Greece is much more than just the mainland itself. It’s actually an archipelago of over 6.000 islands, of which only 227 are inhabited. This makes the opportunities for exploration in Greece endless as visiting all of Greece’s islands would take you years.
Few people are actually aware that there are so many islands to visit, with the majority of tourists frequenting just the popular holiday destinations like Mykonos, Santorini and Corfu to name a few.
Each island and area of Greece has something different and special to offer. It’s a country with a deep and rich history, a place with diverse landscapes, from vineyards to volcanic topography, but also the perfect beach destination.
Greece offers something for every type of traveller
Due to its diversity, almost anyone can find their happy place and ideal destination. If you’re a couple, a week spent lounging in the infinity pools of Santorini and Mykonos luxury resorts can be the perfect way to rejuvenate before going back to everyday life.
Corfu, Rhodes and Crete offer affordable and safe holidays for groups of friends or families looking to do a bit of exploring or just spending their days at the beach.
Greece is also the perfect destination for backpackers looking to become beach-bums for a few weeks as they hop between islands such as Ios, Zakynthos and Lefkada. The Greek islands are also some of the most affordable places to backpack in Europe.
Weekend trip to Athens
Only have time for a short weekend trip? The capital city of Athens is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway, Visiting 5th-century BC landmarks such as the Acropolis and sampling some of Greece’s famous cuisine will transport you back in time.
Greece has it all
Basically what we’re saying is that no matter who you are, or what you’re looking for, you’ll find it somewhere in Greece! You can go hiking, snorkelling, exploring historical sites or simply laze on the beach all day if that’s what you wish to do.
If you do have an upcoming trip to this wonderful country in the South of Europe, then this guide will prepare you with everything you need to know about visiting Greece!
Top places to visit in Greece
With so many places just on mainland Greece to visit, let alone its thousands of islands, it can be hard to decide where you should visit. To help you out, here are our top 3 destinations in Greece:
Athens – a capital city inundated with a history and labelled as the birthplace of democracy. Athens was at the forefront of early civilization and the home to some of the most famous philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The contributions and ideas that were established in Athens thousands of years ago still shape the society we live in today. With such an incredible history, also comes a number of museums and archaeological sites to visit, such as the world-famous Acropolis. Athens isn’t famous for being a beach destination, but head to the southern edge of the capital, to Athens Riviera, and you’ll find a selection of public and private beaches. The capital city is also a great jumping-off point for day trips to Delphi, Cape Sounion and of course the Greek islands.
Crete – is the largest of all the Greek islands, meaning that many people make it their sole holiday destination as there’s so much to explore. Of course you can just spend your days lounging on its glorious beaches, even pink ones like the famous Elafonissi beach. There are over 300 beaches to explore, so beach-hopping alone can keep you busy for a while. Aside from the beaches, there’s plenty of old towns to wander through, admiring archaeological and historical sites as you go. That’s not all, after you’re done exploring some of Crete’s natural parks, gorges and caves, you can treat yourself to some of the island’s amazing seafood!
Santorini – is more than just a place for honeymooners or couples on a romantic getaway. It’s an island brimming with beautiful beaches, volcanoes and picturesque views from almost anywhere on the island. Santorini is known for its luxury resorts, tucked into the side of the cliff faces, overlooking the turquoise water below. If a relaxing retreat is what you’re after, you’ll certainly find it in Santorini. There’s also plenty of activities to fill your day too. Whether it be horse riding, scuba diving or exploring the historical sites of the island.
When’s the best time to visit Greece?
The blue skies, long sunny days and hot weather begins in Greece at the start of May and continues into October. These ideal weather conditions automatically attract a number of tourists searching for that idyllic holiday destination during this period.
Summer months (July & August)
These ideal weather conditions are especially true for the months of July and August when temperatures reach an average of around 27-31°C. Temperatures can soar to 35°C too, so be prepared! The influx of tourists during these two months can make for crowded beaches, busy tourist sites and of course, higher prices.
Shoulder season (May/June and Sept/Oct)
If you’re hoping to spend a bit less money, but still want the good weather then travelling during the shoulder months of May/June and September/October is your best option.
During these periods, the weather will still be warm, at around 25°C, and the sky’s blue, but you’ll have fewer people brushing up against you at the popular tourist spots.
Another plus of travelling during this time, which we all love to hear, is that prices will be lower outside of peak tourist seasons. You can treat yourself to a few more ice-creams with the money you save!
Winter months (November-February)
The winter months begin in November and end around February. The average temperature during these months remains at a mild 13°C, still a nice escape from some places in Europe that drop down to freezing.
During this time, tourist numbers are significantly lower, meaning that some of the islands including Santorini and Mykonos close for these months.
How to get around in Greece
Whether you’re visiting just the mainland or some of Greece’s fantastic islands will influence the type of transport you’ll end up taking. On the mainland, transport infrastructure is diverse and well-developed, whereas the islands are usually limited to boats and vehicles.
Here’s a short overview of the main transport options:
By bus – one of the best ways to travel between the cities in mainland Greece is by using their extensive bus network. Greece has one major bus company, KTEL, which can be recognised by their big green buses. The buses are clean and safe, offering a comfortable journey between destinations. You’ll need to either buy your bus ticket online beforehand or at the ticket office when you arrive at the station. All of the buses allow you to take one piece of carry-on luggage and a larger piece of luggage which is stored underneath the bus. Within each of the cities and islands, you’ll also find local bus transport to take you around the cities.
By car – renting a car can be a great way to explore mainland Greece, as well as some of the islands. It means you don’t have to rely on public transport and can travel in your own time. In Greece you’ll find all of the major international car rental companies, as well as some local ones. Booking ahead online via Skyscanner can save you a large chunk of money, and allows you to compare prices between the different companies. You may want to rent one car for your entire trip, however it is usually more cost-efficient to rent a new car on each of the islands you visit. Car ferries between the islands are less frequent and can be very expensive. On average a rental car in Greece costs around $30 per day, but we’ve written a guide to help you save money when it comes to car rental.
By train – Greece’s train network isn’t as extensive as its bus network, only connecting certain cities throughout the mainland. For the cities it does connect, the train can be a great way to travel. It will allow you to see Greece’s stunning landscape and also travel for a price that’s often lower than the bus. OSE operates Greece’s railway network, with some of their main routes being Athens to Thessaloniki, Athens to Patra and Athens to Florina.
Travelling between Greek islands
By ferry – if you’ve decided to do some island hopping or you’re flying into the mainland and then visiting one of Greece’s numerous islands, then you’ll probably need to board a ferry to do so. Greece has 7 large ferry companies, including Blue Star Ferries, Sea Jets and Golden Star Ferries. The journey time and price of the ferry will depend on the length of the journey and the type of ferry you choose. Catamaran style ferries are likely to be a faster option, but also a more expensive one. If you’re looking to save money, then try booking an overnight ferry as they are cheaper and you can also save on a night’s accommodation. It’s unlikely that ferries will be fully booked, but booking in advance is always a good idea. If you do want to book in advance (which can sometimes save you money too), then BookAway and Ferry Hopper are great options for purchasing your ferry tickets.
By plane – Athens International Airport receives the highest volume of flights in Greece and usually has the cheapest flights as well. Some travellers choose to travel here first before moving onto one of the islands. Flight time between Athens and most Greek islands ranges between 40 mins to 1 hour, making it a quick way to get to your next destination. The majority of Greece’s popular islands also have their own airports, including Santorini, Mykonos, Corfu and Paros. Flight prices between airports can start as low as $15, but on average you’ll be looking between $40-50 if you book in advance. It’s always good to be aware of your travel footprint though. Taking a short-haul flight can be up to 10 times more polluting than taking a more environmentally-friendly option like a ferry.
Visa for Greece
As Greece is part of the Schengen Zone, a trans-European agreement that allows visa-free travel between countries, visiting Italy can be relatively stress-free.
All visitors must have a valid passport with at least 6 months left before its expiry date to enter the country.
The Perfect Packing List for Greece
If you’re travelling to Greece during the summer just know that it’s going to be hot. It’s best to bring loose fitting, cool clothes and of course your swimsuit if you’re exploring some of Greece’s idyllic islands.
Aside from the essential travel gear, here are some that have become permanent fixtures on our packing list:
Reusable water bottle – they’re better for the environment and can save you money on water.
A portable charger – there’s probably going to be a time when your phone’s battery is on red, at a time that you desperately need it.
An adaptor – Greece uses plugs C and F. You can recognise these types of plugs predominantly by the two round prongs. A universal travel adaptor is a great purchase if you’re travelling between different continents.
What other tips should you know?
Here’s a selection of the best tips and pieces of information that may make your trip to Greece that bit easier:
Similar to most of Europe, Greece also uses the Euro as its currency. As of March 2021, $10 is equivalent to €8.40.
A lot of places within Greece do accept debit and credit cards, but it’s always good to have some cash on you just in case. Within the cities there will be a number of ATMs available to withdraw money.
It may be slightly harder to find ATMs on some of the smaller islands and these can be known to run out of money. If you know you’re going to a less-developed island, it’s best to withdraw some cash beforehand.
ATMs in Greece will charge you a withdrawal fee, usually ranging between €2-3. The ATMs with the lowest fees are Optima Bank and Attica Bank, so try and locate one of these ATMs first.
PRO-TIP: Always choose the option to withdraw money without conversion. Trust us, your bank will do this cheaper than the ATM.
The language spoken in Greece is Greek. To most foreigners, the Greek language may look like a confusing blend of letters and symbols that are impossible to get your head around.
To help you out, we’ve listed some of the most useful words whilst travelling below with how to pronounce them:
Hello – Γεια σου (Yassu)
Thank you – Ευχαριστώ (Efharisto)
Please – Παρακαλώ (Parakalo)
Sorry – συγνώμη (Sygnómi)
Beer – μπύρα (Býra)
Food and drink
Greek food, or dishes influenced by Greek cuisine, has spread all around the world, and for good reason, it’s delicious! Dishes are predominantly made up of fresh seafood or meat alongside deliciously flavoured vegetables.
There are so many dishes that you have to try if you visit Greece, but here are a few of our favourite:
Moussaka – is probably one of the most famous Greek dishes. It’s traditionally made with eggplant and ground meat that is topped with a creamy layer of bechamel sauce. Each moussaka you try will be different, which is what makes it so exciting. Each recipe will include different herbs, spices and vegetables.
Souvlaki – commonly either chicken or lamb grilled on a stick alongside vegetables like onions or peppers. The spices used to cook the meat are absolutely delicious and works well with either rice, potatoes or salad.
Dolmades – usually served as a starter or as part of a mezze platter, Dolmades are vine leaves stuffed with rice, onions and mixed herbs. They’re a must-try!
Tzatziki – not exactly a dish, but something to accompany your Greek dishes. Tzatziki is made from Greek yoghurt, garlic, lemon, dill and olive oil. It goes perfectly with pitta, spread across garlic bread or to take your dish to another level.