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Planning a Trip to Greece: Travel Guide and Tips

We’ve visited Greece several times and can’t wait for our next trip. This land of ancient wonders, delicious food, beautiful beaches and dreamy islands has an allure all of its own.

There’s a lot on offer. So much so that planning a trip to Greece can be overwhelming.

Do you want to take a romantic trip to Greece? Are you looking to tick some ancient wonders off your bucket list? Or do you simply want to spend your days swimming in turquoise waters and relaxing on soft white sand?

There’s a lot to consider.

Whatever kind of trip you want to take, we’ve created this guide to help you out. It’s full of amazing places you should visit, information on how to get around the country and plenty of other Greece travel tips. 

Without further ado, open that suitcase and let’s get started!

Santorini is a delightful Greek island
Santorini is a delightful Greek island

Practical things to know when planning a trip to Greece


The official language is Greek, though English is widely spoken in tourist places.


Euros are used in Greece. 1 Euro is about $1.09 USD. (But check the exchange rate before you go.)

Electrical plugs

The plugs in Greece are type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. You may want to take a universal adapter.

Main international airports in Greece

Greece has several international airports.

Athens International Airport (ATH) is the biggest and busiest airport (and the 18th busiest in Europe). It receives direct flights from around the world. 

Other international airports are scattered across the mainland and some Greek islands, mainly receiving flights from Europe. Rhodes, Zakynthos, Corfu and Kos international airports are all busy, with passengers traveling to and from Europe.

Travel requirements for visiting Greece

US citizens (as well as citizens of other countries like Canada, Australia and the UK) can travel to Greece without a visa for up to 90 days. 

Best places to visit in Greece

If you’re planning your first trip to Greece, you’ll no doubt be wondering where specifically to go. Here are some popular Greek vacation destinations to get you started:


Caryatids on the Erechtheion Temple at the Acropolis in Athens
The Caryatids (sculpted female figures) adorn the Erechtheion Temple at the Acropolis in Athens

International travelers from the U.S. and Canada typically fly into Athens, the Greek capital. It’s the natural starting point on a Greece trip itinerary for many.

Should you stay in Athens for a day or more?

Absolutely! Bursting at the seams with historical sights and boasting an energetic creative side too, Athens is definitely worth visiting

It’s the birthplace of democracy, famed for the Acropolis (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, of course). It’s home to amazing museums, cool rooftop bars and great shopping.

At one time, Athens was just a jumping-off point for the islands in the eyes of many tourists. But no more.

Where to stay in Athens

Perfectly located in the heart of Athens (in Syntagma Square), The King George is one of the best 5-star hotels in Athens. It was our happy place on our last visit to Athens.


The harbor in Mykonos Town
The harbor in Mykonos Town

A popular summer vacation destination, Mykonos is the glam Greek island.

Check out the happening beaches (our favorite beaches are Ornos and Psarou). Walk the winding streets of the town of Mykonos. Watch the sunset from the quaint “Little Venice” waterfront.

And just enjoy the posh Greek island vibe.

Anyone planning a vacation to Greece would be tempted by this intoxicating mix of hedonism and unbeatable Cycladic charm.

Pink bougainvillea grows up the side of a building in Mykonos.
Pink bougainvillea grows up the side of a building in Mykonos

Away from the beaches and restaurants, there’s culture too. Pop into the Archeological Museum of Mykonos to learn about the ancient Greeks.

And you must take a boat trip to the UNESCO-recognized island of Delos and see the archeological site and ruins there. Delos is the mythical birthplace of the god Apollo – and you can’t go anywhere in Greece without Greek mythology coming up at some point!

Where to stay in Mykonos

There are several different tourist areas to stay on this luxe Greek island and plenty of accommodation. See our reviews of the chicest Mykonos beach hotels to find the ideal one for you.


If you’re planning a honeymoon in Greece, then Santorini might be on your radar. It’s a favorite spot for honeymooners and couples seeking a romantic getaway.

Santorini's cliffside houses and buildings are celebrated for their photographic beauty
Santorini’s cliffside houses and buildings are celebrated for their Insta-worthy beauty

Shaped like a crescent moon, Santorini’s landscape is dramatic. It’s known for its pretty white villages clinging to the sides of the island’s volcanic caldera, gorgeous sunsets and OMG views.

Pssst! You get some of the most mesmerizing views when hiking along the spine of the island from Oia to Fira (or vice versa). We’ve done this hike twice now (in both directions) – definitely put it on your Santorini must-do list!

You’ll also see lots of donkeys in Santorini. (Some visitors ride them for a lift up from the old port to the capital of Fira.)

Other than that (and some cool boat trips), Santorini is all about spending days indulging in delicious food, while staring out at some of the Aegean’s best views and sunsets. What could be better?

Donkeys carry visitors up the steep path from Santorini's old port to the town of Fira above.
Donkeys carry visitors up the steep path from Santorini’s old port to the town of Fira above

Where to stay in Santorini

We’ve stayed at the following three luxury hotels – and highly recommend them!

  • Ikies Traditional Houses: Modeled after traditional Santorini cave houses, this honeymoon cave hotel in Oia has smashing views of the Aegean Sea.
  • Vedema Resort: A favorite with celebrities, this gorgeous resort – built in and around the village of Megalochori – wows with discreet luxury. Bonus: It has its own private black sand beach club.
  • Grace Santorini: You’ll swoon over the infinity pool offering endless views of the sea. And you’ll love the cool suites too at this boutique adults-only hotel in Imerovigli.


A woman on a bench looks at the old port of Chania in Crete.
The old port of Chania in Crete

The largest Greek island, and fifth-largest in the Mediterranean, Crete is a mix of seaside medieval towns, idyllic beaches, rugged gorges and famous ruins.

You’ll find it edged by picture-perfect beaches and relics of the ancient world, along with lively cities and quiet villages.

Thanks to its size, landscapes and wealth of culture, you can easily spend a long time exploring Crete. But if you’re strapped for time, one place you shouldn’t miss out on is Knossos.


Ancient ruins of Knossos
Ancient ruins of Knossos

Once the center of one of the most powerful civilizations in the ancient world, Knossos was the capital of ancient Minoan Crete.

The beautiful royal palace (which dates back to the 2nd millennium BC) is said to have been home to the labyrinth of the fabled bull-headed Minotaur.

See intricate restored frescoes, the royal throne room, grain storage facilities, porticoes and water drainage channels. It’s a history lover’s dream, and rightly one of the best attractions in Greece.

7 More great things to do on Crete

Once you’ve visited Knossos, you’ll be ready to:

  • Wander around the old town of Rethymnon, packed with lots of cute shops and restaurants. We love its Venetian architecture.
  • Hike Samaria Gorge.
  • Take photos of the tiny fishing village of Loutro on the south coast – you have to take a boat to get there, as it’s not accessible by land. Its white-washed houses are picture-perfect!
  • Visit the Sacred Monastery of Arkadi.
  • Swim at Balos Beach. True, it’s touristy, but it’s also stunningly beautiful.
  • Go wine tasting – Cretan wine is as old as the Minoans!
  • Sink your toes into the pink sands of Elafonisi Beach.

Where to stay in Crete

Near the cosmopolitan fishing village of Aghios Nikolaos, the St. Nicolas Bay Resort (see our review) is the place to stay in Crete for luxury bungalows and suites with private pools. It has a fabulous secluded beach area too.


Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes

With a rich historical past, the Greek island of Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese Islands, is known as the “Knights’ Island.”

The walled Old Town of Rhodes is the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe. It was where the Knights of St. John lived centuries ago.

The Old Town is a fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site (don’t miss the Palace of the Grand Master of Knights). Be sure to stay in one of the gorgeous boutique hotels in the Old Town to really soak up the atmosphere!

Also head to Lindos, one of the most charming villages in Rhodes. It has some sweet beach coves too.

Colorful sea kayaks on a pebble beach in Rhodes, Greece
When sea kayaking on Rhodes, we stopped at this pebble beach for a swim

Interested in sea kayaking past pirates’ caves? We’ve done this too on Rhodes.

The island is also littered with ancient Greek sites. These include the Acropolis of Lindos, ancient Kamiros, the Temple of Apollo and the ruins of an Olympic Stadium, among others. 

Rhodes truly offers something for everybody.

Where to stay in Rhodes

We’ve stayed at several hotels on the island in three different places – in Rhodes Old Town, just outside of Rhodes and in Lindos. See our reviews of 10 beautiful boutique Rhodes hotels.


Ancient ruins at Philippi
Ancient ruins at Philippi

Named after King Philip of Macedonia (Alexander the Great’s father), the ancient city of Philippi is famous for a couple of reasons.

It’s the place where Julius Caesar’s assassins (Brutus and Cassius) fought Mark Anthony and Octavian in 42 BC – marking the end of the Roman Republic. And it’s also where the Apostle Paul sowed the seeds of Christianity in Europe.

There’s a lot of history here!

Located in northeastern Greece, the archeological site of Philippi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Where to stay in Philippi

Check out the Philippeio Hotel, offering amazing views of the ancient citadel of Philippi. Expect friendly owners and a delicious breakfast to start your day at this sleek and charming accommodation option.

Gems and unique places in Greece

The most famous places don’t necessarily reveal all of the best of Greece, however.

Have you heard of Kefalonia, possibly the most beautiful Greek island? No? How about Meteora? It’s where monasteries perch high atop towering rock pinnacles.

Many of the country’s islands and historical sites are well off the beaten track. You’ll definitely want to know about these places!

Check out our round-up of 15 hidden gems and unique places to explore in Greece.

Public transportation in Greece

Public transport in Greece will vary depending on where you are in the country.

The larger cities and main towns have public transport services, and ferries run between various islands.


Athens is the only city in Greece that has a metro system. There are three lines, and they link up the majority of the main sights in the city. The metro is cheap, clean and usually runs on time.

See the official Athens tourism site’s guide on public transportation in Athens.


Local buses run along a large network of routes in the capital and in other towns and cities on the mainland. They usually run from early in the morning until midnight, with some night services occurring in the larger cities.

Using these local buses is often the best way to get to archeological sites on the outskirts of towns.

Many of the Greek islands have bus services too.

But these are often quite limited and don’t necessarily go to all the destinations apart from the main tourist sights. They often run in a ring route around the island, leaving out less-visited gems you may want to see.

For a thorough exploration of any given Greek island, you may want to rent a car or scooter to get around.

Long distance buses

Long-distance buses are a great way to get around mainland Greece. They’re very cheap and straightforward to use, and it helps that you can book your tickets online.

Most of the buses across the country are operated by KTEL. They run between big cities and smaller towns, with overnight services available.


Operated by Hellenic Train, the Greek railway network is not the most convenient way to get around. But it can be a good way to see the landscape of the mainland – especially if you’re into slow travel.

There are two types of trains.

There’s the regular service, which stops at all stations, and the faster intercity trains. Fares are affordable, the trains are comfortable and there are usually refreshments on board.

How to get around the Greek Islands

If you’re planning a trip to the Greek islands, you’ll need to work out not just your accommodation, but also how to get from one island to the next.

In general, for island-hopping, ferries are the best way to go (covered next).

Ferries in Greece

A Blue Star Ferry docked at Naxos
A Blue Star Ferry docked at Naxos

The ferry network in Greece is comprehensive, connecting up all the main islands and some smaller islands too.

There are car ferries, slower boats, catamarans and fast hydrofoils. Some offer overnight services with cabins and restaurants.

Fares are affordable and tickets can be booked in advance directly from the ferry company websites and third-party sites such as Ferry Hopper, or when you get to the ferry port.

The main ferry lines operating in Greece are:

Ferries can get crowded in peak season so make sure to turn up early (especially if you haven’t already booked a ticket).

Ferries in winter

In the winter months, schedules are much more limited.

So take extra care if planning a Greek island visit in winter, as ferries either don’t run at all in some places or run on a reduced schedule.

Flying to the Greek islands

To get to some islands, you might want to fly instead of taking the ferry.

For example, because of the length of time involved to travel by ferry from Athens to Santorini (about 5 hours), we once hopped on a plane to get to Santorini.

The main Greek airlines for flying to the islands are Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air.

How to plan your Greece vacation itinerary?

Islands and island groups to visit in Greece

Taking a trip to Greece should definitely include a visit to an island or island group. 

But there are 227 inhabited islands in Greece, with over 6,000 islands in total! That makes for a tricky decision when you’re trying to figure out where exactly you should go for an island getaway.

Look at the logistics of getting to the island(s) you’re interested in.

There are different island “groups” – and it usually makes the most sense to focus on one group for an island-hopping adventure.

Cyclades Islands

The quintessential Aegean islands, the Cyclades are famed for their simple white-washed Cycladic architecture. Uninhabited Delos (birthplace of Apollo, remember?), home to countless archeological gems, lies at its center.

A woman in a red dress is surrounded by Greek statues at the Delos Archaeological Museum on the island of Delos
Delos Archaeological Museum on the island of Delos

The Cyclades are home to two of Greece’s most popular islands: Mykonos and Santorini.

Island-hopping in the Cyclades tends to be easier than hopping around within other Greek island groups because the Cyclades have the most ferries.

A popular ferry route with Blue Star Ferries is Athens-Paros-Naxos-Santorini (then back to Naxos-Paros-Athens), so you can easily island-hop on this line.

Ionian Islands

Pretty Paleokastritsa Bay in Corfu
Pretty Paleokastritsa Bay in Corfu

Crowned by Corfu, the Ionian Islands lie on the western side of the Greek peninsula.

Other highlights here include the island of Kefalonia, with its pretty pebble beaches, bright turquoise seas and great hiking opportunities. For partying, there’s the island of Zakynthos.

Dodecanese Islands

These comprise 15 main islands, including Rhodes, Kos and Patmos.

Windsurfing is famed in the Dodecanese, along with picturesque churches to discover and underwater ruins for diving enthusiasts.

Map of the Dodecanese Islands
Dodecanese Islands

Saronic Islands

The Saronic Islands are easy to reach from Athens, which is a bonus considering the slice of serenity you get when you arrive.

One of the best places to visit here is Hydra, which is car-free.

There’s also Aegina, famed for its seafood and charming villages, and other smaller islands besides. 

Sample Greece itineraries

A long weekend in Greece

For a long weekend in Greece, we recommend staying in one place.

Choose between spending 2 to 3 nights in Athens, or basing yourself on one of the larger Greek islands such as Corfu or Rhodes. You could always do a day trip or half-day trip to one of the nearby islands.

A week in Greece

A week in Greece gives you ample opportunity to take in more of what the country has to offer.

A good idea is to figure out what kind of trip you want. Do you want beaches? History? Hiking?

You can enjoy a taste of most everything with a trip that takes in Athens and one or two Aegean islands. You’ll get historic sites and lively city vibes, as well as beautiful beaches and delicious seafood.

One option for an easy one-week Greece itinerary is to spend two or three days enjoying the sights of Athens, before hopping on the ferry to the island of Hydra for a completely different atmosphere.

The small colorful port on Hydra Island, Greece
The small colorful port on Hydra

Another good all-round Greek islands itinerary (though busier) is this:

  • Day 1: Start in Athens
  • Days 2 to 3: Mykonos
  • Day 4 to 5: Paros
  • Day 6 to 7: Santorini
  • Day 8: Back to Athens

Two weeks in Greece

This is a very good amount of time to spend in such a culturally rich, beautiful country as Greece.

Building on the week-long island-hopping itinerary, you could spend more time on each island and add Crete to the mix.

Or you could just spend more time kicking back on a couple of islands.

On one visit to Greece, after spending a few days in Athens, we visited Mykonos for 6 nights and Santorini for 6 nights. (Mykonos and Santorini are also a popular combo for a Greece honeymoon.)

Three weeks in Greece

With more time, you have more chances to see different regions of Greece.

There’s also simply more time for you to take your trip slowly instead of hopping to somewhere new every other day.

A month or longer in Greece

Greece will really open up for you if you spend four or more weeks in Greece.

The Greek mainland, for example, is somewhere you can get to know better, as the islands are often the stars of the show on shorter trips.

But with Delphi, Thessaloniki, Philippi, Corinth and many other mainland cities to explore, this is your chance to see a different side of Greece, compared to the usual Cycladic island-hopping vibes that Greece is more famous for.

How many days to spend in Greece?

It depends.

Are you kicking off your Greece vacation with a stay in Athens, or visiting Athens for a long weekend city break? Then 2 to 3 nights in Athens is enough to see the most famous sights and soak up some of the city’s culture.

If you want to see more of what mainland Greece has to offer, anything upwards of 7 nights is good to visit a handful of famous places. That includes Delphi, Athens and Thessalonika.

When it comes to the Greek islands, you could pick one – Rhodes for example – and explore it for a week or so.

Or, if you’ve got more time, embark on an epic island-hopping journey in the Aegean for 3 to 4 weeks. It’s totally up to you and your budget.

Best time to visit Greece


If we had to pick the absolute best time to travel to Greece, we’d say mid-September to early October (autumn) is prime.

The blazing heat of summer has eased. It’s pleasant enough for touring ancient ruins, and it’s still warm enough for soaking up some sunshine.

We love swimming, so fall is our favorite time for visiting the Greek islands.

Indeed, you can comfortably swim in the sea right through to mid-October. That said, in autumn the waters of the Ionian Sea are generally colder than those in the Aegean Sea.

In short, thanks to its Mediterranean climate, things remain nice and warm in Greece in the fall. Expect daily highs of 77 F across the country (on average).


Spring time on Santorini
Spring time on Santorini

Another good time to go to Greece is April and May – late spring, basically.

Average highs swing between 55 F (13 C) and 77 F (25 C), depending on where in the country you are.

This is possibly the best season for exploring ancient ruins. The weather is yet to hit the scorching levels of summer, and there are fewer tourists (so you’ll pay less for flights and accommodation).

But while you may get some days hot enough for relaxing by the pool or beach, the sea is likely to be a bit chilly for swimming (it’s not yet had time to heat up from the summer sun).

On our recent Greek Island cruise in early May, the sea was definitely brisk for swimming in Rhodes (but doable – George braved the waters). And on Mykonos, most of the beach clubs weren’t yet open.

You should also expect some rainy days in spring.


Thatched palapas on Lindos Beach on Rhodes
Visiting Rhodes in summer? You’ll want to spend some time at Lindos Beach!

In the summer months, crowds of tourists flock to Greece for its sandy beaches and picturesque shorelines.

This is peak travel season in Europe and most of the world at large. Popular destinations such as Santorini and Mykonos become super busy.

In July and August, the temps regularly push up into the 90s F (30s C) and higher. You won’t feel like doing much apart from lying on the beach and forgetting about the world. Not necessarily a bad thing…

As summer is the high season, be sure to book your accommodation in advance. Expect also to pay more for your airfare and hotel this time of year. 

Note also that heat waves can affect Greece during summer, which can bring dangerously high temperatures, way above 100°F (38°C), and even wildfires (this happened in 2023).


National Archeological Museum in Athens, Greece
Winter is a good time to visit the National Archeological Museum and other museums in Athens (Credit: National Archeological Museum)

The best things to do in Greece in winter (December to March) differ wildly from summer activities.

No more lounging on the beach or basking in glorious sunshine! This is the season of culture, museums and cozy tavernas.

Athens is great to visit this time of year. You can tour the Acropolis and museums like its National Archeological Museum without crowds.

And between November 1st and the end of March, the ticket prices for this and countless other ancient sites and museums in Greece are significantly slashed.

The Greek islands are another story, though. Ferries stop running to most islands, and hotels and restaurants close down. You won’t find much to do on the islands in winter.

As for temperatures, they differ throughout the country. In Athens, you can expect an average winter temperature of 58 F (14 C).

What to pack for a trip to Greece

Here’s what you’ll want to take:

  • Daytime clothes: Pack practical attire like pants, capris, casual skirts, shorts and running shoes for exploring or hiking. (If you’re going in summer, take things to cover you up when touring ancient sites, as there’s often not much shade protection from the blazing sun.)
  • Smart casual clothes for eating out: You may not need this, but you’ll be glad you have it if you’re in Athens or Santorini and decide to go out for a fancy meal.
  • Church attire: Clothes that cover knees and shoulders are a must for church visits.
  • Camera: You’ll want a high-quality camera or smartphone, with good camera capabilities, for capturing the beauty of the Aegean Sea and the Greek mainland – and all the famous ancient sites everywhere else.
  • Beachwear: If your vacation involves hitting some Greek beaches, pack a bathing suit.
  • Toiletries: Bring personal items, but remember Greece has stores for anything you’ve forgotten (less so for some of the less-trodden Greek islands). Pack liquids in containers under 3.4 ounces (100 ml) for hand luggage.
  • Do not forget sunscreen! The sun is relentless and, especially if you’re near reflective water, you could end up burning very quickly if you’re sitting around without any shade.
  • Electronics: Don’t forget a Kindle (or a book), your laptop or tablet, chargers and a European adapter for your electronics. (You may also want to consider a rechargeable battery pack. You don’t want your battery to die when you’re trying to snap a photo of something amazing!)

Other Greece travel tips

Tipping in Greece

People enjoy sunset drinks at a bar overlooking the sea in Santorini.
A 10% tip is appreciated when eating and drinking at restaurants or bars in Greece

Greece doesn’t have a strong culture of tipping. (Good Greek trivia to know, right?) But a gratuity is expected in the hospitality industry – 10% is the rule of thumb.

In restaurants, it’s customary to leave a tip to show appreciation for the meal and service. You can also tip your tour guide.

Learn a little Greek

Crucial to any Greece trip planning is learning a little bit of the local lingo. You don’t have to be a language expert to remember a few of these useful Greek phrases:

  • Hello — Yassou
  • How are you? — Ti kanis?
  • Good Morning — Kalimera
  • Good Evening — Kalispera
  • Good night — Kalinikta
  • Goodbye — Kherete
  • Yes — Ne
  • No — Ohi
  • What? — Pos?
  • How? — Posso?
  • Who? — Poios?
  • Please — Parakaloume
  • I’m sorry — Signomi
  • Thank you — Efkharisto
  • You’re welcome — Parakalo
  • Tea — Tsai
  • Coffee — Kafe
  • Wine — Krasi
  • Water — Nero
  • I want a beer — Thelo mia mpira
  • Bus — Leoforeio
  • Taxi — Taksi

Greek food

Tomato salad with olives and olive oil
Mmm… Tomato with olives and olive oil – simple but delicious

Don’t miss out on all the delicious food that you can eat here!

This nation is blessed with a long heritage of fresh produce and cuisine – think olive oil, feta cheese, yogurt, honey, tomatoes and olives.

Stay away from tourist restaurants as much as you can, and try to find friendly local tavernas where you can indulge in truly local gastronomy.

Last words on how to plan a trip to Greece

That completes our travel guide to Greece!

Depending on your travel style, you’ll either be island-hopping, lounging on the beach, discovering ancient ruins or exploring the nightlife of Athens – or enjoying a bit of everything.

There’s tons to do and any trip you make is going to be an incredibly satisfying one. We hope this guide has given you some pointers and inspiration for planning your visit to Greece!

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!

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Planning a Trip to Greece

Photo credits: 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

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