Before you go to Greece
With its slower paced lifestyle, great food and stunning vistas, it’s no surprise that Greece attracted 3.6 million brits in 2019.
Few countries are so steeped in history, meaning there is a lot to look forward to about your trip.
To help you out, we’ve written about some of the best things to see and do in Greece.
5 Things to do
1. Take a tour of the Acropolis
Dominating the skyline of Athens sits the ancient citadel. Its name means “Highest Point” and it is certainly a well chosen one. It was built during the 5th Century BCE and still stands strong. Tour the ruins, including the majestic Parthenon temple, and visit the nearby museum. Then take in the spectacular views of the Greek capital sprawled below you.
It is worth noting that since 2009 many of Greeces ancient sites do not allow visitors to wear high heels. So when you visit them, wear sensible shoes which won’t damage the monuments.
2. Go on a pilgrimage to the monasteries of Meteora
There are few landscapes as dramatic as the haunting rock towers, jutting from the woods of Meteora. It’s little wonder that the place is a UNESCO world heritage site.
As an added bonus, there are also six monasteries here, seemingly carved into the very rock of the towers. They are inhabited by Eastern Orthodox monks and are open to tours. Buses and taxis are available up the towers if you don’t fancy the climb.
3. Explore a cave discovered by bees
Swing by the village of Kato Kastania in southeastern Greece and you can explore an amazing series of underground chambers known as Kastania Cave. Each chamber is full of unique rock formations in an array of shapes and colours.
This one of a kind cave was discovered in the early 1900’s when a shepard noticed some bees entering a crack in the rock and coming back out seemingly refreshed. He ventured in and found the awe inspiring caves and a small spring of fresh water.
4. Visit a 2,000 year old olive tree
In the village of Ano Vouves grows a sprawling olive tree. It’s fifteen foot wide, and is estimated to be around 2,000 years old. It’s possibly the oldest olive tree in the world.
The only way to confirm the age would be to chop down the tree, something locals would prefer to avoid.
Amazingly the tree still produces a harvest each year. Once you’ve seen the tree, you can visit the museum next door, which details the long and interesting history of olives and olive oil in Greece.
5. Check out the Dragon Lakes
Greece has a stunning coast, but the country is 80% mountains. This explains why there are a handful of lakes in the Epirus region of Greece, which look like they belong in a Scandinavian fairy tale.
There’s even a local legend about two warring dragons which lived beneath the surface of two of the lakes. These beasts used to throw rocks and trees at each other, causing the landscape around them.
These days the closest thing you’ll find to a dragon is one of the many alpine newts.
5 Best Beaches
1. Myrtos beach, Kefalonia
This beautiful beach on the island of Kefalonia is known worldwide and one look at its crystal clear waters, white pebbles and lush landscape tells you why.
The beach is kept clean and is renowned for its natural beauty.
There is plenty of access to facilities, including lots of options for a spot of lunch on one of the most photographed locations on Kefalonia.
2. Navagio beach, Zakynthos
For a slightly different backdrop to your photos, pay a visit to Navagio beach, or Shipwreck beach as it’s been known since 1983. The wreck of a boat seems to rise up from the golden sands of the beach. Combined with the high cliffs above, it’s not hard to see why this beach is a must see.
You’ll need to take a water taxi to get to the beach, from the nearby village of Porto Vromi. These leave every hour and take about 30 minutes to reach the beach.
3. Lassithi Vai beach, Crete
Soak up some sun on this beach and then explore Greeces only indigenous wild palm date forest. With over 5,000 palm trees, it’s the largest grove of its kind in Europe. All this means that you can soak up some sun in a tropical paradise then grab some shade under the undulating palm trees.
The beach also offers a number of places for food and drink while you’re there, and is open from sunrise to sunset.
4. Mavrovouni beach, Gythio
Found in the Peloponnese area of mainland Greece, this large, 6km beach is one of the most popular in the area. Given the size however, it rarely feels crowded. There are a wide array of activities to choose from, such as windsurfing and other water sports.
The beach is also a nesting ground for the endangered Loggerhead sea turtle. The nests are protected by a Greek society called Archelon.
5. Lindos Beach, Rhodes
From the island home of the Colossus, this small bay offers clear, turquoise waters and golden sands. There are plenty of sunbeds available to hire as well as other amenities. For fans of diving, the rocks flanking the beach offer a great spot to dive into the warm waters.
The beach is also close to the ancient Lindos acropolis, making it a great combination of all things Greek.
5 Best Restaurants
1. Tudor Hall, Athens
Located in the five-star king George Hotel, this restaurant offers not just incredible food, but also a jaw-dropping view of the Acropolis. Soak up the views as you enjoy a signature cocktail. Then follow it up with food that offers a twist on traditional greek cuisine, using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
2. The Athenian House, Santorini
Situated on the cliff tops of Imerovigli village, the Athenian House is a stand out dining experience on this stunning island. Breathtaking views and a laid back atmosphere make this the perfect place to enjoy the chefs famous dishes, including the signature lamb moussaka with Santorini white aubergine. A plant based menu is also available as is an expansive wine list.
3. Hoocut, Athens
For a taste of souvlaki, the iconic Greek street food, stop by this restaurant in Athens. They aim to show how good this dish can be, by using high quality, fresh ingredients. Set inside a neoclassical building, Hoocut offers beef, chicken and squid, alongside a number of other fillings for their freshly baked pitas.
4. Kiki’s Taverna, Mykonos
Popular with locals and tourists alike, this family run taverna overlooks a small cove. Shelter under the trailing grape vines as you enjoy large portions of swordfish, octopus and grilled pork chops, served with a size of baked potato.
Expect queues to start an hour before the 1pm opening time. Free wine is offered for those queuing, so you can enjoy the wine and the views while you wait.
5. Doukato, Naxos
For a romantic dinner, there are few spots as unique as Doukato. Set in the cobbled courtyard of a former monastery, this restaurant offers an array of local dishes. Delicacies such as gouna (sun-dried mackerel) and saganaki kataifi (fried cheese with shredded phyllo) are available as well as more widely known greek dishes.
5 top tips
1. Keep some cash on hand
Unlike much of Europe, many places in Greece do not accept credit or debit cards. While bigger shops and restaurants in tourist hotspots more than likely will take them, it’s a good idea to keep some cash on you. This is especially true if you’re visiting the smaller islands or going off the beaten path. If in doubt, ask before you get to the till.
2. Learn a little Greek
While most Greeks speak excellent English, it’s worth learning a few Greek phrases. Many Greeks don’t expect tourists to learn the lingo, so it’ll help make a great impression with the locals. If you do it well enough, you may be upgraded from a tourist to a xenos, which means both “foreigner” and “guest”.
3. Embrace the ferries
If you plan on doing some island hopping, use the excellent ferry system. Not only are they usually cheaper than the inter island flights, you also get to see more of the wonderful Aegean sea. What better way to go from one island haven to another than sipping a drink as you glide across the azure water?
4. Be careful with your hand gestures
Not every hand gesture is as universal as we like to think. For example, avoid giving the thumbs up while in Greece. To the Greeks this is the equivalent of giving the middle finger. Waving with your fingers apart is also a big no-no. This shows dissatisfaction, and is a common site at Greek protests. Waving with your fingers together however is fine.
5. No-one is in a rush
While this rule can generally be applied across most countries on the Mediterranean, it is especially true in Greece. Everything operates at its own pace and most Greeks don’t worry about it. Embracing this aspect is the key to making the most out of your time in Greece, and relaxing in the sun.
From the mainland, to the hundreds of islands, Greece is a country with an abundance of sights and experiences to enjoy.
When you visit, make sure you have Greece Travel Insurance to cover you for your trip.
Written by Russell Wallace, Content Creator at AllClear
Edited by Letitia Smith, M.Sc. Content Manager at AllClear