I traveled to Greece during the same trip as Turkey. These are actually two countries to easily combined into one trip. Lots of people doing the Greek Islands and Turkey go down to Ephesus and take a cruise ship or ferry over to the islands. Since I only went to Istanbul, I flew from Istanbul to Athens. Most people I had talked to about traveling to Greece say you barely need a day in Athens because you’ll hate it. I, however, really enjoyed Athens and was bummed not to have spent more than a day there. To begin, it’s exhausting to try and see everything in one day. Secondly, there is also a great vibe in the city of Athens. There are cafes and people everywhere. The city only begins to get crowded around 9pm, so having dinner at 11pm is completely acceptable. I would suggest at least spending several days there if you don’t mind crowds and enjoy touring cities.
The Acropolis, especially at night, is absolutely stunning and the Parthenon is everything you expect and more. To see these sites in person is surreal. We spent about two hours walking around the Acropolis before walking to the new (although now it’s five years old) Acropolis Museum. This museum was designed amazingly. When you walk up to the entrance the walkways are glass so you are able to see below into the city ruins. The top level of the museum was built to mimic the Parthenon and shows what it would have looked like during it’s time. Next we went to the Ancient City of Athens but sadly due to the crisis it was closing at 3pm instead of it’s regular time. I wish we would have been able to spend more time exploring. We just got to the Temple of Hephaistos before we were kicked out. This is one of the best preserved temples of its time.
The shopping around the Acropolis and on the main shopping street consists of both what you expect to see in a touristy area and also some really need craft shops. I bought a tapas platter made of olive wood thinking it was probably way over priced only to find it was actually a great deal compared to shopping on the islands. We then ate of first Greek salad of the trip, which I would then proceed to have as an appetizer for every meal. The food in Greece is spectacular. Everything is amazingly fresh and feels so healthy.
To get to the islands, we took the subway (almost $35 Euros cheaper than a taxi and avoids the massive traffic jams) to the airport and took a 20 minute flight to Mykonos. If you can afford it, the way to stay on the Greek Island is nice family owned hotels. I was less impressed with Mykonos than I thought I would be, especially since at one point we were shooed out of a store because we didn’t look wealthy enough! My Mom did flip him off on the way back home later that night, so either we got our revenge or looked even more trashy than before. At least it made us feel better! The islands are definitely pricey and it seemed as though the people were much less friendly.
Struggling to find activities, I decided we should try to catch a ferry to the island of Delos. What a great idea. Delos is about 30 minutes by ferry and is an ancient Greek and Roman city began around 3,000 years ago and seized to exist after around 1st century B.C. The islands has amazing mosaic floors, temple ruins, and the HUGE base for a HUGE statute of Apollo. You also can hike up to the highest point and see all sides of the island. This is really worth the trip.
We then took a ferry to the island of Santorini. I LOVE THIS ISLAND. There is so much to do on this island and it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen with my own eyes. We stayed at the Artemis Villas in Imerovigli. This is a great location because you are walking distance (30 minutes) from Fira, the main town, and it’s a little more secluded. The hotel had amazing views of the volcano and ocean, which made for breathtaking sunsets. At sunset each night they provided you a treat. The first night was cake and champagne, so you really might be in heaven. I rented a car on the island because it’s big enough you’ll need one to get around. First we visited the Ancient City of Thera. My mom and I followed directions and parked our car at the bottom of a giant mountain. The road (we thought) implied we couldn’t drive up the mountain and we saw some people hiking. So we began the trek up this VERY steep mountain, the whole time going how do so many people manage this. Well turns out as most things in Greece, of course you can drive to the top!!! These are worth seeing and the hike is grueling but great exercise with ocean views the whole way.
Akrotiri is a must do. These are ancient ruins from 2000 B.C. to 1500 B.C. that were buried under ash and pumice from a volcanic erruption. It is an amazing sight and only show 1/30th of the orginal city. The whoel site is under a new climate controlled building which is amazing in itself. When we visited it had only been open 4 months.
Other fun things to do include wine tasting (we went to Gaia Winery located in an old tomato factory right on the ocean), beer tasting at the Santorini Brewery, hike from Oia to Fira (about 6 miles each way), catch an outdoor movie in English at the Kamari Open Air Cinema during the evening, and visit the caldera (the volcano). If you visit the caldera, make sure to take the donkey ride back up to Fira from the dock. It is a crazy experience.
Food, the most important. Like I mentioned before, I had a Greek salad with every meal. We also would eat by the water whenever possible and have fresh seafood. In Oia (which is the fancier part of the island), it’s well worth taking the 300 stairs down to Amundi Bay to have dinner or lunch. The restaurants both have an outdoor oven and freshly caught fish you can choose from. Another restaurant that’s a must do in Santorini is Naoussa Tavern. There’s no reservations and always a line but worth the wait. Plus you can drink wine while you wait!
Overall, Greece is a must. So much culture, history, and amazing food. I can’t wait to go back.