While it doesn’t look like Greece will be booted out of the European Union, it’s understandable if you’re nervous about any vacation time you have booked there. Just a few weeks ago, after all, people were lining up at empty ATMs after the banks shut down. Just keep in mind one thing: as a tourist, you’re automatically more privileged just by the fact that you weren’t imposed on with the same cash withdrawal limits as the Greeks were.
I spent most of last year travelling around Greece, and I’d jump back there in an instance…crisis or no crisis. The thing is this: the country’s debt issues don’t affect Greece hospitality. My friends working in hospitality assured me that most hotels and hostels were still taking card payments. And if there’s anything I’ve learned about the Greeks, it’s that they’ll take you in and care for you no matter how dire their own situation is. You’re not likely to be stranded on a Mediterranean island without escape anytime soon. (And I mean, if so…who cares?)
If you’re worried about your Greece vacation, here are some very good reasons to explore Greece. Maybe they’ll inspire you to keep that ticket!
Athens has a history spanning 3500 years. It’s considered “the cradle of Western Civilization,” and the birthplace of democracy. Before I went, many people told me to spend as little time as possible there – they complained about dirtiness, or ugliness. Athens turned out to be one of my favourite cities ever. How can you not love a place with that kind of history? Athens is purely Athens: gritty, raw, and honest. It’s not prim and proper like Paris, and that’s what makes it so darn special.
Visiting the Acropolis is never a disappointment. You’ll be in awe of just how enormous the structure is. Then there are the other Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman monuments scattered across the cityscape. Check out the newly opened Acropolis Museum. Wander the streets of the Plaka. And if you are worried about protests and demonstrations, just avoid Syntagma Square when such things are going on.
You wouldn’t believe just how influenced we are by the ancient Greeks. They gave us democracy, and much of our westernized culture comes from there…including our English language. The marathon is a wholly Greek concept, named for Pheidippides who ran 280 miles from Marathon to Athens when the Persians invaded Greece. He warned the Greeks about the invasion, and thus saved the day.
The whole concept of philosophy was born in Greece. Think Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These modern thinkers have shaped us for centuries, including concepts like deductive reasoning. And then, of course, there’s theatre. We might not even have Hollywood if it wasn’t for Greek theatre!
I think it’s the food in Greece I miss the most. No matter how authentic a taverna is outside of Greece, it just isn’t the same as sitting at a table on the waterfront, sipping ouzo and eating mezedes while taking in the Mediterranean. Everything is fresh and local, and the Greeks take great pride in stuffing their guests with food.
I love the mezedes style of dining, eating small plates of food. You’ll find grilled octopus, fried halloumi cheese, baked feta, olives galore, tasty lamb chops, heaping bowls of kalamari, and everything in between. If you ask for ouzo, raki, or tsipouro, you’ll automatically be served with mezedes as well. The Greeks think food and booze go hand in hand…and I can really get behind that idea. To experience the best of it, hop on a food tour in Greece.
Despite being a somewhat small country in size, Greece’s landscape is diverse and varied. But no matter where you are, your surroundings are beautiful. Everywhere. Whether you’re taking in the sparkling sea or the limestone pinnacles at Meteora, or standing on the edge of Santorini’s dizzying caldera, Greece is sure to enchant you. There’s a reason why travellers keep coming back time and time again.
Crete was my favourite island for scenery and outdoorsy stuff. Crete has it all: Venetian towns clustered around tiny harbours, mountain landscapes, sandy beaches, deep valley gorges with epic hiking trails (like Samaria Gorge), and dramatic coastline. But then of course there’s Santorini, with its volcanic history and its whitewashed buildings with blue-domed churches huddled together cliff-side. And then there are the perfect beaches, like the famous and remote Navagio beach on Zakynthos island, only accessible by boat and with a shipwreck washed up on its shores. You’ll hardly believe the blueness of the water is real.
As much as I love Athens, I love island culture even more. Having grown up the east coast of Canada, I desperately need to be by the ocean. The best part is that each Greek island has its own unique and very distinct identity. While I loved the scenery on Santorini, it was the least authentic island for me. And while I loved Ios for all its party options, meeting Greek people was overshadowed by all the tourists.
But the other islands? On Lesbos, completely isolated from most of Greece, I learned that English isn’t a priority but olive-growing and ouzo production is. Hydra is all about slow and steady lifestyle, where there are no cars, and donkeys are the main mode of transportation.
There are even more remote islands than the one mentioned above. Check out Patmos, where St. John apparently conversed with God and wrote the Book of Revelation. There’s a huge fortified monastery here, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or visit Gavdos, at the southernmost European point, home to maybe 100 people.
There’s something for everybody. Partying all night until dawn in Ios? Check. Hike ancient gorges on Crete? Check. Hang out with the locals on every small island in between? Check, check, check.
I became obsessed with Greece because I studied Classics in university, on a whim. I had no idea what other subject to declare as my minor, so I thought I’d give something completely foreign to me a shot. I’m glad I did.
It blew my mind to learn that thousands of years ago people were just as advanced technologically as we are today…perhaps even more so, because they did it all without the aid of computers. Well, mostly. Have you heard of the Antikythera device, an ancient computer found in a shipwreck? Yep. The Greeks did that.
The Greeks were dabbling in literature, theatre, science, and math long before we snatched it all up. And there’s no better way to learn all about it than by visiting Greek’s most important ancient ruins. The Acropolis is the most obvious one, but there’s so much more. Visit the impressive theatre at Delphi, as well as the sacred site there, where people from all over the world made their pilgrimage to speak with the Oracle. Explore the Palace of Knossos on Crete Island, a sprawling palace complex that was home to the powerful Minoans. Pretty much wherever you are in Greece, the ancient world is present.
Speaking from personal experience, the Greek hospitality was incredible. On the island of Chios, I rented an Airbnb apartment and struck up a friendship with the owner, Maria. She took me everywhere – all around the island, to a geometric town I had known nothing about and a castle fortress tucked into the countryside. She bought me lunch, and a frappe, and it was one of my favourite experiences in Greece. We’re still in touch.
The same goes for my other journeys. At one hostel in Santorini, the owners took me on a tour. At another, I left with a bottle of homemade wine. In Athens, I was invited to a big dinner with a Greek group of friends. In Lesbos, my Couchsurfing hosts went out of their way to show me a good time out on the town.
Those experiences alone are worth the trip. What makes Greece a favorite for you?