Greece holiday destinations
By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer
UPDATE: from 25 October 2020 you can now visit all of Greece with the need for quarantine on return.
Greece is one of our favourite European holiday destinations. It’s not just the promise of long hot summers that keep us coming back, it’s the diversity of the islands – and the mainland – plus the quality of the accommodation and the friendliness of the people.
But for me the real enduring appeal is the timelessness and simplicity of unspoilt Greece. The food is fresh, simple, healthy and has changed little in hundreds of years. The whitewashed houses, the squat churches and windmills that dot the landscape speak of tradition and a quiet self assurance.
Whether you’re catching a ferry to an island, lazing on a beach or sitting at a pavement taverna with a Greek salad and a glass of wine, you feel that you’ve captured the essence of a summer holiday. A simple, slow, timeless pleasure.
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Best family holidays in Greece
Corfu is much maligned because of one or two cheap-and-nasty package resorts, but a great deal of the island is beautiful, particularly the north-east corner. There you’ll find some gorgeous villas with pools within easy reach of charming beachfront tavernas and restaurants.
GIC The Villa Collection has been running family villa holidays to this part of the world for many years, and really knows its stuff. It recommends the island of Kefalonia in the Ionian where many of its properties are within a short walk of beach, shops and tavernas. Examples include Villa Nichola on the waterfront in Fiscardo. See the company’s latest special offers.
Crete is the largest and most southerly Greek island. It has dramatic landscapes and a long season – making it ideal for Easter and October half term, as well as the summer break. You can easily get away from the busy resorts and find some great-value villas with private pools in the countryside. In the sleepy village of Pendamodi near Heraklion you’ll find these luxury villas are perfect for families. If you want to be on the beach, try the Blue Beach Apartments in Stavros close to a sheltered sandy cove, perfect for young children.
If you prefer a hotel, we have some great recommendations. Sani Resort on mainland Halkidiki is one of Europe’s finest family holiday destinations. It offers three hotels on award-winning beaches in a safe but authentic environment, with a busy harbour, pine forests, extensive sports facilities and free kids clubs. Porto Sani Resort is my choice for families: it has single storey rooms and suites, some with private pool.
In Crete, contemporary Daios Cove is one of the most exciting luxury family-friendly resorts in Greece. The facilities include an outdoor infinity pool, children’s pool, two tennis courts, fitness centre, spa and four restaurants, plus the hotel has its own private sandy cove with a watersports and dive centre.
In Cyprus, the Almyra is a stylish contemporary beachfront hotel that makes families with young children particularly welcome.
Single Parents can enjoy a break in the sunshine with Single With Kids.
Best holidays in Greece for couples
In Crete we love this collection of boutique hotels and stylish houses handpicked by the experts at i-escape. There is everything from a rustic hideaway in the White Mountains to an opulent suite in a restored Venetian palazzo in Rethymno.
Tiny Paxos is one of the best unspoilt Greek islands. It has character in spades and is the perfect spot to properly unwind. The island has no airport – and not even a single traffic light – but it’s ideal for lazing in the sun, swimming in clear blue waters and taking boat trips. Check out this collection of villas and traditional stone houses.
Cyprus is a wonderful island to explore if you want to get away from the mass-tourism resorts to find authentic villages, ancient sites, mountains and deserted beaches. For ideas, see this fly-drive holiday and this self-guided walking holiday.
If you want an upmarket all-inclusive hotel, I can recommend the IKOS group of beachfront hotels in Greece. Check out the IKOS Olivia and IKOS Oceania on mainland Halkidiki along with IKOS Dassia in Corfu and IKOS Aria in Kos, which opened in May 2019.
Island-hopping is great fun in Greece. If you want to avoid the vagaries of the ferries, book a cruise on a traditional Turkish gulet. Try this Cruising to the Cyclades small-group tour, with a focus on visiting historical sites.
If you love to walk, take your pick from this choice of walking holidays in Greece with Inntravel. This is a great tour operator which extols the virtues of “slow travel” and offers hotel-to-hotel walking where your luggage is transported from one hotel to the next. Avoid the heat of high summer.
If you want to combine sun, beach and activities, take a look at Mark Warner’s new Paleros Beach Resort on the Greek mainland. It’s set on a sheltered bay on the Ionian Sea just 30 minutes from Preveza Airport. Conditions are perfect for water sports with water skiing, wake boarding, sailing and windsurfing included.
Best Greek holidays for singles
Since the late 1970s, Skyros has been running holidays in Greece based around themes of personal growth. These are hugely popular with solo travellers aged between 30 and 60. At The Skyros Centre you can pick from a choice of creative holidays – everything from yoga and meditation to salsa dancing and creative writing.
Solos Holidays is the market leader and has a good selection of trips for solo travellers in the Greek Islands along with a ClubSolos hotel in Zakynthos. Best places to stay include Villa Maistrali on the spectacular volcanic island of Santorini.
Last updated: 23 October 2020