Known for its plethora of archeological sites, whitewashed villages, fabulous beaches, mouth-watering cuisine and welcoming atmosphere, it is no wonder that Greece â€“ the birthplace of democracy â€“ ranks among the worldâ€™s premier-league travel destinations. The sun-kissed Mediterranean country is made up of a mountainous mainland and 6,000 idyllic islands and islets dotting the blue Aegean and Ionian Seas â€“ though only 227 of them are inhabited. With so many things to do in Greece, youâ€™ll never be left wanting.
Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Greece with my travel guide. Find out more about:
Mainland Greece and the Greek islands are blessed with a Mediterranean climate, characterized by rainy, mild winters and dry, hot summers:
Summer (mid-June through mid-September): the summer months in Greece coincide with high season, a time when youâ€™re likely to experience sweltering heat, skyrocketing room rates, and hordes of mainly European tourists. The good news is that the summer high season offers the best ferry and plane schedules making traveling quite convenient, and most towns are bustling with nightlife if that is what youâ€™re after. In summer, expect sunny days and very hot weather, with temperatures usually reaching 30 to 35Â°C (86 to 95 Â°F), but sometimes even 40Â°C (104Â°C) and more, although coastal areas are often milder due to a cooling sea breeze. That breeze can get very strong though on the Cyclades (e.g. Santorini and Mykonos) with the so-called Meltemi blowing for long periods, especially in the afternoons (sometimes gale force like winds).
Late spring & early autumn (April through mid-June, mid-September through October): late spring and early autumn are known as shoulder season in Greece. Mid-September and October represent the best time for a visit to the country, since the weather is still great (with blue clear skies most of the time), the tourist crowds have left, the sea temperature is at its warmest, and the hotel rates descend back into a reasonable range. The spring months of April and May, before the summer rush comes, are also a great time to visit, although the sea is cold and you have more chance of encountering a few rainy, overcast days. The only downside of the shoulder season is that ferry services and flights schedules operate at a reduced frequency, so it may take some time to find yourself a perfect itinerary.
Late autumn, winter, & early spring (November through March): winters are fairly mild in Greece, so you wonâ€™t have to worry about frigid temperatures, although rain is common and snow falls in the mountains. The upside of visiting Greece in winter is that you donâ€™t have to worry about bumping elbows with countless tourists, and airfare and hotel rates are at their lowest. However, the downside is that many hotels, restaurants and attractions are closed, and ferry and flight services are drastically cut back.
I recommend this website, which provides detailed month by month information on the weather in the different regions of Greece (e.g. Athens, Northern & Central Greece, the Peloponnese Peninsula, and the different Greek islands).
HOW TO GET THERE
Greece receives numerous international flights via its main airport, Athens International Airport. This is the preferred point of entry in Greece when you want to visit Athens, explore the eastern part of the Peloponnese Peninsula, or tour the whole country. Click here for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Athens.
Although Athens International Airport is the main getaway for most visitors to Greece, itâ€™s often easier to fly directly to/from one of the Greek islands (or alternatively, book a multi-city ticket, arriving in one airport and leaving from another). The most popular Greek islands are connected by direct flights to Europeâ€™s larger cities in the summer high season. So far, the Greek island are not served by non-European carriers (except for Qatar Airways), so if your starting point is America, Australia, Asia or Africa, the most cost-effective way to Greece may well be to fly to a major European hub and pick up an onward, connecting flight from there. The following islands are well connected to the European mainland (click the link for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights) :
Besides flying, itâ€™s also possible to reach Greece by car or boat. Many people coming from Europe and Scandinavia drive or take a train to one of Italyâ€™s coastal cities (e.g. Venice) where they can catch a ferry to Greece. Also, the cruise industry in Greece has exploded, with many international cruise companies now offering a stopover in Athens or one of the Greek islands during their Mediterranean Sea itineraries.
Requirements for entry into Greece differ from country to country, and are subject to change. Prior to departure, always check with your government and your nearest Greek embassy or consulate what documents you need for travel to Greece.
Citizens of the European Union are required to present a valid ID for entry into Greece.
Citizens of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, and almost all non-E.U. countries are required to have a valid passport valid for at least 90 days beyond the intended date of departure.
For stays longer than 90 days, all non-E.U. citizens will need a visa.
Itâ€™s quite easy to get around in Greece and its sixty-plus inhabited isles, with several modes of transportation available to travelers:
Ferries are the most common, cheapest, and most scenic way for inter-island travel. A wide variety of vessels sail Greek waters â€“ ferries, catamarans or hydrofoils â€“ and while some vessels are brand-new, others are old but can still feel pleasant enough if you stay on deck. Ferry service (often accommodating vehicles) connects Athens (Piraeus) to several of the Greek island (Piraeus-Mykonos-Naxos-Santorini is one of the most popular routes) as well as the Italian mainland (e.g. Venice). Thereâ€™s also ferry service between many of the islands (e.g. Crete and Rhodes), as well as service between the islands and the Turkish Riviera. In summer, ferries run frequently (and need to be booked in advance) but their schedule is reduced during shouder season and drasticaly cut back in winter season. I recommend this website to search for schedules and book your ferry tickets online.
Domestic flights (between the mainland and the islands) are relatively expensive, but can save literally days of travel: Athensâ€“Rhodes is just two hours by plane versus on full day and night by ferry. The following airlines offer domestic flights in Greece:
Driving in Greece is a bit of an adventure (due to poor road conditions, the mountainous terrain, and reckless driving), but thereâ€™s no denying that itâ€™s the best way to see the country at your own pace. Car-rental agencies are available throughout Greece, at all airports and on most of the larger town on the islands. Do bear in mind that Greece has one of the highest fatal accident rates in Europe (especially on the mainland).
If youâ€™re traveling on a budget, you should consider the bus for overland transport. Greece has an extensive long-distance bus service, with bus services on major routes being inexensive, efficient, and frequent but also very crowded.
On the islands, renting a scooter or motorbike is a very popular way to explore the stunning land- and seascapes.
INSPIRATION, HIGHLIGHTS, & TRAVEL TIPS
There are so many reasons why you should put Greece on top of your bucket list. Here are just a few of them:
Athens: visit the Acropolis
Peloponnesos Peninsula: stay at Amanzoe, Europeâ€™s most stunning resort
Crete: hike the Samaria Gorge, visit Knossos Palace, and explore Elounda Bay
Mykonos: relax on the beaches, visit Mykonos Town, and party till dawn
Santorini: be awe-inspired by terrific views, explora Oia village, and watch the sunset
Rhodes: explore Rhodes town, relax on the beaches, and visit Lindos village
Visit the spectacular sandstones of Meteora
My following, in-depth articles may also inspire you and help you plan your holiday to Greece:
Itâ€™s impossible to suggest one itinerary for Greece, but based on my own frequent holidays in Greece, I hereby share with you a schedule which is great if you want to take in the countryâ€™s highlights in two weeks: