Home Europe Greece Our Top 5 Greek Travel Tips For The Perfect Holiday

Our Top 5 Greek Travel Tips For The Perfect Holiday

Greek travel tips
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

We love Greece. Yep, us and millions of others are downright besotted by this country at the sunny southern end of Europe. It’s easy to see why…those dreamy beaches, those eucalyptus-scented hills, those enthralling ancient ruins, the uber-tasty local cuisine. We could go on and on and on. But we’ll stop waxing lyrical a moment to offer up our top Greek travel tips.

These are the nuggets of info that we think will help all travelers heading to the land of feta cheese and homecooked moussaka. They are the titbits that we wish we’d been told the first time we started planning that once-in-a-lifetime adventure to the Aegean Sea and its sparkling islets, from Santorini to Crete.

Our Greek travel tips touch on all aspects of the country, from the taste-bud-tingling food (with some ideas on what and how you should order) to the practicalities of getting from A to B (by boat? by plane?). We’ve also got some good info on choosing the right season to get to Greece, which is unquestionably one of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning a jaunt here.

Choose the right time of year!

Greek island harbor
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

If the first of our Greek travel tips seems a little obvious, then that’s really because it is! However, dig down a little and you might find that picking the right time to visit Greece isn’t that easy at all.

Different parts of the country are better during different seasons and there are certain things that mean you might want to skip particular destinations at specific times. Let’s break it down a little with a look at all the options:

  • Summer (June-August) – This is peak, peak, peak season. It’s the time when the bulk of the millions of travelers who visit Greece each year make their visit and the beaches in most popular hotspots will be packed to bursting. It’s also hot, like 100+ sorta’ hot! The downsides are that prices increase, and you have to deal with high, hot winds on the islands (a phenomenon known as the Meltemi).
  • Fall (September-November) – We might as well have made one of our Greek travel tips to travel in the autumn. Seriously, this is the single BEST time of year to hit the nation. Crowds dip but the weather stays warm. In fact, you can top up the tan in Crete as late as November.
  • Winter (December-February) – It can get cold in Greece in the winter and the locals won’t swim in the Aegean, even if it’s warm by North American standards. This is a great time to explore historical sites, though, as they are often empty and can be cheaper.
  • Spring (March-May) – Another great time of year to visit, especially later on in spring, this one’s not got the crowds of summer but offers fresh days in the 80s. The sea is cooler but the Greek mountains are perfect for hiking, complete with wildflower blooms and butterflies.

Don’t go thinking you can travel it all!

Greek path
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Too often do we see would-be Greek island hoppers saying they’re going to do the whole shebang in two weeks. Hate to break it to you…but we doubt that’s even possible. There are over 6,000 islands in Greece, spread across 450 miles, three seas, and a handful of separate archipelagos. And that’s not even mentioning the mainland, which hosts must-see wonders like Athens and UNESCO-tagged Delphi.

Our advice would be to pick one region and stick to it. Thankfully, Greece is neatly divided into clear areas to make that easy. Here are just a few options:

  • The Cyclades – These are the most popular islands in Greece. They are the ones with the whitewashed villages and host the likes of Mykonos and Santorini. They’re busy in summer but ooze vacation vibes.
  • The Dodecanese – These islands are the easternmost in Greece. They contain famous spots like Kos and Rhodes, and are known for their rich history and hot weather.
  • Ionia – The Ionian Sea is the westernmost part of Greece. There’s a string of seriously lovely islands here, including party-mad Zante and idyllic Kefalonia. We love coming here for R&R.
  • Crete – Crete is an adventure in its own right, more like a whole country than a single island. We could spend months exploring its mountains and bays.
  • The Peloponnese – Technically and island but it hardly feels like it, the Peloponnese is a massive cut-out of central Greece that has laid-back but lived-in towns like Nafplion and Pilos. Come for a local atmosphere and cheaper stays.

Basically, Greece is just far too large to think you can conquer it all in a week, or two, or even 52. We’ve met expats who’ve lived here for 20 years, and they still say they’re exploring and getting a feel for the various islands and places. More practically, you might find that the availability (or lack thereof) of flights and inter-island ferries, especially during low season, means you simply couldn’t travel the whole country from end to end even if you wanted to!

Choose the right arrival point

Greek ruins
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Now that you’ve chosen the region you want to visit, it’s time to start planning that adventure. The first step is going to be getting over to Greece itself. But, because the country is divided up into thousands of islets and peninsulas, it’s not like getting to other European destinations and all about whizzing into the capital and getting started.

It’s true that most of the long-haul flight connections from the US and Asia will get into Athens. However, if you leave the airport there, you’re likely going to be heading straight for a boat to the isles via the nearby port in Piraeus or renting a car to drive on to your final destination.

There might be a better way of doing all that, either by connecting through another EU airport or going on a domestic link from Athens itself. There are plenty of other airports in the country for access to different regions:

  • Rhodes Diagoras International Airport – A prime gateway to the eastern islands.
  • Santorini Airport – A major low-cost arrival point into the Cyclades islands.
  • Chania Airport – For getting to western Crete.
  • Heraklion Airport – For eastern Crete.
  • Preveza Airport – A mainland hub that is great for reaching the Ionian region.
  • Corfu Airport – Mainly serves just Corfu itself.

Eat as the locals do

Greek taverna
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

Greeks tend to have big lunches followed by even bigger dinners much later on in the evening. Breakfast, in contrast, is usually pretty small – just an on-the-go coffee (usually iced if it’s the summer) with a sweet pastry on the side. When you do sit down to eat, remember that this is a land where the small dish reigns supreme. Yep, mezze eating is the norm in Greece, so prepare to order lots of dishes and share the lot. Some of the top things to sample include:

  • Saganaki – Fried cheese served with lemon.
  • Tzatziki – A local dip made from olive oil, lemon, and mint.
  • Greek salad – A must with every mezze, this is a mix of fresh tomatoes, cucumber, and olives.
  • Horta – These wild highland greens are sort of like dandelions; bitter and zingy with a splash of lemon juice.
  • Gigantes – Earthy and filling beans in a tomato and onion sauce.

We could go on and on listing what to order at your first mezze, but really the joy is in finding out for yourself. That said, it’s usually a good idea to ask what’s in season (Greek artichokes in May are stunning!) and always sample the local produce (those Cretan dakos pies – can’t miss em’!).

Go off the beaten path

Hiking in Greece
Photo by Joseph Richard Francis

One of the very best Greek travel tips we’ve ever been given was to steer off the beaten path. It pushed us to visit parts of the country that most travelers don’t even think of going to and some of our most enduring memories are of places that are very distant from the trodden route.

Of course, this isn’t to knock that traveled path – it’s traveled for a reason! Santorini really does offer some of the world’s most spectacular sunsets and dramatic coastal views. Kos really is one of the most welcoming and fun-filled islands in the Mediterranean Sea. All we’re saying is that you don’t have to spend the whole holiday glued to the popular beach. There’s just too much to explore here!

Take Mykonos as an example. It’s most famed for its bumping party beaches and wild nights down in Super Paradise. However, you can also venture to the north coast to find the lonely sands of Agios Sostis, or even over to Delos, where the ancient remnants of a 2,500-year-old sanctuary await.

Greece will also reward those who dedicate themselves to veering off the beaten track for longer periods. We’ve already mentioned the Peloponnese. It’s doozy for folks who want to escape the crowds, with isles like Poros only two hours’ boat from Athens. Delve deeper and you get places like the Deep Mani region, a land of long-forgotten stone towns by idyllic harbors. Then there’s northern Greece, where you’ll sense Balkan culture creeping in and see the great rises of mighty mountains crashing to the skies – not many go there!

Greek travel tips – a conclusion

This guide offers just a handful of Greek travel tips. It has you covered when you come to plan that trip to the isles of the Aegean or Ionian seas, when you’re wondering where you should book your flight to, or even what season is best to travel in. It’s also got some insights into Greek cooking, mentioning the things that we think every traveler simply has to try when they settle in a traditional taverna for the first time, along with a declaration that off-the-beaten-track explorations in this part of the world can sometimes be just as awesome as ticking off the mainstay sights.