A Greece Odyssey

Greece, the cradle of European civilisation; home of the sacred oracle of Delphi and the Olympic Games; location of Mount Olympus, the mythical playground of Greek Gods and Goddesses; the land of ancient philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle … This is a scintillating country whose myriad offerings continue to draw discerning tourists, again and yet again.

But this is not a destination for slick five-star comfort, barring a few exceptions. It is a destination that you visit for unvarnished, earthy experiences… dreamy, untrammelled beaches; historic sites going back four millennia; a verdant hilly interior where monasteries perch on giddy mountains; And of course its fresh, simple robust cuisine that you can tuck into at a tavern or family-run restaurant even as you befriend welcoming locals who love seeing tourists.

Athens and its jaw-dropping Acropolis, museums, cultural events and sizzling nightlife is the starting point of all itineraries. There’s enough to fill a month-long vacation each time you visit. Thessaloniki in the north, a lively contemporary city with historical roots; Corinth, Olympia and Delphi sport ruins that transport you to a bygone era… The hushed, spell-binding confines of the monasteries and churches at Mount Athos, Meteora, Osios Loukas, Kastoria and Mystra … the champagne-coloured sands of Peloponnese and the secretive villages of the Pelion Peninsula… Little wonder that films like Captain Correli’s Mandolin and Mamma Mia have been shot on some of the mystical islands of Greece! Overdosed on history and the beaches? Go hiking, canyoning, rafting and skiing in the mountains…

You will soon discover that Greece takes a lifetime to discover. In the Aegean or Ionian Seas, there are more treasures waiting to be unveiled. Crete, Dodecanese, the Cyclades, Argo-Saronic and the northeast Aegean archipelagoes are must-sees. The lyrically beautiful islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Patmos, Corfu and Rhodes are meant for escapists and hedonists seeking reprieve from a troubled world.

Go wine tasting; savour a mezedhes (meze) platter of starters and dips and wash it down with a glass of heady ouzo; hike up Mount Olympus; dance like Zorba the Greek; strum a zither; embark on a self-drive holiday; arrow into the country’s rural heart, stopping at unknown taverns for a meal; hoof up a mountain to check out a monastery or a Byzantine church…

Then avail of the ultimate prize – watch the sun set over a picturesque harbour as you sip your glass of ouzo, fully aware that paradise is within your grasp!