If you haven’t been following my Instagram handle, there has been a sudden increase in pictures of sun, sad, and me! This is because I went on a little (not so little) 10 day trip to Greece with my college bestie, Morgan as a celebration of a year of college graduation! As I transit back home (seriously sitting at the Dubai food court listening to NPR as I write this) I want to share couple of thoughts on the cities and islands that I went to. This will be quick and not a emotion heavy piece because of the many people who are traveling to Greece this year and need recommendations!
I went to three places: Athens, Cephalonia, and Santorini. Now I wont go day by day with an itinerary but with the top things to see, eat, drink, and to note in each of the three locations.
- The country is amazingly safe. Yes, there are shady parts in Athens, but the other islands are so tourist focused that there is literally no time that you feel unsafe.
- People are super tourist friendly even with single brown men with beards (more on this soon)
- Athens municipality is literally always on strike with taxis, buses, and ferries taking a hit. So please make sure you check out how you are transiting in and out of the city. Most English speaking locals will know the situation and will be happy to help. Also, stay away from ferries to travel to islands. Flights are quicker, almost the same price, and strike free
- Airbnb’s are a hit and miss. None of the places we stayed in were actual apartments. They were either motels or reconfigured apartments. In Athens specifically, stick to hotels which will honestly be better
- Renting cars are a good option when on an island. Remember, an international drivers license
- Summer isn’t hot with a constant wind blowing through because of the ocean effect.
- Greece is cheap. Excluding my ticket from Delhi-Athens all my expenses (food, sights, car, flights, accommodation) were under 1 lakh rupees (~$1,600)
The capital city is actually amazingly nice. Most people don’t stay in Athens (including me) for too long but there are a lot of things to do. Taxis into the city are totally fine and the city is well connected with metro though its pretty walkable.
Things to see
Acropolis: The main ruins in the city with all the hits like the parthenon and all the pillars littered around the city. A 30 euro ticket gets you full access to all the ruins. Hiking around the areas is amazing. Better than the tourist clad acropolis are the areas around it that offer amazing views of the ruins. Head to the National park to see the trees in full bloom and a tiny hill that offers views of the old city
Monastiraki: City center (or at least tourist center) with a wonderful flea market, amazing food options, and fresh fruit sellers (try the cherries and stone fruits).
Places to Eat
Mikros Politikos: Best Gyros I had in Greece. Right next to the Acropolis metro station, its one of the most genuine options when it comes to this cheap fast food. For 3 euros you get wonderful grilled meat, veg, tzatziki, and an in-house pita bread. The winner here is the pita which is made of a wonderful flour and cornflour mix with a healthy dusting of semolina which makes it heavy, grainy, and absolutely delicious when hot. Top meats to eat (in ranking order): spiced beef adana, pork, chicken.
Dipylo: A corner open street restaurant which is where I had the best calamari and tried for the first time, Ouzo- a fennel based liquor which is oddly similar to jagermeister. Try the dolmades, calamari, grilled haloumi, and ouzo with tonic water
One of the most beautiful islands in all of Greece. Low on tourists, high on beaches and natural views. Bring hiking shoes and hire a car. There are no taxis and the ferries don;’t connect the whole city. The weather is temperamental and days with lots of wind can change the ocean quickly. For the most part however, the weather remains constantly temperate.
Things to see
- Mellisani & Dograti caves: Natural lakes that melds through natural rocks. Waters are crystal clear and filled with eels. Its the only place that you will have to pay for a ticket in the whole city and to be honest not the most beautiful place
- Myrthos beach: Blue shallow waters and postcard shores. Best beach for swimming if you are a weak swimmer (or floater)
- Agrastoli: Main city in the island. Decent food but the best thing about it is the sea turtle lagoon. Thirty odd sea turtles that swim around close to the surface of the water as the city is also a natural breeding ground for them.
- Asos Beach: A large white pebble beach on the Northside of the island that overlooks a castle. The castle, while nothing more than just rock offers great cliffside views of hills meeting azure waters. Definitely take the hiking path instead of the pleb walking path and you wont be disappointed.
- Xi Beach: on the west side of the island past Lixouri is the soft sand xi beach. I lived overlooking this beach which is by far the best beach I have been to. Shallow waters, soft sand, no issues at all.
I lived in a Cephalonia on a tight budget. This meant a lunch out and breakfast and dinner at home. To be honest, the food options are similar to Santorini or any touristy place so the food isn’t the best. A gyro joint on the main street in Agrostoli is the best with an amazing fried feta with honey appetizer.
The most touristy island in all of Greece. Marble, white homes, and honeymooners galore. Come here with a boo thang because you will be shipped even if you aren’t otherwise. No need for a car or the unstable ATVs. Most things are walkable and the bus which has a flat fare of 1.8 euros is good enough.
Things to do
Thira: Main city with the classic blue roofed church. Places to see here are the panoramic hotel walkways, the old port which his a steep downhill hike which can be fun but other modes of transportation such as cable car and donkeys are readily available as well. Wait around to see a sunset and enjoy panoramic views of hotels you can afford and oceans you cant swim (the latter is more applicable to me than others).
Oia: The rich part of the island where people fly down on helicopter instead of a cab. Oia just a better maintained part of Santorini. There is a hiking path from Thira to Oia which takes 2.5 hours. Quite literally the best views you get from the city. Definitely do give it a try. Best thing to see in Oia is Atlantis bookstore. An independently owned bookstore where travelers leave their old books with notes on what it meant to them. By far one the best bookstores I have been to (even National Geographic agrees!).
Open Air Cinema: Out near old Thira is a small open air garden resplendent with cacti that offer frozen margaritas, nachos, with comfy seats, a beautiful breeze, and a oh yeah a movie too. A beautiful concept that may not sound like the best way to spend time in Greece but to be honest, it was a lot more fun than either Morgan or I anticipated.
Again, we didn't out much because of the pricey touristy places. A must go is a classic Greek taverna such as Mama Thira that's known for its grilled meats. Try the tomato balls and veal meat balls. Also don't forget to try donkey beer: Santorini's original beer brewing company. The Crazy Donkey IPA which comes in 750 ml flutes is actually great. Do give it a try.
Greece was an amazing trip and came at a much needed time. Comment below with any other questions and I would be happy to answer any and all!