Tourism in Greece

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Tourism in Greece has been a key element of the economic activity in the country, and is one of the country's most important sectors. Greece has been a major tourist destination and attraction in Europe since antiquity, for its rich culture and history, which is reflected in large part by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the most in Europe and the world[1] as well as for its long coastline, many islands and beaches.[2]

The Egremnoi sand beach in the Greek island of Lefkada, noted for its blue crystal waters,[3] is a popular tourist destination.

Greece has attracted 26.5 million visitors in 2015 and is projected to attract 30 million visitors in 2016,[4][5][6] making Greece one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world and contributing 18% to the nation's Gross Domestic Product,[7] with its capital city Athens, as well as Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Corfu, Crete and Chalkidice being some of the country's major tourist destinations.

In recent years, Greece has also promoted the religious tourism and pilgrimages to regions with a significant historical religious presence, such as the monasteries in Meteora and Mount Athos, in cooperation with other countries.[8]


Tourism in Greece traces its roots to ancient times. Cultural exchange took place between the Greek colonies of Magna Graeca and the young Roman Republic before Rome's rise to dominance of the Western Mediterranean. When Greece was annexed by the Roman Empire centuries later, the cultural exchange that started between the two civilization triggered as a result a large number of Romans visiting the famous centers of Greek philosophy and science, such as Athens, Corinth and Thebes, partly because Greece had become a province of the Roman Empire and Greeks were granted Roman citizenship.

Tourism in modern-day Greece started to flourish in the 1960s and 1970s, in what became known as mass tourism.[9] During that time, large-scale construction projects for hotels and other such facilities were undertaken and the country saw an increase in international tourists over the years.[9] International events such as the 2004 Summer Olympic Games and the Eurovision Song Contest 2006, both held in Athens, greatly helped to boost tourism in the country, while large-scale nationally-funded cultural infrastructure such as the New Acropolis Museum also contributed to the flow of tourists in the country. Thessaloniki was the European Youth capital in 2014.

Panoramic view of the Santorini caldera, taken from Oia


Forest road in Mount Pelion
Mountain lodge in Mount Olympus
Navagio, a sand beach in Zakynthos

In 2009, the country welcomed over 19.3 million tourists,[10] a major increase from the 17.7 million tourists the country welcomed in 2008.[11] The vast majority of tourists in the country are from within the European Union (12.7 million), followed by those from the Americas (0.56 million), Asia (0.52 million), Oceania (0.1 million) and Africa (0.06 million).[12] In the year 2007, more British people visited the country than any other nationality, numbering 2.61 million in total, making up 15% of the country's tourists for that year alone. Additionally, 2.3 million Germans, 1.8 million Albanians and 1.1 million Bulgarians visited the country that year.[12] In 2007, 92.8% of the total number of tourists in Greece were from countries in Europe.[12]

The most-visited region of Greece is that of Central Macedonia in northern Greece, near some of the most popular attractions in the country such as Halkidiki, Mount Olympus, Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great, and Greece's second-largest city, Thessaloniki.[11] In 2009, Central Macedonia welcomed 3.6 million tourists, or 18% of the total number of tourists who visited Greece that year,[11] followed by Attica (2.6 million) and the Peloponnese (1.8 million).[10] Northern Greece is the country's most-visited region, with 6.5 million tourists, while Central Greece comes second with 6.3 million.[10]

According to a survey conducted in China in 2005, Greece was voted as the Chinese people's number one choice as a tourist destination.[13] In November 2006, Austria, like China, announced that Greece was the favourite tourist destination for its citizens.[14] In line with these observations, Greece's former Minister of Tourism Aris Spiliotopoulos announced the opening of a Greek National Tourism Organization office in Shanghai by the end of 2010, and GNTO currently operates two tourism offices in China, one in Shanghai and one in Beijing.[15] It is estimated that throughout 2013 Greece welcomed over 17.93 million tourists, an increase of Increase 10% compared to 2012. More than 22 million tourists visited Greece in 2014 and this number increased to 26 million visitors in 2015 and is projected to attract 28 million visitors in 2016,[16][17][18] making it one of the most visited countries in Europe and the world. Tourism in Greece will typically peak between May and September where approximately 75% of all tourist visits happen.[19]

Arrivals by country[edit]

Most visitors arriving to Greece on a short term basis in 2015 were from the following countries:[20]

Rank Country Number
1 Republic of Macedonia Republic of Macedonia 3,023,059
2  Germany 2,810,350
3  United Kingdom 2,397,169
4  Bulgaria 1,900,642
5  France 1,522,100
6  Italy 1,355,327
7  Turkey 1,153,046
8  Poland 754,402
9  United States 750,250
10  Serbia 727,831

Economic impact[edit]

At the same time, tourism consumption increased considerably since the turn of the millennium, from US$17.7 bn. in 2000 to US$29.6 bn. in 2004. The numbers of jobs directly or indirectly related to the tourism sector were 659,719 and represented 16.5% of the country's total employment for that year.


As a developed country highly dependent on tourism, Greece offers a wide variety of tourist facilities.[21] Tourism infrastructure in Greece has been greatly improved since the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and continues to expand with a number of important projects particularly in areas of less mass-tourism.[22]

Hotels and conference facilities[edit]

The five-star Porto Carras Hotel and Resort in Halkidiki hosted the European Union leader's summit in 2003
The port and marina of Naupactus

Conference tourism, targeted at academic, business, or cultural markets, is a cornerstone of the Greek national tourism policy. As a result, the Greek government, with strong support from local authorities, has been offering lucrative cash grants, leasing and employment subsidies and tax allowances to establish new conference facilities and expand existing ones. In a recent report in Meeting and Incentive Travel, Greece was ranked eighth in the world in overnight stays for conferences. Figures from the Tourism Satellite Accounting Research, conducted by WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) project a worldwide increase in revenues in business travel to Greece from US $1.51 bn. in 2001 to US $2.69 bn. in 2011. In 1998, the figure stood at US $1.18 bn.

According to the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, the number of hotels in Greece was by classification (bedplaces):

Star rating Number Beds
5 star 176[23] 64,913[23]
4 star 994[23] 176,631[23]
3 star 1,804[23] 163,077[23]
2 star 4,460[23] 231,333[23]
1 star 1,677[23] 57,298[23]
Total 9,111[23] 693,252[23]


Greece has 51 marinas and 14,661 mooring places that provide such services as berths, fuel, water and electricity, telephony, and repairs.

Some of the most developed and busiest marinas in Greece are just a few kilometres from the centre of Athens. The marinas of Alimos and Flisvos, on the south coast of Athens, have an aggregated capacity of more than 1,800 vessels.

Spas and thermal springs[edit]

Greece has 752 thermosprings. Many have been classified as therapeutic by the National Institute for Geographical and Mineral Research. Several of them were known and exploited already since antiquity. Thermal or curative tourism was, after all, one of the earliest forms of tourism in the ancient world. In 1983 was founded the Hellenic Association of Municipalities with Thermal Springs [1] Some of these ancient "spa resorts" were situated in Aidipsos, known from the time of Aristotle,[24] Loutraki, mentioned by Xenophon,[25] Traianoupoli [2], founded by the emperor Trajan in the 2nd century A.D., whereas some others are attested in the Byzantine period, such as the Thermal baths of Langadas [3]. In the late 19th and the beginning of the 20th century these hot springs were surrounded by cosmopolitan facilities, namely hotels and restaurants, whereas several prominent members of the society of both the Modern Greek State and the Ottoman State (for regions still incorporated in it) invested in touristic infrastructure and private estates.[26] Thermal tourism became particularly widespread in the 1960s and 1970s, whereas in the 1980s it was widely supported by a social tourism program, which subsidized large part of the expenses for the elderly users of the facilities. Nowadays, however, there is an urgent need to refurbish, restore and elevate these spas to modern standards and create an international clientele. Visitors, however, can already find high-standard touristic facilities in Pozar [4], in Aidipsos [5] and in Kamena Vourla [6], in Loutraki close to Corinth [7] as well as at Kaiafas, on the western shores of the Peloponnese [8]. A detailed List of spa towns in Greece can give an insight in the inexorable richness of thermal springs of the country.

View of the town of Corfu


Statue of goddess Aphrodite and votive offerings, Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Several kinds of museums are located in the Hellenic Republic. Most of them can be found in the big cities like Athens, where the famous New Acropolis Museum and the National Archaeological Museum are located. Furthermore, there is a vast number of galleries like the National Gallery (Athens). There are many museums in Thessaloniki too, like the Byzantine Museum. Overall, there are approximately 150 museums all over the country which are easily accessible by tourists.

Archaeological sites and cities[edit]

The ancient Olympic Stadium in Olympia
The Minoan palace in Knossos, Crete
  • Acropolis of Rhodes: The Acropolis of Rhodes is an acropolis dating from the Classical Greek period (5th–3rd century BC).
  • Acropolis of Lindos: A natural citadel which was fortified successively by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Knights of St John and the Ottomans.
  • Ancient Thera: An antique city on a ridge of the steep, 360 m high Messavouno mountain on the Greek island of Santorini.
  • Abdera, Thrace: A city-state on the coast of Thrace 17 km east-northeast of the mouth of the Nestos, and almost opposite Thasos.
  • Akrotiri (Santorini): A Minoan Bronze Age settlement on the volcanic Greek island of Santorini (Thera).
  • Ambracia: Ruins of the ancient capital of Pyrrhus of Epirus in modern Arta in Epirus.
  • Amphipolis: An ancient city in the region of Macedonia once inhabited by the Edoni people.
  • Argos: Several ancient ruins, including the Heraion.
  • Athens: The Greek capital has many archaeological sites, the most famous being the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora of Athens.
  • Bassae: An archaeological site in the northeastern part of Messenia, Greece.
  • Chalcis: on Euboea.
  • Ancient Corinth: Ancient ruins near the modern town include the Temple of Isthmia and the Temple of Apollo.
  • Delos: Uninhabited island famous for its numerous archaeological sites, including the Stoivadeion, the Temple of the Delians, the Terrace of the Lions and the House of the Dolphins.
  • Delphi: Town in western Greece, with a distinguished ancient theatre, the site of the Oracle.
  • Dion, Pieria: The sacred place of the Ancient Macedonians. Dion is the site of a large temple dedicated to Zeus, as well as a series of temples to Demeter and to Isis.
  • Dodona: The shrine of Dodona in Epirus was regarded as the oldest Hellenic oracle, possibly dating to the second millennium BCE according to Herodotus.
  • Eleusis: From as early as 1700 BC up to the 4th century AD, Eleusis was the site of the Eleusinian Mysteries, or the Mysteries of Demeter and Kore.
  • Elaea (Epirus): An ancient harbor town at the mouth of the Acheron river of Epirus.
  • Epidaurus: The ancient theatre, now restored.
  • Gitanae: Ruins of ancient Gitanae in Epirus.
  • Kameiros: An ancient city on the island of Rhodes, in the Dodecanese, Greece.
  • Knossos: Archaeological site on Crete famous for its ruined Minoan palace, with bull motifs.
  • Leibethra: An ancient city close to Olympus where Orpheus was buried by the Muses.
  • Lycosura: A city of Arcadia said by Pausanias to be the oldest city in the world.
  • Meteora: The monasteries, which are World Heritage Sites.
  • Mycenae: In the second millennium BC, Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilization, a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece. The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae.
  • Messene: Most of the area of Ancient Messene contains the ruins of the large classical city-state of Messene refounded by Epaminondas in 369 BC.
  • Necromanteion: Nekromanteion was an ancient Greek temple of necromancy devoted to Hades and Persephone.
  • Nemea: Here in Greek mythology Heracles overcame the Nemean Lion of the Lady Hera, and here during Antiquity the Nemean Games were played.
  • Nicopolis: or Actia Nicopolis was an ancient city of Epirus, founded 31 BC by Octavian in memory of his victory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium the previous year.
  • Olympia: Many ancient ruins, including the Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Hera, the Palaestra and the Leonidaion.
  • Olynthus: An ancient city of Chalcidice.
  • Palace of Nestor: Palace of Nestor is the primary structure within a larger Late Helladic era settlement, likely once surrounded by a fortified wall
  • Pella: The capital of Ancient Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great and Philip II of Macedon.
  • Phaistos: a Bronze Age archaeological site at Faistos, a municipality in south central Crete.
  • Philippi: Established by the king of Macedon, Philip II, on the site of the Thasian colony of Krinides or Crenides.
  • Sounion: The Temple of Poseidon.
  • Samothrace temple complex: is one of the principal Pan-Hellenic religious sanctuaries, located on the island of Samothrace.
  • Syros: Neoclassical city of Hermoupolis; two civilizations and two religions living harmonically and peacefully together; only 2.5 hours by ferry from Piraeus; a 12-month a year destination; beaches, classical theatre, casino, general hospital and many places to see.
  • Stagira: Ruins of the ancient city known as the birthplace of Aristotle.
  • Sparta: Near the modern town are ancient ruins, the most important being the tomb of Leonidas.
  • Tiryns: A Mycenaean archaeological site in Argolis in the Peloponnese.
  • Tegea: A settlement in ancient Greece. Ancient Tegea was an important religious center of ancient Greece, containing the Temple of Athena Alea.
  • Thebes: Ancient city that once rivalled Athens, and featured in Greek myth.
  • Thermopylae: Primarily known for the battle that took place there in 480 BC, in which an outnumbered Greek force probably of seven thousand (including the famous 300 Spartans) held off a substantially larger force of Persians estimated in the range 70,000-300,000 under Xerxes.
  • Thessaloniki: City with many historic buildings, some World Heritage Sites, including the Arch and Rotunda of Galerius, the Church of Panagia Chalkeon and the White Tower.
  • Vergina: The Macedonian Royal Tombs and the ruins of the ancient Macedonian capital in the region of Macedonia, Greece. It is a World Heritage Site.

Ecotourism and skiing[edit]

Greece has become in recent years a destination for ecotourism (especially hiking, canoeing, caving and climbing).[27] The main destinations for skiing in Greece are Arachova, Kalavryta, Karpenisi and Metsovo.[28]

Promoting Greek tourism[edit]

The government intends to promote winter tourism in Greece, which could potentially increase international arrivals even further.

Tourism in Greece is run by the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) who used Helena Paparizou, a famous Greek singer who won Eurovision Song Contest in 2005 as an ambassador. Singer Sakis Rouvas,[29] who represented Greece in the 2009 Eurovision song contest, is currently the ambassador for Greek Tourism.

The new logo of the Greek National Tourism Organisation consists of nine circles, which symbolize the nine new kinds of tourism that should be promoted to combat the tourism sector's seasonality. The new logo's slogan is "Greece, the true experience", which shows that the marketing campaign is now directed towards experience seekers and not just mass tourism.[30] The drawback of the new logo is that at a first glance it cannot be associated with Greece.

The advertisements displayed in the GNTO's web"site still focus on the triptych of sea, sun and sand. However, the tourism campaign is undergoing a significant change as city-breaks and conference tourism are promoted, along with cultural and wellness tourism. The impact of the new campaign will hopefully result in increased tourist revenues. The name of commercials is "You in Greece".


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Greece Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (17)". Unesco. Unesco. 
  2. ^ Greece by Paul Hellander, Kate Armstrong, Michael Clark, Des Hannigan
  3. ^ "13 Places Where You Can See the Bluest Water in the World". Travel+Leisure. Retrieved 16 March 2017. 
  4. ^ "Greece Expects 15-20% Increase in Tourist Arrivals in 2016— 30 Million People". Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  5. ^ "Estimations for new records for tourism in 2016 (Προβλέψεις για νέο ρεκόρ στον τουρισμό το 2016)". Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  6. ^ "Historic records for tourism (Ιστορικό ρεκόρ για τον τουρισμό)". Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  7. ^ "For a Sustainable Tourism Industry". Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  8. ^ "Greece Focuses on Religious Tourism, Explores Cooperation with Russia". Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  9. ^ a b "Greece Tourism: Information about tourism in Greece and the Greek Islands". Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c "Nights spent in tourist accommodation establishments - regional - annual data". 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2011.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  11. ^ a b c "Tourism" (PDF). 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2011.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  12. ^ a b c "24.2 mln tourist arrivals in Greece in 2014". Proto thema. April 2015. Retrieved 17 July 2015. 
  13. ^ "People's Daily Online -- Minister says Greece, China to be best tourist partners". Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "GNTO Offices Abroad". Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  16. ^ Ioanna Zikakou (25 August 2015). "New Record for Greek Tourism: Around 26M Arrivals in 2015". 
  17. ^ "Προβλέψεις για νέο ρεκόρ στον τουρισμό το 2016". 
  18. ^ "Ιστορικό ρεκόρ για τον τουρισμό". 
  19. ^ "Tourism in Greece". Tourism in Greece. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  20. ^ NON-RESIDENTS ARRRIVALS FROM ABROAD: January - December 2015, Retrieved 31 October 2016
  21. ^ "Country Information". Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  22. ^ "Luxury Resorts and Residences in Greece - Costa Navarino". Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Table 2: Hotels classified by star rating, 2006" (PDF). NSSG/HCH. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-23. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Interview: Natali Dologlou, MIRC, Greece , 21.01.2016
  28. ^ Winter vacations in Greece, on
  29. ^,id=905204. Retrieved 2009-02-23
  30. ^

External links[edit]