Sun-roasted beaches, blue waters and a varied selection of thousands of impressive Mediterranean islands to choose from. Greece is deservedly recognized as one of the best holiday destinations. Those who are not from the beach will be equally served with lots of history and culture to enjoy while exploring the cradle of Western civilization.
Skiathos does not lack history and impressive natural landscapes, but what justifies the position of this island among the best destinations in Greece are its magnificent beaches. There are more than 60 spread along the coast of the island and in nearby islets, satisfying all tastes and needs. From spring to autumn the island is invaded by sun-hungry travelers and many of the beaches are bursting during that time. That said, it is still possible to find hidden and virtually deserted coves. Fancy exploring the heritage of Skiathos? Then do not miss the opportunity to discover the fascinating medieval ruins of Kastro on the north coast of the island.
There are many reasons why Cos is on the list of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece: its stunning beaches, its blue seas and its lively nightlife, among them. The island also boasts an extensive tourist network centered in Kardamena, to satisfy almost exclusively all-inclusive vacation package travelers, without confusion. Independent travelers fleeing the tourist complexes will be better served in the City of Cos, which is dominated by the great fortress of the Knights of St. John, and in Mastichári. The second largest island of the Dodecanese, after Rhodes, is steeped in history and the healing temple of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, cannot be missed.
Dynamic, fashionable and impregnated with centuries of history, the second city of Greece boasts many great attractions such as those in Athens, but has avoided the sometimes frantic pace of the capital. It is a compact city that can be easily visited in a couple of days, but those who have more time will not be left with nothing to do. Thessaloniki, or Salonica, as it used to be called, is the most sophisticated of the two main cities in the country. Chic cafes, designer shops and restaurants that serve good food line your seafood between the modern Ladadika and the iconic White Tower. History lovers will be happy with a heritage that encompasses the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.
An island of stunning beauty, Corfu is located halfway between the heel of Italy and the Greek peninsula. Thanks to its long history of occupation, this popular destination offers an intoxicating mix of different architectural influences, from the golden works of art of the Byzantine churches and the Venetian defenses to the colonial monuments with an undeniable British and French touch. Covered with pine forests and olive groves, the green nature of Corfu is what tales are made of. In fact, Homer repeatedly refers to the fertile nature of Corfu in his legendary Odyssey. Travelers now visit this Greek destination both for its vegetation and to enjoy its beaches and pleasant weather almost all year.
One of the most popular Greek islands is Rhodes. From the bustling streets and nightlife of Faliraki to the green forests of the interior, the turquoise bays and the amazing whitewashed villages organized in waterfalls that descend to the golden beaches, visitors have no shortage of options to explore. Rhodes also boasts a dynamic culture and rich heritage that dates back at least to the 16th century BC. Where this vivid history is best explored is in Lindos, one of the most impressive medieval villages in the Mediterranean. An amazing acropolis, crowned by an incredible defending castle, stands guard over the town while impressive frescoes in several nearby churches make visitors fall in love even more.
Hedonistic night parties, sun-covered beaches (especially in Paradise and Super Paradise) and the friendliest gay destination in the Aegean, have given a long reign for Mykonos as the most attractive Greek tourist destination for gay travelers. The island still lacks a lot to be the gay mecca it once was, although it is still very popular for tourists flying the rainbow flag. During the summer months, thousands of visitors on ferries flock to the coast of the Greek island. Although this means crowded beaches, high prices and packages of tourists pushing into the maze of cobbled alleys in the main city, it will be difficult not to fall under the spell of this Aegean jewel.
Beyond simply being another Greek island, 'Megalónisos' or the Great Island, as locals refer to Crete, it is more an independent country than a part of Greece. Its natural beauty and the richness of its beaches make Crete the favorite Greek destination for many tourists, although it also boasts historical wealth, as the birthplace of Europe's earliest advanced civilization, the Minoan. Northern Crete has been extensively developed with vacation resorts almost exclusively for tour packages. However, there is plenty of space on the island for those seeking isolation and tranquility, from the steep White Mountains to the coast with its hidden coves, caves and kilometers of golden beaches.
The southernmost of the six main Ionian islands, Zakynthos, is a bit like the case of Jekyll and Hyde. The east and south coasts have been heavily urbanized, being exclusively for vacation packages. An hour's drive from there, but to a world of commercialized centers, you will find a natural redoubt with spectacular rocky cliffs that plummet the waves. The island is also known by the Italian name of Zante and its biggest resort is Laganas, where you can party until the sun rises most of the time from April to October. Those who seek a little more isolation can explore the desolate and rocky northwest and the fertile central plains. Despite being a popular tourist destination, the town of Zante still has corners of authentic Greek hospitality.
Adhered to the cliffs of an old volcanic crater that reaches almost 400 meters above the waves of the Aegean, the whitewashed main town of Santorini, Fira, never ceases to dazzle visitors. The island and its beaches bustle most of the year, as mass cruise day visitors join other sun devotees. Somehow Santorini still manages to surprise with its silent corners and delights with small churches and hidden chapels. The island is also home to some of the best wineries in the country, and its fresh white wines shine to the fullest accompanied by a dish of good local seafood.
Many travelers only visit Athens as a brief must-stop on their vacation to the Greek islands, but they are doing themselves a disservice. Explore beyond the tourist magnet of the Acropolis, dominated by the iconic temple of the Parthenon and the restored National Archaeological Museum and the city will reward you big time. Although the Greek capital is well known for its rich heritage, which covers more than 3,400 years, it has also been improved at a frantic pace to become a more culturally modern metropolis. In neighborhoods like Pláka and Psyrrí, visitors are welcomed by a lively street life, coffee shops and hidden patios full of locals and tourists.