Two years ago I did a 2 month trip around Europe from New Zealand. I was totally set on going to Greece but it wasn’t looking good for my travel route or bank balance. So when I moved to London to live, visiting the Greek Islands was at the top of my list.
So you might have noticed that my itinerary is a bit fucked…I have a valid reason. I wanted to have my birthday in Santorini watching the sunset and not be partying with eighteen year olds in Mykonos. So apart from the 7 hour ferry on my birthday to get to Santorini from Athens, the trip was unforgettable.
Athens 2 nights
Santorini 3 nights
Paros 2 nights
Ios 2 nights
Mykonos 3 nights
Language: Whenever I visit a new country, I really try to make the effort to learn the basics – hello, please, thank you and goodbye. But in Greece I was overwhelmed with locals naturally speaking English to me. I think I said a handful of ‘Yasus’ and ‘Efharisto’. So don’t panic if you can’t speak Greek, the locals are extremely friendly and accommodating.
Hello YAH – sue
Thank you eff-kah-rees-TOH
Transport: I personally think the best way to travel the Greek Islands is by ferry. The views are magnificent as you enter each port.
I decided to book our ferries in advance as I knew I would get them at a cheaper price. We booked through Blue Star Ferries and Hellenic Seaways, as they seemed to be the most popular. Depending on your destination point, there may be only one ferry time for that particular date. So if you are not so flexible with dates, I suggest checking out the ferry timetables in advance.
Cheap Eats: If you go to Greece then you must have a gyros (yeeh-ros). If you don’t know what a gyros is then, well let me tell you. For €3 you will get a pita filled with either pork or chicken, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, tzatsiki sauce and most likely a few fries stuffed in there too.
Feeling thirsty?: Then you’ll have to get a freddo cappuccino. It is practically an iced espresso with cold frothed milk on top and served with loads of ice. Yum!
Transport: It cost €10 to jump on the M3 from the airport into the city centre. The Athens metro stations are super clean and even have pieces of artwork throughout. Buying metro tickets is easy. Every metro has machines where you can purchase single tickets for a small price of €1.40, this will be valid for 90 minutes. (Note: Just remember to validate the ticket before entering the underground.)
Accommodation: We stayed at an airbnb located in the Pangrati neighbourhood which was perfect for walking to all the sites. We were only a 20 minute walk away from the Acropolis and 10 minute walk to the train station.
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To Marvo Provato translated to Black Sheep
As we were only in Athens for 2 nights, we didn’t really have the chance to dabble in Athens cuisine. We decided to dine with the locals at To Marvo Provato near our airbnb away from the tourists. Tucked away in the back streets, this is a hidden gem.
To begin, we were given a complimentary shot of Ouzo, then we had a fava bean dip (Also known as a broad bean dip), deep fried cheese with honey and sesame seeds, pork tenderloin with a cheese sauce, spetsofai (spicy sausage with a tomato based sauce and feta) and a delicious potato salad with smoked mackerel, spring onions and mustard seeds. I wish we had room for dessert but I had eaten far too much and left with a takeaway box for our ferry ride the next day.
For only €34 for two people this restaurant is super affordable
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It was the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens that hosted the first modern olympics in 1896. With the vast amount of informal marble seats, the restored stadium is an absolute treat to look at.
€5 entry fee with a free audio guide.
Once I arrived in Athens the first thing I did was search for the Parthenon on the hill of the Acropolis. As soon as it was in sight I thought to myself…oh god! Some poor buggers had to haul all that marble up there? Impressive!
I must say, since they began restoring the Parthenon in 1975, in some places I was a little disappointed with the amount of scaffolding surrounding the ruins. But hey, isn’t that what the imagination is for? Or the alternative option is to visit the full size replica in Nashville, USA.
€20 entry fee – Acropolis + slopes
€30 multi entry fee – Acropolis, Olympieon, Kermeikos, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora and Hadrians Library.
Bustling with people selling meat, fish, herbs and fresh vegetables, I recommend heading to the Central Market for the experience.
Tip: Unless you want to look like a right idiot with fish scales between your toes, DON’T wear your flip-flops! It was highly entertaining to watch some tourist dodge the fish gut puddles.
If you enjoy shopping for souvenirs then stroll through the flea market where the streets are lined with vendors selling olive oil, ouzo and wooden penis bottle openers.
I’m still dreaming about Santorini. The sea of white buildings, dotted with blue. Magical!
We chose to stay in Fira, the islands town centre. I felt it was a good option for us as we enjoyed taking the 30 minute walk to Imerovigli. Oia was just too touristy for me. I felt like we were constantly battling the crowds to walk through the paths.
Tip: Do you want a perfect photo of the white churches and blue domes? As you face out to the sea at the Ekklisia Panagia Platsani in Oia, turn right until you get to the next church and take a left down a small alleyway. If you go further enough you will be able to see the cluster of blue dome churches.
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I absolutely LOVE falafel. So when I heard that there was this place called Falafeland within a two-minute walk from the hotel I was excited. Unfortunately we ordered after a group of 15 Americans walked in, so it took over 40 minutes for our takeaway pitas. Apart from the wait, the €3.50 ‘House Falafel Pita’ was delicious and the staff were friendly.
The Athenian House
You will never go hungry in Santorini. There is an abundance of resturants from Fira to Oia that give you a view of the sunset. So when I got off a 7 hour ferry on my birthday my boyfriend wanted to take me somewhere better than the rest…and he did.
Located in Imerovigli, we arrived at The Athenian House and were seated at the corner terrace table overlooking the beautiful white buildings. As the sun was setting, an orange glow reflected upon us and I had the biggest grin on my face. I was in heaven!
Now I have to give you a taste of our evening…
Slow cooked octopus, black lentils and a lavender honey foam
Lobster & beetroot risotto, hazelnuts, green peas, yellow pumpkin & pomegranate seeds
Pork tenderloin, crispy pork belly & smoked pork, onion pomegranate chutney & bean puree
Baklava with crisp phyllo pastry, peanut butter, salty caramel and pistachio nuts
All the staff were amazing. The manager even gave us a complimentary glass of moscato after dessert. Price range: €€€
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Calling all couples! If you are like me and want a peaceful sunset with a handful of other people, then I recommend walking to Skaros Rock. Don’t bother fighting the cruise ship peeps at Oia. Ooo and take a few beers or a bottle of wine. We didn’t manage to climb right to the top as we had our jandals on but if you have sturdy footwear DO IT!
We decided to book a 3 hour excursion to the volcano and hot springs for €20 each. We left at 11am from the old port and returned at 2pm, so the temperature was bearable. The tour itself was ok I guess. Once we arrived by boat to the volcano, we left out tour group and gunned it up the top so we could make the most of the views instead of slowly walking up with 50 other people. Then we sailed around to the hot springs where everyone jumped out off the boat and swam towards the brown muddy water. Yes brown water…this is caused by the large amount of sulphur from the volcano. At times you could feel a hot spring…or maybe someone had just peed, I wasn’t sure ha. Overall, I thought it was worth the €20. (Note: Take an extra €1.50 per person to access the volcano.)
Note: Please don’t be a selfish tourist and get a donkey up the hill. The locals no longer do because of the €5 cable car, so why should you? It’s purely for dumb tourists to take their selfies!
ATV / Quad bike
The best way to explore Santorini is by ATV. There are rental places scattered everywhere on the island. Expect to pay around €25 – under 100cc ATV and between €40-60 – 300cc ATV. You will generally receive the ATV empty so when you go to fill it up at the petrol station, start with around €5. You’ll be surprised how far that will take you.
My favourite swimming spot in Santorini! As you walk down the 200 steps from Oia (or take your ATV), you walk past a few restaurants and then come to this cute wee rocky bay. There are people are sprawled out on the rocks sunbathing and people jumping off the big rock into the sea, it’s a perfect getaway from the tourists.
Black sand + sun = fucking hot sand. DO NOT attempt to walk anywhere without jandals! Perissa beach is so long that you will have no trouble relaxing in your own spot or finding a sun lounger.
Before I arrived in Santorini, I was told that the Red Beach was the best one. In my opinion I wasn’t blown away. Yes, the red backdrop was nice to see from a distance but as you got closer there are herds of people squashed into a small area and not to mention the high chance of falling rocks.
Probably the most developed beach out of the lot. If you enjoy having lunch at waterfront restaurant then sitting under an umbrella this might be for you. If I had to choose between Perissa and Kamari, it would be Perissa.
Paros felt like the most preserved and traditional island we visited. There are multiple golden beaches scattered around the island, so I recommend getting an ATV so you can visit as many places as possible.
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If you decide to visit Paros, you must visit the extremely picturesque fishing village located north of the town centre.
Possibly a bit out-of-the-way for some people but at Logaras you will be swimming with the locals. This was my favourite swimming spot on Paros because there was no sign of sun loungers.
Punda Beach & Bar
As we arrived at Punda beach, I thought we had walked into an outdoor nightclub. Holy shit the music was loud. The bar has pretty much absorbed the beach with its sun loungers and house music. Wasn’t a fan of this place.
It’s in the name – crystal clear water and golden sand, it’s a windsurfers dream. Golden beach stretches around long enough that there is a good balance of sun loungers and sand.
Are we in Ios or the Gold Coast right now? I swear I have never heard so many 18 – 21 year old Aussies overseas…. apart from Clapham. I’m only in my mid twenties and I felt incredibly old in Ios. It sure is a party island.
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This traditional restaurant has an extremely proud owner and I know why. As you sit at the top of the hill under a windmill eating moussaka, you feel like you are being hosted by a Greek relative. I must say. I did laugh though when he played the same song on repeat for the whole evening.
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For only €5 for two loungers and an umbrella, we stayed on this beach all day. With the Far Out Beach Hostel down one end for all the crazy Aussies, the beach is long enough to have your own space.
So we embarrassingly thought, oh yeah let’s have a few beers with dinner and then head to a couple of bars before heading home around midnight. Ha that was a joke. The majority of the bars didn’t open till then and some had signs saying OPEN FROM 2:30am. Fuck did we feel old!
If you’re in Ios with a group of mates drinking beers in the sun, then you’ll never sleep. You’ll be partying till the sun comes up. In the old town the small streets are lined with numerous bars (just beware that a lot of them have a cover charge of €5 per person.)
If you want bang for your buck then I recommend buying a ticket to the Ios Pub Crawl. It costs €25 and you get 6 shots + singlet + free entry to the clubs.
Here are a few bars that I would recommend going too.
Slammer Bar – Ask for the €5 Slammer Shot. Once you’ve been given a helmet, you’ll throw back your shot and the bartender will choose an object of his choice to hit you over the head with. We got a fire extinguisher to the head but others had multiple hammers and a skateboard.
Lost Boys – Their free singlet was definitely the best! But this bar is a must do for its beer pong, great staff and garden.
Shush –Dance the night away at Ios’s only silent disco. The Shush bar has 3 channels of great music to let you dance the night away.
One word: EXPENSIVE!
We stayed at the Paraga Beach Hostel as we wanted to be close to the beaches. That was probably the only positive though. At first we thought it was alright as there was a pool, bar and restaurant. But I was so wrong! I won’t rant too long but the hostel had a policy that you could only drink alcohol brought from their mini market or the bar and just to give you an idea of the cost…the happy hour was 1x drink for €5. Not only that, you had to pay to use the sun loungers around the pool. (Rant over.)
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Mykonos + expensive + last destination = BROKE!
We just ate over priced food from the Paraga Beach Hostel and gyros from Paradise Beach. Unfortunately no good food to report from this side of the island unless you just arrived in your super yacht.
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I really enjoyed this beach as there is a diving board and a few large rocks to jump off. But off course here is still the luxury of sun loungers and bar service too.
Paradise Beach & Super Paradise Beach
Both beaches offer the same really – Golden sand, clear blue water and loads of partying. The Tropicana Beach Party at Paradise Beach begins at 5pm and no one is shy to be the first drunk party goer up on the tables.
Something different: If you want an alternative photo opportunity then as you head into Paradise Beach, stop and notice the old derelict bus on the left.
Windmills and Little Venice
I think it’s worth staying at one of the beaches and spending ½ day exploring the town centre. Apart from getting lost in the maze of tiny streets and visiting the boutique clothing stores, there isn’t much else.
If you are staying near Paradise or Paraga Beach, then no doubt the girls in white hot pants will approach you. Their mission is to sell tickets to the single-to-mingle-under-twenty-something-year-olds to see some of the world’s well known DJ’s. We brought door sale tickets on a whim to see Kygo one night and two things shocked me.
1. Vodka and orange = €13 (the size of the glass was inbetween a shot glass and tumbler. PATHETIC.)
2. Kygo didn’t come out till 3:45am. If you havn’t taken anything away from my blog yet, let me remind you that I CAN’T PARTY ANYMORE. I’M A NANA!
Prices: Some people manage to get tickets for €25 and then some up to even €60.