Greece is one of the most popular destinations in Europe for its beautiful beaches, tasty food, and unique culture. Yet, there are some fun facts about Greece and its amazing history you should know before you go! Let us take you from the modern-day all the way back to ancient Greece and tell you some things about this country you may not know.
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Greece Travel Inspiration
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Why Did We Write 30 Fun Facts About Greece?
Well, that’s simple… We LOVE Greece. It’s easily one of our favorite countries in the world and somewhere we find ourselves at the beginning of every summer in Europe.
While we of course go for the stunning beach towns and islands, there is so much more to explore in this fabulous country. So join us for some fun facts and the unbelievable ancient history of Greece.
Quick Greece Facts
- Official Name: Hellenic Republic
- Currency: Euro
- Population: 10.7 Million
- Capital: Athens
- Language: Greek
- Main Religion: Greek Orthodox
Fun Facts About Modern Greece, Nature, & Lifestyle
Before we get into some of the incredible history and Greece facts, you should know some of the basics! Greek life is one of the most fun and relaxed we’ve ever experienced and there is clearly a reason for it. Can you imagine living in such a beautiful country?
1. Greece Has Over 6,000 Islands
We all know Greece is filled with endless islands, but 6,000?? Holy moly! While just over 200 of these islands are inhabited, it’s still one of the most impressive Greece facts to know.
Of these islands, there are 6 well-known groupings including the Ionian Islands, Cyclades, Sporades, the Dodecanese, Saronic Islands, and North Aegean Islands. All have their own unique cultures and traditions for you to explore.
2. Fun in the Sun
The country of Greece gets more than 250 days of sun per year making it one of the sunniest places in Europe! This means even in the off-season months outside of peak summer you can swim in the crystal clear ocean.
3. Greece is Full of Mountains
Greece may be known for its stunning beaches, but did you know its land is 80% mountains? This is one of our favorite facts about Greece as we’ve driven through some of these massive mountains and seen them firsthand.
Mount Olympus is the highest peak in Greece standing at almost 3,000 meters high. It’s no wonder ancient Greece history has this as the home of the gods and Zeus’s throne.
4. Diverse Animals
You may be surprised to find out that Greece actually has the highest biodiversity of any country in Europe! That’s right. Hiding behind all those islands and historical sites are a very diverse group of animals and flora.
Greece is home to around 450 species of birds! There is everything from Brown Bears to Eurasian Lynx, and several types of wild goats. You’ll even find sea turtles and dolphins off the coasts of the islands.
Out of all the species on Greece’s biggest island, there is apparently no harmful animals on Crete… Check out more fun facts about Crete here!
5. Third Largest Producer of Olives
Speaking of nature, one of the most important plants in Greece is the olive tree! In fact, Greece is the 3rd largest producer of olives in the world behind Spain and Italy.
As soon as you take a bite into a Greek olive you’ll see why they’re so famous. The other good news is that olives lead to olive oil, and Greece has some of the best we’ve ever tried!
6. Mandatory Military Service
Starting in 1914, all men in Greece from the ages of 19 to 45 must serve in the armed forces. The term is for a minimum of 9 months and women are alowwed to volunteer.
7. The Color Blue
If you have been to the Cyclades then you’ve seen a particular shade of blue. This traditional paint color is on the doors and rooftops of houses from Mykonos to Santorini.
Not only does it look gorgeous against the white-washed buildings, but it also is supposed to ward off evil spirits! In addition to churches and homes, turquoise blue has been used on everything from jewelry to weapons.
8. Greek Coffee Keeps You Healthy
If you’ve never had a Greek coffee before you’re in for a real treat! This special coffee is made from ground Arabic beans and is stronger than your usual cup of joe. The taste is similar to Turkish coffee and goes perfectly with the slow-paced Greek lifestyle.
It’s so strong it’s often served with water on the side so you can understand why they sip it slowly throughout the day! The best part is many studies have shown boiled Greek coffee is great for the heart and cardiovascular health.
9. Living Long on the Island of Ikaria
This leads us to the next of our fun facts about Greece! The tiny Aegean island of Ikaria is home to just 8,000 residents that are known for having some of the longest life spans in the world! So what’s their secret?
A balanced Mediterranean diet is proven to add years to your life. The active lifestyle, climate, and religious fasts have also been said to play a part.
With Ikarian’s propensity to live past 90 (and often well into their hundreds) they’ve been dubbed as one of only five Blue Zones where people live the longest around the world.
10. Different Colored Beaches
One of our favorite fun facts about Greece is how many different colored beaches it has! We’ve seen everything from red and black beaches of Santorini to the pink sands of Crete! Crete actually has 2 pink sand beaches if you can believe it.
11. Feta is White Gold
Feta cheese is one of the most delicious things to come out of Greece and we can’t get enough! Honestly, we probably ate a greek salad a day and each one came with a giant block of feta on top.
Feta is one of the oldest cheeses in the world and is made from sheep or goat’s milk. Its ancient roots in the history of Greece date back to Homer’s Oddysey when it was created accidentally by the son of Poseidon.
12. Raki, Ouzo, Souma, and Other Local Liquors
Oh boy… Where do we start with this one? Ouzo and Raki are two of the most popular liquors in Greece and something that many patrons drink with every meal. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, they may drink it throughout the meal on ice, or just afterward as a digestant.
Ouzo is seen as Greek while Raki is a bit stronger and has its origins in Turkey. Souma is made from grapes and you can find it drank widely around islands like Rhodes. Any way you slice it, these local liquors will throw you for a loop!
13. Greek Orthodox
Over 90% of the Greek population follows the Christian Orthodox religion. Religion plays an important role in their culture and Greece history in general.
On the mainland to the most far-reaching islands, you will find churches from every beach to mountaintop. One of our favorite chapels is in the tiny village of Monolithos Rhodes and was built in 1480.
Fun Facts About Greece History
Now that you know a little bit about the lifestyle and food, it’s time to learn about the history of Greece! Greece’s history is best seen in its many sites, museums, and ancient legends. Hopefully, these facts about Greece will show you why it’s one of the most fascinating countries to visit in Europe!
14. Pirates Loved Mykonos
We were shocked to learn that one of the most popular vacation islands in the world used to be a pirate hangout! Once upon a time, Mykonos was part of a very important trading route connecting parts of Europe and Asia.
Starting with the Turkish rule over Greece in the 16th century, Pirates were known to frequent the island of Mykonos. Like with many Greek islands, the small alleyways wind like a maze so it was easy for invading pirates to get lost!
15. Oldest Inhabited Medieval City
The centerpiece of one of our favorite Greek islands is the magnificent Old Town of Rhodes. This ancient city was built inside the walls of a fortress and is STILL a place where 6,000 people work and live.
Ever since the arrival of the Knights of St. John in 1309, Rhodes Old Town has been a bustling environment of shops, bars, and restaurants. What an amazing experience it is to explore the oldest inhabited medieval city in all of Europe!
16. Oldest Capital City in Europe
In addition have the oldest inhabited medieval city, Greece also has the oldest capital city in Europe. We should probably apologize that it took us this long to mention the great city of Athens!
Its influence didn’t just play a massive role in the history of Greece, but rather the entire world. And it’s easy to see why, as Athens is over 3,400 years old.
17. Eighteen Unesco World Heritage Sites
While we’re on the topic of Athens, you should know that it’s home to the world-famous Acropolis! This is just one of 18 amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites you can visit around Greece. These include both the mainland and islands, as the mind-boggling history of Greece can be seen across the country.
Some of our other favorite historical sites are actually entire old towns on different islands. You can explore these historic centers on the islands of Corfu, Rhodes, and Patmos. Also, check out a few more of our favorite UNESCO sites around the world below.
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- Exploring Albania’s Incredible Butrint National Park
- Get Familiar with Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor
- 10 Reasons You Can’t Miss Old Town in Phuket Thailand
18. Santorini is an Active Volcano
Did you know that Greece’s most famous island is actually an active volcano? This may be one of the more shocking Greece facts on this list as Santorini draws in nearly 2 million visitors every year.
The caldera of Santorini surrounds 2 smaller volcanic islands that are uninhabited. Although the Santorini volcano hasn’t erupted since 1950, it’s never out of the question.
19. Ancient Greeks ate Lying Down
Ever want to eat in bed, but feel kind of dirty doing so? Well, you should know that the ancient Greeks ate lying down! It was a sign of power and luxury to eat on your back or side. So just know when you’ve seen all those people being fed grapes in the movies it was real!
20. Influence on Rome
Eating lying down was one of the many things the Romans took from ancient Greece, but it certainly wasn’t the only one! Romans copied everything from arts and science to trading and banking, and of course philosophy.
However, the most important thing the Romans got from the Greeks was their gods. They may have altered their names but the stories and legends were very similar!
21. Alexander the Great
One of the wildest facts about Greece has to do with the famous Alexander the Great. The King from Macedonia did his best to conquer the world. In just 13 short years, his empire covered over 3,000 miles stretching from Greece to India.
22. Greek Mythology
We touched briefly in our Greece facts about mythology but it honestly may need its own article! The legends of each character are interwoven within society and helped shape Greek civilization.
From romance to the weather and everything in between, Greek mythology is storytelling at its finest!
23. Greeks Invented the Yo-Yo
The yo-yo is the 2nd oldest toy in the world after the doll! (We’ll give you one guess where it’s from… haha). The first depiction of the yo-yo was all the way back in 5th century B.C. and it eventually spread in popularity through China and other places.
24. Over 10,000 Traditional Dances
This number may be startling but it’s true. Greece has over 10,000 traditional dances! This is one of our favorite fun facts about Greece as it combines history, dance, and music as a perfect display of Greek culture.
With how popular dancing is in Greece it should come as no surprise that Athens has 152 performance theatres. Two of the most popular traditional dances are Sirtaki and Hasapiko, but you now know there are so many more.
25. Most Archaeological Museums
With its endless historical sites comes an abundance of great museums. In fact, Greece has the most archaeological museums of any country in the world! There are more than 100 museums all focusing on this special aspect of the history of Greece.
26. Marathon Race
Many of the world’s greatest sporting events began in Greece and that includes the Marathon! Legend has it, Pheidippides ran 150 miles from Marathon to Sparta to help fight the Persians. Once the Greeks won he then ran ANOTHER 25 miles to Athens to proclaim the victory. What a hero!
27. The Olympics Started in Greece
Looking for more athletics? Well, one of the more well-known facts about Greece is it’s the home of the Olympics! The Olympics began in 776 BC in Olympia Greece.
Unfortunately, the Romans banned the games in 393 to promote Christianity and it took them over 1,500 years to return! The first modern-day Olympics took place in Athens in 1896.
28. Beginnings of Democracy
After reading all of this history of Greece did you think we were going to leave out politics? The democracy started in Greece in 5th Century Athens.
This was one of the first types of self-rule government in the world. The early Greek democracy was also one in which all citizens were required to participate in. This form of government influenced modern-day politics and voting!
29. One of Oldest Languages in the World
By now you’ve heard a lot of the “oldest ever” in this Greece facts article… We’re almost done! The Greek language is over 3,400 years old, making it the oldest language in Europe.
Many of the world’s most popular languages stem from Greek including English, German, Italian, and Spanish. Now you know why it’s referred to as the mother of all languages!
30. Hippies Lives in Caves on Crete
For the last of our fun facts about Crete, we’re going back to the 1960’s! It was then that hippies started living in caves in the beach town of Matala Crete. These free love years inspired the song “Carey” written by its most famous resident Joni Mitchell. Interestingly enough, the caves these hippies were living in were originally Roman burial tombs!
Have any questions on these 30 fun facts about Greece or want to share your own favorite history of Greece? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Greece Travel Planning
When island hopping use FerriesinGreece to compare different routes, prices, and companies.
Rental Car: You can book a rental car for around $20 a day in Greece! We use Discover Cars to explore the larger islands with a vehicle.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.