Turkey vs. Greece: Which is best to travel?

by author David Jones

Turkey and Greece are both Mediterranean countries with gorgeous coastlines and warm sunny weather. While Greece more popular as a tourist destination, Turkey is currently attracting a lot of attention. More and more people are discovering the hidden beauty of Turkey and wondering why they even considered Greece! There’s no comparison in terms of ancient history, but if you’re looking for a bargain, then Turkey is best. Despite the many similarities between Greece and Turkey, each offers unique specialties for a fun and memorable experience. Take a look at this comprehensive comparison between Greece and Turkey, to figure out which one is best for you.

Currency and Cost of Living

Greece is a part of the European Union, and therefore, their money is the Euro. While Turkey is closely connected to Europe, it is not part of the European Union, and the official Turkish currency is the Lira. As a result of their close ties to Europe, The Euro is sometimes accepted in Turkey. However, it is recommended to use the local currency wherever possible. This works out to be more cost-effective and convenient, particularly in the case of smaller costs such as transport. If you pull out a wad of Euros, you are likely to be charged more than if you paid in Lira.

Turkey has a lower cost of living than Greece, making the country better for a budget-friendly holiday. On a small budget trip, travelers can expect to pay an average of $10 per day in Turkey. This includes transport and activities but does not add the estimated $13 for hotels or $2.16 for food. On the other hand, tourists will pay approximately $47 per day in Greece! This is over and above the typical $44 for accommodation and $13 for meals. All in all, Turkey is a cheaper holiday!

Safety and Crime

Turkey and Greece are not high rankings on the list of countries plagued with violent crime. Although Turkey has seen an increase in drug-related crimes, these mostly involve theft, and overall, Turkey’s ranked as highly safe. However, travelers are advised to stay well away from the Syrian border, where terrorists currently pose a severe threat.  According to numbeo.com, statistically, Turkey is 76% safe to walk alone during the day and 50% safe at night.

Greece is ranked as safer overall statistically found to be 80% safe for daytime solo walks, and 57% at night. Every country has crime, so it pays to be vigilant and especially on the lookout for pickpockets. Tourists tend to stick out like a sore thumb, so keep your valuables close while you wander around. It is unlikely that you would be mugged in Greece or Turkey, but scam artists are found in every city on the planet. Scams usually take on a particular trend in an area, so read up on your chosen location to find out what to avoid.

Public Transport

It’s easy to get around Turkey and Greece, as both countries offer reliable public transport. As a smaller country, it will be easier to see more of Greece in a shorter amount of time. The Greek bus system can reach even the smallest of villages in the country, as well as inner-city transport.  There are taxis available, too, and they are typically cheaper than the rest of Europe. Ferries and hydrofoils (small boats) offer public transportation from the mainland to the smaller islands. Athens provides a metro, which was upgraded in 2004. The public transport in Greece is of a high standard.

Turkey also offers excellent public transport in major cities, including buses, trams, minibusses, and taxis. All Turkish cities offer local buses which are super cheap and reliable too. The minibusses are used as an alternative to a taxi and are typically more affordable as they run along set routes. The minibusses are public, so you cannot book them or reserve one for yourself. Turkey’s metro system is still growing, but the underground trains are available in most major cities. There are also trams in several of the big Turkish cities, which run above ground and offer a convenient mode of transportation.

Outdoor Activities

Greece and Turkey both offer a wide range of exciting outdoor activities for memories that will last a lifetime. Each of the countries has long, beautiful coastlines, meaning that several fun seaside activities can be enjoyed. Travelers can choose to rent sailboats, take sailing classes, or even pay for a skipper to charter the turquoise bays. Sea kayaking, surfing, and scuba diving are also popular in both Turkey and Greece, as is windsurfing. For the adventurous, there is also rafting, skydiving, and paragliding available, all with breathtaking views! Turkey and Greece boast mountains and valleys perfect for rock climbing and hiking trails of different lengths. In winter, it is even possible to ski in both destinations, as the mountainous regions experience generous snowfalls.

In terms of unique tourist attractions, Turkey is famous for its hot air balloon rides, which are available almost year-round. As for Greece, travelers can take a wine-tasting Jeep Safari Tour up Mount Olympus to sample the world-renowned wines. Another unique attraction in Turkey is the Cleopatra Pool, featuring bubbling waters, at the Pamukkale Hot Springs. While there are hot springs in Greece, none of them feature the “champagne water” that Cleopatra pool is famous for. Turkey and Greece offer a similar range of outdoor activities, but Greece also provides several small tropical islands.

Climate and Tourist Season

With Istanbul and Athens only separated by 350 miles, the climate of these two countries is very similar. As the tourist season is based mainly on seasonal sunshine, this means that the regions attract travelers at the same time. The best time to visit Greece or Turkey is during spring, which begins mid-April and enters early summer by mid-June. Peak tourist season takes place from early summer through to the September autumn. After this, another shoulder season with good weather is popular until mid-October. By avoiding peak season, you can save money and avoid the crowds, making for a more pleasant holiday all round.

Another reason to avoid the Greek and Turkish summers are that temperatures typically reach a high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Weather in the region is typical of the Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and cool wet winters. As the rainy season coincides with winter, this means that fun in the sun is practically guaranteed. Even spring and autumn offer clear skies and a beautiful warm temperature, perfect for holiday relaxation. As a general guideline, the further south you go, the better your chance of good weather.

Beautiful Scenery

Greece is famous for its pristine beaches, clear blue seas, and idyllic white and blue houses of Santorini. Overall, Greece is usually considered the more beautiful of the two countries due to its charming architecture and vivid colors. When comparing the two countries visually, it is striking to see the white sands, lush foliage, and turquoise oceans of Greece. However, Turkey’s less-populated beaches are equally beautiful, so perhaps Greece’s reputation for beauty is only because of its overall fame. In terms of natural scenery, the countries both offer heavenly views of both mountains and oceans.

When it comes to the urban areas, though, Greece wins hands down. The neatly placed and neat Greek buildings offer a stunning contrast between ancient and modern architecture. There is simply something special about urban Greece in comparison to urban Turkey, which appears quite typical at first glance. However, Turkey has the advantage of Eastern appeal, and it’s older cities are just as charming as Greece. Even though Greece is the wealthier country, both Greece and Turkey are well kept and clean in urban areas.

History and Culture

Ancient Greece is known as the cradle of western civilization, and for this reason, Greece attracts more tourists than Turkey. Greece is also famous for its philosophers, most notably Plato and Aristotle. Tours of Athens offer a unique glimpse into the ancient Academy of Plato. There are also several sites showcasing Greek mythology, a must-see for story lovers and spiritualists alike. Mount Olympus, temples, and sacred sites all pay tribute to the incredible Greek mythological culture and history. The Parthenon, too, is an iconic architectural landmark for which Greece is famous.

Turkey is less well-known for its history and culture. However the country offers a unique and fascinating experience none-the-less. Bordering both Europe and Asia, Turkey is known and loved for its blend of Eastern and Western culture. The 4000-year-old country is an eclectic montage of culture and religion, displayed in the many architectural landmarks. These days, Turkey is known as one of the top destinations to experience the contemporary art scene. Home to the whirling dervishes of Sufism, Turkey offers a combination of ancient and modern culture.

Architecture and Art

With the Parthenon and numerous sculptures of Greece, this country is a clear winner in terms of historical architecture and art. The Greeks were pioneers in the realm of art history, the first to produce realistic sculptures of the human figure. The National Archeological Museum of Athens is one of the most famous museums in the world and showcases priceless artifacts. A must-see exhibit is the Artemision Poseidon, a sculpture made in 460 BC that was found on the ocean floor. Experts have debated whether the sculpture represents Poseidon or Zeus, but the statue is gorgeous either way.

While less famous than Greece, Turkey also has a lot to see by way of architecture and art. The beautiful Blue Mosque in Istanbul is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey. The mountain of Nemrut is the site of a 62BC  tomb built by King Antiochus I Theos of Turkey. The sacred place was decorated with gigantic statues of the king as well as Greek and Persian deities. Over time the heads of the figures have fallen to the ground, making for a surreal view. A popular tourist attraction is to view the scattered heads at sunset for an added ambiance.

Cuisine and Beverages

The Turkish and the Greeks know how to eat in style, with both countries offering mouthwatering deserts and Mediterranean delicacies. Due to the close proximity of the regions, there is a lot of overlap in traditional cuisine, but also country-specific novelties. Both Greece and Turkey are famous for their Baklava, a delicious dessert made from layers of phyllo pastry. The Mediterranean countries are also well known for their mezze platters, which consist of several small dishes and dips. Mezze is typically eaten as appetizers, and often include the tasty dolmades as well as tzatziki and hummus.

Both Turkey and Greece produce high-quality wine, with Greece offering Retsina wine, which has been used for over 2000 years. Also known for its olives, olive oil, feta, and salads, Greece provides a delicious dining experience for any food lover. Turkey is known for the Doner kebab, which is a meat-based dish on a skewer. Each of the countries has its style of coffee, with Greece taking credit for the Frappe. Sweet and spicy Turkish coffee pairs well with Turkish Delight for which the country is famous. Each state also boasts a delicious halva dessert, which is gluten-free and will satisfy the sweetest of teeth.

Greece and Turkey are practically neighbors on the map, but each country offers its own unique travel experience. While the climate and cuisine have many overlaps, the main difference is in the cost of living. If you’re looking for an island paradise and you have a generous budget, head to Greece. If you want to experience the majesty of hot air ballooning and whirling dervishes, then Turkey is your best bet. Greek is rich with culture and history and is especially of interest to philosophers, creatives, and mythology lovers worldwide. Both countries offer exquisite beaches, natural beauty, and outdoor activities, so the choice is up to you!