Greece Travel And Tours
Greece is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, ranking in the world’s top 20 countries. According to the Greek Ministry of Tourism, the nation received about 34 million visitors in 2019, a very large number for a small country of 11 million. Visitors are drawn to the country’s beaches and reliable sunny summer weather, its nightlife, historical sites and natural beauty.
Over 90% of visitors come to Greece from other European countries, although in recent years there have been growing numbers of tourists from other world regions. The vast majority of visitors arrive during the tourist season, which is April through October. Peak season is July through August, and most of the tourists and tourism industry are concentrated in Crete, the Dodecanese, Cyclades, and Western Greek Islands, and to a lesser extent the Peloponnese and the Halkidiki peninsula in Macedonia.
Greece has an immense length of coastlines (16,000 km) and the country has still countless of beautiful places without large-scale tourism, which in most cases have nothing less to offer than their mainstream counterparts. You may be intrigued to visit a particular place in Greece that a friend of yours has suggested, but in reality the options are more than you can imagine.
Many first-time visitors arrive in Greece with specific images in mind and are surprised to discover a country with such regional and architectural diversity. The famous whitewashed homes and charming blue-domed churches only characterize a specific region of the country (the Cyclades Islands). Architecture varies greatly from one region to the next depending on the local history. Visitors will find Neoclassical architecture in the cities of Ermoupolis and Nafplion, Ottoman-influenced buildings in Grevená and Kozáni, whitewashed Cycladic homes on the island of Paros, and pastel-coloured baroque homes and churches on Corfu. The nation’s terrain is just as varied as its architectural heritage: idyllic beaches, towering mountain ranges, wine-producing valleys, vast stretches of olive orchards in the south, and lush forests in the north. Greece’s historical sights are just as varied; the country is littered with just as many medieval churches and castles as classical ruins and temples.
Greece (Greek: Ελλάδα, Elláda) is a country in Southern Europe, on the southernmost tip of the Balkan peninsula, with extensive coastlines and islands in the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas. It shares borders in the north with Albania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey. It has an ancient culture that has had a significant influence on the arts, language, philosophy, politics, and sports of western society, including the genres of comedy and drama, western alphabets, Platonic ideals and the Socratic method, democracies and republics, and the Olympics. Furthermore it’s a geographically appealing place to visit, with a mountainous mainland and idyllic island beaches.
Greece boasts a very long history, with the Greek language being present in the country for at least 5000 years.
The country’s first inhabitants are now referred to as the Pelasgians. Little is known about them, but it is believed that they were a primitive tribe of people. The first advanced civilizations in Greece are known as the Cycladic in the Cyclades Islands, and the Minoan in Crete and Santorini. The Minoans had a written language which remains undecipherable to modern-day archaeologists. This is one of the most interesting and profound historical mysteries. It is a link to our modern civilization.
Greek-speaking Indo-European peoples arrived in the country from somewhere to the north, around 1700 BC, and slowly invaded the entire country from the north all the way to Crete, as well as the west coast of Asia Minor (now Turkey), absorbing the native peoples. Their arrival may have been responsible for ending the Cycladic and Minoan civilizations and brought the country into what is now referred to as the Dark Age of ancient Greece; although it is now understood among historians that civilization in Greece remained sophisticated and advanced during this time. The first Greek-speaking civilization, the Mycenean Civilization, centred in the Peloponnese region, was prominent during this time period.
Many ancient Greeks made a living from the sea, as their descendants the modern Greeks also do now. They became accomplished fishermen, sailors and traders and the sea has profoundly shaped Greek civilization.
The rise of the Greek city-states occurred in the period 1200 to 800 BC and heralded the Golden Age of Greece, which lasted many centuries and spurred several scientific, architectural, political, economic, artistic, and literary achievements. Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes were the most prominent of the city-states (with Athens being the most prestigious), but there were several other advanced city-states and colonies that had developed across the Aegean basin. Greek settlements were also established in southern Italy and other coastal areas of the Mediterranean colonized by Greeks. The legacy of Greek Civilization from this time period made a major impact on the world and continues to influence us to this day.
Hellenistic and Roman eras
The epicenter of Greek Civilization shifted, during the 4th century BC, from southern Greece to northern Greece. The northern Macedonian kingdom, under Alexander the Great, conquered all of Greece, and proceeded eastward, creating an empire all the way to South Asia with the stated intent of spreading Greek Civilization. The empire broke up after Alexander’s death, and Greece was eventually annexed by the growing Roman Empire. Although weakened politically, Greek Civilization continued to flourish under Roman rule and heavily influenced Roman culture.
Arrival of Christianity and rise of Byzantine Empire
Christianity arrived in Greece with the preachings of St. Paul during the 1st century AD, and eventually spread throughout Greece and the Roman Empire. In the 4th century, Roman Emperor Constantine the Great legalized Christian worship. He moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium (present-day Istanbul), which he renamed Constantinople. Internal divisions eventually divided the Roman Empire into a western half (the West Roman Empire) and an eastern half (East Roman Empire.) The West was eventually invaded and sacked by invaders from northern Europe, while the East survived for another millennium as the Byzantine Empire with Constantinople as its capital. Later, many monasteries were established as a refuge from all the chaos and disorder. One of the responsibilities of the monks was to ‘copy and paste’, transcribe, the important religious manuscripts and papers. This had to be done by hand because there was no printing press invented yet.
Greece’s medieval history is dominated by the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire which revolved around Christianity, Greek Language and Civilization, and Roman law. It was a powerful force in the Mediterranean basin for centuries, engaging in trade, politics, and the spread of Christianity. Its capital Constantinople remained peerless in beauty, size and population throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and many beautiful buildings and works of art were created. The empire collaborated with Rome during the Crusades against the Muslims. However, during the 13th century, the Crusaders turned on the Byzantine Empire itself and sacked Constantinople. With a weakened Byzantine Empire, Frankish and Latin invaders arrived and occupied various parts of Greece. Over the following centuries, the Byzantine Empire began to regain strength and reconquer lost territory, but received a final blow in the 15th century when a growing Ottoman Turkish Empire to the east conquered Constantinople.
Because Constantinople served as the capital of the Greeks for so long, (including the years of Ottoman rule) the Greek peninsula itself was left behind in terms of development when comparing to antiquity. This is especially evident in Athens where you will see many ancient ruins and modern buildings, but you will find it much harder to see anything made in between. This in turn is reflected to the tourist industry itself, which considerably underemphasizes the nation’s medieval history. While the centre of medieval Greek culture, Constantinople, is not within the modern Greek state, the country still has many places with medieval history. If interested in the history of the Eastern Roman Empire make sure to visit Thessaloniki, which was its second biggest city, as well as the country’s numerous monasteries (notably the Meteora monasteries).