Recently I visited Greece for a 10 day holiday. Before planning our travels, I had some questions:
– What are the best islands to visit in Greece?
– Where to stay?
– What to do?
We had only 10 days and wanted this to be a dream trip. So we carefully chose to visit Santorini island, Mykonos island and Vikos Gorge in Zagoria. Although we had multiple flights through Athens, we did not really explore the city. Here are our favorite places during our trip.
India to Istanbul to Athens to Santorini → Santorini to Ioannina → Ioannina to Mykonos → Mykonos to India via Athens
1. Santorini (3 Days)
Santorini is a Greek island famous for its dazzling white washed houses complemented by extremely pretty alleyways, gorgeous views of a lagoon formed by a submerged caldera in the Aegean Sea and its unique geological features. There is something mysterious and purely romantic about Santorini; one cannot help but fall in love with the magnificent view of the submerged caldera and the island itself.
From the airport, take the bus to Fira – all bus schedules are clearly noted and services most anywhere on the island. During our time on the island, we visited Imerovigli (for accommodation), Oia, Kamari and Perissa beaches. But the most beautiful part of the island is best enjoyed from a sailboat in the lagoon formed by the submerged caldera.
The picturesque Imerovigli is breathtakingly gorgeous with its white washed houses and a view of the caldera. We enjoyed watching the sail boats and a ship while enjoying drinks; our views were also distracted in a good way by the amazing bath in the private jacuzzi next to my bedroom. The alleyways are super cute. Additionally, a few churches with their iconic blue domes makes this a dream wedding destination – an ideal backdrop for photography including Instagram selfies.
We booked a private luxury villa named White Sky Villa; totally my dream destination!
The main areas of interest are in the northernmost part of the island where white washed, caldera facing houses and buildings along the cliff make it an extravagant holiday destination. Oia is also famous for its sunsets, luxury villas with pools, cafes and boutique shops. Arrive before late afternoon so that you have some time on hand before the sunset. The view points for the sunset become very crowded in the evening time. We went in the opposite direction and explored the streets and corners of Oia away from the hustle bustle of the crowds gathered for the sunset. Many years ago when Santorini started becoming an uber-popular tourist destination, most of the houses converted into luxury villas and hotels..
Kamari and Perissa beach:
Kamari is known as the black sand beach due to its dark volcanic pebbles. Ever popular, this beach is covered with hundreds of sun loungers in the summer. The road parallels the beach passing by shacks, shops, restaurants and hotels.
Perissa Beach is stunning due to the green crystalline color of the water. I could see the boulders and small pebbles so clearly below the surface. A sizable rock named Mesa Vouno emerges from the sea and separates Kamari from Perissa.
The refreshing wind, white clean catamaran, unlimited drinks, the rare experience of swimming in the hot springs of Nea Kamini already made the trip extremely memorable. But the best was yet to come. The sunset scene at Oia. The unobstructed view of the setting sun, pleasant slow music, mildly cold breeze, company of my favorite person and sipping excellent Greek wine made this moment unforgettable.
2. Vikos Gorge, Zagoria (2 Days)
We reached Ioannina airport in evening and took a cab from just outside the airport to our booking with Villa Elena beside Ioannina lake. We were given a warm welcome by the owner of the villa. He left us on our own and instructed us to call him if we needed any help. We spent that evening strolling around the neighborhood, dining in a delicious Greek restaurant with good wine and making new friends with a few huge dogs.
The morning dawned calm and clear as always this time of year; the air was fresh, filled with natures sound of chirping birdies. We wanted to spend more time here but were unable due to the taxi waiting to whisk us away to Vikos Gorge. It is more convenient to rent a car if you have an international driving license. Kindly let us know if you need our taxi driver’s contact details.
We will remember this day forever; Vikos Gorge is located in the Pindus mountains in the northern part of the country. It is listed as the deepest gorge in the Guinness Book of World Records. We had long wanted to trek through Vikos; it was the primary reason for our trip to this part of the country. Vikos Gorge is massive, calm and feels so pure.
During our drive to the gorge, we visited stone forests, stone bridges, Papingo Village and Monodendri Village. All these are located in the Zagori municipality. The quaint villages, with their visually intriguing stone walls and brightly colored doors and window frames – seem like they should be in a fairy tale. This part of Greece is much different than the famous and flashy Greek islands. Zagoria is pure, full of warm people and good food. Wine is super cheap here. Also be aware that it can get a bit cold here in the summer evenings so bring a light jacket.
3. Mykonos (3 Days)
Mykonos will lure you with incredible beaches, crazy beach parties, luxury hotels, old iconic windmills, lighthouses, traditional houses, churches of Ano Mera, pretty alleyways and captivating cafes and restaurants. True to what Mykonos is famous for, the party scene along the beaches is absolutely phenomenal. Our transfer from the airport was uneventful – we stayed at Sofia village the first day and at Adelmar Hotels and Suites in Platis Yialos the other two days. We also rented ATVs – therefore transportation around the island was super convenient.
Mykonos Downtown: Windmills and Little Venice:
The picturesque white washed windmills, with conical tops and small windows, are lined up in a row next to the sea. The northern wind was super strong in this area; ladies take note: for this very reason, I do not recommend wearing high heels. Come here to enjoy Little Venice and to enjoy a beautiful sunset. While I haven’t visited Venice yet, I am now inspired to do so – especially after seeing Little Venice with its homey cafes and restaurants and appealing architecture.
The stay and the alleyways:
The island seemed barren at time broken only by white patches as seen from afar. But once you come close, you realize he beauty of the buildings, hotels and cafes. Complemented nicely with just the right amount of green and flowers. Also, bright splashes of bougainvillea; I couldn’t resist taking endless pictures as I walked leisurely through the alleys.
Ano Mera is the second largest community on Mykonos. The vibe here is totally different than the crowded beaches. The locals live their regular everyday life. The food in Mykonos is good almost everywhere and we particularly enjoyed the tasty gyros. Obati Restaurant served sumptuous lunches along with a nice ambiance. Liberty Restaurant is good for breakfast with a view but it is a bit expensive.
Light House in the North – West corner:
The lighthouse is almost on the furthest northern part of the island. It was already sunset by the time we arrived. Two things made this location so amazing: first, it is well off the tourist beaten path so no crowds and secondly, it offers picturesque sunset views overlooking the blue ocean far below contrasted with the white cliffs.
Mykonos is world famous for its party scenes. The party starts in the late afternoon with water activities and chilling on the beach under shady canopies and continues till dawn. The attire is super casual – basically swimwear, casual wear dresses, shorts etc. However, some clubs on the beach like Scorpios in Paraga Beach require more elegant attire. Please do not miss their bartop dancing by super sexy girls in late afternoon scene.
Club Tropicana and Club Paradise: These are the most popular and super happening beach party clubs:
Super Paradise Beach Club:
It is a smaller pretty beach with lot of activities in the afternoon. At night the crowds concentrate near the DJ who pumps out amazing music.
Scorpios Club. You can relax in the day time in pretty canopies and join the crowd inside the club for the party in the evening.
They play famous music and sometimes popular music from a specific country, depending on the crowd. Nude dancing, flirting, favorite drinks, new friendships and lots more make Mykonos one of my most favorite destinations.
4. Athens (2 Days)
We did not really explore Athens much but spent two nights in the city. One while going to Santorini and other on our final day while flying back to Mumbai. If in Athens, one should obviously visit the Acropolis. It is famous and the view of the city from top is quite spectacular. I particularly loved the streets, shops, restaurants and narrow lanes immediately outside of the Acropolis. But what we loved most in Athens was our stay in the beach line behind the airport area towards the eastern side of Athens. The shacks along this particular beach provide amazing sea food platters – and the area is perfect for fishing and relaxing.
You can find my original blog on www.savvyfernweh.com