For the next edition of our Insider Interview series, we get together with Marian from Days of Bliss, who lives and breathes all things Greece.
We’ve been lucky enough to pick her brains about everything that makes Greece a brilliant place to visit.
There are loads of great places to visit in Europe, what makes Greece special?
Some say that Greece is a small miniature of the world. Travellers can choose among a wide range of different morphology sites to visit: rivers, mountains, forests, islands, castles.
In Greece you will find so many different islands – 227 to choose from. Each one has a unique character and natural landscape.
Food is super healthy here. You can find old-school recipes next to super trendy restaurants with surprising twists on those same recipes. Each place in Greece has unique products and dishes to serve.
Even if someone wants to keep costs low, they still can find a stand of fresh fruits & vegetables and a decent savoury souvlaki that will keep them stuffed for the whole day.
Greece is a place where the majority of youngsters hold a university degree. Add that to the traditional Philoxenia (hospitality) and you have an interesting sort of tribe.
You can expect to have passionate conversations on politics after the biggest party on the beach, or with a random elder sitting next to you in kafeneio (coffee shop).
If a traveller can only visit one area in Greece where would you recommend they go?
I would definitely recommend Santorini (Thera). Even the locals cannot get enough of this island that many connect with the myth of lost Atlantis.
It is not only the crystal clear waters around the volcano, the unique architecture, or the amazingly well-recovered settlement of Acrotiri city that was buried around 1.500BC under ashes of the erupted volcano, but it is that feeling of sitting on a cliff top above the Mediterranean sea and watching the sun settling inside the water – another yet unique phenomenon only seen from Oia – in absolute stillness. It seems that time stands still during sunset in Santorini.
Tourists tend to find themselves always eating at the most obvious places, have you discovered any lesser-known restaurants that have blown you away?
Absolutely! I had the best turkish dishes in “Kai Kremmudi” at Hydra Island, the best traditional Greek breakfast with local, organic ingredients in “Archontiko Anyfanti” in Zatouna and the best boar in “Zerzova”, Peloponnese.
If you’re unsure of where to eat, just catch the attention of a local and ask them for some pointers. Greeks tend to be really serious about their food-related habits.
Greece is well known for sun, sea and sand. But what would you say to travellers looking to visit in the cooler months?
I would say that winter is as amazing in Greece, as summer. For one, the climate does not allow harsh winters, and autumns feel like summers do in England.
In the winter you can find 7 beautiful ski resorts at a cost much lower than the ones in Italy or France. And if you are looking to combine winter sports with wellness vacations you can visit the Northern area of Almopia with the famous Pozar thermal springs next to Kaimaktsalan ski resort with it’s luxury chalet.
If you still want to feel warm then Crete is the place to visit, probably one of the warmest edges of Europe even in February.
What was your personal favourite moment while in Greece?
As I live in Greece year-through I have had the chance to savour all seasons here. My best by far is the week of Orthodox Easter during Spring. Nothing compares to the feeling of community and compassion everyone shares on these days. People will open their homes to random strangers, feed them, pour wine in their cups and treat them like brothers.
Also the traditions held during each and every day of the Pascha (Easter) week are one of a kind.
How would you advise our readers prepare for a trip to Greece?
I would warn them to be prepared for a laid back culture. Slow living is an actual thing in Greece, not just a trend. Itineraries are not always followed strictly, the shops will not necessarily open on time and the bus might delay a quarter or two to wait for sweet aunt Katina who is such a slow walker.
As long as you have been warned, though, you can just go with the flow and enjoy all that comes along.
What’s the best way to get around, for those planning a visit?
Renting a car is the best option and rather inexpensive compared to most European countries. Public transportation is not reliable as strikes tend to be quiet frequent.
If you wish to island-hop, you can avoid cost of bringing the car in the ferry. You can still rent a car on each island, but be warned, it is best to double-check reservations.
What do you think would surprise first-time visitors most?
Visitors arriving during the summer are usually struck by the heat. It is difficult to manage, especially in the islands and you can easily get sunburn or heat stroke without even realising it.
Locals share jokes about always keeping extra sunscreen in their bag for the sunburnt tourists. Stay in the shade with a hat on at all times and have a bottle of water with you.
Keep in mind that the local cure for sun burn is to apply Greek yogurt directly on to the skin. It works miracles. Or, try pure balsam oil from the pharmacy, which is a bit more costly.
If you could take one thing home from Greece and move it to your permanent home what would you bring?
My Greek husband! Nothing compares with the kind soul of a Greek man.
Do you have any suggestions for activities or days out you’ve tried and loved in Greece?
Yes many! I adored touring the island of Hydra on a horseback with my kids. It was a unique experience that all the family enjoyed.
Also sailing along the Saronic Gulf in a yacht was amazing, as the waters are very calm and the weather allowed us to swim until late at night.
In the heart of Athens, Plaka, I had the experience of an authentic Hammam treatment with my husband, that is until now, the best date we ever had.
Last but not least I very fondly remember the days spent glamping in a luxury yurt in Northern Evia.
If you got the opportunity to visit again, would you do anything differently?
Oh I wish I had two whole months in a row to tour Northern Greece from Ionian coast up to the borders with Turkey – and then perhaps a road trip up to Istanbul.
Are you inspired by Marian to visit this stunning destination? If so, take a look at our latest deals to Greece to get planning.