In Greece's summertime schedule, beach-side days melt through spectacular sunsets into starry, disco-filled nights, in a continuum of hedonistic delight. Roll out of bed and onto the beach around noon; nap in the late afternoon after strenuous sunbathing; head for a harbour side dinner at 11pm; throw back after-dinner drinks, catch a movie, or hit the clubs until 5am, all under the stars; watch the sun rise over the ocean; and hit the hay before another sun-drenched day. It's nearly impossible to resist the allure of Greek sun and sea. The islands have long been a sun worshiper's paradise, from Apollo's followers to disciples of Coppertone. As soon as you sail from Athens to the Saronic Gulf Islands , the roasting Greek sun will bronze your (entire) body and release your inhibitions. A favourite of international vacationers, Skiathos in the Sporades harbours the piney Biotrope of Koukounaries beach and magical Lalaria.
In the Aegean Sea , Santorini's blacksand beaches soak up the sun's hot rays and stay warm long after the stunning sunsets over the Sea of Crete have faded. Swim below sea caves once ransacked by pirates on the coast of Skyros or bask on the Lesvian shore, where beaches stretch out for miles from Sappho's home of Skala Eressou. Stumble out of all those superfluous clothes at Mykonos's wild, nude Super Paradise Beach . If your eyes get tired of all those bare backsides, seek solace on a secluded strip of sand. The much-beloved haunt of booze-loving backpackers, Corfu , is ringed by fabulous beaches on all sides, in addition to hosting that legendary party haven, the Pink Palace . Snorkel, water-ski, or just loaf in the sun on Ios and Naxos . Perfect your tan around Paleohora in Crete or at castle-crowned Haraki Beach in Rhodes. Travel Greece and relax in Athens hotels.
Greece isn't just Athens , islands, bars, and babes. If you have enough self-discipline to tear yourself away from the fun in the sun, you'll soon realize that a wilderness experience can be just as invigorating. To do so, you'll have to either bust out your walking stick or rev up your engines. Hiking or motorbiking-or a combination of the two-lets you cruise between rural villages independent of constantly changing bus schedules. On foot, you'll cross through foothills draped with olive groves, passing mountain goats and wildflowers along the way. Drowsy Dimitsana and cobblestoned Stemnitsa distinguish themselves from the tourist bustle ofthe rest of the Peloponnese .
In the Ionian Sea , Odysseus's kingdom of Ithaka is an untapped hiker's paradise, where the Cave of the Nymphs-the hiding place for Odysseus's treasure and the conclusion of an enthralling hike-will seduce you. Northern Thassos is full of secluded ruins, superior hikes, and village-to-village strolls. Rural Alonnisos, a largely uninhabited island in the Sporades , is crisscrossed by trails and moped-friendly roads, and hugged by beaches ideal for refueling after a fatiguing hike. Outlying islands are protected as part of the National Marine Park and make for a pleasant daytrip.
The untouched traditional Greek villages of the Zagorohoria and their surrounding wilderness make walking an adventure. The neighboring Vikos Gorge, the world's steepest canyon, challenges hikers with a six-hour-Iong trek. You can explore more gorgeous gorges in Crete : the Samaria Gorge, Europe's longest gorge, and the quieter Valley of Death plunge you below eagles' nests and trees clinging to the steep canyon sides.
Eighty percent of the Greek landscape is mountainous, to the delight of climbers. Clamber to the abode of the gods at Mt. OIympus , ascending over 2900 steep, stunning meters to one of its eight peaks. During the summer, Dionysus's old watering hole, Mt. Parnassos , makes a great hiking and mountain-biking trip; in winter, skiers storm the 2400m slopes. The trails around Zaros in Crete wind up to mountainside sanctuaries and to Zeus's childhood hiding place, Kamares Cave .
Greece is the southern portion of a great peninsula of Europe, washed on three sides by the Mediterranean Sea. The name of Greece was not used by the inhabitants of the country. They called their land HELLAS, and themselves HELLENES. The names of GREECE and GREEKS come to us from the Romans, who gave the name of GRAECIA to the country and of GRAECI to the inhabitants.
The two northerly provinces of Greece are THESSALY and EPIRUS, separated from each other by Mount Pindus. Thessaly is a fertile plain enclosed by lofty mountains, and drained by the river Peneus, which finds its way into the sea through the celebrated Vale of Tempe. Epirus is covered by rugged ranges of mountains running from north to south, through which the Achelous the largest river of Greece, flows towards the Corinthian gulf.
In entering central Greece from Thessaly the road runs along the coast through the narrow pass of Thermopylae, between the sea and a lofty range of mountains. South of Phocis is Boeotia, which is a large hollow basin, enclosed on every side by mountains, which prevent the waters from flowing into the sea. Thebes was the chief city of Boeotia. West of Attica, towards the isthmus, is the small district of MEGARIS. The western half of central Greece consists of WESTERN LOCRIS, AETOLIA and ACARNANIA.
Central Greece is connected with the southern peninsula by a narrow isthmus, on which stood the city of Corinth. The mountains of Peloponnesus have their roots in the centre of the country, from which they branch out towards the sea. This central region, called ARCADIA, is the Switzerland of the peninsula. It is surrounded by a ring of mountains, forming a kind of natural wall, which separates it from the remaining Peloponnesian states.
The other chief divisions of Peloponnesus were Achaia, Argolis, Laconia, Messenia, and Elis. ACHAIA is a narrow slip of country lying between the northern barrier of Arcadia and the Corinthian gulf. LACONIA and MESSENIA occupied the whole of the south of the peninsula from sea to sea: these two countries were separated by the lofty range of Taygetus, running from north to south, and terminating in the promontory of Taenarum (now Cape Matapan), the southernmost point of Greece and Europe.
South of Euboea was the group of islands called the CYCLADES, lying around Delos as a centre; and east of these were the SPORADES, near the Asiatic coast and southern the island group of Dodecanese.