Xigia, Greece

Going Greek? Ancient Greece, Island + Traditions

Guest post by Emma Grant

Editor’s Note: In case I haven’t shared this already, our annual family trip this year is a getaway to Greece! It’s been nearly a decade since I set foot on the islands – namely Hydra, Mykonos and Paros – and I’m thrilled to return this year to explore the Dodecanese and to revisit Athens, a capital city rich with history and culture beneath its gritty exterior. Today, Emma Grant shares a brief overview on the islands, traditions, and history.

Greece is famous for its ancient history, which dates back millennia; the Greek Islands, which have made many a bucket list with their dream getaway status; and of course mouth-watering Greek cuisine, which offers something for everyone. The short of it is that a Greek holiday offers what is sure to be an incredible summer experience for most travelers: Hot sun, relaxing beaches, natural beauty, and rich culture and welcoming hospitality that greets you when you step off your flight.

The Islands

Mykonos, Greece
📸: Shannon Kircher

Greece is littered with islands, from the iconic Cyclades to the history-laden Dodecanese. You’ll be spoiled for choice, with 2,000 islands of varying sizes as part of Greece’s territory, scattered between the Aegean and the Ionian Sea. That being said, most Greek islands can be found between Turkey and mainland Greece, with Crete being the largest of the bunch. Crete is a popular holiday destination with a vibrant nightlife in Hersonisos, plus a gastronomic scene that’s continuing to earn its spot in the European landscape. Given its size, it’s a destination in and of itself, and less part of an island hopping scheme in the region.  Looking for some island hopping inspiration for a Greek getaway? Check out some of the most famous islands including Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Zakynthos and Corfu.

Ancient Greece

Acropolis, Athens, Greece
📸: Shannon Kircher

Archaeological discoveries have proven that first signs of settled life in Ancient Greece dates back to a Paleolithic era (11,000-3,000 BC). In the second millennium BC, the stone and bronze civilizations of Greece were born: the Minoans, the Mycenaeans and the Cycladics.

The civilizations who flourished in the Bronze Age ended abruptly during the 12th century BC when a northern European tribe of the Dorians came. They decentralized the control system established at the time. Agricultural, industrial and trade activity was split up into villages. Over time, the economy, political structure and the culture went down hill along with the collapse of Near East trade networks. For history buffs, Greece is undoubtedly a bucket list destination. Beyond the Acropolis in Athens which attracts 4+ million visitors per year on its own, there are myriad opportunities to get entrenched in the country’s history, from exploring the preserved medieval town of Rhodes, to the Mycenaean history in Crete; mythological history throughout the Cyclades, and mainland draws like Delphi.

Traditions

Mykonos, Greece
📸: Shannon Kircher

Greek traditions are an integral part of lifestyle on the Greek islands and mainland Greece. Most traditions stem from religious observances. In general, the local population is quite religious but also believe in the supernatural and unexplained. As with most places around the world, traditions and beliefs differ vary throughout the country. One recent day of observation? Clean Monday, the first day of Lent (Saracosti), where families picnic in the countryside and fly their kites. On March 25th, the Greek Independence Day recalls the declaration of the Independence War against the Ottomans in 1821. Besides being nationally celebrated, this day acts as a religious celebration for the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. If you’re interested in observing some cultural celebrations, stay apprised of holidays in the Greek Orthodox calendar to time your trip accordingly.

Crafting a Greek itinerary can take any of a million forms so dig deep to find the best combination for you, whether that’s an island hopping expedition, a combination of capital city history plus sun-drenched beaches, or a journey through lesser-known hidden gems strewn across the mainland. Tempted to book a Greek escape? It’s no secret that high season in Greece coincides with the island’s summer months when visitors from all over the globe flock to the islands. Check out some Greece deals with Voyage Prive today to get planning and jet-setting!

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect, formerly The Traveling Scholar. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. She is a former resident of London and San Francisco and now calls the island of Anguilla home. In addition to The Wanderlust Effect, Shannon is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort and is on the Board of Directors of the Omololu International School in Anguilla.