World travelers visiting Greece tend to be attracted to its history, which is extensive. Archaeological sites have found artifacts going as far back as the Paleolithic Age (approx. 120,000 – 10,000 BC). Buildings and burial sites going back to the Neolithic Age (approx. 7,000 – 3,000 BC) have been found at locations such as Thessaly (Sesklo, Dimini), Macedonia, and the Peloponnese, among others. Then there’s the Geometric Period (9th to 8th century BC) that marked the formation of the Greek city-states, the creation of the Greek alphabet, and the creation of the Homeric epics. This, along with the Archaic Years (7th – 6th century BC) that marked the establishment of Greek colonies in locales as far as Spain to the west, the Black Sea to the north, and North Africa to the south.
No doubt, observers of the country’s ancient history most immediately think of the Greek icon Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC), who built an empire extending from Ancient Egypt to Persia – and at one point going into India (making the Greek Empire one of the largest in the ancient world). Eventually, the power and prestige that the Greek city-states wielded (highlighted by the rise of Alexander the Great) gave way to the Roman Empire, when Ancient Greece became part of it in 146 BC. The fall of the Roman Empire, replaced by the Byzantine Empire (330 – 1453 AD), saw not only the rise of Christianity within its domain but the replacement of Latin with Greek as the language of power, along with the transfer of power from Rome to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey).
The rise of the Ottoman Turks brought an extended dark period for the Greek people, starting with the fall of the Byzantine Empire (marked by the Ottomans’ conquest of Constantinople in 1453 AD, and eventually Greece itself). The tides of history started to turn in the Greek people’s favor when it organized and successfully fought a war of independence (launched in 1821), driving the Turks out of Greece by 1832 (with help from various countries, such as England, France and Russia). Greece reached its current territorial size by the end of World War II with the incorporation of the Dodecanese Islands (off the coast of Turkey).
These days, Greece’s rich history and warm climate help make tourism a major contributor to that country’s economy. As confirmed by the Greek government, tourism accounts for 18% of the country’s GDP. Greece has more than 15,000 kilometers of coastline, 190,000 beaches, and 6,000 islands and islets. In 2014, 18 .5 million tourists visited Greece. Approximately 85% of arrivals originate in Western Europe: 21.2% from the UK, 17.5% from Germany, 8.8% from Italy, 5.3% from France, 5.2% from Holland, and 7.5% from the Scandinavian countries. Increasingly, though, large numbers of visitors from Eastern Europe and China are making Greece their preferred destination, creating a wider base of origin countries and new demands for services, facilities, and attractions.