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Greek customs and traditions

Greek traditions and customs can be better understood if you decide to actually to go on holiday on this beautiful land: you will experience first hand how the people here are so tied to the classical myths but still contemporary in their lifestyle.

The countless tourists coming to Greece by plane or ferry (click here) are attracted not only by its fantastic beaches, but also by its ancient culture, its history and its traditions.


Photo Public Domain

Greek traditions are linked very deeply to religion as the Greek people are very religious. On the other hand, in some ways, they feel deep down a clear trust in faith. If it is true that the Greeks are very religious, it is also true that they are also very superstitious – and you can see this peculiar psychological trait perfectly on many occasions. As you proceed inland, getting to the small villages populated by shepherds, or however you move away from the big cities and touristy places, and more you will get how, hand in hand, the belief in superstition increases.

Throughout the year every religious or pagan celebration brings with it at least one rite of good luck or to ward off the evil eye. All holidays refer directly to the many local and ancient traditions, but they are also very present in everyday life. Here are some examples, just to get you an idea:

– For New Year (which for the Greeks coincide with the feast of St. Basil), during the evening of December 31, many young people go from house to house, holding a fruit of pomegranate, a symbol of prosperity, as a sign of good luck for the coming New Year.

Another custom linked to the New Year celebration again in honor of Saint Basil is to eat a traditional dessert called Vassilopita; a coin is put in the dough at the time of preparation, and it will bring lots of luck to the diner that will find during the supper.

Carnival is almost throughout Greece celebrated with masked balls, parades and various games; the most famous Carnival is held in Patras. In Ioanina, a beauutiful town located in the northwestern part of Greece, there are dances around bonfires and a greasy pole is put in the main square of the city to be climbed on.


Photo CC-BY-SA Tonyesopi

If there is a party, or indeed for any occasion which requires it, the Greek popular music is there. Traditional instruments play the poignant melodies that become as fast and enthralling. Those who have never heard this music will find the pace so addictive and so difficult to resist the call of a dance! The traditional Greek dances are numerous but the most famous is certainly the Sirtaki.

At the end of the carnival, to mark the beginning of Lent, the day is called Kathari Deftera, that is, the Pure Monday; generally families go out for a picnic during which children fly kites in the sky.

During all festive occasions, but also in every-day’s life, the Greeks drink their most traditional drink called ouzo. It is a distillate with anise flavor. It is very easy to find this drink in the Greek taverns where there is also traditional food to taste.

A custom that has certainly not religious origins but has is root rather into the popular superstition, is to spit three times on the ground after having spoken of a deadly event or anything negative! You should not be surprised, therefore, if in the middle of a conversation you see someone spitting on the ground. Although of course this spitting around can seem very rude, it’s just a popular mean to get rid of the negativity.

The evil eye is something Greeks are very afraid of, especially in the countryside and for the elderly, and to remove it and protect themselves, people tend always to wear an amulet with a blue eye shaped  (you’ll find it in the shops or stalls selling souvenirs). For the same reason children often wear necklaces with blue beads that should protect them and, indeed, you can see some animals such as mules wearing these amulets. The explanation is very simple: through the eyes the bad thoughts of those who are envious or jealous can be directed to you, and thus wearing these sort of amulets seeks to dissuade him to send you the evil eye.

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to the home of a Greek family, then you must be prepared to eat a lot. Itwill be useless to say “no, it’s enough, thank you”, because by the time that you empty your plate, it will be filled again, and this to the bitter end, up to the dessert. The generosity and kindness of the owners, however, are great enough to make people forget this not always pleasant side. Then, in order to demonstrate their pleasure for your visit, the hosts will also be inviting all his relatives for the meal and all this will translate into a “big, fat Greek lunch” so lively that it will surely leave a beautiful memory for you!

If it is then an invitation for dinner, then it is useless to hurry because before 22 definitely nobody will eat; in the afternoon in Greece it is time for siesta and thus before 17 you do not leave your home (this habit of many southern countries is fully justified, given that in the early afternoon is so hot that you can not go out and perform any activity). The result is that everything is delayed by a few hours respect on the habitual dinner-time, especially if you compare it with the Nordic countries!

Chania (Crete): the best sights

Chania or Hania or even Chania is located on the northwest coast of the island of Crete; we are in the south of Greece and the Peloponnese. Arriving at Chania from the sea, by ferry, you arrive at the port of Souda, 7 km to the east. It has a very impressive view of the city, with VENETIAN DISTRICT gathered around the Old Port, dominated by the lighthouse. The Venetian rule began in 1252 and lasted more than four centuries has left some very obvious signs throughout the island: the Venetians called the military architect Michele Sanmicheli who erected the walls of walls still partly visible with its ramparts; the best preserved section of wall is to the west and this area has been transformed into a green area. Two of the four bastions: the Bastion Saint Dimitrios, with a 1477 tower and the rampart Schiavo located towards the sea, and which has been converted into a hotel.
After the Venetians came the Turks, and so began a new rule that lasted until 1898.


Foto CC-BY-SA 3.0 Lapplaender

The city is a real treasure to discover, thanks to the atmosphere of the past that you breathe in the old city. The Venetian walls constitute a separation between modern and historical city center. The narrow streets of Topanas and EVRAIKI neighborhoods are bordered by small palaces decorated with coats of arms and the stone balconies. From here we come to the most important monuments: the Archaeological Museum which is located in the former Church of St. Francis; here we can admire ceramics, pottery from all Roman era Neolithic objects, statues like that of Aphrodite in marble sarcophagi and splendid paintings resurfaced in the Armenian cemetery.

The Nautical Museum which is located near a bastion, was set up in an old Venetian house and makes visitors retrace the maritime past of Crete.
Behind him, the Church of St. Saviour Monastery houses the “Vizandini kai Metavizandini Silogi” vast collection of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art.
Certainly worthy of note are the Mosque of the Janissaries, the “Džami tou Kioutsouk Hassan”, built in 1645. It has a cubic structure topped by a hemispherical dome supported by four arches.
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of 1860 is located opposite the Roman Catholic Cathedral. In Toranas district, we have the ETZ Hayyim Synagogue, recently restored.
Very interesting the Venetian Arsenal and the open space that precedes it that makes you think of being in Venice, with the Church of St. Mark and the Venetian Loggia embellished all external marble and Latin inscriptions.
The Church of Agios Nikolaos is also particular, with a very eventful history: it was founded as a place of worship Dominican, and later became a mosque and finally, in 1918, an Orthodox temple.
To visit is also the Dimotiki Art Gallery, where you can admire an interesting collection of sculptures and paintings by contemporary artists.

In the streets that line the harbor and the walls are many bars and nightclubs and it is certainly pleasant to meet here to enjoy a drink while admiring the sea, or immerse yourself in the nightlife, discos where you can dance all night, do not forget to take a ride in places where you listen to Greek music. However in the old town and in the modern one there are plenty of nice places to relax, perhaps sampling the local specialties.


Photo CC-BY-SA 3.0 Leonardo G

Just 10km from Chania you can get to PLATANIAS, with discotheques.

Surroundings of Chania

It is also worth to discover the surroundings of Chania with natural environments of exceptional charm, wild mountains and beautiful beaches.
Akrotiri peninsula lies the Gouverneto Monastery, which was built in the sixteenth century near the cave where St. John had withdrawn Hermit and his confreres.
An example of a hike in the unspoilt nature: the Samaria Gorge, “Farangi Samariás” where he was a national park established in 1962. The trips may not last more than a day because it is absolutely forbidden to remain on site overnight. The Samaria Gorge you get to Agia Roumeli beach.

As for precisely the beaches, the GRAMVOUSSA peninsula is a must see: the rocky shores are accompanied by beautiful sandy beaches. A KASTELLI there is a long and beautiful sandy beach, but you can also visit the castle, all ‘inside, the theater and the temple.
On the tip of the Bay of Chania, after the Kolymari beach, there are small and pretty fishing villages.

The STAVROS beach attracts tourists not only for its beauty but also because here were filmed several scenes in the film Zorba the Greek.

During the summer season there are many events that attract both tourists and the inhabitants of Chania. In the months of June and July is the Festival Theatrou Skion (popular theater festival of shadows). From July to September there is the Cultural Summer of Chania with theater performances, concerts of classical music and light, art exhibitions and festivals.

At the end of the holiday, you will have only one thought: to go back to Chania as soon as possible!

The Greek Islands: Crete

The silhouettes of the islands on the horizon, the crystal clear sea lapping the sand or gravel, a beach bar, the white houses contrasting with the blue sky: for many visitors, these are the main features of a great holiday in the Greek islands. But to discover the beauty of Greece is also venturing inland and appreciating the villages’ ancient beauty, countryside cousine and  relaxed lifestyle.

The island of Crete is almost a country in itself. Known as the cradle of the Minoan civilization in the second millennium BC, Crete is a large island far off Greece’s coast.
The north coast beaches are long and sandy and exposed, while other beaches tend to be shorter but more secluded.
But the attractions are not limited to the beaches. The interior of Crete dazzles with its exquisitely frescoed Rock Churches of the 14th and 15th centuries, its Minoan palaces and its cities in ruins.

urlaub crete 1

Photo CC BY  by Henry Mühlpfordt

When to go

The season to visit Crete extends until the end of October, especially in the south of the island. To get the discounted rates you can choose the period from mid-May to late June and throughout the month of September; during the months of July and August everything is working perfectly and the sea is warm, but the places are crowded and the heat is intense.

Crete is also an excellent destination for hiking in the spring / fall, with hiking trails that focus on Hania Lefka Ori (White Mountains).urlaub crete 2

Photo CC BY by Henry Mühlpfordt

Getting around
Public transport along the north coast between major cities are frequent, but poor through the hills and the south coast.
Taxis can take up to four passengers each, so the fare is shared and almost reduced to that of a bus ticket.
To reach the island you can instead take advantage of a fantastic ferry trip: for all the infos you can visit our website at www.ok-ferry.com/en/creta-ferries.aspx.



Photo CC-BY-SA by Frente

Karpathos is one of the islands of the Dodecanese archipelago: the second extension, it is one of the most remote, although it is easy enough to get there for both the Greek and foreign tourists due to the presence of an international airport. The island is accesible also by sea, through the thick ferry connections between the Greek archipelago. For more info on the ferry, you can visit our website at the following address: http://www.ok-ferry.com/en/dodecaneso-ferries.aspx

Karpathos is located halfway between Rhodes and Crete and is therefore a good basis for stopping by and relax in between. It is indeed a  truly inspiring and fascinating tourist destination.
Even though in recent decades the mass tourism arrived, filling Karpathos until its saturation during high season, it is less chaotic in certain times of the year.

Although it is, in fact, among the  most popular seaside resorts and tourist destinations of Greece, Karpathos still manages to escape the onslaught of tourists during the low season. For this reason, if you do not like the crowds or chaos, we recommend you go visiting this Greek island in the spring, or at the end of the summer season (early and mid-September), when the weather is still lovely but the atmosphere is “easy” and relaxed.

What to do and see in and around Karpathos
The island of Karpathos has a clear division between the more developed tourist areas, which are located throughout the southern part, and an area still wild and almost untouched, ie the entire area north of the atoll.
The northern part is characterized by a pretty wild nature and lush, thanks to the presence of an impressive mountain range that makes the landscape even more evocative. Except for some mountain villages, in this part of the island there is not much, and for that reason, mass tourism has snubbed it in favor of the southern belt, where there are the most crowded beaches, souvenir shops , hotels and so on.

The city, cultural attractions and entertainment venues

Obviously your travel itinerary to Karpathos depends very much on what you like most.

A place that you can not miss is the capital of Karpathos island, ie Pigadia, located along the east coast. The beautiful bay Vronti offers a picturesque town too. Are you looking for a scenic spot to take some pictures of the bay? Go on the top.


Photo CC-BY by ufoncz
Pigadia will give everything you need for a comfortable and fun: here we are, in fact, bars, restaurants, public services and everything you want. This is not a huge town but, thanks to the large influx of tourism that has characterized the past few decades, the city is slowly modernizing.

The second step of your travel itinerary is Arkasi Karpathos, a town on the west coast. Arkasi is the second largest tourist city on the island of Karpathos and almost all visitors that spend their holidays on the island go there at least once. In this place once stood a magnificent Greek city, though today very little remains of the ancient acropolis, meaning the walls and some ruins.

Near Arkasi you can also visit the city of Finiki, a pretty fishing port that will allow you to savor the true essence of the island of Karpathos.

Other interesting places are Menetes, about 8 kilometers from Pigadia and Olymbos, close the capital, too.
Menetes looks really peculiar: it is perched on a cliff and is famous for its colourful houses in pastel colors, decorated in Neoclassical style.
Olymbos, however, is worth a visit not only for its scenic location on top of a mountain, but also for its houses with colorful shutters and the picturesque windmills. Women in Olymbos, in addition to that, will delight still photographers because they wear the ancient costume. If you want to take home a souvenir from Olymbos, choose the characteristic hand made boots in pure leather: the shoemakers in the country follow the traditional processing techniques.

The most beautiful beaches of Karpathos
It is really hard to say which are the most beautiful beaches, because the whole coast here  is characterized by crystal-clear sea,, golden beaches and unspoilt locations. Among the most beautiful beaches on the east coast there are Amopi, 5 kilometers from Pigadia, and Afiartis Bay, about 13 km from the capital. The latter is particularly recommended to water sports’ lovers such as windsurfing and kitesurfing.

Do not miss Vrondi Bay, 4 km from the capital; Kyra Panagia, with its red-domed church; Apella, which is located in a sandy cove embraced by pine forests and rocky hills.

Also worth a mention Aghios Nikolaos, Pope Mina, Diafani and Vananda, all on the east coast.

As far as the west coast, we recommend first Lefkos, famous for its coves of white sand, the sea and an ancient Roman underground tank that can be visited along a nature trail.

The beach Kamarakia is the wildest and is not recommended for families with children and inexperienced swimmers.

Among the most beautiful beaches of the West Coast should be mentioned also Aghios Georgios, Aghios Nikolaos (not to be confused with the homonymous beach on the east coast) and Cape Paliokastro.

Rodhes: an espression of Meditterean beauty

Among the islands of the Dodecanese, Rhodes is perhaps the best known and loved by tourists and travellers. Idyllic beaches, dreamlike sea, golden sunshine and stunning scenery have made Rhodes one of Greece’s most popular tourist destinations among both foreign and Greek tourists.

RodiPhoto CC-BY-SA by sun san & sea

Rhodes is part of the Greek territory but is just 18 km from the coast of Turkey. Its capital is the city of the same name of Rhodes, is the centre of cultural life, beach and nightlife on the island.

The city of Rhodes, which has about 80,000 inhabitants, includes the old medieval city. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its beauty,  historical and architectural importance. If we have convinced you to choose Rhodes as a destination for your next vacation, here is some advice on what to do and what to see on the Greek island.

Rhodes: things to do in the capital of the island

The main cities to visit on the island of Rhodes are 3: Rhodes, Lindos and Lardos. Obviously the first is the capital, the eponymous Rhodes. The centre of Rhodes is currently the largest inhabited medieval town in Europe. Surrounded by massive fortified walls, Rhodes is ​​even more charming thanks to the intricacies of narrow streets and alleyways, the domes of the churches that stand out over the rest of the town, the buildings bringing Byzantine, Turkish , Greek traces. The island in fact has suffered various occupations and dominations over the centuries: Byzantines, Romans, Arabs, Venetians and Franks, have been left in the city, inevitably, numerous signs of their passage.

The medieval city of Rhodes (UNESCO World Site) is divided into different areas , such as the Neighborhood of the Knights (whose name refers to the domination of the city by the Knights of St. John) and the Hora, the other main area and  perhaps the most interesting one for the tourists. Here you can admire the magnificent Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent, with its unique dome of pink (XVI century).

Rodi-Moschea-si-SolimanoPhoto CC-BY-SA by sailko

As for the nightlife  in general, do not expect to find the parties and the clubs of Ibiza or Rimini. In the evening there is still much to do and many places to have fun, though.

Heading to the area of the city called “Barstreet “, you will find bars, pubs and everything you need to spend a fun evening. The lively nightlife of Rhodes is also in the city of Faliraki and Lindos, where they concentrate most of the nightclubs , pubs , bars and local nightlife on the island.

What to see on the island of Rhodes beaches and most beautiful cities

Among the cities to see in addition to the capital of the island, Lardos is famous for its white sand beaches surrounded by stiff rocky cliffs, and Lindos, a village of 3,500 people about 50 kilometers from Rhodes, characterized by distinctive white houses shining in the sunlight.

While in Lindos, you can not miss a trip to St. Paul’s Bay, a true wonder of nature with white beaches, turquoise waters and the ancient acropolis of Lindos to dominate the whole landscape from its 116 meters above sea level.

The most fascinating corners of the coast in addition to those already mentioned are the follwing:


1) Bay of Anthony Quinn

The so-called Bay of Anthony Quinn or Anthony Quinn’s Bay, with crystal clear sand and gravel, is surrounded by green hills and  was chosen as the location for the film “The Guns of Navarone”. It was during the filming , the actor Anthony Quinn was so entranced by the beauty of this little Eden that he bought some land here and a luxurious villa. Today the bay is accessible to tourists but has kept this nickname.

2) Ladiko Bay

Just close to the Anthony Quinn Bay there is another place that is worth a visit: Ladiko Bay, which is characterized by sandy beaches and picturesque landscapes. A mix of wilderness and paradise, although during high season is literally assaulted by both Greek and foreign tourists . If you can, try to visit it during  the less chaotic hours of the day to enjoy fully its natural beauty, far from the bustling crowds and noise of everyday life.

3) Prassonisi

Prassonisi beach’s peculiarity lies in its form: is it a strip of land with two bays located opposite to each other and overlooking the Aegean Sea to the north and south of the Mediterranean Sea. Prassonisi is the ideal destination for  water sports’ addict such as windsurfing and kitesurfing lovers: especially in the summer months the wind is favourable to practice this kind of sport. The ideal time to do sports such as windsurfing and kite is between the months of July and August, when the Meltemi wind blows from the North .


Photo CC-BY-SA by Karelj

A trip that you absolutely must take involves the so-called Valley of the Butterflies in Petaloudes: a place that seems almost magical and mystical. In this valley, hundreds of butterflies are camouflaged on rocks and bark of trees, delighting tourists while flying acrobatically and gracefully at the same time. It is one of the most special tourist destinations of Rhodes and the ticket costs just 5 euros.

For a vacation without any risk remember to be cautious, do not bring valuables with you / or very expensive cash and always keep an eye on your bag in crowded places .





Corfu, the green island


Corfu- Photo CC BY Ian Pitchford

Corfu is one of the greenest of the Greek islands with intermittent but torrential rains that fall from September to May and the thousands of olive trees that cover up the landscape. It is also one of the most rural and sleepy place in Greece.

The inhabitants of Corfu still celebrate the summer and autumn with religious festivals full of music and stalls. Here the culture of olives is a true tradition and many forests still have a romantic aspect thanks to the semi-wild state.

The old quarters of the city of Corfu, have been designated recently, and deservedly so, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

When to go

The high season runs in Corfu from Easter  until October, although many hotels in the tourist will only work from May to September inclusive .


Getting around

Public transport: Corfu has two separate bus services; the sub-urban lines and blue lines across the island green.
Car hire: as buses stop quite early in the evening, so it is better to rent a car  A company with a long tradition responds to the number 00 30 26610 44325  (www.corfusunrise.com).

What to do

Apart from the main city and some museums, there are water parks, horse riding, diving centres (especially in Paleokastrítsa) , ancient castles to explore, sleepy villages and hiking.

Kérkyra: the old town

The historic centre of Kérkyra, with its arcades in front of the Esplanade (Esplanade), its pastel-coloured houses with several floors and with its quiet squares and its blinds with slats in Venetian style, widely rewards the time spent walking through the its streets.

The Archaeological Museum of the City of Kerkyra is closed for renovation until 2015, but it is common to visit the Byzantine Museum in the District of Mouragia (Tues-Sun 8:30 am. to 3:00 pm. , 3 €). It is a medieval church full of icons of the 15th and 18th century, many of which were painted by artists Cretan refugees.

Beautiful also the Asian Art Museum (Tues-Sun 8:00 to 19:30 , winter closes 3:00 , € 3) which is located at the upper end of the Esplanade, and which houses artifacts from China, Japan, Tibet, from the kingdom of Gandhara, Cambodia and Thailand.


The meandering footpath Corfu Trail (www.thecorfutrail.com), which requires eight to ten days to cover 137 km, introduces a landscape in a wonderful way imaginable.

The postcard-like  view Kanóni is a must-see. The lookout is served by buses, but can also be reached with a bicycle.

From the base of the pier the boats sail towards Pondikonísi (Mouse Island) , housing trees and a small Byzantine chapel.

Palea Perithia: Situated in a valley on the north side of the island summit Mt. Pandokrator, this Venetian village was abandoned in 1960 and remained so for years. From 1990  he began to attract visitors. Palea has Perithia surroundings that still bear the mark of a devastating fire, but the charm of the cobbled streets and stone houses remained intact.

Kassiopi: This resort is one of the few points north of the coast that has retained its charm. It ‘ been a resort known since the Roman Empire. Tiberius had a villa here, and Nero made ​​a visit there and create music with his lyre in 66 AD. The picturesque location evidently inspired him: a fishing harbor deeply indented flanked by a small Angevin castle of the 13th century. There are a lot of small beaches within walking distance or bike a short distance.

Angelókastro: Despite the repairs and consolidation of recent years, there is not much within this compact castle as well as an underground church and a few tanks, but the views amply reward the short climb to the summit with its small chapel .

History and Folklore Museum of Central Corfu, Sinarádes: well marked near the northern entrance of a charming village, this traditional Corfu occupies two floors of exhibits. The ground floor has been left largely as it was when inhabited, while the single room on the top floor is dedicated to a collection of quirky and unusual stuff.

Climb Agii Déka, the second highest peak of Corfu: From the village of Ano Garouna, part of the Corfu trail leads steeply up to the top to admire a beautiful view of the city, the lagoon and the airport.

Rock formations, Sidári: Just west of this lively resort, the sandstone cliffs of the coast have been eroded over the years by wind and water to form otherworldly figures. The most famous formation called the Canal d’ Amour.

Theotokou monastery, Paleokastrítsa. Although it was founded in the 13th century, the present monastery was rebuilt after a fire about five centuries later. The church is full of icons worthy of note, there are also shows in a small museum housed in the former mill (including the skeleton of a ‘ sea monster ‘), while flourishing potted plants over a cascade of bougainvillea fill the courtyard and steps porches around it. Some monks still live here.


Corfu – Foto CC BY FlickrLickr


Day trips

The most interesting excursions to be evident in Agii Saranda in Albania to visit the spectacular nearby Roman ruins of Butrint, and the three inhabited islands Diapontia north-west of Corfu.

You can book a horse trek through the lush green hills of Mount Pandokrator’.


Several events are held throughout the year on the island concerts, jazz, classical music concerts, or local , and more.

Brass bands Corfiot
Generally are organized on Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, August 11 , the first Sunday in November.

The philharmonic orchestras are a fixture at festivals during the summer and organize Sunday concerts on the Esplanade. The bands also accompany the relics of the island’s patron saint Spyridon through the old streets of the city.

Corfiot Easter

The bands also perform at Corfu Easter, one of the most vibrant festivals of Greece. On Good Friday, afternoon and evening, every parish parading his “Epitafios” accompanied by solemn dirges. On Saturday morning , after the procession of St. Spyridon, a purpose-built pottery is thrown down from the windows of the upper floors and balconies – an ancient custom advisable to drive away the bad luck of Judas ‘betrayal’ . At midnight, after the Resurrection, the sky above the old fort and gets to Esplanade lines due to fireworks.

Varkarola Festival Paleokastrítsa
Saturday close to 11 August

This holiday commemorates the miraculous assistance of Spyridon during the Ottoman siege of 1716, with a mock naval battle, choirs waterborne and even fireworks.

Agia Marina -July 17

It is a festival featuring folk dances.

This year, the 31st August, a popular festival that is called Agios Ioannis (www.agiotfest.co.uk).


There are summer shows, which often represent ancient Greek tragedies, both in the Town of Kerkyra in the two forts at the outdoor theater Mon Repos.

In February, during Carnival there are fun Carnival parades that animate the streets of Kérkyra the three Sundays and the last Wednesday of the preceding Ash Wednesday.


“This is a translation in English of the article available on http://www.luoghiepaesaggi.it/corfu-lisola-verde/”