I’ve been to Greece twice now and it’s one of my favourite European holiday destinations. Lot’s of people ask me, ‘Is Greece worth visiting?’ and I would say yes it absolutely is, but you need to be aware of the differences between Athens, mainland Greece and the islands before you book, because each of these will give you a very different travel experience. Everyone should visit Greece at least once in their life.
Introduction to Greece
Greece is a top holiday destination for Brits and it’s easy to see why. Sun, sea and amazing food within four hours of UK by plane. Some of the mist popular destinations are the islands of Crete, Kos, Mykonos and Santorini, but Athens is still the top spot for ancient archaeological sites.
Is Greece Worth Visiting? Absolutely
Greece is absolutely worth visiting. If you haven’t yet been to this fabulous (and reasonably priced!) country then get it on you bucket list. Greece is jam packed full of ancient history and if you are interested in religious buildings then you will love the Orthodox Churches. There is a lot of difference between the islands and mainland Greece, so make sure that you book the right holiday to suit your needs.
The Pros of visiting Greece
Greece is a friendly and great value destination which is suitable for both solo and family or group travel. It’s accessible from the UK and an easy place to get around. Greece is also excellent value and so your trip won’t break the bank.
Accessible from UK
Greece is very accessible from most UK airports. For the capital, you can fly direct to Athens from Manchester with Easyjet. You can fly from East Midlands to Chania and Corfu with Ryanair. From London Stansted you can go direct to Athens, Thesaloniki, Kefalonia and Kos. Flights can be very cheap if you travel from the UK outside of school holidays. I managed to get a flight from Manchester to Athens for just £67!
English is widely spoken
The Greeks are very good English speakers and realise that they need English as a second language especially if they work in the tourist industry. Menus in restaurants and cafes are almost always in Greek and English. I have never had a problem with the language barrier at all in Greece – it puts us English to shame really! Although you don’t have to learn Greek, it is polite to learn a few words. I would recommend downloading the Duolingo app which has Greek on it and doing this daily for a couple of weeks before you go.
Safe and Enjoyable for Solo Female Travellers
I have travelled to Greece both with family members and also solo. I have always found Greece to be a very friendly and safe place to travel. Transport is easy to navigate. Athens has a great Metro system which connects the airport to central Athens. Most places have cheap local buses with drivers who can understand a little English.
Good Value for Money
The Greek currency is now the EURO and food and accommodation is reasonably priced here. Expect to pay around €2-3 for a drink and around €10-12 for a main meal. You can grab sandwiches, burgers and snacks in small local places and food trucks for around €5. You can book a decent hotel for between €50-120 with a breakfast. If you are prepared to stay in a dorm room in a hostel it will cost you around €16-25 a night. If you are travelling on a budget you can have a great time in Greece for around €100 per day. You can probably do this even cheaper (around €70 a day) if you shop at local markets and supermarkets for food here and there rather than eating out all the time. Greece is great value!
Amazing food and Drink
Greek food is amazing! Expect lots of salads, pastas and kebabs. Here are a few things that you absolutely have to try while you’re there…
- Moussaka – layered mince meat, aubergine and potato topped with cheese.
- Greek Salad – Salad served with onion and feta cheese, served with olive oil and salt.
- Souvlaki – Marinated kebabs cooked on a skewer – Greek style fast food!
- Ouzo – A dry anise-flavoured aperitif (the traditional alcoholic drink of Greece).
Greece is on the Mediterranean Sea – the beaches are usually sandy and the sea is warm between July and October. There are over 500 blue flag beaches in Greece, which shows the quality that you can expect. Greece is also rather liberal regarding nude bathing – there are many naturist beaches and sunbathing topless is widely accepted in Greece (so you can get your tan nice and even!)
Athens and the Acropolis
If you are interested in Classics and ancient Greece then you cannot miss Athens. Athens is home to the Parthenon, temple of Zeus, Ancient Agora, several ancient Greek theatres and the school of Aristotle. Take at least 2-3 days to explore Athens if you can, so that you don’t feel rushed or leave disappointed that you have missed something. Climbing the Acropolis is tough and you should do it very early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the heat of the day. Once you get to the top it is so worth it as you will see the Parthenon, temple of Athena Nike and the Erechtheon, the Propylaea. Buy the combined ticket which will allow you to see all the ancient Greek sites spanning over 5 days for just 30 Euro.
Make sure that you visit the Acropolis museum, which houses many of the statues, artefacts and friezes from the temples on the Acropolis. It costs €15 and you will need to spend at least 2 hours in this museum to appreciate the main exhibits. Underneath the Acropolis museum, you will see that a whole ancient cities has been uncovered – don’t miss this!
Athens is also a great place for nightlife and eating out. Head to the Plaka district for some of the best restaurants in town.
Greek Island Hopping
Island hopping is extremely popular amongst backpackers who often fly into Athens and head to Syros, Paros, Santorini and Naxos by ferry. Some backpackers also fly directly into Mykonos, Kos, Crete or Corfu as they all have their own airports. Although there are not ferries that connect every single Greek island, there are ferries that connect most islands in an island group (for example the Cyclades, Dodecanese and Ionian islands.
Ferries are reasonably priced and run from May through to October. Avoid island hopping in the winter months which is low season and most of the Greek tourist businesses close so that the owners can get a holiday. I’d recommend that you spend at least 2-3 weeks island hopping so that you don’t feel rushed.
Accommodation is relatively cheap on the Greek Islands and is usual solo traveller friendly. Check out some of these amazing hotels in Fira, Santorini and you will see what I mean.
Orthodox Greek Churches
One of my favourite things to do in Greece is to visit Orthodox Churches and Monasteries. They are often free and very welcoming. It’s interesting to see the slight differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Many small Greek Orthodox churches are white washed with blue decoration and in very picturesque locations. You can also admire the iconography inside (there are often beautiful gold and colourful images of Saints).
The cons of Greece
Although it’s a fantastic holiday destination, there are a few downsides to travelling in Greece. Expect poor sanitation, uneven pavements and cats that want to steal your food in outdoor restaurants! There is also some potential for sickness including stomach upsets and heat stroke. Read these cons of Greece and be prepared.
Rubbish and Sanitation
Be warned – you may see a lot more rubbish on the streets in Greece than what you are used to back at home. The sanitation is also worse than UK and USA in most areas of the country. The toilets will not cope with flushing toilet paper down them, and so you will need to get used to putting your loo paper in the bin next to the toilet. Don’t worry, maids in hotels empty these daily (but of course if you are self catering or renting an apartment you will need to deal with this yourself).
I repeat – DO NOT FLUSH TOILET PAPER DOWN THE LOOS IN GREECE!
Athens can be noisy, smelly and dirty!
Athens itself is a fantastic city with plenty to do – amazing ancient ruins, restaurants and nightlife. But many people I speak to don’t actually like Athens. They find it noisy, smelly and dirty. Parties can go on late into the night and it’s difficult to sleep if you are staying near a bar or night club. If Athens is a bit too much for you, consider staying on the coast and travelling in to see the Athens monuments. I recommend Marathon and Nea Makri.
The pavements in Greece are often vary narrow, uneven and sometimes non-existent! I know of a few people who have had trips or falls (especially when drunk!) I’d recommend that you always watch where you put your feet and use a torch on your phone when walking around at night time. I would also recommend that you wear sturdy trainers or walking boots and change into your flip flops or sandals when you reach the beach (rather than walk around the towns and uneven footpaths in your flip flops!)
Water can be intermittent!
When you turn the tap on or flush the loo, don’t expect water to always be readily available! This is particularly in hotels where you have several bathrooms – fellow guests may need to finish their shower before you can start yours! Hot water is often in short supply in Greek hotels as well – get up early to be guaranteed a hot shower!
Cats – Oh so many Cats!
There is a high number of stray cats in Greece, so don’t be surprised if you get surrounded at outdoor restaurants and coffee shops. I had one almost jump onto my table when I was enjoying a prawn pasta! Usually if you stamp your feet quickly or make an alarming noise they will back off – you don’t want to get scratched by a stray!
Temperature and climate
Greece can get hot, hot HOT! So beware! If you are particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion or sun stroke I would avoid July and August. If you are heading to Athens, you may prefer to stay on the coast near Marathon where it is cooler and more comfortable with the sea and pools to cool off in. n some parts of Greece (particularly Athens) it can exceed 40 degrees C.
I have never been ill in Greece, but I do know of a few people who have had stomach upsets. It seems to be people who book all inclusive – sometimes the food hygiene standards are not as high as in UK hotels and food (including meat and fish) is left out slightly longer than it should be at buffets.
Most important Greece Travel Tips
- Download Uber and FreeNow for Taxis in Greece.
- Try some amazing Greek food and drink including Moussaka, Souvlaki and Ouzo.
- Take a refillable water bottle and take plenty of water when you go out.
- do sight seeing before the heat of the day.
- Pack a hat and sunscreen.
- Download Duolingo and practice a little Greek before you go.
- Take a decent camera and smartphone with data roaming.
- Buy a paperback guidebook such as the Lonely Planet Greece.
Packing List – What to pack for Greece
- Passport, Euros and a bank card or credit card backup.
- Sun hat or cap and sunglasses.
- Suncream – factor 30 or above.
- Shorts and T Shirts.
- Long linen or cotton trousers and long sleeved top for cooler days and Orthodox monasteries
- Walking boots plus a pair of sandals
- Beach Towel, bikini (or swim shorts for men) and flip flops.
- Refillable water bottle.
- A paperback guidebook such as the Lonely Planet Greece.
Overall Verdict – Is Greece worth visiting?
So overall, Is Greece worth visiting? Yes it definitely is! You will have a fantastic time whatever you’re into. I also recommend that you do two separate trips to Greece – one for the beaches and islands and one for Athens and the ancient monuments. Make sure that you are prepared for the downsides of Greece that I have prepped you on – don’t get hung up on the small stuff and have a fantastic time!
Further Reading – More Greece Travel Blogs
I hope that you enjoyed my article on Is Greece worth visiting? Despite the drawbacks of Greece, it’s a fantastic place to visit and I would love to hear from you on my blog below about your experiences. Here are some more blogs on Greece that you might enjoy…
- Visiting the Acropolis
- Things to do in Nea Makri
- Sanctuary of the Egyptian Gods
- Saint Ephraim Monastery Nea Makri
- Solo Travel Greece – The Ultimate Guide