Greece – a country of unique beauty, with a uniquely affluent historical past. One can trace the “fingerprints” of Greek history from the Palaeolithic Era to the Roman Period in the hundreds of archaeological sites, as well as in the archaeological museums and collections that are scattered throughout the country. Its incredible historic sites span four millennia, encompassing both the legendary and the obscure. Its convoluted coastline is punctuated by superb beaches, while its mountainous interior urges you to dust off your hiking boots and explore. Minoans, Romans, Arabs, Latin Crusaders, Venetians, Slavs, Albanians and Turks have all left their mark, and almost every town or village has a link to the past, whether it’s a delicately crumbling temple to Aphrodite, a forbidding Venetian fort or a dusty Byzantine monastery decorated with exquisite frescoes. And let’s not forget the museums stuffed to bursting with Classical sculpture and archaeological treasures. The hedonistic pleasures of languor and warmth – swimming in balmy seas at dusk, talking and drinking under the stars – are just as appealing.
Discovering the soul of a Greek city is much more than a quick tour around its monuments and sightseeing. Greek cities are full of possibilities, easily accessible and visitor friendly around the year, offering a great sum of modern facilities and choices. Greek cities combine excellent conference facilities with unique museums, archaeological sites, shopping and nightlife. A walk around the old neighbourhood reveals the coexistence of different eras in cities’ heart. Old mansions, many of them well-preserved, luxurious department stores and small intimate shops, fancy restaurants and traditional taverns are located one next to another. All have their place here.
The islands are the main characteristic of Greece’s morphology and an integral part of the country’s culture and tradition. Greek sovereign land includes 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas, of which only 227 islands are inhabited. This is a truly unique phenomenon for the European continent. The Greek Archipelago offers a highly diversified landscape: beaches stretching over many kms, sheltered bays and coves, sandy beaches with sand-dunes, pebble beaches, coastal caves with steep rocks and dark coloured sand typical of volcanic soil and coastal wetlands. Hop across islands on convenient ferries or inter-island flights.
This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc. as these are subjected to change with without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.
Best time to go: The temperature in Greece is usually highest from June to end of August (northern summer) although most of Greece enjoys mild winters and pleasant weather a few months either side of summer. July to August is peak season and when most tourists tend to visit. This pushes prices up and put pressure on service levels. May to June and September to October are generally warm and sunny and without the hordes of tourists making it a pleasant time to visit. December to March are the coldest and least reliable months and mountainous regions get snow from November to March. It is wise to note that many tourism operators and services only cater for tourists during the peak /shoulder season with many closing over the winter months.
Visa: New Zealanders do not require a visa to enter Greece. Ordinary and official passport holders can travel visa-free for up to 90 days. However, Greece is part of the Schengen Area so if you are travelling to other countries within this area you will need to check there are no restrictions on the time allowed in each country.
Currency: Greece’s monetary unit is the Euro. Currency notes are in the denominations of 5,10,20,50,100,200 and 500 Euro. You can change foreign currency cash or travellers cheques at the airport, banks and official exchange shops. Banks and shops in touristy areas may charge higher commission and businesses outside of main tourist areas may not change travellers cheques. Cash is accepted everywhere however large denominations may not be. It is wise to carry some lower denominations like 20 euro. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Health: There are no recommendations for any special vaccinations or medications for Greece beyond the normal immunization program available in New Zealand. There are general food and water hygiene-related illnesses which can be prevented with slight caution and it is advisable to protect yourself from animal/insect bites. Consult your doctor well in advance as you will experience change in climate, environment, food and water and general hygienic conditions. Your doctor will be able to help you prepare better.
Food and drinks: The Greek Salad, known around the world, is a fine example of Mediterranean cuisine using fresh tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives, green capsicum, feta, olive oil and herbs. Greek food varies among different parts of the country but the art of preparing traditional and fresh food is still common practice in Greece. Olive oil is widely produced and used alongside vegetables, herbs, grains and breads, meats, fish, wine, olive, yogurts and cheeses. Ouzo, an anise-flavoured aperitif is served before meals, usually with a plate of cheese and olives and is a symbol of Greek culture.
Safety & security: Like in any other part of the world, a few precautions need to be taken to avoid any problems. Please do not leave your bags unattended at any times. Please use safe deposit in your hotel room or reception to keep your money or valuables including passport. When you leave the room, it is recommended that you lock your suitcase. It is also recommended to carry a copy of your passport including the visa page.
Clothing: Greece is a predominately Christian country and casual dress is widely accepted. Shorts, t-shirts and any light clothing are absolutely fine during warm summer months and generally people do not get upset with any overly casual dress. During winter months, it can get cold and you should carry something warmer. If visiting a monastery or church it is advisable to dress respectively.
Language: Greek is the official language of Greece spoken by the majority of the population. There are some minority languages and different Greek dialects also. English is widely spoken in tourist areas and resorts however in remote areas you may find it more difficult. Making an effort to communicate is some way or another is often appreciated and learning simple Greek words could make all the difference to your experience.
Gratuities: Tipping is not mandatory but it is highly appreciated by the people who serve you. Before you tip, please check if the service charge has been added. At various establishments like hotels, restaurants and cafes, tipping at a rate of 5%-15% is sufficient. Taxi drivers do not expect tips or even rounded fares however would probably be happy to accept.
Airport tax: Generally your international air ticket should include airport tax on international departure. Domestic taxes are also included in the air tickets.
Internet: Internet/Wi-Fi is common in hotel accommodation throughout Greece. Internet cafes are popular and you will find plenty in large and smaller cities. A pre-paid interest card can be purchased from kiosks if you have a laptop computer with a modem, and access to a live telephone line however connection can be slow.
Telephone: Greece has a dialling code of +30 from New Zealand. Telephone numbers of hotels arranged by us will be supplied to you in your itinerary. When calling New Zealand from Greece, you will need to dial +64. Calling booths are available and best used with a pre-paid calling card. Hotel rates can be expensive so check before using.
Time Difference: Greece is 13 hours behind New Zealand from April to September and 11 hours from October to March.
Photography: Taking photos of airports, government buildings and military establishments are prohibited. If you are taking photos of local ladies, please politely ask for prior permission.
Electricity: Voltage supply in Greece is 220 volts, plugs C,D E & F. Some hotels have adapters available which you could borrow free of charge during your stay but it might be a good idea to carry one from home. Please visit this website for more information on plugs: http://kropla.com/electric2.htm
Postage: Hellenic Post is Greece’s postal service and offers all standard services.
General: Depending on the type of business, opening hours in Greece vary immensely. Supermarkets are generally open 8am to 8pm, close early on Saturdays and are closed Sundays and public holidays. Other shops generally open at 9am and close by 2pm. 2pm to 5.30pm is considered ‘lunch’ or siesta time with the majority of shops closed – especially in the hotter months. Petrol stations may open all day, with some open until 10pm. Most businesses are closed on a Sunday.
Pharmacies are open normal business hours with most closed at the weekends. There is often one open over the weekend and the list should be in the window of any pharmacy. Tourist shops do not have to abide by normal business hours and tend to be open later.
For emergencies call 100 for Police and 166 for Hospital Care.
Greek beaches rarely have life savers. Always be careful when swimming on remote beaches.
CITIES OF INTEREST
Athens is Greece’s capital and largest city, and home to the world famous monument ‘Acropolis of Athens’. A city soaked in heritage and culture, Athens is known as the birthplace of civilization and democracy. With its dramatic views and astonishing buildings and monuments, Athens is a must see for travellers from all corners of the world.
Delphi is the big enchilada of Greek sites. Even more than Olympia, this place has everything: a long and glorious history, spectacular ancient remains, a superb museum, and a heartbreakingly beautiful location on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Look up and you see the cliffs and crags of Parnassus; look down, and Greece’s most beautiful plain of olive trees stretches as far as your eyes can see. Delphi is especially magical in the spring, when there are both snow and wildflowers on Parnassus. Modern Delphi is a cluster of houses, shops and hotels dug into the steep slope beneath the formidable Phaidriades Cliff.
Kalambaka, the gateway to Meteora, is almost entirely modern, having been burned to the ground by the Nazis in WWII. For centuries, the strange and mystical landscape has been home to monks looking for peace away from the wars that were plaguing the rest of the country. It takes at least a day to see all of the monasteries of Meteora, so you’ll need to spend the night either in Kalambaka or the village of Kastraki, which is closer to the rocks. Kalambaka is very tourist friendly, with a wide range of amenities, bars and restaurants.
Crete is Greece’s most popular holiday destination and the largest of the Greek Islands. The island is very mountainous, dotted with numerous coves, bays, peninsulas, gorges, rivers, lakes and soft sandy beaches along the beautifully blue Mediterranean Sea. Rich in culture, Crete has plenty of archaeological and historical sites while also offering a sun filled beach holiday.
Heraklion is a modern and lively city, steeped in history with numerous archaeological monuments bearing witness to the economic, spiritual and cultural developments of the past ages. The first European civilisation, the Minoan civilisation, flourished on this land 5000 years ago. It is a very dynamic and cosmopolitan town, particularly during the summer period when thousands of visitors can be seen shopping in the market or visiting the museums and other places of interest.
Chania city is in the north-west of Crete and covers an area of about 11 square kilometres. Chania has a great history and cultural heritage, partly because it faced many conquerors through time, thus being open to the influences of different civilizations. Chania has many monuments of Byzantine period, Venetian period, Ottoman period and modern History as well as worth-seeing museums, like the Nautical Museum of Crete, the Archaeological Museum of Chania, the house of El. Venizelos, the War Museum of Chania.
This beautiful island is what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption over 3,600 years ago. The eruption created a giant lagoon which can be viewed by boat and the dramatic landscape gives way to wonderful views and photo opportunities. White-washed buildings perched over the Aegean Sea and black sand beaches make this island one of the most spectacular destinations in Greece. Scuba diving and winery visits are among the many activates available in Santorini.
This Island is part of the Cyclades and lies within the islands of Tinos, Syros, Paros & Naxos. Regarded as a cosmopolitan destination in Greece, Mykonos is very popular and can be crowded during the months of July and August. With plenty of entertainment options be prepared for loud dance clubs, with cafes and bars that cater for the tourist as opposed to more traditional fare. In Greek mythology, Mykonos is believed to be the location of the battle between Zeus and Titans.
The largest of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes is famous of the Colossus of Rhodes – a 30 meter statue that once stood over the city before being destroyed in an earthquake. The island is dotted with small villages and beach resorts while still offering archaeological sites and culture. The medieval Old Town of the City of Rhodes, a world heritage site, adds to the attraction of this beautiful island.
One of the smaller islands, Patmos is a popular Christian pilgrimage destination. The island in mentioned in the Book of Revelations, where the author, John (St John), is said to have been given a vision from Jesus. Visitors can see the cave where John was said to have received the vision. The island has many early Christian basilicas and monasteries, many built in honour of St John.
One of the more popular islands in the Cyclades group, Paros was once famed for its marble. The quarries have mostly been closed and the island is now a hot tourist destination, home to Aqua Park and many water-sports.