I’ve always had a thing with Greek mythologies and gods since I was little. I remembered learning about the Greek gods in school and my imaginations would just run wild. Athena was my favorite since she is totally girl boss. Everytime I see pictures of those white little houses by the blue ocean my heart beats a little faster like I’m staring at Ryan Gosling’s sculpted body. So when the hubby asked where I’d like to go for our honeymoon, without a doubt it was Greece!
Our itinerary? Fly out from Los Angeles, transit through London, and land in Athens. Then we island hop starting with Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, and back to Athens. There aren’t that many airlines that fly from island to island, so you will most likely find yourself transiting through Athens even if you want to go from e.g. Crete to Mykonos. Most travelers take the ferries, it all depends on how long you want to be on a ferry and of course how they match up to your schedule. We booked ours online through Fantastic Greece for our Mykonos to Santorini leg, and picked up our tickets at the local travel agency. It is super easy and hassle free.
Random things I noticed during our trip in Greece:
* There are cats EVERYWHERE – every hotel we stayed at has an adopted cat, which is kind of cute.
* You will never see more churches in your life than Greece, especially in Mykonos.
* Their door game is strong. Every color and design imaginable – LOVE!
* Frappe, the Greek iced coffee, is life.
* Drivers are crazy, watch your back as you may get run over before you even realize.
* Women are all gorgeous with their perfect golden-tanned bodies.
Now onto the islands!
Our first stop was Crete. The island is HUGE! We stayed in Agios Nikolaos, which is an hour away from the airport and the main city Heraklion. Now I can’t really tell you much about the city since we pretty much stayed at the resort the whole time. Reason being 1) the hubby was beyond sick and was glued to the bed the first two days, and 2) the resort and our room were just way too heavenly. From what we’ve gathered from travel guides, some of the top to do’s in Crete include visiting the Palace of Knossos, and hiking the Samaria Gorge. Agios Nikolaos itself is also a destination, as it has a lake and sits by the coast.
We stayed at Daios Cove Resort, and splurged on a private pool room since it was our honeymoon. “Blown away” was certainly an understatement when we saw the room! It is very private and secluded, and we felt like VIPs 🙂 We also got a complimentary bottle of wine and fruits. The resort itself is situated at a cove, and has its own private beach. There is also a huge infiniti pool, but we just hung out at our own “little” private pool most of the time.
The hotel offers complimentary breakfast buffet every morning of the stay, and has multiple restaurants to choose from for dinner. We watched the sunset everyday into the Aegean Sea, from our room or from one of the restaurants. Everything evolves around the sunsets in Greece, as they are one of the most beautiful things you will experience in your life.
Eventhough Daios Cove was the most luxurious hotel we stayed at the whole trip, the room rate was the lowest (aside from Athens) as it isn’t as popular as Mykonos and Santorini. So if you’d like to splurge for a little R&R, I recommend you looking into the less popular islands to get a bigger bang for your buck. Crete is also very well known for its honey, so make sure to buy some before you leave!
Ah, the party island. The island where the rich and the famous lounge at Psarou Beach and dine at the famous Nammos, while the young and the restless party all night long at Super Paradise and watch the sun rises over the Aegean at Cavo Paradiso. We did neither, as we are not rich and famous, nor are we young and restless. Despite that, it was still the island I enjoyed the most, and I will tell you why.
Everytime I think of a Greek Island, I picture the winding paths in the little white towns, with stone staircases leading up to different colored doors. That is Mykonos. I simply LOVED getting lost in Mykonos town, wandering from one street to the other, not knowing what shops and restaurants I would discover, and what church I would see next. Yes, it is infested with tourists, but it still maintains its charm, even the Louis Vuitton store seems surprisingly “quaint”.
We pretty much wandered through the town everyday, and everytime we would find something we did not notice the day before. I invite you to venture out into the off beat alleys, away from the famous Matoyianni Street, as it is quite an adventure.
We rented a car for a day and drove around the island. I highly recommend everyone to do this, as you get to check out the different beaches and see a different side of Mykonos, aside from the Town, the glamour, and the parties.
My favorite beach was Agios Sostis, the not so hidden little secret of Mykonos. It is located in the North of the island, away from all the actions and the parties. It does not have all the bells and whistles of the other beaches, but it is quiet and unpretentious. We also went to Elia Beach, which apparently is popular among the gays (hello cute boys) and the fashion crowd.
While touring the island, we grabbed a bite at Paprika. I ordered the Lahanodolmathes, which is traditional Greek stuffed cabbage rolls with egg lemon sauce. It was super delicious and a good variation from all the grilled meat, seafood, and pasta most restaurants offer.
Be careful when driving though, as the roads are super narrow and rocky. I would not recommend going on a ride with a full stomach as you may get sick, like I did…
Two of the main tourist attractions in Mykonos are Little Venice and The Windmills. Both are very close to Mykonos Town, and you really cannot miss them.
Little Venice is one of the earlier developed area of Mykonos. Buildings were constructed on the edge of the sea with balconies hanging right above the water. Many of these buildings are now converted into restaurants and bars. It is known as the most romantic spot on the island, and perfect for sunset-watching.
A little stroll from Little Venice are The Windmills. They were built by the Venetians to mill flour, and the most famous ones sit in the town of Chora, lined up along the coastline. They are cool to look at, but that is pretty much it as you aren’t allowed in. Personally I think they are much better admired from afar than up close.
Island of Delos is a 30-minute boat ride away from Mykonos. You can easily sign up for tours at one of the travel agencies in Mykonos Town. There are day tours and night tours. It is considered one of the most important archaelogical sites in Greece, and according to mythology the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo. Yes, it sounds super amazing. No, we did not end up going. We signed up for the sunset tour, which leaves Mykonos at 5pm. Reason being it would be less hot, plus we would get to watch the sunset on our way back. However, on the day of our tour, the wind was beyond strong and to our disappointment the tour was cancelled as the ocean waves were too dangerous for boats. It is the biggest regret of our trip. We didn’t get to go, but I’m sure it would be quite a sight and experience.
There are so many amazing restaurants in Mykonos Town. Our first night we grabbed an early dinner at one of the restaurants in Little Venice, as we wanted to catch the sunset at our own hotel balcony. Second night we had a dinner reservation at Interni, which is also located in Mykonos Town. The restaurant has an open courtyard and the crowd is very hip and trendy, or shall we say “Hollywood”. The restaurant was gorgeous, though they tried to pack too many tables in the area, and we literally were sharing a table with our neighbors, slightly awkward. The third night, which was also our last night, we grabbed a super early dinner, after our Delos tour failure, at Pasta Fresca Barkia. I fell in love with the place the second I saw the pasta display, you just cannot help but get hungry after staring at all different types of pasta! We ordered grilled octopus and pasta with prawn, both were super delicious.
Don’t forget to check out Jimmy’s Gyros, which is an establishment by itself. It is popular with the late night crowds who want to grab a bite after a night of partying. We grabbed a bite during the broad daylight, and it still did not disappoint with sober tastebuds. If you get lucky while wandering the streets, you may run into a home-cooked food stall run by local Mykonos women, cannot get any more authentic than that. One regret of mine was not having the chance to dine at M-eating. When I walked by I just loved how quaint-looking it is with a little outdoor porch. Definitely going there if I ever am in Mykonos again.
We stayed at Kouros Hotel & Suites, which is a super hip but intimate oceanfront boutique hotel, and to my surprise right next to Cavo Tagoo. I mean, Armani himself stays at Cavo Tagoo! But I digress.
Our room balcony looks out to the port, where we see mega luxury yachts dock, and of course the ocean for us to watch the sunsets. Like Daios Cove, we got a complimentary bottle of wine and fruits 🙂 My favorite part of the room are the French doors that lead out to the balcony, trés chic.
It is a bit of a further walk from Mykonos Town, but 15 minutes of sweating only means more justification for that late afternoon ice cream!
Aside from being the party island, Mykonos is also known as the windy island. The wind can get so strong, which happened when we were there (lucky us), that the ocean water can flood the waterfront restaurants.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said of one of the most picturesque islands in the world? The Caldera, the white houses, the sunsets. I won’t even attempt as it will just be pointless. Let me be honest here – I was slightly disappointed when I got to Santorini. Don’t get me wrong, it IS beautiful, and my disappointment is not at all the island’s fault but mine. I hyped it up so much to myself all these years, my expectation was just all the way up beyond heaven. Apparently this happens quite often to many Santorini visitors after speaking to a few friends, so at least I don’t feel like an ungrateful traveler… but still slightly guilty.
The two most popular cities in Santorini are Fira (Thira) and Oia (pronounce eee-ya). Fira is the capitol of Santorini, while Oia is where most honeymooners stay at. We stayed in Fira as we wanted to avoid honeymooners eventhough we are ones ourselves. Plus there are more things to look at in the town of Fira vs. Oia. Situated in between Fira and Oia is Imerovigli, less popular than its two big sisters, but still beautiful and probably more affordable.
So you are in Santorini, and if you are honeymooners like we are, you probably booked a super nice hotel that faces the Caldera, and plan to watch the sunset from the room every night. That was also our original plan. But at this point we had already watched so many sunsets in Crete and Mykonos, my husband was just dying to do something else. Luckily all our friends had prepped us with a list of activities, which we got straight into the second we settled down in our hotel.
Yes, hiking in Santorini, along the Caldera, how genius is that? The path takes you all the way from Fira to Oia, and along the way you get an unobstructed view of the beautiful Caldera. It is a 4-hour hike, but it was already 5pm when we decided to go, so we started in Imerovigli instead so we could catch the sunset in Oia, and more importantly not hike in the dark!
The hike is not difficult at all, but it is quite rocky in some sections. There are multiple churches you will pass by along the hike, and they are all different and breathtakingly beautiful. The path is very easy to follow with signs along the way, and we were told “if you get lost you will be the first persons to ever do so.”
We got to Oia at 8pm, still 30 minutes to spare before the sunset. Our friend warned us before our trip that TONS of people watch the sunset in Oia, and we would have to fight for a spot. Well, he did not exaggerate and it was a bit ridiculous of a scene when we got there. We decided it was more important to find a place to rest and fill up our tummies after a 3-hour hike. We ate like cavemen and inhaled our food at Lotza Restaurant. We still had an ocean view and got to catch a glimpse of the sunset from our table. Winning!
This is my favorite part of the whole Greece trip, and I just wish I could relive it everyday! It is a boat trip where you are taken along the coast of the Caldera. We booked ours through the hotel, with the Santorini Yachting Club. It is pricier than the ones most will find in the town of Fira, but you pay for what you get.
We were picked up from our hotel early morning, and shuttled to Ammoudi Bay to board the boat. There were about 30+ people on our boat, but it was so spacious we felt like we were just on a private yacht. First stop we were taken to the Palea Kameni Hot Springs. Palea Kameni is a volcanic island, and its mud is know to be therapeutic. We swam from the boat to the hot spring and enjoyed some warm mud. Afterwards we sailed into the Aegean Sea to admire the Caldera and the Santorini coastline.
My favorite part – snorkling and swimming with fish! The salt content is so high you bascially just float in the ocean. We were also fed a very delicious, freshly grilled meal on the boat by the crew before sailing back to Ammoudi Bay. Did I mention free alcohol the entire 5 hours on the boat? It was definitely a day to be remembered, and everytime I think about the trip, this is always the first thing to cross my mind.
Similar to Mykonos Town, the town of Fira is also filled with shops and restaruants. It is hilly vs. Mykonos Town is flat. We spent half a day wandering the streets and alleys. Maybe because we already explored so much in Mykonos, we didn’t spend too much time in Fira Town, plus it seemed much smaller and therefore even more crowded with tourists. But it is still worth checking out.
If you want nicer shops and more well-paved streets though, you should head to the town of Oia instead.
Like Crete and Mykonos, food is equally delicious in Santorini, and I had one of the best dining experiences at Aegialos. It is located at Aegialos beach, on the other side of the Caldera. You can lounge on the beach during the day and dine at the restaurant at night. We went there for dinner and the ambience was amazing. We were greeted by the owner the second we stepped foot on the property. It is a very small and intimate outdoor restaurant right on the beach, and the view during dusk is a complete kodak moment. You cannot see the sunset there, but just the atmosphere itself is well worth the trip.
Make sure you order the Katsouni Martini when you are there. It is basically a cucumber martini, as Katsouni is the cucumber of Santorini, and is so refreshing and subtly sweet. The food was perfecto, especially the grilled fish was so fresh and juicy. We took a little stroll on the beach after our meal and watched the stars from one of the lounge chairs, the whole experience was just magical.
We encored an amazing meal at Argo Restaurant the day after, which is located in Fira Town. Make sure you reserve a table in advance so you can watch the sunset while you drink and dine on their rooftop porch. They are known for their shrimp spaghetti, which was of course again delicious. But my favorite dish was the white eggplant casserole. It is a must order, plus white eggplants are only available in Santorini, making it extra special. It is a complete different experience from Aegialos, but still a memorable one nonetheless. You look out into the Aegean and watch the sun sets into the ocean, at the same time you get to people watch the crowds strolling on the street.
We stayed at the Petit Palace Hotel and Suites, which is located in Fira. It is about a 30 minute walk from Fira Town. To our pleasant surprise, we were upgraded to the Petit Maison Suite on the first two nights of our stay. The room has 2 levels and a private pool looking out to the Caldera, AH-MAZING! Unfortunately they had to move us back to our original Honeymoon Suite on the third day, but no complaints there!
The best part of the hotel is you can pre-order your complimentary breakfast the night before to have it served in your room. It was a great thing to look forward to every morning, having breakfast with a side of the Caldera view.
The staff at the front desk was just beyond lovely and really went out of their ways to make sure we enjoyed our stay as much as possible.
When you book your hotel stay in Santorini, make sure it is facing the Caldera side as that’s where you get to catch the sunsets.
Also, our server at Aegialos suggested us to watch the sunrise. She stayed up one night with her friends to watch the sunrise, and it was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen, million times more than sunsets. The hubby and I did not have the energy to stay up all night, nor were we able to wake up so early in the morning. But if you could, give it a try!
Athens, the capitol of Greece, named after Athena herself. It was so surreal to be in a metropolitan city with ruins from Greek mythology scattered around town. If your goal is just to visit the Acropolis, the museum, and some of the other historical sites, 1.5 days will be enough, and that was what we did.
We did wish we spend an extra day so we could explore the actual city a little more, but we weren’t sure how safe it would be with the economic crisis going on. But we felt completely at ease in the areas we hung out.
Most people go to the Acropolis first before heading over to the museum. I would recommend doing the opposite, as things just make a lot more sense when you know the stories while staring at the ruins. We visited the Acropolis Museum on our first day after we arrived from Santorini. It is a very modern building that sits at the foot of the Acropolis, and on top of the excavation site, quite a juxtaposition. The museum really guides you through the whole history of the city of Athens and the Acropolis itself. There is also a short movie on the top floor that explains the details of the Parthenon. Did I mention we spotted Ryan Serhant from Million Dollar Listing New York there with his fiance?! Again, I digress.
We certainly felt well prepared for the Acropolis ground the day after. It is a short tiny hike to get up to the Parthenon when you are at the Acropolis, just follow the crowd and you will be fine. It was a bit of an overwhelming feeling just knowing how much history there is behind this giant ruin that sits in the middle of Athens. Everything is roped off however, so don’t expect to be able to roam around inside the Parthenon. When you head back down, check out the olive tree garden by the lemonade stand. I was surprised there was no one walking around in there, as it is such a picture perfect spot.
After our Acropolis adventure, we hiked up the Areopagus Hill where you get to take in some pretty amazing views. Then we walked through the Ancient Agora of Athens, which was the happening place back in the days. We stopped at Stoas of Attalos to get some rest before heading back into the city.
This the the world’s only white marble stadium, built on the grounds of an ancient Greek stadium, and hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. We got there about 20 minutes before closing, and I was pretty dead tired by then. It was quite a view though sitting on one of the marble stairs, taking in the view. The hubby on the other hand had quite the energy, and ran a full lap around the stadium. I guess it is pretty cool to be able to tell your friends you ran a lap at the one of the oldest stadiums in the world.
This was our stomping ground when we were not at one of the sites. It is located near the Acropolis and our hotel, and is known as the “Neighbourhood of the Gods”. Today it is a very commercialized area where you shop and dine. Definitely a cute neighbourhood to check out and buy some last minute souveniers.
We really wanted to dine at Funky Gourmet, which is a two-Michelin-star restaurant. Unfortunately it was closed during the month of August 🙁 It is a molecular gastronomy restaurant, a refreshing departure from the usual. We ended up eating at the restaurants in Plaka both nights.
We stayed at The New Hotel, which is about a 10 minute walk from the Acropolis. Designed by the Campana brothers, it is filled with art pieces that are super hip and modern, but at the same time rustic looking. I was obsessed with the gold sink the second we walked into our room, so obnoxious but so captivating at the same time. They do not offer complimentary breakfast like the other hotels we stayed at, but you can easily grab something to eat at a nearby cafe. I however sure did appreciate the complimentary chocolate dipped strawberries and bottle of wine in our room.
Its rooftop lounge is quite well known in the city, but certainly requires a dress code. The hotel is also located very close to the bus station, where you can catch the X95 that takes you straight to the airport; or you can take a cab which will probably cost you 50 euros.
When you buy tickets to visit all the historical sites, make sure you purchase it at the Acropolis, as that ticket includes entries to majority of the sites such as the Ancient Agora of Athens and the Temple of Zeus. If you buy tickets at let’s say the Temple of Zeus, you cannot use it to enter the Acropolis. The Acropolis ticket however does not include entries to the Acropolis Musuem nor the Panathenaic Stadium. Also wear comfortable AND gripping shoes when visiting the Acropolis, as most of the ground is marble floor, and it is very easy to slip and fall!
And this concludes my travel diary to Greece! Our whole trip was 2-week long, which I felt was just right. Of course we would have to squeeze in more days if we were to visit the less popular islands such as Naxos and Paros. If we could do it all over again, I would probably reverse our itinerary and do Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, then Crete. Crete was the most relaxing and would be a nice ending to the trip. But it was a perfect trip nonetheless! Some points to keep in mind when you book your Greece trip:
* The peak months are July and August, so make sure you make all your bookings no later than end of April. I however recommend you to avoid the month of August as it is one of the hottest months.
* If you do end up going there in August, just make sure you hydrate yourself all the time as the heat is quite something. It can get very draining when you do the hike in Santorini or when you visit the historical sites in Athens under the 80+ degree weather with no shade.
* Bring more than enough sun screens! The Grecian sun is VERY strong, and trust me you can still get a nice golden tan even with SPF50+.
* Make reservations to the restaurants you wish to dine at in order to secure a good spot. All the good ones get booked up pretty quickly! I would look up the sunset hours to help you better gauge the times of your reservations.
* Order the Grilled Octopus as much as possible, as they are the best. Don’t order them in Athens though, only in the islands.
* We were able to use our credit cards just fine. But just to be on the safe side, make sure you bring enough cash with you as some places do not take credit cards.