Greece, officially known as the Hellenic Republic, is located in Southeastern Europe and includes thousands (yes, I said thousands) of islands spread throughout the Ionian and Agean Seas. This country is known for its incredible influence on the history of the world, so much so that it is often referred as “the cradle of Western civilization.”
And that’s not even considering all the Greek myths that inspired so much of our fiction and culture!
If you want to vacation in a country where legends were born and much of history as we know it began, Greece should be your next destination. Let’s take a look at all the things it has to offer.
Entry Requirements to Visit Greece
Greece is a member of the European Union, and has also signed the Schengen agreement. This means that you can travel between Greece and the other 25 Schengen member countries without passing through passport control (which is a big time-saver). It is still a good idea to have your European ID card with you at all times, however, and/or your passport, just in case. For the latest updates on entering the Schengen Zone, you can go to this website.
Best Things to Do in Greece
Climb Mount Olympus
Think Mount Olympus is only a myth? Think again! Located in Litochoro, Mount Olympus is very real, and climbable by anyone with enough stamina and willpower to try. According to Greek mythology, this is the spot where the almighty Zeus sat upon his throne, and also the place where Hades reigned over the Underworld. Climbing this mountain is like climbing inside a legend, which makes it a one of a kind experience you can’t get anywhere else on Earth.
Check out the Monasteries of Meteora
Many countries have monasteries, but not many of them come close to the grandeur of the Monasteries of Meteora. There are six of them remaining, all built atop enormous, tall rock formations and surrounded by monoliths and boulders dating back to ancient times. Eastern Orthodox monks still live and worship here today, where they landed after fleeing from an invasion by the Turkish army.
Visit the Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil
Visitors to Greece spend most of their time looking at ancient ruins and climbing mythical mountains, but that’s not all there is to do here. You can also learn about the history of Greece’s olives and olive oil production at The Museum of the Olive and Olive and Greek Olive Oil, which will give you some real insight into Greece’s culture. In the words of the museum’s staff: “The Museum’s objective is to highlight the ineffable relation of the olive with the identity of our country.” Olives and olive oil are a huge part of what makes Greece “Greece,” so this museum is definitely worth a look.
Best Places to Visit in Greece
How much time do you have? Probably not enough for us to make a list of all the hundreds of culturally, historically, and mythologically significant sites in Greece… so we will focus on our top picks and let you start from there.
Let’s be frank: you haven’t really been to Greece until you have been to the Acropolis. This ancient archeological marvel has been standing for well over 2,460 years and is the symbol of Greek history and culture. Once home to the world-famous statue of Athena, goddess of Greece’s capital city of Athens, it is constructed from stunning, shimmering marble and takes up much of the city’s skyline. Visitors can spend hours here exploring the whole structure, including the equally famous Parthenon.
Another one of Greece’s top tourist sites is Delphi, located beside Mount Parnassus. Devotees of Apollo, the Greek god of music, light, and healing, once came here on a pilgrimage to honor him. You may have heard in myths and stories that this was also the spot where followers would come to get advice from the famous Oracle at Delphi, even if, sadly, that Oracle is no longer there to help guide us. You can still see some truly breathtaking ancient ruins, though, as well as a stadium, a theater, and multiple temples.
If you want to take a break from combing ancient archeological sites, then make a stop at Balos Beach. Located on the island of Crete, this beach is simply gorgeous. It is made up of multiple lagoons that all lead into some of the bluest water visitors have ever seen. That water is clear too: you don’t even have to look to see hundreds of fish and shellfish swimming around, happily living their lives below the surface.
Best Vacation Spots
Here are some of Greece’s top islands to add to your itinerary:
Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, is an amazing amalgamation of historically significant monuments and breathtaking natural features. There are multiple beaches to visit with pink or white sand and clear water, and there is a mountain and a cave that are both said to be the birthplace of the Greek god Zeus. There are also artifacts and structures left behind by the Minoans, the first “civilized” civilization in Europe, as well as a monastery with a legendary golden step that only those without sin are able to see. We also have a full list on the best things to do in Crete, do check it out.
Located off Greece’s northwestern coast, Corfu is an intriguing island that still bears the marks of past British, French, and Venetian rule. You can see these influences in the architecture of its Corfu Town, as well as in its delicious, diverse cuisine. Corfu is also known for its picturesque beaches and its tall, rugged mountains which, if you can reach it after a long drive full of hairpin turns and sheer drop-offs, will give you a spectacular view of the other Ionian Islands, Greece’s mainland, the Italian city of Puglia, and the country of Albania. If you’re looking for more, here’s our list of best things to do in Corfu.
Santorini is like the poster boy of Greece: its square white buildings with blue domes constantly appear in photos of Greece, so much so that the island has come to be synonymous with Greece itself. Here, you’ll find gorgeous sunsets that bring in people from all over the world, ancient sites dating back thousands of years, and an enormous, underwater crater created by the volcano that destroyed the island in the 16th century BC and created the unique red, white, and black beaches that bring visitors there today. For more, do check out our full list on best things to do in Santorini.
Mykonos is known as Greece’s party island — and for good reason. With resorts, beaches, restaurants, and bars that let party-goers dance until long past dawn, this island is a dream for those looking to escape to a place full of luxury, entertainment, and fun. There is more to the island than just its nightlife, though: here you can also see some of Greece’s most famous architecture in the form of The Church of Panagia Paraportiani, as well as the place where not one but two Greek gods, Apollo and Artemis, were born. Oh yeah, and if that weren’t cool enough to convince you, it is also said that this island was built from the petrified remains of the giants Hercules killed during his adventures. This and more can also be found in our full list on best things to do in Mykonos.
Speaking of adventure, do you prefer rugged excursions to pretty architecture and luxury beach resorts? Then Kefalonia is the island for you. Located just a boat ride away from Ithaca, the birthplace of Odysseus, one of the most lauded adventurers of all time, this island is filled with towering limestone cliffs and hills to climb. It is also filled with caves full of myth and mystery, and beaches that may be a bit tough to reach on foot, but are certainly worth the effort when you see the stunning blue water beyond. But, if you absolutely can’t live without a bit of luxury, don’t worry: Makris Gialos Beach was made for those who are looking for a place to relax and have people cater to their every whim. More spots and recommendations can be found in our full list on best things to do in Kefalonia.
Rhodes is the largest of Greece’s Dodecanese Islands, and is home to cultural and architectural influences from numerous historical eras. You can visit ruins of ancient civilizations, castles and other structures built during the Crusades, and even some Gothic-style mansions. In addition to the things of historical interest here, you can also spend time at the much more modern beach resort towns, complete with incredible views of crystal clear waters. Our full list with recommendations can be found here: best things to do in Rhodes.
What is the Best Time to Visit Greece?
Between May and September, Greece is bathed in bright, warm sunshine streaming down from gorgeous, clear blue skies. This makes these months an ideal time to visit, although you may want to consider arriving in late spring or early fall to avoid crowds and to be able to explore all the sights without getting overheated.
What Currency Does Greece Use?
Like most other countries in the European Union, Greece uses the euro as its official currency. Before 2002, it used the Greek drachma or GRD. At the time of this writing, it took 340.75 GRD to equal one euro.
Greece is the perfect place to see myths come to life, but that’s not all you can do here. Young and old travelers alike will enjoy the beaches, nature, museums, architecture, and just general culture of Greece, which is why this is consistently one of the most-visited spots in the Mediterranean.