Tag: greece travel
Greece’s tourism product is being reborn, offering a new window of opportunity to travelers of every type.
After featuring prominently in the world news for all the wrong reasons, for a while it seemed that Greece was all washed up. Just when everyone thought it was down and out, the country rose from its own dusty ruins to turn a tarnished reputation to its advantage. In what is nothing short of a success story, post-crisis Greece has enhanced the traditional charm of sugar-cubed houses atop cliff-tops, sun-kissed Aegean beaches, voyages to antiquity and Mediterranean cuisine.
As if Greece couldn’t be more alluring anyway, there are 10 more reasons to visit the country right now.
1. Greece for All Seasons
There’s more to Greece than the sun and sea, which is why the government has unveiled a new tourism policy that pledges to “prolong the tourism season” and make Greece one of the five most popular destinations in the world.
For your average traveler, this means greater access to thematic tourism all year round. Now, families can take advantage of the special family discounts at winter resorts, enjoy off-season rates at the Athens Half Marathon or partake in kick-ass rock-climbing fiestas on the jagged slopes of Kalymnos island.
Greece is now the happening place, with lots to do and see in every season, from the fledgling Tweed Run on picturesque Spetses in the spring to the Red Bull freerunning competition on Santorini in the autumn and then some.
2. Fly Direct, No Hassle
In the wake of terror attacks and health epidemics, more travelers have chosen Greece. Increased demand means more direct flights to destinations around the country. Euromonitor travel analyst Wouter Gerts explains that as the whole Middle East is “associated with insecurity in the mind of the western tourist,” Greece has emerged as a comparable alternative thanks to its similar weather, cheap prices and security.
German tour operator TUI recently confirmed that tourists are turning to Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy in increasing numbers for their upcoming spring and summer holidays. At the same time, bookings to Turkey dropped by 40 percent.
Greek civil aviation data shows that there was an 11.5 percent-spike in Greek airport traffic in January alone. Some 1.8 million passengers travelled on 19,890 flights, enjoying the advantages of direct flights at budget rates.
3. Disover Virgin Territory
Yes, it looks set to happen in 2016. Obscure backwaters are being opened to the public for the first time thanks to a fast-track law that speeds up procedures for public-private investments. This means that the seaplanes projects at four Greek destinations – Skyros, Alonissos, Paxi and Agia Marina at Grammatiko – can move to the next stage of completion.
“The aim of the ministry is to create a waterways network by next summer, which will bring substantial benefits to the economy, create jobs and contribute to the interconnection of small and isolated islands as well as the development of local communities,” said Energy Minister Panos Skourletis.
With bated breath, the Hellenic Seaplanes company can literally taste the start of operations in 2016 after three years in the planning, with some 50 waterways already mapped out. The goal is to connect the country through seaports to allow for the exploration of virgin territory before it is changed forevermore by the influx of crowds.
4. More Reasons to Sail the Seas
Greece – a country carved by the sea with a whopping 13,676-km coastline – is, was and will always be a seafarer’s paradise. Though local mariners know as much, National Geographic recently identified the large island of Evia as one of the top ten international sailing destinations. And it comes as little surprise that Athens and the Greek islands ranked among the top ten most-searched cruise destinations on Yahoo in 2015.
Top-ranking three-time Olympic sailor Armando Ortolano, one of the founders of the Greek Isles Yachting company, says that Athens is a unique yachting destination. Its docks are exceptionally close to the Saronic islands and city sights, an advantage that has kept interest stable despite adversity that has kept investments at bay.
“We’re doing our best to keep business afloat with 20 percent cheaper charter rates since before the economic crisis began,” he says. “This means that a yacht with a capacity to carry six people can now be leased for 1,500 euros per week, meaning 200 euros per person for seven days, and with a skipper to boot!” Best yet, 2016 is the year of innovation for his company, which is planning to offer a “lifetime memories in a day” package, offering tailor-made options for day trips such as fishing and scuba diving.
5. All Roads Lead to Athens
Athens moved up a notch to second place in the prestigious European Best Destinations 2016, the Brussels-based electronic pool seeking the best of European culture and tourism. Elpida Rekka, of the City of Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau, points to the iconic Acropolis as just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the beauty of the city. A myriad of other offerings include affordable museums and archaeological sites, a high rate of Michelin-starred restaurants, a brilliant city-sea combination with a 55km of scenic coastal road stretch dubbed the Athens Riviera.
Now just behind Zadar in Croatia in the European Best Destinations rankings, Athens is eyeing gold in 2017.
6. Hospitality is in the Blood
The ancient Greek Stoics regarded hospitality as a gods-given right for foreigners, sanctioned by Zeus himself. Refusing to abide by this was hubris. The notion is so deeply engrained in the Grecian psyche that – despite cash flow problems – there’s usually a local entry near the top of the awards in any hospitality industry ranking.
Accolades keep coming with Achtis Hotel, in Halkidiki in northern Greece, and Canaves Oia Hotel, on Santorini, ranked 5th and 12th, respectively, in TripAdvisor’s top 25 hotels worldwide listing for 2016. Meanwhile, Amathus Beach Hotel in Rhodes and Grace Santorini Hotel rated highly in the 6th European Hospitality Awards. Another four Greek hotels took titles at the coveted Historic Hotels of Europe (HHE) awards in 2016: Allegory Boutique Hotel on Rhodes, Marpessa Smart Luxury Hotel in Agrinio (three awards), Aigialos Hotel in Santorini and Villa Galini in Halkidiki.
7. Less Money, More Innovation
The financial crisis may have made life difficult for the locals, but it has also made them far more inventive when it comes to tourism. Sites like dopios.gr and initiatives such as This is My Athens have paved the way for a new brand of tailor-made tourism that is ripe for the picking. These sites connect travelers with a community of local storytellers offering the real spirit of post-crisis Greece to the world.
Always hospitable, tech-savvy Greeks have now gone digital to showcase their cities to foreign visitors with treks to graffiti-laden anarchist quarter of Exarchia in Athens or a dinner invitation to where else but yiayia’s kitchen, where granny’s home-cooked meal rivals that of any Michelin-starred chef.
Not authentic enough for you? George Arapoglou, head of the Athens Invisible Paths tours organized by Schedia, a magazine sold by homeless street vendors, says that he’s been amazed by the reception. “Our tour guides are homeless or have been homeless people at some point in their lives. Sharing their journey to soup kitchens, sleeping areas, detox centers and other pitstops helps them feel less socially excluded while also breaking down barriers,” he says of the tours, which are available in Greek, English, German, Spanish and Italian.
Milia beach, Skopelos
This is a beautiful white sand beach that stretches almost a kilometer, lined with pine trees. The sand is very fine and Milia glimmers white, and turquoise waters are incredibly calm. The picturesque green island of Corfu is located in the bay. Perfect for romantic walks, holding hands. In the summer months there is a high beach bar serving beer and refreshing cocktails at sunset, but Skopelos island is calm and the beach is rarely crowded.
Egremni beach, Lefkada
What really sets Egremni separates the limestone cliffs that back the beach, which gives a concentration of white sand and blue sea drilling. The beach is accessible by a stairway leading down along the cliffs – but not too intimidating, inaccessible light means it is never crowded and has a relaxed and peaceful. This is a protected place, free water sports and restaurants bustling beach: just a simple basic hut for refreshments.
Nas beach, Ikaria
About a mile west of the village of Armenistis is this fjord own tiny, white pebbles, surrounded by steep cliffs on either side. The water is incredibly clear, bright turquoise. Just inside are the foundations of an ancient temple of Aphrodite, and a river inhabited by turtles, frogs and dragonflies winds its way through a canyon – works very well if you are bored to range. On the cliff above, there are a clutch of half a dozen taverns and boarding simple, but it is also far from large hotel and country station you can get in Greece these days.
Balos beach, Crete
The most amazing beach of Crete to be Balos, where the white sands lead to a shallow turquoise and emerald green lagoon and an island, you can reach by walking through warm knee-high water. There is nothing on the beach, but a makeshift canteen serving cold beers and water. Balos is coming to an experience in itself because it is six miles along the rugged peninsula Gramvousa, following a breezy bumpy. Once you reach the end, you walk 20 minutes by a steep path, offering unforgettable views: a great moment for the photos.
Tsigrado beach, Milos
Safely off the beaten track, on the south coast of the island, Tsigrado is kept reasonably free from the crowd because the only way to achieve this is to plummet from the cliff hanging on ropes attached to the rock . When you reach the sea, however, it’s worth – nothing but sand and turquoise water crystal. Most people swim, sunbathe for half an hour, then leave, but if you are organized enough to bring an umbrella, water and something to eat, you can laze the day away to your heart’s content.
Greece has always looked toward the sea and lived by it. Of necessity she must continue to do so. Because of her geographical position and because of the limited resources of her land, the Greeks have been a maritime people since the earliest times.
The mountains which break up the land seem to push the people into the sea, and indeed they make land travel and land communications so difficult that by comparison sea travel has always seemed simple. The land itself is so lacking in fertility that extensive agriculture is impossible. Thus the Greeks have been forced to import a large part of their food and to turn to the sea to gain their livelihood.
In Greece, the sea seems to be everywhere. The Aegean, the Ionian, and the Mediterranean all wash Greek shores, and these shores are so cut up and so strewn with islands that the sea penetrates everywhere. The coastlines and islands in turn shelter the sea and do away with the fear men have always had of vast unbroken stretches of water.
The Greeks are not such a people as would fear the sea, no matter how far it stretched. By nature they are adventurous and enterprising. Their love of adventure makes them good sailors, and added to this their capacity for enterprise makes them the best of sea-merchants.
Seamanship is an old Greek tradition. Children have been trained from the cradle to become expert sailors. It has been customary for seamen to take aboard ships and sailboats children ranging in age from 6 to 13 so as to accustom them to the sea. When an island was sighted, the children were called on deck, told the name of the island, its ports, and the most navigable routes around it. If, on the next trip, they had forgotten, they were punished. In like manner, children were thrown into the sea to teach them to swim. Nothing was overlooked in an effort to make them skillful and brave seamen.
The skill of Greeks at sea includes not only seamanship but also trading. The Greek was and is a sailor-merchant. There has never been absentee ownership of Greek ships nor have Greeks put their money in enterprises involving ships run by others. Even today, when there is a class of rich Greek shipowners owning sometimes large numbers of ships, such owners have nearly always been identified with ships and are in general successful sailor-merchants.