It’s little wonder Greece attracted an estimated 30 million tourists in 2017 – almost three times its population – including about 4 million visitors from the UK.
Known as the birthplace of Western civilisation, Greece has an abundance of historical sights, average summer temperatures of between 25C and 30C, glorious beaches, great food and drink plus welcoming locals.
But with so many regions to choose from, including 6000 islands and islets dotted around the Aegean and Ionian Seas, it can be tricky deciding where to spend a family holiday or romantic break in Greece.
Here, we take a look at eight of the most popular holiday hot spots in Greece to help you plan your perfect break.
The six main island groups are the Ionian, Saronic, Sporades, Aegean, Cyclades and Dodecanese, while Crete – the largest individual island – sits in the southern part of the Aegean Sea.
The mainland is split into eight regions – Thraki, Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, Central Greece, Evia (technically an island but linked to mainland by a bridge), Attica and Peloponnese (now technically an island due to its canal, but still counted as part of the mainland).
It’s worth noting that some of Greece closes down over the winter, and opens again from around Easter until October, although Athens and Crete are open to tourists all year round.
The first choice holidaymakers to Greece need to make is whether to take a break on the mainland or an island.
While the capital city of Greece is best known to tourists as a sightseeing haven thanks to its world-famous ancient ruins, the area also has many amazing sandy beaches too. Located around the southern and north-eastern sides of the Attica peninsula, Athens is a great place to visit because you can split your time between the wonders of the Acropolis and Parthenon and the superb beaches, such as Vouliagmeni, Asteras and the Varkiza Resort.
Best known for its incredible beach holidays, Halkididki makes the most of its location by the Aegean Sea. Its three peninsulas boast beaches that are seriously out of this world, with breathtakingly beautiful forests that turn into sandy golden beaches and turquoise waters.
Halkidiki also offers a laid-back, cosmopolitan atmosphere and easy access to Greece’s second city Thessaloniki.
The largest of the Greek islands, Crete is a popular beach paradise with several great resorts, including Hersonissos, Chania, Agia Pelagia, Heraklion, Kokkini Hani and Anissaras.
In addition to its incredible beaches, Crete’s attractions include beautiful landscapes, lively party strips in some areas, such as the well-known Malia, and its White Mountains, the tallest of which is where Greek mythology records as the birthplace of Zeus.
Corfu is furthest north of the Ionian Islands, adjacent to the Greek and Albanian border. This island is quite rugged and steeped in a mix of cultures, having previously been ruled by Italy, France and Britain.
Beaches here range from the peaceful fine white sands and shallow waters of Ayios Ionnis to the watersports and party atmosphere of Kavos.
If you’re looking for something in-between, try Ipsos. Once lively, it’s now great for couples who want a good selection of bars and restaurants without having to commit to the full party scene. The same can be said for Benitses, now returned to a traditional sleepy fishing village.
The Dodecanese Islands, located in the south-east of the Aegean Sea close to Turkey, are known for their ancient architecture, churches and beaches. Rhodes is the largest of the group and is perfect for watersports enthusiasts, culture vultures and night owls.
Themost popular resorts in Rhodes include Faliraki, a village in the north-east of the island that’s famous for its party atmosphere, as well as Kalithea, favoured by locals as it’s situated away from the hustle and bustle. Finally, Kiotari offers white sandy beaches, luxury hotels and great local tavernas. For a journey through civilisations gone by, don’t miss Lindos and its Acropolis.
Also known as Zakynthos, Zante is home to one of the most incredible beaches in Europe. Navagio Beach is only accessible by boat and provide long-lasting memories due to its seclusion and awesome shipwreck.
The port of Zakynthos Town is also worth a visit. What it lacks in glamour it makes up for in charm, with plenty to see and do, including visiting the split level Daphni Nesting Beach, which also offers great views of Pelouzo Island.
Santorini is best known for its bright white mountainside villages topped by Aegean-blue roofs and stunning sunsets. The pace of life on Santorini may be slower than Crete or Rhodes, but what it lacks in 24-hour partying it makes up for by its amazing scenery and luxury hotels. It’s also worth noting that Santorini itself is an archipelago, consisting of five islands – Thíra, Thirassiá, Asproníssi, Palea and Nea Kaméni.
Known for its abundance of sandy beaches, Kos is yet another island packed with ancient ruins. Kardamena, Kos Town and Lambi are all well-loved resorts on the island and are great for couples or families with their outstanding beaches. Embros Thermi, also known as Thermes or Therma, is on the southeast tip of the island and is a favourite with visitors for its thermal springs.
The largest island of the Ionian Sea, the most noted beaches on Kefalonia include Myrtos, Antisamos, Lourdas and Skala.
This family-friendly island, however, is probably best known as the location for the filming of the Hollywood film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Other attractions in Kefalonia include picturesque villages, such as Argostoli, Sami and Assos, Medieval castles and beautiful monasteries – plus some delicious food, such as the island’s own meat pie!
The 33 square miles that make up Mykonos, which is found in the Cyclades island group between Tinos, Syros, Paros and Naxos, are known as a haven for party-goers.
Most of the best venues here are found near the beaches on the south coast of the island, such as Paradise Beach, which also offers a wide choice of watersports when the sun comes up.
For culture vultures, the island is a great place to set off from to explore ancient Delos, while Hóra – the main town on Mykonos – is noted for Paraportianí , a lopsided building that contains four chapels.