Greece is a land of mysterious and brilliant beauty in the Mediterranean Region. Traveling to Greece will give you many new looks and discoveries of the land of Gods in Greek Mythology, the world’s most beautiful islands with stunning beaches nowhere has, the ancient cities with rich history and culture, the magnificent and sacred temples in the past along with countless renown sculptures. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Greece for the first-time visitors? Let’s check out our Greece travel blog (Greece blog) with the fullest Greece travel guide (Greece guide, Greece tourist guide) from how to get there, best time to visit, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to find out the answer!
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Greece is not only has beautiful beaches, distinctive architecture and delectable cuisine but also is an affordable destination for any type of visitor. Greece is known as one of the cheapest tourist destinations in Europe. The traveling cost here is only about a half compared to other European countries. It is one of the most popular and beloved destinations worldwide. With beautiful islands, historic cities, signature Greek Myths make Greece more mysterious and shining in the eyes of tourists.
Greece travel blog: Overview of Greece
Greece, the official name is the Greek Republic also called the Hellenic Republic, is a country owns a strategic position in trading between Asia, Europe and Africa continents. With an area of more than 130,000 square kilometers with a population of over 10 milions people and mostly rugged mountainous terrain, Greece is bordered by Albania, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, Turkey to the east and the rest of the east and the west is bordered by the Aegean Sea and the Ionian Sea. With its prime location, since ancient times Greece has been considered a cultural exchange hub of many cultures.
As the country with the most brilliant civilization in antiquity, Greece is the cradle of all Western cultures, including Western democracies, Western philosophy, Olympic Games, Western literature, historic, politics, basic scientific and mathematical principles. The rich history of Greece includes 17 UNESCO Heritage Sites, among the top countries with the most heritage in Europe. Greek is the mother tongue and also the national language, through a long history Greece also has many different languages, but today’s common languages such as English, French, Italian, German is still widely learnt and used. Greece is a religiously free country, in which Eastern Orthodox being the largest with 97% of the population, followed by Islam and Roman Catholicism as well as Protestantism and Judaism.
Greece is a Southern European nation, but in many documents, it is also listed in the list of Western European nations or in the Baltic region. Due to its geographical location, Greece has been considered a trading center for many economies for thousands of years.
With a coastline of more than 13,000 km. The “specialty” of this country is more than 140 inhabited islands (out of a total of 3,000 islands from large to islets which are as small as just rocky outcrops), of which Crete is the largest Greek island with a sunny climate and nice beaches. Therefore, Greece is an ideal vacation destination for Europeans.
Most of the Greek people speak Greek and it is also the official language of this country. One thing I’m quite bored that is despite being a tourist nation, Greek people speak English very bad, even they could not speak.
Greece travel blog: When to visit?
Greece has a fairly warm Mediterranean climate. Summers are usually hot and dry, especially in the north, on the islands and coastal regions. Winters are usually humid in the south, but in the mountainous regions in the north, it’s very cold and it’s not too hard to see snow and feel sub-zero temperatures here.
The best time to visit Greece is from early July to early September. And if you want to take the most virtual photos, sightseeing, admiring unique architecture, you should go in June or the end of September to early October which will be suitable because the weather will not too hot and the trip cost is also inexpensive.
Spring (April – May): April is time when the tourist season begins in Greece, locals begin to take off their winter coats to welcome the warm sunshine. The weather at this time will be extremely pleasant.
With the exception of the period around Easter, you can rest assured that the number of tourists coming to Greece in the spring will not too crowded. Spring is also a great time for you to explore this country by motorbike.
In Athens, the festival of light and sound is also held in the spring.
Summer (June – August): Summer is usually warm, sunny. It’s also the peak tourist season with very crowded travellers, especially in the coastal areas or on the famous islands like Santorini, Mykonos or Crete.
Thanks to the large number of tourists, in every bar or nightclub in Greece, there will be lively parties. However, in popular tourist destinations, prices will often double.
The Athens and Epidaurus Festival will take place in this summer.
An important thing to note, especially when you plan a trip to islands such as Samothraki (Samothrace) or Thassos (Thasos), is that these two islands only welcome tourists from July to August.
Autumn (September – October): After the blazing sun of summer, autumn comes as a relief, when it comes with more pleasant weather. Daphni Wine Festival is also an experience not to be missed in this period. The summer tourists have also gone away, leaving behind a more traditional and peaceful Greece. Prices will also come down a lot, but some tourist amenities and facilities may be closed.
In October, the weather can also get wet and unpredictable. Autumn is the perfect time to visit the historic sights of Greece.
Winter (November – March): Thanks to its geographical location, winters in Greece are not too harsh but actually extremely unpredictable, you will be completely surprised by a few days of winter with full of sunshine and warm but suddenly snow falling after several days.
Winter is the low season for tourism, leading to a marked drop in prices, but you will not have the opportunity to visit many islands dute to lack of vehicles to get there.
However, the southern part of Crete or Rhodes island still welcomes you with open arms. Christmas is also a wonderful occasion in Greece with countless cultural events are held.
Greece travel blog: How to get to Greece?
From other European countries
Greece in particular and other European countries in general all have very convenient transport links. From neighboring countries, Greece can be reached by train and by car. But it is the most convenient to get to Greece by plane. But one matter is that airfare from other European cities to Greece is quite expensive.
I tried to find airfare on Google and found out that the airport fees in Greece are higher and there are few airlines operating flights to Greece. Therefore, you should hunt for flight tickets early through some websites such as Skyscanner, Google Flight, Kayak and avoid the peak months of July and August.
Greece blog: Transportation in Greece
There are many means of transportation in the Greek cities for you to choose from, but mostly visitors who come here often choose taxis, buses or rent motorbikes to getting around.
Bus: Domestic buses are the best solution when traveling within the country.
Train: It’s a good and cheap way to get around, but the national rail system is quite limited.
Or if you want to explore the tourist attractions here by yourself, then you can rent a self-driving vehicle such as: Scooter, ATV, car with rental prices ranging from 12 Euros to 15 Euros/day. However, to rent a car conveniently, you have to an international driver’s license, credit card or passport to make a deposit.
Getting from the mainland to the Greek islands
Because Greece has many islands, the means of transportation will be mainly ferries and boats. To take a ferry trip, it will cost about EUR36, but you will only pay about EUR12 if islands are really close together. If you book ferry tickets about two months in advance, you can save up to 25% on the cost of ticket.
From Athens, most ferries to Greek islands cost around EUR60. The ferry tickets will be expensive if you take a lot trips between islands. Taking overnight ferry can save you up to half of the normal price plus you will save a hotel night because of overnight on ferry. Slow ferries, night ferries starting at EUR13. Some famous Greek ferry companies you can refer to such as Blue Star Ferries, Hellenic Seaways, Seajets… You should choose the trip that departs at dawn or dusk because the scenery is very beautiful at that time.
Alternatively, you can also take a plane. Traveling by airplanes will be more convenient and there are now many islands in Greece that welcome international flights, but the cost will be higher than taking a ferry.
Greece travel blog: What to do and where to go?
When it comes to Greek tourism, everyone will probably think of two famous places are Athens and Santorini. In addition to the above two historic, dreamy and charming destinations, Greece has many other attractive tourist destinations such as Thessaloniki City, Zakynthos, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes islands, ancient temples, stunning beaches… I will briefly introduce about these tourist destinations in Greece below.
Along with other historic structures on the Acropolis Hill, it is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Greece. The temple of Athena, the Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC. It is the most famous building of ancient Greece that still standing until now and is hailed as a great achievement of Greek architecture with magnificent appearance along with majestic and towering stone pillars. If you have an opportunity to visit Athens, the temple definitely will be a must-visit place.
Corfu is one of the jewels of Greece, famous for its vast coastline, spectacular mountain scenery, majestic historic architecture, peaceful villages and vibrant cultural centers. Come and explore the part of the Ionian Islands, a group of islands off the west coast of mainland Greece.
You’ll find the influence of diffirent styles from British, French, Greek and Italian in Kerkira (Corfu City), the island’s charming cultural hub. Admiring a British neoclassical beauty in the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, and don’t be surprised to see the Venetian style emblazoned on the Old Fort. Visit Liston Promenade to see archways and explore ancient Asian art at the Museum of Asian Art of Corfu. Visit the nearby Gastouri and marvel at the Achilleion, a majestic palace set among numerous cypress and sugar cane trees.
City of Heraklion
Heraklion, with its warm sunshine, cool breezes, wine and great range of local food which is truly a peaceful place to stop and explore ancient culture.
The city of Heraklion – the capital of Crete Island, Greece bears traces of many historical events in the past. Heraklion also known as Iraklion, is the largest city on Crete island and also the 4th largest city in Greece. Here, you can find the ruins of the famous palace of Knossos, the largest concentration of population on Crete during the Minoan civilization period (Bronze Age Aegean civilization). Although there is no archaeological evidence, Knossos may have also had a seaport located at Heraklion from 2000 BC.
The capital of Crete owns picturesque villages, romantic seaside resorts and beaches of varying beauty. Heraklion also has many restaurants and taverna specializing in Greek cuisine to meet all needs and preferences of visitors. The nightlife here is very vibrant. There are many bars and nightclubs open all year round.
In addition, Heraklion is also the shopping center of the Corfu with many shops selling clothes, shoes, jewelry, souvenirs…
The capital city of Athens
As one of the oldest capitals in the world, Athens welcomes you with a massive treasure of history and culture dating back 3000 years. Unlike the peaceful tourist islands in this country, Athens is much more vibrant, crowded and bustling. The places you cannot miss when visiting this ancient city are Ruins of Acropolis, Byzantine And Christian Museum, Temple of Olympian Zeus, the neighborhood of Pláka and Anafiotika. The most famous is the Acropolis, an ancient citadel with many historic and important buildings, especially the Parthenon Temple.
There are also the Temple of Zeus, Temple of Hephaestus, the ancient Square of Kotzia and National Garden. Leaving Athens and you can visit the birthplace of the Olympic Games, the sacred mountain of Olympia where there also are still many well-restored and preserved temples.
If there is any place in the world that closest to paradise, it definitely is the Greek island of Santorini. With houses painted in two main colors, blue and white – also the same typical colors on Greece’s flag. Santorini will attract visitors just at the first sight. Known for its breathtaking steep cliffs that hug the black sands of the sea, the island of Santorini is located in the southern Aegean Sea, about 200km to the east of mainland Greece. The two nicest villages of Fira and Oia are two places you have to visit if you want to fully enjoy the beautiful scenery of this island. Looming in the vast ocean are villages and churches arranged ingeniously.
Visitors often flock to Santorini the most from April to October. Because the weather is sunny, the clear blue sky allows you to participate in many interesting, fun outdoor activities. Another very unique experience you should not miss that is watching the sunset here because Santorini dubbed one of the most sunset viewing spots in the world.
The island of Mykonos is a counterweight to Ibiza, Spain. The highlight of this Greek island is its long beaches filled with healthy tanned tourists and the pounding bass from the bars that open from night to morning. Chora in Greek means city, is another name for this small island belong Cyclades Islands. Although this is the smallest island, it contains an attraction that is not inferior to large islands such as Santorini or Naxos. Proof that the upper class often owns resort apartments here and we can easily see them on the cobblestone streets of Mykonos.
The island of Rhodes is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Greece with great beaches and a long history. Located in the Aegean seawaters near the coast of Turkey, Rhodes is the largest island of the Dodecanese Islands. Rhodes is also considered one of the most beautiful islands of Greece with lush pine forests and countless brilliant flowers such as bougainvillea, hibiscus, etc.
If you are a fan of the movie Descendants of the Sun, you are no stranger to the beach where the shipwreck was stucked that called Shipwreck Beach. That is the island of Zakynthos, Greece. The highlight and most attractive spot of Zakynthos is the Navagio Shipwreck Beach. In the midst of the blue water and surrounds by majestic cliffs, a boat ran aground on a beautiful white sand beach, seemingly comes straight out from movies.
Naxos is not crowded with tourists and is a great place to watch the sunset and sunrise without having to climb to the top of any mountain. Just go to the beach and lie on the sand, you can enjoy watching the brilliant of sunrise or sunset.
In Naxos, there is a legal nude beach, so if you like swimming, you should come to try. I stayed in Naxos for 6 days and spent a lot of time walking up to the very old unexplored houses that in my opinion they are much more beautiful than in Santorini. I also rented a car to riding around the mountains, visited many ancient ruins here. Driving in Greece is very safe and Google Map also navigates very accurate, you can rest assured to drive by yourself as long as you have an international driver’s license, you can rent a car from EUR30 / day depending on the type of car.
Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and the capital of the Macedonia region of Northern Greece, with its vibrant festivals, social events and vibrant nightlife. All making it becomes the cultural capital of Greece. The city is steeped in Paleochristian (Early Christan) culture and was the hometown of Alexander the Great. Thessaloniki is both modern and classic with many tourist attractions in the city such as museums, art galleries, business district, famous Byzantine wall, White Tower and Turkish baths and Colorful food markets.
Although it was partly damaged by a great fire in 1917, the city was restored and still retains its characteristic Byzantine architecture. That is why in Thessaloniki you can find a harmonious blend of modernity and ancient features.
The town of Mystras
Traveling to Greece you must definitely visit the town of Mystras and and Archaeological Site of Mystras – a UNESCO World Heritage Site once because this was the center of power of the Byzantine Empire. The town stands out for its distinct architecture from the Middle Ages, where it was ruled by powerful empires for centuries. In the town of Mystras, there are many historical ruins which are kept and recognized as world cultural heritages such as Byzantine churchs, monastery and Keadas Cavern cave.
Often referred to as the most beautiful city in Greece, Nafplio was once the capital of Greece before the title was given to Athens in 1834.
Where to visit Greece? If you are still wondering, come to Meteora. Located in the vast plains, Meteora is a spectacular rocky mountain that captivates many visitors. At the top of the mountain there are many ancient monasteries. This is also the coordinates of the view that cannot be more wonderful. Today, Meteora has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
Located just below Mount Parnassos (Mount Parnassus), Delphi is a cultural center of Greece and the birthplace of Western Philosophy. Delphi was considered the center of many aspects of the world in ancient times. In addition, thanks to possessing cultural and religious heritages, today Delphi has become a tourist attraction.
Greece blog: Where to stay?
Hotels in Greece are very diverse and spread from the mainland to the islands, from luxury hotel chains to budget guesthouses and hostels. There are also large and fully equipped campsites.
You can stay in a dorm with bunk beds to save money, or stay in a hotel for a higher price. In the center of the big city, the room rates is about EUR70/night, far from the center, about EUR40/night. You can also stay at a homestay but need to find out in advance where you will stay to have the most comfortable holidays.
Greece travel blog: What to eat?
Thanks to its favorable geographical location, Greek cuisine is influenced by many different cuisines. It is a combination of European and Middle Eastern cuisine, making the dishes here have the most distinctive flavor.
However, because of its location, some Greek dishes can be easily found in other countries such as Moussaka, Baklava for example (2 these dishes are also typical dishes in Turkey or Cyprus).
Greeks use much olive oil for most dishes, even salads are also mixed with olive oil (of course adding with a little spices).
Stifado (Greek Stewed Beef)
This is one of the most delicious stew and best dish in Greece. The main ingredients of the dish include meat (often beef or pork, rabbit, even octopus), red wine, red wine vinegar, onion, shallots, cinnamon, honey, olive oil, bay leaves, etc. All are stewed for 2 hours. Stifado is most flavorful when served hot with fresh bread, pasta, and mashed potatoes.
Dolmadakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Dolmadakia is a dish you should not forget to try. This dish is cooked from rice, adding a mixture of minced meat, herbs, parsley, mint, tomato, fennel… All is wrapped in grape leaves then simmer in 45 minutes until the rice is tender and served with lemon.
Moussaka (Greek Beef and Eggplant Lasagna)
Moussaka is perhaps the most famous Greek dish in the world with variations in flavor in each region of this southern European country. In some islands, moussaka is cooked with a more herbal in recipe, while others cook this dish with a rich and greasy flavor. Despite the difference in taste, the basic ingredients of this dish: potatoes, eggplant, ground meat and lots of cheese, béchamel sauce still remain the same. After baking for 1 hour at 350 degrees Celsius, the cake will have an eye-catching golden brown color. Today, thanks to creativity, chefs use zucchini to replace eggplant. That change will add more deliciousness to the dish.
Souvlaki (Chicken skewers)
This is very popular dish in Greece. Souvlaki is a grilled skewer of meat, delectable and juicy. Souvlaki skewers usually include beef, lamb and chicken, sometimes also fish such as swordfish. It usually eaten while still hot.
Referring to the delicious food in Greece, it is impossible not to mention Gyro. It made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie (often pork, chicken, whilst beef, lamb) combines with vegetables, chips. Then is wrapped in soft flatbread like tacos. There are two types of Gyro, vegetarian and meat. Gyro is a very suitable food to recharge after a day of exploring Greece.
Lokma (Loukoumades, Fried Sweet Dough)
Loukoumades is a popular dish in Greece. Not only children but also adults love to enjoy this dish. Loukoumades are pastries made of leavened and deep fried dough, soaked in syrup or honey. After baked, the chef will sprinkle cinnamon powder, walnut powder to increase the attractiveness of the dish.
Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie)
Spanakopita is a Greek savory spinach pie, a very famous and divine cake in Greece. The pie has a thin crust but is very crispy. The filling is made from ingredients such as spinach and feta cheese, meat, eggplant, vegetables, etc. The dish is made with flaky phyllo sheets layered.
Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Yogurt Sauce)
Tzatziki is a dipping dish with the main ingredient of Greek yogurt and a variety of herbs, served with meat, bread and salad.
Frappé coffee and Greek yogurt
Frappé coffee is a great choice on hot summer days. While Greek yoghurt is also a must-try food, Greek yoghurt is very delicious, it usually served with honey.
Greece travel blog: What and where to buy?
The capital of Athens offers many shopping options for visitors with Syntagma square and Plaka area being the number one choice. Located right in the heart of Athens, these two areas are truly endless fun for those with a passion for shopping. Here, you can choose very unique gifts. The Greek Evil Eye Xematiasma Belief (Greece Mati Mataki or Matiasma Evil Eye) which could againts evil that any tourist who comes here also buys and hangs at home. Statues depicting gods from Greek myths, Trojan horses, goddess Helena or pottery, jewelry in antique style crafted with the skill of Greek artisans are lovely gifts from this country.
In the Greek plains there are many lush olive groves. The Greeks are also very proud of olives and the cosmetics and dishes made from this tree. You can buy olive oil or soap as gifts for loved ones. Laurel is the national tree of Greece and was used as a laurel wreath for ancient sports champions.
And for those of you who collect magnets, in Thessaloniki, you can buy Alexander the Great magnets that are hard to find in other Greek tourist attractions.
In the souvenir shops in Greece, they often sell key chains with the image of “the precious of men”. You also buy it as gifts.
Greece blog: The traveling cost
In general, the cost of self-sufficient travel to Greece is quite affordable, I spent €552.72 for the 5D4N trip with 2 destinations of Athens and Santorini.
In which, the cost of traveling (airfare) accounts for the majority. If you intend to plan a trip to Greece, you should find airtickets in advance to save money.
The cost of food and accommodation is quite affordable. And if you are a student, you will get FREE or discounted entrance tickets to some tourist attractions.
Greece blog: Before you go
Here are some useful tips you should push in your pocket before making a trip to Greece.
Greeks are usually very hospitable and friendly. If you’re meeting them for the first time, they’ll shake hands firmly, making eye contact and smile throughout the meeting. If they are friends or relatives, they will hug and kiss on both cheeks. If they were men, they would greet each other with a pat on the shoulder.
The Greeks often give gifts to friends and family members on the occasion of naming saints, Christmas. On birthdays, gifts don’t need to be too expensive. If you give a gift of great value, it will make the recipient awkward.
If you are invited to dinner, prepare a small, carefully wrapped gift. The Greeks had a custom of opening gifts right in front of the giver’s eyes.
Table Manners (Dining Etiquette)
If you are invited to dinner, be on time. That will show respect to the host. After the meal, take the initiative to ask to be cleaned, the host will appreciate this attitude of yours.
If the host has not invited you, do not arbitrarily sit at the table. Because the Greeks will usually arrange for you a separate seat. When eating, they use a knife in their right hand and a fork in their left hand. Elderly people will have priority service. When eating, the elbow should be placed below the table, the hand should be on the table.
During dinner you can comfortably talk about fun stories but avoid political issues, especially the relations between Greece and Turkey.
This is also a country that uses the Euro currency like other European countries. Should use cash rather than credit cards when making purchases. You will be charged a small fee for withdrawing Euros from ATMs in Greece. Many small islands in Greece do not have ATMs or if they do, you also may not withdrawn, so you should have cash on hand.
Greece travel blog: My suggested Greek 5-day itinerary for you to refer.
According to my self-sufficient Greek travel experience, you should spend 4 or more days (excluding flight days) to explore 2 destinations, Athens and Santorini. You can spend another 2 days to visit more cities of Thessaloniki, Mystras or Zakynthos or Mykonos islands.
However, I think that exploring 2 destinations are Athens and Santorini is enough, because these 2 places are enough to represent 2 types of Greek tourism (sea and island tourism and discovery tourism). Adding one more island or discovery place will quickly get bored.
Here is my Greece travel itinerary for you refer:
Day 1: Santorini (arrival at night)
Day 2: Santorini
Day 3: Santorini
Day 4: Santorini – Athens (you can go to Mykonos or Thessaloniki from here)
Day 5: Athens – The UK
In addition, the tours often combine Greece and Turkey in one itinerary, because these two countries are close to each other. And you can use a valid Schengen visa to apply for a Turkish e-visa, which is very convenient. About travel experiences in Turkey, you can see more here.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in and from Athens you can refer to
- Private Athens International Airport (ATH) Transfers for Athens
- Private Athens International Airport Transfers (ATH) for Athens by Taxi or 7 Seater Car
- Shared Athens International Airport Transfers (ATH) for Athens
- Delphi Day Tour from Athens
- Athens Acropolis and Cape Sounio One Day Tour with Lunch
- Athens Half Day Sightseeing Tour
- Meteora Day Tour from Athens with Train
- Delphi and Meteora 2-Day Tour from Athens
- Athens, Acropolis and Acropolis Museum Half Day Tour with Ticket
- Athens and Acropolis Walking Day Tour
- Cape Sounion & Temple of Poseidon Half Day Guided Tour From Athens
- Athens Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour
- Athens Acropolis Museum Discovery Tour
Are you looking for more Greece travel guide and top things to do in Greek destinations, check out here.