Greece hugs the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. Its more than 2,000 islands extend into the warm waters of the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean seas and the Sea of Crete.
Its location between three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia – and its past rulers – the ancient Greeks, the Roman and Byzantine empires and the Ottomans – have given it a fascinating heritage. Greece’s ruins are world famous – from the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens to Delphi on the slopes of Mount Parnassus and Olympia, the sanctuary dedicated to Zeus and site of the ancient Olympics.
For bathing, basking and eating, its islands are world-famous too. There are several chains including the Argo Saronic Gulf Islands, Cyclades, Dodecanese, Ionian Islands and the Sporades. The Cyclades are the most famous. There are 39 in total, 24 of which are inhabited. Seeing the postcard-perfect little white churches standing against azure-blue skies and even bluer, sparkling seas is reason enough to book flights to Greece.
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Greece’s Mediterranean climate allows for long, warm summers with 11 hours of sunshine per day. The hottest days are made more bearable by seasonal winds called meltemi. Winters are mild in the low areas, but the mountains are cooler and snowy. Athens averages a temperature of 10 C in January and February.
Most travellers book vacations to Greece between mid-June and the end of August when temperatures are at their hottest. Between Easter (March/April) and mid-June is also a good time to visit; the days are sunny but not too hot.
The shoulder season runs from late August to mid-October. Days are warm, resorts and attractions are open and, best of all, prices are lower.
Most of the resorts and tourist attractions close down between October and April. Unless you are in Greece for the skiing, you may find that there is little to do during these months.
Between state international, domestic and municipal airfields there are 44 airports in Greece. Travellers taking trips to Greece can get to the islands easily or from the islands back to Athens. The domestic airlines offering flights include Olympic Airlines, Sky Express and Aegean Airlines.
The rail network covers much of the mainland and links Greece with Central Europe and Turkey. There are express, regular and high-speed train services running daily. Hellenic Railways Organisation runs the rails.
There are intercity coach services on the mainland, but on the islands buses are the best way of getting about. Even the tiniest towns are linked to the bus network. KTEL runs the inter-urban busses throughout Greece.
Renting cars and mopeds is easy and relatively inexpensive.
Off the mainland, the islands are all well-connected by hydrofoils, ferries and passenger boats.
(prices quotes are from London)