For many travelers, classical Greece and its bewitching islands epitomize romance, merrymaking and relaxation. This Balkan country, whose neighbors include Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania, lies in Europe's southeastern corner, near both Asia and Africa. Surrounded by the Ionian, Aegean and Mediterranean seas, Greece is home to some of Europe's most dazzling coastline – and to well over 1,000 islands that beckon visitors year after year.
The vast majority of the country boasts a pleasant, Mediterranean climate. The Greek mainland, which is largely mountainous, has much to offer visitors interested in history, nature or relaxation. Visitors wanting to explore Ancient Greek archeological sites will find that some of the very best ones are located on the Peloponnese Peninsula. Further north, the Greek city of Thessaloniki is home to some of the world's finest Byzantine architecture. Or for those simply wanting to put their feet up and enjoy the fabulous scenery, the Greek mainland is also home to some astonishingly-beautiful, turquoise beaches.
That being said, it is rare to meet someone traveling in Greece who doesn't intend to ship out to its legendary islands at some point. Greece's islands are in no way all alike, and truth be told, it would probably be impossible to find a native Greek who has visited them all. Some islands are lively and are known for their infectiously-fun ambience. Others are deservedly popular with tourists because of their wealth of important cultural attractions. Still others don't have much of anything
going on besides sandy beaches, azure seas, and great wine and seafood; so the key to finding your island is to determine what you're looking for: beautiful beaches, calmness, history or a combination of all three. Popular islands to visit include the volcanic island of Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Hydra and Mykonos.
Greece has an extensive system of ferries for those wanting to hop from island to island, and many islands do have airport connections available. Another popular option is to experience Greece's islands while on a Mediterranean cruise, many of which pair the Greek isles with ancient sites found on Turkey's western coast. Lastly, enough cannot be said for Greece's capital city of Athens. Enduring, spirited, and oozing with character, Athens – an ideal place to begin and end your trip to Greece – merits at least two days for sightseeing (three if you intend to visit the remarkable ancient site of Delphi).
Largest cities: Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras