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Greece holidays

With beautiful landscapes, happening cities and sleepy towns, a rich history and more than 6,000 islands to choose from, it's clear to see why holidays to Greece are so popular. The fantastic weather certainly helps to tempt holidaymakers too as temperatures soar from June to August.

Why go?

Greece holidays offer something for everyone - whether you want to explore ancient ruins, flop on the beach, eat mouth-wateringly fresh food or island hop...

Lovers of history and architecture flock to the country's capital, Athens, to marvel at ancient landmarks such as the Parthenon set upon the rocky Acropolis and to explore the birthplace of democracy. However, the city is not stuck in the past and also has happening nightlife and a vibrant modern arts scene. And, if the hustle and bustle of the city becomes too much, Athens' 75-mile coastline allows sun worshippers to escape to the beach while those wanting to see more of the country can hop on a ferry at Piraeus Harbour, just south of the city, and be transported to the islands including Crete.

When deciding which Greek island to visit, why not start by considering the largest and one of the most popular: Crete? The landscape is diverse with both excellent beaches and dramatic mountain ranges; history buffs will enjoy learning about the island's past at sites such as Knossos and visiting Heraklion's fascinating Archaeological Museum; families will love visiting one of the island's three waterparks; and there's accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets from self-catering apartments to five-star hotels. Popular resorts include Rethymnon, Aghios Nikolaos, Malia, Chania and Elounda.
  
Another firm favourite with Brits is Corfu - the Ionian island was one of the first to be discovered by tourists and is just eight miles from the Greek mainland. With more than three million olive trees, it's one of the greenest of the Greek islands and has plenty to offer visitors. Lovers of all things cultural will enjoy exploring the Venetian streets of Corfu Old Town, a UNESCO world heritage site; families can relax on golden beaches or have fun in the island's waterparks; those after an active break can play golf, go sailing or head to the mountains inland for mountain biking or hiking; and party animals can enjoy a wild night out in a resort such as Kavos.

If you want a completely relaxing escape from it all, with quiet days on the beach and nights spent eating in family-run tavernas, head to the north of the island to a resort such as Agios Georgios.

Zante (also known as Zakynthos) is famous for its golden sandy beaches and is the perfect place for a relaxing break. Children and animal lovers should visit the 5km-long bay around Lagunas to try and spot the rare loggerhead turtles that nest here; watersports enthusiasts and divers will be in their element; sport fans can take a day trip by boat to Olympia, home of the original Olympics; and those who want a livelier night out should head to a resort such as Tsilivi where there is an excellent choice of bars and restaurants from karaoke bars to tavernas.

Sun worshippers can soak up the rays on Rhodes' sand and shingle beaches by day and party in the vibrant resort of Faliraki by night. Rhodes Town is also a great spot for night owls with a casino and a range of bars and clubs. Alternatively, for a quieter break, the village of Lindos on the east coast has plenty to explore by day - including a castle, the remains of Lindos Acropolis with amazing views from the top, and car-free cobbled streets - and a good selection of bars at night. And those after a more active break can play golf in the glorious sunshine, walk through stunning scenery such as the Valley of the Butterflies or take part in one of the many watersports on offer including windsurfing, kitesurfing and diving.

North of Rhodes, the island of Kos is a good choice for those after a fun-filled break at an extremely reasonable price with beautiful beaches, bars and clubs. Bar Street in Kardamena is the place to head for a wild night while the capital, Kos Town, also has a lively nightlife scene. By day, there's plenty to see and do if you need a break from sunbathing. Kos Town has the 15th-century Castle of the Knights; there's watersports galore in the sea including banana boating and jet-skiing; the mountain villages offer up a true slice of Kos; and Paradise Beach, also known as Bubble Beach, has sparklingly clear waters that bubble as a result of volcanic gases.

Or, for a romantic break, why not escape to the setting of the book and film Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Kefalonia? With stunning landscape from pine woods to the beautiful beaches including the crescent-shaped Myrtos Beach - one of the most photographed beaches in Greece - you'll fall in love with the island. Lassi, just next to the island's capital Argostoli, is a popular resort for families and couples with two long stretches of sand and a good choice of restaurants to sample some home-cooked Greek food. Alternatively, Fiskardo in the north of the island is the ideal spot for honeymooners as it is the only village on the island that emerged virtually unscathed from the earthquake in 1953. Its traditional Greek charm and architecture attracts the rich and famous who hop off their yachts moored in the large marina.

Other Greek highlights include Skiathos, the most famous of the Sporades Islands with pretty beaches and turquoise seas; Santorini with picture-postcard scenes of whitewashed houses, hilltop villages and black and red beaches; Halkidiki, a quieter holiday destination in northern Greece with three peninsulas that jut out into the Aegean; Kalamata in the southern area of mainland Greece, the Peloponnese, famous for its large aubergine-coloured olives; and Mykonos, one of the Cyclades Islands that saw a surge in popularity in 2011 thanks to it being where the UK X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos took her contestants.

When to go?

Greece's superb weather is a major pull for tourists, with the summer months offering sizzling days and balmy nights. Find out the best time to visit for you...

In the summer months, the temperatures in Greece soar with Athens sweltering in temperatures of around 31C in July and August, and Crete experiencing daytime highs of around 30C. While sun worshippers will be in heaven in the peak summer season, if you don't love basking in the sunshine, autumn and spring could be better times to plan a trip.

What's on?

From traditional festivals to contemporary events, Greece is brimming with celebrations to keep you entertained. Here are some of our top picks...

Greek Orthodox Easter; throughout Greece: Greek Orthodox Easter (also known as Pascha, meaning Passover) celebrations often take place at a different time to Catholic/Protestant Easter as the date is based on the Julian calendar. Easter Sunday is a day for cheer and lamb cooked on a spit is eaten. A popular Orthodox Easter tradition is to crack bright red painted eggs against each other with friends and family - the person with last remaining intact egg is meant to experience good luck.

Greek Independence Day; March 25; throughout Greece: On March 25, 1821, Greece declared victory in the War for Independence against the Ottoman Empire - who had occupied the country for more than 400 years. Parades and military marches take place to mark the day as part of the celebrations. On the same day, the Greeks also celebrate The Feast of the Annunciation - when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary to tell her she would be the mother of Jesus Christ.

Rockwave Festival; July; Athens: This annual rock festival held just outside of Greece's capital city in Terra Vibe Park has featured acts such as FatBoy Slim, Guns 'n' Roses and Prodigy.

Athens Marathon; November; Athens:
What better place to take part in a running event than the home of the first marathon? The Athens Marathon attracts competitors from all over the world, and if the full length of the race is too much, competitors can opt to take part in a 5K or a 10K run, or a power walk instead.

What to do?

Whether you're planning an action-packed family holiday with the kids or a romantic and relaxing break, there is plenty to do in Greece. Here are some ideas...

Grown-up families: Wander through the buzzing streets of Lindos on Rhodes and treat yourself to lunch in one of the many rooftop terrace restaurants. If you're feeling energetic, take a hike up to see the amazing remains of Lindos Acropolis and enjoy breath-taking views of the town below.

Romance: Nothing conjures up classic romance like watching the sun go down over a glistening sea. Santorini is famed for its magical sunsets - so crack open the champers and find the perfect spot to watch from. Fira and Oia, on the western side of the island, are great bets for spectacular views.

Relaxing: Beautiful Antisamos Beach in Kefalonia is the perfect tonic for those in need of a little rest and relaxation. As the setting for some of the scenes in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, the miles of golden sands and surrounding lush greenery can't fail to help you unwind.

Kids and teens:
Long stretches of golden sand and warm shallow waters make many of the beaches in Zante ideal for tots. And little monsters who need to let off steam will be kept entertained for hours on end at the Splash Fun water park at Tsilivi (also known as Tsilivi Waterpark).

Active types: Those in search of a little adventure on holiday may want to don their walking boots and hike Europe's longest ravine in Crete - the Samaria Gorge is certainly a challenge you won't forget!

Shopping: If you're looking for souvenirs to remember your holiday by, Corfu Town is full of little shops where local artisans bring their wares. Leather goods, jewellery, olive wood carvings and pottery will leave you spoiled for choice.

Nightlife:
Bustling Faliraki on Rhodes is the classic destination for party goers. Bar Street and Club Street won't leave you short of options and you'll be able to dance the night away into the wee small hours.