A sexy villa built into the caldera on Santorini. A grand dame of a hotel poised on historic Syntagma Square in Athens. A simple island room in a whitewashed building festooned with blossoms. Chances are, whatever you imagine as far as accommodations are concerned, you will find it in Greece.
Choosing where to stay in Greece should never be taken lightly. To give you an example, let's say you're staying in Athens. You chose a hotel because it was affordable and located not too far from the Acropolis. What you didn't know was that "not too far" meant climbing hundreds of steps -- steep, uneven and cobbled steps built by hand centuries ago. The thought of popping back to the room for a siesta suddenly becomes a tall order.
On the other hand, let's say you decide to stay smack dab in the middle of the old town on an island. You want to be in the very heart of things, surrounded by historical charm. Unfortunately, it's July 30 and everyone under the age of 35 also wants to be in the very heart of town ... all night long. You can forget about sleep, unless you too prefer to sleep all day on the beach.
Indeed, Greece has its own unique set of challenges when it comes to choosing where to stay -- so learn as much as you can about a property before typing in your credit card number. Here's an overview of your options to get you started.
While there are some international chain hotels in Greece (including Hilton, Sofitel, Best Western and several belonging to the Starwood collection), you won't come across as many as you might in other European nations. Greece has its roots in small, family-owned businesses, many of which continue today with independent hotels or small collections of hotels. These often pride themselves on their hands-on service.
There are hotel rating and classification systems in place, though they tend to reflect the amenities offered and not truly give a sense of service or quality. Some use the star system, but that too is not necessarily consistent with star systems in other countries. As a result, we can't legitimately recommend relying on them.
In general, hotels in Greece are clean and comfortable, but quite plain. The level of luxury is always reflected in the pricing. Read enough of the websites and reviews and you'll start to see code words that signal perhaps a place is not for you. For example, if you're seeking a quiet romantic spot, the fact that the hotel has extensive conference rooms might not be what you had in mind.
Greece Hotel Resources:
Small, elegantly designed boutique properties can be found in Athens and Thessaloniki as well as islands such as Mykonos, which attracts the chic party set from around the world. These hotels -- some of which are in restored buildings -- tend to have a small number of rooms and are full of conversation, art and architectural details; they're often designed by big-name designers and architects.
In the cities, boutique hotels are all about sleek design and hip, often cutting-edge locations. In the islands, look for drop-dead gorgeous settings, infinity pools and prolific gardens. One downside: Some boutique hotels are too chic and self-conscious, and occasionally design trumps comfort.
Greece Boutique Hotel Resources:
If you're a family or a small group of friends planning to stay put on one island or in another destination in Greece, renting a villa can be the most economical way to go.
Depending on the price, you can find anything from simple, bare-bones apartments to elaborate cliff-top villas complete with infinity pools. Most apartments are self-catering, though some villa rental companies arrange for cooks and butlers. Keep in mind that you won't always find dishwashers, washers or dryers. You might also want to confirm that there is air conditioning if that's important to you. And if you are a non-smoker, find out if smokers are permitted as guests.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you may encounter many steps -- and unlike hotels, apartments don't have porters to assist with your luggage.
Greece Villa and Apartment Resources
Step off a Greek ferry onto an island in the summer months, and you'll find locals offering domatia, or rooms to rent. In the past, these rooms would have been in private homes, but increasingly they are in separate, more modern structures built specifically for tourists with private bathrooms and (often) kitchenettes. In general, they are a bargain compared to the rest of Europe and offer personalized service and hospitality. Very often, the rooms are located within walking distance of old town centers and popular beaches.
You can find rooms ahead of time through Airbnb, which many of the savvy property owners of Greece are using to promote their rooms.
Throughout Greece there are campgrounds, all operated under the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) seal. They have sites for tents and caravans and can be very popular with Europeans driving down from the north. Camping independently outside of these legal campgrounds is not permitted anywhere in the country.
Greece Camping Resources:
Imagine waking up to the sound of water lapping against the hull of a boat, looking out and seeing a whitewashed village come into view. One of the best ways to see Greece is by boat. You can charter a yacht, skipper your own, join casual cruises, be part of a flotilla holiday, learn to sail -- the sky's (or, shall we say, the sea's) the limit. See the links below for more info on sailing and chartering a yacht.
Greece Sailing Resources:
Whether you're staying in a rented room on the island of Paros or a sumptuous suite with a view of the Parthenon in Athens, keep these tips in mind.
Make reservations as far in advance as you can, especially if you are traveling between June and August. The best places get reserved months in advance, and the longer you wait, the fewer options you'll have.
Always carry a printed copy of your hotel confirmation.
Read the fine print. Many hotels charge a 50 percent penalty or the price of the first night's stay if you cancel within 21 days of arrival. Consider getting trip insurance to cover any reservations you might wind up cancelling with no notice -- for example, if you should miss a ferry and not be able to get to an island in time.
Many hotels around Greece include breakfast in their price. There has been a growing movement to offer traditional Greek breakfasts using local food products such as jams and jellies, fresh-baked breads, and fruits.
--written by Susan Farewell
Editor's Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc.