Greece Or Maldives? Go Tropical Or European This Year?

Greece or Maldives
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Greece or Maldives? This is a choice between two of the world’s most stunning island destinations. It’s not going to be an easy one, what with such a wealth of picture-perfect beaches, idyllic coastal stretches, and turquoise-water bays to get through, and that’s really just scratching the surface of what’s on offer.

Yep, in one corner there’s the Maldives, a stretch of shimmering Indian Ocean cays and atolls fringed by coral gardens, famed for their honeymoon hotels and brochure-worthy white sands. In the other corner there’s Greece, a land steeped in history at the sunny end of Europe, where 6,000 isles hide half-ruined ancient temples and yacht-speckled coves alike.

The aim of this guide is to help you get a feel for which of these destinations will suit you the most this year. To do that, it will delve into seven key aspects of each to outline where boasts the finest shoreline, which one comes out top for hotels, and where is easier to get to. Let’s begin…

Greece or Maldives for ease of travel?

Yacht in Maldives
Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky/Unsplash

The Maldives, at least for western travelers, are something of an exotic destination. They sit a whopping 14,000+ kilometers as the crow flies from the West Coast of the USA and more than 8,700 kilometers from Europe. The upshot? It’s going to be a long-haul flight here for most, taking anything between eight and 14 hours, usually with a stopover in the Middle East or Sri Lanka as you go. That said, there are also good short-haul links to the Velana International Airport in Male (the only international arrival point) from across South and Southeast Asia, so the Maldives could make a good addition to a regional adventure.

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Greece is right there in the heart of Europe. Its main arrival point is Athens but there are also countless island airports on Rhodes, Crete (two airports), Corfu, Mykonos, Santorini – the list goes on. Sadly, most of those are only served be seasonal low-costers, which means you’ll need to get to Europe first to fly over. The good news is that they are low-costers – flights can be as little as $20 return from some cities in certain months. Greece is also accessible by ferry from Italy, and by road from the Balkan countries just to the north. It’s got to win this one.

Winner: Greece.

Greece or Maldives for climate?

Swimming in Greece
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

The Maldives is a tropical destination. It has a wet season and a dry season that follows the same pattern as the nearby southwest shorelines of Sri Lanka and India. That means dry winters (November to March) and hot, rainy summers (April to September). Temperatures remain pretty consistent throughout the whole year – around 85-87 F – but summertime does see an increase in humidity, which some people really don’t like. That said, the summers here are better for getting bargains in the hotels and hitting the surf, which is at its peak in June.

Greece is a four-season country that has a clear Mediterranean climate. We have to say, it’s up there with the very best in the world. Granted, December to February isn’t a time to write home about. However, from early spring to late fall, this land of sun-kissed isles is pretty darn stunning. April and May are fine hiking times, with wildflowers in the highlands. Summer sees the beaches come into their own. Then then the autumn (our fav) is when crowds decrease but temperatures linger in the high 70s to allow for some more secluded coast-lazing time.

Winner: Greece. But lovers of the tropics should choose Maldives.

Greece or Maldives for food?

Feta and olive oil
Photo by Kukuvaja Feinkost/Unsplash

The Maldives offers a unique mix of Tamil, Sri Lankan, and African flavors in the national cuisine. Naturally, seafood plays a very big role. Take the garudhiya, an immune-system-boosting fish broth that’s infused with chili and ginger and lime. Then there’s the almost-Caribbean mas huni, a mix of desiccated coconut and shredded smoked fish with fresh onions on top. Oh, and you’ve got the hearty keemi fish balls that are deep fried. Basically, if you’re an adventurous eater and want something very different, the Maldives probably tops this list.

However, we have to make Greece the overall winner on the culinary front. It’s just such an iconic country for cooking. The home of mezze plates, it’s got grilled feta, feta-topped Greek salads, BBQ-sizzled saganaki cheeses with lemon on the side, Cretan white cheese, moussaka, dakos flatbreads – we could go on and on and on. The key here is the seasonal Mediterranean kitchen and the bounty of the Aegean and Ionian seas, which give the gift of some of the freshest ingredients in all of Europe.

Winner: Greece.

Greece or Maldives for hotels?

Luxury hotel in Maldives
Photo by Rayyu Maldives/Unsplash

Here’s an area where the Maldives really excels. Some of the world’s most sumptuous, most opulent, most fantabulous accommodations await on this island chain. The honeymoon crowd is the main target, what with more romantic overwater bungalows on the atolls than you can shake a deep-friend fish ball at. One thing you should know is that the crème-de-la-crème of Maldivian hotels doesn’t come cheap, although recent law changes also opened the market to private B&Bs and homestays, so there are some budget options. Here are a few examples:

  • Kuredu Island Resort & Spa ($$-$$$) – Overwater bungalows above the teal waters of stunning Kuredu Island.
  • Nemo Inn ($$) – A good bargain for the pricy Maldives with access to its own lovely beach.
  • Sun Siyam Iru Fushi ($$$) – Spacious sea cottages perched over a coral reef.

There’s no dearth of hotels in the home of moussaka and Zorba, either. Greece and the islands are riddled with all sorts of places to stay, from low-cost family rooms with multiple beds to extravagant health retreats just meters back from the Aegean Sea. You’ll also find more rustic farm stays and eco stays in the Greek mountains, along with some boho hotels with designer rooms in the capital of Athens (where you should always hold out for a stay that has a rooftop view of the Acropolis!). Here’s a look at some of the top options:

  • Cavo Orient Beach Hotel & Suites ($$-$$$) – Situated on the lovely east cost of Zante, this sleek resort has polished concrete in the rooms, marble bathrooms, and a run of virtually private beachfront.
  • The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort, Costa Navarino ($$$) – A legendary resort on the western Peloponnese; one of the most luxurious in all of Greece.
  • Agnadi Syros Studios & Rooms ($$$) – A very chilled hotel at the south end of a quiet isle in the mist of the Cyclades chain.

Winner: Maldives.

Greece or Maldives for beaches?

A boat in Maldives
Photo by Ahmed Yaaniu/Unsplash

Now, here’s the real fight – Greece or Maldives for beaches? We have to say it’s the isles of the Indian Ocean that win this one. From the ivory-white powder of Maafushi to the dashes of jungle-backed quartz sand on the Lhaviyani Atoll, the Maldives are a wonderworld of beaches. You’re never more than a short walk from the coast in these parts, and most of said coast is proper Robinson Crusoe stuff – think stooping coconut trees and turquoise waters. On top of that, the beaches of the Maldives offer access to fish-teeming coral reefs for snorkelers.

Greece certainly puts up a good showing on the beachfront, though. Crete offers the likes of Preveli, a river mouth bay studded with date palms at the end of a long gorge. Mykonos has Psarrou, where the jet-setter crowd assemble in their yachts come the high summer. Rhodes has Lindos, a curvaceous line of golden powder that sits in the shadow of a Venetian castle and a white-painted village. You might not get the pristine tropical sands of the Maldives but there’s still oodles to impress.

Winner: Maldives, but Greece isn’t bad on the beach front!

Greece or Maldives for nightlife?

A beer in Greece
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

You don’t go to the Maldives for nightlife. In fact, we’d almost say the opposite. You go to the Maldives to escape the buzz of the rat race, to get some down time on the beaches, and recover from the ups and downs of normal life. Most of the, albeit-reserved, after-dark scene takes place in particular hotels, where there could be evening entertainment programs or happy hour deals.

Greece is a totally different beast. It reigns as one of the summer party meccas for both the yacht crowd and the 18-30s cohort. There are a couple of destinations that pump the hedonism to dizzying heights. Chief among them is Ios, a whole island that basically parties nonstop from May to September, Malia, the main party town on the north coast of Crete, Kavos, and Faliraki on Rhodes. However, no matter where you are in Greece there’s almost always an ouzo-swigging taverna on the menu to take care of those evenings.

Winner: Greece.

Greece or Maldives for things to do?

Cave hiking in Greece
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Most people come to the Maldives to rest, relax, recuperate, and cultivate some pretty stark tan lines. It’s a super-chilled island destination where you’re likely to spend most of your time lazing on the deck of an overwater bungalow. If you can peel yourself off that, there’s epic scuba diving to be done, along with fantastic surfing (although the season is limited to April-June). We’d also recommend making the most of what your resort has to offer, in the form of spa packages, kayak rentals, romantic meals on the beach – that sort of thing.

Greece is WAY more varied. Some people come to hop the history sights, wondering at the 2,500-year-old Acropolis of Athens and the UNESCO complexes of Mycenae and Knossos. Others come to sail the coves around Mykonos and Crete, to find secret swimming and snorkeling spots that they can have to themselves. There’s also hiking to be done on the Peloponnese, swimming with turtles in Zante, parties in Malia and Kavos, and loads, loads more besides.

Winner: Greece is the one if you’re looking for a variety of things to do.

Greece or Maldives? Our verdict

The choice between these two legendary island destinations isn’t going to be easy. For most, the Maldives will be a pricier, more adventurous option, as it’s harder to reach and generally hosts mainly five-star honeymoon hotels. Greece is the choice to go for if you’re craving a Mediterranean climate and want to sample the famous national kitchen, or do some island hopping and history touring.

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Joe has been a freelance travel writer for over nine years. His writing and roaming have taken him from the colonial towns of Mexico to the chowks of Mumbai to the Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not putting together the next epic blog on the best Greek islands or ski fields in France, you can usually find him surfing or hiking – his two top hobbies.