Is Greece worth visiting? What’s the point in even asking? This is a land of sun-splashed islets, turquoise seas, picture-perfect beaches, pine-forested mountains, and such rich history that you won’t be able to decide between visions of Byzantine mosaics or half-crumbled temples from 2,000 years ago. Seriously, it’s incredible.
There’s something for all sorts of travelers. You can laze on coves or sandy shorelines from Rhodes in the east to Corfu in the west. You can devour long lunches of Aegean seafood and Greek mezze, glug Santorini wines and sample the potent local ouzo. There’s endless hiking in the Cretan highlands, mystical history sites at Delphi, stirring monasteries in Athos – the list goes on and on and on.
This guide will answer the question ‘is Greece worth visiting?’ with 11 reasons why this country should be close to the top of your bucket list. From the glorious coastline (all 15,000 kilometers of it!) to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Athens, it covers all the major pulls. You’ll be reaching for the passport before we’re done here!
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Greece is steeped in history. The country is often hailed as the birthplace of western civilization. The ancient Greeks are credited with the creation of modern medicine, philosophy, and democracy, as well as with extraordinary achievements in architecture and artwork. So, it’s no surprise that millions of visitors flock here each year to admire the remains of that incredible age.
Athens surely leads the way for history buffs. The town is topped by the mighty Acropolis. It’s the onetime citadel of ancient Athens, and comes crowned by the eye-watering Parthenon, along with the colossal Theater of Dionysus, and smaller shrines like the Erechtheion. A tour of the site is a must, and so is the all-new and enthralling Acropolis Museum that lies below. Athens doesn’t stop there, either. It’s got a Roman Forum, the Agora where Sophocles and Plato once addressed the crowds, and the vast National Archaeological Museum, which hosts some of Europe’s greatest ancient treasures.
We’ve also only really scratched the surface of the history that’s on offer in Greece. There are a whopping 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites here, along with oodles of smaller points of interest. Some of the most incredible are:
- Meteora Monasteries – Incredible examples of Eastern Orthodox monasteries that perch high on bluffs in the northern part of Greece. Hard to get to but worth the pilgrimage.
- Olympic Stadium at Ancient Olympia – The original Olympic stadium, used thousands of years ago.
- Delphi – One of the most important religious sites in ancient Greece and the home of the Delphic oracle, a priestess who was said to be able to see the future.
- Knossos – The Minoan palace complex of Crete, home to impressive, painted court rooms and colonnades.
- Mycenae – A fortified city in the Argolid region that dates back 3,500 years and featured in the mythical Trojan War.
- Epidaurus – A healing sanctuary a couple of hours’ drive west of Athens.
It’s just not possible to think of Greece without food coming to mind, at least not for us! In fact, we’d say the chow is one of the main reasons to visit. And, since a Mediterranean diet is often said to be one of the healthiest in the world, we see no reason not to indulge yourself whilst you’re there…
The beauty of Greek food lies in its simplicity. Fresh ingredients, locally grown, locally sourced – that’s the name of the game. It could be something as uncomplicated as freshly baked bread dunked in a regional olive oil from Crete. Or, there’s those mouth-watering salads of Kalamata olives, feta cheese and vine-ripened tomatoes. Oh, and just wait until you’re sat at a beachside taverna devouring catch-of-the-day seafood, cooked whole in only lemon juice, oil, and sea salt. It’s stunning.
Some of the most famous Greek dishes to try include:
- Saganaki – Fried cheese served with lemon. Tangy and tasty.
- Gyros – A wrapped up kebab of lamb meat and veggies, Greece’s top fast food.
- Horta greens – Stewed highland greens. Very bitter; very healthy.
- Gigantes – Big butter beans in a tomato and onion stew.
- Moussaka – The tourist dish, but an original Greek flavor when cooked up by grandmas in the rustic tavernas.
- Tzatziki – A fresh mix of mint, garlic, and yoghurt.
In Greece it’s not just about what you eat and drink, but where and with whom. That means meals are never to be rushed and nothing short of ritual. Outdoor tables adorn the streets and squares of virtually all Greek towns for just this reason. Lingering at a café or restaurant eating, drinking, talking and watching the world go by is one of the highlights of a vacation here.
Greece isn’t just a foodie’s mecca. It’s also a age-old wine destination. And while it might not have the same prestige of the south of France of Tuscany, there’s some seriously accomplished vineyards here that are a joy to visit. That’s to be expected though, because Greece is considered to be among the most venerable wine-making regions on the planet, with a history of viticulture that spans nearly four millennia!
The most prominent growing regions around today include Crete, which is said to have been the very first wine-making region in Europe back in the 2nd millenium BC. The island is mainly known for its citrusy and fruity Vidiano grape, but there are also some strong and berry-infused reds. Talking of reds…Up on the Peloponnese, the area of Nemea offers rich and full-bodied Agiorgitiko reds that are regularly rated as some of the best in southern Europe.
Greece also makes rakija (a Balkan spirit made from fermented fruits, usually cherry) and ouzo (an aniseed drink that resembles pastis, usually served neat with a hefty chunk of ice). They are often given as aperitifs to clear the palette before or after dining. Be warned, though, it’s strong stuff!
Boasting the largest coastline in the whole Mediterranean, Greece is a beach lover’s paradise. Whether you want a family-friendly space with calm waters or a choppy, windy spot to try kite surfing, a lively stretch of sand packed with sun loungers, beach bars and DJ sets, or a secluded cove hidden amongst the cliffs, this land has you covered.
There are some 6,000 islands and a trio of crystal clear seas to choose from (the Aegean, the Ionian, and the Libyan). You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. However, we’d say there are a few locations that really stand out from the crowd when it comes to coastline, and a few others that should probably be skipped (Santorini, for example, isn’t great for beaches). The highlights for us would be:
- Zakynthos – Shipwreck Beach is often on the covers of travel brochures, and for good reason: It’s arguably the most stunning beach on the whole planet!
- Crete – Bays like the Balos Lagoon are something else! Crete also offers other chart-toppers, in the form of Falasarna, Matala Beach, and Preveli.
- Kos – Kos is mainly known for its nightlife, but the island also hosts the best beaches in the Dodecanese islands.
- Milos – beach lovers hitting the Cyclades shouldn’t ignore Milos. It’s home to incredible white-marble coves with turquoise swimming waters.
A trip to Greece really wouldn’t be complete without getting out on – or under – the water. One of the great things about Greece’s large, twisting coastline is that you can always find the conditions you need for the sport you want. Greece has long been a hot spot for kite and windsurfers because the coastline offers great places for beginners and experts alike.
Similarly, if you’re a paddleboarder, kayaker, snorkeler or swimmer you won’t struggle to find stretches of flat calm seas in which to practice your craft. There is also a well-respected scuba diving scene and it’s well worth visiting Greece for the chance to dive cave, wreck, wall and reef sites.
And of course, sailing. Touring the islands in Greece is a must-do activity. You will find no shortage of boats of all sizes and all budgets willing to take you out for as long or as short a trip as you fancy. Charter a yacht, rent a motorboat or book a spot on an island cruise and get out on those crystal waters.
The action in Greece is not limited to the water; there are plenty of adrenaline-fuelled activities to get stuck into on dry land. Greece is home to some dramatic natural landscapes just crying out for the adrenaline junkies to come and play on them.
You can skydive above the spectacular, rugged scenery of central Greece and bungee jump off the Corinth Canal Bridge. Rock climbers can scale the incredible monoliths of Meteora or head to the caves and unearthly landscape of world-renowned climbing spot Kalymnos.
Many hiking, road and mountain biking routes are available across the country but one of the most amazing locations has to be Mount Olympus. Home to the Greek Gods, Mount Olympus is Greece’s highest mountain with an elevation of just under 3000m. A national park since 1938 this mountain is home to a rich array of biodiversity and is a stunning playground for mountain sports. It’s definitely worth visiting Greece to scale those mythic heights and try your hand at mountaineering, off-roading, canyoning, paragliding, rock climbing and mountain biking.
There are many reasons why Greece is such a year-round favourite but one of the biggest is the climate. Greece enjoys a longer summer season than many other European destinations. Summer resorts and water sports centres tend to stay open from April through to October. Since warm dry weather can still be expected, it’s still worth visiting Greece in spring and autumn.
The north of the country does get cold winters and snow is not uncommon. But the south and most of the islands enjoy mild winters and beautifully hot summers. Athens can become extremely hot in peak summer but the coastal towns and islands, often enjoy pleasant breezes that bring relief from the intense heat of the summer months.
The nightlife and festivals
Greece is a country that knows how to throw a party and chances are your visit will coincide with an event in their packed festival calendar. With celebrations for religious, cultural and national days happening alongside festivals of folklore, theatre, film, art, music and dance, this is a country where something is always happening.
The biggest event of the festival calendar is undoubtedly Orthodox Easter. The festivities go on for over a week and involve decorating houses and streets, candlelit processions, feasts, fireworks and traditional church services. It is worth visiting Greece during this time both for the celebrations and the insight into traditional Greek life.
If your taste runs more to nightclubs than street parties, not to worry, Greece’s nightlife is renowned as some of the best in Europe. Whether you’re looking for classy rooftop cocktails or an all-out party you’ll be sure to find it in amongst these party-loving people. Whilst Thessaloniki and Athens offer up excellent city spots and all-night clubs, it’s the islands of Mykonos, Kos and Zakynthos that have the reputations for getting really wild. On these islands, the beach bars, party strips, nightclubs and DJ’s will have you partying till dawn.
Visit on a budget
Greece, for all its natural charm and abundance, does not have to come with a hefty price tag. The cost of living, eating out and buying drinks is cheap in comparison with other European destinations. But that’s not to say that it has to be. If you want high-end luxury you’ll find it in abundance but if you’re travelling on a backpackers budget you’ll find what you’re looking for too.
It comes down to choice. If you want to book a private villa with a rooftop pool in Santorini then you’ll find several stunning options but you’ll pay accordingly for it. Whereas if you head to a lesser-known island you’ll find that your money goes further. And there are other things you can do to keep your spending down, for instance, you can island hop by private yacht charter, or you can take a public ferry. And do you need to visit A-List restaurants and bars when Greek street food is some of the best in the world? When tavernas serve cheaper drinks and with a side of authenticity?
With a little research and a willingness to step off the beaten track, whatever your budget, you’ll find something to fit it in Greece.
The variety of vacation types
As you can see from this list one of the best things about Greece is the variety. There is every opportunity to make your vacation exactly what you want. From accommodation, to food, to activities there is something for everyone.
History buffs, culture hunters, foodies, shoppers and café hoppers can all find something to suit them in Athens and cosmopolitan Thessaloniki. Visitors to Rhodes can explore the ancient ramparts of the old town. Whilst in Corfu it’s all about the Victorian architecture. You could head inland to Kalambaka nestled at the foothills of the Meteora pinnacles. Or climb into the hills to explore the picturesque mountain town of Metsovo.
Party all night on the wild islands, or languish the days away on a sleepy one. Book a package holiday to a child-friendly resort or hostel hop your way across the country. See and be seen in the celebrity hangouts on Mykonos or sit outside a taverna sipping Ouzo and chatting to the locals. Book a romantic getaway on the beautiful island of Milos or throw yourself out of a plane, bike down a mountain and scale up the walls of a cave.
The island hopping
Island hopping in Greece is one of the most amazing experiences in Europe. Up there with bucket-list draws like Interrail and skiing in the Alps, it promises to be an adventure you’ll never forget. Two things are needed: A boat and a sense of adventure. Then, you can explore the open Aegean Sea and the sun-splashed Ionian Sea to your heart’s content, seeking out the hidden coves where there’s no one else around, sleeping on board to wake up to the rhythm of the waves, and mooring up into harbor for Greek dinners whenever you like. Sounds fun, eh?
There are a number of super-popular island hopping routes around the Greek islands. The most famous cuts through the heart of the Cyclades chain. It includes stops at Folegandros, Milos, Ios, Santorini, and Mykonos. Other folk like the Ionian islands for their white-sand beaches and quaint fishing towns. Head there to include Kefalonia, Corfu, and Lefkas in island-hopping adventures.
If you can’t get access to your very own charter yacht, then fear not. It’s also possible to put together whole Greek island hopping trips on public ferries. That’s because Greece has one of the most comprehensive boat networks in the world, with connections linking up most of the popular islands and even smaller isles throughout the whole summer season.
All these things and more you can do in Greece, a country well worth a visit.