So you are planning to go to Greece, but don't know where to go or what to do. Greece has been the center of interest for a couple of years following the recession and even more last year by the medias with the refugee crisis.
Despite the political and economical issue the country faced, it is still a destination I always wanted to go to. Like Egypt the previous year, as long as you are aware of where you are going to, there should not be any problem and to be honest, I am glad that I did go as it is one of the best travel destinations I have ever been to.
Day 1: Athens
I really liked Athens during summer. People are out until late in the evening, the city centre is alive, people eating out on the terrace of the restaurants, the bars are very nice and modern with great cocktails, ruins at mostly every street corners, the Greeks so lovely and welcoming, the street art and the cats! They are everywhere roaming in the streets. Everyone mostly speaks English and if not learning a couple of Greek words can be very helpful! You can find many applications to practice. I used Greek Language guide & audio - World nomad.
Things to do
Take a free walking tour of the city to familiarize yourself with the streets and the history of the city
Visit the Acropolis and the acropolis museum
Visit the flea market in Monastiraki: If you like to browse around and discover antiques, vintage clothing or just souvenirs from your trip to Athens. The flea market is a great area for it.
Go see the change of soldiers at the unknown soldier monument
Visit the national gardens, perfect spots for shady refuge during summer
Go out in Gazi: The Nightlife area. This is the place to go in Athens city centre if you want to go out. This area gathers bars located one next to another. No cover for the entry, you just pay for your drink and enjoy the party. And if you get tired of one you can go to another one and so on until early in the morning!
Go shopping on Ermou Street, one and half kilometer long of main brand shops.
Explore the street art.
Good thing to know: The city celebrates the biggest and brightest full moon of the year with grand, late opening of the main city attractions, and most importantly free admissions. I happened to go out for dinner around 10pm one evening and was surprised to see such a big crowd in the streets. Most attractions will remain opened until 1am.
Day 2: Delphi
From Athens, take a day tour to Delphi back memory lane. Also known as the temple of Apollo, it was once home to a legendary oracle everyone from all over the country came to see to have good fortune. Located in the mountains, it contains the remains of the sanctuaries of Apollo and Athena Pronaia, plus a stadium and a theater. There is also a museum you can visit that displays artifacts found among the ruins. If you are into history, you will like it. It is also a great hike to go up the mountains to visit the whole sanctuary, so make sure to wear some good shoes and have a bottle of water with you.
Day 3-4: Ios
I spent the next two days in Ios. I left Athens early in the morning from the main sea port of Greece, Piraeus. This port is huuuuuge! Make sure to know the gate number beforehand or you will spend 20 minutes browsing around by car to find it. I could not thank enough my taxi driver who managed to get me on the ferry right on time.
The ferry journey to Ios lasted about 3 hours. Once there, my hostel offered a free shuttle service to pick up their travelers. That was very handy. I staiyed at Francesco's on the top of the hill with a great view over the island and on the sea. The hostel offered a bar crawl in the evening, a great way to get to know other travelers and experience the nightlife on the island.
Things to do in Ios
Go to the main beach and chill by the sea
Do some water sports: snorkeling, jet skiing, sailing, banana boat
Explore the many bars by the beach that offer pool parties in the afternoon until early evening
Rent a quad and go explore the rest of the island
Watch the sunset with your fellow travelers
Play some sport with the local kids on the main playground of the island: basket-ball, volley-ball, football, the choice is yours.
Day 5-6: Santorini
I took the first ferry from Ios to Santorini and arrived pretty early. From the port, a shuttle bus drops you to the main villages on the island. I was in Fira and had a hotel room for 60 euros for one night. Yes, Santorini is pretty expensive, no wonder as it is one of the most world famous destinations for honeymooners, weddings, and travels. Once I arrived at the hotel and dropped my bags, I got information at the main desk and went directly for a day tour. I only stayed for 24h, so I wanted to make the most out of it.
Things to do
I believed the easiest way for me time-wise, was to take a day tour, but if you are staying longer, I recommend renting a quad and explore on your own. I had a great experience and visited the main attractions of the island and its surroundings that included:
Cruising around the 3 islands that composed Santorini (Thíra, Thirassiá and Asproníssi)
Visit Santorini's most famous volcano: Nea Kameni. Santorini islands is still an active volcano and the activity is monitored constantly. No worries, the last eruption occurred 3,600 years ago. But it is impressive to be on it. It was also freaking hot and the smell of the sulfur was not really enjoyable, but worth the experience.
Enjoy a soak in the nearby hot springs. I did not go swim in it personally, the color looked like a rust coloured sulfur mixed with mud and this has no medical benefits. Mostly a tourist attraction in my opinion.
Explore the island of Thirassia and enjoy the local food. This lunch break was perfect. Very peaceful, you can take a dip in the sea, soak in some sun and after enjoy some sea food for lunch in one of the many restaurants by the shore.
We then headed to Oia village to enjoy the sunset. But before, you will have to climb the stairs up to the village either by walk or with the famous tourist attraction, the donkeys.
That's the effort before the comfort, once up there make sure to find the perfect spot as it get's crowded very fast once the sun set. But it must be one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever watched. Definitely in my top 3!
After the sunset, get through the crowd and grab a bus from Oia back to Fira if you are staying there and Visit of Fira by night. I went out for a couple of drinks at Murphy's and highlander's Scottish bar before heading back to my hotel. I was wrecked. But also going out in Santorini is pretty pricey.
The tour cost me about 60 euros but was worthy for a last minute plan, I managed to see most of the attractions of the island.
Day 6-8: Mykonos
Believe it or not, I did not know that Mykonos was a party island and famous as being the Ibiza of Greece, I planned my vacation a bit at the last minute. And to be honest that was the island I the least appreciated from my whole trip. The people who worked at the hostel were not helpful and welcoming at all. I believe they are so used to see tourists that as long as you don't spend any money, they are not interested. Sorry to be so harsh, but that was my experience on this island.
There is not much to do either except party on the beach during the day, farniente and chill, eat, drink and go to night clubs at night. It is a party island, party during the evening and rest during the day on the beach. I was expecting more.
Places to go:
Day 9: Athens
Back to Athens for my last evening before taking my flight back to Dublin. After sleeping all these days in hostels and walking around with my backpack from island to island, I usually like to treat myself on the last night and take a nice hotel room to have a good rest before my flight.
Grab your last souvenirs, buy your postcard and pack up before heading back to the airport and take your flight. The ride from city centre is about 45 minutes, so plan enough ahead to be there on time.
Overall, Greece was an amazing experience. I met so many travelers, mostly from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Finland. The Greeks are such lovely people, very welcoming and helpful, except in some very touristic places like Mykonos where they don't bother. I had no issues communicating, haven't seen anything of what the medias showed on TV. So again, it is better to make your own opinion of a country and not always listen to the media. I saw amazing sunsets and just had the perfect summer holiday that ticked all the boxes. That is an idea of an itinerary but of course, there are many other things you can do. There are more than 1000 islands, the choice is yours. And one more thing, do as the Greek would do, remove your watch and soak in their unique lifestyle to have a great experience.