Think of Greece and a host of appealing images spring to mind.
Introduction to Greece
Think of Greece and a host of appealing images spring to mind. Idyllic beaches and crystal-clear seas.
Lazy lunches on a vine-shaded taverna terrace. Shady olive groves and honey-coloured ruins.
Whitewashed cottages and blue-domed churches gleaming against an impossibly clear sky.
Greece, officially known as the Hellenic Republic, lies in the Eastern Mediterranean and shares land borders with Albania, FYROM (Macedonia), Bulgaria and Turkey.
It's a peninsular country with an archipelago of thousands of islands, of which around 160 are inhabited.
Famed as the cradle of western civilisation and the birthplace of democracy, Greece has risen to prominence as a holiday destination in the last 20 years, attracting over 15 million visitors a year.
We the Greeks are especially fond of our country: Greece is now the first holiday choice for one in five British package holiday-makers, making it second only to Spain.
Greece appeals to different types of tourist, and only the most curmudgeonly could fail to find somewhere to suit their taste.
It's great for families, as the Greeks genuinely love children, who in turn enjoy the informal atmosphere.
It's perfect for hedonists, who can party until dawn and then crash out on the beach all day.
Nature-lovers can head off the beaten track and find themselves with only goats and backgammon-playing grandads for company.
Culture-lovers are blessed with an unmatchable wealth of monuments and ancient sites.
Sun-worshippers can lie back and appreciate the fact that Greece has more clean beach awards than any other EU country.
It's a favourite with couples because only the hardest of hearts could fail to feel romantic faced with such beautiful scenery and stunning sunsets.
And every budget is catered for, with accommodation ranging from the cheap and simple to luxury hotels and exclusive villas.
Greece is also blessed with a varied geography. The north is relatively unvisited - apart from the beach resorts of Halkidiki - yet it has dramatic mountain scenery, important archaeological sites, and Mount Olympos, mythological home of the gods.
There are pretty mountain villages in the Pelion Peninsula and the historical site of the Oracle at Delphi.
Central Greece has more Blue Flag beaches than anywhere else in the country, and down in the Peloponnese there are more fine beaches and dramatic mountain gorges.
But for many people, Greece means the islands in all their variety. Some have stayed simple and traditional; some are now decidedly upmarket.
Some have gone all-out to get the package pound; others have preferred to keep tourism more discreet.
All this plus plentiful sunshine, hospitable locals, a relaxed atmosphere and value for money. It's small wonder that Greece has become such a firm favourite.