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In the mood to break plates, drink some ouzo, and yell, “Opa!”? Then Greece is the perfect destination for you. This Mediterranean country has everything from ancient heritage sites and museums to traditional festivities and fantastic cuisine.

But how much do you actually know about Greek geography, history, culture, traditions, and mythology?

These facts about Greece will give you insight into the country and its people so you can travel like a local on your Greek adventure. So, get ready for some interesting tidbits that might inspire you to hop on the internet and book a flight.

18 Fun Facts About Greece You Might Not Know

Got your cup of Greek coffee and a tasty baklava ready? Let’s dive into this beautiful Mediterranean country’s fascinating history, mythology, traditions, and more.

Sunset in Meteora, Greece

1. Greece Is One of the Most Mountainous Countries in the World

When you think about Greece, you’ll probably conjure up postcard-perfect images of sandy beaches, romantic Greek islands, and the glistening Mediterranean Sea. But did you know that Greece is one of the most mountainous countries in the whole world?

Almost 80% of the country is made up of mountains. The iconic Mount Olympus is not only the tallest peak in Greece but also the highest mountain in the entire Balkan Peninsula. Mount Olympus is also linked to Greek mythology, and ancient Greeks believed it to be the home of the gods.

2. Greece’s Actual Name Is the Hellenic Republic

The English-speaking world might refer to the country as Greece, but its official name is actually the Hellenic Republic. Locals call it “Hellas” or “Hellada,” pronounced with silent H. They also don’t refer to themselves as Greeks, but rather “Hellenes.”

Olympic Sign

3. The First Olympic Games Were Hosted in Ancient Greece

You probably already know that the first modern version of the Olympic Games was hosted in Athens in 1896. But technically, the very first Olympic Games took place in ancient Greece in 776 BC.

The events were very different from the Olympics we know today. It included chariot racing, wrestling, mule-cart races, and even musical and poetry competitions. And here’s a quirky bonus fact — in the ancient games, athletes competed completely naked.

4. The Greek National Anthem Is the Longest in the World

In 1823, the famed poet Dionysios Solomos was so inspired by his countrymen’s dedication to Greece’s struggle for independence that he wrote the epic poem “Hymn to Liberty.” It was set to music and became the country’s official national anthem in 1865.

The poem has 158 verses, making it the longest national anthem in the world by length of text. Luckily, the adapted version used as the anthem only uses the poem’s first two stanzas. If you were to sing the entire 158 verses, it would take around 52 minutes to finish the song.

Tourist in Athens, Greece

5. There Are More Tourists Than Locals in Greece

Greece is a bucket list destination for many people, and the country attracts a large number of visitors.

In 2022, the Greek population was estimated to be 10,38 million. In the same year, it was recorded that around 27,8 million tourists visited Greece. So, this means that there are more tourists than locals in Greece on any given day.

Olive Tree Branch

6. Greece Has Millions of Olive Trees

One thing is for sure — in Greece, olives have more meaning than simply being a savory snack. In Greek mythology, the olive tree symbolizes wisdom, peace, and prosperity gifted to Athens by the goddess Athena.

It’s definitely brought prosperity to Greece over the centuries, as the country’s top-quality olives and olive oil are in high demand internationally, especially in the European Union and Mediterranean markets.

There are over 120 million olive trees in the country, so it’s easy to understand why Greece is among the world’s top five producers of olive oil. Estimates state that the country produces around 1.2 metric tons of olive oil annually.

And here’s one of the most interesting facts about the olive trees — many were planted in the 13th century and still bear fruit today.

7. Feta Cheese Is a Big Deal in Greece

Staying on the topic of the country’s authentic produce, feta cheese is a big deal in Greece, too. It’s considered the national cheese, and is a versatile and commonly used ingredient in Greek cuisine.

Feta doesn’t only play a role in the Mediterranean diet but also in the country’s economy. Greece’s signature feta is exported to the US, France, Germany, and other Western countries.

Elafonisi Beach in Greece

8. Greece Has Beaches With Pink Sand

Crete is the largest island in Greece and has some of the most stunning beaches in the entire country. But Elafonissi Beach and Balos Beach stand out above the rest when it comes to uniqueness and beauty.

These two pink sand beaches in Crete have unusual salmon-colored shorelines caused by centuries of crushed shells and corals being washed ashore.

9. Greek Is One of the World’s Oldest Living Languages

Greek has been spoken since ancient times, and even though it doesn’t have an exact age, it’s considered one of the oldest living languages in the world.

Linguists estimate that the Greek language can be traced back somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 years, making it the oldest spoken language in Europe.

Combined with the Greek alphabet, it also earned the title of being the world’s oldest written language. Today, around 13 million people speak Greek.

Navagio Beach, Greece

10. Greece Comprises of Thousands of Islands

Greece is known for its many stunning islands, but the exact count of how many islands are part of the Greek archipelago differs depending on who you ask. Going by official government standards, the country recognizes and administers 6,000 islands and islets scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas.

Of these, only 227 islands are inhabited, ranging from tourist hotspots like beautiful Santorini and Mykonos to tiny isles like Halki, the smallest inhabited Greek island.

Athens, Greece aerial view

11. There Are Many Ancient Historic Sites To See

No trip to Greece is complete without exploring its historic sites, of which there are more than in any other country. To narrow it down, you should prioritize the 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered around Greece for your visit.

This includes iconic sites like the Acropolis in Athens, the medieval city of Rhodes, and the Archaeological Site of Olympia, to name a few. Try to squeeze visits to as many as possible into your Greece itinerary, as each heritage site is renowned worldwide for its historical and cultural significance.

12. Greece Has an Abundance of Archaeological Museums

Speaking of historical and cultural significance, visiting its famous archaeological museums is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Greece. Considering its rich history, it comes as no surprise that Greece has more archaeological museums than any other country — 208, to be exact.

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens has one of the world’s most extensive collections of historic artifacts. This is probably the best option if you only have time to visit one museum. Keep in mind that the museum is massive, and the best way to make sure you see all the highlights is by booking a private tour.

Sunset at Hydra, Greece

13. Wheels Are Banned in One Specific Greek Island

Hydra is one of those picture-perfect Greek islands you see on postcards. But what sets it apart is that the island banned all motorized vehicles, including cars, motorbikes, quad bikes, mopeds, and even bicycles with engines.

Locals rely on mules, miniature horses, and donkeys for transportation, which makes sense considering how steep, narrow, and difficult to navigate the streets are.

14. Greece Closes on Sundays

As you might know, Greece is a religious country and a significant part of the population has a strong connection to the Greek Orthodox Church. Many businesses and shops don’t open their doors on Sundays, as it is seen as a day of worship, rest, and spending time with loved ones.

Evil Eye on a Wall

15. The Evil Eye Is Part of Greek Culture

Even though Greece is known to be a religious country, the ancient Greeks were highly superstitious, and some of their traditions have stood the test of time. To this day, most Greeks believe in the Evil Eye, or “mati,” a force of negative energy that brings harm or misfortune into your life.

Many people wear a blue and white charm or pendant in the shape of an eye to protect themselves from this negative energy. The reason for this is that a Greek myth states the color blue is believed to have protective qualities.

Interestingly, this is also why so many buildings in Greece have blue windows or roofs, as this was thought to repel evil spirits from your house.

16. The Yo-Yo Was Invented in Ancient Greece

Now, here’s a random fun fact that even your Greek friends might not know —everyone’s favorite classic toy, the yo-yo, is believed to have been invented in ancient Greece. You can see images of children playing with the toy on vases that are dated as far back as the fifth century.

Greek history scholars believe that the toy was not only used as a coming-of-age gift for boys but also as an offering to the gods. At the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, you can see some examples of these ancient toys that were originally made from terracotta or wood.

Sleeping Seal on a Rock

17. The Mediterranean Monk Seal Is Part of Greece’s Cultural Heritage

As a country, Greece has a strong connection with the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal. This endemic marine species has been part of Greek culture since it was mentioned in the Greek epic, “The Odyssey,” composed by the poet Homer in the eighth century.

Depictions of the Mediterranean monk seal have also been found on coins that date back to 500 BC. These animals are a large part of Greece’s natural and cultural heritage, so it’s incredibly sad that only about 250 of these seals are left today.

18. Wearing High Heels Is Illegal in Certain Greek Places

In 2009, Greece adopted a law that states it’s illegal to wear high heels when touring ancient monuments like the Parthenon and the Acropolis in Athens or any other historic site.

The law makes sense, as you don’t want to harm these historical heritage sites. Plus, walking in heels on cobblestones is exactly how broken ankles happen. If you do prance around on your stilettos, you’ll be issued a fine or even get placed under arrest.

Blue Caves in Greece

18 Interesting Facts About Greece | Wrapped Up

Well, there you have it — a roundup of some of Greece’s most interesting tidbits and quirks. Hopefully, you’ve learnt some new fun facts about this gorgeous country and its people.

If you’re visiting Greece, you can use this information to ensure that you are mindful of culture and traditions and maybe even impress some locals with your knowledge.

18 Interesting Facts About Greece | History, Mythology & More
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