The White Mountains of Crete
Greece, Trek & Walk, 8 days - from £795 (land only) - from €995 (land only) - from $1,390 (land only)
The country of Greece is located in southern Europe, on the southern end of the Balkan peninsula. Greece is surrounded on the north by Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia and Albania; to the west by the Ionian Sea; to the south by the Mediterranean Sea and to the east by the Aegean Sea and Turkey. It is the only EU country that doesn’t share a land frontier with another member. The country consists of a large mainland; the Peloponnese, a peninsula connected to the southern tip of the mainland by the Isthmus of Corinth; and around 3000 islands, including Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, the Dodecanese and the Cyclades. Greece has 15000 kilometres (9300 miles) of coastline. 80% of Greece is mountainous, and the country is one of the most mountainous countries of Europe. The Pindus, a chain of mountains lies across the center of the country in a northwest-to-southeast direction, with a maximum elevation of 2637 metres. Extensions of the same mountain range stretch across the Peloponnese and underwater across the Aegean, forming many of the Aegean islands including Crete, and joining with the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. Central and Western Greece contain high and steep peaks dissected by many canyons and other karstic landscapes, including the Meteora and the Vikos Gorges - the latter being one of the largest of the world and the second deepest after the Grand Canyon, plunging vertically for more than 1100 meters. Mount Olympus is the highest point of Greece and the fourth highest in relative topographical prominence in Europe rising to 2919 metres above sea level. The Rhodope Mountains form the border between Greece and Bulgaria; that area is covered with vast and thick forests. Plains also are found in Eastern Thessaly, in central Macedonia and in Thrace. Western Greece contains lakes and wetlands.
The time in Greece is GMT +2 hours.
Greek is the oldest of the Indo-European language with a documented history of 3500 years. The oldest discovered inscriptions of the Greek alphabet as used today date from the 8th or 9th Century B.C. Your attempts to speak the local language will be well appreciated. Take a pocket phrase book such as the Lonely Planet or Berlitz.
Greece basks under clear, sunny skies for over two thirds of the year. Temperatures do vary, however. Winters are mild and rainy, with temperatures sometimes dropping to freezing point, especially in the north. Summers are long and dry, with extremes of 37°C (99°F). For those not overly fond of the heat, the mountainous areas offer some respite as they receive more rain in summer, and even snow in winter. Greece can be divided into the northern and southern climatic regions:
Northern Macedonia and the northern part of Epiros have a climate similar to the Balkans, with freezing winters and very hot, humid summers. Attica's peninsula, the Southern Aegean Islands and the central and eastern Peloponnese have a typically Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and milder winters.
Snow covers the highest mountains during the winter, while the temperatures soar to 40°C (104°F) during July and August. During these months the meltemi, a strong northerly wind, sweeps the eastern coast of mainland Greece and the Aegean islands. The areas more to the south and to the west do not experience the meltemi.
Crete stays warm the longest - you can swim off its southern coast from mid-April to November. Lowland areas are typically Mediterranean, with summers which are hot and dry. Winters are mild, seldom experiencing frosts, and are characterised by low pressure fronts which skirt to the north bringing warm air from the African coast. Most of the rain falls during winter - especially in the mountains, which are prone to localised thunderstorms and strong winds. In May and September the average daytime temperature in the region of the White Mountains is around 22ºC (72ºF) though it is cooler at higher altitudes and as low as 8ºC (45ºF) on the highest summits. The summers are usually sunny and dry but sudden storms do occur in the mountains and you need to be prepared
The unit of currency in Greece is the Euro. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com. It is not necessary to purchase Euros outside the country. By far the easiest way to obtain money in the country is from ATMs using credit or debit cards. Debit cards linked to the plus or cirrus system are the cheapest way to obtain cash. If bringing your travel money with you we recommend this is carried in the form of cash US dollars or sterling. Please note that in Greece cashing travellers cheques is expensive, can only be cashed at banks, and most banks close at 2.00pm. Credit cards can be used to purchase goods and services and at most larger restaurants.
A valid passport is required. Visas are not required by UK, US or EC passport holders. Nationals of other countries not mentioned above should check the visa requirement with the relevant embassy in their own countries.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. No special vaccinations are required for Greece. UK residents should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling. The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip, because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only, and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK. You may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care. You can obtain an EHIC from the Department of Health by phone, online, or at the post office.
Additional Sources of Information
Greece. Lonely Planet.
Greece. Rough Guides Travel Guide.
Mountains of Greece. Cicerone Press. Tim Salmon
Mount Olympus - Hiking Map (Anavasi) 1:25,000
Crete - Harms Verlag: Scale. 1:100,000.