Top five places to visit in Greece
With all the bad publicity surrounding Greece such as the economic crisis and the influx of immigrants, many people have been put off visiting there this year. I hope to address the balance and show you how you could have the perfect holiday and help the Greek economy at the same time.
There are over 6000 islands and islets, which make up the Greek archipelago, although only 227 of them are inhabited. Still, that gives plenty of choice when it comes to deciding where to go.
Crete – best all-rounder
One of the largest islands in the Mediterranean, its 4000 year history means that there is something for everyone. Crete or Kriti is rich in culture. With its attractive coastline and climate, it is no surprise that it is one of the most popular tourist destinations. The eastern part of the island served by Heraklion airport is very touristy and you’ll find the all-inclusive hotels and strings of bars but if you want a more authentic holiday then the western part of the island, served by Chania airport, is still relatively untamed with a magnificent mountain range and mostly uncrowded beaches.
There is abundant scenery, fabulous lakes and wildlife, and of course the well- renowned archaeological site at Knossos, where you can visit the remains of the palace of King Minos.
With good food and wine and friendly locals, Crete is up there at the top of the list.
Corfu- best for families
One of the Ionian islands, Corfu is different from the other islands as there is still a strong British influence. In Corfu Town for example, this is in evidence as you watch a cricket match take place. The Greeks love children and nowhere is it more apparent than in the way children are welcome on the island, making it the ideal place for families.
Corfu was one of the first islands to be discovered by British tourism and the ‘lager-lout culture’ has left its mark. If it’s bars and discos you want, then Corfu has that along the Disco Strip of Kavos and Sadari. Those wishing to escape this should head inland to the lush green interior, which has escaped the worst effects of mass tourism.
Of course, Corfu was the childhood home of Gerald Durrell and with the recent TV adaptation of ‘The Durrells,’ I would expect Corfu to become even more popular this year.
Rhodes – best for bargain holidays
Part of the Dodecanese chain of islands, its southerly position gives it an unparalleled 300 sunny days a year. Rhodes is an island of contrast, the New Town offering every package tour delight you can imagine, whilst the Old Town is steeped in the history of the Knights of St John.
This is not the island to visit if you want a taste of the traditional Greece. Perhaps the most beautiful village on Rhodes is Lindos and whilst it’ s definitely worth a visit on account of its stunning picture postcard views, it is so touristy that you will find little of the ‘old’ Greece there. Instead, hire a car and explore the island at your own pace. If it’s vibrant nightlife you want then the resort of Faliraki is the place to head.
If you want a change of island, then Symi is just a short boat ride away and makes an ideal day trip or overnighter if you have time to spare. It’s peaceful, the locals are friendly and it’s a million miles away in character from Rhodes, so you can combine the best of both worlds.
Paros – best for getting away from it all
Not to be confused with Poros, Paros is in the Cyclades chain of islands near the larger Naxos. It is your typical sugar-cube island with its little white houses dotted all over. There are good ferry connections to Athens and it has nice, clean beaches. It makes a good base for island hopping and just a step away is the smaller island of Anti-Paros if you really want to get away from it all.
Aegina – best for a day trip from Athens
One of Aegina’s main attractions is that it lies close to Athens and can easily be reached from the port of Piraeus. In fact, many locals commute to Athens but one downside is that the island can become crowded, especially at weekends.
There are a few archaeological sights to take in if you so desire such as the Temple of Aphaia or simply sit and soak up the atmosphere with a good meal and a drink. The island also has a reputation for fine ceramics and there are many gift shops you can visit. The beaches are by and large stony so not recommended for those seeking the pristine sandy beaches of the travel brochures but it’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of Athens for the day.
Of course, there are many more places I could recommend. If you are thinking of visiting Greece this summer then don’t let the scaremongering in the press put you off. In fact, only the main islands in close proximity to Turkey such as Kos and Lesbos have been heavily affected by the refugee crisis. These islands in particular would also benefit tremendously from your visit as they rely heavily on tourism.
As for the economic crisis, anyone who has been to Greece recently says that they haven’t noticed any problems. So wherever you decide to go, have a wonderful holiday!
Whilst many Greeks speak good English, especially in the tourist area, you may find that this is less common if you venture of the beaten track. At any rate, Greeks will appreciate it if you can say a few words in their language.
LEARN THE LINGO – HELP BOX
Please – parakalo pron para – ka – LO
Thank you – evharisto pron – ev – har- ist – HO
I’m sorry – signome pron sig – NO – may
Good morning/ day – Kalimera pron kal – ee- MAIR – a
Have you got..? Mi pos ekete? pron mee – pos – EK – atay
Tomorrow – avrio pron AV – ree – oh
Hi – Yassas pron YA – sas
OK – Entaxi pron – EN – tax – ee
Cheers – Yammas pron YA – mas