Greece — September 2018
The plan for our 27th birthdays was to spend it overseas in a country of our own choosing. For my birthday, I voted we go to Greece and this was perfect timing after completing 10 weeks of remote work from Manchester.
Day 1: Manchester — Athens (7/9)
We caught the bus right outside our flat to a tram stop that enabled us to be in the correct tram line to Manchester Airport. Our bags were close to 20kg, so en route I bought an extra 3kg of luggage for 12 pounds to avoid excess baggage cost. It was the first international trip I made where there was no border control.
We caught an Easyjet plane from Manchester to Athens that took 3.5 hours. The plane itself had limited legroom for Iain and food/drink for purchase. After arriving in Athens, we headed to the train station to travel into the city. We stayed at Athens Delta Hotel (very budget for 30 euros a night).
Waiting for bus outside flat (L), Manchester from air (Centre), En route to Immigration at Athens (R)
First glimpse of Greek roads in Athens (L), Athens International Airport Train stop (R)
Day 2: Athens (8/9)
The hotel had no free coffee so we had to make a pit stop at the local cafe. Getting around Athens was relatively inexpensive — 4.50 Euros pp for an unlimited day pass on train. The Acropolis was our first stop (tickets can be bought online FYI). The temperature certainly rose during our time here to the early 30s. There was no shortage of tourists either despite the planned rain later in the day.
The Parthenon (Centre, R)
With rain set to arrive in the afternoon, we decided to visit the various ruins whilst it was dry (Hadrian’s Arch, Temple of Olympian Zeus). On the way we stopped at a local church and the Acropolis museum.
Greek paths (L), Church (M), Acropolis Museum (R)
Temple of Olympian Zeus (L), Roman Baths along the street (Centre), National Gardens (R)
One of our favourite meals of the trip was at a place called Avli where had our first Greek lunch at (it was a hidden spot hard to find).
Greek Salad and Pita Bread (L), Mixed Platter (R)
After lunch, we ticked off a few more attractions off the must see list — Ancient Agora, Roman Agora and Hadrian’s Library. All these attractions could be seen from the outside other than Ancient Agora. There were light showers whilst walking through Ancient Agora, so that brought the temperature down to a more pleasant 22 degrees.
View of Acropolis from Ancient Agora site (R)
Church inside Ancient Agora (R)
Roman Agora (L), Hadrian’s Library (R)
Before heading back to the hotel to rest we had to go to a pharmacy as I forgot to bring lipstick (oops). Dinner was a bit late as we slept a bit too long. On the way to dinner at Kalamaki Kolonaki, we walked through Syntagma Square (political protests happen here) and saw the Hellenic Parliament and the famous fountain in the square.
Fountain in Syntagma Square (L), Hellenic Parliament (R)
Dinner — Beef Souvlaki, Greek salad and pita bread
Our walk back to the train station coincided with the hourly changing of guard ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This tomb sits in front of the Hellenic Parliament.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Changing Guard Ceremony (L, Centre)
Day 3: Athens (9/9)
Every Sunday at 11am there are massive crowds are around to watch the main changing of the guard procession and ceremony (aka ministry of funny walks). We started the day seeing this.
Weekly Changing of the Guard Ceremony with a march down the road
Our next stop was the Panathenaic Stadium where the first Modern Olympic Games. We walked here via the National Gardens.
National Gardens (L, Centre), Panathenaic Stadium (R)
Iain was hungry of course after some sightseeing so we grabbed a Koulouri (Greek Sesame seed bread ring) from a food truck.
For our ferry to Santorini the next morning, we needed to pickup our tickets from the Seajets ticket booth in Piraeus port. We ventured there, however the office was closed. We still managed to have a nice stroll around the area and walk down the waterfront for a solid 2 hours.
Piraeus Port (L), Votsalakia beach (Centre, R)
Gyros from All that Jazz
Lunch was at All that Jazz in Plaka which was another great cheap eat.
For a change in scene we walked up Lycabettus Hill to see panoramic views of Athens. At the top of the hill there was a Greek Orthodox church.
We took in the views for an hour before walking down to the Catholic cathedral for English mass at 6.30pm. The church was next door to more tourist stops — Academy of Athens and the national library.
National Library (L), Academy of Athens (R)
After church, we headed for dinner at Smile Restaurant.
Pita bread and Tzatziki sauce with olive oil
Spanakopita — Greek spinach pie (L), Beef Moussaka — Cottage pie like with eggplant and potato (R)
Day 4: Athens to Santorini (10/9)
Our ferry to Santorini was at 7am, so the taxi picked us up at 5.20am to enable us to have time to pickup the ferry tickets. The high-speed ferry took 5.5 hours to get to Santorini with stops at Mykonos and Naxos. As we left Athens we got to watch the sunrise which was cool!
The ferry (L), Sunrise (R)
As we got off the ferry at Santorini the chaos started. There was only 1 seat left on the bus to Kamari beach so we were lucky. I had to sit on Iain’s lap as the driver didn’t want anyone standing or sitting in the aisle. Fortunately there was a local sitting next to us in the bus who offered me his seat (he knew no English so I talked to him using Google Translate).
We stayed at Narkissos Hotel in Kamari which was close to the bus stop, supermarket, restaurants and the beach. Our lunch stop was nearby and we got complimentary drinks and entree. It was a bit annoying as there were locals trying to force you to come eat at their restaurant. The rest of the afternoon was spent resting and then we grabbed souvenirs and walked down Kamari Beach. We also attempted to hire a scooter, quad bike or car but was unsuccessful as we could not without having an international driving permit to accompany our NZ driving license. This rule has been in effect since May 2018. As a result we booked an electric bike tour around rural Santorini for my birthday and an island hopping day trip. We ended the day with a nice dinner by the beach.
Narkissos Hotel (L), Dinner at Kamari Beach (R)
Kamari Beach at day (L), White washed houses and bougainvillea (R)
Day 5: Santorini (11/9 — My Birthday!!)
To start off my birthday we woke up at 6.45am to catch the sunrise at Kamari beach. It was stunning.
Sunset at Kamari Beach
Soon afterwards we grabbed breakfast and were picked up for an organised electric bike tour starting at Perissa. I had a concern doing the tour as the company is known for having bikes not suitable for short people. We were fortunately able to suss a bike and did the tour with a couple from Cleveland, Ohio. We biked through the rural, narrow, white washed streets of Santorini. It was epic. Our first stop was Emporio Castle.
After a quick explore in the castle we headed to a small traditional village called Megalochori where we grabbed a cold drink.
En route to Megalochori & the village
With temperatures in the high 20s, the electric powered bikes certainly helped us up the hills. Our last stop was a common sunset spot that locals go to.
After the bike tour we grabbed gyros for lunch from The Souvlaki Stop at Kamari Beach.
After our quiet morning in the rural areas of Santorini, it was time to brave the crowds in Santorini’s capital Fira and Oia. We caught a local bus to Fira and did the popular tourist walk between Fira and Oia (10.5km long with a duration of 2–5 hours).
Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral (Fira)
The track was quiet varied — part of it was similar to a sidewalk, parts are cobblestone, and parts are a dirt path. There were some solid hills to climb and these were challenging with the warm temperatures we had.
Once we got to Skaros Rock (above on right), it was time to have a drink and re-hydrate and did so at Blue Note Restaurant. We decided not to walk to there as it would add an extra hour to the journey.
I was reminded to up the pace and reduce the number of photo stops after our drink stop. It was interesting to see all the fancy hotels and resorts that were facing the caldera.
We eventually made it to Oia.
Oia was full of tourists! Whilst waiting for the sunset, we grabbed a spot at the Oia castle lookout point and enjoyed a snack and a cold drink. We sat next to Aucklanders who were living in London.
The sunset was not as amazing as people hyped it to be. It was a battle to make it to the bus with the insane crowds (we had to catch two to get to Kamari beach). Dinner was casual however I was annoyed as the waiter put pita bread and dip on our table which we ate (but we realised later it wasn’t complimentary). It was definitely the most memorable birthday I have had.
Mixed Grill (L), Yoghurt with honey and nuts (R)
Day 6: Santorini (12/9)
Our accomodation organised for us to join a tour around the nearby islands of Santorini. After being picked up from the hotel we headed to Athinios Port. The first stop on the tour was to the island with the craters. We learnt about the history of Santorini from the tour guide whilst here.
Next off people were given the opportunity to swim in the Hot Springs for 30 mins. I opted not to do so due to the water depth. We grabbed lunch at our last stop — Thirassia island where we got 3 hours to chill out.
The tour dropped us at Ammoudi Bay for the Oia sunset.
The walk up from Ammoudi Bay to Oia town centre took a while. On the way we encountered donkeys walking down (there was a solid 20 of them). The Asian tourists next to us were so scared.
Once we reached Oia town centre, we grabbed a drink and camped again to catch the sunset. It was much better than the night before.
Fortunately we had a free transfer back to the hotel after watching the Oia sunset. We ended our day with a tasty seafood dinner on Kamari Beach. The poor waiter brought us the wrong flavour of Moussaka (beef instead of squid) so dinner took a bit longer than expected.
Fava me Koukia (Mashed up fava beans), Tomato Gefthedes (Tomato fritters) and Squid Moussaka
Day 7: Santorini to Mykonos (13/9)
The next morning was nice and chill, and we caught two separate buses to get to Athinios Port for our ferry to Mykonos. We were certainly read to be away from the huge crowds. The ferry we were booked in wasn’t the superfast one so took 4.5 hours (Golden Star Ferries). We got a ride from the accomodation host and he took us to someone who could hire us a quad bike rental. The man charged us a little bit extra since we didn’t have the international driving permit but that was ok. We were stoked and plus it was Iain’s first time driving on the right hand side of the road. We stayed in a nice apartment whilst here in Mykonos.
Ferry from Santorini to Mykonos (L), Myconian Brothers (R)
After checking into the apartment, we realised the quad bike’s petrol tank was rather empty. We checked with the owner of the quad bike who advised this is normal and that we return the quad bike with an empty tank of fuel. After filling up, we drove past Kalafati Beach before grabbing dinner in the local village Ano Mera.
Iain learning to drive the quad bike (L) and Dinner (Greek Salad and Pizza)
Day 8: Mykonos (14/9)
Mykonos was a destination where we truly relaxed and unwinded and caught up on sleep. The first morning we ventured into Chora town to visit the landmarks.
First stop was visiting the 5 windmills on Chora Hill and Little Venice.
Chora Hill windmills (L), Little Venice (R)
The white washed streets with coloured handrails, staircases and windows were stunning in Chora.
There are ALOT of churches in Mykonos. Below are a select few in Chora town.
Panagia Paraportiani Church (L), Nikolos Taverna (R)
Coloured church doors!
We found many stray cats around Greece.
The old port in Mykonos was also stunning.
Before heading to the beach, we stopped to get the famous gyros from Jimmy’s. It was cheap and good and we ate by Little Venice.
After lunch, we went to explore the beaches. First stop was Paradise Beach (this is a party beach that turns into a nightclub with people dancing from 4.30pm daily).
The rest of the day was spent chilling at Kalo Livadi Beach and Elia Beach.
Kalo Livadi Beach (L), Elia Beach (R)
To catch the sunset, we headed to Boni’s Windmill. The colours in the sky were amazing.
We ended the night with dinner at a restaurant called Mykonian Plate.
Pork Tenderloin and Chicken Breast (L), Bourgiourdi (baked eggplant, feta cheese and olive oil baked in a pot with Greek yoghurt) (R)
Day 9: Mykonos (15/9)
As we saw the big tourist hotspots in Mykonos the previous day, we spent the most of this day at the beach. Beforehand we did make two stops. The first was to visit the Monastery Of Panagia Tourliani in Ano Mera.
Monastery Of Panagia Tourliani
We then tried to find another monastery, but that mission was aborted as there were ruins of a castle at that spot. After this, we drove to the northern area of Mykonos Island and stopped at Armenis Lighthouse. The lighthouse itself wasn’t so glamorous but we got a nice view of other Greek islands.
From here, we headed to Agios Sostis beach that was nearby. This was the first beach we went to where there were no lounge beds.
Agios Sostis Beach
Pre dinner snack — Greek sweet (L), Iain before dinner with our ATV (R)
Our last Greek dinner was in Ano Mera Square at Fisherman Giorgos & Marina Taverna. We had an amazing three course dinner.
Entree — Greek Salad
Mains- Beef Moussaka & Meatballs (L), Dessert — Greek Yoghurt and Carrot and Syrup (R)
After dinner we headed to Chora to explore what it was like at night. We walked around for a bit before returning to the apartment.
Day 10: Mykonos to Manchester (16/9)
Our last day in Mykonos started off with a visit to the only Catholic church in the island where the mass was celebrated in Latin. After mass we headed to Kalafati Beach. Lunch today was bread rolls from the bakery. Kalafati Beach was my favourite beach as you could use the lounge beds and umbrellas for free. It was definitely a great relaxing way to end the holiday.
From the beach, we headed back to the apartment and had an airport transfer by the quad bike rental owner. We ended the trip meeting an Austrian girl and her American husband at the airport. Whilst on the plane we also found out our Thomas Cook Airlines flight back to Manchester didn’t need to refuel at Corfu. This means we were getting home sooner! We were super stoked.
Greece was simply AMAZING and I would totally return one day!
PS: There is a rule that you cannot flush toilet paper there :O
Catch you all on our next adventure blog post!
Ftelia Beach, Mykonos