Ok, so I’m a little bit biased towards Spain. Italy was great too. Hey, the Netherlands is also pretty cool. And you know, I had some pretty amazing summer holidays in France as a kid. But Greece. Oh my. Greece. It is amazing.
Maybe I’m a little late on the memo with this one, but I’ve finally caught up with all those people who rave about Greece and come back with their wonderful tans and lush holiday photos. Here are a few key reasons why you should choose Greece for your next summer vacation.
- The Beaches
Ah yes, the idyllic Greek beaches. They really do exist. And with over 200 inhabited islands and almost 8.5km of coastline in total, Greece is a great choice for beach lovers. White and golden sand beaches can be found, but for something a little different, the island of Santorini has black sand beaches – just make sure to bring sandals as that sand will get hot!
Just a quick tip. If you really are keen to spend hours on the beach, it’s best to do some research first. If you’re just spending a week in Athens and have planned to do some day trips to the beach then you certainly can do, but the beaches between Pireaus port and Glyfada might not be the most picturesque.
If you don’t have time for a ferry trip to a nearby island, it might still be worth travelling further from Athens to find a nicer beach. A good article on some of the loveliest beaches in Greece can be found on Cylcadia.com here. Luckily, wherever you choose, you’ll be able to find crystal clear sand and, of course… sun!
- The Weather
So maybe you’re reading this from your house in the south of France or your apartment in LA, but maybe you are, like me, from sad little drizzly grey England. And unless you’re one of those strange people that prefers the winter to the summer (only legit if you’re a skier in my opinion, but hey), then you’ll probably be looking for somewhere with the best chances of sun. (Let’s face it, British summers are all too often very sad and disappointing affairs.)
Greece’s climate does vary, but most of the country enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot summers. Peak season is between July and August, but you’ll have plenty of sunshine if you visit around April – June. This is ideal as you get pleasant weather without hordes of tourists.
- The History and Heritage
Now might be the time to move away from standard sun, sea and sand and think about the incredible, monumental history of Greece. The cradle of Western civilization, Athens is the birthplace of modern democracy. Visit the ancient Acropoplis and marvel at the wonder that is the Parthenon, check out the remains of the epic Temple of Olympian Zeus, and head to the ancient Agora and ponder over the exceptionally well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus.
Outside of the capital you will still see evidence of the country’s ancient history. Take a trip to the Temple of Poseidon, an hour and a half drive from Athens, or visit lesser-known monuments and structures on the Greek islands.
In the Cycladic island of Naxos, for example, there stands the marble entrance to the 6th century BC Temple of Apollo. Brave the wind and ocean spray and take a walk along the small hill that juts out into the sea and you’ll also be rewarded with a panoramic view of Naxos and – on a clear day – some of the surrounding islands too.
- The Food
The food! Sweet baby Jesus, the food. I’ve talked in more detail about some of the essential Greek foods to try on GrumpyCamel.com, but it’s worth mentioning again here. Cheese, yogurt, fish, meat and delicious local vegetables are some of the highlights and are plentiful in Greece.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth you won’t be disappointed either. The honey is delicious and is rightly used in a number of traditional pastries and desserts. Chocoholics like me will be happy too: I’d heard that all Greek sweet treats are based on honey and nut (as though this was a bad thing), but bakeries still cater to chocolate-lovers.
You’ll find plenty of chocolate cakes and biscuits, and I even got a brownie at a bar on one of the beaches. (Surprisingly good, in fact. More of a ‘traditional’ American brownie than the spongy brownies you often get. Yes brownie mission!) Perhaps it’s just because I’d been to Italy before Greece, but I would say that the ice cream is pretty disappointing in Greece. Maybe just stick to yogurt or frozen yogurt!
- The Prices
So I’ll be honest and say that we were slightly shocked by the food prices at the supermarket when we first arrived in Athens. The prices were closer to those in Italy than in Spain. However, although self-catering may not be quite as cheap as you might hope, the cost of eating out in Greece is relatively low. You can often get a delicious Moussaka for 6 or 7 euros, a beer for 3 euros, and a glass of local wine for 2 euros.
Accommodation is cheap and excellent value. Unless you like resorts, it’s worth perusing Airbnb.com; you can often find good value apartments rented out by locals which are not only economical but also give you a more authentic taste of Greek life.
Transport is cheap too, which is great news for island-hoppers. Inner-city transport is wonderfully cheap, although in all honesty, the bus drivers seem so lax that I’m not sure what percentage of people actually buy a bus ticket, and we didn’t see any inspectors on the trams or metros either. Given how strong the pound is against the euro right now, a trip to Greece will work out pretty damn cheap.
- The People
I’ll end this post by giving major kudos to the wonderful and friendly Greek people, who made our trip even more incredible. Get into conversations with locals at the bus stops and you can find out more about local life, and they’ll probably be interested to hear about you and your journey too. Make a taxi ride more entertaining by chatting to the taxi driver; one of ours had some interesting views on the Greek economic situation and was keen to chat with us about it.
The lady running a lovely home-made soap shop in Naxos spent about 15 minutes talking to us about local events and even started playing YouTube videos of a local musician!
We were also in awe of the quality of most Greek people’s English. Like most Brits, we are rubbish at languages, but we needn’t have worried (though we were pretty embarrassed by our poor attempts at Greek). Most people we met could speak at least some English and were happy to help us with directions or information.
So there you have it. A few reasons to pick Greece for your next vacation. You won’t regret it. My only regret was not staying longer!