Greece – Happy Holidays (20.08.15)

Tourism in general and the islands in particular continue to be the best of Greece’s good news stories. Beautiful, blue and blissful, Greece and her islands remain without doubt one of Europe’s most exciting, reliable and popular of summer seaside destinations.

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Having just returned from a week sailing through the Ionian Islands, and having arranged travel for clients across a variety of Greek destinations – from the dramatic Cyclades and vast and changeable mainland, to deserted beaches and ancient islands – I have been reminded just how magnificent Greece is in the summer months.The pace of life, soul-food temperatures and stunning coastal scenery continue to land Greece in the ‘double-top zone’ of European holiday delights. It is in complete contrast to the front page economic doom and gloom over recent years.Greek Tourism is alive, kicking and as special as ever.

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It is the jewel in the nation’s economic crown, bringing in Euros 28.3bn (16.3% of GDP) and providing over 9% of total Greek employment with over 18m international arrivals a year. The future looks bright too, as Travel and Tourism Council figures confirm that the industry’s contribution to GDP is projected to rise to 19.1% by 2024.

Globally Greece’s travel and tourism total contribution is huge: it is ranked 27th in the world. Many a visitor to Greece and its beautiful islands will find this no surprise.

As these photos (all taken this week, aside from two Santorini shots) show the variety of spectacular coastal scenery, charm of local harbours and richness of island culture is abundantly evident, from the largest island, Crete in the south Aegean, to the plethora of smaller Ionian islands off the west coast. The inexhaustible supply of beaches, harbours, islets, cliffs, lagoons, bays and crystal clear coastal hideaways would keep even the most avid of navigators busy for several lifetimes.

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Although access from the sea is wonderful, as I discovered with my family this week, the swathes of remote and under-visited coastal gems are equally exciting from the islands’ inland regions. Houses, churches and whole villages cling to mountain tops. Aquamarine bays, giant caves and a kaleidoscope of multi-coloured swirling cliffs appear around every corner.

At night, below the quilt of bright star skies, tavernas dotted about the tiny harbours radiate all that is hot, balmy and summer. Alfresco quayside dining next to fishing boats and glamorous yachts feels as natural as plunging into the cool crystalline waters at midday. Equally the sheer number of fishing villages, rural houses and distant whitewashed churches makes you feel as if you are living in a Greek picture postcard world.

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An early morning wander away from the water’s edge in search of fresh bread, honey and tzatziki soon leads you through twisting bougainvillea-clad streets, with village ladies dressed in black, sweeping their front steps amidst the morning chat.

The pace is slow, the feeling is summer and the memory of any holiday is sublime. Despite Greece’s economic woes the mythological gods of old would be proud of their present day tourism heaven on earth. Offering happy holidays to one and all indeed.

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