I would recommend Greece as a brilliant holiday destination for anyone wanting to travel somewhere on the Mediterranean but not sure where to go! It has absolutely beautiful beaches – whether you want plenty of amenities and a great night life or peaceful and natural – as well as delicious and varied food and of course a rich culture and history.
I was lucky enough to stay with a Greek friend of mine and her family for 3 weeks and during this time was only able to expore a tiny bit of what Greece has to offer. However I wanted to write about the beautiful places that I visited, and hope that this will inspire you to explore these places and more..
| I stayed in the beautiful port city of Thessaloniki (also known as Thessalonica or Salonica). It’s home to many notable Byzantine monuments as well as several Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. There are many lovely cafes which serve great coffee, including the famous ‘frappe’ which you’ll find in every coffee shop in Greece. It is among the most popular drinks in Greece and has been called the national coffee of the country. It’s a cold foam-topped drink made from spray-dried coffee (this is the secret to creating the thick long-lasting foam which is different to 'crema') blended with milk and sugar and served with ice cubes and a straw. I also recommend the traditional Greek coffee (apparently it’s actually Turkish but don’t mention this in Greece!) it’s served hot in a small cup without the addition of milk.
There are plenty of great restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from when you go out at night. They cater for most tastes in music however in a typical bar the night usually starts with western pop/rock and later on changes to the more Arabic sound of Greek pop music and traditional tunes alike.
Greece is famous for it’s cuisine although usually it’s only a small selection of foods such as Moussaka and stuffed vine leaves that you can find in restaurants outside of Greece! Just to mention a couple of my favourite foods that I’d never tried before I went to Greece… I really enjoyed the pies and pastries such as Spanakopita – a feta and spinach pie made with filo pastry served in many bakeries and coffee shops. Desserts are very popular in Greece and very sweet! My favourite dessert was Revani – a moist and flavourful semolina cake with a sweet syrup flavoured with orange zest – I’d definitely reccomend trying it!
There's such a large variety of foods grown and made in Greece that I can’t list them all but different areas have their own specialities such as citrus japonica fruit or kumquat transformed into a liqueur and a sweet in Corfu, Tsikoudia or Raki drink produced in Crete, Ouzo produced in Mytilini, pistachios from Aegina, olive oil from Crete and Mytilini, and Mastic from Chios.
Ok so enough about the food – you already knew that it’s tasty! I only touched the surface of Greece but of the places I visited I’d definitely recommend the following..
The White Tower, Thessaloniki
Veroia, a commercial centre of Macedonia is settled at the eastern foot of the majestic mountain range of Vermio. From many places within the town you can witness an impressive view of the Plain of Thessaloniki. There’s plenty to do and see in Veroia including The old church of Christ, Barbouta – Tripotamos neibourhood, The Byzantine Public Baths, Elia park, Church of Agii Anargyri (the Unmercenaries), The Dam on Aliakmonas River, The Byzantine Museum, The Archaeological Museum and The Town Hall. There are many lovely boutiques and cafes and restaurants. The only problem is parking – it’s pretty limited so beware that when you park somewhere that someone may well park infront/behind/next to you so that you can’t get out again.
Also, Revani is a speciality in Veroia so this is to place to try it while you’re in Greece!
Naoussa/Agios Nikolaos Park
Near to Veroia is the beautiful town of Naoussa. It has a reputation for being the most beautiful town in Macedonia. I went to Agios Nikolaos park which is a Tourist Recreation Center just 4 kilometers away from the city of Naoussa – an earthly paradise in the heart of Imathia! The Tripotamos river winds through the abundant trees in Agios Nikalaos which provide welcome shelter from the hot summer sun.
Agios Nikolaos Park
Agios Nikolaos Park
Vergina is about 13 km south-east of the district centre of Veroia and about 80 km south-west of Thessaloniki. Here you can see the tombs of the kings of Macedon including King Philip II – father of Alexander the Great. An underground building was constructed in 1993 to enclose and protect the royal tombs, maintaining the stable temperature and humidity necessary to preserve the wall paintings. From the outside, the building looks like an earthen mound; inside, the treasures found in the royal tombs have been on display since November 1997. I really enjoyed seeing the tombs – you go underground and can see them through a pane of glass and the thing I enjoyed most was seeing the artifacts on display, which are truly beautiful. If you're in Macedonia, this place is definitely worth a visit.
The entrance to the tombs
A golden wreath found in one of the tombs
Katerini is a town in Central Macedonia, Greece, the capital of Pieria prefecture. It's accessible from the Thessaloniki–Athens highway GR-1/E75 and the Egnatia Odos to the north.
It's beach, Paralia, is a Cosmopolitan beach stretching for many kilometres, with clean sand and shallow sea and has been awarded the European Blue Flag for many years. As you can see in the picture, in certain places during the summer it can get quite busy but there are also quieter places along the beach.
Katerini is a nice town with restaurants right next to the beach serving delicious seafoods. There are several archaeological sites of great interest such as the ancient city of Dion (5th century BC, 17 km away) and the Venetian Castle of Platamon nearby.
Paralia Beach, Katerini
Meteora, literally meaning 'suspended rocks', are huge rock towers, some of which reach 1800 ft above the Plain of Thessaly. In the 9th century, a group of hermit monks moved up to the ancient pinnacles but there is evidence of life in the caves 5km south of Meteora from 50,000 years ago. Meteora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. I passed this magnificent formation whilst on a road trip to Lefkada (the only Greek Island that you can drive to by car). It's extremely impressive, worth visiting!
ok.. I'm not going to pretend that I took that picture!
Ioannina is the capital of Ioannina Prefecture and of Epirus, lying on the western side of lake Pamvotis. It has a population of about 100,000. My friends and I stopped here while we were on our way to Lefkada (the only Greek Island that you can drive to from the mainland). On our way we passed Mount Olympus, Meteora and drove through some of the mountains of Pindus which were breathtaking. (If you need a break from the hot summer weather, here is where you’ll get it!)As you drive down the winding roads from the mountains you get a stunning view of Lake Pamvotis in Ioannina. We had lunch in a restaurant which backs onto the lake before continuing our journey. We didn’t have time to explore the town but apparently there’s much to do here.
|There is a small islet in the middle of Lake Pamvotis and passengers are ferried back and forth from the mainland to the island. You can visit the monastery of Agios Panteleimon which has been converted into a museum containing information and paintings, as well as re-creations of Ali-Pasha's lounging and living quarters. Ali Pasha spent the last days of his life in St Panteleimon, waiting for a pardon from the Sultan. The museum is not the only attraction on the island: there are many gift-shops, tavernas, churches and bakeries on the island's winding streets.|
Lefkada is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea on the west coast of Greece, connected to the mainland by a long causeway and floating bridge. The city of Lefkada is located in the north of the island. We stayed in a village called Vassiliki, 20km south of Nidri which is the largest resort on the Island.
Vassiliki is a windsurfing centre although we didn’t do this, we stayed there for the nice campsite which is near the beach.
Vassiliki is a quaint village with lots of craft shops and some nice restaurants by the sea. There’s also a good supermarket. The night life is a bit quiter than Nidri but there are some nice enough bars.
Lefkada has several islands nearby and we took a boat trip for a day which was great!! It was a double decker boat with plenty of space inside or outside on the decks. I can’t remember now exactly how much it cost but I remember that it was very inexpensive for a very enjoyable day out. We saw the island of Scorpios – owned by Aristotle Onassis. Although we couldn’t go onto the island, we were allowed to jump off the back of the boat and we were given 20 minutes to swim to a small beach on the island and back if we wanted.
Afterwards we saw the island of Meganisi and the boat went into its Papanikolis Cave where a greek submarine hid during the war.
The boat then went on to the village of Fiscardo on Kefalonia and we had a couple of hours here to stroll around the picturesque village. We also opted to spend some time relaxing on a beach on the island.
After Kefalonia we visited Ithaca which was gorgeous. Beautiful winding, cobbled streets with imacculately kept cottages and a pretty marina.. I would love to go back to Ithica for a vacation!
Porto Katsiki has been voted the second most beautiful beach in Greece (behind Myrtle Beach, Kefalonia) and one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. With the tall limestone cliffs and amazingly clear turquoise waters I’m not surprised that it’s so high on the lists of beautiful beaches. The only unfortunate thing is that because of this reputation, it’s extremely crowded in the summer, especially in August when so many people in Greece are on holiday. It’s also not the easiest of beaches to access (you have to climb down 357 steps, or you can take a boat to the beach instead) but this is what contributes to it’s charms – it’s wild, natural beauty. There are no ammenities on the beach either – there are some restrooms and cafes further up the hillside as you drive up from the beach. Infact, when we went, the car park by the beach was so busy that we went back up the steep hill and went to a poolside bar where we ordered cocktails and rested on on the sun loungers and enjoyed the stunning view of the Mediterranean sea in the distance before going down later in the afternoon when it was a bit quieter.
Kalamitsi Beach (the best beach in my opinion!)
As beautiful as Porto Katsiki is, this beach beats it! It’s so much quieter which for me makes it so much easier to appreciate it’s wild beauty. There are huge boulders which make some impressive explosions of the waves that crash into them. There is a small cafe near to the way onto the beach so for me it’s ideal – better ammenities but with less people than Porto Katsiki.