Things to do in Greece

Greece is a fabulous country so steeped in history; it’s positively dripping in the stuff. It’s possible to be overloaded with history so try to spread out the culture a bit with days lazing on the beach or island hopping by ferry. Greece will entice you back again. There’s so much to see and take in that you’ll come back again and again. It’s difficult to narrow down a top ten for the country but start with these and you’ll get a good flavour of the country outside of the capital.

Posted on: June 01, 2012 by David Lewis
1. Santorini
Santorini is without doubt the most spectacular of the Greek Isles and in its present state was formed by the massive explosion of the volcano, Thira which formed the original island. Today, only the rim of the volcano survives and the beautiful white cube Greek houses with their blue shutters and doors cling precariously to the cliff edge. There are a number of wonderful restaurants, almost all with superb views and the local wine, grown in volcanic soil is a real treat. Arriving at Santorini by sea allows you to see the banded colours of lava across the cliffs topped with the frosting of the lighter lava called tufa.

2. Mykonos
Mykonos is not really what you expect Greece to be. Here there is little in the form of obvious history and archaeology and you come here for a holiday, to relax and chill along with the other beautiful people that frequent the island. Famed for its nudist beaches, be careful where you venture if you don’t want to be shocked. Mykonos town is very quaint and the streets, which confuse the visitor, were designed to do just that in trying to confuse Arab pirates that ravaged the shore s in antiquity.

3. Hydra
If you’re in Athens and want to try something a bit different, take the hydrofoil to the little island of Hydra, not far from the capital. Here, vehicle traffic is banned and life proceeds at a gentle pace. Because of its exclusivity, it is a bit more expensive that the other islands but for a tranquil time on a beautiful island it’s worth it. Try the trek up the hillside to the little monastery. Great views from here and a chance to see how the island’s religious inhabitants lived their lives over the centuries.

4. Olympia
What a city Olympia must have been. Even today, looking out over the ruins you can picture the scale and grandeur of the place. The first Olympic Games were held here in 776BC and went on, every four years until the Romans abolished them 400 years later. The Temple of Zeus held what was one of the wonders of the ancient world, a massive statue of Zeus in gold and ivory which lived in the temple. Lost in antiquity, it was created by the renowned sculptor, Phidias whose workshop has also been excavated. For a bit of fun – and if it’s not too hot, head to the stadium and challenge your partner to a race!

5. Meteora
You’ll get to Meteora going through Kalambaka and here you’ll first see the dramatic pinnacles of rock on the horizon. You then head into a little village called Kastraki and beyond there the road turns into a footpath that winds its way between the pinnacles to the six monasteries beyond. One of them was the setting for a James Bond film – For Your Eyes Only.  The scenery is awesome, from the olive and citrus groves to the pine trees and rock formations; you’ll feel you’ve travelled to another land. Whilst today it’s possible to get a taxi to the monasteries, the fit traveller really out to walk it the way the monks did, some of whom even climbed the cliffs to build their homes.

6. Mt Olympus
Unbelievably for the Mediterranean, this can be a very dangerous trip in winter and spring because of the high snowfall and risk of avalanches. Carefully planned and at the right time of year, a hike and climb up Mount Olympus to the home of the gods is an exhilarating and worthwhile experience. Either take a guide or go in a party, make use of the mountain lodge to break up your journey, eat plenty of energy giving food before you start and take plenty of supplies and warm clothing with you. You need to be properly prepared and have the right clothing and footwear but the success of standing where the gods were purported to live is a once in a lifetime experience.

7. Delphi
I went to see the Oracle at Delphi full of hope that she might give me advice on the rest of my life but sadly I was out of luck! Another of the wonders of the ancient world, it’s found nestled on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus, Here you can see why it was built where it was for the scenery and countryside are magnificent. Many kings and rulers sought the advice of the oracle which had prophetic powers. Unfortunately for many, the cryptic responses served to defeat them. The main example quoted is that of King Croesus who was told in response to his inquiry into whether or not to invade the rising Persian Empire under Cyrus: "If you attack, you will destroy a great kingdom." The kingdom to be destroyed, unfortunately for Croesus, was his own. The oracle was in fact a young maiden who was stuck in a cave where she breathed toxic but hallucinogenic gases that made her speak strangely and which was interpreted by priests usually in exchange for cash or favours!

8. Corinth Canal
A variety of rulers in antiquity dreamed of constructing a canal across the Isthmus of Corinth but most of them died before construction could begin and so the projects were abandoned. It is believed however that the Emperor Nero commanded work to begin and dug the first hole before employing 6,000 Jewish prisoners of war to complete the construction. The modern day canal was built in the late 19th century by the engineers that built the Panama Canal and it followed the route of the ancient canal. Because of this, none of the original canal is now in existence. The canal, as seen today, is quite an engineering feat and is definitely worth the trip.

9. Food!
We’ll move away from history and ancient sites for a moment and consider the delicious food of the country. Greece and Cyprus are renowned for their ‘meze’ meals where a little of everything on the menu is served. The format of the meze can change dramatically across the country. Inland and near the mountains, game is included, near the sea, a lot of fish makes it into the meze and invariably, the meal is rounded off with some locally made sweets or yoghurt and honey. My favourite meal in Greece was called Chicken Hymettas, named after the mountain where it was first made. Chicken which has been marinated in lime is cooked in honey and saffron before being served with toasted flaked almonds. Delicious.

10. Island Hopping
There are hundreds of islands off both coasts of Greece and many of them warrant a visit. The best way to do this is to island hop, either by using the ferries, hydrofoils and fishermen’s boats or to charter a yacht and sail leisurely amongst them. You’ll feel like you’re in another world as the deep blue sea gives way to emerald islands where you can pull up, enjoy a beautiful meal before being rocked to sleep by the sea.



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