Trips to Greece

Greece is a country full to the brim with culture, history, mythology, delicious cuisine, welcoming people and a breathtaking landscape.

Located on the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, the country boasts Europe's largest coastline in the Mediterranean basin as well as being one of the most mountainous countries in Europe. Alongside the mainland, Greece consists of thousands of tiny islands attracting millions of visitors annually to its golden beaches and aquamarine sea.

Geography aside, Greece has a culture that cannot fail to inspire with an incredible history spanning four millennia of invasions, discoveries and battles with unique and world famous ruins and monuments dotted liberally across the landscape. Ancient Greece is known throughout the world for its legends and heroes, but in addition to its hedonistic mythology it was the birthplace of some of the pillars of the western world including democracy, western philosophy, the Olympic Games, western literature and drama and major mathematical and scientific principles.

This land of the gods will offer a sense of discovery and enjoyment and visitors can always be sure of a warm welcome, a glass of Ouzo and a meal in the sunshine.

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Geography and climate
Greece consists of three main geographic areas – a peninsula mainland which is its largest geographic feature, the Peloponnese peninsula which is separated from the mainland by canal, and around 6000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean Sea, with Crete, Rhodes and Corfu being some of the most well-known.

Eighty percent of the country consists of mountains or hills with Mount Olympus being the highest, offering visitors a wide range of climbing and hiking activities. Its indented coastline and numerous islands gives Greece the 11th longest coastline in the world with sun-soaked beaches galore.

Due to the country's unique global placement and geography, Greece has a remarkable range of micro-climates and regional variation. The climate is primarily Mediterranean, featuring mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. In mountainous parts, there is more of an Alpine climate and heavy snowfall is not uncommon.

Average temperatures can vary hugely, but are usually around the 10 to 19°C with highs of up to 48°C in the summer.

Food and drink
It is said that Greek cuisine has four secrets – good quality fresh ingredients, the correct use of flavourings, famed olive oil and overall simplicity. This, in addition to the fact that Greeks pride themselves on their cuisine, ensures that visitors will always be well fed.

Greek gastronomy has a recorded history of around 4000 years and fresh ingredients from the Greek landscape feature prominently. Fruit and vegetables are cultivated naturally, with flavoursome tomatoes, cabbages, grapes, apricots and cherries. Herbs and natural flavourings are sourced from the surrounding countryside and hills and free roaming sheep and goats provide Greek cheese and yoghurt.

Famed Greek dishes such as moussaka and souvlaki have now become staples worldwide, but of course here in the country itself they are at their best and are widely found throughout. The long coastline of course means that fish features prominently also. Mezze is another famed Greek way of eating, featuring small dishes and dips such as bread, tzatziki, grilled octopus, dolmades, feta and olives.

Recently Greece has seen a renaissance in traditional cooking also, which has led to time-honoured recipes being transformed in a myriad of ways.

Of course food varies regionally and is also influenced by the country's history, with cuisine in many locations being influenced by Turkish and Italian legacies.

When it comes to wine, Greece can trace its wine making back almost 7000 years, and the spread of Greek civilisation and their worship of Dionysus, the God of wine, influenced wine consumption across Europe. There is less of a beer drinking culture here, but recent years have seen a growth of microbreweries across the country. Well known spirits include ouzo, flavoured with aniseed and metaxa, a blend of brandy and Greek wine.

Economy, History and culture
Greece can trace its history back to the Aegean civilisations of the Bronze Age and ancient Greece is considered to be the cradle of all Western democracy. The cultural and technological achievements of Greece greatly influenced the world with many aspects of Greek civilisation being imparted both to the East (through Alexander the Great's campaign) and the West through its corporation in the Roman Empire.

Visitors to Greece can trace this history all the way from the Palaeolithic period to the Romans and beyond in the hundreds of archaeological sites and monuments which are scattered across the country. Other important Greek cultural traditions include folk culture which is an important part of the traditional heritage and includes music, dances, poetry and theatre.

The economy of Greece is based mainly on the service sector, agriculture and merchant shipping, and despite much publicised recent economic issues, the country is in a slow state of recovery.

Tourism is of great importance the country, and Greece is ranked as the 7th most visited country in the EU with visitors from the UK comprising the majority. Greece is a true paradise for cultural tourism, allowing visitors a wonderful journey into history and a culture which has evolved over millennia.

Image credit:  GNTO www.visitgreece.gr.jpg

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