In the past five years, Greece has had an average of 20 million visitors and is considered one of the top 12 countries to visit worldwide. Whether for the culture, sights, or food, tourists come in hopes of experiencing as much of what Greece has to offer.
The difference between a good and a great visit to Greece can depend on many factors including your budget, time, interests, etc. Nevertheless, having these 12 tips for getting around Greece could make your experience in Greece this summer less stressful and more memorable.
Having an idea beforehand of what you’d like your trip to be like can save you lots of time, effort, and money in the long run. As tempting as it may be, it is impossible to visit every place of interest in a single trip. To optimize your visit, do some research on the places and activities you’d be interested in and if possible book them in advance.
With Greece’s popularity as a getaway location, it may be difficult to find reservations closer to the peak summer season. It’s also important to investigate what kind of travel documents are required for your trip. You don’t want your trip to end before it even began.
Getting to Greece is not very difficult. Undoubtedly, flying is the fastest and most convenient way to get there, but not necessarily the best way for you. With the majority of visitors to Greece coming from Europe, the train, ferry, or car ride offers more possibilities for sightseeing and exploration as compared to a flight. Surprisingly, the cost of these modes of land travel is usually cheaper than flying but can become just as expensive depending on your required level of comfort. It all comes down to the experience you are looking for.
For international flights, the airfare to Greece may vary greatly depending on how early it is booked and for what time of the year. Direct flights are the best valued, but not as common. It’s more common to have layovers and connecting flights before arriving in Greece. The Greek Airport is pet friendly and offers several ways to travel in-island. If possible, choose to layover in London. From there, travelers have many options to get to Greece.
Most tourists to Greece come from either the EU or the U.S. Understandably, tourism is an integral part of the country’s GDP providing 25% of the national total. Expect to see many vendors, stalls, and merchants all geared at highlighting all things Greek; culture and history.
The city of Athens sees the most visitors of any Greek city. Heraklion and Rhodes are also popular destinations, with all three cities being vibrant with life, especially during the summer peak season between July and August.
If you are looking to interact with more people and learn about the culture and history of Greece, then Peloponnese is a must-visit. Peloponnesia, as it is also called, is one of four peninsulas that lies in the southern region of Greece and is connected to the main region by an Isthmus of Corinth land bridge. It hosts many important archaeological sites like Epidaurus, Olympia and Mycenae. It is also the origin place of many legends including Sparta, Paris of Troy and even the legend of Hercules can be traced back to Peloponnese.
While in the south of Greece, be sure to explore neighboring cities and areas of interest: Aeropoli in Laconic Mani for its breathtaking architecture and historical sites and Elafonisos for its unspoilt natural beauty and amazing beaches. Nafplion is also a good option as one of the most romantic towns in Greece and embodies Greek culture.
It’s practically impossible to avoid the tourist crowds during the summer, but if you do want to, there are other cities and places of interest outside of the aforementioned famed three cities. The islands of Chios, Karpathos, and Nisyros are beautiful and unique in their respective ways. They carry a lot of natural and historical appeal.
Greece has one of the most mountainous countries in Europe, with 80% of the country being mountainous. You needn’t go very far to feel connected to nature. It is also the perfect terrain for hiking and exploring. If you are looking to get closer to nature, then the Sikinos countryside and beaches of Koufonisia are excellent choices. Anafi and Samothraki are also great locations with diverse fauna and flora to discover.
Greece boasts a diverse natural environment from sands of the beaches to sands of the deserts. In between, you can find mountains, waterfalls, natural pools, and even craters. Some of these gems include the Lagoons of Balos, the Melissani Lake Cave, and the Gomati Desert. Greece is truly a nature lover’s paradise.
A visit to Greece in the summer is drastically different from the winter. Summertime is considered the peak season (from June to September) when the weather is warm and the cities are bustling with life. Understandably, there is a larger volume of tourists and prices are markedly higher. It’s much easier to get around and there are various modes of travel and busy transit schedules to accommodate this increase in tourist population.
Summertime in Greece can get as hot as 40°C so it is the perfect place to get away from cold weather and increase your vitamin D intake. Conversely, the heat can take a toll on your body so ensure that you drink enough water and stay cool. The landscape is breathtaking all year round, although it may be more colorful during the fall.
During the winter (November-March) the weather is cooler, the landmarks are not as crowded and it’s easier to get around. There are also various centers and resorts for winter activities like skiing and snowboarding, although many of the usual tourist locations and amenities would be closed or unavailable.
With the plethora of historical and cultural options to visit, choosing one may be overwhelming. However, some locations are highly recommended and are always a safe bet.
(1) Athens: Europe’s oldest the hottest capital city. Athens is practically littered with ancient landmarks like the Acropolis Museum and Parthenon.
(2) Santorini: One of the most famous Greek islands. It has a truly picturesque environment, from the architecture of the buildings to the steep cliffs for viewing sunsets.
(3) Thessaloniki: The city receives almost 300 days of sunshine per year. Popular for its lovely beaches and rich cultural heritage.
(4) Corfu: Corfu is covered with much more lush vegetation than other parts of Greece. A great place to investigate the natural environment.
(5) Crete: Greece’s largest island. It holds great historical significance for ancient civilizations.
(6) Meteora: a rock formation in central Greece near the town of Kalabaka and the location of largest and most important Eastern Orthodox monasteries.
Greece may be better known for its historical significance, but Greek food is one of the tastiest in the world. Much like other types of cuisine, nothing comes close to the authentic style and taste of a dish, when it is cooked in the country of origin by the local people. That is to say, eating Greek outside of Greece is not the same as when you are there. Possibly the location and environment add to the flavor of the meal.
Moussakas is the most known Greek food in the US but it’s certainly not the only one. Make sure you try the grilled fish (like Sea Bream & Bass) and other seafood dishes like stuffed calamari octopus and shrimp. Some Greek appetizers are also pretty popular: like fava, mackerel, taramosalata, horta (steamed greens), melitzanosalata (smoked eggplant), kolokythokeftedes (zucchini balls) etc. When you are done with the appetizers, make room for delectable main dishes like beef with tomato sauce and orzo (giouvetsi), gemista (stuffed peppers and tomatoes with rice, raisins, pine and herbs), soutzoukakia (meatballs with lamb, beef and pork meat), Greek pies, and mpougatsa (sweet and savory).
Getting around Mainland Greek is not a problem. The mainland offers varied methods of travel but the bus system is the most encompassing. You can practically travel anywhere around the mainland by bus since every city has a KTEL bus station.
Language may become an issue since the bus system wasn’t designed for the tourists but more for the local population. Nevertheless, a friendly conversation with a local or a pre-installed language program on your mobile could solve this issue. Bus tickets need to be purchased before boarding but prices are economical. Buses are clean and driven safely. Taking the bus is also a chance to take a look at the local architecture and terrain.
Renting a car is also a good option for traveling to Greece. Undoubtedly, renting is more expensive than public transport, but offers more comfort and convenience of movement. Airports and cities have local car rental offices and it’s not difficult to find and reserve a car. Even the respective islands have their car rentals so it’s possible to rent a car on the island you are visiting as well.
Plan accordingly and rent vehicles for specific locations and durations. To rent the car you’ll need your national driver’s license, an international driver’s license, passport, and credit card.
Renting a moped is the best and most popular way of getting around the islands. It costs around 25 Euros per day and four-wheel rentals are pretty common. They afford more freedom of movement and fun. On the contrary, moped rides can be dangerous even for experienced riders. Greek island roads are not the best maintained so you should avoid the mode of travel unless you are experienced and confident in your maneuvering ability.
Taxis are also an option for getting around Greece if you can catch one. Greek taxis are difficult to flag down and may already have passengers traveling in the same general area. Think of it like Uber share, where you share the ride and the fare. If you are tech-friendly then there is an app called “Beat” that is often used for reserving taxis.
The most common ways of getting to the Greek islands are by plane and ferry. Not every Greek island has an airport but that causes little cause for concern. Once within the islands, there are several ways to get between islands. For those where money is of little concern, private yachts and luxury boat cruises are great options; comfort and convenience. For those on a budget, the ferries are the best option to get around the islands. The ticket prices are reasonable and they stop on many other islands on their route.
Every island is different and their own appeal for visitors, natural, cultural or historical. For instance, the island of Patmos famed to be the location where Saint John wrote the book of revelations.
When traveling between islands, it’s advised to carry as little as possible since they could get cumbersome to carry around. There is another faster option for island hopping using Catamarans and hydrofoils. This option is much faster than the ferry but there are often cancellations due to bad weather or sea conditions, therefore not the most reliable mode of transport.