Around 98% of the population are Christian Orthodox. Minority religions include Muslim, Roman Catholic and Jewish.
The official language is Greek with English and French also spoken. Some German is also spoken.
Area (sq. km):
131,940 square meters
GMT +2 hours (April – September), GMT +1 hour (October – March)
Greece’s Mediterranean climate sees hot dry summers often cooled by seasonal breezes and cold damp winters. Due to the geographical location, and desperation of land and sea, conditions can vary greatly across the country. Athens can experience stifling hot conditions in summer. Winters are mild in the south but much colder with snow covered mountains in the north. November to March sees the most rainfall.
The months during spring and autumn are the best times to visit, when the weather is pleasant and warm and sites are not swarming with tourists. The peak tourist season runs from mid-June to the end of August when the heat and crowds can make conditions trying. For the best conditions, the ideal months to go are April, May, September and October. November to February can be cold and wet with many of the hotels, restaurants and sites closing down over the winter months.
The Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport (Airport code ATH) in Spata, located 33km from Athens city, is the major airport in Greece and handles the most international flights as well as domestic flights. To get from the airport into the city of Athens, there is a regular bus service which operates into the city centre or to the port of Piraeus. There is also a train service between the airport and centre of Athens. A taxi from the airport to the city centre will cost in the vicinity of €30 plus around €1 per bag plus €3 for tolls. There are also 14 other international airports located on the mainland and on the islands that are serviced by commercial and charter flights from all over Europe and the world.
The calling code for Greece is + 30.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are used.
Greece is renowned for its delicious and healthy Mediterranean food which has influences from Italian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. The essence of many Greek dishes is the unique herbs and spices used to compliment and enhance the flavour of the food. Olive oil is added to most dishes. Some of the more well known dishes include; Mezedes, which are appetizers and served before the main meal. They are usually accompanied by a spirit such as ouzo. Popular types of mezedes include tzatziki (yoghurt and cucumber dip), taramosalata (fish egg dish), saganaki (fried cheese), dolmadakia (grape leaves filled with rice and meat) and melitzanosalata, just to name a few. There is of course the famous Greek salad called horiatiki salata, which is a fresh mix of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, olives, feta cheese, olive oil and oregano. Some of the popular main dishes include the famous moussaka (a potato, eggplant and minced beef dish), pastitsio (a Greek style lasagne-type dish), paidakia (grilled lamb's ribs served with lemon) and kokoretsi (a dish of roasted lamb entrails served with lemon). Greek cuisine differs from region to region and from island to island, with delicious local specialities found throughout the country.
Greece has an extensive and efficient bus network throughout the mainland and on the Greek islands. In fact, unlike the rest of Europe, bus travel is more popular and a more reliable means of travel compared with trains. Catamarans, hydrofoils and ferries operate between the islands and mainland. The large ferries are the slower and cheaper means of travel while the catamarans and hydrofoils are faster and more expensive. Taxis are readily available in Greece. An illuminated meter flag indicates that the taxi is available for hire and a taxi can be hauled on the street or you can go to one of the many taxi stands (known as piatsa). A taxi already carrying passengers may stop and take other passengers during the ride – this is a common practice. Compared with the rest of Europe, taxi travel is reasonably priced, however prices do increase between midnight and 600am. Luggage is also charged.
Special items to buy in Greece include lace, jewellery, metalwork, pottery, garments and knitwear, carpets and rugs, leather goods, local wines and spirits, olive oils and sweets and other local handicrafts including embroidered cushion covers, woodwork and knotted carpets. Shops are generally open: Mon, Wed, and Sat 0900-1430, Tues, Thurs and Fri 0900-1430 and 1730-2030. Credit cards are accepted in most major shops, hotels and restaurants.
Visa: A visa is not required for Greece for a stay of 3 months or less for Australians, Americans, Canadians and British. All other nationalities should check their visa requirements with the relevant consulate.
Lonely Planet Greece The Odyssey – Homer Zorba the Greek – Nikos Kazantzakis