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Greece CruisesView all tours
A flavourful melting pot of sparkling nightspots, fresh seafood, sizzling Mediterranean passion and mythical legend, Greece is a fascinating and enchanting destination.
The country has long held appeal for travellers, who decamp to its shores to lounge on beaches, explore ancient relics and take advantage of the legendary Grecian hospitality.
Yet despite its popularity, there is still an undiscovered feel to parts of Greece with Mount Olympus, the Peloponnese coast and some of the more remote islands slipping, for now at least, under the radar of mass tourism.
The first port of call for most visitors is Athens, the country’s stunning capital, which combines a modern centre with the stark ancient beauty of the Parthenon and a position overlooking a cerulean stretch of the Saronic Gulf.
Like the rest of the country, Athens was built on a classical civilisation that produced some of the world’s greatest thinkers, philosophers and poets. The ancient Greeks also brought the world democracy, which locals cheerfully remind visitors about, and a pantheon of deities, who are celebrated through statues and local folklore.
Everywhere has its own legend; from the tiny island of Ithaca, home to the wanderer Odysseus, to the rugged stretch of the Peloponnese, the onetime playground of divine beings.
While modern Greeks might not be hitting the intellectual heights of Pericles, the country remains one of Europe’s leading holiday destinations, thanks largely to its gorgeous collection of islands, which are scattered like confetti across the Mediterranean Sea.
Greece boasts 1,400 islands in all, amongst them Rhodes, which was home to the ancient Minoan culture and, legend has it, the terrifying Minotaur. Today it is better known for its stunning beaches, charming seaside towns and lively nightlife.
The islands of Corfu, Crete and Santorini are also established hangouts for sun-seekers and merrymakers, while Kos has begun to attract deities of a very modern kind – the world’s rich and famous. Ultimately, though, in democratic Greece, everyone is welcome.
Greece is situated in southeast Europe, bordering Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, Turkey to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the south and west.
The mainland consists of the following regions: Central Greece, Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia (which, incidentally, borders the country of Macedonia) and Thrace. 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 2,917m (9,570ft) - 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 1,000km/621miles of coastline and a population of some 650,000), is not included in any formal grouping.Government:
Republic.Head Of State:
President Prokopis Pavlopoulos since 2015.Head Of Government:
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras since 2015.Electricity:
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are used.Timezone:
Eastern European Time: GMT/UTC +2 (GMT/UTC +3 from 27 March to 30 October 2016)
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.Credit Cards:
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa and other major credit cards are widely accepted (although less so in petrol stations).ATMs:
ATM's are widely available in all cities and towns, on the mainland and the islands. They are generally reliable.Travellers Cheques:
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.Banking Hours:
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.Currency Restrictions:
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.Currency Exchange:
Foreign currency can be exchanged at all banks, savings banks and bureaux de change. Exchange rates can fluctuate from one bank to another.Currencies: Exchange Rates:
- 1 AUD = 0.71 EUR
- 1 EUR = 1.00 EUR
- 1 GBP = 1.19 EUR
- 1 USD = 0.91 EUR
Best Time To Visit:
Greece has a warm Mediterranean climate. In summer, dry hot days are often relieved by stiff evening breezes, especially in the north, on the islands and in coastal areas. Athens can be stiflingly hot, with temperatures occasionally exceeding 40°C (104°F) in July. Winters are mild in the south but much colder in the mountainous north, where it is not uncommon to see snow and temperatures plummeting to well below zero. November to March is the rainy season, most notably on the Ionian islands.
If you are planning a beach holiday, the sea is warm enough to swim from June through September, and hardier types will also manage in May and October. Seaside hotels are generally open from Easter through to late-October, as are water sports facilities.
Spring and autumn are the ideal seasons for hiking and mountain biking, when the days are sunny but not unreasonably hot. Spring sees the Greek countryside dappled with wild flowers, while in autumn the trees take on russet hues.
Although few people think of Greece as a winter destination, it is in fact possible to ski and snowboard here. Two of the most popular mountain ski resorts are Arahova (near Delphi) and Kalavrita (on the Peloponnese), both much loved by wealthy Athenians, and therefore also well provided with cosy hotels and authentic rustic eateries with blazing log fires.Required Clothing:
Lightweight clothes (cotton is best) during summer months, including protection from the midday sun and sunglasses. Light sweaters are needed for evenings, especially on the islands. Waterproofs are advised for spring and autumn. Winter months can be quite cold, especially in the northern mainland, so normal winter wear will be required.