbrella or other facilities. Tipping is usually increased by 10%, but if you have a coffee in a bar for €2, you should not leave €0.20 as this would be considered an insult. In this case, Greeks leave nothing or at least 0.40-0.50 for €2.

If you love Greece and decide to rent a flat, don’t say you are a tourist because they will ask you more – they will think you don’t know the prices. Find a Greek you trust and let them negotiate on your behalf. Greeks pay between 250 and 400 euros for a two-bedroom flat in middle-class areas, up to 700 euros in expensive areas (rare) or up to 180 euros (also rare) in areas where you don’t really want to live. Electricity costs about 60 to 100 euros per month. For a single person who does not work and runs the air conditioner or heater all day, uses the washing machine once a week, cooks every day and needs hot water every day, they will have to pay 80 to 100 euros per month.

Tap water costs about 7 to 10 euros per month. Internet and telephone at home cost about €25-40 per month. An acceptable pair of shoes, about €40 (although there are shoes that cost €15 or €300), trousers €20-80. A hairdresser costs €8-40, usually about €20 if you want to leave satisfied. If you cook at home, potatoes cost 1 to 2 €/kg, olive oil 4.5 to 6 €/litre, frying oil 4 €/litre, tomatoes 1 to 3 € (depending on the season), meat 5 to 12 €/kg, fresh fish 10 to 20 €/kg at the fish market (frozen meat and fish are much cheaper) and fruit (also depending on the season) 1 to 5 €.

Money in Greece

Greece uses the euro. It is one of the many European countries that use this common currency. All euro banknotes and coins are legal tender in all countries.

One euro is divided into 100 cents.

The official symbol of the euro is € and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.

  • Banknotes: The euro banknotes have the same design in all countries.
  • Standard coins: All euro area countries issue coins that have a distinctive national design on one side and a common standard design on the other. The coins can be used in any euro area country, regardless of the design used (e.g. a one-euro coin from Finland can be used in Portugal).
  • Commemorative €2 coins: These differ from normal €2 coins only in their “national” side and circulate freely as legal tender. Each country can produce a certain amount of these coins as part of its normal coin production, and sometimes “European” 2-euro coins are produced to commemorate special events (e.g. anniversaries of important treaties).
  • Other commemorative coins: Commemorative coins with other amounts (e.g. ten euros or more) are much rarer, have very special designs and often contain significant amounts of gold, silver or platinum. Although they are technically legal tender at face value, their material or collector’s value is usually much higher and therefore you are unlikely to find them in circulation.

The euro replaced the drachma in January 2002.

Currency exchange is common, especially in big cities and in all tourist areas. They accept travellers’ cheques as well as hard currency. ATMs are also available in some parts of the country, especially at Athens airport. Most banks also exchange euros for certain currencies – such as the US dollar and the pound sterling – often at cheaper rates than those offered by bureaux de change. The banks’ fees for these exchanges are usually structured so that exchanging large amounts of money is cheaper than exchanging small amounts. As a rule, only large hotels with an international standard exchange money for their guests.

The branches of the Greek bank Alphabank exchange Euro American Express Euro Travellers Cheques and US Dollar American Express Travellers Cheques into Euro at the usual bank rates, without fees or commissions.

When you change money in large amounts at a bank or exchange office, it is advisable to ask for smaller notes and nothing larger than a €50 note. Many shops are reluctant to accept notes over €50, partly because of the scarcity of change and partly because large notes have been counterfeited in the past.

You can get better exchange rates by using credit cards and ATM cards. MasterCard, Visa and Eurocard are widely accepted throughout the country in retail outlets, hotels and travel and transport agencies (including ferry companies, airlines and car rental agencies), but not in some restaurants. Local gift shops usually require a minimum purchase before you can use your card, and may not accept it for special sales or heavily discounted items. ATMs are available almost everywhere, with MasterCard/Cirrus and Visa/Plus most commonly accepted. Many ATMs do not accept 5-digit PIN codes; users of 5-digit cards are advised to change their PIN to a 4-digit code before leaving.

VAT is charged on most items and is usually included in the price of the item, but some shops offer non-EU residents a ‘duty-free’ purchase. This means that non-EU citizens can claim a VAT refund at their port of departure in the EU. Ask for your voucher before you leave the shop and present it with your items to the customs officer when you leave the EU.

Tipping in Greece

In Greece, it is not customary to tip in restaurants. Rounding the bill worked both ways: If the bill was 41.20, you asked for 41 or even 40; if it was 28.80, you gave 29 or 30. A tip was considered an insult, and the best way to show your appreciation was to come back. In tourist areas, this practice has almost completely disappeared today, but off the beaten track it is still alive.

Tipping is certainly not based on a set percentage. Customers usually leave a tip on the table that ranges from a few coins to large amounts of money, depending on their satisfaction with the service, but usually something like 1-2€. Tipping taxi drivers is rare.

Bargaining in Greece

You can haggle for many things, e.g. clothes, souvenirs, etc. You can also try different places for what you want to buy and see the different prices at which the particular item is sold and choose the cheapest one.

Festivals & Holidays in Greece

The following days are national holidays:

  • New Year’s Day – 1 January
  • Epiphany – 6 January
  • Clean Monday (first day of Lent) – mobile
  • Independence and Annunciation Day – 25 March
  • Good Friday – mobile
  • Easter Sunday – mobile
  • Pasha Monday – mobile
  • May Day / Labour Day – 1 May
  • Whitsunday – mobile
  • Whit Monday – mobile
  • Dormition of the Theotokos – 15 August
  • World War II Day / “IHO(no) Day” – 28 October
  • Christmas – 25 December
  • 26 December – Boxing Day

The three most important holidays in the country are Christmas, Pascha and Dormition. Christmas is usually a private and family celebration, but lights and decorations adorn the squares of cities across the country. Dormition is a big summer festival for many towns and islands. Easter weekend is perhaps the most extravagant of all the holidays; the religious processions on Good Friday and the following Saturday night culminate in a boisterous fireworks display at midnight on Easter morning.

Unlike most national holidays in other countries, Independence Day in Greece is a very sober holiday. There is a school flag parade in every town and village and a large parade of the armed forces in Athens.

Although not an official holiday, the pre-Lenten carnival – or apókries – is a major celebration in cities across the country, with Patras hosting the most important and well-known events in the country. The weekend before Lent begins, the carnival season ends on a particularly lavish note with costumes, float parades and various regional traditions.

In addition to national holidays and celebrations, many cities and regions have their own regional festivals that commemorate various historical events, local patron saints or grape harvests.

Note that the Greek Orthodox Church uses a different method than the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches to determine the date of Easter. As a result, Greek Orthodox Easter, and consequently Holy Week and Pentecost, usually fall a week or two later than their Roman Catholic and Protestant counterparts, but sometimes they coincide (as in 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2025).

Traditions & Customs in Greece

The Greeks judged politeness by a person’s behaviour and not by their words. There is also an informal atmosphere; everyone is treated like a cousin. They use their hands a lot to make gestures. Have fun with it. Sometimes over-emphasising politeness in spoken language only leads your conversation partner to think you are arrogant. It’s nice to learn basic words like “thank you”. (Ευχαριστώ: ef-khah-rees-TOH) or “please” (Παρακαλώ: pah-rah-kah-LOH).

Greeks generally consider it good manners to let the stranger make the first move. When you walk into a café or pass a group on the street, you may feel ignored, but if you take the initiative and say hello first, you will probably find that people suddenly become friendly.

Greeks take leisure very seriously; it is a culture of “working to live”, not “living to work”. Don’t be offended by perceived laziness or rudeness. They do it to everyone, locals and tourists alike. Instead of fighting it, just accept the situation and laugh about it. This can be very frustrating at times, but also appreciate their “enjoy life” attitude. They take politics and football very seriously.

The church’s dress code sometimes stipulates covered shoulders for women and covered knees for both sexes, but it usually doesn’t care about your clothes as long as they are not very provocative. This rule is easily applied at the height of the summer tourist season, simply because of the volume! In any case, appropriate clothing is usually available at the entrance of churches and monasteries, especially those that receive the most tourists. Simply collect them at the entrance and return them at the exit.

Sensitive topics

Don’t say that Greece is part of Eastern Europe. During the Cold War, Greece was an openly pro-Western country with communist neighbours directly to the north. Greece is generally counted as part of Southern Europe.

Greeks do not like it when Greece is referred to as a Balkan country, as it has a negative image of the region, even though Greece, as the southernmost point of the Balkan Peninsula, lies within the Balkans.

The Macedonian question is considered a very sensitive issue: the Greeks consider that the name “Macedonia” was stolen from them and is used by Tito’s supporters in Southern Yugoslavia to refer to the country created by Tito after the Second World War as a new constituent republic within Yugoslavia. Greeks call it “FYROM” or “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” when dealing with foreigners and as Skopia (the Greek name for the Macedonian capital Skopje) among themselves.

Be very careful when talking about ancient Greece and the Byzantine Empire, which are symbols of their national pride and splendour. Many Greeks are proud of their ancient history, because ancient Greece is a civilisation known for being the first to develop the concept of democracy and Western philosophy, as well as for its art, architecture, literature, theatre and sciences, which are considered the cradle of European civilisation.

The military junta of the late 1960s and mid-1970s is a sensitive issue, many communists and other left groups suffered severe repression and regard their leaders with complete dislike.

Also be polite when asking questions about relations with the Turks, the Turkish occupation and the invasion of Cyprus in 1974, as these give rise to passionate, sometimes aggressive debates given the past unrest between the two nations. However, relations have improved in recent years.

Impolite gestures

To “summon” someone with their hands, the Greeks take out their whole hand, palm open, five fingers extended, as if to signal someone to stop. This is called a “mountza“. Sometimes they also do it by saying “na” (here). It actually means to tell someone to fuck off or do something totally ridiculous. We know that the word “mountza” comes from a gesture in Byzantine times where the guilty person was smeared with ashes on his face by the hand of the judge to make him look ridiculous. In Greece, you have to be careful when refusing something: When refusing the offer of a drink, it is better to place the palm on the glass (or some other gesture of refusal that limits the visibility of the palm). The ubiquitous greeting with the middle finger is also understood.

The use of the “OK” sign (thumb and index finger in a circle with the other three fingers pointing up) varies from region to region, as does the use of signalling to a server by mimicking a signature on a receipt.


Greeks are heavy smokers and they consider smoking a birthright. Although the law technically bans smoking in all public places such as restaurants and cafeterias since September 2010, some establishments and most Greeks simply ignore it. Still, it’s best to abide by the smoking ban and ask if you can light up a cigarette or just see if someone else is already smoking. The best hotels and restaurants (especially small, closed restaurants) will enforce the ban if asked, and the best hotels have non-smoking rooms.

Remember that forest fires are common in Greece during the dry summer season, so avoid smoking in forested areas at all costs!

Culture Of Greece

The culture of Greece has developed over thousands of years, beginning with Mycenaean Greece and continuing in Classical Greece, under the influence of the Roman Empire and its Eastern Greek extension, the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium. Other cultures and nations, such as the Latin and Frankish states, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Republic, the Genoese Republic and the British Empire also left their mark on modern Greek culture, although historians credit the Greek War of Independence with the revival of Greece and the birth of a unique and coherent unity of its diverse culture.

In ancient times, Greece was the birthplace of Western culture. Modern democracies owe much to the Greek belief in government by the people, trial by jury and equality before the law. The ancient Greeks were pioneers in many fields based on systematic thinking, including biology, geometry, history, philosophy, physics and mathematics. They introduced such important literary forms as epic and lyric poetry, history, tragedy and comedy. In their search for order and proportion, the Greeks created an ideal of beauty that strongly influenced Western art.

Visual arts

Artistic production in Greece began in the prehistoric civilisations of the Cyclades and Minoans, both of which were influenced by the local traditions and art of ancient Egypt.

In ancient Greece, there were several interrelated painting traditions. Due to their technical differences, they underwent a somewhat differentiated development. Not all painting techniques are equally represented in the archaeological record. According to authors such as Pliny or Pausanias, the most highly regarded art form was individual, movable painting on wooden panels, technically known as panel painting. In addition, the tradition of mural painting in Greece goes back at least to the Minoan and Mycenaean Bronze Ages, with the magnificent decoration of frescoes from sites such as Knossos, Tiryns and Mycenae. Much of the figurative or architectural sculpture of ancient Greece was painted in colour. This aspect of Greek stone is called polychromy (from Greek πολυχρωμία, πολύ = many and χρώμα = colour).

Ancient Greek sculpture was almost exclusively made of marble or bronze, with bronze casting from the 5th century onwards. Fortunately, both marble and bronze are easy to shape and very durable. Chryselephantine sculptures used for temple cult images and luxury works used gold, usually in the form of leaves and ivory for all or part (faces and hands) of the figure, and probably also precious stones and other materials, but were much rarer and only fragments have survived. In the early 19th century, systematic excavations of sites in ancient Greece had uncovered an abundance of sculptures with surface traces, especially multi-coloured ones. It was not until the publication of the findings of the German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that the painting of ancient Greek sculptures became an established fact.

Artistic production continued during the Byzantine period. The most striking feature of this new aesthetic was its “abstract” or anti-naturalistic character. While classical art was characterised by the attempt to create representations that imitated reality as much as possible, Byzantine art seems to have abandoned this attempt in favour of a more symbolic approach. Byzantine painting focused mainly on icons and hagiographies.

The post-Byzantine schools of art include the Cretan and Heptan schools.

The Greek academic art of the 19th century (Munich School) can be considered the first artistic movement in the Greek Kingdom. Modern Greek painters include Nikolaos Gyzis, Georgios Jakobides, Theodoros Vryzakis, Nikiforos Lytras, Konstantinos Volanakis, Nikos Engonopoulos and Yannis Tsarouchis, and sculptors include Pavlos Prosalentis, Ioannis Kossos, Leonidas Drosis, Georgios Bonanos, Georgios Vitalis and Yannoulis Chalepas.


After Greek independence, modern Greek architects tried to combine traditional Greek and Byzantine elements and motifs with Western European movements and styles. Patras was the first city in the modern Greek state to develop a city plan. In January 1829, Stamatis Voulgaris, a Greek engineer in the French army, submitted the plan for the new city to Governor Kapodistrias, who approved it. Voulgaris applied the orthogonal rule to the Patras urban complex.

Two particular genres can be considered: Cycladic architecture with white houses in the Cyclades and Epirotic architecture in the Epirus region.

After the foundation of the Greek kingdom, the architecture of Athens and other cities was mainly influenced by neoclassical architecture. For Athens, the first king of Greece, Otto of Greece, commissioned the architects Stamatios Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert to design a modern city plan adapted to the capital of a state.


Theatre in its western form was born in Greece. The classical city-state of Athens, which became a major cultural, political and military power during this period, was its centre, where it was institutionalised in a festival called the Dionysia, which honoured the god Dionysus. Tragedy (late 6th century BC), comedy (486 BC) and the satyr play were the three dramatic genres that emerged.

During the Byzantine period, the art of theatre experienced a marked decline. According to Marios Ploritis, the only form that survived was folk theatre (mimos and pantomimos), despite the hostility of the official state. Later, during the Ottoman period, the main theatrical folk art was karagiozis. The Renaissance that led to modern Greek theatre took place in Venetian Crete. Important playwrights are Vitsentzos Kornaros and Georgios Chortatzis.

Modern Greek theatre emerged after Greek independence in the early 19th century and was initially influenced by Heptan theatre and melodramas, such as Italian opera. The Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo di Corfù was the first theatre and opera house of modern Greece and the place where the first Greek opera, The Parliamentary Candidate by Spyridon Xyndas (with an exclusively Greek libretto) was performed. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Athens theatre scene was dominated by revues, musicals, operettas and nocturnes. Among the best-known playwrights were Spyridon Samaras, Dionysios Lavrangas, Theophrastos Sakellaridis and others.

The National Theatre of Greece was founded in 1880. Playwrights of modern Greek theatre include Gregorios Xenopoulos, Nikos Kazantzakis, Pantelis Horn, Alekos Sakellarios and Iakovos Kambanelis, and actors include Cybele Andrianou, Marika Kotopouli, Aimilios Veakis, Orestis Makris, Katina Paxinou, Manos Katrakis and Dimitris Horn. Important directors are Dimitris Rontiris, Alexis Minotis and Karolos Koun.


Greek literature can be divided into three main categories: Ancient, Byzantine and Modern Greek literature.

At the beginning of Greek literature are the two monumental works of Homer: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Although the dates of composition vary, these works were set around 800 BC or later. During the classical period, many genres of Western literature gained prominence. Lyric poetry, odes, pastorals, elegies, epigrams, dramatic representations of comedy and tragedy, historiography, rhetorical treatises, philosophical dialectics and philosophical treatises all emerged during this period. The two most important lyrical poets were Sappho and Pindar. The classical era also saw the emergence of drama.

Of the hundreds of tragedies written and performed in the classical period, only a limited number of plays by three authors have survived: those of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. The surviving dramas of Aristophanes are also a treasure trove of comic performances, while Herodotus and Thucydides are two of the most influential historians of the period. The greatest prose achievement of the 4th century is philosophy, with the works of the three great philosophers.

Byzantine literature refers to the literature of the Byzantine Empire written in Attic, medieval and early modern Greek. It is an expression of the intellectual life of the Byzantine Greeks during the Christian Middle Ages.

Modern Greek literature refers to literature written in ordinary Modern Greek from the end of the Byzantine era until the 11th century. The poem Erotokritos from the Cretan Renaissance is undoubtedly the masterpiece of this period of Greek literature. It is a romance in verse written around 1600 by Vitsentzos Kornaros (1553-1613). Later, in the period of the Greek Enlightenment (diafotismos), writers like Adamantios Korais and Rigas Feraios prepared the Greek Revolution (1821-1830) with their works.

The most important literary figures of modern Greece are Dionysios Solomos, Andreas Kalvos, Angelos Sikelianos, Emmanuel Rhoides, Demetrius Vikelas, Kostis Palamas, Penelope Delta, Yannis Ritsos, Alexandros Papadiamantis, Nikos Kazantzakis, Andreas Embeirikos, Kostas Karyotakis, Gregorios Xenopoulos, Constantine P. Cavafy, Nikos Kavvadias, Kostas Varnalis and Kiki Dimoula. Two Greek authors were awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature: George Seferis in 1963 and Odysseas Elytis in 1979.


Most Western philosophical traditions began in ancient Greece in the 6th century B.C. The first philosophers are called “pre-Socratic”, meaning that they lived before Socrates, whose contributions marked a turning point in Western thought. The Presocratics came from the western or eastern colonies of Greece and only fragments of their original writings have survived, in some cases a single sentence.

With Socrates, a new period of philosophy began. Like the Sophists, he completely rejected the physical speculations with which his predecessors were concerned and took the thoughts and opinions of the people as his starting point. Some aspects of Socrates were first collected by Plato, who also combined with them many principles established by earlier philosophers and developed all this material into the unity of a complete system.

Aristotle of Stagire, Plato’s most important pupil, shared with his teacher the title of the greatest philosopher of antiquity. But while Plato had tried to illuminate and explain things from the supersensible point of view of the forms, his pupil preferred to proceed from the facts given by experience. With the exception of these three most important Greek philosophers, the other schools of Greek philosophy known in antiquity were Stoicism, Epicureanism, Scepticism and Neoplatonism.

Byzantine philosophy refers to the distinctive philosophical ideas of the philosophers and scholars of the Byzantine Empire, especially between the 8th and 15th centuries. It was informed by a Christian worldview, but could draw ideas directly from the Greek texts of Plato, Aristotle and the Neoplatonists.

On the eve of the fall of Constantinople, Gemistus Pletho attempts to restore the use of the term “Hellene” and argues for a return to the Olympian gods of antiquity. After 1453, a number of Greek-Byzantine scholars who fled to Western Europe contributed to the Renaissance.

In modern times, diafotismos (Greek: Διαφωτισμός, “enlightenment”, “enlightenment”) was the Greek term for the Enlightenment and its philosophical and political ideas. Its representatives included Adamantios Korais, Rigas Feraios and Theophilos Kairis.

Other modern Greek philosophers include Cornelius Castoriadis, Nicos Poulantzas and Christos Yannaras.

Music and dances

Greek vocal music dates back to ancient times when mixed choirs performed for entertainment, celebration and spiritual reasons. The instruments used at that time included the double-reed aulos and the plucked string instrument, the lyre, especially the special type called the kithara. Music played an important role in the educational system of the ancient world. Boys were taught music from the age of six. Later, influences from the Roman Empire, the Middle East and the Byzantine Empire also had an impact on Greek music.

While the new technique of polyphony was developing in the West, the Eastern Orthodox Church resisted any kind of change. Consequently, Byzantine music remained monophonic and without any form of instrumental accompaniment. As a result, and despite some attempts by some Greek singers (such as Manouel Gazis, Ioannis Plousiadinos or the Cypriot Ieronimos o Tragoudistis), Byzantine music was deprived of the elements that favoured an unhindered development of the art in the West. However, this method, which kept music away from polyphony, together with centuries of continuous culture, allowed monophonic music to develop to the highest peaks of perfection. Byzantium introduced Byzantine monophonic chant, a melodic treasure invaluable for its rhythmic variety and expressiveness.

In addition to Byzantine (ecclesiastical) song and music, the Greek people also cultivated Greek folk song, which is divided into two cycles, acritic and klephic. The acritic originated between the 9th and 10th centuries and expresses the lives and struggles of the acrites (border guards) of the Byzantine Empire, most famously the stories surrounding the Digenes acritas. The Kleptian cycle was established between the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Greek War of Independence. The Kleptian cycle, as well as historical songs, paralogies (narrative songs or ballads), love songs, mantinades, wedding songs, exile songs and hymn songs express the life of the Greeks. The Greek people’s struggles for freedom, their joys and sorrows and their attitudes to love and death have a unity.

The Heptan cantádhes (καντάδες ‘serenades’; Sing.: καντάδα) became the forerunners of modern Greek song and significantly influenced its development. In the first half of the following century, several Greek composers continued to incorporate elements of the Heptanic style. The most popular songs of the period 1870-1930 were the Athenian serenades and the songs performed on stage (επιθεωρησιακά τραγούδια “theatrical revue songs”) in the revues, operettas and nocturnes that dominated the Athenian theatre scene.

Initially associated with the lower classes, rebetiko later (and especially after the population exchange between Greece and Turkey) became more acceptable as the rough edges of its overtly subcultural character were softened and polished, sometimes beyond recognition. It was the basis for the laïkó (folk song) that followed. The most important performers of the genre are Vassilis Tsitsanis, Grigoris Bithikotsis, Stelios Kazantzidis, George Dalaras, Haris Alexiou and Glykeria.

As far as classical music is concerned, it is thanks to the Ionian Islands (which were under the rule and influence of the West) that all the great advances in classical music from Western Europe were introduced to mainland Greece. The region is notable for the birth of the first school of modern Greek classical music (Heptanian or Ionian School, in Greek: Επτανησιακή Σχολή), founded in 1815. Prominent exponents of this genre are Nikolaos Mantzaros, Spyridon Xyndas, Spyridon Samaras and Pavlos Carrer. Manolis Kalomiris is considered the founder of the Greek National School of Music.

In the 20th century, Greek composers had a significant influence on the development of the avant-garde and modern classical music, with figures such as Iannis Xenakis, Nikos Skalkottas and Dimitri Mitropoulos achieving international fame. At the same time, composers and musicians such as Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hatzidakis, Eleni Karaindrou, Vangelis and Demis Roussos have attracted international audiences for their music, which includes music from famous films such as Zorba the Greek, Serpico, Never on Sunday, America America America, Eternity and a Day, Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner and others. Greek-American composers known for their film scores include Yanni and Basil Poledouris. Greek opera singers and classical musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries include Maria Callas, Nana Mouskouri, Mario Frangoulis, Leonidas Kavakos, Dimitris Sgouros and others.

During the dictatorship of the colonels, Mikis Theodorakis’ music was banned by the junta and the composer was imprisoned, exiled within the country and taken to a concentration camp before finally being allowed to leave Greece due to the international reaction to his imprisonment. Anthrope Agapa, ti Fotia Stamata (Make Love, Stop the Gunshots) by the pop group Poll, released during the junta years, is considered the first anti-war protest song in Greek rock history. This song, which takes up the hippie slogan “Make love, not war”, was directly inspired by the Vietnam War and became a “big hit” in Greece.

Greece has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 35 times since its debut in 1974. In 2005, Greece won with the song “My Number One”, performed by Greek-Swedish singer Elena Paparizou. The song received 230 points with 10 sets of 12 points from Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Great Britain, Turkey, Albania, Cyprus, Serbia & Montenegro, Sweden and Germany and was also a great success in other countries and especially in Greece. The 51st Eurovision Song Contest took place in Athens, in the covered Olympic Hall of the Athens Olympic Sports Complex in Maroussi, under the direction of Maria Menounos and Sakis Rouvas.


Greek cuisine is characteristic of the healthy Mediterranean diet embodied in the dishes of Crete. Greek cuisine uses fresh ingredients to create a variety of local dishes such as moussaka, pastitsio, classic Greek salad, fasolada, spanakopita and souvlaki. Some dishes date back to ancient Greece, such as skordalia (a thick puree of walnuts, almonds, crushed garlic and olive oil), lentil soup, retsina (white or rosé wine sealed with pine resin) and pasteli (a sweet bar with sesame seeds cooked in honey). Throughout Greece, people like to eat small dishes such as meze with various dips like tzatziki, squid and small grilled fish, feta, dolmades (rice, currants and pine nuts wrapped in vine leaves), various pulses, olives and cheese. Olive oil is added to almost every dish.

Sweet desserts include melomakarona, diples and galaktoboureko, and drinks include ouzo, metaxa and various wines, including retsina. Greek cuisine differs greatly from other regions of the continent and from island to island. It uses certain flavours more frequently than other Mediterranean cuisines: oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill and bay leaves. Other common herbs and spices include basil, thyme and fennel seeds. In many Greek recipes, especially in the northern parts of the country, “mild” spices are used in combination with meat, for example cinnamon and cloves in stews.


Greece is the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, first recorded in Olympia in 776 BC, and has twice hosted the modern Olympic Games, the first Summer Olympics in 1896 and the Summer Olympics in 2004. In the parade of nations, Greece is always named first as the founding nation of the ancient precursor to the modern Olympic Games. The nation has participated in all the Summer Olympics and is one of only four countries to have done so. With a total of 110 medals won (30 gold, 42 silver and 38 bronze), Greece ranks 32nd in the count of all summer Olympic medals by number of gold medals. Their best result was achieved at the 1896 Summer Olympics, when Greece came second in the medal table with 10 gold medals.

The Greek national football team, ranked 12th in the world in 2014 (and 8th at its peak in 2008 and 2011), was crowned European champions in 2004 in one of the biggest upheavals in the sport’s history and has become one of the most successful national teams in European football. It is one of only nine national teams to have won the UEFA European Championship. The Greek Super League is the highest professional football league in the country with 16 teams. The most successful are Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK Athens, PAOK and Aris Thessaloniki.

The Greek national basketball team has a decades-long tradition in the sport and is considered one of the greatest basketball powers in the world. In 2012 it was ranked 4th in the world and 2nd in Europe. It has won the European Championship twice (1987 and 2005) and has reached the Final Four in two of the last four FIBA World Championships. In 2006, it finished second in the world after a spectacular 101-95 victory over Team USA in the tournament’s semi-finals. The national basketball league, A1 Ethniki, consists of fourteen teams. The most successful Greek teams are Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Aris Thessaloniki, AEK Athens and P.A.O.K. Greek basketball teams are the most successful in European basketball in the last 25 years. They have won no less than 9 Euroleagues since the creation of the modern Euroleague Final Four format in 1988, while no other nation has won more than 4 Euroleague championships in that period. In addition to the 9 Euroleagues, Greek basketball teams (Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, Aris Thessaloniki, AEK Athens, P.A.O.K, Maroussi) have won 3 Triple Crowns, 5 Saporta Cups, 2 Korać Cups and 1 FIBA European Champions Cup. Following the 2005 European Championship triumph of the Greek national basketball team, Greece became the reigning European champions in both football and basketball.

The Greek national women’s water polo team has established itself as one of the leading forces in the world and became world champions after defeating hosts China at the 2011 World Championships. It also won silver at the 2004 Summer Olympics, gold at the 2005 World League and silver medals at the 2010 and 2012 European Championships. Greece’s men’s national water polo team became the third best water polo team in the world in 2005 after defeating Croatia in the bronze medal match at the 2005 World Swimming Championships in Canada. The top national water polo leagues, the Greek Men’s Water Polo League and the Greek Women’s Water Polo League, are considered the best national water polo leagues in Europe as their clubs have achieved significant success in European competitions. In the men’s European competitions, Olympiacos won the Champions League, the European Super Cup and the Triple Crown in 2002, becoming the first club in the history of water polo to win all the titles in which it participated in a single year (national championship, national cup, Champions League and European Super Cup), while NC Vouliagmeni won the LEN Cup Winners’ Cup in 1997. In the European women’s competitions, the Greek water polo teams (NC Vouliagmeni, Glyfada NSC, Olympiacos, Ethnikos Piraeus) are among the most successful in the European water polο. They have won no less than 4 LEN Champions Cups, 3 LEN Trophy and 2 European Super Cups.

The Greek national men’s volleyball team won two bronze medals, one at the European Volleyball Championship and the other at the European Volleyball Paliga, a 5th place at the Olympic Games and a 6th place at the FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship. The Greek league, A1 Ethniki, is considered one of the best volleyball leagues in Europe and Greek clubs have achieved significant success in European competitions. Olympiacos is the most successful volleyball club in the country, having won the most national titles and is the only Greek club to have won European titles; it has won two CEV Cups, has twice been runner-up in the CEV Champions League and has participated in no less than 12 Final Fours in European competitions, making it one of the most traditional volleyball clubs in Europe. Iraklis have also enjoyed great success in European competitions and have been runners-up in the CEV Champions League three times.

In other sports, cricket and handball are relatively popular in Corfu and Veria respectively.


The many gods of the ancient Greek religion, as well as the heroes and mythical events of the ancient Greek epics (the Odyssey and the Iliad) and other works of art and literature of the time, form what is now colloquially known as Greek mythology. In addition to its religious function, the mythology of ancient Greece also has a cosmological function, as it attempts to explain how the world came into being and how it functions.

The main gods of ancient Greek religion were the Dodecathlon or the Twelve Gods who lived on top of Mount Olympus. The most important of all the gods of ancient Greece was Zeus, the king of the gods, who was married to Hera, who was also Zeus’ sister. The other Greek gods who made up the twelve Olympians were Demeter, Ares, Poseidon, Athena, Dionysus, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Hephaistos and Hermes. In addition to these twelve gods, the Greeks also had various other mystical beliefs, such as nymphs and other magical creatures.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Greece

Stay safe in Greece

Greece is generally a safe destination: the vast majority of people you deal with are honest and helpful. The above information is intended to warn travellers of the risks that can affect them with little but not zero probability. There is also a serious social problem with right-wing extremist youth who are racist and attack people they perceive as illegal immigrants.

Crime and theft

Rates of violent crime and theft are low; public disorder is rare and public drunkenness is generally frowned upon. Visitors should be assured that this is a safe and welcoming destination, but foreign tourists are always advised to take basic precautions as they would at home. Recently there has been an increase in thefts (or at least perceived thefts), which some locals will unhesitatingly attribute to the influx of immigrants.

The places where the visitor is most likely to encounter crime and theft are probably Athens’ handful of crowded and overheated metro stations and tourist resorts populated by young foreigners attracted by cheap flights, cheap rooms and cheap alcohol. The most famous places include Faliraki on Rhodes (quieter since the election of a stern new mayor), Kavos on Corfu, Malia (currently the ‘hottest’ destination) on Crete and Ios (although it has quietened down recently).Most visitors to these places return home unmolested, but there are increasing reports of theft, public indecency, sexual assault and drunken violence; both perpetrators and victims are usually young foreigners, although sometimes locals are involved. The authorities have increased police presence in these areas to suppress these activities. Nevertheless, visitors to these places would do well to avoid anything that looks like trouble, especially late at night, and to remember that their own excessive drinking increases their chances of getting into trouble themselves.


The most frequently reported major scam against travellers is the Greek version of the old clip-joint routine. It is mainly reported in the centre of Athens, but also occasionally in other cities and even in large island towns. A solo traveller is approached, usually at night in an area where there are many bars, by a friendly Greek who engages in a conversation that ends in an invitation for a drink at “this really cool bar I know”. Once at the bar, they are joined by a couple of beautiful ladies who immediately start ordering drinks, often champagne, until they are presented with an astronomical bill at the end of the evening, the payment of which is forced by the sudden appearance of a pair of beaming thugs. If this ploy works, it is because most Greeks have a tradition of being friendly to visitors, and almost any Greek who starts a conversation with you will have no ulterior motives. However, if you are approached as a solo traveller by a Greek in the circumstances described above, it is safer to politely but firmly decline an invitation. Also, do not agree to change your money on the street and if someone asks you if you can change a 20 or 50 euro note, decline (you might end up with a counterfeit note).

Restrictions for photography

It is strictly prohibited to photograph military installations or other strategic locations. The authorities will take violations very seriously. Pay attention to the signs prohibiting photography. In fact, it would be best not to photograph anything of military importance, including Greek Navy ships, airports and aircraft, even civilian ones: The Greek authorities can be very sensitive to such things. Many museums prohibit photography without permission; some only prohibit photography with flash or tripod, and many ask visitors not to take photos of objects (statues, etc.) where people are standing nearby, as this is considered disrespectful. Museum staff will shout at you if they see a camera or even a mobile phone in your hand.


Greece also has very strict laws regarding the export of antiquities, which can include not only antique items but also coins, icons, folk art and pieces of stone from archaeological sites. Before buying anything that could be considered an antique, you should familiarise yourself with the current laws on what is allowed to be taken out of the country. In short, all objects made before 1830 are considered antiques and are protected by the Ministry. Never think of exporting or buying an object of archaeological value, as it will be a fake or you will quickly be stopped at the airport for smuggling goods of archaeological value.


Greece has some of the strictest and best enforced drug laws in Europe, and tourists are not exempt. No matter what anyone tells you, it is absolutely uncool to use drugs in Greece, including marijuana. Moreover, such behaviour is strongly disapproved of by the locals and it is almost certain that someone will call the police to have you arrested. Note that even a very small amount is enough to get you into serious trouble. Do not even think of offering even the smallest amount of drugs to someone else. You could be prosecuted for drug trafficking, which can result in several years in prison!


Probably the biggest danger for travellers in Greece is just crossing the road: traffic can be bad even in small towns and terrible in Athens and other Greek cities, and the accident rate is high. Pedestrians should take care, even when crossing at traffic lights. Similarly, 1400 people are killed on Greek roads every year – a statistic that is one of the highest in the European Union. Most of these deaths are attributed to aggressive driving or talking on a mobile phone – by the driver or the pedestrian. Drivers often switch from one lane to another to lose less time. Stay safe.

Stay healthy in Greece

Health care

Despite calls for health reform from voters and the political establishment, the national health system has received high marks from the World Health Organisation (WHO), a branch of the United Nations. However, many citizens prefer private health care for long-term hospitalisation. Depending on the age and type of hospital or clinic, the service varies from adequate to excellent. Health care is free and universal for all citizens, as well as for all EU citizens upon presentation of an EHIC card (formerly form E111). For third-country nationals, only emergency care is free.

A network of helicopter ambulances serves the islands and transports patients who need immediate help to the nearest island or town with a large hospital.

The country‘s pharmacies and medicines are of the highest quality and the pharmacists are highly qualified experts in their field. Many medicines that are available on prescription in the UK and USA can be purchased over the counter in Greece. In the case of a simple and common ailment, a visit to the pharmacy will enable you to obtain the medication you need. If you are looking for a specific medicine, make sure you know its generic name, as brand names can vary. Most pharmacies are closed on Sundays, but a sign on the door indicates the nearest pharmacies that are open.

Health care differs from that in Anglosphere countries as there are many specialists in the community. General practitioners are replaced by community pathologists. Hotels and tourist offices can advise you where to go if you are ill.

Sexually transmitted infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) exist in Greece as elsewhere, and travellers who may be sexually active while in Greece should bear in mind that even if you are on holiday and your sexual partner is also a traveller, perhaps from your own country, none of these circumstances override the laws of biology. According to recent reports in the Greek and British media, unprotected sex between visitors to Greece, leading to an increase in STIs and unwanted pregnancies, is particularly prevalent in resorts favoured by young people such as Ios, Malia, Kavos and Faliraki. Condoms are available in all pharmacies and in many kiosks.

Natural Dangers

Sun and heat are risks that summer visitors need to take precautions for. Wear a good, light sun hat and sunglasses, and drink plenty of water.

In late spring and summer, the government broadcasts public commercials on TV reminding Greeks to wear their sunscreen on the beach. The Mediterranean sun tends to get quite strong and can burn skin that has not been in the sun for a long time. Excessive daily sun exposure can also cause long-term damage to the skin. Sunscreens are available throughout Greece in supermarkets, grocery shops, pharmacies and shops specialising in beach items, although they are generally expensive and blocks of high SPF are hard to find.

In the warmer months, wear tank tops, umbrellas and water when visiting archaeological sites. Daytime highs are around 35-38°C (95-100°F). The sun is relentless. In recent years, Athens has regularly experienced summer heatwaves where the temperature can reach over 100°F (38°C), putting some people at risk of respiratory problems and heat stroke. Be aware that many islands, especially in the Cyclades, have very little shade to mitigate the summer heat. When walking on these islands, even to remote beaches, it is especially important to wear a hat and sunscreen in hot weather, carry water and avoid walking during the hottest part of the day.

Jellyfish periodically infest certain beaches and their stings can be severe. The red ones are particularly dangerous. Sea urchins are common along the Greek coast and usually cling to shallow underwater surfaces such as smooth rocks and sea walls. They usually live in shallow water and are therefore easy to see. Care must be taken not to step on them as their spines can be painful.

It is not advisable to walk cross-country alone in Greece: even in popular places, the countryside can be surprisingly deserted, and if you get into trouble while out of sight of houses or roads, it may be a long time before anyone notices you.

Lifeguards are rare on Greek beaches, although most beaches where people gather to swim are considered safe locally. Some beaches have shallow water far from the shore, others break suddenly. If you have any doubts about the safety of swimming conditions, contact the local authorities.

There are no compulsory vaccinations for Greece and the water is safe almost everywhere. Look for “blue flags” on beaches for the best water quality (which usually also have good sand and facilities).



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Athens is Greece’s capital and biggest city. Athens is the capital of Attica and one of the world’s oldest towns, with a known history...


Chalcidice, or Chalkidike or Chalkidiki or Halkidiki or Hallkipiki (Greek: Xαλκιδική), is a peninsula and regional unit in Northern Greece, part of the Region...


Corfu is an Ionian Sea Greek island. It is the second biggest of the Ionian Islands and, along with its minor subsidiary islands, comprises...


Crete (Kρήτη / Kriti, sometimes spelled “Krete” in English) is the biggest of the Greek islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea,...


After Crete, Euboea or Evia is the second-largest Greek island in terms of size and population. It is separated from mainland Greece by the...


The Greek island of Ios is part of the Cyclades Islands, which are located in the south of the country. Ios is just a...


Ithaca, also known as Ithaka, is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, off the northeast coast of Kefalonia and west of mainland Greece. Ithaca’s...


Kavala (Greek:Kαβάλα) is a city in northern Greece that serves as the main seaport for eastern Macedonia and serves as the capital of the...


Cephalonia or Kefalonia (Greek: Κεφαλοvιά or Κεφαλλονιά), formerly also known as Kefallinia or Kephallenia (Κεφαλληνία), is the biggest of the Ionian Islands in western...


Kos, also known as Cos, is a Greek island in the southeastern Aegean Sea, off the Anatolian coast of Turkey. It is part of...


Larissa is the capital and biggest city of Greece’s Thessaly region, as well as the administrative center of the Larissa regional unit. It is...


Lefkada, also known as Leucas, Leucadia, Lefkas, or Leukas , is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea on Greece’s west coast, linked to...


Leptokarya is a town in the Pieriaregional unit of Central Macedonia, Greece, and the former capital of the East Olymposmunicipality, which is now part...


Lesbos or Lesvos is the northernmost of Greece’s East Aegean Islands, protruding from the Asia Minor peninsula. From Greek antiquity to the present day, the...


Mykonos (Greek: Μύκoνος) is a prominent tourist destination in the Cyclades group of Greek islands located in the Aegean Sea. Mykonos is situated to...


Patras is the third biggest city in Greece and the regional capital of Western Greece, located in northern Peloponnese, 215 kilometers (134 miles) west...


Rhodes is one of the biggest and most fertile of the Greek Islands, and it is also one of the most popular due to...


Santorini (officially Thira) is a volcanic island in the Greek Cyclades group in the southern Aegean Sea, some 200 kilometers southeast of mainland Greece....


Skiathos (population: 6,088 ) is the major island and access point to the Sporades Islands. Although it is neither the largest nor the most...


Thasos or Thassos is a Greek island in the North Aegean Sea that is administratively part of the Kavala regional unit. It is the...


Thessaloniki is the capital of Greek Macedonia, the administrative territory of Central Macedonia, and the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace. Its nickname is...


Volos is a seaside port city in Thessaly located approximately 326 kilometers (203 miles) north of Athens and 215 kilometers (134 miles) south of...


Zakynthos (Greek: Ζάκυνθoς), often known as Zante (its Italian name), is the third biggest island in the Ionian Sea, off Greece’s west coast. Zacynthos,...