I know what you’re thinking. That I’m crazy. I mean, a trip to Greece with all that is going on with the economic woes and the refugee/migration crisis? Lynne, why would I want to be in that mess? Is it even safe?
Here’s the thing – Greece is still Greece. You, as a traveler, will most likely not come into contact with any refugees. These folks are trying to move through this country. Even if you did…would it be the worst thing for you to see folks who are trying to get to a better place and actually live life?
And the economic problems? And strikes and demonstrations? Let’s face it, Greece could certainly use your tourist dollars. Yes, the Greeks like to hold demonstrations and strikes to let their government know they are upset about something. But, most of these demonstrations only happen in front of the Parliament building in Athens. The demonstrations and strikes have to be registered one week in advance. It’s actually all rather orderly…for being chaotic.
And yes, Greece is still very safe for travelers. In fact, the Greeks will welcome you with big smiles and open arms.
There are no issues of travelers being targeted. There are no issues of not being able to get money out of the ATM. You can still use your credit cards, although many places may only take cash or will at least prefer cash. There are no issues with there being enough food. There may be some shorter opening times for museums or sites because of cut backs. And, you actually might find that 1) prices are lower and 2) there aren’t as many travelers to some of the major sites because people seem to be staying away from Greece. But, Greece is very much open for business.
Greece is a fascinating country. It’s the birthplace of democracy. It’s the home of the modern-day Olympics. It’s loaded with historical sites. It has a stunning coastline. It has a mountainous, intriguing interior. It has dazzling islands. It has tasty food and delicious wine. It has warm, friendly locals. Seriously, why wouldn’t you go?
So, what places should you visit on that trip to Greece?
The capital is a large city. It’s loaded with history and has some lovely spots as well as a grittiness to it. You’ll definitely want to spend some time here. The Acropolis is a must of course. But there are some fun cafés, chic bars, and hip restaurants in the neighborhoods of Syntagma, Monastiraki (at the foot of the Acropolis) and Metaxourgiou. Plaka is Athen’s oldest residential quarter and it’s very pretty. Be sure to have a wander here.
This is one of the most important archeological sites in Greece, although many folks don’t truly understand the significance of Delphi.
This is where, according to the ancients, heaven and earth meet. Supposedly, Zeus released two eagles in opposite directions. The place where these two eagles met would indicate the center of the earth. They met in Delphi. It’s been a sacred place ever since.
While there were temples to other gods, ultimately it became Apollo’s domain. You see, Delphi was, and still is, a special place – a place of spirituality, a place that became home to the Oracle. The Oracle of Delphi channeled the spirit of Apollo and would answer questions and give advice to those who came to Delphi seeking clarity. Many people still believe that there is something here – something mystical, magical, spiritual.
It’s an incredible place with a theatre, temples, and lots of stories.
Located in the far north of Greece, not far from the border with Albania, lies Meteora, a group of monasteries. These monasteries, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are some of the most important monasteries in the world. And, they are in a stunning location, situated high up in the rocks. It’s an incredible sight!
The monasteries are dated back to the 11th century. There are six active monasteries although one is more difficult to reach. But, all do allow visitors within certain hours. And, you must be appropriately dressed. You can’t leave Greece without making a visit to Meteora.
I’ll admit it that this is one of the places in Greece that I would love to visit. Where is this exactly? Well, it’s that bit of land jutting, kind of like fingers, into the sea. This peninsula, actually now technically an island since the development of the Corinth Canal, is not heavily touristed, but has a wealth of treasures.
The Peloponnese is filled with a rich ancient history and a stunning, rugged landscape. This is where the real Greece comes alive. Olympia, Corinth, Mycenae – ancient places that still speak to us – are located here. Want to see the best preserved of all the Greek theaters? Head to Epidaurus. Want to run a lap where the Olympic Games began? Stop by Olympia.
Along with ancient and medieval sights the Peloponnese has a host of undeveloped sandy beaches, picturesque fishing villages and a less populated landscape. There are forested mountains, beautiful valleys and dramatic gorges along with some rustic hill towns that are home to some incredibly warm and friendly Greeks. While it may take a little more effort to get here, it’s so worth it!
The Greek Islands
I could dedicate an entire blog post (or more) to the Greek Islands. There’s an island for everyone here. Some are volcanic and drier. Some are more lush. Some are known for their parties. Some are known to be quiet. Some have some lovely beaches. Some have intriguing history. Some are glitzy and glamorous. Some see very few travelers. There really is an island to fit your personality.
Let me do a quick breakdown on the groups of islands, then I’ll touch on a few specific islands.
Cyclades – These are the most well-known islands located in the southern Aegean Sea. Santorini, Mykonos and Paros are a few.
Northern Aegean – These islands are less visited, but decidedly more Greek. Thassos and Samos are a couple.
Sporades – These islands lie in between the above two groups. They are known for their beautiful beaches, turquoise waters and rich vegetation. Skiathos is one of the most popular.
Dodecanese – These are the islands in the southern part of the Aegean and very close to Turkey. In fact, they are easier to get to from Turkey than Greece! Some are more developed for tourism and others are more peaceful. Patmos, Rhodes and Kos are some of the better known islands.
Sarconic – These islands are closest to Athens so can be visited within an hour by the high-speed ferries. Hydra is the most popular and rivals Mykonos for the best party island.
Ionian – These lie to the west of mainland Greece and have a decidedly Italian flair to them. They see more rain here, so they are greener. The islands are known for their gorgeous beaches and unique food. Because there are no ferries from Athens, they are more difficult to reach. Although you can take a ferry from western Greece. Corfu is the most popular with Paxos being a nice quieter alternative.
Outlier Islands – Crete and Evia are the largest islands and almost like separate countries. Evia is literally right next door to Athens. Crete lies to the south of the mainland. It’s loaded with history, but can get busy with lots of travelers. However, it’s easy to find quiet spots.
I’d like to go into a couple of islands. First is the one I’ve been to that, while über popular, is so worth spending some time in.
This is the most visited island of all the Greek Islands. And, in fact, Santorini is going to limit the number of cruise ship visitors in the very near future. It’s a popular stop for cruise ships and can be inundated with day trippers.
But, it’s no wonder that people want to see it. It’s a stunning destination, popular with honeymooners or couples looking to have some romance.
I visited 5 years ago as a solo female traveler and loved it. It’s as dreamy, if not more so, in person as it is in pictures.
Thira or Fira, the main town is busy during the day. This is where many of the day trippers from the cruise lines come to spend the afternoon. But, early in the morning or after dinner, it’s far quieter.
Oia is my favorite though. Still popular with day trippers, it’s a lovely village at the northern tip of the island. The caldera (the buildings built into the side of the volcanic cliffs) is dazzling white with colorful doors and church domes thrown in here and there. The mornings are sublime as the locals get ready for their day. And the evenings can be busy as everyone gathers near Sunset Point to watch the sun go down. But once the sun sinks into the Aegean Sea, it’s peaceful. Even with the people all gathered around to watch the sunset, it’s fun and festive, yet somehow tranquil. Everyone is there to watch Mother Nature put on a beautiful show.
This is one of the islands close to mainland Turkey and another of the most popular of the Greek Islands.
Rhodes town is a fairly good size town, but the old town is really intriguing. It’s a wonderful walled medieval town and an important historical site. There’s a lovely castle at the top of the town.
The beaches are some of the best of the islands here on Rhodes. You’ll also find some outstanding restaurants and fun nightlife. The impressive thing about Rhodes is there are some amazing historical and archaeological sites as well as some natural sites.
Líndos, with its archaeological site and good beaches and Ialissós, with its fabulous beaches, fun nightlife and good windsurfing are two other places to check out on Rhodes.
And you don’t want to miss the Valley of the Butterflies with its thousands of Panaxia butterflies. Every August the valley is filled with these butterflies who come to reproduce.
Are you ready to pack your bags for your Greek adventure? Do you feel better about visiting? You really should. It’s still safe. It’s still open for business. And it’s still as wonderful as always!