In 2015 Australian travellers returned again to Greece, making it the top destination in percentage growth compared with 2014. So let’s take a closer look at how you can enjoy a truly happy holiday in Greece.
When to visit: November to March is the time when it can rain and also the islands become very quiet. Many hotels and attractions on the islands close during these months so I would avoid travelling there then. April is still quiet, but May and June are good times to go as is September. The weather is not too hot, the hotels are all open, and it is still relatively quiet with the kids still at school. July and August are the school summer holidays for Europe and North America, and Greece is very busy with crowded attractions, lots of traffic and very hot and dry. Athens heat can be stifling and visiting the islands with their massive crowds and cruise ships can be a nightmare. So May, June or September.
Getting around Greece: The internal rail network is not extensive so it’s car, bus, flight or ferry. On the mainland there is a good road network and car rental will set you back about $40 a day fully inclusive for a small car for 14 days. (Look out for the Excess!) Greeks can be rather “aggressive” drivers who enjoy overtaking on narrow roads and corners so care is advised.
Regular coach services are the way that many Greeks get around and connect Athens with all the major tourist centres and towns. The main company is KTEL but with the financial upheavals its website will not quote fares, but bank on paying about AUD 30 for a one way ticket from Athens to Delphi. Buses depart from their central Athens station.
Flights operate to the major islands and expect to pay from AUD 80 to AUD 120 each way on Aegean Air from Athens to the most popular islands. Flights do not generally operate between islands so that must be done by ferry. For travel from the mainland many travellers use the extensive Greek ferry services which are cheap and reliable. A ferry from Athens to Mykonos in summer will cost about AUD 60 one way – takes 5 hours. A good site for timetables and booking is Greek Ferries. Advance booking is advised during summer months.
There are many excellent coach tours that can be taken ranging from one day excursions to those of a week or more, and numerous tours to the islands. Long time Australian Greece specialist Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre has a very large offering on their website.
The top historic sites: In Athens there is of course the very popular Acropolis and the Parthenon, but also the National Archaeological Museum. Travel over the amazing Corinth Canal to the Peloponnese to see Corinth, Epidaurus, Mycenae, Sparta and Olympia. Travel north from Athens to Delphi and across to the island of Crete to see Knossos. Information on all of the historic sites and museums can be seen at Historvius.
The Greek Islands: These are very popular, especially with many cruise lines, and in summer some can seriously overcrowded.
Santorini is the most popular and most well recognized, Santorini is famous for its dramatic views, stunning sunsets, the white-washed houses, and its very own active volcano. If you arrive by sea you can take a cable car up from the port or alternatively take a trip on a mule up the 588 zigzagging steps.
Mykonos is a stunningly picturesque Greek town with a maze of tiny streets and whitewashed steps lanes. Although the streets are lined with small shops, boutiques, art galleries, cafes, bars and restaurants, Mykonos Town has retained its traditional Cycladic architectural style and character.
Crete, the largest and most populated island is where you will find the most variety in hotel accommodation, restaurants, shops and nightclubs. Because this island features beautiful beaches, scenic mountains and gorges, you can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain climbing, horse riding, gorge trekking and swimming. History lovers will want to explore the many historic and archaeological sites that dot the island such as Knossos Palace.
Rhodes is a beautiful island with its exotic Turkish influences and offers many historic treasures like its medieval Old Town, the Temple of Apollo, the Acropolis of Lindos, the Governor’s Palace and Rhodes Footbridge. Rhodes also features many popular beach resorts and charming villages with friendly locals.
Corfu probably offers the most variety. An island steeped in Byzantine history and Greek mythology, Corfu features charming old towns laced with the varying architectural styles of its Greek, Italian, French and British past. Outside the towns, tourists will discover some of Greece’s most beautiful beaches, some still unspoiled.
Kos, Paros, Samos, Chios, Zakynthos, Naxos and Skiathos are very popular, lovely islands all with their own charm. For details on these islands and more information go to Touropia.
Accommodation: What is the price of accommodation in Greece? What is the length of a piece of string? To be serious, in Athens in peak season you’ll pay less than for a similar hotel in Australia and get a good 3-star room for about AUD 120 per night and 4-star for about AUD 180. But if you want really central or Acropolis view then you can add another 20 to 50%. On the islands it is less expensive but again you’ll pay top dollar for amazing views and central location. Remember that totally central can also sometimes mean noisy bars and nightclubs. So check the hotel review sites and read The Happy Holiday Travel Planner for more advice.