Greek Tourism: A Powerful Industry

Greece welcomes more than 11 million tourists annually. Since the 1960’s, Greece has been a popular tourist destination, offering excellent conditions throughout the year. Besides the very attractive and numerous islands, one may visit museums, archaeological sites, monuments, and cultural centers throughout the country all year round. Moreover, the human resources employed in the Greek tourism industry are well trained and experienced. As a result, Greece has for a long time been among the top tourist destinations worldwide.

In Greece, one is standing at a crossroads of culture and civilization, one can feel the strength of history and the warmth of being in the southernmost part of Europe, as well as discover an evolutionary process of thought, cultural influence and experience.

The Greek landscape remains incredibly vibrant, turning dreams into reality. One can walk through the olive groves, through ancient sites, or move to clusters of sparsely inhabited islands, roam from the beaches to rocky mountains and explore breathtaking scenery, or live the intense, cosmopolitan atmosphere of fashionable islands, where life goes on 24 hours a day.

Greece is mountainous country, as it is occupied by more than 300 rocky masses, which are varying in elevation. The Pindus Mountains are the principle mountain range and form the backbone of mainland of Greece, extending through central Greece into the Peloponnese and Crete. Mt Olympus is the highest mountain in the country, rising at 2,917 meters. About 40 mountain complexes throughout the country reach elevations over 2,000 meters. The Greek mountains are famous for their diversity, landscapes of singular beauty and unique forests many of which rank among the oldest natural wooded lands in Europe. Due to is astounding rich flora and fauna, many of these habitats have been designated as National Parks and are protected as such while, as a result of infrastructure developed over the last decades, they constitute today ideal destinations for winter and alpine tourism and other sport activities.

On the other hand, with a coastline of over 15,000 km and more than 2,000 islands and islets, Greece offers quite a wide collection of choices. The Greek Archipelago offers a highly diversified landscape: pristine beaches stretching along many kilometers, sheltered bays and coves, golden stretches of sand with dunes, pebbly beaches, coastal caves with steep rocks and black sand typical of volcanic soil, and coastal wetlands. Apart from swimming, the Greek beaches lend themselves to scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing, sailing and windsurfing.

As they are all the cradle of some of the most ancient and prosperous European civilizations (the Cycladic, Minoan civilizations, etc), the Greek islands boast unique archeological sites, an outstanding architectural heritage and centuries old, fascinating local traditions of a multifaceted cultural past. Moreover, close to 60 percent of the country’s lodging establishments and 63 percent of hotel beds are found on the islands.

All the above, combined with the ideal climate, the safety of Greek waters and the short distances between ports and coasts, have rendered the Greek islands extremely popular among Greek and foreign visitors.

The islands are Greece’s chief morphological trait and an integral part of the country’s civilization and traditions. They are scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Sea and form a truly unique phenomenon in the European continent; out of approximately 2,000, only 227 of these islands are inhabited. The incredible variety makes for the most frequently asked question: “Which islands are a must to see?” Whereupon the response is always “it depends on what you are looking for…”

Having developed in rather isolated circumstances geographically, even islands in close proximity to one another are very different. Each one has a unique landscape, tradition, monuments, local cuisine specific to the island and even a certain reputation and characteristics for which the local inhabitants are universally known, setting each location apart from its neighbors. For instance, one can visit the cosmopolitan islands of Rhodes, Corfu, or Mykonos, or the larger islands of the highly fashionable Eastern Aegean, enjoy the rich diversity of Crete, admire the unparalleled natural beauty of Santorini, Zakynthos, Skiathos, Cephallonia, or simply relax on the leisurely islands of Amorgos, Skopelos, Sifnos, Milos and numerous others.

The close proximity of the islands to one another is one more asset for cruising, as it allows visits to many different ports on each cruise. With an average of over 290 days of sunshine annually and well-equipped harbors, Greece is one of the world’s best destinations for cruising holidays.

The continuous contact of the Greeks with the Sea, both in ancient and modern times, has made them experienced navigators and established sailing as one of the greatest living traditions of the country. Sailing for pleasure, or participating in one of the many races taking place every year in Greek waters, is more and more becoming a way of life for the Greeks and for the numerous visitors who return there every summer.

Sailing enthusiasts, whether experienced or not, will find incomparable interest and pleasure in the Greek gulfs and the archipelagos. A trip on the serene Greek seas on a pleasure craft, privately owned or chartered, is a unique experience. Whoever makes that choice, sailing through the archipelagos, anchoring in natural, lush bays and swimming in complete safety, will experience an unforgettable adventure. Yachting facilities in Greece are of a very high standard. New, modern marinas, hotel harbors and havens for the safe anchorage of yachts welcome tourists visiting Greece by sea under the most agreeable and safe conditions.

Remarkable architecture, traditional settlements and historical city centers are substantial elements of the cultural heritage and the character of our land.

The variety of Greek architectural heritage spreads over 653 protected traditional settlements, 8,000 buildings, as well as in the ancient and Byzantine monuments that can be found all over the Greek countryside, the coasts, the mountains, and urban centers. Nowadays, many landmark buildings are being used as museums, exhibition halls, restaurants, public and communal services but also for tourists accommodations.

A great number of museums operate throughout the country. More than 207 of them are state-run and 107 are privately owned. The exhibits span a period of 6,000 years.

(The Greek American Herald, 27 April 2005, p6)

HCS readers are invited to read other articles about travel in Greece in our extensive archives at in Greece.

2000 © Hellenic Communication Service, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.