Why You Need to Summer in Southern Greece.
Everyone says Greece seems like a country that would be their dream destination. For me, I knew that was always true! Ever since I read about the beautiful history of its art and architecture, I knew it would be epic and quite possibly something I would never know or see again!
That's what led me to explore it as my honeymoon destination and the first international vacation I have ever taken on my own savings. Don't get me wrong.... I had a chance to visit it in my undergrad as a school trip for a course of history of architecture for my interior design major, however; I was too distracted by working hard to maintain my grades and GPA in my passion and did not want to travel on my parent's dime back in 2008.
So, 2018 was the year! Yes, it took me 10 years to achieve this dream and it couldn't have been more worth it! Although I want to visit the entire country, I was able to visit 3 key places and spend the dream budget for my honeymoon. I saw my first excavated ancient city of Akrotiri. My husband and I stayed in amazingly cute family owned hotels and ate some of the best and freshest food we have ever had!
If you are already drooling, then let me give you some tips and tricks that I learned before I went and after my trip to avoid any unexpected surprises for a 10 day trip to Athens & the islands of Santorini + Mykonos (known as the Cyclades in the map below).
1. Give yourself enough time in each island. The biggest mistake we made was take out more time for one place over another but a good rule of thumb is divide your days equally between 2-3 destinations. Say, if you want to visit 3 islands and have 10 days for the trip, keep 2 days or less for Athens where you will usually fly to and from and divide the remaining 8 days between each island that you want to visit. I highly advice you to not do less than 2 days at each island. It will feel rushed and make you tired from commuting on the ferries and airports.
2. Another piece of advice I can give you is there is a lot you can do in Athens by foot if you stay in the city center and you can get by with just 2 days or even less if you want to see the main historic ruins. Try to get a day pass which is cheaper to see a few of the ruins in the same day when you go to the Acropolis (takes about 2-3 hours to see each area).
We also climbed Mount Lycabettus near our hotel for a gorgeous sunrise and a 360 view of Athens. It only took us 30 mins to climb by foot and it was completely free to visit! It was definitely an experience I suggest not missing out on. Only a few people were there when we went early morning.
View Of Athens From Mount Lycabettus
3. Research family owned hotels on TripAdvisor that have great reviews before booking the fanciest hotel you see on travel engine searches. We got amazing service and sometimes even free drinks that were not even part of the package because the hotel was owned by small businesses and they also let you check-in early. We stayed at Blue Waves Hotel in Kamari Beach which is a gorgeous black sand beach and Caldera Premium Villas in Oia, which is the famous area of Santorini you see in movies, tv and press. For Mykonos, we chose a very cute and tiny boutique hotel called Lefteris in the hustle and bustle of the main town near the pier. Some hotels also offered us a complimentary airport transfer for certain room packages. Airport transfers can be expensive as there are not public transport options in the islands other than buses.
View of the sunrise from our honeymoon suite at Caldera Premium Villas, Oia, Santorini, Greece.
Blue Waves Hotel in Kamari Beach, Santorini, Greece.
Shoutout to Blue Waves hotel owner Ioannis and his staff Andrea and Michael! They were the sweetest people I have ever met in the world! Blue Waves is a very down-to-earth family run hotel and seems like they all treat each other with so much respect as they do their guests. We got a bottle of wine complimentary when we entered our room and also welcome and goodbye drinks that we didn't expect at all! The breakfast was great as well and they help you book transportation and ATV's to go around the island. The room was impeccable and so cute!
The deluxe suite we stayed in had our own private hot tub. Behind the hotel is the most beautiful black sand beach and boardwalk with pretty restaurants and awesome cheap souvenir shops not even a minute away and I will definitely come back again to Kamari and stay here because it was my favorite part of Santorini, any other boardwalk around the world does not hold a candle to this beach boardwalk! We thought Oia is pretty but a little over-rated and Kamari may be the true gem of Santorini.
View of the sunset from the Lefteris hotel rooftop in Mykonos, Greece.
4. If at all possible, try to visit in the shoulder season which is April, September and October. The reason being, crowds are less, the temperatures are milder (one to keep in mind if you can't take the heat during the day), the hotels are also more affordable but on the other hand, there are less ferries and flight schedules available.
The peak season is Easter, May until August and low season is September to March. We went in the very start of the peak season in early May.
5. Try to rent an ATV or car in Santorini and Mykonos so you can visit a few out-of-the-way villages and places where you can find traditional culture. Your hotel can help book this for you! Santorini traffic can be tricky so ATV might be the cheaper and faster way to get around but don't make the mistake of driving on it to the pier where the ferries leave! We tried that and it was windy roads with big buses and trucks, not a fun drive!
6. Lastly, you can't go wrong with any Greek restaurant you go to! We literally did not look at any reviews and just went to some places to eat that were recommended by the hotels but mostly just experimented with any place that looked good! Definitely have the frappe, especially iced version anywhere you go! I grew up on espresso's with milk so it was my fav thing to order everywhere we went!
The first photo below was on our way to the ancient town of Akrotiri and it was some of the best food I ever had! I finally searched and found the name, it's called Atlantida in Akrotiri and I will also highly recommend you try out Ammoudi Fish Tavern which the second photo is from! I had the best zucchini balls and sesame honey coated feta cheese, not to mention beautiful views facing the sea! Another gem of Greek food in Oia, Santorini is Skala where the third photo is from.