It’s often the case, when you go to another country, that your options are limited by the climate, the landscape and the types of attractions that are available. Even when those options suit you down to the ground, it means that you need to be really sure you'll be content with your selection before you commit to a booking. This can’t be said of Greece. When you opt for an A1 Travel package holiday on one of the Greek islands, you can arrange to take a day-trip to another region and there is a great variation between what’s offered in each place. Greece is one of those places that crops up on nearly everybody’s bucket list. Since the days of Plato and Pythagoras, it has been a site of astonishing culture and beauty and much of its early splendour can still be seen, even if it’s not in what you might call ‘mint condition’. At only three hours away by air, it’s a very popular destination with UK holidaymakers and this is reflected by the easy availability of British food and English-language entertainment.
With such varied terrain, Greece experiences differences in the climate depending on where you are in the country. The islands, where most holidaymakers are likely to be found, are hot and almost completely dry during their long summers – April to August – and mild but with some rainfall from November to February. Although temperatures out here are very high at their peak, the effect is tempered by the presence of a cooling wind. In mountainous regions, such as in Crete, the temperatures are lower and there is a higher likelihood of rainfall; in the very high regions of some of the Greek mountains, there are even a number of popular ski resorts; not something that automatically springs to mind when you think of Greece. The lowland areas of mainland Greece are, in general, very hot in the summer and cold during the winter, experiencing both rain and snow in some areas and experiencing temperature highs in the forties. There are fluctuations from area to area, however, with northern Greece tending to be both wetter and cooler than the south.
In a country with over two hundred inhabited islands, it’s not surprising that there are an astonishing amount of excellent beaches, so you'll be able to find one that's right for you whether you’re on a family holiday, enjoying a romantic break or taking a sporty holiday alone. All of the main tourist islands have several amazing beaches, including these notable ones:
- Corfu: A lot of the beaches are popular with naturists but Agios Georgios Pagon is more of a sporty beach, with windsurfing and diving as well as warm, calm water that is perfect for swimmers and plenty of interesting hiking trails surrounding it. With bars or tavernas close to hand, you could spend the whole day there.
- Crete: The enormous beach at Georgioupolis draws a crowd seeking relaxation and a little water sport with its beautiful white sand, picturesque mountain scenery and handy promenade for when you need to find somewhere to eat. It's conveniently close to an attractive little fishing-village where you can buy souvenirs and enjoy the catch-of-the-day in one of the restaurants.
- Zante: Tsivili Beach has good access for wheelchairs and prams and is evenly divided between bare sand and sun beds. The beach slopes gently, making the closer, shallower water safe for children, with the deeper water easily accessible for adults or pedalo-users and windsurfers. There are showers on the beach and plenty of bars and cafés nearby for food, drink and toilet facilities.
- Kos: Lively Kardamena has an impressively large beach, edged by plenty of restaurants and tavernas. Often crowded at its centre but more peaceful at either end, there are loads of water sports to choose from, including canoeing, parascending and jetskiing but there are pedalos or even sun beds for hire if you’d rather take it easy.
- Rhodes: Perfect for windsurfers but a little too wild for families with children, Prassonissi beach flanks the tumultuous Aegean as it meets the Mediterranean. With a rocky island to visit and a picturesque lighthouse, it’s also a wonderful place for keen photographers.
- Kefalonia: This Blue Flag beach is one of the most popular on the island, bordered by a lush pine forest and featuring soft, rock-free sand and warm, shallow waters. Although there are sun beds and parasols to hire for the less active, there is a water sports centre and a good choice of cafés if you get bored of lying around.
- Skiathos: Mikros Asselinos offers the opportunity for a little privacy as it’s a pretty secluded area nestling in a crescent of rocks. With a wild air, the landscape is unsuitable for children, making it the perfect destination for an escape from the crowds for couples or simply for those who relish the peace and quiet. The wind can be bracing and stirs up some pretty choppy waves, but the beach itself is smooth and sandy, although small.
Choice of accommodation
The many kinds of accommodation available reflect the differences in the environment and the range of visitors who pass through, including the backpackers, who often choose to stay in hostels and those enjoying a family holiday. Families can choose to stay in a resort where they may make the most of the many deals on offer from A1 Travel by paying to go all inclusive or they can stay in apartments outside the resorts and cater for themselves. Some hotels even offer several types of accommodation on-site, such as the Mitsis Rodos Village Hotel on the island of Rhodes which offers family rooms, maisonettes and bungalows, making it perfect for a family holiday or even a romantic break. With Kiotari Beach a couple of minutes away, plenty of water sports and activities available, in-house entertainment and a wide variety of delicious food served throughout the day and evening, the all-inclusive option is a good idea. Whether you’re hoping for a restful retreat or an action-packed holiday, somewhere like the Mareblue Beach resort on the northern coast of Corfu has everything you could need, including a beautiful beach nearby and an unspoilt lagoon. In an area free from excessive development you can feel as though you’re getting back to nature in the outdoors, then retreat to the luxury of the complex to enjoy the hotel’s fine food and entertainment.
Wonders of the Greek world – old and new
Greece is a country of many landmarks. As well as the relics of its ancient glory, such as the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis in Athens, the theatre at Delphi and the Byzantine ruins at Mystras, there are natural wonders like Myrtos Beach with its white sands and cliff-face and shimmering blue water and Crete’s Samaria Gorge, which is a popular spot for hikers and photographers as it has some of the most stunning views in the world. But Greece is also home to many modern attractions that draw tourists of all ages year after year. Theme parks have only recently sprung up throughout the country, but it now has some of the best parks in Europe, including water-themed parks Hydropolis and Aqualand in Corfu and the Allou Fun Park in Athens. Sports fans might like to pay a visit to the Olympic Stadium in Athens and, naturally, there are many museums throughout the country as well as the Cretaquarium sea-life centre in Crete, the National Marine Park on Zante and countless other popular attractions.
Eating out in Greece
Wherever you go, you’ll find friendly little squares edged with bars and restaurants where you’ll be able to sample the local cuisine or order something less adventurous if you or your children like to stick to what you’re used to. It’s worth trying the local food, though, because it has a well-deserved good reputation. Greek delicacies include a large number of tasty breads, containing ingredients such as olives, walnuts or raisins. Bread is frequently eaten with fresh salads or dipped in olive oil, which is far lighter than you will have experienced in Britain as it doesn’t travel particularly well. Luckily, if you have olive oil in Greece, you can be sure that it will be fresh and probably locally pressed. Sea food dishes are popular and you can expect to see octopus on many menus, but you will see lamb on every menu and it will be cooked with delicate herbs and spices to enhance rather than hide the flavour, or it may be served wrapped in vine leaves, which are known as 'dolmades'. If you like something strong to accompany your meal, you will be spoilt for choice. For a country that isn’t comfortable with public displays of drunkenness, Greece produces a large number of delicious alcoholic drinks, including the strong, sweet ouzo, the wine by-product spirit tsipouro and, naturally, Greek wine, which has been produced here since ancient times and can be deceptively cheap while having the quality of something much more expensive.
Out and about
If you are a secret foodie, or even a not-so-secret one, there are some places you may particularly enjoy. For example, Santorini, which is a great destination for a romantic retreat, has its own dish, fava, which is somewhat like houmous, except that it's made with split peas rather than chick peas, as well as a plethora of highly flavoured vegetables, including the white aubergine. One of its most prestigious restaurants is the 218 in the north of the island at Oia, where they fuse Cretan and Cycladic cuisines to produce something uniquely Santorinian. That’s not to say that the other islands aren’t awash with great places to eat as many, such as Crete, are renowned for the quality of the food. Nightlife is as varied as the landscape, ranging from the party atmosphere of the Mykonos clubs to the laid-back clubs in and around Corfu Town, such as Villa Mercedes or Cristal. In addition to the attraction of Greece’s varied nightlife, there are a significant number of festivals, such as the Rockwave Festival in June, featuring international music stars, or the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, which takes place in November.
It would be a bit of a wasted opportunity to visit Greece and not take a few day-trips to experience the sheer diversity of the country. Island-hopping is a popular pastime and there is a good range of excursions available so you may be staying in the party resort of Faliraki but you can still enjoy a trip to Rhodes’ near-neighbour, Symi, to visit its quiet tavernas and view the Byzantine architecture. Perhaps you might fancy a shopping tour of the islands close to Skiathos, including Skopelos and Alonissos, followed by a leisurely diversion through the Sporades Marine Park. If you want to know more about the destinations available, browse A1 Travel's website or give us a call.
Whether you are booking a last minute holiday in Greece or planning ahead to next summer, A1 Travel have deals to make it easier on your bank balance and an easily navigated website to make it easier for you to arrange. If you want to talk to somebody before you book your holiday, our phone lines are open late to give you time to do just that. With more than three decades of experience in organising package holidays for satisfied customers, as well as ABTA and ATOL membership, A1 Travel is ready to make your holiday dreams come true. All you have to do is decide where to go and trust us to make it happen for you.
Article By Nick Lima