With a spectacularly steady rise in the number of international visitors since 2009 and a record 30 million tourists each year in 2018 and 2019 — equivalent to three times the country’s population — Greece has been cementing its position as the indisputable summer capital of the world even amidst the harshest of circumstances, and not without good reason.
Its unique mix of natural beauty and cultural amenities have established the eastern Mediterranean country as a first-class destination for any traveler wishing to experience a feel-good and carefree vacation in a land of true hospitality.
So what makes Greece irresistible to the international summer traveler?
- Perfect Summer Weather
Greece is among the top three European destinations with the most days of sunshine per year and hours of sunshine per day, and has been found to be the warmest European country even during winter. That makes it a perfect sunny holiday destination for most of the months of the year.
As you probably already know, sunlight is not only essential for the creation of vitamin D in our bodies, but it is also a known natural mood enhancer. It makes people feel better and have more energy, since it increases the levels of serotonin in the brain, therefore guaranteeing happier times (so long as you don’t forget your sunscreen, that is!).
2. Surrounded by the Sea, Kissed by the Sun
Greece has been a popular destination for beach vacations since the 1950s, when some of the country’s best-known modern-day vacation hotspots started to gain international acclaim — most notably the picturesque islands of Mykonos and Santorini in the Cyclades, as well as the vast and varied island of Crete.
Spread across 2,500 islands, of which approximately 227 are inhabited, Greece is the country with the largest coastline in the Mediterranean Basin, according to the CIA World Factbook.
With 13,676 kilometers (8,498 miles) of coastline, you can simply never run out of options where to take a dive or lay out your sunbathing towel.
The Blue Flag eco-labels program can make choosing your swimming site a bit easier -though only a tiny bit, as there are 497 Blue Flag-awarded beaches across Greece. These should probably do for the average tourist’s beach vacations for an entire lifetime.
- Unmatched Cultural Opportunities
The birthplace of democracy, philosophy, drama, and the Olympic Games, Greece has made unsurpassed contributions to world culture, a fact that is quite obvious even on your first visit to the country.
From the Acropolis of Athens to the Pythagoreion in Samos, Greece boasts 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites — among the most in the world. Another fourteen landmarks of unique cultural or natural value across the country are currently placed on UNESCO’s tentative World Heritage list.
On top of this invaluable heritage, Greece remains a place that simply loves and appreciates the arts. Its people continue to actively enjoy them, encouraging every form of cultural dialogue.
During the summer months, this tradition escapes enclosed spaces and heads to the outdoors. A kaleidoscope of performing arts festivals are available to all audiences, the most prestigious of which is the Athens and Epidaurus Festival.
The selection of shows features high-profile performances by either Greek or international artists, often instilled with cutting-edge and controversial creative approaches.
The visitor can also experience colorful folk festivals with traditional dancing all across the country, especially on the islands and inland villages, throughout the months of July and August.
For the avid learner, most Greek museums also offer interactive walks, talks, and educational activities. They serve a vast variety of interests, ranging from archaeology and natural history to modern art and science.
The new Acropolis Museum has won numerous international awards since its launch in 2010, while new, completely original museums keep opening their doors across the country, such as the Maria Callas Museum or the Museum of Illusions, also in Athens. Specially designed activities for children are easy to find as well.
- A Variety of Natural and Architectural Landscapes
Thanks to its unique geography, Greece is a remarkably versatile country with an impressively wide range of landscapes, both natural and man-made.
Although best-known for its beautiful beaches, turquoise blue and emerald green waters, Greece is actually one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. Areas such as Pelion in Thessaly, Monemvasia in the Peloponnese, and even Crete, combine sandy seashores and mountains within as short a distance as a 30-minute drive.
Likewise, urban landscapes vary greatly in Greece because different regions have been influenced by contrasting cultures over different time periods during its turbulent history; Venetian and Ottoman monuments and architecture are present in several historic cities on the islands and inland, alongside Byzantine churches and ancient Greek temples.
- A Country for All Budgets
As a tourist destination, Greece is a place that can accommodate literally any budget. From free or commercial camping sites and traditional pension-style or agro-touristic accommodation to luxurious villas and architecturally sophisticated boutique hotels or spa resorts, every visitor is sure to find an ideal match to their budget, lifestyle, and aesthetic.
- Top quality food and drink
Greece is famous for its cuisine and delicious local dishes, which are based on top quality ingredients such as fresh vegetables and the seafood catch of the day, always enhanced with extra virgin olive oil for that added flavor.
Aside from their strong regional character, traditional Greek recipes are often infused with sophisticated blends of Eastern herbs and spices that make them stand out from similar cuisines from other European countries on the Mediterranean.
Make sure to try the local cheese products, “spoon sweets” and meat or fish stews, usually typical to one particular area. Likewise for the many Greek wines, like Robola in Kefalonia, and other spirits such as Ouzo and Tsipouro, or the less known mastic and fruit liquors.
Share your tasting selection either with family, a loud group of friends or your better half and you shall surely feel like you are in seventh heaven – whether sitting down at an old-fashioned tavern or a high-end restaurant.
- That Summertime Leisure Mentality
The Greek countryside and isolated islands — primarily Ikaria in the Cyclades — are known for the high rates of longevity of their residents, attributed to the combination of a balanced diet and low-stress way of life. The latter is easily passed on to summer visitors, either domestic or international, and is among the most invigorating elements of a Greek vacation.
Either by the sea or in the countryside on the mainland, the Greek summer is forever linked to peace of mind, open-heartedness, limitless leisure and party time as you take life at a slow pace and empty your mind from worry.
- Greek Philoxenia
Last but not least, there is this one purely cultural characteristic that can make the Greek vacation experience truly unforgettable and distinguish it from anything that the visitor has ever felt before in a foreign land.
Greek philoxenia, which translates to being a friend to a stranger and the eagerness to show them hospitality, is a moral code rooted in antiquity. Over the centuries, it became a standard practice incorporated in the manners and customs throughout all of Greece, including today.
The modern-day visitor can experience Greek philoxenia as it extends beyond a warm welcome into a genuine expression of generosity, courtesy, and heartfelt hospitality in this stunningly beautiful land.