If you have been keeping up with my social for the last week and a half, you would have noticed that I was traveling all around Greece. It had been a long time since I’d traveled to Europe, but I fell in love with the country and its islands and wanted to share my experience with you, in case you are also planning a trip!
If you know anything about Greece, then you know that it is made up of some incredible and absolutely beautiful islands. My family and I narrowed it down to visit Athens, Naxos, and Santorini. Don’t be fooled, even from the east coast the flight was long. We broke it up with a stop over in London and then finally made it to Athens, where we settled in for our first day. We stayed at the Electra Palace, which was a very nice hotel in the area of Plaka. The hotel had a beautiful rooftop view of the Acropolis, which is of course a must see! We spent one whole day in Athens, which was plenty. We hiked up to the Acropolis, which do not be intimidated, it was an easy walk up, and I did it in a dress. The view from above is breathtaking. You can see the whole city as far out as the mountains. My tip is to go in the morning right when they open. We went at around 10am, and it was perfect, but as we exited an hour and a half later, it was packed with tour groups. I also want to note that May is the perfect time to go. Several locals told us peak season is June, July, and August, and much of the area is crammed with cruise ships and plenty of tourists. They all recommended May or even September as the best time to visit. While it was crowded at times, it wasn’t as bad as it usually gets. After the Acropolis, we visited the museum down the road, as well as grabbed lunch and shopped. While Athens was a great experience, it was definitely not my favorite. It was the type of city where people try to lure you into shops, and there is this feeling of constant harassment to buy something. After that one day, I was ready to head to the islands.
After our day in Athens, we packed up and headed back to the airport where we flew to Naxos. The flight was barely even 20 minutes in the air. We landed to beautiful blue skies and crisp white homes. The airport was its own kind of treasure. It was probably the tiniest airport I have ever been to. It takes one flight at a time and baggage claim is a tiny room with a barely there conveyer belt. We chose to fly as opposed to the ferry because the ferry from Athens to Naxos was around 6 hours, and my dad and sister tend to get sea sick. When we arrived, we arranged a cab with a wonderful woman named Ireney, who actually ended up taking us around the island a few days later. Naxos is like nothing I have ever experienced. The island is small and has very few tourists. The downtown is right on the water and filled with cafes and shops that line one main street. There, we stayed at the Nissaki Beach Hotel. It was right on the water and had a lovely pool, as well. Not to mention the food! We ate at the hotel restaurant the first night, and it was impeccable! The people at the hotel were also so lovely. Because it was small, you often encountered the same people working during the day at night. We spent the first few hours lounging on the beach trying to get a tan and just relaxing after our hectic day in Athens. The next day, we ventured more into the downtown area where we shopped and visited the Temple of Apollo. The temple sat at the top of a secluded peninsula and looked out over the ocean and town. We also visited the castle in Naxos, which was more of a hidden gem. The castle, which still fully stood, was surrounded and swallowed by homes and a small village that was built around it over the years. Exploring that area felt like typical Greece. It was filled with winding paths, homes, and hidden restaurants. There was almost a sense that if you stumbled on a quaint cafe in there once, you may not be able to find it again. One of our favorite lunch places to hit in Naxos was called Yasouvlaki. If you go to Greece and don’t try a gyro, what are you doing?! They had the best gyros, and we even went there twice because nothing could compare. We also ate at a restaurant called Strofili. Again, the food was so good! All of the fish is so fresh there, and they combine traditional mediterranean ingredients with cool twists.The next day we had our taxi driver from the airport, Ireney, drive us around to see the sites outside of the area of Naxos that we were staying in. She took us deeper in the mountains. We stopped at the Temple of Demeter, which overlooked the countryside. While I loved the beach in Naxos, the winding mountainous roads were breathtaking. The view from the cliffs overlooked far and beyond. There was a church at the very top of a rocky mountain that once a year people walk, take donkeys, and more modern, drive up to to celebrate its existence. It was at the very point where it almost looked as though it would tumble over. We ventured into smaller villages where the locals didn’t speak English. It was such an experience to see outside of touristy Greece. We visited a distillery where they had once produced the local popular liquor of the country. I gave it a try, but I couldn’t do it. I’m more of a sweet alcohol type of girl. That day, I also saw my first donkey! Greece is known for their donkeys for transportation and carrying of goods. I of course got a picture and the man guiding the donkey even got in it!
The day we left Naxos was bittersweet for me. I fell in love with it, and to this day, it’s one of my favorite places. I was sad to leave Ireney who was such an amazing person! She showed us around the island, and it’s people like her that you meet on trips that make it memorable. We were headed to Santorini that day, which was our final stop. We chose to take the ferry because it was only a 45 minute ride. This is a warning if you will be choosing to use the ferry system in Greece: they are never on time. Our ferry was very late, which wasn’t a big deal to us because we didn’t have anything planned for the first day. However, the ferries have a tendency to run late, but then rush you off and on the boat, as if it will save them the time they lost. Honestly, when I go back to Greece in the future, I will not be taking a ferry again. And this is not just the company we used, this seems to be all of them. As soon as we hopped on (which was rushed), we left our baggage below and headed up to the top deck. I don’t get sea sick, but I felt nauseous that moment. The ferry, as big as it was, rocked back and forth. It felt like it was going to tip over. I literally fell into a woman’s lap with my bags. Not to mention, the inside smelled awful. We spent the ride outside on the deck, which was more peaceful. However, as soon as it came time to get off the ferry, they herded us like cattle. They get everyone down to the below section to grab their bags and then stand there until you are forced up against others and rushed off the boat. It was horrible and definitely not an experience I want again. But as soon as we got off, we found our taxi and headed off to our hotel. We stayed in Oia, which is the point of the island. Santorini isn’t just one island, but is made up of a group of 5 or 6 all together. The one we stayed on was with the main tourism, while several others in its vicinity are either tourist free or not inhabited at all. We stayed at the Canaves Suites, which was the perfect location. We traveled down several cobblestone steps, and it overlooked the ocean. Our room had a balcony that we ate breakfast on every morning, and it was a dream. The hotel overall was stunning. Like the rest of Oia, it was built onto the side of the cliff and was on several different levels. It had a very relaxing pool area and again was the perfect location to the downtown area with all of the shops. In case you plan on traveling to Santorini, please note that the tap water there is not drinkable. The first day we got there we freaked out because I have traveled with my mom to a place where you couldn’t drink the water, and we both got sick. But the water in Santorini isn’t dangerous and does not contain bacteria. The reason the locals say it isn’t drinkable is because it goes through a process of desalinization, but does not fully clear their water source of salt. So if you drink it, you can clearly feel the salty grit. It is safe for bathing and brushing teeth. We did not have a problem when we were there. For someone with a super sensitive stomach like me, nothing happened. It is essentially just really salty and not appetizing to drink. So note, bottled water is a must.
We really started our Santorini adventure the next day when we ventured into the downtown area. There are a lot of small shops for souvenirs, as well as designer boutiques, essentially catering to the tourist crowd. I recommend getting up earlier and heading into the shopping area at around 10/10:30. That was the time before many of the buses and cruise ships settled into the area and let groups of people off. In Santorini fashion, I of course wore a flowing white dress and sunhat, which was much needed because the Santorini sun is HOT. That day we ate lunch at a place called Lotza. Walking by, it smelled of rich foods and oregano. The food was delicious. And of course while in Greece, I tried a fish pedicure from Kissingfish. I first heard about it on an episode of the Kardashians when they had their Greek vacation, and I of course had to copy. It actually wasn’t as ticklish as I thought. It felt like a foot massage, and surprisingly left my feet feeling so soft and smooth!
Our dinner that night was right on Amoudi Bay, as we ate at the Ammoudi Fish Tavern. The dinner was not only fantastic, but they also let you pick the fish you want. Once you sit down to eat, they bring you over to show you the fresh catches. You can have any fish prepared either grilled with pasta etc., and you choose the amount you want! From the distance, you can see hundreds of steps up to the top of the island and the donkeys that settle there to bring people up.
On our last full day, we ventured onto a catamaran to check out the other surrounding islands and beaches. It was quite chilly and very rocky that day, as the wind was SO strong. Being able to see the islands and be on the boat was relaxing, but it is not the same kind of experience you will get being on a catamaran on a tropical island. We had been on quite a few before that were fantastic, and this one was just okay. We never settled on an actual beach and spent very short amounts of time at each location. One thing I found so interesting though was the danger of the Red Beach. Much of Santorini’s beaches were formed because of the island’s volcanic history. The Red Beach has been having issues with rocks from the island falling. It had closed, but many people ignored it and continued to use it. One of the workers on our boat told us that two weeks prior, rocks had fallen on a several beach chairs. You could see from a distance several old chairs pushed up against rocks and buried. So be warned, do not go on the Red Beach. If you can, definitely charter a boat and see it from a distance, along with several other of the islands and the Caldera. They are breathtaking.
Our final night for dinner, we had an amazing view of the island and enjoyed our last Greek meal at Ambrosia. Again, the food was fantastic. If you go, try the salmon tartare for an appetizer. You cannot go wrong!
My Greece trip will be something I’ll forever remember. I hope these tips and my travel diary help you plan your future Greek getaway. It is a beautiful country and one that I will definitely be returning to in the future!
P.S. I took some video footage with my GoPro, which I will edit and get up as soon as I can!