“The sea helps me get back to me.” -Anonymous
There are very few places in this world that invoke a deep awakening and a connection with our innermost desires. Greece is one such place. There aren’t enough words to describe the beauty, serenity and magnanimity of the Greek islands. Suffice to say, if there is heaven on earth, it is in Greece!
September last year I took a 10 day trip to Greece with my husband. September by the way is a great time to visit the European islands; the peak tourist season is over, accommodations are cheaper and the weather is just perfect. We travelled first to Athens, and then to Mykonos and Santorini islands.
There’s much to be learnt from travelling. For instance, until I actually went to Greece, I didn’t know Greece was actually referred to as Hellas by the Greeks. They refer to themselves as Hellenic. Athens or Athinia, the capital of Greece, is a historical hotspot. There are 61 museums in Athens! All extremely well maintained and a testament of the Greeks’ pride in their tradition and contribution to modern science and philosophy. A must visit is the Acropolis Museum, an archaeological museum reminiscent of the Greek Bronze Age and the Byzantine period. And if you are at Athens, you must see the Parthenon: the temple of the Greek goddess Athena. Other attractions include the Arch of Hadrian, Ancient Agora, the war museum, temple of the Olympian Zeus and the Theatre of Dionysus. Athens is a history buff’s paradise!
Our next stop was to Mykonos island. We travelled on a cruise ship from Athens port to Mykonos the next day and spent two glorious days lazing in the luxury of the beautiful weather and amazing view of the Mediterranean from our hotel room. To put things into perspective, we woke up to this at Mykonos:
The thing about Mykonos that impressed me the most was the uniformity. Every house, hotel, cafe and resort were designed and constructed in the same way: round white structures with blue windows.
Myconians are very fond of their culture and traditions. They are very tourist friendly and hospitable. The Mykonos Wine and Culture Tour is a popular attraction in the island. You will be taken on a walk through the town starting with the Agricultural Museum, followed by the Folklore Museum. The tour takes you in and around most of the island and ends with Greek wine tasting accompanied by traditional appetizers. If you’re lucky, you may even be treated to a Zorba performance!
Or if you want to just relax and soak in the sun, there are plenty of beaches to choose from. Our hotel was close to the Platis Gialos beach. Almost all beaches in Mykonos are surrounded by bars and restaurants. So you can spend half a day just tanning, drinking and snacking.
After two days at Mykonos, we sailed out to Santorini island. We stayed in Santorini for a total of three days. It is a bigger island and has more attractions and activities. Santorini is also one of the more popular Greek islands. This was my first impression as soon as our ship docked at the port.
Incredible right?! Santorini is fascinating just due to its sheer size and geography. We reached Santorini late afternoon and started our trip with an evening trek to the village of Oia, which is reputed for its sunset sceneries.
The following day, we visited the Akrotiri archaeological site, a museum that showcases the Minoan Bronze Age settlement before volcanic destruction. The black and red sand beaches are also great spots to visit.
The Red Beach is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches I visited in Greece. Located quite close to Akrotiri, the trek to the beach is a little risky owning to the au naturel path but the view is absolutely worth it. Geology enthusiasts: I highly recommend snorkeling at the red beach!
The next day, we took a full day trip to the Nea Kameni volcanic islands and hot springs. We signed up for a boat cruise with Caldera who took care of everything from picking and dropping us back to the hotel.
We were first sailed out to the volcanic island of Nea Kameni which has three craters. It was a 1.5 hour trek to the top. As we climbed, we were gradually beginning to feel the heat. When we reached the top of the island, we could see the entire Santorini island and the Mediterranean spiralling in and out of the island!
After this we were taken to Palea Kameni, a neighbouring island which had hot springs where you can swim. It was almost sunset by then. We were served dinner with traditional Greek salad on the boat. The Greek salad comes with this delicious Tzatziki sauce which a blend of all things nice and heavenly – boy have I never eaten so much salad in my life! After dinner, we sailed further out into the Mediterranean to watch the sunset near Crocodile island. You can see why its called so!
The following day was our last day at Santorini (and Greece). We spent the day scouting the island at leisure and did some shopping from the town of Fira in the evening.
A few things to remember: Visitors from tropical regions will find the climate very pleasant and can acclimatize easily. However, North American tourists may find the warm weather a bit difficult to adjust to in the first couple days. It also depends on what time of the year you’re visiting. September and October are ideal. The best places to eat at are the small taverns and take outs. Always carry bottled water and a bug repellent. And beware of vendors trying to sell roses!
I can say with certainty my tryst with Greece is far from over! I hope to go back sometime again and relive the Mediterranean life in full glory.