A beginner's guide to holidays in Greece and Cyprus
Thursday, 24 May 2012
It has never been more tempting to pack your holiday bag and jump on a last minute flight to Rhodes, Crete or Corfu. Whether you're after classical culture, water sports, sea swimming or beach lazing, there's a cheap and cheerful trip to Greece or Cyprus to fit your specifications. But with so many Greece holidays on offer, it can be hard to pick out the dream deals from the duds. Here's a simplified guide for both the seasoned and the sporadic traveller - you can never be too careful.
Popping over to the Ionians, following the footsteps of Cleopatra and Winston Churchill, has always been a popular choice for gap-year travellers and mature explorers alike. But the key questions to ask yourself are: Where do I start? How do I get there? And how easy is it to hotfoot it to another island once I arrive? There are more than 150 inhabited Greek islands and these are arranged in six island groups: Cyclades, Dodecanese, Sporades, Ionian, North Aegean and Argo Saronic.
It's easy to fly to Athens or to one of the main islands to kick-start your trip. Bear in mind though that particular island groups provide numerous ferry connections and are easier to explore than others so it's worth tailoring your island choices to the length of your holiday.
Visit Santorini to walk along the rim of a now-extinct volcano and the picture postcard town of Fira. Catch the ferry from Rhodes to Symi and photograph the neoclassical harbour. Or party away in packed Mykonos where the party never stops.
North vs. South
Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean Sea, located south of Turkey and is divided into two regions: The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus in the south of the island. Although chock full of antiquity, the south is geared more to the package tourist market and is perfect for rest and recuperation.
The north is more rustic, less densely populated and is, arguably, more authentic because of this. Whether you choose North or South, stay in one of the villas in Cyprus for a more personalised experience beyond the hectic tourist trails.
Hotel or villa
Large families or groups will almost certainly feel more comfortable in a rented villa as opposed to a hotel. There are picturesque hostels and family-run bed and breakfasts off the beaten track, but on the whole these only offer a small number of rooms to guests.
The majority of hotels in Greece and Cyprus cater to the mass market and might disappoint. Choosing from the myriad of self-catering villas in Greece will allow you to choose your ideal holiday location and environment whether that's an olive grove haven or a mountain-top sanctuary.
Package or tailor-made
Package holidays are a dime-a-dozen in Greece and Cyprus but what seems like a bargain might carry expensive extras or hidden service charges. Northern Cyprus on the other hand is a great destination for genuinely good value package breaks.
With several hotels trying to bring in more guests, you can bag a luxurious holiday in a stunning, peaceful location with all the perks of Greece trip at a fraction of the price.
Rent-a-car or try a tour
A family-sized car rental in Greece is frequently found to be more expensive than elsewhere in Europe. Annoying add-ons like the obligatory Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which doesn't include excess waiver, and pricey petrol charges might mean that a car is a holiday luxury very few of us can afford.
In that case, pick a package holiday which includes free tour excursions or rent accommodation close to the beach to minimise travel time on public transport. With so many boat trip tours available to otherwise inaccessible destinations, you won't be left longing for a more leftfield view of the landscape.
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