The question for many when trying to decide between Spain or Greece, is what separates these European holiday destinations from each other? Yet while both nations have similar climates and are great coastal destinations, each has its own distinct histories, cultures, sights to visit, and cuisines that set them apart.
After visiting each, we pit Spain vs Greece below. We compare both before looking at the sights to explore, the food you can try, what natural attractions you can see in each, as well some amazing towns and cities you should visit.
Greece or Spain: Which is the better vacation destination?
Both countries offer unique and exciting vacations, but which one is better depends on your priorities.
Where Greece really excels is on the coast, as it boasts over 6000 islands! Therefore if you’re looking for a holiday where beaches are the priority, then Greece will probably be the better choice. In our opinion, Greek beaches are better than Spanish ones, plus the weather and temperature is often more favourable for swimming and sunbathing.
Additionally, Greek islands often have a real rustic regional charm to them. These islands have incredibly rich histories too, and countless centuries-old architecture, some of which stretches back to Ancient Greece and beyond! For history and culture, very few places on earth can rival Greece.
However Spain is one of those countries that does give Greece a run for its money. This nation has a rich history and stunning architectural gems. Furthermore, cosmopolitan cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville are famous for their galleries, museums, and beauty.
In fact, when it comes to sightseeing Spain has it all. Every city and region of the country is packed with things to do and see. A trip to Seville or Barcelona, for example, can easily last a few days and you still won’t be bored.
The food scene is also good in Spain (home of iconic tapas), so if cuisine is top of your holiday list then Spain may be a better choice. The transport system is also very good, so traveling around the country is relatively easy.
In essence Spain is perfect for urban tourists, art and food lovers, but also has some great beaches and scenery – such as the Pyrenees mountain range. Cities like Barcelona and Marbella also have some nice beaches too.
In contrast, Greek cities and regions tend to have far less to do than their Spanish counterparts, and the transport system is not as efficient. That said, it is possible to travel cheaply between mainland Greece and the islands by air or ferry.
However Greece does win when it comes to cost. We’ve found that Greece tends to be a bit cheaper than Spain in regards to accommodation and eating out.
For us, Greece is also the better holiday destination if you’re looking for relaxation, time spent outdoors, and an island hopping adventure.
Below we look at some of the natural sights you will come across in Greece and Spain, as well as comparing their cuisines and cities!
Greece or Spain: Alluring natural wonders
With so many islands, it will come as little surprise to hear that Greece is packed with natural wonders.
The Ionian archipelago is a popular destination for tourists, and one of the best places to see nature at its greatest. Visit the Melissani Lake Cave on Kefalonia for an other-worldly experience. Situated 20 meters underground, you can explore this magical cave by rowing boat.
The island of Zakynthos has some of Greece’s best beaches, and is a popular destination because of that. Also named Zante, this island has a lively nightlife scene so is perfect for tourists who want to sunbathe and swim in the day, but dance and drink at night. Zante is also home to the Blue Caves, a series of underground waterways that wind their way into the coastline.
Of course Greece is packed with many stunning islands, and one of the best things about this country is the ability to island hop and discover your own favourite. One of ours is Milos, which is where the Venus de Milo was found! This gorgeous little volcanic island has dozens of beaches, breathtaking turquoise waters, and a friendly local population.
Mainland Greece also has some spectacular scenery that should be explored. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora in central Greece is well worth visiting. The atmospheric rock formations jut out of the ancient landscape, and sitting on top are centuries-old monasteries. They used to be reached by ladders, but can now be reached by foot via stairs. It’s a place which transports you back in time.
In fact mainland Greece is full of fantastic hiking trails – many long distance – that take you between ancient villages that have existed for generations. One of our favourites is the Menalon Trail, a 45 mile hike in south Greece that takes you between the picturesque mountain villages of Stemnitsa and Lagkadia.
Spain is a great holiday destination because you can easily enjoy a day at the beach and then spend that evening in one of the country’s iconic cities.
Some parts of Spain have gorgeous coastlines too. The protected coastline at Cabo de Gata (Andalusia) is wild, isolated and rarely frequented by tourists. Expect hidden coves, white sandy beaches, and dramatic cliffs in this national natural park.
Spain’s Costa de la Luz in the south has vast expanses of sand perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and a cocktail under blue skies. If you want something livelier, then head to the party island of Ibiza, where drinks, dancing and celebrity spotting is the aim of the game on the island’s most popular beaches.
If you’re feeling adventurous then get the ferry from Ibizia to Formentera – the smallest of Spain’s Balearic islands. The beaches here are beautiful and the water is crystal clear and Caribbean-esque. As it’s quite remote, there are very few tourists in comparison to other parts of Spain too.
If you pry yourself away from the coast you’ll find Spain has a huge amount to offer inland. Take a visit to El Tajo de Ronda – a spectacular gorge not far from the Costa del Sol, which has a town perched on the clifftop above. It almost looks like a movie set.
At the opposite end of the country is the majestic Pyrenees mountain range in the north. Made up of over 200 mountains that are over 3000 meters tall, this region is comprised of quaint villages in the foothills connected by some of Europe’s best hiking trails. It’s a great place to go camping too – as we’ve written about before.
Another set of Spanish mountains – the Cantabrians – make up part of the Somiedo Natural Park. This lush park, which was voted one of Spain’s seven natural wonders, is home to spectacular lakes, thick forest, and is a stronghold of the endangered Cantabrian brown bear.
Greece vs Spain: Fascinating cities and towns
Stepping away from package holiday resorts and into the cities and towns of Greece and Spain will give you a richer, cultural experience.
Greece excels when it comes to towns and islands with the ‘wow’ factor.
One of the islands which has that in abundance is Santorini. The two biggest towns here, Fira and Oia, hang on to the cliff-face of this volcanic island, and the buildings within them – whitewashed and often with blue-domed roofs – stand strikingly against the backdrop. It’s a must-visit place in Greece, but also one of the most popular places throughout the country being visited by around two million tourists per year!
The historic and ancient capital of Athens is well worth a night or two, and is home to iconic buildings such as the 5th century BC Acropolis and Parthenon. The museum at the Acropolis is full of artefacts from Ancient Greece and a must for any history buff.
Situated beside the Acropolis is our favorite area of Athens – Plaka. The quaint streets in this neighborhood wind their way up hilly slopes and are adorned with flower pots and tiny independent shops selling jewellery and clothes. With family-run taverns and boutique coffee shops, this is one of the best places in Athens – and Greece – to grab a bite to eat and watch the world go by.
The title of Greece’s most picturesque town could go to Agios Nikolaos – a little port settlement on the island of Crete. Surrounded by the sea on three sides, this town has several waterfronts which have a great selection of shopping and dining opportunities. The infamous ‘leper island’ of Spinalonga – which was in use up to 1957 as a quarantine center – is close by and can be visited from the town.
Spain is packed with beautiful towns that appear little-changed in centuries. However it’s the cities here that really pull in the crowds.
City breaks to the likes of Barcelona are popular throughout Europe due to the cosmopolitan feel, and perfect mix between old and modern.
The stunning Basilica of the Sagrada Familia should be one of your first visits in the city, followed by a walk around Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. Barcelona is also famous for its shopping, with Passeig de Gracia and the streets around it providing some of the best places to spend your money.
The capital of Andalusia, Seville, is popular and no wonder. Myth has it that this city was built by Hercules, and while that may not be true, the culture here is certainly Herculean. Seville is the home of Flamenco dancing and experiencing a show at the Tablao Flamenco Los Gallos will take your breath away. As the capital of Muslim Spain during the Al-Andalus period, Seville’s spectacular buildings from that time will transport you back in time too.
Nearby Córdoba was an important city during that period as well, and is famous for the immense La Mezquita mosque. However this city is also one of our favourites to visit due to its historic Old Town which is full of flowers, fountains, immaculate winding cobbled streets and lovely little eateries.
Greece or Spain: Tempting cuisines
The traditional food of Greece and Spain is a Mediterranean cocktail of the various civilizations that have inhabited these nations.
Like many Mediterranean cuisines, Greek food involves a lot of fresh vegetables, olive oil, grains, and a good dose of wine!
One of the most famous food exports from Greece is moussaka. This mincemeat and potato or eggplant dish is served everywhere in the country. It’s almost always guaranteed to be excellent in any family-run taverna.
Greece is famous for its dips, such as tzatziki – which is made up of garlic, yoghurt and cucumber – and fava, which is made from split peas.
To wash everything down, you must try Greece’s national drink, Ouzo. This strong liquor is made from aniseed, and is usually served with cold water which turns the clear drink a cloudy white.
Expect fresh vegetables, a lot of herbs, and a good amount of olive oil when eating out in Spain.
However, Spain’s most famous cuisine is surely tapas. This is a selection of appetizers that are served in both restaurants and bars, and will almost always include jamon iberico – an air-dried Spanish ham.
For hot days you should try gazpacho – a thick soup made from vegetables that is typically served cold.
There’s some good wine made in Spain, but a favourite holiday drink of many is Sangria. This punch is made up of red wine and chopped fruits, and sometimes other spirits depending on the house style of the bar or restaurant you’re in. It’s delicious, colorful and pairs well with tapas.
Greece or Spain: Which one should you choose?
Which country is the better destination depends entirely on what you want from your vacation.
If beaches are your priority then Greece will likely be a better holiday choice than Spain. Greece has over 6000 islands, and the coastline is spectacular. It also has great hiking opportunities, and tends to be cheaper than Spain.
Spain is perfect for tourists who love exploring cities, but also want to spend some time sunbathing and swimming. The opportunities for sightseeing are probably greater in Spain, and the food scene is arguably better than Greece too.
Recommended for your trip to Greece or Spain
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