Recent research has found a sharp increase in British travellers booking holidays in Greece, despite its economic woes. Travel agents have said that package holiday bookings for Greece have increased by some 33 per cent in the past fortnight.
The soaring strength of the pound versus the euro partly accounts for this, which gives Britons more than €1.20 for every pound exchanged, for the first time since November 2008 – an additional €52 for every £500.
The Greek islands are firm favourites among British holidaymakers. Here’s five of the most notable, along with their more mythical associations…
The second largest of the Ionian Islands, Corfu is steeped in ancient Greek mythology. Its Greek name, Korkyra, stems from the legend of the sea god Poseidon, who fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, abducting her and bringing her to the island, which was named after her as a wedding gift. More recently, Corfu has long been known as the childhood home of naturalist Gerald Durrell and the setting for his bestselling series of books: My Family and Other Animals.
Although being known as a playground for the super-rich, there is plenty for the ordinary tourist in Corfu, from its beautiful beaches to its remarkably green and lush hinterland.
A holiday in Naxos is a great alternative to the traditional delights of the Greek beach holiday – although lovely beaches can be found – having more in common with a rural walking holidays. Visitors can start their Odyssey at the ancient Venetian citadel of Kastr, escaping the heat in the central Tragaea plateau, where a cooler climate makes the going easy, and refreshments can be found in one of the friendly villages on the route. Sights along the way include Byzantine churches joined to the villages by ancient byways. Be sure to visit the village of Halki and sample the produce of its citrus distilling industry.
The largest and most highly-populated of the Greek islands, Crete has one unique selling point – the remains of the incredible Minoan civilisation. Minos was the earliest European civilisation and for many centuries was a byword for refinement, culture and wealth – the legend of the Minotaur stems from Minoan bull-worship and its labyrinths. A must-see is the fabulous Palace of Knossos.
Home of the Greek king Ulysses, hero of the Iliad and the Odyssey, this tiny island is the complete opposite of Crete. With little more than 3,000 inhabitants, it is something of a backwater. As such, however, it is perfect for a lazy relaxing holiday, far from the overdeveloped resorts of other islands.
The mainland port of Volos, where Jason and the Argonauts reputedly set out on their quest for the Golden Fleece, is just a spit away from Skiathos, and it is tempting to think of the band of heroes stopping off at one of its charming family-run tavernas for a delicious meal. The island combines traditional life, with tourist-friendly bars and nightclubs, plus some of the best beaches in Greece. For more simple pleasures, a hike up into the pine-covered hills is a wonderful way to unwind.