10 Reasons To Visit Greece
My top reasons to vacation, study abroad, or even work in Greece.
1. The food. I love being fit as much as the next girl, but my favorite part of traveling is always trying new foods and pastries, and Greece is the best place to try new foods. Greece is great for carnivores and vegans alike, as the local diets are abundant in fresh seafood, vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, and of course, meats (mostly lamb, goat, or pork). What should you make sure to eat while you’re there? Fresh-caught seafood, a REAL gyro (pronounced, yee-row) with tzatziki, roasted lamb with potatoes, and various goat cheeses and wine. While you’re there, you can’t miss the fresh produce stands. Pick up some figs, grapes, watermelon, and pomegranates (depending on the season). The fruit in Greece is so much sweeter and riper than it is here in the US. My favorite part of Greek cuisine, though, is dessert! Pair a hot Greek coffee (similar to espresso) or an iced Frappé with a baklava, kataïfi, or a “pasta” (no, not macaroni, but the best cake you’ll ever have in your life). Most importantly, never say no to a Greek offering you food! It is considered rude to do so, especially if it is something homemade.
2. The nightlife. Greeks love to celebrate life, and that is evident in their nightlife culture. If you’re in Athens, you should definitely go to the “bouzoukia” (pronounced boo-zoo-kia), which are basically large concert halls where famous artists gather to perform. Dress your best and expect to be dancing on tables until the wee hours of the morning. If you’re on the islands, you’ll never be far from a beach bar or nightclub where you can dance to some European jams, dance all night, and top it off with a sunrise dip in the Mediterranean.
3. The beaches! Greek beaches consistently place in the top ten for best European beaches and best beaches overall, and for good merit. Each island has its own unique characteristics, so I encourage you to visit as many as you can. Some have crystal blue waters, while others are more turquoise in color. You might come across a beach with soft billowy sand, yet another with be covered in small pebbles or even seashells. My best advice? Don’t be afraid to venture off on your own away from the major tourist spots. If you can, ask a local about their favorite beaches as they tend to be more secluded and less commercial. Make sure you bring an underwater camera with you to capture your experiences! The weather is perfect for beach outings from May through October.
4. The views. Greece is amazing because you can see rugged mountains, olive groves, tranquil beaches, and rolling hills of white houses all in the same landscape. This is why so many bloggers and fashion designers use the Greek islands as their backdrop. There is so much diversity that spans from ancient yet cosmopolitan cities (Athens, Thessaloniki, Heraklion) to agricultural plains full of olive and fig trees, to beachy islands where the houses are all painted white and are set against the backdrop of the bright blue sea. Greece is the photography lover’s dream destination.
5. The history. Greek history is ancient and there are so many artifacts and edifices that have survived thousands of years of war, turmoil, and the sheer test of time. In fact, while subways were being constructed before the Olympic Games, workers found so many ancient artifacts that they decided to frame them inside the subway walls. You can literally check out ancient pottery and coins while you wait for the subway. Where else do you see that but Greece?
6. The language. Greek is a very difficult language to learn, but it is, in my opinion, the most beautiful and complex language in the world (and not just because I speak it). You use Greek every day, you just don’t know it. About one third of all English words stem from the Greek language. The New Testament was also written in Greek. It is such a descriptive and unique language and everyone should be exposed to it for an extended period of time in their lives. It will confuse you and frustrate you, but your brain will be better for it.
7. For Athens. The city has gotten a bad rap ever since the Euro crisis unfolded in 2008, and while there certainly are parts of the city that should be avoided, Athens overall is a fantastic place to be. A trip to Greece is not complete without a walk up the Acropolis to the Parthenon. It is a bit of a hike, but it is definitely worth it. You have to visit the Acropolis museum, too. What is really amazing about the museum is that the floor is constructed of clear plexiglass material, so that you can see the active excavation sites under your feet! Just make sure you aren’t wearing a skirt (I made that mistake when I first went!). There is great shopping and dining in the city as well. My favorite spot to visit is hotel rooftop bar and cafe called A for Athens. You can go in the afternoon for a refreshing frappé or in the evening for a cocktail with a view of the illuminated Parthenon.
8. For the islands. Santorini. Milos. Rhodes. Mykonos. Crete. They are all out of this world. Literally. You’ll think you are in a different universe with some of the views that you will find when you travel through the Greek islands. The most popular ones are, of course, Santorini and Mykonos. If you have some extra time, I seriously encourage you to think outside the box. Santorini and Mykonos are beautiful, but there are so many other islands that are even more beautiful and less commercial and touristy than these two. My family is from a small island called Karpathos, situated between Rhodes and Crete. All of my photos were taken in Karpathos, so if you like what you see, you know where to go! A flight from Athens to Karpathos (one of the southernmost parts of the country) is less than an hour flight. That is how easy and convenient it is to travel to the Greek islands. You will never regret it, I promise!
9. Proximity. Greece is situation smack dab between Europe and Asia. For the traveler, that means that you can be in Paris in under two hours and for less than 100 Euro, or you can hop on a ferry from Rhodes and be in Turkey in 45 minutes flat. Public marine transportation is also convenient for visiting all of the islands in Greece itself. The ferries leave from Piraeus, the port of Athens, and stop at all of the islands. Tickets are fairly inexpensive, and in some cases a foreign student ID card will even get you the special student prices.
10. To be different. The most popular study abroad destinations are Great Britain and Spain. My hunch is that it’s due to the lack of language barrier: we all speak English, and most of us think we know enough Spanish from high school to be able to maneuver Spain. But I encourage you to be different. Greek is a very difficult language to learn, but the Greek people are accommodating and friendly, and most now speak English enough to help you find your way and even give you recommendations for restaurants, island trips, and nightlife.