A Melburnian guide to Greece

When John Papagiannopoulos decided to share his favourite Greek destinations on Instagram he had no idea what was about to follow

Greece has been all over the news this past couple of years, not necessarily getting good publicity. Political turmoil, elections, riots, capital controls, refugees.

“Aside from the financial crisis, Greece, like other European nations, is placed in the difficult position of accepting refugees, and in true Greek spirit the people are dealing with the situation the best they can regardless of their current state,” John Papagiannopoulos, founder of The Greece Guide says.

“Of course, the current state Greece is in worries me as it would worry anyone who identifies with being Greek, but Greece will always have its crystal blue waters, its amazing beaches, its strong history and the proud Greek people, and that will never be in crisis.”

John Papagiannopoulos

Australia, among other countries, recently issued a travel warning deeming Greece unsafe. Numbers, however, tell a different story. Official data released by the Bank of Greece in February proves that 2015 was an all-time record year for Greek tourism, with the little blue and white eastern Mediterranean paradise topping US and UK holidaymakers’ lists. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Economic Impact Report 2016 which was launched on Monday, there is already a 12 per cent increase in bookings for Greece, with particularly high growth for Crete, Corfu and the mainland.

Greece combines thousands of islands with a fascinating mainland, countless pristine beaches juxtaposed with tiny picturesque villages perched atop its mountains.

For John Papagiannopoulos, it is a country which can cater for everyone, providing popular holiday spots with vibrant nightlife and quiet, remote options with mesmerising views.

“I’m really into music, fashion and apparently travel. Some people might even say I party a little too much,” he says, but coming from Siatista, a small village in the Northern parts, John has learned to appreciate Greece’s traditions and heritage. This led him to the idea of The Greece Guide, a central hub for travel information on Greece.
“Having travelled to Greece often, finding hotels and great places to visit was always a struggle. Outdated websites, or the lack thereof, made booking my trips a lot harder. I wanted to offer a modern, user-friendly guide that people can view and interact with through social media,” he explains.
“For me photos convey much more than a long-winded post on a hotel or great location.”

Siatista, John Papagiannopoulos’ village in Kozani during the winter.

When he made his first post just over a year ago, little did he know his guide would become one of the most liked and commented on Instagram feeds for travelling to Greece, garnering more than 26,000 followers.
“Without Instagram The Greece Guide would not have the following that it has today,” John emphasises.
“I think it’s a great platform not only for personal expression but also for creative ideas.”

Even though he always knew what a powerful tool social media is, he admits he was taken aback by how receptive people were to his idea. He never expected to see his account receive sometimes over 1,000 likes and 200 comments per photo, let alone be offered several business opportunities.

“It’s taken me on a journey and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I can’t wait to see what else it brings.”

As a Melbourne boy who feels at home in Athens, John is trying to get the best out of two worlds which in fact have a lot in common, sharing an avid love for strong culture, food and fashion.

“Both cities are the creative epicentres of their nations. I love the graffiti, the gritty streets and alleyways, the coffee shops, the restaurants and fashion boutiques and definitely the nightlife.
“I can’t really pick a difference, and Melbourne does have a large Greek population,” he laughs.

Capturing the sunset vibes at the top of Oia, Santorini.

The Greece Guide is without doubt John Papagiannopoulos’ main focus at the moment, with a lot of his time invested in getting the website live, but he remains open to new ideas. As he reveals to Neos Kosmos, he has an exciting fashion collaboration coming up with a local Australian label, just in time for the Greek summer.

“I’m always meeting creative new people who inspire me and get me thinking of new ways to expand the blog and stay connected to my Greek heritage. So keep your eyes out for new and exciting projects to come.”

For more photos and information follow @thegreeceguide on Instagram.