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Tips for First-Time Travelers Visiting Greece

Αssociated Press

Tourists take pictures in front of the fifth century BC Parthenon temple at the Acropolis hill in Athens, Wednesday, July 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

NEW YORK – Visitors experiencing Greece for the first time have a unique opportunity to experience the beautiful landscapes and seascapes, the delicious food, and the remarkable culture and history that will have them longing for a return trip every year. Lonely Planet, the well-known travel guide publisher offered its list of tips for first-time travelers to Greece, but even those who visit annually can add some of the sites mentioned to their itinerary.

Athens is sometimes overlooked by travelers on their way to their island destinations in the summertime, but everyone should take the time to experience the iconic ancient sites that have impressed visitors from antiquity onward. Lonely Planet highlighted the Acropolis with the world-famous Parthenon and the Erechtheion supported by the Caryatids, as well as the Acropolis Museum, the Ancient Agora, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium. Among the Roman sites, Lonely Planet listed “Hadrian’s Arch and the Roman Agora with its evocative Tower of the Winds.”

Athens’ Monastiraki and Plaka were also on Lonely Planet’s list, for the Monastiraki Flea Market and the shops selling “souvenirs, clothes, leather goods, jewelry and burnished antiques” and “bistro-like Café Avissinia, which is tucked amid heaps of restored furniture and fascinating baubles and has Acropolis views from its top floors,” while “nearby Plaka offers a warren of historic streets jammed with souvenir shops.”

The well-known coffee culture of Greece was also noted in the Lonely Planet article, singling out the “barista champions The Underdog” among the cafes of Athens and “the central squares of towns throughout the islands and countryside, sitting for a coffee and a long round of people-watching and gossip is a pastime not to be missed.”

Lonely Planet advised, “Order a Greek coffee, either sketo (plain),metrio (with some sugar) or glyko (super-sweet), and watch the world go by.”

The tip for Santorini (Thira) is not to visit in the high season with the crowds, Lonely Planet reported, noting that “the rest of the year it’s more peaceful, and it’s easier to get an unobstructed view of the striated ochre cliffs cradling the caldera.” The iconic view of the glorious sunset is best from the town of Oia, the Lonely Planet reported.

For those who enjoy sharp contrasts when visiting islands, Lonely Planet recommends Mykonos, “the land of glitz, glam and 24-hour parties,” and its neighboring island Delos “one of Greece’s most treasured ancient sites” and “mythical birthplace of twins Apollo and Artemis,” for “a little dose of serious history to leaven the non-stop romp on Mykonos.”

“Island hopping in the Cyclades,” is also recommended by Lonely Planet which noted that “each island has its own character, and a visit to places like the wonderful, volcanic Milos, precious, princess-like Sifnos, raw, countrified Serifos or fertile, mountainous Naxos (to name just a few) adds enormous breadth to a first-time trip.”

The island of Hydra is recommended for its proximity to Athens, as “a delight that awaits just an hour and a half from the main port of Piraeus” and for “its picturesque horseshoe-shaped harbor town with gracious stone mansions stacked up the rocky hillsides is known as a retreat for artists, writers and celebrities,” Lonely Planet reported, adding that “there are no motorized vehicles (apart from sanitation trucks), leading to unspoiled trails along the coast and into the mountains.”

Festivals in Greece are held year-round and also recommended, though travelers should check in case safety restrictions due to coronavirus have affected the festival schedule. Saints days, the Patras Carnival, Greek Easter, and in the summer, the Athens & Epidaurus Festival are among the celebrations mentioned by Lonely Planet.

Dining with friends and family outdoors, at a seafood taverna, to experience “the long lunch” is also a staple of the summer trip to Greece. “Sip endless afternoon ouzo accompanied by a continuous parade of mezedes (small dishes): meatballs, zucchini balls, fresh fish, taramosalata (fish roe dip) and more,” Lonely Planet reported, adding that “lazy laughter with a continuous feast in the beauty of the Greek outdoors, ideally beachside… nothing compares. Top food islands are Lesvos (Mytilini), Corfu, Crete and Tinos."

Of course, no trip to Greece is complete without spending time on the gorgeous beaches and it would probably take at least a few lifetimes to enjoy them all, but Lonely Planet recommends various beaches from “Santorini and Milos’ multihued volcanic rocks to Kefallonia and Lefkada’s broad, vast sweeps of soft sand or small white stones.”

Lonely Planet also noted that “the waters of Sifnos sparkle like rainbows,” “Paros is known for world-class kite surfing,” and “little Kythnos has a double-sided beach, arcing out into the sea.”

More information about visiting Greece is available online: visitgreece.gr.