It’s tough to pick a favourite in Greece.
Should it be the capital of Athens for its stunning Acropolis and spectacular Parthenon ruins? What about the picture post card perfect Santorini? The party island of Mykonos? Or the ruggedness of Crete?
Decide for yourself by taking an island-hopping holiday in Greece – the nation of white-washed buildings clinging to mountainsides, Greek salad and souvlaki, ouzo and donkeys.
Yes, that’s right, donkeys.
Especially on the island of Santorini, where for centuries the donkey has been the preferred and pragmatic way to get people and supplies from the Old Port up to the cliff-top city of Fira. It’s turned into a tourist attraction now, much to the delight of Canadian, French and British visitors and the dismay of the beasts of burden, which remain as stinky, slow and stubborn as ever.
Most who visit Greece fly into big city Athens for an Acropolis fix and then go island hopping. Such was the itinerary of our tour group
The Acropolis’s crowning glory is the Parthenon. It’s the columned building you see in virtually every promotional piece on Greece. “It’s a masterpiece of architecture and mathematics,” points out tour guide Cleo Contogianes.
As such, it is Greece’s biggest tourist attraction drawing 10 million a year to ooh and aah and click their cameras from every angle. Greece has certainly made headlines lately with its financial crisis and riots protesting government austerity. But the problems have simmered down and the country still has the history and beauty that attracts tourists.
Greece is the perfect destination for a bit of cradle-of-civilization-and-birthplace-of-democracy-and-the-Olympics history with plenty of beach, pool and time in the sun thrown in. Each of Greece’s 1,400 islands has its own personality-Mykonos the party place, Santorini the beautiful perfect and Crete the big and wild.
While it’s tough to pick a favourite, I would have to go with Santorini. Those quintessential Greek scenes of white buildings with blue dome roofs on mountainsides that plunge dramatically into the sea are everywhere here.
Crete’s mountains are best explored by four-wheel-drive vehicle. So with Greek folk songs blaring on the radio, we climb higher and higher into the mountains of the island with Exploring Club’s full-day Jeep Safari. It’s an exhilarating mix of off-roading combined with cultural stops at a monastery, mountain village and cheese maker. If you can drive manual transmission you can drive your own jeep, otherwise bump along in the passenger seat while taking in the stunning scenery and humming along to the tunes in another language.
Mykonos may be the place to nightclub until dawn, but it is also the place to stay at a luxury resort with breathtaking pool complex and spa, such as the Myconian Imperial Resort where we stayed.
Air Transat (www.transatholidays.com) and Air Canada (www.aircanada.com) have started their seasonal flights and vacation packages to Athens from both Toronto and Montreal.
Steve MacNaull is a business reporter for the Kelowna Daily Courier who loves to travel and write about that too. Find out more about Steve at www.bctravelwriters.com/macnaull.