Selma Roth – Saudi Gazette
White, sandy beaches with azure blue water, the lingering grandeur and sophistication of ancient sights, in addition to green, lush mountains – these are just a few reasons why Greece should be on top of your ‘countries-to-visit’ list. Thanks to its geography, the country enjoys various Mediterranean climates, though most places can be visited at any time of the year. The hundreds of islands Greece boasts of all carry their own character, so continue reading to find out which place you should head to enjoy the most romantic, relaxing, or cultural enriching trip of your lifetime, and more.
The island of Santorini, also called Thira, is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations – and for a reason. The island’s whitewashed houses, built on the edge of a cliff, form a dazzling contrast with the blue of the domes and the infinite Aegean Sea. It is impossible not to be left breathless by the dramatic views, caused by an ancient volcanic explosion that left this rim around the underwater caldera. Make sure you don’t miss the spectacular sunset views from Fira, Santorini’s capital town. Other activities include relaxing on one of the red or black beaches on the east and south coasts, visiting the impressive ruins of ancient Thira, and discovering the island by car, bike, or bus.
Bit of Fun
With approximately 1,400 islands – of which 227 are inhabited – it is no easy task to decide which one is most fun. However, Mykonos, with its glitter and glamor reputation, is certainly a place you will return from fully refreshed and energized! Spend the day on one of the island’s golden beaches; flock in the late afternoon to the shops, cafes, and superb restaurants; and savor the night in the picturesque village with its small alleyways that boasts of abundant bars and clubs.
Retreat & Meditate
The mystical monasteries of Meteora, literally meaning ‘suspended in the air’, were long concealed for the public, but have now become one of the most visited places in Greece. A total of 24 monasteries were built from the 11th century onwards on almost inaccessible sandstone peaks. While some have been converted into museums, others still provide a place of retreat and meditation. The monasteries open to the public are connected by asphalt roads. Apart from these UNESCO-listed marvels, the region is also a haven for hiking and rock climbing.
While it is true that Greece is home to a vast number of archeological pearls, the Acropolis in its capital admittedly is the most iconic monument of not only Greece, but of the whole Western world. The ancient citadel, built on a rocky hill, consists of a number of ancient buildings and can be seen from almost anywhere in Athens, either gleaming in the midday sun or illuminated in the evening. Its most characterizing building is the Parthenon, a temple made of white Pentelic marble and built for the goddess Athena Parthenos, patron of the city. Visit this site either early in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid crowds.
Take a Hike!
Crete, the largest and most populous island of the country, has much to offer, including deserted beaches, wonderful old towns, Venetian ports and hospitable inhabitants. Another top attraction is the Samaria Gorge, which, at 16 kilometers, is Europe’s longest gorge and arguably is most beautiful.It is definitely not a leisurely stroll, but the stunning scenery and unique fauna will make you forget the distance your feet have covered, though good hiking boots, sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water are a must. Make sure you start the hike early in the morning to have enough time for a refreshing dive in the sea at the end of the gorge.
Much remains to be discovered of Northern Greece, with its geographical and cultural character that stands apart from the rest of the country. Dominated by the provinces of Macedonia and Thrace, both of which have been part of the Greek state for only a century, this area offers lush forests, high mountains, and ancient sites that remind one of the numerous civilizations – including Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, and Slavs – who all inhabited the land for some time. One of the most inspiring places is Mt. Olympus, the highest mountain in the country. Often mysteriously covered in clouds, the mountain has a rich flora with over 1,700 plant species. The whole region, including Mt. Olympus, makes for unique trekking possibilities.
Culture & Nature
Once housing the most famous oracle in the Hellenic world, Delphi has kept the charm that led people to believe it the center of the world. However, apart from being one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece and inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Delphi is surrounded by green mountains, picturesque towns and the Gulf of Corinth. You can easily spend a short holiday in and around this idyllic town, especially if what you are looking for is a mix of culture, nature, and rest.
According to the official Greek tourism website (www.visitgreece.gr), the country’s cuisine has four secrets: good quality fresh ingredients, correct use of herbs and spices, the famous Greek olive oil, and simplicity. No matter where you go, you will most likely relish the variety of dishes Greek cuisine offers. For the ultimate culinary experience, however, you must go to Crete. The island’s fertile land in combination with abundant sunlight is the secret of their high-quality food, according to some. Here, you will find one of the finest olive oil, which forms the basis of every single Greek dish.
Obviously, Athens is the most popular city to visit in the country. If, however, you are looking for the best shopping and cultural events packed with respectable nightlife and fine-dining options without the chaos a large city like Athens inevitably accompanies, Thessaloniki is the place to be. With around 300,000 inhabitants, Thessaloniki is the country’s second largest city and is renowned for its festivals and vibrant cultural life. The city is host to several Ottoman hammams that have been turned into art galleries, as well as Byzantine walls, churches, and other monuments. Its most famous landmark is the White Tower – though not at all white – that was built by the Ottomans. In addition to all this, Thessaloniki has been chosen as the European Youth Capital in 2014.
Corfu – or Kerkyra in Greek – is located just off the country’s west coast. Pastel Venetian-era mansions, fortresses, and thousands of olive trees depict the greenest island of Greece. Its cosmopolitan character is a result of the numerous invasions the strategically located island has witnessed, among others from the Venetians, Turkish, Germans, and Brits. The mountainous northern part contrasts with the flat southern half. This, combined with the green interior, sandy beaches, and mild Mediterranean climate, makes it a popular holiday destination.