You start early in the morning, from grey and boring Sofia, and by the early afternoon you are immersed in the mild bliss of the Mediterranean – Greece is so close to Bulgaria, that many prefer it for their vacation.
The distance is only a part of the reasons – there are many more. Take the climate, for example: in Greece you enjoy sun and sea from mid-May until the first days of October. Then, there is the geography. Greece's rugged coastline is full with beaches and coves, and the warm, calm waters of the sea are a balm to your sun-drenched skin. Mighty mountains, traditional villages and romantically derelict ancient sites complete the landscape with their charm.
The Greek cuisine also fits into the equation. The seafood is of diversity and quality unimaginable even in the best fish restaurant in Bulgaria, and the fresh catch is delivered daily to the kitchen of your favourite seaside restaurant.
Greece is incredibly diverse and each corner of the country has a specific character – even the tiniest island has a distinct face, a small universe of specific architecture, landscape, food, people.
The closest parts to Bulgaria, around the coast of the Aegean Sea and the feet of the Olympus mountain, are both easy to reach, and rewarding. The summer here is not that devastatingly hot, and the coastline of Chalkidiki Peninsula is a patchwork of quiet villages and isolated boutique hotels, of busy resorts and hectic night life, of green pine forests and white sand beaches. The sites in the area include the ruins of ancient Olynthos and of Stageira, where Aristoteles was born; the stone lion near Amphipolis, near a recently discovered giant tomb which was probably built for some royal person from the times of Alexander the Great.
The coastline near the Olympus is more tamed, but this area has other benefits. There, you are close to the mythological heart of Greece, the mountain where gods resided. On 21 June, near the village of Litochoro, you can see the annual meeting of the modern worshipers of ancient Greek gods. The remains of the Dion archaeological site, a former sacred city, the beautiful traditional village of Platamonas, and the ruins of a Venetian castle are all nearby.