Ah, Greece, land of sun-dappled ancient ruins, coastal hillsides speckled with bright white houses, blue shutters and turquoise waters everywhere you look.
And then there’s the food. Creamy tzatziki, salty feta, honey, stuffed vine leaves and yoghurt, washed down with cool cans of Mythos.
It’s enough to make us book one-way tickets to Kefalonia, but if your chosen holiday companion needs any more persuading, here are a few to help you…
1. Its heavenly climate
It is little wonder so many of us have a serious love affair with Greece. But as well as the stunning scenery and rich culture, it is their amazing FOOD that keeps us seriously happy
Here in the UK we’re struggling to remember the last time we left the house without first mummifying ourselves in three pairs of tights, six polo necks, nine pairs of jeans, three snowsuits and 45 bobble hats. People in Greece don’t even own COATS (well, probably). With balmy Mediterranean summers, deliciously mild winters and barely a droplet of rain from February to November, it’s no wonder Greek people always look so fresh of face and clear of skin.
2. Those breathtaking islands
Think you know all the Greek islands? Think again. Greece has around 6,000 of them, just 227 of which are inhabited, but that still leaves you with a fair few holiday options. Each island bursts with its own marvellously unique personality, allowing travellers to chose between a family-friendly break (Corfu), a romantic getaway (Santorini), a gastronomic paradise (Crete) or a totally tranquil break away from it all (Skyros). But whichever isle you pick you’re guaranteed secret swimming coves, pristine beaches, unbeatable hospitality and a dinner table laden with fresh seafood, warming lamb stews, filo-wrapped delicacies, and lashings of crisp white wine. Cheers, or Yamas as they say over there.
3. Olives, nailed
There are around 143 million olive trees in Greece – which explains why their olives and products are the best
Thanks to its perfect climate, olive trees flourish on Greek soil. There are around 143 million of them there, making the country a huge exporter of both the fruits and their oil, that delicious stuff that the Greek poet Homer once described as ‘liquid gold’. Enjoy them as flavoursome oils, stuffed with cheese, blended into pastes and dips, scattered them over salads, or simply served them as they are with a round of chilled drinks.
4. The beautiful people
The men are ruggedly sexy, the women powerful and alluring: Greek people kick the proverbial in terms of beauty. Sakis Rouvas and Anna Vissi are the sparkling darlings of the singing stage, but Greek beauty has made its way across the Atlantic, where Hollywood stars including Jennifer Aniston, Billy Zane, Tina Fey and Costas Mandylor all owe their golden looks to Greek heritage.
Gorgeous Greeks: Tina Fey, Billy Zane and Jennifer Aniston all have Greek heritage to thank for their looks
5. Dips, full stop
Nobody does dips quite like the Greeks do dips. Whether it’s tangy tzatziki, flavourful taramasalata, charred melitzanosalata (the aubergine one), whizzed up butterbeans, garlicky skordalia (the potato one), whipped feta or – who could forget, that king of dips – humous, they’ve got dips covered.
Who could forget that king of dips – humous
We’ll take five pittas, hot off the grill, torn into strips and served with cauldrons of tzat, please.
Why not mix up your dip offering by serving some Vine Leaves Stuffed with Rice (£1.29) or Succulent Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (£1.79) alongside them?
6. The old guys
We mean the REALLY old guys.
Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Hippocrates, Archimedes, even Pythagoras and his handy little theorem… When it comes to producing entrepreneurs and thought-leaders, ancient Greece really knew what it was doing – and we owe them rather a lot.
Philosophy, geometry, astronomy, botany, mythology, architecture, cartography, the Olympics and the alarm clock are just a few things first developed by the ancient Greeks. Heck, these guys even invented DEMOCRACY. And we’d be in a bit of a pickle without that.
7. Their party spirit
They smash dinner plates at big fat Greek weddings. They down shots of Ouzo just because it’s a Wednesday. And they dance on top of tables long after those sunburned British holidaymakers have gone to bed. Man, those Greeks know how to party.
Kick your party into a gloriously Greek gear with bottles of Mythos beer (99p for a 330ml bottle), and keep it going with a bottle of Korifeos Ouzo (£9.49), or the Greek traditional resinated white wine Retsina (£4.99)
8.Honey on everything
Honey is oddly overlooked in British desserts. We slather it on the occasional crumpet, then plump for chocolate chips, golden syrup and boring old sugar when making puds. But as soon as you touch down in Athens you’re handed gallons of the stuff and instructed to pour it on absolutely everything you eat. The Greeks make great use of the wonder that is gooey, sweet honey in a lot of their cooking
Over there they bake it into cakes, biscuits and sticky loukoumades; spoon it into Greek yoghurt; drizzle it over cheese, marinate chicken with the stuff; use it to coat roasted nuts and fruit, and, of course, to make chewy, crunchy, crumbly, sticky, heavenly baklava. Mmmm. Right, that’s it – we’re buying shares in bees.
Some of Greece’s ancient bits – like the Parthenon, pictured – are enough to make Stonehenge look a bit pedestrian
The Acropolis and the Parthenon in Athens… Kamiros on Rhodes… the Temple of Apollo in Delphi… Knossos in Crete. Crikey. Those Ancient Greeks were a busy bunch. And their phenomenal architectural output is enough to make Stonehenge look a bit… pedestrian.
10. Insanely delicious pastries
From buttery, nutty, multi-layered baklava to spanokopita (that’s the cheesy, spinachy one) and loads of other flaky, crispy, melt-in-the-mouth delicious morsels, Greek pastries are a thing to behold.
Whether folded or spiraled or drizzled or oozing we have only one thing for them – nóstimo (that’s delicious in Greek). We’ve all tried to make filo pastry and we’ve all failed spectacularly. Which must mean only one thing: Greek chefs are a little bit magic.
11.Gyros! The king of meats
Anyone who has ever holidayed in Greece knows about the wonder that is gyros. And if you don’t – boy are you in for a treat. Traditionally eaten in a warm pitta bread with salad and tzatziki, or with rice and vegetables, gyros can be any type of meat, most often pork, chicken or beef, that is slowly cooked rotisserie style. This makes the meat wonderfully tender and flavoursome and it is carved off the main piece into thin, small slices.
Gyros can be any type of meat, most often pork, chicken or beef, that is slowly cooked rotisserie style which makes the meat wonderfully tender. It is traditionally served either with rice or in a pita bread
And if you are a fan of the other great meat dish to come from Greece (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) they also have Moussaka – slices of potato, aubergine, minced meat, tomato sauce and topped with creamy béchamel sauce- in their chilled range. Opa!
12. Culture both old and new
Greece has inspired some of the greatest cultural contributions the world has ever seen, including of course Meryl Streep’s singing, dungaree’d turn in Mamma Mia! The Movie
Greece, being so utterly spectacular and beautiful and delicious and steeped in ancient history and generally amazing, has inspired some of the greatest cultural contributions the world has ever seen: Homer’s Odyssey, Aesop’s Fables, Woody Allen’s tragicomedies, Dogtooth, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Before Midnight and, most importantly, Meryl Streep’s singing, dungaree’d turn in Mamma Mia! The Movie.
13. Greek salad, nuff said
Greek people don’t mess about with cold-pressed avocado, dehumidified butternut squash, or raw grated beetroot marinated in yak’s tears. Smokin! What is really hot right now is halloumi
When it comes to assembling a salad, their recipe sticks to the basics – cucumber, tomato, onion, feta, olives, olive oil. Delicious, and you can knock one up in the time it takes to slice a cucumber
Cheese, in Greece, is a big deal. Such a big deal, they even have their own god of cheesemaking, (Apollo’s son Aristaious, since you ask), and he’s obviously done his homework. Crumbly feta is the most famous of all of Greece’s cheeses: sharp, salty, and the perfect foil for ripe tomatoes, crisp lettuce, and a drizzle of aromatic extra virgin olive oil in Greek salad.
Other delicious cheeses include saganaki, galotiri, ladotyri and mizithrya. But what’s really hot right now is halloumi, best enjoyed fried until golden and just the tiniest bit crunchy on the outside, hot and molten within. We like it on warm lentil salads, with red onions and cherry tomatoes scattered on top, or try it in a wrap with red peppers, tomatoes and pickles.