As our plane touched down in Athens, we were relieved. Having been in the Middle East, surrounded by Islamic culture and sights for so long, we were delighted to see pork and alcohol for sale, and were even more thrilled that I didn’t have to cover up my body! As much as we enjoy travelling in the Middle East, Greece was just what we needed, and was the ultimate holiday from backpacking the world.
Our three days in the country’s capital were spent exploring and wandering. We started with the funky, cobble stoned Monastiraki Square. This is an excellent place for people watching from one of the many benches or from the water fountain’s edge. Children are playing, lovers are snuggling and vendors are wandering around hawking their wares.
Surrounding the plaza are shops selling souvenirs and many restaurants serving up delicious meals. Tables tumble out onto the streets from nearby cafes and live music sometimes kicks off in the evenings.
There is just so many things to do in Athens, we wouldn’t possible be able to see them all in such a short period of time.
An obvious must-see in Athens is the Acropolis! Exploring the beautiful columns, impressive theatre and of course, the iconic Parthenon was an excellent way to spend the day. Even the walk up to the Acropolis was scenic with narrow alleyways, white washed buildings and cobble stone streets.
Luckily for us, we were in the city on a Sunday, when the changing of the guards ceremony happens. We had missed the one in London and were so excited to experience this. At 11:00am, a marching band came down the streets, followed by the guards dressed in the traditional attire – white outfits, white leggings and shoes with big pom-pom balls on the toes. The changing was very interesting and after the ceremony, the men stood proudly and perfectly still to guard the Parliament.
We wish we had longer than 3 days in the city, but the islands were calling us!
As our ferry-boat sped over the incredibly clear, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, massive grins started to spread over our faces, and didn’t leave for the entire 8 days spent on the incredible island of Santorini. Blindingly white buildings perched on the edge of a rust-red cliff greeted us as we disembarked.
The island itself isn’t all that big and we knew we wanted to do some exploring of our own, so we immediately rented a motorbike and had it for the entire time we were there. The island is famed for its sunsets, beautiful buildings, blue domed roofs and wineries. Many of our evenings were spent with a bottle of wine in the town of Oia, while watching the sun dip into the sea.
The beaches range from black sand to golden to red, all of which are stunning. We spent days laying on the sands at Perissa and Red Beach, occasionally dipping in the clear waters to cool off. Apart from lazing around and simply relaxing, we visited the wineries on the island, explored hidden roads by motorbike and gazed down at the volcano on the island below us. Santorini was an incredible vacation from our every day travels, but it was time to move on…the bigger island of Crete was next up!
Since there were so many places we wanted to check out, we decided that the best way to get around would be to rent a car. We spent 8 days visiting the ancient ruins of Knossos, the Lesithi Plateau, the Dikteon Cave (the birthplace of Zeus!), the hippy hangout of Matala, Elafonisi Beach (pink beach), and the Samaria Gorge.
We absolutely loved all of these highlights on Crete, but one place really stood out for us:
This pristine beach is absolutely incredible. Located in what seems like the middle of nowhere, we parked our car at the top of the beach and hiked down to its white, sandy shores and crystal clear waters. With no one else around, we laid out our towels and enjoyed the peace and quiet. This was the final place we visited on our Greek vacation before venturing back to the main town and returning our rental car.
We planned the trip ourselves, which turned out ok, however, we ended up spending a fortune on one of the ferry rides due to the fact that we didn’t book in advance! If you’re visiting Greece, make sure you plan out your ferry itinerary at least a week or so before you plan to take them, because some days of the week are much cheaper than others.
After enjoying our vacation from backpacking the world, it was time to hoist our packs over our shoulders and say goodbye to the amazing cuisine, the incredible sunsets, the flavourful wine and the welcoming people. We loved our time spent in Greece and think about that trip often, perhaps we’ll return one day soon…
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