Greece is a deeply religious country and accordingly celebrating Christmas in Athens is a solemn occasion centered around family and the Greek Orthodox church. Celebrations may be more muted than ever in 2013 following several years of austerity.
Greece is primarily considered a summer destination but there are plenty of reasons to visit over winter. Prices are cheaper and temperatures are reasonable, at around 52°F (11°C) in Athens. Visiting Greece in winter also means that the lack of crowds at the major attractions makes sightseeing more relaxed.
Corfu sits off the west coasts of both Greece and Albania in the Ionian Sea, an island carpeted with olive groves and with pockets of modern beach resorts scattered around the coastline. There’s plenty to do on Corfu for cruise visitors; catch a taxi from the cruise port to spend the day on one of dozens of beaches, head for a pampering spa in a classy beach hotel or hike along way-marked paths through the olive groves.
Rhodes is in the Dodecanese Islands and is most famous for the hard-partying clubs of Faliraki and the World Heritage-listed tangle of backstreets in the medieval Old Town of Rhodes. But there’s plenty more for cruise visitors to do on Rhodes shore excursions: lie back on one of the long crescents of beach, clamber through the ruins of the Knights Hospitaller castle at Kritinías or sample local white wines at vineyards up in the hills around Empona.
Olympia is world-famous as the site of the first Olympic Games, held 3,000 years ago, but it was originally built as the holiest and wealthiest shrine in ancient Greece. Pilgrams came from across the Greek Empire to worship in the temples to Zeus and his wife Hera in the temples and shrines of the Atlis (Sanctuary of the Gods). Guided day trips make visiting Olympia from Athens pleasurable and easy.
The ancient site of Olympia is world-famous as the birthplace of the Olympic Games, first held around 3,000 years ago, but it was originally the holiest and wealthiest shrine in ancient Greece. People flocked here from all over the empire to worship in the temples to Zeus and his wife Hera in the Atlis (Sanctuary of the Gods), a tree-lined sacred complex once crammed with sacrificial altars, temples, shrines and magnificent brass and marble statues.