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GREECE: Culture

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In Greece's summertime schedule, beach-side days melt through spectacular sunsets into starry, disco-filled nights, in a continuum of hedonistic delight. Roll out of bed and onto the beach around noon; nap in the late afternoon after strenuous sunbathing; head for a harbour side dinner at 11pm; throw back after-dinner drinks, catch a movie, or hit the clubs until 5am, all under the stars; watch the sun rise over the ocean; and hit the hay before another sun-drenched day. It's nearly impossible to resist the allure of Greek sun and sea. The islands have long been a sun worshiper's paradise, from Apollo's followers to disciples of Coppertone. As soon as you sail from Athens to the Saronic Gulf Islands , the roasting Greek sun will bronze your (entire) body and release your inhibitions. A favourite of international vacationers, Skiathos in the Sporades harbours the piney Biotrope of Koukounaries beach and magical Lalaria. Use your Greece cell phone rental to keep safe while visiting Greece.

In the Aegean Sea , Santorini's blacksand beaches soak up the sun's hot rays and stay warm long after the stunning sunsets over the Sea of Crete have faded. Swim below sea caves once ransacked by pirates on the coast of Skyros or bask on the Lesvian shore, where beaches stretch out for miles from Sappho's home of Skala Eressou. Stumble out of all those superfluous clothes at Mykonos's wild, nude Super Paradise Beach . If your eyes get tired of all those bare backsides, seek solace on a secluded strip of sand. The much-beloved haunt of booze-loving backpackers, Corfu , is ringed by fabulous beaches on all sides, in addition to hosting that legendary party haven, the Pink Palace . Snorkel, water-ski, or just loaf in the sun on Ios and Naxos . Perfect your tan around Paleohora in Crete or at castle-crowned Haraki Beach in Rhodes .

Greece isn't just Athens , islands, bars, and babes. If you have enough self-discipline to tear yourself away from the fun in the sun, you'll soon realize that a wilderness experience can be just as invigorating. To do so, you'll have to either bust out your walking stick or rev up your engines. Hiking or motorbiking-or a combination of the two-lets you cruise between rural villages independent of constantly changing bus schedules. On foot, you'll cross through foothills draped with olive groves, passing mountain goats and wildflowers along the way. Drowsy Dimitsana and cobblestoned Stemnitsa distinguish themselves from the tourist bustle ofthe rest of the Peloponnese .

In the Ionian Sea , Odysseus's kingdom of Ithaka is an untapped hiker's paradise, where the Cave of the Nymphs-the hiding place for Odysseus's treasure and the conclusion of an enthralling hike-will seduce you. Northern Thassos is full of secluded ruins, superior hikes, and village-to-village strolls. Rural Alonnisos, a largely uninhabited island in the Sporades , is crisscrossed by trails and moped-friendly roads, and hugged by beaches ideal for refueling after a fatiguing hike. Outlying islands are protected as part of the National Marine Park and make for a pleasant daytrip.

The untouched traditional Greek villages of the Zagorohoria and their surrounding wilderness make walking an adventure. The neighboring Vikos Gorge, the world's steepest canyon, challenges hikers with a six-hour-Iong trek. You can explore more gorgeous gorges in Crete : the Samaria Gorge, Europe's longest gorge, and the quieter Valley of Death plunge you below eagles' nests and trees clinging to the steep canyon sides. Use your international cellular phone rentals to discover Greece.

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