Touring the Greek islands
I got a chance to travel to Greece with one of my best friends who I grew up with in Toronto. Disclaimer: If you get seasick on boats then this may not be the trip for you. I went in May, so it wasn't too hot and the weather was amazing. However, the waves were huge and there were a couple times we had to dodge people who were puking into tiny barf bags. The longest boat ride we took was around two hours, and there are tons of options for times in the schedule, so if you can stomach it, ferries are a great way to get around.
I flew into Athens and spent the day there, and then started our #IslandTour. First, I met my friend at the airport in the morning and we stored our bags in a locker there so we could grab them on our way to the ferry later in the afternoon.
Our cab driver drove us all around Athens and this is what we had time to see:
The Acropolis (where The Pantheon and other ancient buildings are)
The Ancient Agora
Syntagma Square (where the parliament building #soldiersonduty)
Gyros & cemetaries
We hopped on a ferry from the Rafina Port after grabbing our luggage from the airport. When we got to Andros, our ride to the hotel in a rickety cab along a mountainside and it took an hour to get to Andros town (which is the capital of the island -- also called Andros. I know, confusing.). We were second-guessing our choice to stay an hour away from the port on the other side of the island. But it was SO worth it.
We dropped our bags off at the hotel and grabbed a gyro for dinner nearby. The hotel tucked away from the main street, just a three minute walk to restaurants, an outdoor movie theatre, and shops. It was a very quiet and clean and was a great way to ease our way into Greek island life.
Stay in Andros:
The attic room at the Micra Anglia Hotel (cozy boutique hotel, very comfortable for two, friendly and helpful service)
One of my favourite parts of wandering around Andros was the cemetery with a view of the city and beautiful sculptures. I almost forgot it was a cemetery because of all the greenery and flowers.
Don't get me wrong, Mykonos was beautiful. But we ended up cutting our stay short because we weren't in love with the non-stop-drunkenness of annoying frat bro types and leathery old men lying on the beach in the nude. We got into Mykonos late at night and took a cab to the Ornos Beach area. We were going to stay at a place called Eleni's Studio, but when we got there, the door had been left unlocked and there was thick hair in the bath tub. It wasn't a hotel so there was no one around to help sort out the situation. So we opted to leave and take another cab to Paradise Beach Resort, basically on the other side of the island - about a 15 to 20 minute drive from Mykonos town. It had a party-all-night atmosphere with music blasting until around 11 p.m. And then the party people headed to the club nearby.
We got the last room, so we didn't have much choice. It was small with two single beds and seemed more like a hostel. But it was clean. They offer other room types as well (so think about booking in advance if you're going at a popular time). We left our bags and went to the nearby restaurant, CheckPoint, that had everything from hummus and dip, to calamari, fish, and pizza. They also offered wifi and had a chill #vibe. We often sat there when trying to come up with travel plans or plans for the day.
During our stay in Mykonos, we went to:
Stay in Mykonos:
Paradise Beach Resort (decent room, more like a hostel, but directly next to the beach)
A real Paradise
By far the best beaches: they were untouched and the water was warm and crystal clear. The town was laid-back and there were tons of good food options. We rented a go-cart-type vehicle and drove around the island in an hour. It broke down near a surfing school so we stopped to call the rental place. They came and fixed it and we were off again. But the next day we decided to nix the go-kart when it wouldn't start again. Other than driving around, we check out some local churches and shops.
Stay in Paros:
Apollon Boutique Hotel (trendy boutique hotel, 10 minute walk from main square)
Is this where Hercules is from?
We left Paros to go to Chania, Crete. (The spelling varies: Xania, Hania...) It is a *stunning* coastal town. We were only there for one night so we walked the Old Venetian Harbour and the lighthouse guarding the city. We ate along the water and signed up for glass-bottom boat tour - but it was windy and the waves were too rough. So we decided instead to hop on a bus and head to Heraklion.
Stay in Chania:
Artemi's Rooms (family-run place right near shops and restaurants)
Next we took a bus to Heraklion, the capital of Crete. We visited the Lions Square (also called Eleftheriou Venizelou Square) and ate some gyros obviously. We wandered around the main streets at night and went to a market. There were tons of people out, playing soccer or getting ice cream or hanging out on church steps.
Stay in Heraklion:
Atrion Hotel (clean and comfortable, right near main square)
Romantic sunsets & volcanoes
Santorini, famous for its sunsets, did not disappoint. We enjoyed dinners on rooftops overlooking the ocean and walked the winding, narrow streets browsing jewelry, leather goods, and different kinds of olive oil. We took the cable car down to the Old Port but you can also opt to take a bumpy ride down on some donkeys. We decided to go on a volcano tour, where you can swim in hot springs that smell like eggs (because of the sulphur in the water). Warning: Don't wear a white bathing suit unless you want it to turn orange! The volcano tour is worth it for the views of Santorini. Other than that, we wandered around, explored, went to the beaches, and enjoyed the food.
During our stay in Santorini, we often took a 20-minute bus ride into the town. We didn't make it all the way up to Oia but we did see tons of sunsets from rooftops in the main town. It was nice to stay further from touristy area, although it was sometimes frustrating to have to go back and forth between the main town and Perissa, which is the area the hotel we stayed at was in.
Stay in Santorini:
Amelie Hotel (Beautiful rooms with pool near a black sand beach in Perissa)
I was able to exchange all the money I needed at the airport, but obviously you can do this beforehand.
I found that knowing a couple words in Greek went a long way because not that many people spoke English. ("Pou" means "Where" which is something I was asking a lot. Also "Pos eisai" is "How are you?" and "Yassou" is an informal way of saying "Hello")
Bring your own sunscreen or anything else you might normally buy when you arrive at your destination. Because most of the islands are touristy, sunscreen and similar items are expensive.
Check the ferry schedule often. There can be sudden changes due to weather. Bring Gravol if you get seasick.