Greece Travel Guide


Greece Adventure Travel Guide: Ideas and Inspiration

PureTravel Says: “Greece consists of a mainland and a host of around 2,000 islands in South Eastern Europe. It is bordered by the Aegean and Ionian Seas in the eastern Mediterranean. Its neighbours include Turkey, Bulgaria and Albania. It is a member of the European Union and its currency is the Euro. It is ruled by a President and a democratically elected Parliament. Although Greek is spoken by the majority of the population, there are a huge number of other languages spoken in various parts of the country.”

Highlights

History - Greece has an ancient culture and history. Many relics of ancient civilizations are still standing here, such as the Parthenon in Athens; the second century Odeon of Herod Atticus and the Oracle. There are monasteries and theatres, temples and statues which are older than the mind can comprehend. It is also a major center of art, and the National Museum holds more masterpieces of Greek art and sculpture than any other museum in the world.

Travellers visit for the beautiful countryside, quaint villages, vibrant city life, Greek cuisine, the beautiful azure seas and sandy or pebbly beaches. Much of the landscape consists of hills and mountains, with lakes and wetlands to the west. The mild Mediterranean climate makes all outdoor activities a pleasure with something to suit all tastes. Tourism is a major industry and accounts for around 15% of Greece’s total income. It also creates employment for more than 16% of the country either directly or indirectly. Shipping is another major industry for Greece. It has the largest maritime shipping fleet in the world today.

Culture - Greece has an unrivalled heritage from the Roman and Byzantine Empires as well as the relics of Ancient Greece. It is the birthplace of the Olympic Games and was a major influence in the development of democracy, political science, drama, literature and western philosophy. It had a major influence in the development of music, dance, art, literature and drama.

Due to its proximity to Europe, Asia and Africa it held an unrivalled position in the emerging civilizations.

Greek cuisine is often cited as a healthy diet. It incorporates many fresh ingredients including fish, seafood, cheese and vegetables. Popular national dishes are moussaka, Greek salad, spanakopita and souvlaki. Assorted small dishes are often served called Meze, with various dips. Olive oil is widely used in almost every dish, and many local dishes are cooked wrapped in vine leaves. Local drinks include ouzo, metaxa and retsina wine. There are different dishes from each island, as well as mainland specialties.

When to Go

The best months to enjoy an active trip are from April to October. The Mediterranean type climate has mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.

The mountainous areas have a more Alpine climate. The Pindus Mountains have more rain on the western side than the eastern side, due to the rain-bearing south-westerly winds. There is some snowfall on the highest peaks in winter.

Top Tips

- Most beach walkers wear sandals to avoid the stinging sea anemones around the rocky shores.
- Always carry drinking water with you particularly if you are walking or hiking.
- Always wear a sunhat and sunscreen as the sun can be quite fierce, even when it's cloudy.
- Carry a Spotter’s Guide to identify the many animals and birds you will see.
- Never hike, climb or trek by yourself. There are countless dangers and you may need help.
- Wear loose cotton clothing and cover your arms and legs to avoid insect bites if you are hiking.

Holidays In Focus

Bird Watching

Lesvos Island is a bird watchers paradise. It has two large bays, abundant springs, semi-tidal rivers, marshes and salt pans.

Birds such as the Rufus Bushchat inhabit the arid scrub and dried river beds. Many migratory birds are seen during spring and autumn, and there are many breeding birds here including the Cinereous Bunting and Kruper’s Nuthatch. It is beneficial to use a car here. Birds feel less threatened and are more approachable than on foot or by bicycle.

Birds include the black-winged stilt, curlew, sandpiper, plover, wagtail, glossy ibis, lark, warbler, mute swan and even whooper have been spotted at the Kalloni pool. Egrets, herons, storks and curlews visit the Kalloni west river, with great crested and black necked grebe spotted in the Bay.

There are a host of other common and rare birds to be seen on the marshes and salt pans.

Wildlife

The seas around mainland Greece are home to a range of rare marine wildlife including Pinniped seals and Loggerhead turtles. The dense and ancient forests are inhabited by brown bear, lynx, roe deer and wild goats. The Vikos-Aoos National Park is home to several mammals including fox and deer and there are many birds and fish in the river.

Water Sports

Vikos-Aoos Gorge is a spectacular natural formation in the Vikos-Aoos National Park, and is the center for many popular extreme sports. The gorge is listed in the Guinness Book of records as the deepest in the world. The walls are up to 1km in height. The dramatic gorge is 12 km long and the Voidomatis River is beautiful. Kayaking and rafting is popular here as the descent of the river is navigated.

For experienced navigators, the route from Vovousa to Vrisohori is 27km, and takes 7-8 hours in a kayak, monoraft or inflatable boat. Previous experience is necessary as well as fitness and endurance. A second and third descent can also follow on from this trip, making a total of 52km of river navigation through some of the most challenging and difficult waters.

Walking and Trekking

Greece is an ideal location for a walking holiday. The weather is dry and pleasant, particularly in the spring. There are plenty of interesting remnants of ancient Greek civilizations, along with pine forests, alpine flower meadows, rocky mountains and many beaches. Along the way the food is good and the locals are friendly. Maps are rarely available however and not terribly accurate.

The Corfu trail runs for an impressive 155 miles, through stunning mountain scenery to the bird inhabited wetlands in the south west of the island. Guides are sometimes available and they do have their own maps.

Walking holidays on the Greek island of Kalymnos are popular due to the excellent paved path from Pothia to the fjord valley of Vathi.

Rhodes is also a good choice for a walking holiday, as there are many churches, mosques, hilltop chapels and a synagogue along the way. Many of the paths are pebbled, so wear suitable hiking footwear.

Paxos is also good walking country as there are many shady olive trees. There are many ancient tracks which meander over the island, passing dry stone walls, mule tracks and mountain huts.

Walkers will enjoy a pleasant hike up Lycabettus Hill. It actually means ‘Place of Wolves’ but there are no wolves here any longer. It is a cooler and quieter spot to enjoy relaxing. There is also a cable car, for an easier ride up.

Snorkelling and Diving

The clean clear waters around Greece are a huge advantage for those wanting to dive. Snorkelling is allowed everywhere. Scuba diving is forbidden in areas which have underwater antiquities.

There are many dive schools all over Greece, operating under a special license of the Greek Ministry of mercantile marine. Diving is allowed from sunrise to sunset. However there are some restrictions. Spear fishing is forbidden if you are using air bottles; photographing, removing and transporting antiquities is also illegal; also using or possessing equipment for spotting underwater antiquities is not allowed. If any antiquities are discovered they must be reported to the port or police authorities.

Hiking and Climbing

The ancient Mount Olympus is a popular destination for hikers and climbers. The Mytikas peak reaches 2,917 meters high (9,570 feet). Other high altitude mountains include the Rhodope range and spread through Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. The area here is covered with ancient forests.

Another long hike is Sweetwater beach, on the Island of crate. It is only accessible by water, or a long hike, but it is worth the journey.

Climbers will enjoy the ascents offered on the limestone rock faces on the island of Kalymnos. There are good challenges and rewarding views out to sea.

Beaches

There are a huge array of beaches throughout Greece. Some are sandy, others are pebbly, but they all lead down to beautiful blue waters. There are out-of-the-way nudist beaches and buzzing party beaches in other resorts.

Most beach walkers wear sandals to avoid the stinging sea anemones around the rocky shores.

Cruises and Yachts

From boat rentals by the hour, to week-long private yacht charters, boats are a large part of the holiday scene in Greece. Huge cruise liners also take vacationers from port to port.

Alternatively there are many yachts available for charter, complete with a full crew. Bare boats can be hired with a skipper, but no cook. There are plenty of tavernas at each port, providing cheap food and a taste of local life.

Flotillas are also available, with up to 10 yachts in a group. The main areas for cruising are Ionian, with calm winds and short distances between islands; Saronic Gulf with moderate winds between interesting Islands; Sporades with fair winds; Dodecanese with good winds and many unspoiled islands along the Turkish coast, and Cyclades with stronger winds and longer distances.

Water Sports

Sailing, Windsurfing and Kite Surfing - All popular sports in the warm blue Aegean waters. Ios offers several good water sports centers. Water skiing, wakeboarding and windsurfing are available for all skill levels. Other activities include a bouncing tube ride on an inflatable ring. Banana-boat rides are also available for some flying fun.

Canoe Safaris - Offered from several islands including Ios. The trip leaves Mylopotas Beach and heads for Kolisani Beach. After paddling around, enjoy snorkelling, cliff jumping and a BBQ.

Waterskiing - Popular at many resorts in Greece. It is one of the most popular sports and there are private schools at large hotels and on the major resort beaches.

Windsurfing - Packages are also offered on several Greek islands, at most organized beaches. All inclusive prices include a theory lesson on the beach. This is followed by at least 2 hours of instruction from a qualified instructor. Longer packages and unlimited windsurfing deals over 7 days are a great way to pursue your dream and improve your skills. All equipment is included in the price, with a wetsuit, harness, long and short boards and instruction.

Athens Culture

The capital city of Athens has a host of ancient monuments and attractions. The number one place to see is the Acropolis and Parthenon which dominate the skyline. There are excellent views of the city and the surrounding temples from the Parthenon. Another great viewing point is from the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion.

The National Archaeological Museum is also here, with an unrivalled collection of relics from ancient civilizations. One way to travel around all the main landmarks is on the ‘Bus 400’. It gives unlimited transport and you can hop on and off at each site, or simply sit back and look at the wonders as you pass by.

Festivals, Events and Anniversaries in 2014

Thessaloniki (Salonica) in Greece hosts the European Youth Capital 2014 - Greece’s second city of Thessaloniki is the perfect host of this particular title – it has a hip and happening atmosphere with plenty going on 24/7. Visitors are treated to boutique shopping, lively nightlife and, as you’d expect, a non-stop whirlwind of exciting festivals and events taking place all year long

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

There are 17 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List: 15 cultural and 2 mixed;

- Acropolis of Athens
- Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae
- Archaeological Site of Delphi
- Medieval City of Rhodes
- Meteora
- Delos
- Mount Athos
- Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika
- Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus
- Archaeological Site of Mystras
- Archaeological Site of Olympia
- Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns
- Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni of Chios
- Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos
- Archaeological Site of Aigai (modern name Vergina)
- Historic Centre (Chorá) with the Monastery of Saint-John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse on the Island of Pátmos
- Old Town of Corfu

Travel Resources

By Julie Bowman

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