Destinations

Greece: region-by-region guide – 23 Aug 2007

Greece’s sun-soaked beaches, lively resorts and legendary historical sites are consistently popular with UK holidaymakers.




Zante Bay, Greece

Lastminute.com named the country its second best-selling destination after Spain for the year to June 2007, and second only to Egypt in the package market.


But with hundreds of Greek islands and resorts to choose from, it’s all too easy to stick with those you know.


Here we examine what the country has to offer and how your clients can get the most out of a trip – whatever their timeframe.


 


Athens


Greece’s bustling capital is a heady mix of traffic noise and awe-inspiring ancient sites.


The Acropolis has dominated the city’s skyline for more than 2,000 years, along with temples built during the fifth century BC to honour the goddess Athena. The National Archaeological Museum exhibits fascinating works from ancient civilisations.


The Athens flea market sells everything from fake designer sunglasses to antiques. Try handmade chocolate at the Aristokratikon shop or track down Stavros Melissinos (the Poet Sandalmaker) for handmade leather sandals.



  


Rhodes


This popular island enjoys 137 miles of almost uninterrupted coastline and more than 300 days of sunshine every year.


The party resort of Faliraki offers lively nightlife, and some classier bars have sprung up in a bid to appeal to a more upmarket clientele. For relaxation, head to Lindos, where cobbled streets teem with souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.


Medieval Rhodes Town has a stone-built crusader fortress and a labyrinth of alleyways crammed full of boutiques and eateries within its ancient walls.


 


Kos


This small and relaxed island is the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. Sights that include the Tree of Hippocrates, where he is said to have taught his students.


Kos Town is the island’s palm-fringed capital, with a busy harbour and exciting nightlife. The popular and bustling resort of Kardamena is perfect for families as it offers plenty of water sports and safe swimming. As night falls, tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to tavernas, bars and souvenir shops.


The resorts of Tingaki and Kefalos are less crowded and the nightlife more laid back.


 


Corfu


Sumptuous beaches and rolling countryside make Corfu one of Greece’s most visited islands. The pretty capital, Corfu Town, is overlooked by a 16th century fortress and is a maze of narrow streets rich with Venetian architecture and opulent churches.


For perfect beaches with turquoise waters, head to beauty spot Paleokastritsa. Dassia has excellent water sports facilities, while Kavos has a flourishing bar and restaurant scene.


Head to the huge resort of Sidari for one of the island’s top beaches where pristine soft sand stretches for miles.


 


Cyclades


Many couples choose to marry in Santorini, the most romantic of the Cyclades. Here they can scuba dive in a caldera, quaff wine at some of the island’s beautiful wineries and visit the black pebble beach of Kamari.


Mykonos is one of the Med’s top clubbing destinations, pulling in famous DJs from all over the world and a crowd which appreciates its gay-friendly welcome and chic shopping scene.


The whitewashed villages and derelict windmills of Paros and Naxos are ideal for those in search of traditional Greece.


 


Ionian islands


Located just off the western seaboard, this group of seven islands is characterised by sleepy rural villages and secluded bays.


Cephalonia is the setting for the novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the subsequent film starring Penelope Cruz and Nicolas Cage.


Cephalonia is dominated by the tallest peak of Mount Enos, and geological oddities such as the Melissani underground lake merit exploration.


Venetian architecture and olive groves make up the landscape of Fiskardo, which is also littered with shops and tavernas, while peaceful Paxos and unspoilt Lefkada, are worth a visit.


 


Sample itineraries


Five days


Take a short break in Athens, visiting the Acropolis and the medieval streets of Plaka, which teems with museums, restaurants and clubs.


Stroll around Athens’ old marketplace, the Agora, which dates back to 6th century BC and used to be the centre of city life.


Check out the Temple of Olympian Zeus which contains two huge gold and ivory statues, and the National Archaeological Museum.


Two weeks


Explore the Cyclades island group, starting with Santorini.


Marvel at the black sandy beaches and take a ferry to Paros, where the scenic rolling countryside is punctuated with churches and monasteries.


Hedonists should head to Mykonos, the party island, and the next day cross the water to the relaxing green island of Naxos for a long walk.


Staying longer


Discover the west coast of Greece, starting on the mainland in Parga, with its green hills and great beaches.


From here, explore the Ionian islands, beginning with Corfu in the north, but note that the ferry journey between Paxos and the southerly islands takes about six hours.


It is also possible to travel from Parga direct to the unspoilt island of Lefkas, which is linked to the mainland by a bridge. Take a boat to Cephalonia, and from there hop across to Ithaca, popular with walkers.

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