So, you want to see Greece but don’t know where to start, where to go and when?
Timing is everything. You don’t want to end up in the crowded month of August where every self-respecting Greek heads to the islands, followed by hoards of young people from across Europe, intent on a tan.
For me, late September to all of October is perfect for both the islands and the mainland.
The kids have gone back to school as have the workers and for semi-retired and retired folk this is a blissful time of fewer crowds, yet still glorious weather. Think high 20 degrees, blue sky and no rain.
Open for business
The Greek islands are still very much open for business then and the ferry services between the mainland and the islands still operate at full schedule.
The hotel rates are also cheaper once October rolls around and there are many bargains to be had. Contact hotels direct over the net to negotiate a good price.
Research whether it is better to take a ferry to your chosen island or fly. Aegean Air flies all throughout Greece and sometimes it is more convenient and ultimately quicker to fly direct than spend many hours on a ferry. Hire car places are plentiful on the islands and all that is required is a valid Australian licence.
Islands such as Samos and Rhodes have ample hotel accommodation and both of these islands are big, have a local population living there full time and are not just trumped-up tourist resorts.
Samos has wine making and olive oil, mountain villages for divine leisurely lunches in a family run taverna, mountain trails for the walkers among you and views to die for.
Rhodes has a rich history dating well beyond the Crusades and to wander the old city is to instantly time travel to days of knights and chivalry. Pebble beaches are the norm for both of these islands.
What to pack? Little! Keep it light, a few outfits that are mix and match will do. Greece is very informal in the summer months and the weather is highly reliable.
For the evenings in case of a slight breeze, a shawl will suffice and a light jacket for men.
For days on the beach, you need water shoes to navigate those pesky pebbles. I even swim in them, making getting out of the water far less onerous and awkward. Bring lots of your own sunscreen as it is quite expensive to buy in Greece.
Despite the stunning islands, the mainland of Greece has many wonderful places to visit – the northern rugged mountains, the archaeological site of Pella now famous for the tomb of the Phillip King of Macedonia, the vibrant city of Thessaloniki, and the Peloponnese region. All offer a unique and beautiful experience of this richly endowed country.
Athens is a fantastic city to visit and with the Acropolis looming large over the city, the sense of history is profound.
Downtown Monastiraki is the well-worn tourist area, laden with shops. Ermou Street is the wide pedestrian mall, occupied by countless top name-fashion stores and the city has many fine museums and galleries.
Not to be missed
The new Acropolis museum is not to be missed, sitting as it does just below the Acropolis and the inside of the building mirrors the Parthenon, including showing what pieces of sculpture are missing and held captive in museums around the world. It is a very moving experience.
To get around Athens, the Metro and the tram system are superb.
Go to a Metro station and ask to purchase a travel card and show your passport. You will get a card with your photo on it, then add some money to it and away you go. If you are over 65, all fares are half price. The card doesn’t expire and I have used mine from year to year, complete with money still left on it!
Most Australians are familiar with Greek food, but in Greece the portions are huge, the tomatoes are to die for and if you get a chance to eat local food cooked by a ya-ya, then grab it. Your taste buds will never be the same.
So, soak up the sun, the pebbled beaches, the aqua blue sea, the ancient ruins and the laid-back Greek lifestyle. Greece will not disappoint.
Have you been to Greece? Can you add to these tips? Why not share them in the comments section below?
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