In my early twenties, I told some friends of mine I wanted to go to Greece. We had all just graduated and planned on taking a trip to celebrate before starting life again as working people. They loved the idea of Greece and we sat down to plan.
Now, as a literature major, I had read Henry Miller’s Colossus and Zorba The Greek, along with ancient Greek mythology, and had grand designs of what to do there. Greece represented a place of historical and philosophical depth. It would be a sort of spiritual awakening, a journey towards a more meaningful life.
Of course, that’s not what my friends exactly had in mind. Greek is known for its party islands, after all, and that’s what young people do after graduating. We had an incredible trip, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t what I had dreamed of.
Years later, I took an opportunity to spend a year living in Greece, and got to experience everything I had missed. I learnt that Greece is an incredibly varied country, with many of the islands vastly different from each other.
I spent that year traveling from one location to another, trying to spend enough time to take everything in before moving on. I got the philosophical journey I wanted, and embraced the party spirit as well.
If you’re considering going to Greece, decide what you want out of your trip, and choose your destination accordingly.
Party In Luxury In Zakynthos
Greece is known for its fundamental role in the development of Western civilization, but that’s not the primary reason tourists travel there. Today, Greece is one of the party capitals of the world, due particularly to a few specific islands. You can find luxury living in Santorini, Mykonos, and elsewhere, but I recommend you look for villas in Zakynthos to start.
Zakynthos (or Zante) has the classic crystal clear blue waters and white sands. It has jaw-dropping beauty throughout, with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The Navagio beach gets most of the fame. It is only accessible by boat and is surrounded by high cliffs. It is therefore isolated and feels more exclusive. But every beach on Zakynthos is worthy of acclaim, and will provide countless opportunities for Instagram fame.
Party-wise, there are few better places on earth. Laganas Strip has some of the best nightclubs. Island clubs are usually the best in any case, because you don’t have to get dressed up and, especially in Zakynthos, don’t have to pay huge amounts just to get in.
Alcohol flows, the dancing goes on through the night, and you will not regret a moment.
But if partying is not your primary motivator, there is plenty of Greece still to try.
The Search For Meaning In Corfu
What I had pictured when reading about Greece was what I found when I got to Corfu. Corfu is beautiful, like everywhere else in Greece. It has great beaches and places to party. But its ties to our cultural history are far more evident than in some of the party islands. While the whole of Greece has a profound place in history, Corfu in particular calls out to me.
Corfu Town is under UNESCO protection as an official heritage site. It’s an incredible place, where the modern mixes with the ancient and everything in between. It was under Venetian rule for a few centuries (from the 14th to the 18th), and Venetian architecture remains.
You can also visit ancient monasteries and ruins, drinking in the history from its sources. For me, just being in Corfu brought up a sense of significance and spirituality, similar to what I experienced in Crete and Delphi. Every piece of grass and grain of sand vividly touched me, and I felt more connected to the universe than ever before.
I know that’s not everyone’s thing, and that many people will go to Corfu and feel nothing of the sort. I know that much of it is in my solipsistic understanding of the place. But if you’re like me, I recommend you put Corfu on your bucket list right now.
Grungy City-Living In Athens
Athens doesn’t have the best reputation as a holiday destination. When I speak about it with people who plan on going to Greece, they see it as nothing more than a necessary stop in order to get somewhere else. I get it, since it’s not as glamorous as many of the other destinations in and around Greece.
But if you’re a backpacker looking to stay in an interesting city for a few days, Athens is perfect. It is affordable, has an incredible history, and isn’t full of American tourists. (Of course, there are plenty of nightclubs and you can party as hard as anywhere else, but that’s not why people visit Athens.)
Athens is full of personality, in its buildings, landmarks, and people. You will experience Greek culture to the fullest. I personally love experiencing other cultures, and prefer proper exposure than the “lite” version you get in the touristy places.
Greece is one of those varied countries you will never get enough of. There is so much to experience in each island, and you can have many vastly different trips to this one country. If you don’t fall in love with Zakynthos, Corfu is for you, and Athens is always ready to receive new explorers.
Start planning your trip now. You won’t regret it!