Facts about Greece
Greece is a delightful place and one of Europe’s most picturesque countries. Several characteristics make it almost perfect for travel and tourism.
The Greek peninsula drops south into warm Mediterranean waters at the far edge of south-eastern Europe. The Ionian Sea lies to the west and the Aegean to the east. The country’s interior is mostly hilly and mountainous.
With its ancient cultural centers and thousands of islands dotting the sparkling waters, there’s no shortage of things for travelers to see and do in Greece. And recent developments with the country’s economy have made investments in Greece attractive to many of the people who visit there.
Bordered by three other Balkan countries (Albania, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria) to the north and Turkey to the northeast, Greece occupies a strategic location that forms the meeting place of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and western Asia. Its location makes it easily accessible for travelers from much of the world, but also means that Greece has a delicious mélange of cultural influences.
The country has 11 distinct regions, including the Peloponnese, Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, Epirus, Sterea Hellas, Crete and the Ionian, Dodecanese, North Aegean and Cyclades islands. Depending on who you ask, there are between 1,400 and 6,500 Greek islands in total. Despite having almost 10,000 miles of scenic coastline (counting island shores), about 80% of Greece is either hilly or mountainous. Whether you’re interested in beautiful beaches or rugged mountains, Greece has it all.
On an overall basis, Greece has a pleasant, predominantly Mediterranean climate. But because the country has such a varied geography, there are distinct regional climates.
Coastal Greece (including popular tourist spots like the Peloponnese, Athens and the Greek islands) is sunny, dry, hot and windy during summer, while winters are usually mild and rainy. Northern Greece’s climate is temperate, with cold, wet winters and occasional snow. Its rainy summers are hot but cooler than summers in southern Greece. The climate is Alpine in the mountainous regions of the northwest (the summit of Mount Olympus – Greece’s highest peak – is over 9,500 feet above sea level). That region has cooler summers and snowy winters.
Few countries in the world have a longer or more storied past than Greece. The ancient Greeks, with their remarkable contributions to the visual and dramatic arts, science, literature, philosophy, architecture and politics, blazed the path for Western civilization as we know it today. In a nutshell, Greece was the seat of Europe’s first advanced civilization.
Hardly anyone would dispute that ancient Greece was the cradle of Western civilization. Among other things, democracy was first conceived there. The legendary Macedonian, Alexander the Great, conquered much of the known world and spread the Greek culture and lifestyle from Egypt to far-away India. Even mighty Rome was heavily influenced by Greece.
Some of the world’s most famous battles occurred here, including the Battles of Marathon, Thermopylae and Salamis during the classical period in the 400s B.C. A portion of the proud Peloponnese was the final section of the Byzantine Empire to succumb to the Ottomans of Turkey in 1460 A.D. After a long series of bloody revolts, Greece was ultimately freed from Ottoman tyranny and became an independent state in 1830.
The people of Greece are known for being friendly, welcoming and hospitable. Travelers are welcomed into many Greek homes with open arms, as if they’re family members. Folk dances and Greek music have always been an important part of the culture, from antiquity to today.
Because of the country’s location as an international crossroads and its history of conquest by other nations, Greece has a multi-faceted culture, with influences from ancient Rome, the Byzantine Empire, the Venetian and Genoese Republics, and the Ottoman Empire. However, from its earliest beginnings in the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, Greece has always been known for its remarkable achievements in the arts, architecture and philosophy. Its literary tradition is unparalleled. And the mathematical and scientific knowledge developed by the ancient Greeks remained the standard in Europe for well over 2,000 years.
Greek Contributions to Western Culture
Greece has long had a profound influence over Western civilization, primarily through different aspects of its culture. During ancient times, the educated and ruling classes throughout the Mediterranean region spoke Greek as their first or second language.
No other country’s contribution to Western culture has been larger or more meaningful. Many of the world’s foremost poets, playwrights and philosophers were ancient Greeks. Other Greeks elevated sculpture and architecture to an entirely different level, far above their contemporaries and unsurpassed until at least the Renaissance. The ideal of beauty they developed strongly influences Western art and architecture even today. Their knowledge of biology, medicine, geometry and physics became the foundation of today’s modern science and mathematics.
All modern Western democracies evolved from the ancient Greeks’ strong belief in government by the people and the rule of law. The significance of Greece’s cultural contributions is evidenced by the country’s 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And don’t forget sports – Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games, first held almost 3,000 years ago.
Position in Europe and the World
Greece occupies an important position, not just in Europe, but in the world. Its economy is larger than that of all the other countries in the Balkan region combined, and the country has a high standard of living.
Greece is a shipping powerhouse, with the largest merchant marine fleet in the world. Besides being a founding member of the United Nations, Greece is a member of various other international organizations, including NATO, the European Union, the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the World Trade Organization and the Eurozone. Greece might be an ancient country, but it embraces life in the modern world.
The Tourism Industry
Tourism in Greece isn’t just alive – it’s thriving. Sights like Athens and its renowned Acropolis and Parthenon, stunning Greek islands like Santorini and Mykonos, the ancient Minoan ruins at Knossos, and ski slopes in the mountains are magnets for an estimated 20 million tourists per year. Most of these sightseers come from the UK, continental Europe or the United States. Tourism generates a significant percentage of Greece’s national income. The Greek people know this and go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. Hotels, cafés and restaurants are abundant in many parts of the country.
Traveling in Greece
Recognizing the importance of tourism for the national economy, over the past few decades the Greek government has made significant strides in improving travel throughout the country. Highways and railways alike have been expanded and modernized. The longest suspension cable bridge in Europe now connects the Peloponnese and mainland Greece. Intercity railway lines and commuter trains are no longer a thing of the past. International trains run between cities in Greece, Europe and Turkey.
Athens and the surrounding area are served by an efficient modern rapid rail transit system (the Athens Metro). Athens International Airport, opened in 2001, is a major regional transportation hub. High-speed boats transport travelers to and from most of the Greek islands, but many of the islands can also be reached on flights operated by Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air.
Traveling in Greece has always been the dream of many tourists. Thanks to all these improvements in the transportation infrastructure, it’s now much easier than ever before.
Greece as a Major Tourist Destination
There are multiple reasons for Greece’s status as one of the world’s major tourist destinations. The country’s sunny beaches are unsurpassed, but so are its many historical sites. The Greek weather during summers is almost perfect for sightseeing, and winters in the mountains are a ski buff’s delight.
Many of the Greek islands are among the most exquisitely stunning spots in the world. Nightlife in the cities is vibrant – for example, Lonely Planet recently ranked Thessaloniki as the world’s fifth-best party town. Unlike many other European tourist destinations, folk dancing is still an important part of life in the country’s smaller towns and villages. And Greek food is both healthy and delicious, incorporating fresh ingredients from land and sea.
Tourist season in Greece runs from April through October, although July and August are the peak months. Many travelers visit Athens, Crete, or one or more of the scenic Greek islands, while others prefer touring the Peloponnese or popular northern locales like Thessaloniki. Although 20 million people per year come to Greece, its numerous points of interest keep many regions free of armies of tourists.
Why Greece in Particular?
Our world is generous, giving us many popular holiday and vacation destinations, but none of them are quite like Greece. The variations in its terrain are extensive and the climate is superb. The country’s beaches and idyllic islands naturally have a widespread appeal for tourists, but so do the mountains and the rich Greek culture. And, Greece’s history and influence on Western society are without parallel. The country’s numerous historical sites bear witness to the advanced civilizations in Greece and on Crete thousands of years ago, and they fascinate millions of visitors a year.
There’s just something special about Greece. In fact, a lot of things about Greece are special. It’s the universally acknowledged cradle of Western civilization, but its cities feature fabulous Byzantine architecture as well as classic-period ruins and striking contemporary structures. The Greek countryside is peaceful and pastoral (picture olive orchards in the south, valleys made verdant with miles of wine-producing grape vines, and lush northern forests), and the islands are some of the most beautiful spots in the world. People come to Greece for an almost endless list of reasons.
Major Tourist Destinations
The list of major Greek tourist destinations is almost as endless as the reasons people travel there. Just a few of them include:
- Athens, the capital of Greece, known for its Parthenon and Acropolis;
- Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city and the hub of Central Macedonia; widely considered to be Greece’s cultural capital;
- Mykonos, a cosmopolitan island vacation spot;
- Santorini, the site of an ancient volcanic mega-explosion thought to be responsible for the downfall of the Minoan civilization; known for its charming towns and beautiful island sunsets;
- The island of Rhodes, famous for its beaches, impressive medieval buildings and vibrant nightlife;
- Heraklion, Crete’s largest city and the gateway to the Minoan ruins at Knossos;
- Delphi, the home of the famous oracle and a major archeological site;
- Meteora, known for its Eastern Orthodox, Byzantine-period monasteries and fascinating rock formations.
- Patra, known for its delectable local wines
…. and there are many others.
The Benefits of Living in Greece
Many of these benefits of living in Greece are relate to quality of life, but here are a few specifics:
- A relaxed pace of life, especially when compared to the hectic lifestyle in many European, Australian and North American cities;
- Despite a high standard of living, the overall cost of living in Greece is much lower (up to 50% less) than the cost of living in many European, Australian and North American cities. In Greece you get a lot of bang for your buck, Euro or pound;
- Healthy, nutritious food and delicious wines at affordable prices;
- Less air and water pollution than you’d find in many other developed countries;
- An easily accessible location, especially from Europe;
- Friendly, helpful, hospitable locals;
- A sunny, warm summer climate (year-round on some of the Greek islands); and
- One of the most beautiful backdrops in the world (Mediterranean, Ionian or Aegean waters, pastoral plains and valleys, or rugged hills and mountains).
Reasons to Invest in Greece
After several years of recession that followed the debt crisis that began in 2009/2010, Greek property prices are at their lowest in many years. Bailouts from the IMF and the other Eurozone countries, coupled with domestic austerity measures, have stabilized the situation and brought Greece’s fiscal deficit under a certain measure of control. Because the country is such a popular tourist destination, demand for homes and vacation rental properties is soaring.
The Greek transportation infrastructure is among the best in Europe. The country boasts 45 airports (15 are international), over 500 ports (12 are international), modern bridges, roadways and railways, and a remarkable highway in the north that connects cities along the Aegean, Adriatic and Black Seas. It also offers modern supermarkets, malls, theaters and leisure centers in the larger cities, a varied cultural life, sophisticated services, and abundant restaurants, nightclubs and cafés. The standard of living is high but the cost of living is comparatively low. In a nutshell, Greece offers all the comforts of home but at a much lower cost.
|Capital and largest city||Athens|
|Government||Presidential Parliamentary Democracy|
|Prime Minister||Antonis Samaras|
|Area||Total 131,957 km2|
|Population 2011 census||10,815,197 (77th)
Density 82/km2 (117th)
|GDP nominal(2012)||$249.201 billion, €193.749 billion|
|GDP per capita||€17,200 (nominal; 2012), $22,055 (nominal, 2012 est)
€21,400 (PPP; 2010), $24,505 (PPP, 2012 est.)
|GDP by sector||commerce, transport & tourism: 23%; health services & social security: 17%; taxes less subsidies on products: 12% (2011, in current prices) mining & manufacturing: 12%; professional, scientific and technical activities: 5%; construction: 4%; finance, public administration, defence, education, information & communication: 4%; arts & entertainment: 4%; Agriculture, forestry and fishing: 3%;|
|Tourism||~18.000.000 visitors (2013 est.)|
|Inflation||-0.4% May 2013, Average 1.5 % (2012)|
|Human Development Index||0.86 (29th), very high|
|Gross National Income (GNI) (2011)||$ 26.077 billion|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||80.6 (2011)|
|National Education Budget (2010)||12,08 billion € (public), 4% of GDP|
|Education||Public & Private, Public Education is free for anyone|
|Currency||Euro (€) (EUR)|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|