Navigating Athens & the Greek Islands


Kalimera! Yes I know it’s been awhile but I’m back! And excited to tell you all about the time I spent a few weeks in Greece this summer with my best friend. I’ll be sharing my thoughts and tips we learned while exploring this beautifully historic country.


ATHENS

You only really need two days max to fully explore Athens. As always try to see if you can find a free walking tour. These are great to acquaint yourself with the city, plus the guides are usually locals who can give you tips and recommendations for the city.

The other day you should dedicate solely for the archaeological sites (of course, if you have more time in the city you can do these in a few days). We only had one day to use the pass, so we jam-packed our day! The pass gives you around 3 days to see them all. This pass costs 30 euros for 7 main sites. If you’re a student, you actually get 50% off, which makes it an added bonus. TIP: Don’t purchase your pass at the Acropolis; any of the other 6 sites will be less busy.

1 of 7 archaeological sites included in the pass

The Acropolis is actually included in the pass mentioned above, but keep in mind that the Acropolis is 100% the MAIN tourist attraction in the city. Therefore, it is always busy. I suggest either going right when it opens, or towards the end of the day. Give yourself more than an hour to explore the site!

The Acropolis Museum is where all the REAL artifacts are kept in Athens. It’s only 5 euros or 3 with a student card. It is a great place to escape to when the heat is unbearable outside.

Fear not! I haven’t forgotten my top food recommendations for the city! If you want some decent Gyros, check out Savvas, they offer a wide range of Greek food options. TIP: Order a simple gyros at the window if you want a quick & cheap meal. However, if you do want to sit down, it has a nice shaded rooftop section.

While in Greece, you have to try their version of Timbits. Loukoumades are essentially fried dough balls that you can order with a wide range of toppings. While in Athens, we probably went to Lukumades three times. It is very close to the main square (Monastiraki).

 

 

 

 

To conclude this Athens section, I have to mention the restaurant where we spent the majority of our time. Yiasemi is a cafe/bistro that offers a wide range of Greek specialties for 5 euros. Oh, and did I mention everything is homemade? It’s a great place to share a few delicacies with a friend. Their greek salad is DELICIOUS, probably the best we had in Greece. It’s located on a steep street in between the Acropolis and the main square. A great lunch spot pre or post Acropolis visit!


MYKONOS

Mykonos is the party island of Greece; similar to how Ibiza is to Spain. In Mykonos, you’ll find those picturesque white painted stoned streets, with blue shutters and bright pink flowers.

In Mykonos, you’ll have a variety of beaches to choose from, from Platis Gialos, to Paradise to Super Paradise (if you’re looking for a party). But fear not, you can also enjoy the beach before the parties get started if you aren’t into that scene. The parties usually start around 4 pm and go until the early morning. The water by Paradise beach is BEAUTIFUL. There is a natural rock formation in the water so you can actually swim to it, and walk over the water for an epic photo op.

Wherever you’re staying on the island, you have to find a day and an evening to visit the Old Town. Their public bus transit operates usually every 20 or 30 minutes, and tickets are roughly 1.80 euros. The Old Town is where you’ll have your photo opportunity with the famous white background.

There are lots of cute boutiques, (on the more expensive side) and of course the typical tourist shops. You’ll also find Little Venice and the Windmills by the water in town. TIP:  The town is very crowded during the day with cruise tourists, while in the evening (after 7 pm) it’s less crowded, but still busy and not HOT. If you’re looking for lunch or dinner, find the corner that Sakis is tucked in. If you want a cheap and delicious meal, head on over for a mouth-watering gyros.

Depending on the duration of your stay on the island, you might want to consider renting an ATV. Instead of relying on public transit or expensive cabs, you can make your schedule on your own terms. Ask your host, because they’ll usually know who has the best deals.


IOS

What can I say about Ios, other than it was my favourite island out of the three we visited. There wasn’t any one thing that really stood out, but it was the overall feeling we got while we were there. Ios is a very small and not that well-known of an island.

There are many different parts of the island that you can choose to stay in. We opted to stay close to the port and beach. If you want to party, there’s a beach for that, if you want to relax, there’s a beach for that, if you want to explore hidden beaches, there are beaches for that. I have to give a shoutout to Brothers Hotel in Ios. We were so warmly welcomed to the hotel. After only a day, we felt like family with the owners, and the other guests. We were a 30-minute walk to the “downtown”, and a bus ride from other beaches. I could honestly write an entire blog post on our experience at this hotel.

By the port, there is a great bakery where you can grab a ham & cheese croissant for breakfast, or devour some baklavas drenched in syrup. There is also an AMAZING & cheap gyros place by the port, as well as a restaurant with traditional Greek food such as moussaka, it’ll make you feel as though your mother is making you dinner. Oh wait. It is a Greek mother who is actually making your meal!

The “downtown” city of Ios is called Chora and it is tiny. No need to go there until dinner time. The crowds start coming around midnight because this is where all the bars & clubs are. They take their partying seriously here; to the point where bars don’t have closing hours just opening hours (ex: 9 pm – close). If you’re visiting right before the peak season you’re in luck; you’ll never have to pay cover. You can literally go to nine different bars in one night if you want (that’s what we did). A lot of the people working these bars and clubs are foreigners, we found ourselves hearing a lot of Australian and Irish accents. They spend their entire summer working and partying.

One of the highlights of our time in Ios, was when we attended our very first Floatopia party. You might be asking yourself, ‘what is a floatopia party?’. Well… it’s essentially a party on the water. People bring any type of floating device and of course alcohol. But before you can enjoy your float, your beverage and people cliff jumping, you have to repel down a huge cliff yourself. Totally worth it.

Shoutout to James for this sick shot. Check out his Instagram, it’s filled with amazing landscapes.

But honestly, the main thing that made me fall in love with the island, was how friendly everyone was. If we were walking, everyone would either smile or say hello. The highlight of my trip had to be when we were walking back to our hotel and we saw an elderly man riding his donkey (cherry on top was the fact that he waved to us!!).


SANTORINI

I wish I could say I fell in love with Santorini, but I didn’t… I’m not exactly sure why we weren’t fans of this beautiful island. The island itself is JUST LIKE all the postcards and photos you’ve seen before. Maybe it was because everyone who was around us were couples… Also, Santorini is an island that has many offerings for affluent travelers. Meaning if you have a lot of $$$, you’ll have an amazing time on the island. But nonetheless,I have recommendations and thoughts to share with you all.

Of course, if you have the opportunity check out the sunset at Thira and Oia. There’s nothing like watching the sunset on a Greek Island. There’s just something magical about watching it with other tourists. Speaking of these other tourists…there will be a lot of them waiting for the sunset. So make sure to get there early and get a good, unobstructed view of the sunset.

Check out the red and black beaches if you have the time. We also took a boat day trip which was nice to see the other islands surrounding the mainland. TIP: If you do decide to go on a boat cruise I highly recommend you invest in the 6 euros it costs to take you to the water by gondola. Why? BECAUSE IT IS A STEEP ZIG ZAG OF A DESCENT. You have to maneuver your way through donkeys and their feces.

Another “stereotypical” thing you might’ve heard about Santorini are the fish spas. You know, those places where you put your feet into the water and little fish eat the dead skin between your toes. Honestly, it isn’t AS ticklish as you might think it is plus it’s quite a fun experience to share with other travelers. TIP: There’s a discount if two of you get a “pedicure”. It usually costs 10 euros for 15 minutes (which is a perfect amount of time).

Random fact: Certain taxi routes have a flat rate of 10 euros.

 


GENERAL TIPS

  • Kalimera = Hello / Good Morning
  • Must try delicacies: souvlaki, gyros, greek salad, fresh seafood (calamari), loukoumades & baklavas.
  • If you’re staying in the downtown core in Athens, take a taxi instead of the subway. It might be expensive but it is worth it, the metro is actually expensive from the airport & a huge hassle.
  • Ask your host what the usual rate for taxis are so you aren’t scammed.
  • Buses on the island are actually huge tour buses and range from 0.80 euros to 1.85 euros.
  • When booking ferry tickets, try to get the actual ticket so you don’t have to wait in another line to pick them up.
  • Get to your port 30 minutes before your ferry that’s usually when they start boarding (and bring A LOT OF SNACKS, the food on board is expensive and not the best).
  • If you’re a student, bring your student card (always ask if there’s a student discount, they might not ask so do your due diligence).
  • Book through the hotel/bed and breakfast’s site, not Expedia (you usually get a discount or an added feature).

I hope my tips & recommendations have gotten you excited about your own Greek trip and hopefully you’ll be able to actually try out some of my recommendations. Need some accommodation suggestions? Hit me up. If you have any questions feel free to shoot me a tweet or a message. ❤

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