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Monday, June 24, 2019

Opa! Greece






This is where it all began. I blame you Greece. This is the place where my wanderlust got sparked. This was also the first time hubs and I went away for a WHOLE WEEK away from the kids. Hmmm... coincidence? Or was it just the magic of this amazing country? I'd have to go back to do some more research to really get to the bottom of this!

Greece was the start of my wanderlust and also the unofficial start of my blog. Back then I had written down a bunch of notes for a few friends who were planning on going, and in the 3 years since these notes have been used several times by some very lucky friends (lucky in that they went to Greece!).

So as late as a blog post can be, here are some of my thoughts and findings about our time there. 




How to get there and get around:

Flying from Toronto to Athens was an easy(ish) direct flight on Air Canada ROUGE. An overnight flight got us into our destination and ready to start our adventure!

Inter-island travel has a few different options. We wanted to make the most of our time away so we opted for the fastest transportation to and from Santorini, and Aegean Airlines filled the bill. A quick flight from Athens to Santorini on an airline that was efficient and pleasant. 

Getting from Santorini to Crete it was suggested we enjoy a high speed ferry, so we looked into Hellenic Seaways. We booked tickets online ahead of time and went for the business class berth which was super comfortable and gave us great views. 


Cabs/Taxis: We had our hotels pre arrange airport/port transfers as well as calling a cab for other transportation in Athens and Crete.
Santorini only has about 35 cabs on the island, so it is not a reliable way to get around on that island. Renting a vehicle or taking public transportation are other options on this island.


Car Rentals: We opted to rent an ATV to get around Santorini since it was just the two of us. For families, apparently there is only one mini-van on the island of Santorini(!), but plenty of smaller vehicles to rent. Crete is a very large island so if you are getting around to explore a car rental is very much suggested.

Stay:


Athens: 
The King George Hotel in Athens was lovely, clean, and had plenty of charm.  It's location was great as it was central and easy to get to the Acropolis.  


The Grand Bretagne next door is one of  the nicest hotel in Athens, and is a sister property to the King George. It has gorgeous rooftop views of the Acropolis from it's restaurant. A dinner reservation here is highly recommended for the views alone!

In Santorini we stayed at The Vedema. It is centrally located in the small village of Megalachori which is very quiet as opposed to Fira or Oia. The property is gorgeous and we highly recommended. Although friends of our went more recently and reported back that there was more wear and tear than they expected. We had been upgraded to a one bedroom villa with our own private pool - so we had nothing to complain about! I personally loved the location as it gave us opportunity to go to the black sand beach (they provided a transfer there and access to the beach via a sister hotel).


Views in the Vedema Hotel in Santorini
In Crete we stayed at The Elounda Bay & Elounda Beach Hotel which is an incredible resort in Elounda (which is where many celebrities go and dock their fancy yachts). Its very large property with many amenities and a gorgeous location right on the bay. Our amazing room had a balcony and we could walk down a few steps tp jump right into the gorgeous refreshing water.

To Do:

Athens: Our stay in Athens was very short and we squeezed in the basic must do through our jet lag. Obviously The Acropolis is a must - try to go early morning or late evening as to avoid the sun and heat. Just purchase the basic entry price, as no one checks your ticket once you are inside.
Bring a hat and a full water bottle before you go in!



Acropolis

The Acropolis Museum across the street is a lovely, modern, air conditioned building. It is very inexpensive to go in. The restaurant upstairs is a nice place to grab a quick bite to eat or to have some coffee.

The market place is a great place to walk around and get souvenirs and to stop for something to eat.

Santorini: Oh Santorini! We rented an ATV and set off to explore the whole island! Some of my highlights were:
Black Sand Beach
  • Black Sand Beach : Gorgeous black sand beach stretching from Perissa to Perivolos along the east coast of Santorini. The sand gets extremely hot, but the water is beautiful, crystal clear and refreshing. There are lots of restaurants and bars along the long strip to enjoy a full day.
  • Red Beach : a steep hike to get there, but on the way there are breathtaking views of the Caldera which are a must. 
Red Sand Beac
  • Ammoudi Bay - a walk down from Oia, where there is no real beach but crystal clear gorgeous waters and cliff jumping. Great tavernas in the bay by the water for lunch, although they are overpriced but the views are stunning. 
Ammoudi Bay
  • Thira/Fira - is the modern capital of Santorini and has a central hub for shopping, restaurants, market place and nightlife. We made a quick stop here to walk around.
  •  Oia - This is the quintessential Santorini town that you see on all of the postcards. Lots of accommodations here, and people go for the sunsets there but you have to go EARLY to get a good spot. We walked around a little and took in the gorgeous views.
  • Santo Winery - Wine production isn't what Santorini is known for, but their unique volcanic soil produces some unique wine. Santo Winery has amazing views at sunset over the volcano though even if you aren't a wine drinker
  • While we did not did not take a ferry to the volcano,  a boat excursion was highly recommended to us by others,. It'll have to be for next time!
Sunset views from Santo Winery

Crete: The largest Greek Island wouldn't have been on my radar except for the fact we went to a wedding there. When we first got there however I was let down. The terrain is vastly different from Santorini (where I NEVER wanted to leave!). But it most definitely grew on me, and then I never wanted to leave Crete! 

Since we were in Crete for a wedding and all of the festivities we didn't get a chance to explore as much as we would have. But some of our highlights from here included:


Spinalonga in Crete

  • Spinaloga: an old leprosy colony that you can take a tour of
  • Food: I can never eat Greek food outside of Crete again. It is outstanding! Fresh seafood,  tzatziki, Santorini salads, Greek salads, honey, yogurt, wine... honestly, the food was  one of my highlights.  
  • Gorgeous crystal clear blue waters. Stunning. That's all.
  • Crete had the flavour of authentic Greece, which is what I was told. That Crete is what Greece really is. Next time we would visit and stay in Chania and visit the Minoan Ruins as well.
Have you been to Greece? What are you recommendations? We definitely want to go back and take our kids, since they've been infatuated with its beauty after watching Mama Mia 4,763 times!

Read my 3 day Santorini itinerary here



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