Where is Greece located on the map?
The wonderful country of Greece, or the Hellenic Republic, is situated in Southeast Europe. The mainland opens up to the Aegean and the Ionian seas, on which you can find 227 inhabited islands. Some of these are famous all over the world for the unique touristic experience they offer.
In this Greece travel guide, I’ll teach you all you need to know about the mainland and the most popular island destinations in Greece, as well as how to get around, where to spoil your taste buds, and much more.
How to travel to Greece from USA
Getting to Greece is pretty easy by plane. There are many non-stop flights to Athens, and they last approximately 10.46h. One of the most popular routes is New York to Athens served by Delta. Other direct flights are available from Philadelphia and Boston.
The prices can vary greatly depending on the seasons and routes. The cheapest month to travel to Greece is January, August being the most expensive one. You might also find a cheaper flight with layovers in other parts of Europe. Traveling on a budget during the off-season will reduce your costs for accommodations and leisure as well since prices tend to get inflated once the tourist season booms.
Booking early a few months in advance will help you get the low-cost seats that are few on each flight. It’s best to use comparison websites, which is indeed time-consuming but can easily save you a few hundred dollars. Here are some of the most popular comparison websites you can use to look up flights:
Traveling from the mainland to the Greek islands
If your vacation includes seeing the beautiful Greek islands you will be glad to know that reaching them is very easy. There are many domestic flights available from Athens and Thessaloniki to the popular islands, and they’re very short flights. For example, a flight from Athens to Rhodes takes about 1 hour and it takes the same time to reach Crete. These are two of the furthest islands, however, a flight to Mykonos lasts about 30 minutes.
Flying to the most distant islands is well worth it, but if you’re planning to spend your vacation on an island that is closer we recommend taking a high-speed ferry. They are cheaper, take a few hours and the beautiful scenery will make it worth your while. There are many ferries leaving from the ports of Athens on over 80 routes, however, the schedule strongly depends on the weather.
If you choose this way of transportation you will have time to visit Athens a little before boarding to your destination. The sailing time varies between 30 minutes up to 24 hours, depending on the destination. Ferries to Rhodes and Crete are available as well but most of them are overnight and last 15 hours or more.
Can Americans travel to Greece?
Yes! USA’s citizens do not require a visa for Greece if they don’t plan on staying longer than 3 months. Traveling to Greece requires a passport that is valid for at least 3 months from the day you start your travel, but some people had issues in the past with Greek authorities preventing their entry because the passport’s variability was lower than 6 months. So I recommend you have more than 6 months until expiration at the time of entry.
Because Greece is a member of the European Union it uses Euro for currency. The value of the Euro is close to the one of the USD, so you shouldn’t have a problem understanding the prices. You can use an exchange service that is available in all airports or change them in the city at the bank. There are offices that don’t charge a commission in Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos.
A cheaper way to go is by buying a Greek debit card and depositing as much money as you need on it. That way you can use it like any other Greek citizen.
Don’t forget to inform your bank about your plans to travel to Greece. Give them the period of time you’ll be using your card overseas in order to avoid having it blocked for suspicious activity.
Local transportation in Greece
Aside from planes and ferries, there are other ways to get around in the mainland and on the islands. If you choose to board a ferry once you land in Athens, you have the option to take the suburban train that connects Athens International Airport to the port of Piraeus, which runs every day from 4.30 to 23:00.
From the airport, you can also take a taxi, to wherever you want to go to the city. The taxi service is widely available, as well as Uber and Beat which are app-based and can be paid for using PayPal, card, or cash. Fares are similar all over the country but be mindful of taxi drivers at the airport, who have the habit of charging way more from new tourists.
Taxis in Rhodes for example can charge a fixed price depending on the destination. From the airport to the city of Rhodes you will pay €30, or you can take a bus for €2.20 that takes 20 minutes longer.
Public transportation is better developed in the mainland, with plenty of buses and a subway system. Tourists have the option to buy 3-day passes but sometimes trains are cheaper than buses.
The islands also offer boats for tourists who want to visit nearby attractions. For example, you can visit Lindos by boat from the port in Rhodes, a boat some locals affectionately call “the dolphin”.
Bicycles and motorcycles are the preferred means of transportations on the islands because the streets are very narrow and rentals are available.
Greece tourist attractions
This is a very vibrant city with a rich culture and important historical sites. Probably the most famous is the Acropolis, an ancient citadel situated above the city. The Pantheon dedicated to the goddess Athena, the Erechtheion, and the Acropolis museum are sure to delight lovers of history.
Those who like hikes can climb on Mount Lycabettus from where you can see a splendid panorama of the whole city. You can also escalade on the Areopagus from where you can see the Acropolis and the Piraeus port.
The National Gardens of Athens are home to the city’s zoo, the Attica Zoological Park where children and adults can see 320 species of animals and learn about the conservation efforts of the zoo. They offer a great variety of educational programs and a petting zoo.
Less crowded than Athens, Thessaloniki is a city that embraces an urban feel blended with the remnants of ancient history. The old town of Ano Poli is home to numerous churches of old. Ancient sites are also popular, as for example the Byzantine Walls, the Arch of Galerius, the White Tower, and the Roman Rotunda.
If you visit Thessaloniki, you can take a trip 50 miles away to see Mount Olympus, home of the Greek gods featured in Homer’s Iliad.
The lively Mykonos island is easily reached from Athens and is home to a group of 500-year-old windmills that line the harbor. In the Old Harbor, you can enjoy the Little Venice, a gorgeous paved alley lined with restaurants and terraces that will give you the best view of the sunset.
Mykonos has a young atmosphere, art galleries, museums, and twisting alleys among the mainly white buildings. Some of the most popular beaches are Kalafatis, Kalo Livadi and Elia, but if you don’t like crowds you can sunbathe on the Agios Sostis Beach.
Close to here is the small island of Delos, known as the birthplace of the gods Artemis and Apollo. The archeological sites here were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
This is probably one of the most famous Greek tourist destinations for couples. It’s actually formed of a group of small islands set on an active volcano. The sparkling white buildings set on cliffs overlook the clear waters of the Aegean Sea.
Its beaches are made of volcanic pebbles or sands in different colors. The island might be what the legend of Atlantis was based on. Over 3000 years ago it was destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption. Today you can visit the Akrotiri Archaeological Site where you can learn more about the island’s history.
Santorini is probably the best place to try Greek traditional foods like Koukia, Saganaki, the original Greek salads, Souflaki, and an assortment of other seafood.
Home of the legendary Colossus that unfortunately is not there anymore, Rhodes is the second biggest island of Greece after Crete. One of the most beautiful attractions you can visit is the Old Town, located inside a great fortress the City of Rhodes. This is one of the best shopping places in Greece for those looking for souvenirs and also has some great vintage cafés and terraces.
Orfanidou Street in the city of Rhodes and Faliraki village are the epicenter of nightlife on the island. Luna Park and the Aqua Park in Faliraki are great for tourists with children.
Other things you must visit here are the harbor, Lindos, and the Valley of Butterflies.
This island is probably most known for its sparkling water and beaches, but it offers so much more in terms of nature and historical landmarks. Brave tourists can visit the Canal d’Amour, a narrow channel between cliffs with lots of tales and superstitions related to it.
Pontikonisi is a tiny island with a monastery in its center and a beautiful park in the middle of the sea. Another beautiful location is Angelokastro, a medieval castle built on a mountain 300 meters above the sea.
The biggest island of Greece is probably the most well-known one, a destination with a variety of natural attractions ranging from parks to beaches and mountains. Two of its most beautiful natural locations are the Balos Lagoon and Mirambello Bay.
Knossos Palace is the oldest city in Europe where history enthusiasts will have an entertaining time.
I hope that this Greece travel guide was useful and that you will fall in love with these lands. After all, a big part of the tourists traveling here for the first time ends up returning again and again.