Mediterranean Sea Tours and Travel Guide
Mediterranean Sea Attractions & Landmarks Guide
What is a Mediterranean Tour?
The Mediterranean is perhaps the best known sea in the world, and with the range of countries and islands to visit, a tour along this famous sea is more than just a Mediterranean vacation. The array of cultures and cuisines it has helped to nourish over thousands of years are dizzying in their variety, and its scenic beauty is on display from countless promontories. Stride can help you decide which parts of this historic sea should be at the top of your list.
Countries to Visit in the Mediterranean
The Mediterannean Sea covers 965,300 sq. miles and touches the coastline of three continents -- Europe, Asia, and Africa. There are 21 countries that touch or are located in the Mediterranean Sea.
The countries in the Mediterranean countries are -- Spain, France, Monaco, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and Algeria. There are also provinces of other countries that are included in the Med like the British territory of Gibraltar.
Figuring out where to go and what to see in the Mediterranean can be overwhelming. Try picking a particular region or a few countries on the Med that you really want to see and go from there.
Think about what you're most interested in seeing. Is your #1 desire to see peaceful, beautiful islands, and sunbathe on white sandy beaches? If so, there are still a lot of options, but Greece might be at the top of your list. Consider going to the Eastern Mediterranean to explore the villages in Mykonos and eat delicious food in Santorini.
Are you interested in immersing yourself in a totally different culture, and gaining some new historical knowledge? If that's the case, maybe you're more interested in archaeological sites, and want to visit Israel or Turkey. Many Mediterranean tours of Turkey will let you see ancient buildings and churches, explore artifacts from all around the region in museums, and relax at beautiful beaches.
Top Port Stops on a Mediterranean Cruise
Besides the Caribbean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea has some of the busiest ports. Each of the countries in the Med have at least one large port city and many of the islands have popular port cities as well.
Barcelona is one of the top three port stops on a Mediterranean Cruise. Many of the cruises of Spain, Portugal, and Morocco begin in Barcelona. Barcelona is a colorful culture of Gothic neighborhoods, whimsical architecture, and busy food markets. Just expect plenty of people as the main street La Rambla gets busy during the summer.
The birthplace of pizza is usually included on cruises of Italy and France. This major port city is the best place in Italy to get pizza, visit the historic sites of Pompei and Herculaneum, and taste the fresh lemons that make this part of Italy famous.
A major stop on cruises of the western part of the Mediterranean, Dubrovnik is a wealth of sites and culture. Heavily influenced by the Venetian Empire, Dubrovnik is a medieval walled city that sees thousands of visitors a year and was used in the filming of the TV show Game of Thrones.
At the center of the Mediterranean is Athens, the home of democracy, the Olympic games, and mathematics. Cruises of the Greek islands and the surrounding countries begin their journeys in Athens. However, make sure to check out the ancient Acropolis and other historical sites in this city to see one of the civilizations that still influences the world to this day.
Probably the busiest cruise port in the Med is Venice. Venice’s mysterious canals and masquerade balls draws in tourists from all over. Don’t just spend your time in Piazza San Marco, head over a few canals and check out the local restaurants, shops, and churches not everyone is willing to look for.
Greek Island Cruises in the Mediterranean
One of the most best ways to tour the Mediterranean is to island hop between all of Greece’s many spots. The short distances between islands, remarkable variety in landscape, but consistently beautiful beaches make cruises well worth their while. It is increasingly popular to take a small cruise ship between the Greek isles.
There are many benefits to going on a smaller cruise boat, including the ability to visit more secluded harbors, a more individualized experience, and the fact that you won’t have to memorize a map to get back to your room. On a smaller boat, you will actually feel like you’re on a ship, and closer to the sights and water you’re paying to visit.
Taking a cruise is also the best way to visit some of the smaller, off the beaten path islands; it’s the best because it is the only way. Many of Greece’s most exclusive island take hours to reach by ferry, but are easily accessible by cruise. For example, prime vacations destinations like Zakynthos, Koufonisi, and Vidos.
Top Islands in the Mediterranean
One of the best things to do in the Mediterranean is island hop. The sea has so many islands to choose from and range in size, climate, and landscape.
Here are a few you won’t want to miss!
The island just off the tip of the boot of Italy, Sicily is almost like a country in of itself. Sicily is one of the regions of Italy, like Tuscany, that has its own unique culture.
Populated by mountains and ancient ruins, Sicily is one of the food and wine capitals of Italy and offers a different look into Italian life. The island was also a center of trade for the sea and saw influences from all of the empires that once ruled here.
Often considered to be one of the most romantic islands in the world, Santorini is a top destination in the Med and Greece. With its blue domed and white-walled buildings, this small island is a picturesque wonderland. Make sure to catch the sunset from the cliffside bars in Oia or Fira!
Where Greece, Venice, and Austria met. Corfu is an island off the western coast of Greece that has seen occupation by three major empires in Europe. You can see each of these cultures in the old town, the Achilleion Palace, and food of this beautiful island.
Just off the coast of Croatia, Korcula is one of the top islands in the Dalmatian Coast. The island is known for its romantic old town, olive trees, and has some of the best wine Croatia has to offer.
If party is your middle name, you’ll love Ibiza. Considered one of the top clubbing and party islands in the world, Ibiza is an adult playground. Pool parties, major DJs, luxury hotels, and fine dining make up this lively island off the coast of Spain.
Cuisine in the Mediterranean has similar base ingredients, but can be quite different depending on what continent or region you are in. However, there is a reason there is something called “The Mediterranean Diet.”
The Mediterranean Diet is the foundation for any traditional Med meal. This diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, hearty grains, fish, olive oil, and small amounts of heavier protein. Throughout the countries on the Mediterranean you will find all of these ingredients, but each region adds its own spices and cooking techniques.
Around Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans you will see meals including fish, lamb, spreads, and kebabs. This area of the Med was heavily influenced by the Ottoman Empire and is why the gyro or meat pita sandwich is so popular in this area.
In Spain, Italy, and France you’ll find some of the best food in the world. This area of the Med is known for its cuisine with fresh herbs, elegant cooking techniques, and rich dishes. You’ll find plenty of oregano, parsley, and basil along with fish, beef, and ham.
Northern Africa’s cuisine takes all of these ingredients and combines them with fragrant and flavorful spices. Tarragon, turmeric, allspice, and more are added to these dishes that are commonly served in small plates or cooked in one pot.
Overall, the Med cuisine has a commonality that runs through it all, with additional proteins or spices that are native to each of the countries. However, if you are concerned about health or dietary restrictions, much of the cuisine is healthy if not sometimes meat heavy. Vegetarians and vegans may have a harder time in the Balkans and Africa, but there are usually options in the major cities.
Mediterranean Travel Activities
There is plenty to do in the Mediterranean for the adventure traveler. Whether it’s hiking the mountains of Sicily or walking through the vineyards of Croatia, the Med has a great deal to offer.
Most of the top activities in the Mediterranean are related to water and history. Many destinations on Mediterranean tour itineraries include coastal regions or cities where you can relax on the beach and swim in the azure waters of the sea. In some parts of the Med, like Croatia, you can even get out and kayak through the quieter bays.
The Mediterranean is also characterized by history. Some of the world’s oldest and largest civilizations once occupied this sea. The Ancient Greeks, Romans, Ottoman Empire, Ancient Egyptians, and Moorish Empire all laid claim to a part of this sea at one point or time.
Every one of the countries on the Med has ruins or ancient sites you can explore. History buffs should seek out Mediterranean tours and cruises with a strong focus on historical sites.
Food tours or cooking classes are also popular in this part of the world because of the popular and tasty cuisines. You can learn how to make authentic pizza in Naples or tour the spice markets of Marrakech.
For those interested in religious sites, you’ll find plenty in the Mediterranean. Major religious sites are the Vatican City in Italy, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Jerusalem, and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Browse tours to the Holy Land for more »
There are quite literally too many cultural attractions in the Mediterranean Sea to list. Greece alone has hundreds of sites you could visit for history, politics, and stunning landscapes. Since the Med was the waterway for some of the most powerful civilizations, there are plenty of historical and cultural stops to make on your tour, not to mention the scenery as well.
If you are looking for a historical or cultural tour, then make sure to check out Greece, Italy, and Egypt. All three of these nations are chock full of historical ruins and cities featured in our history books and movies.
For the most picturesque port cities, don’t miss Cinque Terre, Santorini, or Dubrovnik. All of these cities can be beautifully captured at sunset and are full of color and are ideal romantic vacations.
If you want to tour based on your stomach, head to Marrakech, Naples, and Istanbul. These cities are known for their distinct cuisines that use local ingredients and techniques combined with traditional Mediterranean staples.
The Mediterranean also touches one of the most religious regions of the world, the Holy Land. With Israel, Lebanon, and Syria all having coastline on the Med, a religious pilgrimage to where three of the world’s largest religions meet is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Things to Know Before You Go
Best Time to Travel to the Mediterranean
Thankfully, with the Mediterranean’s location, you can visit the Med any time of the year. If you stick to the coast, you will be met with mild and wet winters and warm summers. Some of the countries that touch the Med do get snow farther inland.
The high season for all of the Mediterranean are the summer months. This is when the cities, especially in the European countries, will be the busiest with vacationers and cruise ships in port. If you want to avoid the crowds, but still want to go when it’s warm, book your trip during the shoulder seasons.
Fall and spring are the best times to visit the Mediterranean, in particular, May and September. Both of these months are still warm, but cooler than July and August when you can see temperatures around 98 degrees in Morocco and 90 in Athens. Also, most children are back in school and families aren’t taking vacations during these times, so there will be smaller crowds in the cities and at the top attractions.
Common Mediterreanean Sea Cruise Routes
One of the best ways to see as many places as possible in the Mediterranean is a via a cruise. Many of the cruises to the Mediterranean cover two, three, or four countries. In the amount of time allotted for cruises, and the distance you have to cover in the Mediterranean, you will be limited to only being able to see a few countries in a certain region of the Med.
There are a wide variety of cruise routes, but most of them do center around three countries: Greece, Italy, and Spain. All of these countries have major port cities that cruise ships are able to stop at and you are able to get out and explore. Most of these cruises are at least 11 days long, but some are as few as 6, depending on the theme and destinations.
Greece is one of the top destinations for cruises in the Mediterranean. Cruises that are only of Greece start in Athens and make their way through the Cyclades Islands that include Mykonos, Ios, and Santorini.
Greece is typically the starting point for cruises of the eastern part of the Mediterranean. These cruises begin in Athens then make their way to the countries in the Balkans with stops in Dubrovnik and the Croatian Islands, Kotor, and Albania.
Mediterranean Sea cruise routes that start in Italy usually follow the coastline of Italy and into the French Riviera. These cruises make stops at the major Italian coastal regions like Naples, Sicily, and Corsica.
Many Mediterranean Sea voyages combine France and Italy into the same cruise. With the beautiful French Riviera being so close to Italy, it’s often times included at the end of these cruises after you visit the Italian Riviera.
Mediterranean Sea cruises of the western part of the sea typically begin in Spain. Most tours start in Barcelona and make their way down the coast of Spain hitting major Southern Spain cities of Granada and Seville before wrapping around the Strait of Gibraltar and visiting sites in Portugal. These cruises also often include stops in Morocco, Ibiza, and Cardiz as Spain and North Africa were once ruled by the Moorish Empire.
Packing List for a Mediterranean Cruise
Your packing list for a Mediterranean cruise won’t be as extensive or bulky as a trip to Germany or the U.S. The weather in the European portion of the Med is pretty consistent. In the Asian and African countries on the Med it will be warmer and drier throughout the year.
During the warmer months, you won’t need to carry any heavy clothes. The Mediterranean gets very warm and you will mostly be wearing dresses, shorts, tank tops, and skirts. Make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat as the sky in the Med during the summer can be crystal clear and without clouds.
If you are traveling during the shoulder months, make sure to bring layers. Light jackets and sweaters are ideal as the nights will be cooler than in July and August. Also, bring rain jackets as both of these times of the year you will see rain. If you are on a Mediterranean Sea cruise during the winter, make sure to pack pants. Winter nights can be very cool and you will see more rain during this time.
There are many religious sites included on cruise itineraries. If you are visiting a church, mosque, or temple you will have to be covered up. Consider packing scarves, long dresses, pants, and light jackets if you know you want to visit a religious site.
Luxury Mediterrean Tours
The Med can be visited on any type of budget. However, if you are looking for luxury or premium tours of the Mediterranean, there are plenty of tour operators out there. Many of these tours include stays in boutique hotels that are on the coast or in the heart of each of the cities.
The luxury tours often include personal tours of attractions and private performances or dinners with locals. These tours are typically longer and allow for longer stays in each of the destinations.
Transportation on these tours is also on the premium level. Whether it’s a luxury cruise ship, private bus, or small catamaran, you’ll be treated to the most comfortable rides around.
Budget Mediterranean Tours
The Mediterranean is a great place to visit on a budget. Many of the tour operators provide tours on a “shoestring” that include taking local transportation like the train and city buses. You’ll also be staying in 2-star hotels, hostels, or shared rooms to save money.
There are even some budget tours where you can sleep on the small boats as you sail through the night to your next destination.
Since you would be visiting on a budget, these tours are shorter. They are usually only 7 or 8 days long and move quite fast so you can see as much as possible. But if you want to see as much as you can, while keeping to a set budget, looking into budget Mediterranean tours is the way to go.
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