The first time I travelled to Greece I was 11 years old and I came back extraordinarily proud to be Greek.
The subtle brainwashing by my grandparents (“Benita, did you know the Greeks invented everything?”), coupled with an amazing six-week holiday morphed me the mini-me version of the dad, Gus, from My Big Fat Greek Wedding (“Give me any word and I will tell you the root of the word is Greek”). I would literally tell people “I’m not Australian, I’m Greek,” subsequently moving my grandparents to tears.
My passion for all things Greek- from the food, to the music, to the history – definitely hasn’t waned over the years. If anything, it has probably intensified every year that I have been apart from the place I call the “motherland” (no, I wasn’t born in Greece but just go with it). I studied Ancient Greek history and literature at school, by choice. I had a Greek-themed 21st complete with a souvlaki truck and Greek music. I once dragged my only Greek friends (my cousins) to a Greek-themed nightclub event to listen to Greek music. I’ve sat through many viewings of Troy, and not just for Brad Pitt’s butt.
By the time I was about two weeks into my holiday I was absolutely DYING to get to Greece. I think Jack was a little concerned for my sanity at one stage. “Get me to Greece, get me to Greece,” I would repeatedly say as I rolled backwards and forwards, like a ball, on the floor of our Croatian hotel room (I’ll let you come to your own conclusion as to whether I’m exaggerating here or not). Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing to travel Italy and explore Croatia, but I genuinely feel like I have a magnetic pull to Greece. It’s not just a travel destination or a tick on my bucket list.
I was elated to have arrived in Greece and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I cried when I left. And I’ll probably start crying again as I go through my photos now. I might even spontaneously book a flight back for next year.
You’re probably reading this and thinking, why does she love it so much? And I can safely say its the Greek people. It might be because I spoke the language, but I’ve genuinely never experienced such hospitality before. Xenia, the ancient Greek concept of hospitality and generosity shown to those who are far from home, is still well alive in Modern Greece. And although the country is still battling significant financial troubles, it doesn’t seem to have broken the people’s resilience, or their love for their country. The Greek people genuinely want you to enjoy their country too.
I hope travellers continue to visit and support Greece, and to experience the Greek hospitality, incredible sunsets and of course the mouthwatering food.
WHERE I WENT:
My boyfriend, Jack, and I arrived in Athens on June 19 and spent two nights in Athens. From Athens we left for the Cyclades islands. While ‘island hopping’ implies that there was some sort of quick progression through the islands, we took our time. We travelled to Mykonos for seven nights, then onto Paros for another seven. We then travelled to Santorini for five nights and concluded our island hopping with six nights in Ios. It was so lovely to get to truly explore each island, seeking out the best restaurants, the most secluded beaches and stunning handmade clothes, shoes and accessories. I spent two nights in Athens with Jack before he left for home and I left for Thessaloniki and my Greek road trip. (My post on my Greek road trip with Mum and Dad will be up next Monday).
Some of the more popular Greek Islands like Mykonos have airports which accept both domestic and international flights, but we chose to travel by ferry through the islands as it was definitely the cheapest and most efficient option. The prices and schedules can vary dramatically, and don’t ever rely on the ferries to run on time. Ever. You can book your ferries in advance at the Direct Ferries website, but I would definitely suggest booking as you go.
I was so pleasantly surprised by Athens. A lot of travellers only come to Athens as a stop along the way to the islands, but to do this would be a true disservice to the capital city. I’m so glad I got to spend four nights in Athens, exploring the Parthenon, the newly-built Acropolis museum, the Monastiraki flea markets, the Ermou shopping strip and the FOOD. Literally the best Greek food I have eaten (sorry Yiayia), and so, so cheap. Our favourite souvlaki only cost €1.50 and I cannot find its name for the life of me. I AM SORRY. I will update this when I finally find it. I literally still have the taste of it in my mouth.
The Acropolis Museum is almost flawless- from its layout, to its content. The only improvement could be replacing its mock-ups of certain friezes with the British Museum originals. GIVE EM BACK.
Eat: In Monastiraki, the new hub of Athens. It’s a bit of a stretch, but this part of Athens reminded me of Melbourne- food, the fitouts, the coffee, the vibe. The Greek donuts at Lukumades were out of this world, especially when topped with Bueno sauce.
Drink: Just meters from Monastiraki station, A for Athens is a rooftop bar with the most amazing panoramic views of the Acropolis and the bustling Monastiraki Square.
Stay: Somewhere with a pool if you can afford it because MY GOD it gets hot in Athens. We were lucky to nab a room at Fresh Hotel Athens during the city’s June heatwave. Its rooftop pool was small but it got put to good use.
Mykonos just magnetises the rich and famous with its amazing hotels, luxurious restaurants and exclusive beach clubs. It’s almost impossible to do on a budget so just TREAT. YO. SELF.
Mykonos also has some great beach clubs and bars, but they probably cater more to the 25-35 year old clubbers. We loved the Scandinavian Bar in Mykonos town but its worth noting that the Greeks aren’t stingy with their alcohol servings. I honestly can’t remember half of our first night out.
Eat: Treat yo self to a beachside dinner at Avli Tou Thodori Resturant. Although situated on the luxurious Platis Gialos beach, the staff, the food and the prices aren’t pretentious. They even gave us a free starter and free dessert.
Drink: Feel like a celebrity for a day at Scorpios beach club. Drink chilled wine in your private cabana on your private beach while celebrity spotting.
Stay: Somewhere luxurious. Mykonos is renowned for its stylish hotels, epic pools and amazing service, so if you’re going to splurge, do it here! We stayed at Ostraco Suites in Mykonos Town and we were absolutely blown away by the staff. From welcome drinks to made to order breakfasts, the staff went out of their way to help make us feel welcome. Book early! We were only financially able to stay at such an amazing hotel because we booked it well in advance.
It was nice to head from the touristy Mykonos to the quieter Paros. I think it was probably one of our favourite places for our trip, mainly because it had the best of both worlds. Paros has a bit of everything you’d expect from an island in the Cyclades- from whitewashed villages and blue-domed churches to stunning beaches and picturesque fishing harbours- all without the crazy crowds we got sick of in Mykonos and Santorini.
We hired a buggy and drove to all the different towns of the small island. A highlight of mine was our walk up to the Lighthouse at Paros Park. It was just Jack and me and an amazing view of cliff edges, blue sky and ocean.
Eat: At Cactus Resturant in Parikia Town- the best (and only) Mexican restaurant on the island. After weeks of Greek food it was nice to try something a little bit different. Their guacamole was insane.
Drink: At Punda Beach Bar. It’s got two pools and a private beach with relatively cheap cocktails.
Stay: Anywhere on the island- if you hire a car, ATV or buggy car. Paros doesn’t have as great of a bus line as some of the bigger islands like Mykonos or Santorini so I would strongly suggest hiring something to get you around. We loved getting to explore the island by buggy.
Everyone needs to visit Santorini at least once in their life. It literally looks like a postcard with its narrow streets, ocean views and countless white washed buildings. The whole time we were there I felt like I was in a dream. As much as I loved exploring the towns, it was also nice to spend two whole days just laying around and enjoying the views.
If you’re visiting during peak season you’ll definitely need to learn how navigate through the crowds and bridal parties (there are A LOT of weddings in Santorini). Try to visit Oia before sunset or you may get trampled!
Eat: Cheaply! We generally had drinks at the caldera bars and then headed away from the main strip for cheaper dinners. By the bus stop in Thira they have a lot of quick Greek street food, that’s all very cheap, quick and delicious.
Drink: At sunset. With a view of one of Santorini’s iconic calderas. We watched the sunset from V Lounge which boasts unobstructed views of the Aegean Sea and an epic wine list of local wines.
Stay: If you can, I’d suggest staying at a cliffside hotel for at least one night of your stay in Santorini. It is truly an unforgettable experience. I think the best thing we did was split up our time in Santorini between a three-star hotel in the main town and an amazing cliffside hotel in Imerovigli. We definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford the hotel in Imerovigli for the whole five nights, so this way we got the best of both worlds.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that people come to Ios for the party scene. They definitely don’t come to see little old men riding donkeys, or fishermen mending their nets. They come to Ios because they are young and the island is one of the major party islands in Greece. And probably the cheapest.
Jack and I met up with my brother, Dean, my cousin, Emma and her friend, Maddy for a crazy six days here. It was absolutely epic to get to experience this island with them. Whether it be getting slapped in the face for a shot, knocked over the head with a fire hydrant for a shooter, or staying up well past sunrise, I definitely got to experience things I’ve never done before back home.
I also loved getting to explore some of the beaches of Ios and rock climb to the bright blue coves. If I go back to Ios I’ll definitely hire a buggy car and travel around the whole island.
Eat: At Harmony Ios. This hacienda-style house perched ontop of Mylopotas Beach has the best views, yummy Mexican food, live music, bean bags, hammocks and an amazing happy hour. Such great vibes.
Drink: Bar hop in Ios Town (or Ios Chora). The Square, as it is known, is the starting point for most people’s night, and it’s pretty fun that each tiny nightclub has its own theme, music, and shot challenges. Not for the faint hearted. My favourite bar was Flames, Dean and Jack’s was Coo Bar, and the girls was the silent disco.
Stay: Somewhere that you can easily walk home from. There’s not a lot of taxi’s in Ios, or any of the islands for that matter, so be prepared for a long hike back to your hotel. We stayed very close to town and it made it so much easier when it came to going out.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ISLAND IN GREECE? SURELY I AM MISSING SOME! I’D LOVE TO KNOW IN THE COMMENTS SPACE BELOW!
Each Monday over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing parts of my holiday and giving you some tips along the way! Next week is all about my road trip through Greece. Stay tuned!
Click here to view ‘My European Adventure.’
Click here to view ‘Ten days in Italy.’
THANK YOU TO CHELCIE SCHIRRMAN- GRAPHIC DESIGNER.
Chelcie is a Melbourne-based Graphic designer with an interest in publication and typography. With a keen eye for detail, she has extensive experience in branding, campaigns and logo design. Chelcie works at APR Creative in Black Rock and freelances at www.chelcieschirrman.com.