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Trevi Fountain, Rome
|Trevi Fountain, Rome; Crete coastline; Malta harbour fishing boats; ||
This tour visits the following countries. Please select one to view its details.
| Greece | Italy | Malta |
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Greece has a warm Mediterranean climate. In summer, dry hot days are often relieved by stiff breezes, especially in the north and coastal areas. Athens can be stiflingly hot, so visitors should allow time to acclimatise. The evenings are cool. Winters are mild in the south but much colder in the north. November to March is the rainy season.
Lightweight clothes during summer months, including protection from the midday sun. Light sweaters are needed for evenings. Waterproofs are advised for autumn. Winter months can be quite cold, especially in the northern mainland, so normal winter wear will be required.
131,957 sq km (50,949 sq miles).
81.6 per sq km.
Greece is situated in southeast Europe on the Mediterranean. The mainland consists of the following regions: Central Greece, Peloponnese, Thessaly (east/central), Epirus (west), Macedonia (north/northwest) and Thrace (northeast). High mountains, fertile plains, pine forest and scrub-covered foothills are all found on the Greek mainland.
The largest mountain range is the Pindus, which runs north-south through central mainland Greece, and separates the regions of Thessaly and Epirus. The highest mountain is Olympus, which soars 2917m (9570ft) - according to Ancient Greek mythology, this is where the 12 Olympian Gods resided.
The islands account for one-fifth of the country's land area. The majority are thickly clustered in the Aegean between the Greek and Turkish coasts. The Ionian Islands are the exception; they are scattered along the west coast in the Ionian Sea, looking (both geographically and culturally) towards Italy. The Aegean archipelago includes the Dodecanese, lying off the Turkish coast, of which Rhodes is the best known; the northeast Aegean group, including Chios, Ikaria, Lemnos, Lesvos and Samos; the Sporades, off the central mainland; and the Cyclades, comprising 39 islands (of which only 24 are inhabited). Crete, the largest island (with an astounding 1000km of coastline and a population of some 650,000), is not included in any formal grouping.
Greek (Ellenika). Most people connected with tourism, and younger generations generally speak some English, French, German or Italian.
98% Greek Orthodox, with Muslim, Roman Catholic and Jewish minorities.
GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Greeks are very aware of their strong historical and cultural heritage. Traditions and customs differ throughout Greece, but overall a strong sense of unity prevails. The Greek Orthodox Church has a strong traditional influence on the Greek way of life, especially in more rural areas. The throwing back of the head is a negative gesture. Dress is generally casual. Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in public buildings.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are used.
Head of Government
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras since 2012.
Head of State
President Karolos Papoulias since 2005.
The birthplace of ancient civilisation has had to deal with some very modern problems recently. Georgios Papandreou has faced an unprecedented financial crisis since becoming Prime Minister in October 2009, leading the Panhellenic socialist movement party (PASOK) to victory, and for many Greeks the heady days of hosting the Olympic Games in 2004 must seem like another age.While in recent times Greece may have been reliant on its neighbours for assistance, for much of its history it has been very much in the ascendency. The Mycenaeans were the first Greek speaking tribes to arrive in Greece between 1900 and 1600 BC. At once time Greek Civilisation stretched from Egypt to the Hindu Kush of Pakistan and Greek minorities can still be found in many of the locations over which it used to preside.The routes of Greece’s conflict with Turkey go back to the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. However, Greece’s support of Turkey’s recent attempts to join the EU may signal a new period of relations between the two countries.
Euro (EUR; symbol €) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of €2, 1 and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.
Foreign currency can be exchanged at all banks, savings banks and bureaux de change. Exchange rates can fluctuate from one bank to another.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and other major credit cards are widely accepted (although less so in petrol stations).
All major currencies are widely accepted and can be exchanged easily at banks. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Euros, Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding €10,000 or equivalent must be declared if travelling from or to a country outside the European Union.
Mon-Thurs 0800-1430, Fri 0800-1400. Banks on the larger islands tend to stay open in the afternoon and some during the evening to offer currency exchange facilities during the tourist season.
Exchange Rate Indicators
1.00 GBP = 1.19 EUR 1.00 USD = 0.74 EUR 1.00 CAD = 0.71 EUR Currency conversion rates as of 9 November 2013
A flavourful melting pot of sparkling night spots, fresh seafood, sizzling Mediterranean passion and mythical legend, Greece is a fascinating and enchanting destination - whether lounging on a sandy stretch, or exploring ancient relics.
Greece's urban hubs are home to some of the world's most glorious and prized ancient and medieval architecture - such as Athens' white marble Parthenon and Thessaloniki’s proud Byzantine churches - and the setting of some of humankind's oldest tales. On the coast, find bustling, umbrella-peppered beaches and secluded sandy coves, washed by turquoise waters and regularly doused in sunshine.
Off shore, Greece's 1400 islands, such as party-hard Mykonos and picturesque Santorini, offer a rainbow of paradisiacal settings for an idyllic island-hopping adventure. Find true Mediterranean peace on Kefalonia and Amorgos, ideal hiking terrain on the peaks and troughs of Crete, and prime scuba diving and sea kayaking conditions around pretty much every coastal corner.
But to explore the islands in the best way possible, you should charter a sailing boat. This can be bareboat (where you only hire the boat, but one of your group will need to have a sailing license), with a skipper, or as part of a flotilla (a group of six to ten boats, lead by an expert). Most sailing holidays last one week, and give you the luxury of being able to explore hidden coves, put down anchor in an emerald bay and swim, or moor up along the quay in one of Greece’s countless little fishing villages.
Feast on healthy Mediterranean fare, prepared with local seasonal produce and plenty of olive oil. Greek cuisine is more than just standard moussaka and kebabs, as the plethora of eateries serving ‘modern taverna’ fare attest - think salads with rocket and pomegranate, tasty casseroles combining pork and prunes, and delicious seafood dishes served with unexpected flavours such as aubergine or fennel. Some of the wines are pretty good too.
Do as the locals do a take an afternoon nap to restore energy for Greece’s hedonistic nightlife – chi-chi cocktail bars, open-air concerts and dancing on the beach below a starlit sky. Call it narcisstic, but the Greeks certainly know how to party.
When it comes to places to stay, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Those looking for extreme comfort might opt for a five-star resort complete with a luxurious spa and villas with private plunge pools, or a quaint boutique hotel furnished with traditional antique furniture, while those who prefer a back-to-nature escape can simply pitch a tent under a tree with a sea view at one of Greece’s many well-equipped campsites.
And don’t be put off by what the newspapers say. It’s true, the Greek economy is having a rough ride, but the sun is still shining, the locals are as hospitable as ever, and as tourism contributes 16% of the national GNP (plus tens of thousands of jobs), if you come here on holiday you’ll be putting your money where it’s much needed. Kalos irthate stin Ellada - Welcome to Greece!
From www.worldtravelguide.net copyright Columbus Travel Publishing Ltd, November 2013.