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September 2017

Places I've Been Travel

It’s All Greek to Me

Anyone who knows me well, knows that Greece has been my dream destination since I was about 10 years old, so going the day after I took one of the hardest exams of my life was literally perfect timing (anything to get my mind off waiting for test results for three months). To say that Greece met my expectations is an understatement. The food, the culture, and the scenery were absolutely breathtaking, and it’s full magnificence is hard to put into words, but I’m going to try.

For our first trip to Greece, we (my boyfriend and I) decided to do each of the three main destinations I dreamed of going to: Athens, Mykonos, and Santorini. I am going to tell you what we did on a day-by-day basis so I can share my opinions with you based on the things we experienced. That being said, I’ll let you know what I think you should definitely do, and what I think you could skip (or maybe replace with something else). I’m even going to add my personal itinerary for you guys to use as a template if you’d like as well. So without further ado… I give you, GREECE (from my perspective).

Day 1:

We took an overnight flight out of Fort Lauderdale, FL, and landed in Athens at 6 pm on our first day, so we didn’t really do much. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Athens City Center because of it’s central location, but if you want a more authentic Athens experience, I would recommend staying at a hotel near Plaka (the most historic neighborhood in Athens). After checking into our hotel, we walked to the restaurant we chose for our first dinner, Oroscopo. The restaurant was really adorable, with a beautiful outdoor seating area and excellent food. On top of that, the owner personally introduced himself before we sat down, and sent several free items to our table as well (soup, limoncello shots, and dessert) – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Day 2:

This was our first full day in Athens, so we decided to do the touristy stuff and did a 5 hour walking tour.  I definitely recommend doing some sort of guided tour around Athens because you will see more AND learn more that way. The company we used has multiple options if you want to see different sites or only want the tour for a certain amount of time.

On our tour we saw the Parliament Building and the changing of the guards, The National Gardens, The Temple of Zeus, The Acropolis (with The Parthenon and Temple of Aphrodite etc.), and then the Acropolis Museum at the end (which has only been opened to the public since 2009). Side note – if you plan on exploring a lot more of Athens other than whats on the tour, get the Athens City Pass – you can use the tickets on the tour itself, and it will save you some money as well.

At the end of the tour we found a really cute spot nearby to have lunch called Yard Cafe, which was really quaint and has an adorable outside patio. After that we went back to the hotel to relax for a little before dinner and I may or may not have taken a short nap (blaming it on the jet lag). After dragging myself out of bed we went to dinner at Lithos which is in an area called Psiri, aka the nightlife district of Athens.

There are a ton of restaurants, bars, and live music here, and I highly suggest walking around here after dinner. IF you want to do what we did, you can take a “Nightlife Tour” of Athens, which I thought was a lot of fun and informational, but not necessarily anything you cant do on your own (and thanks to me you will know the awesome “locals only” spots that they took us to on the tour… shhhh).

Some of my favorite bars from the night were: T.A.F. (The Art Foundation); Our first stop was at T.A.F. and I can easily say this was love at first sight. The entrance to the bar is off an alleyway that you wouldn’t necessarily find on your own, and once you walk through a small indoor room, you find yourself in a outdoor courtyard with trees, lights, and great music. The buildings surrounding the patio were once actual homes, and have since been bought and cleared out to use as occasional art galleries. T.A.F. has great vibes and great drinks as well. Six D.O.G.S; This multipurpose bar, project space, and garden, was originally opened in 2009 and is really one of the coolest places we went to. Mildly similar to the first, it also has an outdoor garden area with trees and beautiful lights. It’s a little more chill here than T.A.F. and is a great place to sit, soak in the ambiance, and enjoy one of the cocktails off their super extensive menu. Do yourselves a favor and go here for a drink, or two if you can’t pick just one. A for Athens Cocktail Bar; This was out last stop of the night and I’m so glad we didn’t skip it. It’s a rooftop bar with stunning views of The Acropolis, what more do you need.

Day 3:

We [unintentionally] slept in a little on this day (more than we intended to) and woke up around 11 am… oops. We decided to start our day with a late breakfast (Brunch?) and went to an area in Athens known as the Plaka District. Plaka is the only part of historical Athens that was kept intact (instead of the rest of Athens that was rebuilt and now looks like your typical big city). While it is somewhat of a touristy area, it has a ton of cute shops and restaurants, with cobblestone streets and winding roads, it is really a beautiful area to explore.

We had brunch here at a place I would definitely recommend called Anafiotika Cafe. The food and coffee was phenomenal, and it is situated at the top of some steps with a great view of the city. From there we walked to an ancient temple called The Temple of Haphaestos which is one of the only temples still fully intact, and was the temple of the blacksmith of the gods. From here we went back to the hotel for some more relaxation (no nap this time).

For our evening activities, we decided to kill some time before dinner at another rooftop bar we had been wanting to try called 360 Degrees. The cocktails here were not as great as those from the night before, but the view was equally as stunning. If you only have time for one of the two rooftops I would probably recommend this one, only because it is much bigger (more chances of getting a table) and has a more laid back feel.

From here we hopped in a cab to dinner nearby at Aleria, which is a modern take on traditional greek food and was sooo good, definitely a must if you want to try something different and absolutely delicious. After dinner we walked back to Psiri for dessert at Bougatsadiko Thessaloniki; you NEED to go here and get the bougatsa, it’s basically crispy phyllo dough stuffed with custard and topped with cinnamon, sugar, and honey. Brb while I go wipe the drool off my face…

Day 4:

While I was very sad to leave Athens (at 7 am in the morning no less), this meant it was time for Mykonos! We used the SeaJets Ferry because we heard it was the fastest, and it got us from Athens to Mykonos in just under 3 hours. I know some people chose to do this by plane, but I prefer to avoid flying when possible, and no, I did not even get remotely sea sick on the ferry.

Once in Mykonos we took a ridiculously overpriced cab (your options will be limited so we didn’t have much of a choice) to the San Marco Luxury Hotel and Villas. I am going to preface this by saying that I truly loved the hotel itself (great pool, amazing breakfast buffet, large rooms) but the location was relatively far from most of the things we wanted to do. I would recommend trying to find a hotel near Mykonos Town so you are closer to the middle of the Island. Once checked in, my boyfriend was picked up to go get our ATV that we rented for the 3 days there – this is a MUST DO. Cabs are way too expensive and there’s a limited amount of them; basically for the price of two cab rides per day, you can get an ATV and drive all over the island yourself.

Once we acquired our ATV, it was off to our first stop, Kiki’s Tavern. My boyfriend found this place on Trip Adviser and after reading about it on multiple Greece Travel sites we decided it was a must do. Kiki’s Tavern is a very small restaurant located in Agios Sostis. There’s no sign on the outside so if you can’t find it just ask, someone will point you in the right direction, or park where you see a row of cars and follow the gravel pathway. The restaurant itself does not use electricity or phones, so you can’t call in ahead to make a reservation, and they only recently started accepting credit cards for payment.

To eat at Kiki’s Tavern you just need to show up – first seating is around 12:30 pm (get there by noon to beat the line) and second is around 1:30-2 pm. The restaurant holds about 30 people at a time and the owner somehow remembers the exact order you arrived in without writing a single thing down (with a memory like that he could have definitely gone to med school).

The food is hand selected daily at a local market and everything is cooked on a charcoal grill. There is also an extensive selection of salads and vegetables that are made fresh and all looked delicious (it was really hard to choose just two). Heads up, the portions are fairly large. We got a grilled pork chop (one of their specialties), grilled feta with peppers, and two side salads (chickpea and artichoke salad) and that was plenty.

After stuffing our faces at Kiki’s, we went down to Agios Sostis Beach for a while. It is really beautiful here because the beach is in a cove, so you have the ocean with the mountains in the background – truly breathtaking. After an hour or so, we ATV’d back to our hotel to relax and prepare for dinner. For our first Mykonos sunset, we really planned ahead and made reservations at Katarina’s Bar in Little Venice. I say that we planned ahead because the restaurant has prime views of the sunset, IF you snag one of the 6 tables they have on the balcony (3 on each level).

Call and make a reservation here as soon as you can because not only was it the best view imaginable, but probably the best pasta dish I have ever had, hands down (and that’s saying something). If you’re like me and are always chilly, bring a sweater because once the sun is gone, so are all hopes of warmth. After dinner we wandered around the Little Venice area, had some gelato, and stopped at Scarpa Bar for a few cocktails. I highly recommend this place for drinks, they know what they’re doing.

Day 5:

In Mykonos it’s pretty simple to decide what you’re doing every day, and the hardest decision you are going to face is which of the multiple beaches you are going to go to. On day two on the island, we decided to go to Platis Gialos Beach. This beach is known for being a popular beach, that is not too pricey, and has some great restaurants (if you know anything about me you already know that most of my decisions are based on or around food). Once you get to the beach, ask around to find the cheapest spot to buy a sunbed – the prices range anywhere from 10 – 30 euro per person depending on the location of the sunbed and if anything is included (a cocktail, wifi, etc.). After laying around for a few hours, we decided to have lunch on the beach at Yialo-Yialo. If you like muscles (even if you only kind of like muscles), get them, trust me. Aside from that everything else there was amazing, you can’t go wrong.

After lunch we went back to the hotel to relax and get ready for dinner. For our second night we picked somewhere with not as great of a sunset view (mountain obstruction) but equally as amazing ambiance called Apaggio. This restaurant is located right next to Ornos Beach, and is too cute of a place to pass up. The outside patio is located right on the water, and the ceiling has hanging fiber optic strings everywhere that get brighter as it gets darker outside.

Honestly the whole dining experience was truly magical, and the sangria was on point too.  After dinner you can choose to go to the number one club in Mykonos, Cavo Paradiso, which we almost did (I mean, check out that line up), orrr you can go home and sleep (which is what we did, #grandmastatus #notashamed). If you want to check out the club scene, but maybe do something not as intense, here are some other options.

Day 6:

On our last day in Mykonos we basically did the same thing as the other two days, beach, eat, and chill. We heard great things about Paradise Beach and wanted to experience a little bit more of the “party scene” so we went there. I will say that the cocktails here were cheaper than the other beaches, but the beach itself wasn’t my absolute favorite. The lounge chairs weren’t as nice and the food selection was a bit more limited. It really just depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for, so here are some ideas about which Mykonos Beaches are known for what.

We decided to leave for lunch and go to another, much more secluded beach that had a pretty great restaurant directly on the sand called Joanna’s Nikos Place. This restaurant is located on Megali Ammos Beach, and while the service was a little bit slow, the food was really incredible. It’s definitely a great lunch spot to add to your list if you want to eat well and sit right on the water. After lunch we made a quick pit stop to visit the Iconic Mykonos Windmills before heading back to the hotel.

The restaurant we chose for our last night in Mykonos was Scorpios. Scorpios had been super high on my list for a while, and I’m really glad we went. That being said, it was probably the most expensive restaurant in Mykonos, but between the ridiculous sunset view and the outstanding food, definitely worth it.

There is also a section with tables reserved for bottle service, and some great music playing in the background. After dinner you can definitely stick around here to party, or if you can just chill on their beach section and listen to the beats (P.S. Scorpios is also on the list of best “clubs” that I mentioned before, even though it’s so  much more than just a beach club).

Day 7:

This morning was a bittersweet morning or me because A. we were going to the most anticipated stop on our trip, Santorini. and B. I knew that meant our vacation was starting to come to a close. We took another SeaJets Ferry, and got into Santorini at about 12 pm. From the port, we took a shuttle to our hotel, Sophia Suites. Please take a moment to check out the reviews (and the photos). If you want the best room they have (I promise you it really is the BEST room) ask for room #305 (shout out my hometown area code #miami). The room itself is one of their Aurora Cave Suites and has its own mini pool, sun deck, and patio to eat breakfast overlooking the Santorini Caldera. I am not exaggerating when I say I have never ever stayed somewhere with a view like this, and would stay in that exact room over and over again if given the chance.

Once we finally lifted our jaws off the ground, we were picked up for our Santorini sunset cruise. The company has quite a flew options, but after doing a decent amount of research and comparing multiple vessels and itineraries, I definitely recommend the one we chose. The boat was big enough that it wasn’t crowded, and a small enough group to still feel like a somewhat private trip.

The tour included stops at Santorini’s red beach, white beach, and hot springs, and then parked below Oia to watch the sun set from the water, all with beer, wine, and a delicious fresh made grilled lunch. It was honestly one of the highlights of our trip. Once the shuttle dropped us off back in Imerovigli (where our hotel was) we had a light dinner at Avocado, before heading back to the hotel.

Day 8:

Let me start off by saying, Oh Em Gee, there are NO words for the breakfast we had this morning. You select whatever you want from a menu the night before (we had pancakes, omelettes, greek yogurt with walnuts and honey, loukoumades, juice, and coffee), and let the hotel know what time you want breakfast delivered. They bring it right to you door, on your patio, overlooking Santorini for the sunrise. Obviously we ate in our robes and slippers and had to pinch ourselves to make sure that it was real.

After breakfast we went exploring, and by exploring I mean we walked 5 miles (about two hours) from Imerovigli to Oia (btw, it’s pronounce ee-yuh), on one of the most famous (and beautiful paths) in Santorini. The entire walkway is along the edge of a cliff, and you even get to see some of the other incredible hotels along the way. I will admit that we threw in a 20 minute donkey ride along the way (for only 10 Euro!) to break up the trip and experience a traditional Greek custom.

Once we made it to Oia, we had lunch at Floga, and walked around Oia for a little, before hopping on a bus back to Imerovigli. Side note – when in Oia, if you have any interest in getting a photo of the picturesque blue domes, you can ask a local where to go, or you can follow this wonderful man’s directions (thank you Kenneth!).

After getting back to the hotel, we decided to just enjoy the pool, sundeck, and scenery for several hours before getting ready for dinner. We watched the sunset from our room first because honestly, I don’t think there is a better spot to watch the sunset from (because we were so high up, we could even see over the small volcanic islands). We then headed over to Fira for dinner at Character, which is a Greek restaurant with an Italian flare – and AMAZING. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much food as I did that night.

Day 9:

For our last day in Santorini we decided to do something both fun and educational; a Santorini Wine Tour (duh). Honestly though, tell me a better way to learn a little about the country’s history and enjoy some good food and wine along the way. Plus I’m clearly not the only person who thinks that way because check out these reviews. The tour takes you to three different wineries, and gives you samples of some breads, dips, and cheeses. Of course there are different tour options depending on if you want lunch included, a cooking class, etc., but we just did the wine tour and it was perfecto.

After the tour, we had a light lunch from Mezzo, which we took ‘to go’ and ate from our hotel, in our own private pool, overlooking the water, which I am still not over. Several hours (and a few more glasses of wine) later, we sadly got ready for our last night in Greece. We watched the sunset from our hotel room (again), and took a bunch of cheesy photos together (to whoever invented tripods and camera remotes – thank you).

We decided to have dinner our last night at a restaurant called La Maison, which is a Greek restaurant with a modern french flare, and was really really unique and cool. The portions are on the smaller side so order a few things, plus you’ll want to try the different flavors they are serving. Everything we had was amazing, and it was the best ending to a truly magical trip.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my Greece vacation at least half as much as I enjoyed the trip itself, and I apologize for the lengthy article, but it is a destination I am incredibly passionate about. If you have any questions at all about the trip (or my itinerary, which I have attached), the restaurants, or anything at all, please comment below or contact me, and I will be happy to help in any way that I can! P.S. Check out Facebook for my full album.