Tourism is one of Greece’s most important economic sectors. 33 million tourists decided to visit the country in 2018 and it doesn’t come as a surprise — Greece can count on an incredible amount of attractions, especially considering that it’s a relatively small country.
There are 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece, one of the highest numbers in the world. But the ancient center of Mediterranean civilization isn’t only an ideal destination for cultural tourists: Greece is also one of Europe’s most popular LGBTQ+-friendly destinations as well as being home to some of the continent’s most enchanting islands and beaches. Finally, many decide to head to Greece for religious tourism thanks to the presence of monasteries of great historical and religious significance.
In short, Greece has something for everyone. In this article, you’ll find useful travel advice for foreigners that will help you plan an unforgettable Greek holiday that matches your needs and preferences.
- Unmissable attractions in Greece that everyone will enjoy
- The most popular Greek islands for different types of tourists
- The most romantic places for couples and kid-friendly destinations
- Historical and culturally-rich holidays
What Should You Not Miss in Greece?
It’s hard to prioritize your holiday destinations, especially in a country that is as rich in tourist attractions as Greece. Although less-known sites in this country are often as good as the more famous ones, below is a list of popular destinations and experiences that tourists should not miss out on:
- The Acropolis of Athens. Head here after having had breakfast downtown. The morning temperature will make for a pleasant walk uphill. The religious and social center of the ancient Greek world is exceptionally well-preserved and includes the unmissable Acropolis museum.
- Cyclades islands. It’s just impossible to travel to Greece without including a visit to its famous islands. The villages on these islands look exactly like a postcard: white small picturesque houses, blue-domed churches, and paved paths. Not to mention idyllic white-sand beaches.
- Traditional food. Not only Greek cuisine is among the finest in the world, but it’s also simple and often affordable — think dishes made with fresh local ingredients of the highest quality and recipes passed down for generations. Like most Mediterranean diets, Greek food involves a great number of healthy vegetables and lean proteins like seafood and white meats. Unless you fall into a tourist trap, you’re also unlikely to be disappointed by a glass of the house wine.
What Is the Best Greek Island to Visit?
Undoubtedly, the islands are one of the top reasons why Americans decide to book a flight and get a travel permit for Greece. Although similarly heavenly, islands can vary greatly in atmosphere and activities. Some attract masses of party-goers, while others are more popular among honeymooners.
Santorini: the Most Romantic Greek Island
By some considered the site of the disappearance of ancient Atlantis, modern-day Santorini is the remaining part of a much bigger island (that ancient Greeks called Thera) that was affected by a volcanic eruption that occurred about 3,600 years ago.
The eruption left a large caldera that gives Santorini its unique charm: Santorini was ranked the world’s top island by many travel magazines and is reached by 2 million tourists every year. Couples from all over the world decide to head here for their honeymoon to take a photo under the famous Santorini sunset.
The volcanic activity also caused the formation of colored-sand beaches — every day, you can choose whether to lie on a black, white or even red beach, not to mention the chance to observe stunning rock formations and lunar landscapes.
Clubbing in Mykonos, the Most LGBTQ+-Friendly Island
Young tourists heading to Greece have no doubts, the best nightlife can be found in Mykonos. From drag shows to historical clubs where holidaymakers have been dancing until dawn for decades, there are options for everyone. Even traditional tavernas and restaurants stay open until late here. It’s an inclusive community that will make everyone have fun and feel at ease.
Yet, Mykonos is also stunning during the day: the narrow lanes of medieval Mykonos Town are definitely picturesque and there are many beaches to explore and relax before heading to town for a night out.
The Best Island for Families: Naxos
If you’re heading to Europe with family and kids, the island of Naxos will make for a relaxing and fun destination. Most beaches are shallow and safe so that you can let the children play in the water for hours without a worry.
Moreover, Naxos is famous for having some of the best restaurants and tavernas in the country. Explore its many villages to find hidden gems and pay attention to dish names to try the recipes at home with the whole family.
Archaelogical Greece: Where to Go for Cultural Holidays
Ancient Greece was a culturally vibrant civilization to which much of modern Western society owes. Its philosophy and literature, its progress in architecture and navigation techniques shaped the ancient world and opened the path to modernization.
A trip to Greece is an opportunity to check out its many world-class archaeological sites and museums and learn about a thrilling past. At the same time, there are plenty of music, literature, and theatre festivals that will allow you to find out what’s new in the creative world.
There are so many that it’s very unlikely that anyone could fit them all in just the span of a holiday. That’s why you can find below some of the most remarkable cultural hotspots of Greece other than the unmissable Acropolis in Athens (mentioned above).
The Centre of Ancient Religious Life: Delphi
On the slopes of the famous Mount Parnassus in upper Central Greece, Delphi was the spiritual center of the ancient Greek civilization. People were so devoted to this place that they thought here was where one could get closest to the gods.
Rulers and military leaders came here to visit the temple of Apollos, where the Oracle consulted with the gods to see the future and give advice on matters of paramount importance.
Many of the original buildings (including houses, baths, and markets) are still intact. The highlight of the visit is represented by a 14,000-seats theatre with perfect acoustic —you can hear a coin drop in the center of the theatre from anywhere in the building.
Why Are they Called Olympic Games?
There’s nothing quite like being able to say to have run in the stadium where the Olympic Games were born. You can do it in Olympia, whose remains are in the Valley of the Gods, an idyllic countryside background.
Here, in 776 BC Greeks started the tradition of Panhellenic Games (literally, games the whole of Greece participated in), the precursors of modern-era Olympic Games. No less than 20,000 people could watch running, wrestling, riding, boxing, and pentathlon competitions.
Greece’s Largest Island: Crete
Not only it’s the largest and most populated of the Greek Islands. Crete is also home of mysteries and legends. And since it has so much space and so much to offer, the island is worth a whole holiday in itself.
Knossos, for example, the capital of the ancient Minoan civilization, hosts the famous labyrinth where the mythological Minotaur (a creature believed to be half-man, half-bull) lived and terrorized the local population until brave Theseus killed him.
But Crete also offers stunning natural landscapes made of deep gorges and snow-capped mountains. Finally, the whole island is surrounded by exotic beaches and enchanting caves.