Greece

We traveled to three different islands and the capital of the country on our trip to Greece in May of 2013. Below you’ll find information on our transportation and accommodation choices and some of our dining and touristing highlights.

Greek Maps2

Santorini

Transport and Accommodation: Our experience with Greek hospitality was top-notch, beginning even before we arrived. We stayed at Pelagos in Oia and couldn’t have been happier with the location and the staff. Before our arrival they set up a shuttle to pick us up at the airport and transport us to the hotel. The ride was about 45 minutes and cost 25€.

Getting around Santorini requires either a rental car, frequent taxi cabs, or a healthy tolerance for walking. We opted for a combination of all of the above. We looked into renting scooters, but were told that we needed an international driver’s license to be eligible. With our US licenses we were able to rent an ATV that we shared for 70€ for three days. We drove all over the entire island a few times and only had to fill up on gas once. The staff at VIP Cars dropped off the ATV at our hotel and we chose to return it in town so that we could spend some time up in Oia.

Eat & Drink: One of the best things about Pelagos was that we had a kitchenette in our studio. We were able to go grocery shopping in Oia and save some money on food over the course of our stay on the island. We also indulged in some dining out with our absolute favorite spot being Metaxi Mas in the center of the island. We also enjoyed the view and some tasty frappes (cold instant coffee drinks) at a few of the cafes in Oia.

For wine drinkers there are a number of vineyards on the island and spots to sample the local wines. We had a nice afternoon of tasting at Sigalas Winery in Oia. In addition to wine tasting Sigalas also has a full menu so you can partake in lunch on their large patio if you wish. We had a good time at Sigalas, but prefer beer so we made a special trip to the Santorini Brewing Company. It’s a casual brewery and we did a quick tasting with the owner and then purchased a few beers to enjoy at a later date.

Touristing: The reason for Santorini’s immense popularity has to be the incredible views across the island, particularly from Oia and Fira. Both cities have plenty of options for dining and shopping. Both also have the opportunity to walk or ride a donkey down to the sea. Fira seems to be the more populous of the cities, but in my opinion Oia was more beautiful. Oia is also the place to be if you want to catch the sunset.

Santorini isn’t known for its beaches, but they were definitely one of the highlights of our trip. The most popular beach we ventured to was the Red Beach on the southern part of the island. The sand is a hot mixture of red and black and the beach’s backdrop is a large red cliff with doors built into the sides. Also on the southern part of the island the less popular, but beautifully clear-watered White Beach. Additionally right outside the entrance to Pelagos is a large black sand beach we spent some time on.

Sifnos 

Transport and Accommodation: Sifnos was an unplanned part of our trip, but turned out to be a perfect stop-over between Santorini and Milos. When we booked our trip to Greece we failed to realize that our first weekend in the country was also the celebration of Orthodox Easter. We knew that Easter in the Orthodox Church often falls on a different day, but never thought to look into when that might be. We were lucky in the fact that we got to witness the awesome celebrations and traditions associated with Easter in Greece, but slightly unlucky in that the ferry ran less frequently and some routes were completely out of service for the day hence our inability to make it from Santorini to Milos and a one-day stop over in Sifnos.

The port at Sifnos is Kamares and that’s where we stayed our entire time on the island. We were able to walk to our hotel (Margado) from the ferry, though the hill to reach the place is no joke! The hosts at Margado were warm and welcoming. They let us check in early and offered to make reservations, call a cab, organize an excursion- whatever we needed. We didn’t take them up on the offer, but they said the ride across the island would run about 18€ round trip.

Eats: For dinner that night we ate at Absinthe off the water in the port. It was Easter and Dave went for the lamb special (which was delicious), but I opted for the lighter chicken curry, which I don’t recommend. It was good, but not very flavorful. We shared a spicy feta spread and the fava bean spread for starters though and were very impressed. After dinner we indulged in ice cream cones and watched the sunset from the beach.

Touristing: We don’t have much to say on the matter of touristing as our time on Sifnos was so short and we spent much of it by the pool, but if you love pottery like I do Sifnos is a great place to do a little shopping. Right on the main drag there at least five different pottery shops selling a wide range of goods at GREAT prices.

Milos

Transport and Accommodation: Milos was my dream destination from the beginning. Beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, fresh seafood eaten al fresco and cold beer sipped by the waterfront sums up our 6 day/5 night stay on Milos. We stayed at Nefeli Sunset Studios in the small town of Pollonia. We had a double room with a gorgeous balcony overlooking the ocean. It ran for 49€/night.

Renting a car is necessary to take full advantage of the island. We worked with Roula, one of the owners of Nefeli Sunset Studios and got a good deal on a compact car from Europcar Rental. We rented the car for 25€/day and only had to top off the gas tank once. Nick from Europcar Rental met us at the ferry with the car and we were able to drop the car and keys off at the ferry when we departed.

Eat & Drink: We had two of our best meals on Milos and at establishments within walking distance from Nefeli. The first night we had the freshest, most delectable fish from Enalion. We dined outside- which gave us beautiful views of the harbor, but also meant we had to beat off the local cats with a stick. As soon as the waiter brought out our entrees (shrimp pasta and dorado) the cats came running. Shooing them away was a little annoying, but somehow added to the ambiance.

Our second favorite meal was also highlighted by fresh fish at a place called Amura. Amura’s culinary style is more modern and more fusion, but also absolutely delicious. Dave had octopus and I had lobster.

Touristing: For any and all information about what to do and see on Milos we highly recommend working with Antonis at Travel Me to Milos. We communicated with him via email before our trip in regards to ferry timetables etc…and then visited him at his office in Pollonia for help arranging a boat trip around the island and return ferry tickets. He and his staff were extremely helpful and informative.

With Antonis’ help we booked a fantastic trip around the island from the port of Adamas to Kleftiko. We researched this ahead of time and it’s true what you read: a trip to Kleftiko by boat is an essential part of visiting Milos. The boat departed at 10:00am and returned around 6:00pm. The staff aboard pointed out sights and gave us information about the island along the way as well as constantly checking in to see if we needed more water or coffee. When we reached Kleftiko they brought out snorkeling gear for us to use and lead trip to into the caves aboard a small motorized boat. Other staff got to work on lunch and we had a gourmet meal ready for us after all the swimming and snorkeling. Drinks were also included. The cost of the trip was about 50€/person, but well worth it.

In addition to taking Antonis’ advice we spent most of our time exploring Milos on our own. Milos is the place to be if you love the ocean. Milos has so many different kinds of beaches- rock beaches, soft white sand, those accessible only by boat. We spent everyday at a different beach and still weren’t able to see them all. We loved snorkeling and exploring the ship wreck at Sarakiniko. We had a great time driving and then hiking out to Cape Vani. Every beach we visited was beautiful in it’s own way, but our favorite might have been Agia Kyriaki. It’s a soft, white sand beach with some of the clearest blue water I’ve ever seen. For more information on the beaches of Milos check out this quick rundown on Milostravel.com.

Athens

Transport and Accommodation: Flying into Athens is easy with EasyJet. We flew round trip from Berlin for less than 100€ each. Then we flew Olympic Air to Santorini (one way) for exactly the same price. There wasn’t a super cost-effective option for getting to the Greek Islands and we decided that though the ferry was slightly cheaper the time we’d save flying (less than an hour flight vs. a 5-9 hour ferry ride depending on fast or slow ferries) was worth it.

After our tour of the islands we did take a fast ferry back to Athens. Everything was fine with the ferry, it made good time and the seats were comfortable, but it did show up almost 2 hours late (apparently a common occurrence) and that made us miss the midnight closing of the metro. We had to take a cab to our hotel, Ilissos, for the flat rate of 30€. The line of cabs waiting to take tourists into town is run by police officers and they are incredible efficient at manhandling you into a cab and incredibly unwelcome to the notion of price negotiation. The hotel was comfortable, clean and very standard, but only a 20 minute walk from the Acropolis and the tourist hub of Athens. Just walk up Dimitrakopoulou street and you’ll be in the center of it all. Ilissos also has a roof top deck with view of the Parthenon- a pretty sweet addition to the place.

To get around the city and back to the airport the Athens metro system is easily navigable. A one-way ticket to the airport is 8€/person, but there is a 2 person discount at 14€ for two tickets. For more information on ticket prices and metro maps take a look at the Athens Transport website.

Eat & Drink: Athens is a huge world capital with hundreds of options to choose from when it comes to dining out. We often opted for a cheap Souvlaki stand or a delicious cup of frozen Greek yogurt to cool off. One warning on Souvlaki: There are too versions of the dish, one cheap and one a little pricey.  First the sandwich type, wrapped in pita bread and available all over the city which is usually about 1.80€. The second is served at sit down restaurants and is meat served on a skewer with sides and is usually 8-10€ or more. Be carefully when ordering and ask for the sandwich if you are trying to eat on the cheap.

For breakfast every morning we stopped by a bakery on our way to the city center for spanakopita (puff pastry filled with spinach, cheese and/or meat). We’d also get iced frappes. Maybe it’s common sense, but we didn’t realize until almost the end of our Greece trip that if you pour a little more water into the bitter foam you can extend your frappe’s life a little longer:)

Sspanakopita and Iced Frappes

Sspanakopita and Iced Frappes

The tastiest place we visited in Athens might have been one of the Mystic Pizza locations. We shared a pizza and pasta dish and had plenty between us. For lunch one afternoon we stopped by Souvlaki Bar for, what else, some delicious souvlaki with a modern twist. My souvlaki came with BBQ sauce and Dave’s a spicy aioli. We also shared a spicy feta appetizer and a couple of Fixx beers.

We also recommend venturing to the Plaka area of Athens. It’s a beautiful part of the city with a romantic, old European feel. We stopped there one evening and split a liter of white wine at one of the local establishments for the quite reasonable price of 11€!

Touristing: There is so much to see and do in Athens and there’s no better place to start than the newly renovated Acropolis Museum. With four levels there’s so much history to learn about and see firsthand. The top floors displays the Parthenon gallery with recovered pieces and re-imaged lost portions. Note that the museum is closed on Mondays.

Another must-see attraction is the Athenian Acropolis. Entrance tickets cost 12€, but students get in free. Your entrance fee also includes a number of other sites around the city. Definitely take the time to check out the Ancient Agora of Athens. The grounds house the oldest church in the city and one of the oldest remaining temples. For detailed information the Acropolis and what to see check out the Acropolis travel guide on WikiTravel.

We spent our first day in Athens wandering the streets on our own, but felt like we could benefit from a seasoned guide. We joined a walking tour put on by Athens Free Walking Tours the next day. Our guide was George and he was fantastic. The tour started at 10:00 am, met in front of the Acropolis Museum and lasted three hours. Like many tours in Europe at the end of the tour you pay your guide what you’d consider acceptable payment. The tour highlighted the major sites and George provided not only ample information on the city’s history, but also a local opinion on Greece’s current economic situation and her position in the EU.

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