An introduction to Greece
Greece is a relatively small country of southern Europe, in the eastern Mediterranean. It consists of a two-part mainland, linked by a narrow isthmus and a large number of islands scattered throughout the Aegean and Ionian Seas, which lie to the east and west, respectively, of the mainland.
Overview of Greece
Most of the Greek mainland consists of mountains. Because of this, the population tends to be found on the few plains and in the larger cities there. The capital, Athens, is home to about a third of the entire population, with some 4,000,000 people living in the city.
The other major cities are Thessaloniki in the far north and Patras on the northwest point of the Peloponnesus. Piraeus is the major port for Athens and an excellent deep-water harbour. There are a few smaller towns, such as Velos and Loutraki, which have grown recently with the influx of tourism to the holiday villas in Greece.
Climate of Greece
Most visitors’ experience of the Greek weather is of the warm Mediterranean climate which is predominant in the islands and the west coast areas of the mainland.
There is, however, a definite alpine climate in the mountainous regions, which provides considerable rainfall in the summer and snow in the winter – enough snow for thriving skiing facilities.
But generally, visitors enjoying their Greece holiday villas have consistent sunshine throughout the summer months with temperatures around 30º C from early June, with peaks of 36-40º C in August.
Best areas for villa holidays in Greece
Most providers of holiday villas in Greece are found on the many islands and the islands are most visitors experience of the country. Increasingly, however, areas of the mainland are being developed for tourists.
In the northern part of the mainland, the Pelion peninsula north of Athens and the Halkidiki peninsula, south of Thessaloniki are both well developed tourist areas.
Getting to one’s holiday villas in Greece is relatively easy by air. There are regular schedule and charter flights to the airports at Athens and Thessaloniki, throughout the year. In summer, the airports at Volos and Kalamata open to charter flights, but are only available to domestic ones through the winter.
In recent years there has been considerable infra-structure work done in Greece, producing an excellent motorway and road network. Coupled with a relatively small population, this makes driving to and from the Greece holiday villas an easy activity.
In the main cities, particularly Athens, it is another matter as the signage is not always clear and the traffic is very heavy and erratic.
So, if visiting Athens, it is probably easier to use the Metro system or the trams and buses, all of which are very good and cheap. There are also taxis, but be sure to agree a price with the driver before the journey begins.
Things to do on a Greek villa holiday
Relax on marvellous beaches, wherever your Greece villa is situated
Try snorkelling in the clear blue water and see the myriad of shallow-water tiny fish
Take a day excursion to the monasteries at Meteora
Ride a “flying dolphin” – the hydrofoil ferries – to the nearby islands. The Saronic islands are about 30 minutes from Piraeus, Skiathos and the Sporades are about the same from Volos
Festivals and events in Greece
The major Greece villa holiday event is Easter. Easter is a week’s celebration including the procession of the Epitaphio on Good Friday.
This is a representation of the tomb of Christ, covered in flowers and carried around the village or parish, often accompanied by the local band and everyone carrying Easter candles. The week ends with a huge celebration at midnight on Easter Saturday, with fireworks or, in some villages, gunfire to announce “Christos Anestis” – Christ is risen!
Just before the beginning of Lent, there are carnival days, when the children, and some adults, don fancy dress and go into the central square to socialise, dance, listen to music and eat and drink.
Some smaller coastal towns and villages have special celebrations for their local patron saint’s name day. It is worth checking if the area of your Greece villas has a special day.
Typical cost of living in Greece
Since changing currency to the Euro, prices throughout Greece have risen. Generally, however, especially away from the cities, most basic needs are reasonably priced.
Frappe (iced coffee) €8 in Athens, €3-5 elsewhere
Meal in a local taverna, with local wine €10 – 15
Bus ride anywhere within a city zone €0.50
Entry to most monuments €3-8
A bottle of wine €3 – 10 depending whether local of from elsewhere.
Useful tips when visiting Greece
Water will be served with drinks automatically. Look for Loutraki water, which is natural Greek spring water and quite delicious.
Remember “Mesimeri” – midday, which lasts all afternoon. Shops and businesses close, particularly in the cities, from about 1.00 to 5.00 pm.
Greek food and drink
Tzatsiki – garlic and cucumber dip
Moussaka – lamb with aubergine and a béchamel sauce
Kalimaris – rings of squid (particularly good in coastal villages)
Souvlaki – meat kebab served either still on the skewer or wrapped in a pita bread
Kouriatiki – village (or Greek) salad. Order just one portion for two people, it will be enough.
NB. Chicken is always free-range and local, but is expensive.