Greece vs Portugal: The great holiday tug-of-war

1 January 20154 min read

Aerial view of a Aliko beach, a wild beach on Naxos island in Greece

Fired up to book your next holiday but not sure where to choose? We place two sun-soaked favourites – Greece and Portugal – head-to-head to help you make your decision. Which one will emerge as the victor? Let the battle begin!

Round one: The beaches

Flop, sizzle and switch off, Portugal and Greece both boast superior sandcastle territory.

Take the Algarve, Portugal’s beach capital. Receiving throngs of visitors every year, the sunny corner attracts holidaymakers looking for the classic ingredients of a beach break – vast sandy stretches, lively resorts and plenty of attractions. And its Atlantic coastline is popular with surfers and swimmers alike.

However, the blissfully warm, crystalline waters of the Ionian islands just beg to be bobbed in – so move over Portugal, it’s here that Greece excels.

At almost 16,000 kilometres, Greece and her islands also have one of the longest coastlines in the world.

And Greece’s beaches aren’t just your run-of-the-mill stretches of sand. Photogenic spots on Skopelos and Kefalonia have been the locations of big-budget films, Santorini’s multi-hued coastline will be the star of your photo albums when you get home, and magical locations such as Shipwreck beach on Zante (reachable only by boat) will be the highlights of your holiday.

While other parts of Portugal and the nearby archipelago of the Azores are also home to gorgeous beaches, for sheer choice and diversity, Greece just tips the balance in this category.

Round two: The weather

This one is a close call with both destinations seeing temperatures sitting in the balmy mid- to late-twenties during the summer months.

Out of the peak season, the Greek island of Crete warms up as early as May hitting around 25C, while the Algarve isn’t far behind at around 22C. And both destinations enjoy pleasant temperatures into October – but be aware that many Greek resorts shut down in mid-October, with some shutting earlier than this, so do your research before you book.

Round three: Flight times

You can expect a flight time of around three hours from the UK to Portugal’s Faro airport, while getting to the Greek islands can take up to four-and-a-half hours. Several airports across the UK offer direct flights to both destinations.

There may not be much in it, but sorry Greece, Portugal wins this one.

Round four: The food and drink

Holidays often revolve around food, but how do the two destinations fair with their fare? Greek cuisine is a real treat – think indulgent mezzes crammed with dolmades, creamy tzatziki and warm pitta as well as bowls of bubbling moussaka and scrumptious spanakopita (spinach pie).

Add in a beach-front taverna, complimentary shot of ouzo, a dash of plate-smashing, and you’re in foodie fabulousness.

Fish is Portugal’s speciality – expect monkfish, salted cod and grilled sardines fresh from the boat. But it’s the drinks where Portugal scores points – it is the birthplace of port, after all. Produced in the Douro Valley, the sweet, fortified wine is certainly worth sampling while on holiday.

Fizzy vinho verde, or green wine, is another treat, while if you prefer liqueurs, look out for beirao (its recipe is a trade secret – but with an ABV of 22% you’d be likely to forget anyway) or ginjinha (made predominantly from ginja berries or sour cherries).

Round five: Days out

Having such a rich ancient civilisation, Greece has a slight advantage over Portugal in this area yet Portugal has several days out geared towards families.

The Greek mainland is, of course, home to Athens, awash with famous historical sites such as the Acropolis and Parthenon; Crete is home to Knossos with its mythical minotaur; and Rhodes Town is a hot spot for history buffs.

Portugal also boasts impressive cultural sights such as the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon. Plus there are family days out in the Algarve such as Zoomarine, with its great array of creatures from the sea and marine life shows, and Aqualand, a water park packed full of rides suitable for little ones and thrill-seekers alike.

Round six: Value for money

Unfortunately, where we choose to go on holiday often comes down to cold hard cash and how much spending money we are going to need while we are away.

So where are you going to get the most for your money, Greece or Portugal?

Based on research from the Post Office, Portugal comes out on top here. In its Holiday Costs Barometer 2014, it compared a basket of typical holiday items (including food, drinks and sun cream) in various destinations, and the Algarve pipped Crete to the post with the respective baskets coming in at £56.44 and £66.47.

Eating out would certainly be more affordable in the Algarve too, with a three-course meal and a bottle of wine for two coming in at £22.92, while £33.96 was found to be the average cost on Crete.

However, the tables are turned if you look at family holiday items as, in this category, Crete comes out on top with a basket of items costing £87.15 when compared to the Algarve’s £98.33.

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