Athens, Santorini & Crete – Our Big, Fat, Greek Vacation!

Dariece Swift author's bio Goats On The Road

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.

travel to athens monastraki square
The bustling Monastiraki Square

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.

parthenon in greece
Whoo Hoo! The Parthenon was awesome

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.

changing of the guard greece
Love these outfits!

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.

santorini greece
the first impressions of Santorini were fantastic!

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.

sunset oia greece
Stunning sunset in Oia

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!

red beach santorini greece
The lovely Red Beach

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.

herding sheep greece
Herders near the Lesithi Plateau

We absolutely loved all of these highlights on Crete, but one place really stood out for us:

Balos Beach

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.

balos beach greece
The incredible Balos Beach!

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.

greek food
mmm, we miss Greek food

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…

For more on Greece, check out:

Greece Travel Guide: Everything You Need To Know

Visiting Lesvos, Greece: Our 5 Day Travel Guide

Top 15 Best Beaches in Greece

Weather in Greece: When is The Best Time to Visit?

Chios, Greece: Unearthing the Magic of The North Aegean

Discovering the Magic of Kefalonia, Greece: Our 5 Day Travel Guide

This Post Was Brought To You By Trafalgar

Recently, I’ve been introduced to a company called Trafalgar who offers a trip to these three places that we visited, plus, they include a trip to Istanbul, Rhodes and more.

For beginner travellers or those who want to have an easy planning process, you can definitely check them out. They offer a 9 day “Best Of Greece” tour that takes in many of the mainland’s most beautiful towns and historical sites, as well as samplings of some of the delicious cuisine that has put Greece on the gastronomical map.

If you’re not interested in planning a trip to Greece yourself, this may be a good option for you. This company prides themselves on showing you the “real” side of the country that you’re visiting, so it’s not just your typical, cookie-cutter tour.

If you’re interested in island hopping in Greece, check out this infographic by

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Dariece Swift author's bio Goats On The Road

Written by

Dariece Swift

Dariece is a co-founder of Goats On The Road, and an expert in saving money, finance management, building an online business and of course... travel. She loves meeting new people, trying new cuisines, and learning about the unique cultures of our world. She has over 12 years of experience helping others to realize their travel dreams and has worked in numerous jobs all over the world to help pay for travel.

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21 thoughts on “Athens, Santorini & Crete – Our Big, Fat, Greek Vacation!”

  1. Thank you for expressing your opinion. This article was brought to you by Trafalgar. However, based on your comment, we have made some changes to the article and included the details of their tour at the bottom, rather than in the middle.

    We don’t want our articles to seem like an advertisement and we value our reader’s opinions.

    I hope you still enjoyed reading about our time spent in Greece, it truly was a great vacation 🙂

    Thank you.
    Warm regards.

  2. Greece is on my list of places I want to visit when I make it to Europe (not sure when that will be though – they may well not have Euros there by the time I make it). I went to Athens, Santorini and Crete when I was a kid but haven’t been back since. I do want to make it back again.

  3. First and foremost anyone claiming to be surprised at seeing alcohol and pork in a modern European country while comparing it to previous middle eastern trips has top be at best ignorant. Where were you thinking you were going? Did you close your eyes and randomly placed your finger on a globe before jumping on a plane.
    Second of all of you will repeatedly mention a historic area, at least learn how to spell it. Monastiraki that is

  4. Thanks for the correct spelling. Although I am not so sure I should have to point that out to someone writing on a travelling website. I am also not angry and I’m sorry if I came across that way but I’m Greek and I found your article frustratingly uninformed.
    I guess I was very surprised to read, considering you’ve traveled in over forty some countries, your own shock at realizing that in Greece “you can eat pork, drink alcohol and not have to cover your body”. In Greece? Surprised? You thought it was an Islamic county?
    If you are as well traveled as you claim you must admit that’s a pretty silly and uninformed comment.
    If you were just another tourist and not own this website I would have never commented. But if you’ll wrirea bout world travels and assist/educate others through your articles, please do some research first or at least avoid the stereotypical tourist profile.
    Travelled? Yes. Cultured? Not very convinced.
    I just don’t understand how you write on a website and for a living I suppose too.
    All the best in your future travels and may the spelling Gods always be with you.

  5. Hello,

    We were simply stating that after being in Middle Eastern countries for so long, it was a pleasant shock/surprise to be able to eat pork, not be covered up and to find alcohol. We hadn’t been able to enjoy those things in four months.

    OBVIOUSLY we knew that Greece isn’t Islamic and that these would be the things we could expect to enjoy while travelling there, but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t surprised/thrilled/happy to be able to do them.

    Perhaps there’s a language barrier and I’m sorry that this article didn’t come across to you the way it should have – as it did to everyone else.

    The fact that you state that we’re uncultured is incredibly untrue, and I’m sorry you feel that way.

    All the best, and may the Happy Gods be with you 🙂

  6. Thanks for the clear up. There is no language barrier for me as you should have figured that out already. However the way your article is written can be interpreted either way. If it were me “I’d jovial/delighted or simply happy” but not “surprised and shocked” as this usually indicates the arrival of an unexpected event hence my original comments.
    Anyway I’m sure you’re well traveled as your website states and I don’t know in how many lands you’ve lived at, but travelling doesn’t equate cultured. I’m sure you’re aware.
    Thanks again for taking my comments and correcting your earlier mispell on Monastiraki. I certainly appreciate your replies.
    All the best.

  7. It’s good to see that you spent a lot of time in the islands but there is a lot to do in Athens and on the mainland as well. Greece is definitely one of those places that you can return to time and time again and always find somewhere new to go 🙂

  8. hi.. thanks for the article! i have a quick question regarding warmth. i usually travel with one pair of warm leggings, and a light hoodie… in the photo with the sheep they are dressed in bulky jeans and heavy sweaters, and i am wondering if this is necessary in Greece? i am planning to visit there hopefully in march. any thoughts would be gratefully read! zan

  9. It can be chilly in March – around 10 degrees. We were there in May and it was tshirt and pants weather for the most part. It really depends on whether or not the sun is out! If you have layers, you should be fine. And if you’er cold, you can always buy something there 🙂

  10. Your introduction to this post is the stupidest introduction ever! After reading that, I didn’t even bother reading the rest. I don’t know where you got your education from and didn’t you google anything at all about the country before going there?! Being SHOCKED that pork and alcohol are being sold?! Covering your body?! What?! Where do you think you went, Saudi Arabia or something?! You should be ashamed of even sharing your “amazing education”!!

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