More than 1,400 islands, known throughout the world for their beauty and culture, make up this water-bound nation. Historical and archeological sites abound. Nightlife rules some islands, while butterflies and romance rule others. And diving has seen a steep rise lately, since the government lifted restrictions and opened up previously forbidden (for archeological reasons) regions. So, the world is just now discovering the wrecks and underwater treasures that have been kept gift wrapped in the cellophane clear waters for decades. Many of the main islands of Santorini, Kefalonia, Lefkas, Mykonos, Crete, Naxos and others have PADI Dive Centers. Caverns, drop-offs, canyons and shipwrecks abound. And, Greek cuisine can be found cheap and in abundance for those who travel on your stomach. With so much to offer and such a dazzling array of destinations, even annual pilgrimages would barely put a dent in the Grecian dive scene.
When to go:
When to Get the Best Deals:
September to November and March to May.
What to Pack:
5 mm wetsuit, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, party and nightlife attire, sturdy shoes if you decide to hike the countryside; DAN card.
Seasonal averages: 13°C/55°F in winter and 25°C/77°F in summer.
Seasonal averages: 15°C/59°F in winter and 28°C/82°F in summer.
Euro. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.
Included in your airfare.
None required .
What to Eat:
The culinary experiences in Greece are vast, especially on the mainland, but also on the islands. Along with all the traditional Greek food - moussaka, souvlaki and gyros with tzatziki sauce - look for specialties in each area. For example, Kefalonia is famous its meat pies made from rice and three meats. The kopanisti (cheese) produced in Mykonos is said to be the most delicious. Santorini fava (yellow split pea soup) is an iconic dish.
What to Drink:
Ouzo (aniseed-flavored aperitif) is the most famous Greek drink and widely available. Don't miss out on trying retina (unique wine) along with the multitudes on local wines you'll find, especially in the islands. Start the day with a nice cup of thick Greek coffee and end the day in a tavern with a Mythos beer.
Culture dominates here: The list of must-sees is daunting. Here's a teaser: Temple of Poseidon; exploring the legend of Atlantis on Santorini; enjoying the most famous, international island of Mykonos; Epidaurus amphitheatre near Athens for the acoustics; the famous Parthenon; Magesti Island; Rhodes; Bourtzi Fortress — there are 17 UNESCO World Heritage Site in Greece.
Customs and Culture:
Greeks are warm and family-oriented people who are particularly proud of their culture and speak of their country with intense passion. Traditions, religion, music, language, food and wines are the primary features of any visit to Greece.
Carnival (Apokries) in February-March; Easter in April; Hellenic Festival from June through September; Epidaurus Festival of ancient theater in July and August.
Electricity and Internet:
220 V/50 Hz. Internet is common.
Drink the water?
Bottled water is recommended.
Amazing Marine Life
Mediterranean Monk Seal:
This playful mammal cavorts in the water and rests on the rocks, often in colonies.
This translucent bowl-shaped jelly pulsates as it drifts, trailing tentacles behind it.
Most often found in holes, caves, and wrecks, moray eels sometimes venture out so divers can see their entire snakelike length.
Also known as rock lobsters, these crustaceans sport brown or orange shells, often colorfully dappled with yellow, blue, or green.
Mottled in scaly patterns of reds and browns, the scorpionfish can blend easily with polyp-encrusted rocks, but its venomous dorsal spines render this beauty a danger.
These brilliantly colored fish do, indeed, possess remarkably parrot-like beaks that they use to grind coral structures so they can eat the soft coral animals inside.
Wily and secretive, the octopus is often found in holes and crannies of reefs and wrecks.
Branching in intricate, sometimes lacy patterns, these gorgonians decorate the underwater landscape.
"Naked" or shell-less mollusks, these frilly, brilliantly colored invertebrates move through the water column with lazy slow-motion twists
This playful little cousin to the whales is usually found cavorting with a group (or pod) in open water, sometimes swimming alongside dive boats.
Top Dive Spots
This 1600-ton sunken ferry rests in 36 meters/120 feet of water. Divers can explore propellers, loading ramps, upper decks, stairs, passenger railings, and the arms and winches still in place from lowering life-boats as the ship sank. A favorite among photographers, this wreck is home to many species of fish.
Mades Coral Cave, Crete:
This coral cave houses two bombs from World War II, as well as an array of marine life. Venturing deeper, divers can view the abandoned engine of a sailing boat at 30 meters/100 feet.
Two Caves, Kefalonia:
This shallow reef features numerous ancient Greek amphoras encrusted with sponges and corals. Following the trail of ancient pottery, you'll find a near-complete amphora (one meter/three feet tall), an anchor embedded in the rocks, and a bank of sea grass teeming with damselfish at the cavern entrance. Within the cavern, divers see schools of cardinal fish, colored sponges, and soft corals, slipper lobsters, fan worms and nudibranchs.
Little Rio Reef, Kefalonia:
This small island is named for its replica of the Christ statue found in Rio de Janeiro. The reef here boasts shoals of bream, parrotfish, and wrasse, as well as octopus, grouper, moray eels, slipper lobsters and scorpion fish. The Great Cave here is about 9 meters/30 feet across, and runs underneath the island, exiting on the other side.
F495 German Landing Craft:
This ship was bombed and sank during World War II, and its wreck was only recently discovered in 2007, resting in 14 meters/45 feet of water. The wreckage, scattered across 230 meters/750 feet of sandy seafloor, includes fuel barrels, jerry cans, motorcycles, and other cargo.
Lindos, Rhodes Island:
This grouping of dive sites includes immense caverns and drift-wall diving. Currents at the drop-off attract larger Mediterranean swimmers, including tuna and seals. The caverns seem to be lit with tiny lights, which are actually the eyes of hundreds of shrimp.
Atop this reef stands the world's most ancient lighthouse, built in 480 B.C. on the orders of a frustrated Persian king whose attempted invasion of Greece had been hampered by ships sinking here. Vertical walls around the reef drop off into the deep, and shipwrecks attest to the need for the light.
This impressive dome is a favorite with macro photographers due to the profusion of small invertebrates hiding in cracks and fissures. It is not uncommon to encounter a Mediterranean monk seal hanging out in the cave.
Invisible from the surface, this reef has evidently taken centuries of ships' captains by surprise, as evidenced by the ancient cargo, such as amphoras and anchors, spread across the bottom. Look for small groupers, colorful cockles, lobsters, and a variety of fish.
Explosive volcanic activity at this site has created some magnificent underwater scenery. On the wall dives around the caldera, divers can view old and new lava formations, as well as lobsters, moray eels, clams, grouper, and seals.