|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Follow in Their Footsteps
Greece was the birthplace of European civilisation and today offers the traveller the comforts of modern Europe in contrast to the stark beauty of the ancient world.
Officially known as the Hellenic Republic, Greece is situated in the southeast of Europe on the Mediterranean and borders Albania, Bulgaria and the Republic of Skopje to the north, the European part of Turkey to the northeast, to the south is the Mediterranean Sea, to the west the Ionian Sea and the Aegean Sea is to the east.
Greece is famous for its natural beauty with the land being mountainous and rugged, but is relatively poor in natural resources. The central mountain areas, the Pindus Mountains, which extends from a northern to southern direction, is one of the most rugged, isolated and sparsely populated parts of the country. Mount Olympus, Greece's highest peak was considered in ancient times to be home to the twelve Gods.
Greece consists of the Greek mainland and scattered throughout the calm, blue waters of the Aegean Sea are 1,400 islands. Macedonia in the north, has the largest plains in Greece and Western Macedonia has many surprises to offer. The town of Kastoria, nestling between the mountains, has stunning landscape and the gorgeous Lake Orestias.
In this region amid st forests, idyllic villages, local folklore and outstanding architecture, you can sample the local cuisine such as moussaka, souvlakia and sarmathes, (minced meat, wrapped in vine leaves), and of course the drink for which for which Greece is famous, ouzo, but beware it is very strong.
Thraki, east of Macedonia, has a varied topography of mountains, valleys and several coastal plains. The southeastern extremity of Greece, Attica, is broken into many isolated valleys and plains by mountain ridges, where the Athenian Plains, with Athens in the centre, is located. Thessaly, a plain ringed by mountains, is one of the most fertile parts of the country.
In the south is the Peloponnisos, a peninsula which is connected to the rest of the mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth. This is a mountainous region, but to a lesser degree than Central Greece. It is shaped like a giant hand with impassable mountain ridges extending like fingers into the sea. Between the mountains are valleys which are isolated from one another, but which open onto the water.
Greece is full of cultural heritage, literature and art, and all over the country are reminders of the country's, past glory - from the Parthenon in Athens and Delphia's Temple of Apollo, to the ruins of the Minoan city of Knossos on Crete, a civilisation reaching even further back in history. Everywhere you go you will encounter something unusual to stay in your memory forever.
The climate is similar to that of other Mediterranean regions. In the lowlands the summers are hot and dry with clear, cloudless skies and the winters are relatively mild but rainy. The mountainous regions are much cooler with considerable rain during the summer months and most mountains are covered with snow in the winter.
There is a great diversity of vegetation- from sea level there are olives, oranges, dates, pomegranates and figs, cotton and tobacco are grown, and from about 120-460 m2 deciduous and evergreen forest are found where tulips, hyacinths and laurel are characteristic of the area. Above 1,220 m firs and such wild flowers as anemone and cyclamen are found. Wildlife includes boar, European black bear, lynx, jackal, chamois, deer, fox, badger and weasel.
So many beautiful places to visit in Greece, to give you a taste of this gorgeous country we are going to start in the Pelion Peninsula, midway between Athens and Thessaloniki. To the south the peninsula curls into the Pagasitikps gulf, a glassy expanse of sea almost landlocked by the port of Volos and the island of Evia. The peninsula is 95 km long, but the tortuous roads make for slow driving.
Pelikon was a monastic retreat and a stronghold of resistance during the Turkish occupation, and still feels remote, except during the height of summer. You will find landscape unchanged for millennia, rustic tavernas and smart guesthouses in restored mansions, and some of the most spectacular beaches in Greece.
It can be quicker to walk along cobbled donkey tracks that connect many of the sleepy villages and beaches. These ancient fairy-tale footpaths are overgrown with wildflowers and criss-crossed by streams and waterfalls. Nightlife is pretty much non-existent but every village square has one kafenion where grizzled punters knock back rounds of the ferocious local tipple, tsipouro. Deep into the hills on the north east above Volos are a constellation of traditional villages that provide scenic base for exploring both north and south Pelion. The best preserved villages are Tsangarada, Milies, Kissos and Lafkos.
To the north of the peninsula the forests get deeper, the canyons steeper and the air cooler. The coastal hamlet of Damouhari has a crumbling Venetian castle, Zagora is the apple capital of Greece and a bustling market town, and the lively town of Argalasti has two stunning beaches and excellent food. On the southern tip is Agia Kyriaki the quintessential Greek fishing village. A crescent of whitewashed houses with gaily painted woodwork hugs the harbor. Beneath strings of octopus Greek families feast on grilled sardines, deep-fried whitebait, lobster and all sorts of strange shellfish.
The south along the Pagasitikos Gulf the beaches are narrow and shallow with romantic sunsets. Sleepy settlements like Lefokastro, Agio Andreas and Kottes are throwbacks to the 1950s Greece with a few rickety taverna tables parked between peeling fishing boats. The catch of the day comes straight off the caiques moored outside the bars.
Crete is the largest island, the fifth largest in the Mediterranean, and has an exquisite 1,000 km coastline dotted with numerous coves, bays and peninsulas with soft sandy beaches. Crete has historic importance as the home of the Minoan civilisation with archaeological finds at Knoss, Phaistos and Gortys. Crete has many jewels waiting to be discovered and this fascinating island will capture your heart as you lie under the hot Cretan sun with scents of orange blossom and jasmine wafting in the air.
The Dodecanese islands are located in the southeast part of the Aegean Sea and consist of twelve major islands and a number of smaller islands: Astypalea, Leros, Lipsi, Nisyros, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Kastellorizo, Kos, Patmos, Rhodes, Tilos. The islands have everything to offer to the visitors: whitewashed houses, beautiful beaches with crystal waters, charming villages, exciting nightlife and so much more.
Patmos is one of the most beautiful islands; a Holy island called "The Jerusalem of the Aegean", a mountainous island with nice beaches, beautiful coastline and charming traditional villages with white washed cubic houses.
The Cyclades are the most famous of all Greek islands and the most interesting is Santorini which has a uniqueness all of its own. The houses look as though they have come from a fairy-tale book, especially in the traditional villages of Phinikia and Mehaghalohi. Santorini has a long history and many believe it is ATLANTIS, destroyed in the 15th century B.C. The fun loving island of Mykonos has quaint, picturesque villages with windmills on the hills; it is where the film Shirley Valentine was made.
Travelling in the Cyclades is where you will find a vivid cosmopolitan nightlife, and at the same time tranquillity and peace. Tinos is known as a religious area and is to Greece what Lourdes is to France. The island attracts many pilgrims who only stop at the Holy Church, but the island has so much more to offer, some incredible villages, nice beaches, quality local products and excellent food.
Naxos is the largest and most beautiful of the group but the many smaller islands such as Milos, Anafi, Andros and Ios, to name just a few, all have their own uniqueness. South and east of Naxos lie five, tiny, exquisite and virtually uninhabited islands, the Small Cyclades, Iraklia is so laid-back, Schinoussa untouched, Koufonnisa for its beaches, Donoussa for walks, and tiny Ano Koufonissi, but one thing they have in common is they have managed to remain unspoiled by the passage of time.
You won't find luxury except in the sea, the sun, the sand and stars. Not much shopping or nightlife, and simple, clean accommodation. There are few cars and motorbikes, but plenty of mules, donkeys, cats, dogs and chickens.
Sleepy Irakia is the most accessible because it is the first port of call for the Express Skopelitis. The island is low-lying and sparsely populated with just 120 inhabitants. There is not much to do. The main town, Aghios Georgios, has a well-stocked supermarket, several tavernas, and scooters for hire, but there is no petrol station on the island.
Donoussa is the nearest to Naxos, it is just half an hour by boat but Iraklia it's the most accessible because it is the first port of call for the Express Skopelitis. Donoussa is where Dionysus is supposed to have hidden Ariadne after he had stolen her from Theseus. The island is magical, a rocky outcrop rising steeply out of the sea, dun-coloured except for a sudden patch of green that signals the village of Mersini. to the east
On the Skopelitis Express it takes 15 minutes to get from Irkalia to Schinoussa. The island consists of nine hillocks, several topped with derelict windmills. Often described as dreamy even sleepier that Iraklia and only 150 population.
Ano Koufonissi is the smallest and most populated and has a heliport and is the only place in the islands that has a petrol station. Beloved of rich Americans and trendy Italians in search of wonderful beaches and nude bathing,
The Greeks are a very superstitious people and believe a lot in religion with traditions and superstitions varying from island to island, region to region, and village to village. Most of the Greeks owe their name to a religious saint and one tradition is that everyone who has a name coming from a saint celebrates his name on a given day of the year, these days are more important that birthdays.
In some parts of Greece a bride still has a dowry made by her mother, grandmother and aunts, consisting of embroidered linen, and the father of the bride offers a furnished home to his daughter and son-in-law as a wedding gift. Weddings almost always take place on a Sunday and are very colourful and noisy with the traditional Circle Dance (KALAMANTIANO) - remember Zorba the Greek, done at the reception.
Greece and her islands, portrayed in such films as Mamma Mia and Zorba the Greek, known for her friendly people who still laugh and enjoy life, wonderful food, olives, fruit, sun, sea and traditional way of life on the islands, why not visit, stay a while, maybe buy a cubic house by the sea or one of the caves houses on Santorini, there is something for everyone.