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Greece Travel Guide

Chania Harbor, Crete

“We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts have their root in Greece.”

Percy bysshe shelley
Acropolis

Top Five Destinations In Greece

  1. Athens A city that boasts a history like no other. The Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, Olympic stadium, and the cobblestone and marble streets in the Plaka district, to name a few sites, await your exploration.
  2. Santorini The Diamond of the Aegean Sea, this tiny scenic island is the gem of the Greek Isles with gorgeous beaches and villages of white-washed homes covering every inch of steep hillsides.
  3. Meteora In the heart of Northern Greece and home to some of the most incredible Orthodox churches and Monasteries perched precariously on bluffs. A UNESCO World Heritage site for both art and nature. It will take your breath away.
  4. Crete This southernmost island is the largest in Greece. This is where to experience brilliant civilizations’ remnants, gorgeous mountains, fertile valleys, steep gorges, spectacular beaches, and the best-persevered bronze age relics in Greece.
  5. Zakynthos One of the most beautiful islands all over the Mediterranean, known for turquoise water, white sand beaches, and chalk-white cliffs that make it exceptionally memorable. It is also known for the best nightlife in Greece.

Did you know?

Greece Stats

  • Population: 10.74 million
  • Capital City: Athens
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Government type: Unitary Parliamentary Republic
  • President: Katerina Sakellaropoulou
  • Ethnic groups: Greek 91%, Albanian 4.5%
  • Languages: Greek
  • Religions: Eastern Orthodox
  • Motto: Freedom or Death
  • US State Department Risk Level: 3 due to Covid.
  • Terrorist groups: NA
  • GDP 194.4 billion
  • The official name of Greece is the Hellenic Republic.
  • Greece has been in a recession since 2012, the longest on record for an advanced western economy.
  • Greece provides 7% of the world’s marble.
  • It is one of the sunniest countries on earth, with 250 days of sunshine.
  • Greece has over 2000 islands.
  • No point in Greece is more than 85 miles (137 kilometers) from water. Greece has about 9,000 miles of coastline, the 10th longest in the world.
  • Tourism accounts for 16% of the GDP.
  • 80% of Greece is mountainous
  • There are no navigable rivers in Greece.
  • Greek’s highest elevation is the legendary home of Zeus and other Olympian gods and goddesses, Mount Olympus, at 9,750 feet (2,917 meters). Its lowest elevation is the Mediterranean Sea or sea level.
  • About 10% of Greek adults are unemployed. Even with a college education, it’s hard to find a job.
  • Top invention by the Greeks: Watermill, maps, medicine, surgical instruments, caliper, crane, shower, lighthouse, odometer, surveying tools, vending machine, the steam engine, grenades, Lasik surgery, Caller ID.
  • Industry: Agriculture, Tourism, Mining, Manufacturing.
  • Life expectancy 81 years old.
  • The literacy rate is 95%.

Funs facts

  • The Olympic Games originated in Greece.
  • Greek civilization has been strongly influential on language, politics, science, art, and philosophy.
  • The first Greek civilizations are believed to be 4000 years ago, 1600 BC, by the Mycenaeans of Crete.
  • Greece was the world’s first democracy.
  • Voting is required by law for every citizen about the age of 18.
  • Feta, which is made from goat’s milk, is Greece’s national cheese.
  • Greece is known for its beautiful marble.
  • Greece is the third leading producer of olives. Olive trees have existed in Greece since ancient times.
  • Athens’s name comes from the Great Goddess Athena, its patron Goddess, and its heroes’ protector.
  • Ancient Greeks loved sports and worshipped athletes. They loved running, jumping, and throwing the javelin and discus. It is believed the Gods wanted their bodies to be near perfection.
  • They have one of the lowest divorce rates in the EU.
  • Greece traditionally also has the highest abortion rate.
  • Greece is the leading producer of sea sponges.
  • The first Olympic Games took place in 776 B.C. The first Olympic champion was a Greek cook named Coroebus, who won the sprint race.
  • The ancient Greeks are often called the inventors of mathematics because they were the first to make it a theoretical discipline.
  • The work of Greek mathematicians such as Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes, and Apollonius lies at the basis of modern mathematics.
  • Greek workers get at least one month of paid vacation every year.
  • Greece organized the first municipal dump in the Western world around 500 B.C.
  • The saying taking the bull by its horns comes from the Greek myth of Hercules saving Crete.
  • Men are mandated to serve in the military for 12-18 months.

Greece Map

Good to know before you go

  • At restaurants, a tip is typically expected, but some round up the bill to include gratuity. Check the bill first. If there is no added tip, leave 5 to 10 percent. Bartenders are not usually tipped but rounding to the nearest euro is common. Taxi or Uber round-up. Porters one euro per bag. Housekeeping 1 euro a night. Concierge 5-10 euros if provided good service. No tipping at spas is expected.
  • Credit cards are readily used, but small vendors may not have machines, so have cash available.
  • Driving in Greece must be taken seriously. Greece has a high accident rate, and caution is required. Roads in Greece are varying widely in quality and state of repair. Major cities will connect with wide multi-lane highways, but you will find one lane per direction roads in other places. On the Islands, it is narrow and very treacherous. Huge buses leave little room for cars. You will see lots of damage to vehicles due to tight roads.
  • There are speed cameras, but you are more likely to be subject to a roadside check. The police have the power to take your license. Drive the speed limit!
  • Greeks do not wave with an open hand. In fact, it is considered an insult to show the palm with the fingers extended. Greeks wave with the palm closed.
  • Smoking is common in Greece but smoking indoors is not permitted and strictly enforced.
  • Greeks have been stereotyped as being laid back and somewhat disorganized. It more of a lifestyle of taking life a bit more relaxed. You are on vacation; take on that mindset. Remember the “slowly” culture. 
  • One of the things you should know about Greece is that pedestrians rank low on the food chain! If you assume that cars will stop for you to cross a crosswalk, please think again!
  • While in Greece, you will most likely spot illegally parked cars. You may see cars parked on the pavement, under a clear “No-parking” sign, or even on the street, blocking other parked cars.
  • Ferries are a prevalent form of transportation, but if going to islands that are farther out like Santorini could require a full day of travel on sometimes rough-seas and crowded boats. These boats run late often, and due to that, you feel like a herd of cattle. We experienced this from Athens to Santorini. We were on the “fast” ferry and in relatively good seas and were hours late. On disembarking, due to jamming people into the car deck to offload them quickly to save time, we saw people pass out or get knocked over. Once on the dock, it was chaos. We learned later from other travelers a flight would have been less than an hour and the same cost. Look at all your options!
  • You may have grown up in a country where toilet paper goes down the toilet. This is generally not the case in Greece. You will find small bins next to the toilet for toilet paper. Only human waste goes in the toilet. At first, it was surely odd, you will adjust, we did.
  • Food is a huge part of Greek culture. It has to do with much more than just flavors and dishes. It has to do with the excellent ingredients, the lengthy procedure involved in preparing the food, and the culture of sharing dishes with others.
  • “It’s all Greek to me” – it is a difficult language to learn along with having the Greek alphabet. Learning a few words in Greek will earn you at least some smiles, shows respect, and maybe you will be rewarded with a treat!
  • In Greece, mastiha (μαστίχα) is a sweet liqueur made with the mastiha resin from the mastic evergreen shrub from the Greek island of Chios. It tastes like tree sap because it is. It’s a liquor, but you will see it in many other forms such as candy, medicinal use, flavored stomach remedies, lozenges, the spice for cooking, desserts, and even lotions. It is musty and aromatic. It is a staple in Greece. Restaurants will often offer a shot glass of it at the end of your meal along with the bill. It is a cultural gift, and you should accept it as such. Mastiha grows on you to the point you get disappointed when it doesn’t accompany the bill. It a great Greek gift to bring home.
  • Nepotism is common in Greece, as family members are always there to help one another in times of need. Strong emotional bonds between family members play an important role in this culture. Family bonds make the social structure strong.
  • The people of Greece are known for their warm hospitality.
  • Celebrating name days (birth date of the saint after whom one is named) is more common than celebrating birthdays. Exchanging gifts with family and friends takes place usually on ‘namedays.’
  • The Greeks are very proud of their cultural heritage. Religion plays an important role in their life. Every holiday or festival has a religious background. Easter (not Christmas) is the major religious holiday. The Church greatly influences the politics in Greece.
  • Though Greece has a mild climate, the islands especially are not a year-round destination. Most of the islands shut down for most purposes on October 1. We were there until September 30, and around us, on both Santorini and Mykonos, the hotels were putting everything away to lock up. Many servers, wineries tours, guides we spoke with were leaving the next day. Athens is where most lived in the off-season. They described the islands as desolate in the offseason.
  • Greece is very safe to visit. It is 39th in the world for the safest countries.

Greece Essential Info

US Consular Emergency
The 24-hour number from a US Phone 1-888-407-4747
Outside of US 011-202-501-4444

US Embassy Athens
91 Vasilisis Sophias Avenue
10160 Athens, Greece
Telephone: +(30) (210) 721-2951
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(30) (210) 729-4444 or +(30) (210) 729-4301

US Consulate Thessaloniki
Plateia Commercial Center
43 Tsimiski Street, 7th floor
546 23 Thessaloniki
Telephone: +(30) (231) 24-2905
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(30) (210) 729-4444 or +(30) (210) 729-4301

Emergency Numbers
GENERAL 112
Police 100
Fire 199
Medical 166

Country Code
+30

Time Zone
UTC+2

Driving
Right side

Adaptors
“Standard” Euro plug
Type C or F

Tourism Office
Visit Greece | The Official website of the Greek Tourism Organization
visitgreece.gr

When to go to Greece

The best time to visit Greece is outside the busy summer peaks, during spring (April to June) and early autumn (September and October). Temperatures are warm but not stifling, and you’ll find that destinations are open but still relatively quiet.

For some, their favorite time to visit Greece is springtime, when wildflowers explode into a colorful feast for the eyes across the countryside. Easter celebrations, particularly on Crete, offer pageantry, fireworks, and feasting.

Fall offers the opportunity to participate in centuries-old olive harvest traditions in the country known for olive oil production.

Summer brings steamy, hot weather and hordes of visitors at the main sights and on the islands. The period from November to February is colder, but city attractions remain open and are wonderfully quiet.

Island destinations close down for the winter and often as early as October 1.

  • Summer 68-90°F (20-32°C)
  • Spring 60-76°F (8-24°C)
  • Fall 53-82°F (12-28°C)
  • Winter 44-57°F (7-14°C)

Our Favorite Greece Resources

This resource section contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Travel Books/Guides

Greece was a single-country trip taken by Joelle with her sister. It was the first trip for both, so the research was in-depth and fascinating. The more we studied, the more excited we got. These resources were fantastic for planning and, once there, served us well.

Lonely Planet’s Greece (Country Guide) by Lonely Planet

A passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on the highlights Greece has to offer and what hidden discoveries await you. Experience the Acropolis of Athens, get lost in Rhodes” Old Town, and watch the sunset in Santorini, wander the windmills of Mykonos. Great photography and lots of details to aid in planning. Discover this travel guide here

Rick Steves Greece: Athens and Peloponnese by Rick Steves

Full disclosure, we are huge Rick Steve’s fans, it will be rare we do not recommend one of his wonderful guides, and for Greece, it is no different. We love his travel style and perspective. His off-the-beaten-path approach, together with his independent travel philosophy, matches well with how we travel. The guides never disappoint. This book made the cut into our suitcase and was a fantastic resource. Find this must-have guide here

DK Eyewitness Greece, Athens and the Mainland (Travel Guide) by DK Eyewitness

The ideal travel companion, full of insider advice on what to see and do, plus detailed itineraries and comprehensive maps for exploring this ancient country. Everything you need to know is clearly laid out within color-coded chapters. Discover the best of Greece, Athens, and the Mainland in this beautifully illustrated guide. Find this guide here

Moon Guide Greek Islands & Athens: Island Escapes with Timeless Villages,
Scenic Hikes, and Local Flavors (Travel Guide)

We are huge fans of the Moon Guide and this is one is pretty special. Highly recommend it. Well illustrated and with good maps. Find the right islands for you, with strategic itineraries for different timelines, budgets, and activities, whether you want to lounge on the best beaches, linger in ancient villages, explore the outdoors, or island-hop for a little taste of everything. Find this guide here.

Our favorite websites

1. Greece tourism site

2. US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Greece Country Info

We cannot encourage you enough to visit this website as you plan and prepare for your trip. This is the US Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency US and Embassy contacts, health, local laws, special circumstances, threats, traveler vulnerabilities, government warnings, and transportation in Greece. This is your best and most reliable resource for all this important info. Check back often before you go, as things can change quickly. Being prepared is essential in all travel, but especially internationally.

Greece International Travel Information (state.gov)

3. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health Resource

This CDC travel resource provides essential health info for your specific destination. Using their tool, you can determine which vaccines, medications, and health advice recommendations are needed for Greece.

CDC’s Travelers Health Page for Greece

Our favorite maps

Greece National Geographic Adventure Map 3316

Easy to read maps with practical road and travel information. Explore the rich history, spectacular beaches, and magical islands of Greece. Major sites and landmarks are well marked. Mapped road network with distances and designations for major highways to the off-the-beaten-path roads. Though we default to Google maps, this came in handy when service was poor or during construction detours. Find this essential map here

Our favorite apps

Rome2rio: Trip Planner Trip and Holiday Organizer Enter any address, landmark, or city in the app will instantly display all your travel options, booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. Find on your local app store.

Rick Steve’s Audio Europe This app includes a vast library of Rick Steve’s audio content. Get cultural and travel info. Includes self-guided tours of top attractions and historic walks. A must-have. Find on your local app store.

Visit Greece Explore Greece with this Greek National Tourism App Found at your App store

Greek Islands Travel Guide Offline maps and tours. Find at your App Store.

Greek by Nemo Turn your phone into your Greek teacher. Easy to use. Essential words and phrases with audio Find on your App Store.

Google Translate We used this often to practice proper pronunciations of Greek words. As we always encourage, it is essential to learn the basics to greet and thank people in the local language. Google translate was an easy app to use. If needed, you can enter text in English, and it will speak back in Greek to aid in communicating with locals. Furthermore, it came in very handy to translate text into images instantly.

Do you have a favorite Greece travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or

Our Greece Posts

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