Hello everyone! We are back after a long hiatus! We were busy buying a house & trying to plan a wedding but we got back from an amazing trip to Peru and will be talking about that in a future entry – so stay tuned! This entry, however, is about my magical trip to Greece! Read on… 🙂
In 2013, while perusing facebook, my eyes caught pictures of a friend’s trip to Greece! I was incredibly blown away at the beauty of the country – the gorgeous sunsets, the delectable foods, the white & blue buildings, the pristine beaches etc. This yearn overtook me and I booked a roundtrip flight in July of 2013 to finally get my taste of this beautiful nation!
I spent 10 days between 3 locations within Greece – Athens, Santorini and Crete. My first day was spent in Athens, as that is where you must fly into from New York.
DAY 1: Athens
Upon landing in Athens, I checked into my hotel and immediately went to get lunch! Walking around the alleyways of the beautiful Plaka section of Athens, I stumbled across a streetside stand where I got my first real, true, authentic gyro.
The gyros in Greece are a bit different than the gyros we get in New York, but nonetheless incredibly amazing and of course, a must-eat while in Greece!
After lunch, I walked around the streets some more. The streets in Athens are very narrow, sort of like alleyways and many of them are cobblestone. The first thing I came across was Hadrian’s Arch. It has been proposed that this arch was built to celebrate the arrival of Hadrian and to honor him for all the good he did for Athens.
After that, I walked around the streets some more, taking in the breathtaking sights at every step I took. Walking along, I passed ruins, I could see the Acropolis on top of a hill and by far the most beautiful sight was Fillipappos Hill in the distance.
After my day exploring around the city, I got dinner and decided to check out the nightlife. I came across a colorfully lit, cute little bar called Bretto’s, in the Plaka district. Plaka is a historical neighborhood of Athens, housing the Acropolis, museums, cinemas, restaurants, bars etc. I chose this establishment due to how colorful and intimate the setting was. Surprisingly, when I had returned, I had found out several of my friends who had visited Athens went to Bretto’s as well. It’s a pretty popular place, I guess. Definitely worth a check out! If you are picky about your cocktails, don’t fret! This place has over 250 varieties of cocktails and over 170 varieties of Greek wine!
Where I stayed:
AVA Hotel – Lysikratous 9-11 Plaka, Athens, 105 58
Book it here
The next morning, it was time to board my ferry to Santorini!
DAYS 2-4: Santorini
There are several ways to get from Athens to Santorini. The ferry isn’t the only option but it is the cheapest option. There are also flights from Athens to Santorini, that take around 30-45 minutes. The fast ferries take approximately 5 hours and the slower ferries take around 9-10 hours. I opted for the slower ferry option through Blue Star Ferries, putting my ferry ride at approximately 10 hours in duration. There were a lot of things to see along the way and it made stops at various other islands: Paros, Naxos etc etc before arriving at my destination, Santorini. (I can’t help but get a chuckle at the way Welcome is spelled on the ‘welcome’ sign! Anyone else?)
After I arrived at the port of Santorini, I got into a cab and headed to check into my hotel ‘Astra Suites’ in Imerovigli. This was an amazing hotel with an infinity pool with gorgeous views of the caldera.
Santorini consists of 3 main areas: Fira, Imerovigli and Oia. Fira and Oia are on the opposite ends of the island, with Imerovigli situated in the middle of the 2. It was a great location and I highly recommend the hotel as well.
One of the highlights of the hotel was the breakfast. They gave me a form to fill out the night before and in the morning they brought the breakfast to the balcony. It was all fresh, warm, colorful and delicious and it was amazing to eat breakfast and watch the sun rise over the caldera.
After breakfast I wandered around the island, taking it all in! Every step was rows upon rows of blue & white buildings. The smell of food was mouth-watering, the sun was hot & the people were so friendly. I stopped @ a café overlooking the caldera called Rastoni where I indulged on the most amazing souvlaki I’ve ever tasted.
After lunch, I went on a hike up a mountain to get more views of the water & the city below.
My second day on Santorini had me @ Perivolos Beach in Fira. This is a gorgeous black sand beach where you could spend the day basking in the sun, wading in the ocean or even drinking margaritas to your heart’s content! They have chairs set up on the beach and menus from which you can order food & drinks and waiters will bring it to you!
Perivolos is easily accessible from all over Santorini by bus that stops in various places within town.
After a fun morning at the beach, I came back to Imerovigli and rode on the cable car!
In the afternoon I booked a tour on the Thalassa boat of the island’s volcano. I hiked up to it and I could actually feel the warmth still coming out of it. We were treated to a swim in the hot springs, as well as a boat ride back to the port with a saxophone player, a seemingly endless spread of food & booze and the sunset. A perfect ending to a perfect day!
On my 3rd & final full day in Santorini, I took a walk from Imerovigli to Oia in the morning. You can get there by cab or by walking but the walk is about an hour. It is a scenic walk and worth it in my opinion, but if you’re not a big walker, any of the cabs in town will bring you there. Oia is the more ‘picturesque’ side of the island but both Fira & Oia are very beautiful, as well as Imerovigli.
Along the way I saw beautiful blue & white churches. Oia seriously has everything and these pictures don’t really do it justice, so you should come see for yourself! 😉
In the afternoon after my walk, I did a winery tour. Santorini is known for its wine, which is some of the best in the world! Unlike the vines I am used to here at home, the vines in Santorini grow low to the ground and in kind of like a spirally shape. It was very interesting to see and to learn about the history of the wine in this region! We visited 3 amazing wineries – Domaine Sigalas, Gavalas Traditional Family Winery & Canava J. Argyros. I highly recommend one of the many winery tours!
The next morning had me saying goodbye to beautiful Santorini and Astra Suites and heading back to the port for another ferry ride – to Crete! I definitely left a piece of my heart in Santorini and hope to return again soon.
Where I stayed:
Astra Suites – PC 84 700 Imerovigli – Santorini GREECE
Book it here
DAYS 5-6: Crete
After a 3 hr ferry ride, I finally arrived in Crete! Upon check-in @ the Megaron Hotel, I was greeted with some treats and 2 shot glasses of Raki. Raki is a very strong Cretan drink said to aid in digestion (since the food is really heavy). It is found all over the island. I had arrived @ night so I pretty much just ate my treats, had my Raki & went to bed.
The next 2 days I went to Amoudara Beach. There is a bus that went from near the hotel to the beach but it was about a 45 minute bus ride and the bus was pretty cramped. Nevertheless, worth it. The beaches on Crete don turquoise colored waters and are absolutely breath-taking! There are straw umbrellas set up at every beach chair and much like Perivolos, you could order any kind of food & drink you want and a server will bring it. The drinks were strong, the water was warm and the food was tasty! I highly recommend this beach! (And for real, who doesn’t like beaches?)
It was so great in fact, I went there on both of my days in Crete!
Where I stayed:
GDM Megaron Hotel – 9, D. Beaufort 72012 Heraklion
Book it here
DAYS 7-9: Athens
After my brief but amazing stay in Crete, it was time to board the overnight ferry back to Athens! I really didn’t know what to expect but the accommodations on this ferry highly exceeded my expectations! The downfall for some might be a) that the rooms are like bunkbed style and depending on what kind of room you book, it could be shared and b) the ferry gets back to Athens at 6am.. so it’s an early morning but definitely worth it and an awesome experience nonetheless.
Upon arrival back in Athens, I checked into my room at the AVA again, got breakfast & then got to explore more of the city (this is the same hotel I stayed in in Athens at the beginning of the trip).
In the first leg of the trip I hadn’t gotten a chance to explore the historical part of the city so that was on my agenda this time. I checked out the Acropolis, the old Olympic stadium & the Theatre of Dionysus. After that I walked more around the city, checked out the Plaka and the area around Syntagma Square.
The Acropolis, though absolutely beautiful and an important part of history, was obstructed in some parts by work being done on it. I am pretty sure the work is complete by now but I was not able to get all the shots of the Acropolis I had wanted, due to scaffolding and the like around one side of it. Nevertheless, worth seeing, of course while you are in Athens!
After my time in Athens, it was time to say goodbye and go back home! Greece… til we meet again… Opa!