The Parthenon
The Parthenon © Nathan Hughes Hamilton

The Olympic Games began in Ancient Greece, along with democracy and the fundamentals of science, philosophy, and mathematics. Indeed, Greek civilisation is renowned for developing many of the West's cultural building blocks.

Modern Greece is better known as a great holiday destination, rather than a centre of culture and learning. Today, the country attracts visitors by the thousands. By and large, they come for the country's simple pleasures of delicious food, wine, beautiful beaches, sunshine and quaint villages. In particular, beach lovers relish the seemingly endless lacework of coastline, and small islands stocked with ancient sites and scenic surprises.

The country exudes traditional charm, particularly on its ever-popular islands, which cling to their traditional ways despite the influx of tourists. Black-clad women still deliver vegetables to island tavernas on panniered donkeys, while bronzed, weather-beaten fishermen sit in the sun, drink thick coffee, and play dominoes or backgammon. The tourist infrastructure has intruded in many respects, but the timeless aspect of whitewashed buildings clustered on hillsides has been retained.

The myriad islands in the Aegean Sea are easily accessible from Piraeus, Athens' historic harbour. Many of the larger islands also have airports with connections to Athens or major European cities.

On the mainland, the capital, Athens, is sprawling, polluted and overcrowded. Nevertheless, it enthrals visitors. Thessaloniki in the north is vibrant and modern, with a Byzantine flavour. Athens is dominated by its major landmark, the Parthenon, but the remains of other Classical Greek wonders are found mainly on the Peloponnese Peninsula.

All in all, Greece warms visitors with its sun and hospitality.