GREECE Holidays

Athens

Athens is the capital city of Greece with a metropolitan population of 3.7 million inhabitants. It is in many ways the birthplace of Classical Greece, and therefore of Western civilization. Athens. The city with the most glorious history in the world, a city worshipped by gods and people, a magical city. The enchanting capital of Greece has always been a birthplace for civilization. It is the city where democracy was born and most of the wise men of ancient times. The most important civilization of ancient world flourished in Athens and relives through some of the world's most formidable edifices. Athens is situated in the prefecture of Attica and extends to the peninsula that reaches up to Central Greece. It is surrounded by mountains Ymmytos, Pendeli and Parnitha, northwards and eastwards, and the Saronic gulf southwards and westwards. The sun is shining over Athens all year round. The climate is one of the best in Europe, with mild winters and very hot summers, ideal for tourism. It is located just a few kilometers from the port of Piraeus, the central commercial port of the capital, and the shores of southern Attica. Athens is constantly inhabited since Neolithic Age. In 1834 Athens was chosen to be the capital of the newly established Greek State. Cheap flights make it affordable and easy to reach Athens for vacation or business. Athens is a city of different aspects. Old mansions, well-preserved ones and other worn down by time. Luxurious department stores and small intimate shops, fancy restaurants and traditional taverns. All have their place in this city. The heart of Athens beats in Syntagma Square. Where Parliament and most of the Ministries are. Monastiraki, Kolonaki and Lycabettus Hill attract thousands of visitors all year round. A few kilometers from the historic center in Faliro, Glyfada, Voula and Vouliagmeni, you can enjoy the sea breeze. Or you can head up north and enjoy the fresh air at the more classy neighborhoods of Marousi, Melissia, Vrilissia and of course Kifisia. Athens and Attica in general have the most important archaeological monuments (Acropolis, Odeion of Herodes Atticus, Olymbion, Roman Market, Panathinaiko Stadium or Kallimarmaro, The Temple of Poseidon in Sounio, etc). Don't miss visiting the museums hosting unique treasures of our cultural inheritance (Archaeological Museum, Military Museum, Byzantine Museum, etc). Athens has always attracted peoples' attention. During the 2004 Olympic Games proved that, despite all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, she never - not once - lost the talent. The return of Olympic Games to their birthplace was a great success. The capital is famous, more than any other European capital, for its nightlife.

CRETE

Crete (occasionally spelled "Krete" in English) is the largest of the Greek islands and is in the Mediterranean Sea between the Sea of Crete and the Libyan Sea, south of the Peloponnese. Crete is approximately 260 km long and 60 km wide. Crete consists of four prefectures: Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion and Lasithi. If there was a beauty contest for Greek islands, Crete would surely be among the favorites. Indeed, some say there is no place on earth like Crete. This view is strongly supported by those fortunate enough to have visited the island. Crete, with a population of approximately 650,000, is not just sun, sea and sand; it is a quite distinct place full of vitality, warmth, hospitality, culture and of course an excellent infrastructure. Crete is well known for its seas and beaches but it has a very contrasting landscape. The island goes from fertile coastal plains to rugged mountains and from busy metropolitan cities to very peaceful hillside villages. If you travel throughout Crete you can clearly see remnants of Roman and Turkish aqueducts and architecture from when these people invaded the island long ago. You will also find ancient Minoan ruins around the island. Crete is the largest island in Greece, and the fifth largest one in the Mediterranean Sea. Here, you can admire the remnants of brilliant civilizations, explore glorious beaches, impressive mountainscapes, fertile valleys and steep gorges, and become part of the island’s rich gastronomic culture. Crete is, after all, a small universe teeming with beauties and treasures that you will probably need a lifetime to uncover. Crete is an island with an exquisite 1,000 kilometer-long coastline dotted with numerous coves, bays and peninsulas, which afford a multitude of soft, sandy beaches along the beautifully blue Mediterranean Sea. After all, it's among the finest in the world and has established Crete as one of Europe's most popular holiday destinations. And, of course, the island's historic importance in today's world as the home of the Minoan civilizationwith important archeological finds at Knossos, Phaistos and Gortys, is evidenced by the tens of thousands of visitors to these sites each year. However, Crete is the largest island in Greece - the fifth largest in the Mediterranean - and, within its diverse area of more than 8,000 square kilometers, there are many other jewe ls just waiting to be discovered by the more adventurous explorers of holiday treasures. If you haven’t visited Crete yet, this summer may be the time to come and discover this fascinating Greek island. If it captures your heart, don’t worry. Come back next year and Crete will welcome you once more with its smiling Cretan sun, the sounds of the Cretan lyre, the scents of orange blossom and jasmine, a slice of cool red watermelon and a glass of iced raki.

DELPHI

At the foot of Mount Parnassos, within the angle formed by the twin rocks of the Phaedriades, lies the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, which had the most famous oracle of ancient Greece. Delphi was regarded as the centre of the world. The sanctuary was the centre of the Amphictyonic League, an association of twelve tribes of Thessaly and the Sterea (south-central Greece), with religious and later political significance. The Amphictyonic League controlled the operation and finances of the sanctuary, as it designated its priests and other officials chosen from among the inhabitants of Delphi. In the sixth century BC, under the League's protection and administration, the sanctuary was made autonomous (First Sacred War), it increased its territory and political and religious influence throughout Greece, and reorganised the Pythian Games, the second most important games in Greece after the Olympics, which were held every four years. Today, the Greek Archaeological Service and the French School at Athens continue to research, excavate and conserve the two Delphic sanctuaries. Of all the monuments, only the Treasury of the Athenians had enough of its original building material preserved to allow for its almost complete reconstruction. The Chiot altar, the Temple of Apollo and the Tholos were also partially restored. In 1927 and 1930, the poet Angelos Sikelianos and his wife, Eva, attempted to revive the Delphic idea and make of Delphi a new cultural centre of the earth, through a series of events that included performances of ancient theatre. According to mythology, it is here that the two eagles sent out by Zeus from the ends of the universe to find the navel of the world met. The sanctuary of Delphi, set within a most spectacular landscape, was for many centuries the cultural and religious centre and symbol of unity for the Hellenic world. The ancient Greeks believed Delphi to be the 'navel of the earth'. Modern-day visitors to this UNESCO World Heritage site, perched on the slopes of Mount Parnassos, still find inspiration in its stunning setting and ancient ruins. According to Greek mythology, Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the world and they met in Delphi; on a hot summer's day, it often feels as though much of the world is meeting here too. To avoid some of the crowds, your guide may suggest beginning your Delphi tour early in the morning or later in the evening. Be sure to visit the Sanctuaries of Apollo Pythios and Athena Pronaia. North of Delphi you can visit the town of Thebes, birthplace of the legendary Hercules, and the scenic village of Arahova, famous for its woven handicrafts. Your guide will be sure that along the way you sample the local cuisine - homemade tiropita, fresh yoghurt and honey, and perhaps a glass or two of retsina. Enjoy your private Delphi tour!

GREEK ISLAND

The islands are the main characteristic of Greece’s morphology and an integral part of the country’s culture and tradition. Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 islands are inhabited. This is a truly unique phenomenon for the European continent. The Greek Archipelago takes up 7,500 km of the country’s total 16,000 km coastline, offering a highly diversified landscape: beaches stretching over many kilometers, sheltered bays and coves, sandy beaches with sand-dunes, pebble beaches, coastal caves with steep rocks and dark colored sand typical of volcanic soil and coastal wetlands. Many of these Greek beaches have been awarded the blue flag under the Blue Flags of Europe Program, providing not only swimming, but also scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing, sailing and windsurfing. Some of the oldest European civilizations developed on the Greek islands (Cycladic, Minoan civilizations, etc.), so therefore the islands have unique archeological sites, a distinctive architectural heritage and the fascinating local traditions of a centuries-old and multifaceted civilization. The ideal climate, safe waters and small distances between ports and coasts, have made the Greek islands extremely popular among Greek and foreign visitors. Greece is fairly classed amongst the best worldwide holidays’ destinations; indeed, many people are naturally attracted by the country that gave birth to the earliest advanced Civilizations, in order to meet its rich historical and cultural heritage often studied at school, to explore its traditions and spirit and to explore the treasures of its admirable locations and environment, with thousands of Greek Islands, mountains and a great regional and architectural diversity. Its greatest riches are the islands, ranging from backwaters where the boat calls twice a week to resorts as cosmopolitan as any in the Mediterranean. For anyone with a cultural bone in their body Greece cannot fail to inspire. Minoans, Romans, Arabs, Latin Crusaders, Venetians, Slavs, Albanians and Turks have all left their mark, and almost every town or village has a link to the past, whether it’s a delicately crumbling temple to Aphrodite, a forbidding Venetian fort or a dusty Byzantine monastery decorated with exquisite frescoes. And let’s not forget the museums stuffed to bursting with Classical sculpture and archeological treasures. But the call to cultural duty will never be too overwhelming on a Greek holiday. The hedonistic pleasures of languor and warmth – swimming in balmy seas at dusk, talking and drinking under the stars – are just as appealing. Bar a few upmarket and “boutique” exceptions you may struggle to find five-star comfort – orthopaedic mattresses, faultless plumbing and cordon bleu cuisine are not the country’s strongpoint – but this isn’t really what the Greek experience is about. Greek food, for example, is at its best fresh, abundant and uncomplicated, while the genuine welcome you receive at the simplest taverna is often enough to get you booking next year’s break as soon as you have returned home.

METEORA

Meteora is one of the most exciting destinations of Greece. Meteora is located somewhere in the middle of the country, in Thessaly, far from the sunny beaches that most visitors are familiar with, and it is a great place to experience a spectacular landscape and Byzantine monasteries perched on top of steep rocks. It is also a favorite destination for rock climbers who come from around the world to conquer the unique rock formations. The name "Meteora" means "suspended in mid-air", and the name was coined by monk Athanasios in the 14th century CE. Athanasios came from Mt. Athos and founded the first monastery on a rock he named the Megalo Meteoron (Great Meteoron). The main reason for visiting Meteora is to experience the unique landscape and to visit the Byzantine monasteries that house priceless artifacts and wall paintings. Athanasios followed in the footsteps of a number of monks who used the caverns on the face of steep rocks, and the tall terraces for their spiritual isolation from the material world. The first hermits dwelled on rudimentary wooden structures clinging to the faces of the rocks high above the ground as far back as the 11th c. CE. The main reason for visiting Meteora is to experience the unique landscape and to visit the Byzantine monasteries that house priceless artifacts and wall paintings. Meteora is also a great destination for outdoor activities. The steep rock formations of Meteora are an irresistible destination for rock climbers who travel from around the world for the experience. Although automobiles can take you near the monasteries via asphalt road (prepare for some step-climbing once you park), many visitors opt to combine their visit to the monasteries with hiking. Following ancient footpaths etched under green trees it is possible to visit all the monasteries in one day. The nearby Penios and Acheloos rivers offer great opportunities for river rafting and kayaking. These immense, solid rocks, split by earthquakes, weathered by water and wind over millions of years, are nature’s authentic masterpieces. One of the most amazing places in Greece,if not the world, is Meteora. If you have seen pictures of Greece or spend any time looking through travel brochures then you have certainly been impressed by the monasteries perched on top of enormous rocks and have probably wondered how on earth they built them. The rocks themselves are impressive, rising from the plains of Thessaly a few miles northwest of Kalambaka. In fact the producers of James Bond found them so impressive that they had Roger Moore (or his stunt double most likely) climb the stone face of one in the movie For Your Eyes Only. Nowdays these rock faces are climbed by professional and amateurs looking for a challenge and what Paros is to wind-surfers, Meteora is to rock-climbers.

PELOPONNESE

The cultural riches and natural beauty of the Peloponnese can hardly be overstated. This southern peninsula – technically an island since the cutting of the Corinth Canal – seems to have the best of almost everything Greek. Ancient sites include the Homeric palaces of Agamemnon at Mycenae and of Nestor at Pýlos, the best preserved of all Greek theatres at Epidaurus, and the lush sanctuary of Olympia, host to the Olympic Games for a millennium. The medieval remains are scarcely less rich, with the fabulous Venetian, Frankish and Turkish castles of Náfplio, Methóni and ancient Corinth; the strange battle towers and frescoed churches of the Máni; and the extraordinarily well-preserved Byzantine enclaves of Mystra and Monemvasiá.Beyond this incredible profusion and density of cultural monuments, the Peloponnese is also a superb place to relax and wander. Its beaches, especially along the west coast, are among the finest and least developed in the country, and the landscape inland is superb – dominated by forested mountains cut by some of the most captivating valleys and gorges to be imagined. Not for nothing did its heartland province of Arcadia become synonymous with the very concept of a Classical rural idyll.The Peloponnese reveals its true character most clearly when you venture off the beaten track: to the old Arcadian hill towns like Karítena, Stemnítsa and Dhimitsána; the Máni tower villages such as Kítta or Váthia; at Voïdhokiliá and Elafónissos beaches in the south; or a trip through the Vouraikós Gorge, possibly on the old rack-and-pinion railway.The region will amply repay any amount of time you spend. The Argolid, the area richest in ancient history, is just a couple of hours from Athens, and if pushed you could complete a circuit of the main sights here – Corinth, Mycenae and Epidaurus – in a couple of days, making your base by the sea in Náfplio. Given a week, you could add in the two large sites of Mystra and Olympia at a more leisurely pace. To get to grips with all this, however, plus the southern peninsulas of the Máni and Messinía, and the hill towns of Arcadia, you’ll need at least a couple of weeks.If you were planning a combination of Peloponnese-plus-islands, then the Argo-Saronic or Ionian islands are most convenient. Of the Ionian islands, isolated Kýthira is covered in this section since closest access is from the southern Peloponnese ports.