Ferie i Hellas
Greece is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, ranking in the world's top 20 countries. According to the Greek Ministry of Tourism, the nation received about 17 million visitors from January to mid August 2007, a large number for a small country of 11 million. Visitors are drawn to the country's beaches and reliable sunny summer weather, its nightlife, historical sites and natural beauty.
Backstreets of charming Firá, SantoríniOver 90% of visitors who come to Greece come from other European countries, although in recent years there have been growing numbers of tourists from other world regions. The vast majority of visitors arrive during tourism season, which is April through October. Peak season is July through August, and most of the tourists and tourism industry are concentrated in Crete, the Dodecanese, Cyclades, and Western Greek Islands, and to a lesser extent: the Peloponnese, and the Halkidiki peninsula in Macedonia. There are still many rewarding areas in the country free of large-scale tourism.
Many first-time visitors arrive in Greece with specific images in mind and are surprised to discover a country with such regional and architectural diversity. The famous whitewashed homes and charming blue-domed churches only characterize a specific region of the country (the Cyclades Islands). Architecture varies greatly from one region to the next depending on the local history. Visitors will find Neoclassical architecture in the cities of Ermoupolis and Nafplion, Ottoman-influenced buildings in Grevená and Kozáni, whitewashed Cycladic homes on the island of Paros, and pastel-colored baroque homes and churches on Corfu. The nation's terrain is just as varied as its architectural heritage: idyllic beaches, towering mountain ranges, wine-producing valleys, vast stretches of olive orchards in the south, and lush forests in the north. Greece's historical sights are just as varied; the country is littered with just as many medieval churches and castles as classical ruins and temples.
Greece (Ελλάς, Hellas) is a country in Southern Europe, on the southernmost tip of the Balkan peninsula, with extensive coastlines and islands in the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas. It shares borders in the north with Albania, the FYROM, Bulgaria, and Turkey. It has an ancient culture that has had a significant influence on the arts, language, philosophy, politics, and sports of western society, including the genres of comedy and drama, western alphabets, Platonic ideals and the Socratic method, democracies and republics, and the Olympics. Furthermore it's a geographically appealing place to visit, with a mountainous mainland and idyllic island beaches.
The following divisions reflect the approach to the country which will be taken by most travelers in deciding where to go. Articles within these five sections will be arranged with a view to enabling travelers to sort out which specific destinations best match their interests.
Attica (including Athens)
Central and Northern Greece
Major cities include:
Athens (Αθήνα) - the capital city
Heraklion (Ηράκλειο) - Crete's largest city and main hub
Larissa (Larisa)-the country's fourth largest city
Thessaloniki (Θεσσαλονίκη) - the country's second largest city
Corfu - large island with many attractions.
Crete - island with varied attractions.
Delphi - site of the famous oracle of Apollo, major archeological site.
Meteora - hilltop monasteries.
Ithaca - famous home of Odysseus and the greek gods.
Mount Athos - semi-independent ecclesiastical republic.
Mykonos - world famous sophisticated vacation center.
Olympia - sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, site of the ancient Olympics.
Rhodes -island with ancient monuments, as well as beaches.
Despite its small size, Greece has a varied climate.
Most of the country, including all coastal areas, enjoys a so-called Mediterranean climate, almost identical to much of California. Summers are hot and dry with a 7-month period of near-constant sunshine generally from April until November. The remainder of the year is characterized by a relatively cold, rainy period which generally starts sometime in November and lasts until late March or early April. Sporadic rains do occur during the dry season, but they tend to be rare, quick showers. The country’s Ionian Coast and Ionian Islands tend to receive more annual precipitation than the rest of the country. The islands in the southern Aegean and parts of the southeastern mainland are the driest areas of the country.
The most pleasant weather occurs in May-June and September-October. The warmest time of the year starts in mid-July and generally lasts until mid-August, when the annual meltémi winds from the north cool the country. Mid-July to mid-August is the height of summer, and the midday sun tends to get very strong; during this time, most Greeks avoid heavy physical activity outdoors between 1PM and 5PM. It is best advised to get in tune with the local way of life by waking up early, doing all sightseeing and errands in the cool morning hours, and then spending the afternoon in the relaxing shade or at the beach. In fact, the bulk of tourists arrive in Greece during the height of summer, to do just that! For visitors from more northerly climates, the off season from November through February can be a rewarding time to see Greece. It will not be beach weather, but temperatures are mild. The much added bonus is that there will be very few other tourists and reduced prices.
Summer evenings tend to be very rewarding. As strong as the sun may get on a summer afternoon, the low levels of atmospheric humidity in most areas of the country prevent the air from trapping much heat, and temperatures tend to dip to very pleasant levels in the evenings. But even during midday, high temperatures actually tend to be quite comfortable as long as the time is not spent doing a lot of walking or other physical activity. (Athens, however, can still be uncomfortably warm during summer afternoons due to the predominance of concrete in the city, an effect similar to New York City.) Coastal areas near open waters (away from tightly-closed bays and gulfs) especially on many of the islands, tend to be quite breezy, and can be quite cold at night.
While the Mediterranean climate characterizes most of the country, there are two other climate systems that are present. One is the cool Alpine climate which is found on mountainous areas of the country's interior, including many high-altitude valleys. Another system is the Continental climate found on the interiors of north-central and northeastern Greece, and gives those areas very cold winters and warm, relatively humid summers.
Greece can be entered by car from any of its land neighbors. From Italy, ferries will transport cars to Greece. From western Europe, the most popular route to Greece was through Yugoslavia. Following the troubles in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, most motorists from western Europe came overland by Italy, and then took a trans-Adriatic ferry from there. Although the countries of the former Yugoslavia have since stabilized, and Hungary-Romania-Bulgaria form another, albeit a much longer, alternative, the overland route through Italy now remains the most popular option.
A frequently asked question of travelers in Greece is whether they should rent a car. The primary advantage of having a car is that you can cover a lot more ground per day if you're traveling in rural areas or on the larger islands: you can get almost anywhere in Greece by bus, but some isolated villages may only have one or two buses per day, and having your own car means you don't have to wait in the summer heat for the bus to come. Almost all archeological sites are accessible by bus, but at some of the more remote, less famous, sites, the bus may drop you off up to a mile away from the site, while with a car you can almost always get right to the site via at least a rough road.
On the other hand, going car-free in Greece is not only possible, but offers significant advantages, while driving involves a number of disadvantages. Though many people find driving in Greece easy and even pleasant, others are concerned by the high accident rate (one of the highest in Europe), the national reputation for risky driving, and the presence of many twisty mountainous roads, sometimes hugging the side of a cliff. Gas is as expensive as anywhere. (For more on driving conditions in Greece see below.) Driving in Athens and other big cities can be a frustrating, and sometimes hair-raising, experience, and finding parking can be very difficult. And having a car greatly restricts your flexibility when island-hopping, since only the larger, and usually slower, ferries offer car transport, which must be paid for in addition to your passenger ticket. Traveling by bus is not only cheaper but offers a greater chance of striking up conversations with both locals and other travelers than going by car. Language is not usually a problem for English speakers in using public transit: wherever there is significant tourism in Greece bus schedules are posted in English, and bus drivers and conductors, as well as taxi drivers, will understand at least enough English to answer your questions
Public transit can be supplemented by taxis (see below), which in many places, especially the islands, offer fixed rates to various beaches, which can be affordable especially if the price is shared among several people. And on many islands it's possible to get places by walking, which can be a pleasant experience in itself.
If you enjoy the local traditions and charm, unhurried rhythm of living, small, family-run pensions are the best way to enrich your experience. Owners and personnel there are friendly and open-minded, compared to the impersonal service you normally encounter in large hotels.
If you have a bigger budget, renting a villa is a luxurious and splendid idea. They are normally near or on the beach and provide more space and a great view.
Greek is the national official language and is the native tongue of the vast majority of the population, but the English speaking visitor will encounter no significant language problem. English is the most widely studied and understood of foreign languages in Greece, followed by French, Italian, and German. Basic knowledge of English can be expected from almost all personnel in the tourism industry and public transport services, as well as most Greeks under the age of 40. However, learning a few Greek terms, such as "hello" and "thank you" will be warmly received.