Fun Facts, Travel Safety, Sustainable Food & Things to See/Do
Greece is a country known for its stunning coastal landscapes, ancient monuments and ruins, cliff side villages with whitewashed buildings and blue domed roofs. Average temperatures ranging from 10C in the winter to 29C in the summer, a relaxed pace of life, friendly people and delicious cusine make Greece an ideal vacation or long stay destination. Sitting in one of the many al fresco cafes sipping coffee and watching the locals as they go about their daily business is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in Greek culture. If have Greece on your bucket list read the following for a few fun facts, things to do/see and eat, as well as safety and sustainability info.
Greece at a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Winter avg temp: 10°C
- Summer avg temp: 29°C
- Time Zone: GMT+3
- Capital City: Athens
- Language: Greek
- Good morning: Kaliméra
- Good evening: Kaló apógevma
Where in the World is Greece
Greece is located at the junction of Europe, Asia and Africa in southeastern Europe. The mainland is bordered in the northwest by Albania, to the north by North Macedonia, to the northeast by Bulgaria and to the east by Turkey.
Attica, the southern peninsula region is surrounded by four seas the Aegean on the east, Ionian on the west, Cretian and Mediterranean to the south. Along with its 227 inhabited islands, at 15,000 km long, its coastline is the longest in the Mediterranean.
But rather than bore you with a ton of information about Greece, since a picture tells a thousand words, below are 12,000 words in pictures that will inspire you to travel to Greece for your next adventure (or if you like to read, scroll for some fun facts, tips and information on safety and sustainability in Greece).
10 fun facts you may not already know about Greece
- Greece is not called Greece in Greece. It’s called Hellas or Hellada and the official name is the Hellenic Republic.
- There are over 5,000 islands in Greece, however only about 200 are populated. The largest is Crete. Some of the least known Greek islands include; Antiparos, Meganisi, Ikaria, Ammouliani and Kythnos
- Greece’s doors are painted blue to ward off evil spirits. The particular shade of blue is called kyanos by locals, which is how the words ‘cyan’ and ‘cyanide’ are derived.
- The most popular holiday spot in Greece is Rhodes. The capital city of the island of Rhodes, also called Rhodes, is famous for its well-preserved medieval Old Town and its surreal turquoise beaches.
- Santorini is an active volcano. It’s last major eruption was in 1650 BC, and although considered dormant there have been a few small eruptions and effusive activity as recently as 1950.
- A white pelican named Petros is the official mascot of Mykonos. He was given the honour after he was found hurt by a fisherman off the coast of the island in 1958.
- The Greek Islands receive almost 300 days of sunshine a year. Along with their pristine beaches, delicious cuisine and laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle, it’s no wonder Greeks are always smiling!
- You can’t wear high heels in certain places in Greece! That’s right…to prevent you from damaging the ancient ruins even further!
- The yo-yo was invented in Greece not in China. There is evidence to suggest Greeks used it as early as 500BC.
- It’s OK to give people the evil eye in Greece! The jewellery piece, that is! The evil eye pendant is said to protect the wearer.
Is Greece safe for solo female travellers?
Greece is a very safe country to visit even for solo female travellers. With an overall travel safety index of 73 the risks to your safety whilst travelling in this country of ancient wonders is fairly low.
However, as with all countries and regions, you should always take safety precautions to avoid being the victim of petty crime, scams and sexual abuse, especially if you’re a solo female traveller.
Petty crime can be an issue in popular tourist spots but it’s not as bad as expected. Keep your money and valuables, such as phones and cameras, out of sight and your money in zipped pockets or money belt.
Public transport and taxis are generally safe but always make sure the meter is running before getting into a taxi to avoid being scammed. Also get the licence plate of your taxi before you get in so you can report it in case you are the victim of a scam.
When shopping at markets always check the authenticity of items you’re purchasing.
As safe as Greece is, if you’re a solo female traveller, and you’re still worried about your safety, travelling with a group is always your safest option. But there are bound to be times when you’ll want to wander off alone.
As with all countries there are unsavoury and dangerous areas, especially in the major cities, so avoid these areas. Before you venture out alone, ask your tour guide or group host where you should avoid and let them know where you’re going.
If you’re travelling independently, check with the local tourist office and/or hotel concierge about which areas to avoid. Don’t go walking in the dark or in empty streets, and do not find yourself alone with strange men, especially at night.
Another option, especially if you’re exploring the entire country, is to plan your vacation with a travel advisor who can arrange all your accommodations, transfers, pre-book excursions and provide you with a point to point concierge at each of your destinations, or even your own personal local tour guide /chauffeur.
Greek Travel Tip
If you’re not a fan of life on board a big ship, or you’d like a longer, more flexible trip, an alternative to cruising the Greek Islands is to travel at your own pace with a Eurail Greek Islands Pass.
You can travel round-trip by ferry between islands including Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes and Heraklion, and stay longer on each island than you would if you were on a cruise and immerse yourself in the culture of each Greek island.
You can use your pass for up to six trips within a month and even travel from Greece to Italy on the same pass. (PS: I can help you book your pass as well plan an itinerary with all your accommodations and excursions planned and booked in advance for the entire length of your trip so you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to stay.)
Greece: A Top Travel Destination for Sustainable Food
Greece was awarded top destination for sustainable food by Lonely Planet on their “Best in Travel 2021” list. According to the travel magazine, the country received this accolade because of its “organic produce markets, prolific wild herbs and island seafood hauls.”
While most of the world is only just becoming conscious about sustainable food habits, traditional Greek food practices, with respect to choice and preparation, date back thousands of years, and are intrinsically sustainable.
Even today, Greeks tend to cook dishes that are prepared with seafood, meats and produce that are fresh, local and in season, rarely cooking anything that is out of season.
Most towns also have their own specialty dish or a their own version of a traditional dish, while tavernas usually change their menus with the seasons, usually creating dishes with ingredients that were brought to market earlier that day.
These sustainable food practices make Greece “an unintentional leader of the world’s most sustainable food locales” according to Lonely Planet.
Three Greek foods you should try when visiting Greece
If you haven’t tasted Greek food, you don’t know what you’re missing! Recognized internationally for its distinctive cuisine, it’s probably most famous for its wide range of antiposto dips, such as tzatziki, taramasalata, feta and hummus, as well as it’s grilled meats and fresh fish main courses, such as souvlaki, gyro and moussaka.
Probably one of the most famous Greek meal is moussaka, a flavourful and healthy combination of ground meat, onion, eggplant, and béchamel sauce. You can’t visit Greece without trying this dish at least once on your trip and you should be able to choose from a variety of family recipes passed down through the generations.
One of the best and most authentic street foods you should try on a visit to Greece is Souvlaki – chunks of meat (chicken, beef or lamb) and sometimes vegetables and grilled on skewers (Souvlaki means small skewer). What makes this a stand out snack enjoyed by Greeks everywhere is its seasoning of herbs and spices.
Another authentic snack you should try while in Greece is kolokythokeftedes (try saying that with a mouth full). These small fried zucchini fritters with fetta cheese are a tasty treat you can enjoy with a glass of wine on a hot summer’s day while exploring Athens. They can also be eaten as a starter with a side of tzatziki before a main course.
Five things you can see/do in Greece.
Explore the ancient capital of Athens
Spend the morning on a guided sightseeing tour of an ancient complex that was once the “Cradle of Western Civilization.” Visit monuments, such as the Acropolis and its treasures, the Parthenon, a Royal Palace built for the goddess Athena, the Temple of Zeus and the Agora, once frequented by Socrates and Plato.
Visit the Acropolis Museum to learn about the culture and see marvellous exhibits of an ancient world Step back in time at Hadrian’s Arch and the stadium where the first Olympics took place in 1896. In the afternoon, amble through the Plaka district or go people watching in Syntagma Square.
Visit the ancient site of Olympia
See the the Temple of Apollo ruins in Delphi
Dine ‘Meze Style’ in Psyri, Athens
Visit the Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Meteora
A large rock formation in central Greece, Meteora is the location of the largest Eastern Orthodox complex of monasteries, and the second in importance after Mount Athos.
Six monasteries, built in the 14th century, stand precariously atop huge natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders and dominate the surrounding countryside.
Meteora’s caves had been inhabited for thousands of years before despite its almost inaccessible location, and the Byzantine monks managed to build 24 monasteries in total. Only six remain today.
Meteora is one of 18 UNESCO World Heritage listed sites in Greece, inscribed in 1988, and one of only two that have both historical and natural significance, the other being Mount Athos.
Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Meteora, Greece
You can see from the photo where the rock formation gets its name: Meteora means “lofty”, “elevated.”