Having exported chaos, drama, tragedy and democracy before most nations were staying up late enough to want souvlaki, Greece boasts an unrivalled legacy. But don't expect a visit there to be a sober study of the ancient world - the Greek propensity for partying dates back to Dionysos.
When to Go
Conditions are perfect between Easter and mid-June - beaches and ancient sites are relatively uncrowded; public transport operates on close to full schedules; and accommodation is cheaper and easier to find than in the mid-June to end of August high season. Conditions are once more ideal from the end of August until mid-October, as the season winds down. Winter is pretty much a dead loss outside the major cities as most of the tourist infrastructure goes into hibernation from the middle of October till the beginning of April. This is slowly changing, however; on the most touristy islands, a few restaurants, hotels and bars remain open year-round, while the ski resorts on the mainland do thriving business.
Greece generally has mild wet winters and hot dry summers. Winter temperatures can be severe in the mountains and even Athens can get viciously cold. Maximum temperatures on the islands hover around 30°C (87°F) in summer, but the heat is often tempered by the northerly wind known as the meltemi.
Places of Interest
National Archaeological Museum
This is one of the world's great museums, housing the most important finds from archaeological sites around the country. The museum's tour de force is its fabulous collection of Mycenaean antiquities, including the celebrated Mask of Agamemnon unearthed at Mycenae, and the Warrior Vase, depicting men leaving for war and a woman waving them goodbye.
Of all the ancient sites in Greece, Delphi is perhaps the fairest of them all - the one with the most potent 'spirit of place'. Built on the slopes of Mt Parnassos, overlooking the Gulf of Corinth and extending into a valley of cypress and olive trees, this World Heritage-listed site's allure lies both in its stunning setting and its inspiring ruins.
Athens exists because of the Acropolis, the Western world's most important ancient monument. Crowned by the Parthenon, it's visible from almost everywhere within the city, with monuments of Pentelic marble gleaming white at midday and taking on a honey hue as the sun sinks. An unexpected glimpse of this magnificent sight can't fail to lift your spirits.
Widespread Forest Fires
Adverse weather conditions fanned damaging forest fires in southern Greece in late August, with a number of fatalities reported. Worst affected were the Peloppenese, the area around Athens and the island of Evvia. Travel in these areas may be hampered by delays and disruptions.
Nationals of Australia, Canada, Cyprus, EU countries, the European principalities of Monaco and San Marino, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, the USA and most South American countries are allowed to stay in Greece for up to three months without a visa; most others can enter Greece for up to two months without a visa; Greece will refuse entry to anyone whose passport indicates that, since November 1983, they have visited North Cyprus.
Dangers & Annoyances
Bar scams continue to be an unfortunate fact of life in Athens, particularly in the Syntagma area. The basic scam is always some variation on the following theme: solo male traveller is lured into bar on some pretext (not always sex); strikes up conversation with friendly locals; charming girls appear and ask for what turn out to be ludicrously overpriced drinks; traveller is eventually handed an enormous bill. Fortunately, this practice appears confined to Athens at this stage.
Crime, especially theft, is low in Greece, but unfortunately it is on the increase. The worst area is around Omonia in central Athens - keep track of your valuables here, especially on the metro and at the Sunday flea market.
The vast majority of thefts from tourists are still committed by other tourists; the biggest danger of theft is probably in dormitory rooms in hostels and at camping grounds. So make sure you do not leave valuables unattended in such places. If you are staying in a hotel room and the windows and door do not lock securely, ask for your valuables to be locked in the hotel safe - hotel proprietors are happy to do this.