Ancient sun-bleached ruins pierce blue skies as the Aegean laps at the endless coastline. And Greek culture is alive with passionate music, inspired cuisine and thrill-seeking activities. Standing in the shadow of the Acropolis feels other-worldly. Greece is full of such moments. Step into the ring where Olympians first competed. Climb steps hewn out of stone to Meteora’s monasteries, perched atop towering rocks. Contemplate the oracle’s insights from the grandeur of Delphi, take in a starlit drama at an ancient outdoor theatre and be stunned by massive marble sculptures dredged up from the Aegean. But then you’ll encounter bold modern art, the melancholic throb of rembetika (blues songs) and artisans creating new work from traditional techniques. Greece has endless cultural pursuits and a calendar bursting with festivals, holidays and exhibits.
Beautiful Zakynthos , also known by its Italian name Zante, has become dominated along its southern and southeastern shoreline by heavy package tourism. Once you leave the long sandy beaches of those regions behind, however, and set off to explore the rest of the island, you'll discover plenty of forested wilderness and traditional rural villages. Some attractive lower-key bases lie just beyond the larger, run-of-the-mill resorts, including Keri and Limni Keriou in the remote southwest, and Agios Nikolaos and Cape Skinari in the far north, but it’s the spectacular scenery of the rugged west coast, where mighty limestone cliffs plummet down to unreal turquoise waters, that’s the true highlight. Zakynthos (Greek: Ζάκυνθος, Zákynthos [ˈzacinθos] (About this sound listen), Italian: Zacìnto) or Zante (Greek: Τζάντε, Tzánte /ˈzɑːnti, -teɪ, ˈzæn-/, Italian: Zante; from Venetian), is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. Zakynthos is a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and its only municipality. It covers an area of 405.55 km2 (156.6 sq mi) and its coastline is roughly 123 km (76 mi) in length. The name, like all similar names ending in -nthos, is pre-Mycenaean or Pelasgian in origin. In Greek mythology the island was said to be named after Zakynthos, the son of a legendary Arcadian chief Dardanus. Zakynthos is a tourist destination, with an international airport served by charter flights from northern Europe. The island's nickname is "The flower of the Levant", bestowed upon it by the Venetians who were in possession of Zakynthos from 1484–1797
Crete is a magical tapestry of splendid beaches, ancient treasures, and landscapes encompassing vibrant cities and dreamy villages, where locals share their traditions, wonderful cuisine and generous spirit. There’s something undeniably artistic in the way the Cretan landscape unfolds, from the sun-drenched beaches in the north to the rugged canyons spilling out at the cove-carved and cliff-lined southern coast. In between, valleys cradle moody villages, and round-shouldered hills are the overture to often snow-dabbed mountains. Take it all in on a driving tour, trek through Europe’s longest gorge, hike to the cave where Zeus was born or cycle among orchards on the Lasithi Plateau. Leave time to plant your footprints on a sandy beach, and boat, kayak or snorkel in the crystalline waters. Crete's natural beauty is equalled only by the richness of its history. The island is the birthplace of the first advanced society on European soil, the Minoans, who ruled some 4000 years ago, and you’ll find evocative vestiges all over, including the famous Palace of Knossos. At the crossroads of three continents, Crete has been coveted and occupied by consecutive invaders. History imbues Hania and Rethymno, where labyrinthine lanes – laid out by the Venetians – are lorded over by mighty fortresses, and where gorgeously restored Renaissance mansions rub rafters with mosques and Turkish bathhouses. The Byzantine influence stands in magnificent frescoed chapels, churches and monasteries.
Still recognisable as the idyllic refuge where the shipwrecked Odysseus was soothed and sent on his way home, Corfu continues to welcome weary travellers with its lush scenery, bountiful produce and pristine beaches. Since the 8th century BC the island the Greeks call Kerkyra has been prized for its untamed beauty and strategic location. Ancient armies fought to possess it, while in the early days of modern Greece it was a beacon of learning. Corfiots remain proud of their intellectual and artistic roots, with vestiges of the past ranging from Corfu Town's Venetian architecture to British legacies such as cricket and ginger beer. While certain regions of the island have succumbed to overdevelopment, particularly those close to Corfu Town, Corfu is large enough to make it possible to escape the crowds. Venture across cypress-studded hills to find vertiginous villages in the fertile interior, and sandy coves lapped by cobalt-blue waters. Corfu or Kerkyra (/kɔːrˈfuː, -fjuː/; Greek: Κέρκυρα, translit. Kérkyra, [ˈcercira]; Ancient Greek: Κόρκυρα, translit. Kórkyra, [kórkyra]; Latin: Corcyra; Italian: Corfù) is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the northwesternmost part of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality, which also includes the smaller islands of Ereikoussa, Mathraki and Othonoi. The municipality has an area of 610,9 km2, the island proper 592,8 km2. The principal city of the island and seat of the municipality (pop. 32,095) is also named Corfu. Corfu is home to the Ionian University.
By far the largest and historically the most important of the Dodecanese islands, Rhodes (ro-dos) abounds in beaches, wooded valleys and ancient history. Whether you arrive in search of buzzing nightlife, languid sun worshipping, diving in crystal-clear waters or to embark on a culture-vulture journey through past civilisations, it’s all here. The atmospheric Old Town of Rhodes is a maze of cobbled streets that will spirit you back to the days of the Byzantine Empire and beyond. Further south is the picture-perfect town of Lindos, a soul-warming vista of sugar-cube houses spilling down to a turquoise bay. Lindos is a nice place to visit. A steep footpath climbs the 116m-high rock above Lindos to reach the beautifully preserved Acropolis. First walled in the 6th century BC, the clifftop is now enclosed by battlements constructed by the Knights of St John. Once within, you’re confronted by stunning ancient remains that include a Temple to Athena Lindia and a 20-columned Hellenistic stoa. Silhouetted against the deep blue sky, the stark white columns are dazzling, while the long-range coastal views are out of this world. Be sure to pack a hat and some water, as there’s no shade at the top, and take care to protect young kids from the many dangerous drop-offs. Donkey rides to the Acropolis from the village entrance only spare you around three minutes of exposed walking on the hillside, and you should note that animal-rights groups urge people to consider the treatment of the donkeys before deciding to take a ride.
Fringed by the finest beaches in the Dodecanese, dwarfed beneath mighty crags, and blessed with lush valleys, Kos is an island of endless treasures. Visitors soon become blasé at sidestepping the millennia-old Corinthian columns that poke through the rampant wildflowers – even in Kos Town, the lively capital, ancient Greek ruins are scattered everywhere you turn, and a mighty medieval castle still watches over the harbour. Visitors to Kos naturally tend to focus their attention on its beaches. In addition to those around Kos Town, there are three main resort areas. Kardamena, on the south coast, is very much dominated by package tourism, but Mastihari, on the north coast, and Kamari, in the far southwest, are more appealing. Away from the resorts, the island retains considerable wilderness, with the rugged Dikeos mountains soaring to almost 850m just a few kilometres west of Kos Town. Kos or Cos (/kɒs/; Greek: Κως [kos]) is a Greek island, part of the Dodecanese island chain in the southeastern Aegean Sea, off the Anatolian coast of Turkey. Kos is the third largest island of the Dodecanese by area, after Rhodes and Karpathos; it has a population of 33,388 (2011 census), making it the second most populous of the Dodecanese, after Rhodes. The island measures 40 by 8 kilometres (25 by 5 miles), and is 4 km (2 miles) from the coast of the ancient region of Caria in Turkey. Administratively, Kos constitutes a municipality within the Kos regional unit, which is part of the South Aegean region. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Kos town.