If there’s a particular vacation spot on your bucket list, your first question should be when is the best time to go there.
Greece is on loads of bucket lists. It’s one of the world’s sunniest countries, basking in sunny days more than 250 days each year. The best time to visit Greece is in the spring or early fall, while the climate allows you to enjoy everything and the summer crowds are absent.
When you think of Greece, images of turquoise water, sandy beaches, and white-washed houses on seaside cliffs may come to mind. You might be thinking of island hopping, eating fresh seafood, and watching gorgeous sunsets. Or maybe you’re thinking about history or mythology. Whatever your desire, Greece has it all at various price points.
Greece is home to up to 6,000 islands and islets. The islands are grouped in clusters. Visiting some islands requires flights, but others can be reached while cruising the seas. Ferries are great options.
Crete is the largest Greek island and can be a vacation in itself. While it’s a popular destination and its economy is based mainly on tourism, it isn’t as crowded as Santorini or Mykonos. It has beautiful beaches and boasts amazing sunsets along its western coast. The northern end of the island is spotted with wineries. And on the southeastern shores, you’ll find quaint fishing villages and less crowded beaches.
Corfu is an island off the west coast of Greece in the Ionian Sea that has significant to the ancient Greeks and Greek mythology dating back to the 8th century B.C. The Venetians ruled the island in the Middle Ages and built three massive forts to protect their trade routes from pirates and the Ottomans. The PBS drama “The Durells in Corfu” gave us a glimpse of the beautiful coastline and rugged mountains. The island is a popular destination with many luxury resorts and boasts plenty of history and good food.
Santorini may be the island most think of when considering a trip to Greece. It’s one of the most popular and luxurious islands. Be prepared to pay up for your luxury accommodations and meals and the crowds on the beaches. Mykonos is the island to visit if you are interested in a party atmosphere on the beach or in a nightclub. The party starts on the beaches, which can be rowdy, and moves to the nightclubs after the sun sets. Mykonos also caters to the LGBTQ community.
The food and wine of Greece
The country has over 120 million olive trees is the third-largest producer of olives globally, after Spain and Italy. One of the most interesting facts about Greece’s olives is that some of the country’s olive trees are more than 800 years old and still produce olives today.
Americans may not know much about Greek wine, but wine is made throughout the mainland and Grecian islands. The mainland is known for long-legged reds produced in the north, Rhoditis is produced in the middle of the country, and Retsina is made on the islands.
Santorini is unique. Wine has been produced in Santorini since ancient times. The soil quality is mainly volcanic ash, and the area has a distinctly Mediterranean climate characterized by warm temperatures, low rainfall, and high humidity during the growing season. The strong ocean winds can damage the vines and grapes, so the vines are braided for protection. The vine roots are deep enough to get to the much-needed water, which adds to the flavor of the wine of the country's top wines.
The food of Greece is full of flavor from only a few ingredients. Be sure to start with appetizers, mezze, including saganaki (flaming cheese - oopa!). Seafood, especially fish and octopus, is popular among tourists and locals alike. Lamb is prepared in numerous ways. It can stand by itself or be an equally good ingredient in moussaka or pastitsio. Greeks are also famous for local honey, olives, and cheese.
Greek mythology and history
Greece is home to 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We can thank the ancient Greeks and their pantheon of gods for many of these historic sites. The city of Athens, named for its patron, Athena, is home to the Acropolis. The site was important to the Greeks from the 13th century B.C. and eventually became a religious sanctuary, including the temple, Athena Nike. The site, which has existed for more than 25 centuries, is one of the most well preserved ancient Greek structures.
Many of the archeological sites on the mainland date back to the beginnings of Greek mythology. For example, as early as the 10th century B.C., Olympia was a center for worshipping Zeus, and Delphi was the sanctuary of Apollo, God of light. Both are fascinating sites to visit today.
The islands of Corfu and Rhodes are home to Medieval cities complete with forts, palaces, and churches in Gothic or Byzantine style. Both islands were under the rule of various empires throughout the centuries, and each left its mark on the ancient cities.
When traveling to Greece, you can’t help but enjoy the combination of beaches with amazing sunsets, the fantastic local flavors or food and wine, and a history or mythology lesson. We look forward to helping you plan your itinerary.
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Explore Greece: Athens and the Greek Isles | Virtuoso
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